Yeah, you haven’t seen much of me in a while, huh. Well, that’s because I haven’t been working much on writing fanfic lately. And since I’m in the middle of quite a few other things right now, I felt it was high time to show up and explain that I haven’t been working. Oh, and to throw this piece at you guys. But first, an explanation:
Spring 2K4… GameFAQs… Best. Game. Ever. The contest that would shape all our lives, if our lives were pathetic and otherwise meaningless. From within the SpC2K4 board came Sovereign Threads, the fanfiction project for the tournament. Much like Champions of Time and Space was the fanfic project for the SC2K3 contest.
Well, the project failed. Miserably. For a variety of reasons, the team just couldn’t get it together to finish things. However, before it failed, eight fics were written. Seven by established members of the team, and one guest fic. Mine.
Below is that fic. It’s not spectacular, but it’s passable, and I felt it was time to share it with the rest of you. It’s written in four parts, written at four different times, which might explain the jumpiness a bit.
Phantasy Star vs. Contra
A single ship silently glided through space towards Palma. The Luveno ferried its crew across the Algol star system many times, as Alis Landale gathered up supplies and allies for her battle against Lassic. This was to be the end of it, though - after this, there would be no turning back.
“Need any company?”
Alis left her reverie, and turned to face the speaker. She smiled slightly as Myau leapt up to sit beside her. “I guess I could use someone to talk to.”
Myau didn’t waste time before cutting to the chase. “You have to quit shutting us out like this, you know.”
“What do you mean?” asked Alis.
“You know very well what I mean. You can fool Odin and Noah with your false attitude, but you can’t fool me. You think we’re going to die, don’t you.”
Alis stared at the talking cat for a moment before replying. “I can’t say that’s a lie, I’m afraid. And well, can you blame me? My whole life, Lassic has been this untouchable god. Everyone who ever dared to stand against him quickly fell. Even my brother died trying to stop Lassic’s evil. And, well., a part of me keeps thinking that I will, too.”
“Your brother was alone in his fight. You are not.” said Myau simply.
“I know that, but still… Nero was the strongest person I knew. I looked up to him. Whenever I thought something couldn’t be done, I looked at him and knew that he could do it. And now I have to try to do something that not even he could have done. Who am I to challenge Lassic?”
“So you think you’re doomed to failure?”
Alis remained silent.
“Then tell me this, Alis. If you feel that you will die, then why have you continued all this way? Why have you been able to free Odin from his petrification? Why have you passed every obstacle that laid in your path before this moment?” Myau got up and walked to the door. “You are stronger than you realize, Alis. We all have doubts, but the others and I would not have followed you if we did not believe in your strength.”
Alis smiled sadly at Myau as he left. “Maybe you’re right, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”
Myau walked back to where his other companions were staying. Odin was busy practicing his axe techniques against his shadow, quickly scoring hits and hewing imaginary limbs. He didn’t notice Myau watching him, being caught in the trance of the fighter. At the other end of the room, Noah sat cross-legged, her body still in opposition to the legendary warrior’s fluid motion. Odin remained focused on his single vantage point, while Noah’s mind was open to the universe. She shuddered for a moment as her eyes opened.
“What is it?” asked Myau.
“I felt a strange presence for a moment. And then, nothing. I do not know what it means, but it cannot be a good omen. We should land quickly.”
Myau looked squarely at the Esper, but she was not forthcoming with any further information. Her eyes told nothing specific, but he had seen a similar look once before. It was on the face of a man who had just heard his family had been killed.
A boat silently drifted down the Amazon River. The ship had no name, no defining characteristics that could identify it. The two men within the vessel wanted it that way. After all, they weren’t even supposed to be here.
The rumors had been coming in for weeks. Stories of misshapen men, burning villages and gunning down the fleeing people. The few survivors who made it to civilization were vivid in their horrifying descriptions, so much so that the local authorities dismissed the claims as mass hysteria and hallucinations. Then the Pentagon looked in on the situation and found out the truth - and it was even worse than had been described.
Top secret satellites had revealed the location of several hidden bases of non-terrestrial origin, each manned by a seemingly limitless number of pseudo-human beings. In short, there was an alien army being built right under the Earth’s nose.
And the worst part of it was, there was nothing the United States could do about it. The political situation was extremely tense between Brazil and Argentina (something about a soccer match gone horribly wrong), and the rest of South America was slowly being drawn into the conflict. President Raygun was attempting to broker peace in the region even as the boat continued to wind its way down the river, and a casual mention of probably evil, possibly brain-sucking aliens infesting the Amazon rainforest would not have been a bonus to the peace process. Neither would sending out the Marines, Army, FOX-HOUND, the Men in Black, and the offensive line of the Chicago Bears to confront this alien menace.
That was why two solitary soldiers were drifting along at the mercy of the current. The two knew each other only by their reputations and code names, Scorpion and Mad Dog. Each had been the greatest warrior in their respective divisions of the Special Forces, and both had unbeknownst to the other volunteered for the mission. Despite never meeting face to face, each had been in constant competition with the other. Be it endurance, accuracy, or speed, there was nothing that one would do that the other wouldn’t try and top. And now they met face to face.
“Quiet night,” said Scorpion in a whisper. It was the first thing either of them had said to the other since the briefing.
“Yeah,” murmured Mad Dog. “They don’t seem to have noticed us yet.”
“Herd instinct. As long as we don’t appear hostile, they’ll probably just ignore us.”
“Then let’s set up camp.”
Scorpion landed the boat and quickly tied it off, while Mad Dog covered his back. Even if neither of them had seen the enemy yet, that didn’t mean that they weren’t there. Lack of caution in enemy territory would be dangerous, if not fatal. There had been great caution by the mission leader to stay on alert, since there would be no support coming from the government. One mistake could be fatal in the field, but the Special Forces wasn’t a place for people who made mistakes. Efficiently, they beached the boat and quietly made their way into the jungle.
Survival training had taught them to never light a fire that would give away their position to the enemy, so they quickly constructed a shelter with only the stars for light. With both of them paying attention to their work, they didn’t notice the stars shifting above them into unfamiliar groupings, or the ship that silently touched down nearby…
The campsite was unusually subdued. Normally by now, Noah would have summoned a roaring fire while Myau napped and Odin regaled Alis with the adventures he had had. Noah’s total lack of concentration and Alis’ depression, however, had meant that it was up to Odin to start a fire by hand, and the dense foliage of the jungle wasn’t helping his task.
“I’ve never seen wood like this before. It’s just too wet to make good fuel,” said Odin as he carted another load of firewood to sputtering flame.
“Palma was never like this before,” said Alis.
Noah said nothing. Hazy glimpses of battles between strangers and names of unknown worlds were not everyday occurences for the Esper woman, but they were still nothing to be worried about. Still, there was a sense of foreboding that tinged the spirits whenever she began to dig deeper into her psyche for a further explanation. Whatever had happened, there was nothing she could do to comfort the others.
At last, Odin managed to get a decent-sized fire going, and the four heroes of the Algol star system huddled around the source of light. Quietly, Alis stared into the flame, letting the heat surround her. Despite the warm wind that came in from the east, she still felt a chill in her bones. This world was not Palma, despite what the navigational systems of the Luveno said. Somehow, things had changed. At first, she had thought it was Lassic’s evil power, attempting to trick her and her allies. But if so, then where were the monsters, the ambush, the attempts to kill them? It just didn’t make any sense…
Myau sighed to himself. It wasn’t enough that Alis was feeling down on herself, now Noah had to get in on the act. For a vague moment, Myau wondered if it was just ‘that time of the month’, but quickly pushed those thoughts out of his head. He wasn’t sure if Noah could read minds, and there was no sense in testing fate. Instead, he just lay down and began moping. Where was a good scratch behind the ears when you needed one?
“Say, did I ever tell you about the bar brawl I had in the Motavia spaceport?” said Odin, oblivious to the subdued mood of his three listeners.
“No, tell us,” said Myau quietly, spurring the warrior on in an attempt to cheer up the others.
“You see, it all started when this guy came up to me and said I had a face like a Fishman, only not as pretty…”
In the gloomy cover that the night provided, two soldiers silently ran forward. Perhaps they had once been human, before Red Falcon had ordered his troops to begin depopulating the surrounding area. Perhaps they were molded from the remnants of the biological supplies originally on board the ship that had crashed all those years. It mattered not to them. To live was to obey, no more, no less.
One of them noticed the glowing light of a nearby fire, but paid it no heed. Their orders were to patrol their set route, and to obey was to live. So they ran, ignoring the distraction.
Scorpion and Mad Dog watched as the two pseudo-humans continued their mindless course around the jungle floor. While it was tempting to simply fire from their cover and eliminate them before they could potentially sound a warning to the rest of the army, they held back. A wise fighter never hesitated to learn more about his opponent, especially when there were a few hundred thousand just like them somewhere out in the darkness. They watched as the creatures favored their right leg, running forward swiftly. They noticed the way they only vaguely turned their heads to look around, leaving themselves wide open for a side attack.
The soldiers ran. It was all they knew how to do. The commandos fired. It was all they were supposed to do. The two soldiers collapsed to the ground, mortally wounded with a single shot each through the windpipe. Mad Dog nodded grimly, already slowly moving forward to investigate the bodies.
A quick frisk revealed no radio or form of communication. There was no need to speak, both could tell what the other one was thinking. There must be a camp nearby, thought Scorpion. Mad Dog nodded, and also pointed to the flicker of the campfire. Likely a small troop huddled around there, perhaps an advance guard in anticipation of a retaliatory strike. Nothing large enough to pose too much of a threat.
Mad Dog continued to search his corpse. Only a small knife, barely a weapon at all. If this was what they armed their scouts with… he looked up questioningly at Scorpion. Scorpion shook his head. It could be a trap, a setup. There were shock troops at best, set up to wear down the enemy by sheer numbers.
Mad Dog nodded, and raised his rifle. Regardless of the danger, they were pushing ahead to confront whatever was in wait.
Two soldiers silently ran forward. Their orders were to eliminate the enemy, and to obey was to live.
“…so I head-fake him with the complementary peanuts and the idiot goes for it,” continued Odin, making sure to animatedly act out all the parts at once. Even Noah couldn’t totally stifle her chuckling at the flailing hero’s attempt to show the scene. Whatever one could say for Odin’s lack of personal charm and grace, there was no doubt that he was a master at storytelling. It was times like this that Noah was glad she had decided to leave the seclusion she had been under for so long. So many people with so many problems… eventually it just weighed down on a person. It was nice to meet at least one man who could look beyond the problems or the day and just be happy. Goodness knows that the others couldn’t.
“…and I give him a left, and a right, a flurry to the solar plexus,” said Odin, his actions very clearly showing that he had no idea where the solar plexus was. Myau shook his head, the illusion of the scene broken for a moment. For all his reputation, the cat had never seen Odin actually prove that he had done any of what he claimed to. To be sure, the “Legendary Hero” was a valiant fighter. But anything he could do, Alis had already proven better at. If only she could see that.
"…and as he’s laying there on the ground, I go, ‘How’s that, pal?’ " said Odin, a smug expression on his face. Alis stared at Odin in admiration. Her brother had once said that Odin was the single strongest person in the entire Algo star system, and she was inclined to agree. His confidence and bravado made him a formidable warrior. One day, she’d be as great as him… if she managed to live that long.
Scorpion took point this time. They advanced slowly, trying to ensure that they made no sudden movements or noises that would alert their targets.Though they couldn’t help a small amount of rustling from the overgrown plant life, they were reasonably certain that they went unnoticed. Still, they crept up even slower the closer they got to the fire.
Behind two large tree trunks, the two special forces units co-ordinated their strategy. Three humanoid figures, seemingly unarmed save for melee weapons on two of them. One above-average size feline, unarmed. (Scorpion wondered for a moment if it was really necessary to add on the ‘unarmed’ part of the description when talking about a white housecat, but then decided that it was better to be cautious than have the boys back home laugh about how the great hero of the Special Forces was killed by a kitty with a shotgun.) Not a particularly threatening group, but certainly enough to raise an alarm for a larger platoon.
“See any com equipment?” whispered Mad Dog.
“Can’t tell. No clear view. Assume they do and target their arms first.”
“Got it. Need them alive.”
“Left or right?” asked Scorpion, readying his rifle.
The two soldiers quickly finished loading as quietly as they could, then turned with their guns up to target… four reasonably irate people with weapons drawn a few inches from their faces.
“Excuse me,” said the girl with the sword sweetly. “Would you mind dropping your guns and putting your hands where we can see them?”
As they closed in, Mad Dog hesitated. They were speaking… English? That just didn’t add up to the reports. If these were biologically absorbed from the former inhabitants of this region, they should have known Portugese, or at a stretch Spanish. But despite the rather bizarre accents, that was definitely an English dialect. It just didn’t make sense.
It took a moment for the situation to become perfectly clear. They had followed procedure to the letter, had done everything exactly how they had trained… and had still gotten captured like they were two amateurs. If he ever got out of this situation alive and returned to write a book about his, Scorpion vowed there and then not to include this part in it. “How did you notice us?” he asked quietly as he was led towards the flame at swordpoint.
“You’d be surprised how much you can hear while lying in front of a fire,” said Myau simply, not noticing the surprised expressions on his captives’ faces.
Scorpion looked at Mad Dog. Mad Dog looked at Scorpion. They both looked at Myau. And together, they came up with the only logical conclusion they could manage, given the situation.
“You’re not from around here, are you? And no, don’t let the cat answer.”
While they weren’t tied up, it was plain to everyone there that Scorpion and Mad Dog were prisoners. Their guns were taken away and they were led to sit at the fire.
“And now, you’ll tell us what you’re doing here, and what you did to Palma.” said Noah.
"What do you mean, what are we doing here? You’re the ones trespassing on our planet!"said Scorpion.
“Don’t try and deny it. You’ve been planning this takeover for years!”
" ‘Takeover?’ All right, I think we need to get on the same page here," said Alis. “Now, we’re here because our navigational computer says that this is Palma. You’re telling me that this is someplace else. Obviously, one of us is wrong. Mind explaining just exactly what is going on?”
Mad Dog and Scorpion began to explain the circumstances that had led to their deployment in the region, almost without questioning the degree of classified information that they were rather glibly providing. For the next few minutes, all the information they possessed had been given to the Algolian heroes. Alis and Noah retreated out of earshot to discuss this situation.
“Strange… it’s like they had next to no mental shielding from my probe. It was just too easy to get into their minds.”
“So you think they may have been planted to throw us off the trail?” asked Alis.
“Maybe… I can’t say for certain. They certainly believe what they said. And from what I can tell, their physical conditioning would be consistent with their story.”
“Could Lassic have maybe tampered with their minds? That would explain the ease that you got into them.”
Noah sighed. “It’s a possibility, but not a large one. I’d like to think I could tell if a mind has been tampered with. The best thing to do would be to take what they say at face value, but keep on our guard.”
Finishing their discussion, they moved back to where Odin was carefully guarding their captives by sharpening his axe with his back towards them.
“You guys are new at this whole ‘capturing’ thing, aren’t you,” said Mad Dog.
Mad Dog and Scorpion checked their equipment. After convincing the others that they weren’t evil minions sent to assassinate them, Alis had allowed the two warriors to reclaim their weapons. Fortunately, they were still in perfect order.
“One of them’s a psychic,” said Scorpion, racking the slide on his rifle.
“You could tell too, huh? SOP?”
“Yeah.” The standard operating procedure when dealing with psychics was to cooperate as much as possible as long as top classified information was not divulged. Since neither of them had anything that could truly compromise national security - excluding the fact that they were American soldiers on foreign soil, a fact that had already been revealed. There was no need to risk synapse failure over less than vital information.
“What’s your take on the situation?” asked Mad Dog as he switched clips.
“Whoever they are, I’d lay even money that they aren’t human.”
“Orders say that we’re to exterminate any extra-terrestrial beings in the area with prejudice.”
“You want to take your chances with them, be my guest. But something’s not right with them. They had us at their mercy, and after they went through our minds, they had no reason to keep us alive.”
“So you think they’re telling the truth? They’re just lost travellers looking for their home?” said Mad Dog scornfully.
“Why not? As long as they aren’t killing us, we might as well assume they’re on our side.”
“Fine, but if I see so much as a sword brandished at me, I’ll open fire, got it?”
“So what will you do now?” asked Odin, when the two soldiers had returned to the rest of the group.
“Those alien forces are still out there. We’ve got to eliminate them before they overrun the planet,” said Scorpion.
“That shouldn’t take too long, because from the looks and sounds of things, we’re surrounded right now.” said Myau.
Dimly in the gloom, an approaching band of troops could be seen closing in. Hundreds of misshapen forms clustered together as they steadily marched on towards the source of light. Some were vaguely human, mere automatons of the flesh. Others shambled forward with nothing but their bones.
“Friends of yours?” asked Mad Dog
“We’re acquainted,” said Noah. “Though I’d prefer it if I never saw their kind again.”
“Stand together, team.” said Alis. "This is going to be a rough night.
The first volley was fired by Scorpion. Almost before the encroaching attack force could react, the wily commando had released the safety on his rifle and began to fire. He was quickly joined in the attack by his partner, while the four otherworlders bided their time until they could get to within melee range.
The approaching monsters, perhaps sensing the relative weakness of the three people and one cat just standing there, ran straight for them, hoping to draw the ones that were powerful towards them. A large group of former humans leapt at the group…
…only to be blown out of the clearing by a strange gust of wind that suddenly picked up from out of nowhere.
“All right, they seem to be fairly intelligent Too risky to stay in one place… Spread out, and don’t let yourself get surrounded. If you get into too much trouble, regroup by the fire,” yelled Alis, rushing forward with the Laconian Sword in hand.
“But didn’t you just say to stand together…” murmured Myau.
Standing back to back, Mad Dog and Scorpion could survey the entire battlefield between them. They saw the endless shadows that waited for a chance to strike, shapeless and nameless horrors like the ones they were mercilessly killing now.The reports had said that there would eventually be a confrontation of this sort, but they had greatly underestimated the magnitude of the enemy’s forces.
“Seventeen.,” said Scorpion, pegging one of the shambling demihumans in where he assumed its heart was. In a single fluid motion, he removed the spent cartridge and replaced it with another.
“Twenty-one,” replied Mad Dog, sending another foe to its doom.
“Twenty-nine, and duck.” With well-honed precision, both fighters simultaneously collapsed to the jungle floor, with their guns still ready. A few stray shots whistled overhead, catching an unfortunate pseudo-human in the chest.
“So they’re armed. Great,” muttered Mad Dog, as he picked himself up from the ground.
“Divide and conquer?”
“One more thing - thirty. I’m counting that kill as mine,” said Scorpion as he rushed forward.
Alis hacked her way through the rampaging horde. Even as the bodies piled up, she simply renewed her assault with even more fury. Hundreds of nameless, faceless creatures had fallen to her power. Why should these be any different? They challenged her, they deserved to die…
“What am I thinking?” she thought. For a moment, her resolve and berserker rage subsided. This wasn’t her at all…
She wasn’t a killer. She had only defended herself to the best of her ability…
So much blood on your hands, it’ll never come off…
A fiend leapt up beside her, and almost without consciously thinking of it, she brought up her sword to impale it. As she saw the life drain away from it, with the blood slowly dripping down onto her weapon, she shivered. What was the point in all this slaughter? Why did she cause death wherever she went? It was just like her brother…
People die, so that the great can climb upon their corpses. This has always been the way.
Alis gritted her teeth. She didn’t have time to muse over the ethics! There were people who needed her help. She rushed over to the campfire quickly, keeping herself aware of the ongoing struggle.
“Forty-five,” said Mad Dog under his breath, rolling under another flurry of gunfire and returning it with better results. It seemed like there was a never-ending stream of misshapen targets, just lining up to be shot down. Why did they continue with such tactics? All they were doing was getting rid of their own numbers…
For a second, Mad Dog was oblivious to the noise his gun had just made. It was only after his target remained in motion towards him that he took notice of it. Quickly, he pulled the trigger again.
This time it was noticed, and certain. “No… how could I have made such a rookie mistake!” He had finally realised the truth of the situation. Their numbers were finite. His ammunition was finite. But they were less finite than his ammo was. Eventually, the sheer number would overwhelm him… and it seemed that the time was at hand. Mad Dog made a hasty retreat to the fire, hoping that something could be done there to stem the tide.
Six fighters crowded together, their backs to a blazing fire. All around, shambling horrors closed in and pressed them ever further back. Marching over the dead corpses of their former allies, the legions prepared to engulf the heroes and snuff them out.
“When I give the signal, run for the ship as fast as you can,” said Noah. “You two, just follow us. And run quickly.”
“What’s the signal?” asked Scorpion.
Noah remained silent, but her eyes told the story. They lingered for a moment on the fire, then up on the canopy of leaves above them. It didn’t take long for Scorpion to get the picture.
“You can do that?” he asked.
“Just watch me.”
At four hundred and fifty-one degrees Farenheit, paper burns. At seven hundred and fifty-one degrees Farenheit, even the wettest rainforest will burn. The small campfire that had nearly burned through all its fuel took power anew from eldrich sources, and shot up into the sky with a blast of heat. In a few seconds, the entire clearing was surrounded by the warm glow of an out of control forest fire, igniting everything and everyone in its path.
“Move it out!” cried Alis, as the race to safety began.
They ran. Even as the fire raced throughout the jungle, and bullets continued to rain down on them, they ran. Mad Dog and Scorpion had no idea where they were going, no indication that they were even headed towards wherever they had put this ship of theirs. But there was no reason to stop trusting them now. In a way, it was strange. Their orders had been to subdue and terminate any non-terrestrial force in the jungle, and now they were taking orders and advice from one. And yet… what choice did they have?
“If we ever get out of this, remind me to tell HQ that we really need better intelligence reports,” said Mad Dog.
“And guns with infinite ammo.”
“Get real, that’s never going to happen.”
They’re going to kill you, you know.
Alis shook her head. Not this again.
Look at them talking, even as they evade the enemy. They’re plotting against you.
“I don’t believe you.” she murmured under her breath.
Fine… but you know it’s true.
“How do I know? Who are you?”
Look inside yourself for the answers. All I can do is tell you that you know.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Alis ran towards the ship, now in sight. Whatever had taken hold over her before, whatever had questioned her motives and comrades, it was gone…
[i]A man with a bandanna. Dark hair, and a stern expression. He seems to be weary of his life. A group of people come up to him and one begins to speak. I can’t make out the words. Something about a brain… and Algo being destroyed? That can’t be! There are others with him now. They look shocked and angry.
“How dare you ruin Algo!”
They’re fighting now. The small group, they’re being overrun. Just like we were… that man looks familiar… No! It can’t be![/i]
“Alis!” cried Odin. But it was too late. Caught in the reverie of her vision, faced with a scenario that she couldn’t understand and at the same time knew all too well, Alis Landale collapsed unconscious on the ground. And in the shadows, a man once known as Lassic, but now much more, silently laughed.
They had been lucky… too many of the enemy had perished in the flames to be of any danger. Their location was definitely known now, but at least they had a fighting chance to do some real damage.
“Are you sure you’re not going to come with us?” asked Myau. Noah had been unable to determine what exactly was wrong with Alis, and thought it best to go off and search for a world they recognized in order to stabilize their friend’s condition.
“Our place is here. Something made those things, and it’s our duty to get rid of them.” answered Mad Dog.
“Well, if nothing else, then take this.” said Odin, pushing two strange guns into the commandos’ hands.
“What are they?” asked Scorpion.
“Laser rifles. They don’t need recharging, just try and avoid constantly firing them.”
Scorpion grinned. “Will do. Thank you.”
The other two went into the Luveno, but Noah hesitated for a second. Almost without thinking of it, she turned and asked a question. “This planet… what do you call it?”
“Earth.” answered Mad Dog.
For a second, Noah closed her eyes and looked into the future. Then, sadly, she nodded and went into the ship. As the Luveno took off and the two soldiers left her sight, Noah shed a single tear for what would be. It was true then… the descendant of Alis, and the men and women on that world called Earth.
“I wonder what they will see in the final days?” mused the Esper woman.
The Luveno left orbit silently, towards parts unknown. Two men, newly armed, made their way across the jungle towards an enemy base. And the multiverse grew a little smaller…