Crimsonstar/Second Rikti War Part III
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Alex flew back to their arrival site, glancing back to see if any Rikti were following her. None were, which was both good and bad. Good in that she should make it back safely, bad in that it meant that they would all be turning their attention to Marsius.
She could see a small speck in the air flying behind her. She stopped, preparing herself for combat, then relaxed as she recognized Marshi getting closer. It appeared that she too had managed to get clear of the Rikti with no pursuit.
Alex held her position and allowed herself to look at the devastation and decay of what had once been a beautiful, gleaming city on this planet. She still found it hard to believe that any race could be so cold, so complete in the total destruction of another world. Her brow knitted and her eyes squinted as she saw something in a deep ravine below her.
It looked to be a dumping ground for cast off material by the Rikti, but it looked oddly familiar. The shapes and contours of the wreckage, the coloration of the metal, it all tugged at her memory. Then, realization sank in. “Gods above,” she murmured and she quickly flew down to the ravine. Landing on the ground she slowly walked among the wreckage, her mind unwilling to accept what her eyes were seeing.
Marshi quickly landed behind her. “Alex, we have to hurry. Marsius will be joining us soon and we all need to be at the site together for him to activate the portal recall,” she said. Alex didn’t respond, still slowly walking through the debris field. They were mid-twentieth century Earth ships, and planes. They had been scuttled, with large gaping holes ripped through them, some were only piles of metal, but there was no mistaking them for what they were.
“Alex?” Marshi said, now also looking at the endless tract of twisted and burnt metal. Alex remained silent, walking among the wreckage.
She stopped at what remained of an iron hull, caked in dirt and mud with a name still barely visible: U.S.S. Wildcat. She moved away from the ship wreckage, stopping at another pile of debris, comprised of twisted metals, landing struts and what appeared to be propellers. A section of an airplane tail wing sticking out of the pile caught her eye. It bore an identification of N4129P. As far as she could see, the ravine was littered with the remnants of planes and ships. Alex finally turned around to Marshi.
“Back when I was at ICE FIELD, we had a guy whose name I can’t even remember now, but he was a fanatic about all the unexplained mysteries and urban legends back on Earth. Things like U.F.O.’s, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster. One of his favorite mysteries revolved around an area in the northwestern region of our Atlantic Ocean called the Bermuda Triangle. He was always quoting stories and names of planes and ships that had gone missing there. He used to annoy us constantly about how when he was done with ICE FIELD he was going to use his abilities to finally get some answers about it. I don’t know how or why, maybe it’s all the times I had to listen to him retell his stories and theories, but some of the names of the missing ships stuck with me.” Alex waved her hand in a slow arc to the debris field. “These are remains of some, if not possibly all those vessels that have disappeared from the Bermuda Triangle.”
Marshi looked around, the look on her face now revealing that she understood what Alex had found. “Alex, this means….”
“The Rikti have been to Earth long before their first attack six years ago.”
The Rikti were quickly forgetting pursuing Alex and Marshi and returning their attention to Marsius and the bomb that were both floating just within a few feet of their tower.
“You're persistent bastards, aren’t you?” Marsius said. He threw his plasma energy loaded gauntlet down into the interior of the Rikti base tower through the open docking bay. The impact of it with the structure was the final catalyst to set off the overload and thick gray smoke flooded the area as it exploded. He had to strain his eyes to see past the smoke but the gamble had worked and he could see the floor dropping way revealing the interior of the Rikti base.
Plasma fire erupted around him lighting up the sky as the Rikti opened fire trying to hit him or the bomb. “Easy fellows, you can have it soon enough,” he remarked.
With one massive shove, Marsius flung the bomb down into the Rikti base, cutting off the null gravity field as he let it go. It bounced off the side wall, tipped over and fell down the newly created shaft the exploding gauntlet had created. He quickly flew off, leaving the Rikti now scrambling after the little present he had just left them.
Alex and Marshi were waiting for him at the rendezvous point when he landed. “Ladies, our package is delivered.” He said and pulled the small signal device to recall the portal from his belt. He noticed that Alex was unusually quiet. She held her arms folded as if she were cold and her face seemed distressed. “Alex, are you okay? What’s happened?” He had known her long enough to know that something had shaken her usual steely composure. She looked up at him. “Marsius, I….I don’t believe what I found. It’s staggering to even think…”
Marsius reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. “What is it?” he asked and she quickly related what she and Marshi had found. His eyes widened and darted quickly to Marshi and back to Alex. “Are you sure? Nevermind, forget I even asked, of course you are. Well, this little trip just continues to get more complicated the longer we’re here. Alex, you and I should pay a visit to Vanguard once we get back and see if they have any knowledge of this. I’ve suspected for a while now that Lady Grey knows more about the Rikti invasions than what Vanguard has revealed. Right now, we need to get out of here.”
The air crackled with electricity as Marsius activated the recall unit opening the portal in front of them. “Before we go, Marshi, set off the bomb. I want to make sure it goes off.” He said turning back around to face the Rikti’s tower.
“I can’t,” Marshi said, her fingers madly pressing controls on her gauntlets. She looked up frustrated. “Marsius, when the Rikti were firing at me, they hit me, my shields held, barely, but it damaged my gauntlet’s computer relays. I can’t get the detonation code to load.” Marsius ran over to her. “Let me see.” He said as she held out her arm to him letting him access the controls of her gauntlet. He looked at Marshi, their eyes meeting. Both knew what had to be done. “It’ll have to be set off manually,” she said.
“Guys we’ve got trouble.” Alex said pointing toward the portal back to Earth now fully opened. The three of them could see the portal room back at KEA filled with smoke and fire. Dozens of Rikti bodies were lying on the floor, but worse yet, they could see that at least three of the Star Brigade members that had stayed behind had fallen also. Six Star Brigade officers were engaged in heavy combat with at least two dozen Rikti. They wouldn’t hold out much longer. “We need to go, now.” Alex said reaching out and grabbing Marsius’ arm. The three of them approached the portal and Marsius watched as Marshi leapt into the portal then watched as seconds later she emerged on the other side, surprising the Rikti with an attack to their rear flank. “Alex, you go next,” He said.
Alex started flying toward the portal but noticed that Marsius held back. She turned just before flying through the portal and saw him flying off, back toward the Rikti tower.
“Marsius, what are you doing?” she yelled.
“I didn’t travel to this dimension to leave our mission unfinished. I’m flying back and setting off the bomb,” he said. Alex turned and started flying back to him. “The hell you are! Marsius that blast will kill you! Forget it, we did what we could, we just didn’t have enough manpower to deliver the bomb and detonate it.”
He didn’t respond and was starting to get further away. “Dammit Marsius, don’t you do this! Aren’t you the one always telling me ‘Alex, don’t get dead’ when we’re in tight situations? Well now I’m telling you, Marsius don’t kill yourself for this, we’ll find another way.” He continued flying towards the Rikti tower. Alex increased her flight speed, catching up to Marsius. “Marsius, you are NOT going down there and setting that thing off!” she snarled as she tugged at his arm.
“Alex, you’re right, I’m not.” He said and she notice him quickly working on the controls of his one remaining gauntlet. “Remember the matter transmuter that I use to change my clothing and to fabricate items out of other raw materials?”
“What about it?” she asked.
“It works by molecular rearrangement which creates a small electromagnetic pulse when activated.”
“You mean as in an EMP? ” Alex asked.
“Exactly. Once we turn this on we don’t have to worry about the detonation device. The pulse will cancel all the electrical current in its radius, including the failsafe that keeps the plasma cells of the bomb stable.”
“But that’s always an instantaneous change.” she asked watching his fingers quickly working on his gauntlet.
“I’m setting it for a twenty second delay. It should go off just as it reaches the bomb.”
“I didn’t know it could do that.” she said as Marsius smirked and shook his head.
“I don’t know if it will either. I’m reconfiguring as we go and praying it works.” he replied.
They stopped just a few feet away from the Rikti tower. The Rikti were all busy rushing into the tower and they could tell they were moments away from extracting the bomb he had just moments ago sent hurtling down into their base.
He reared back and with all his might threw his last gauntlet into Rikti tower down the same shaft. He grabbed Alex’s hand and started flying back toward the KEA portal. Then, like a volcano that had been pent up for too long, the bomb exploded, sending pieces of the tower and Rikti bodies hurtling into the sky. The shockwave created by the blast started flashing across the landscape. “This is going to be close.” He said as they started to dive towards the portal.
They were losing, and losing fast. Of the original fifty Star Brigade officers that had come over, only ten, including Marshi herself, had come back from their first mission into the Rikti war zone. That left nine of them to try and hold off the Rikti attacks once she, Marsius and Alex had gone through the portal to the Rikti dimension. Now, they were down to six.
Marshi leapt over one of her fallen comrades, briefly glancing down to see it was Crimsonstar Tanth. She pried a plasma rifle from one of the multitudes of dead Rikti on the floor and fired into the pack of them that had the other six Star Brigade officers penned in against the back of the room. She had a fortuitous stroke of luck in that the Rikti hadn’t noticed her arrival back to Earth and her shots took down four of the Rikti as she swept the rifle’s plasma beam across the room.
Several of the Rikti turned and her element of surprise was gone. Marshi leapt up flying across the room as they all fired on her location. Their shots missed her, instead ripping a large hole in the floor exposing the lower level of the KEA offices. She looked around the room and noted that it was taking heavy damage. Sparks flew out of the control console for the portal and looking back she could see that the energy matrix for the portal was starting to shimmer. In another few minutes it would be down completely.
“Where’s Pulsar Denthar?” Crimsonstar Gavin asked as he fired into the Rikti. They were holding them back, but there was too many of them and he knew it was just a matter of time before they overtook them. He heard a scream as he watched Comet Bren go down in a broken heap on the floor, plasma fire burning his body
“He was going to set off the bomb, the remote detonator in my gauntlets was damaged,” Marshi replied. She looked over at him, noticed his cape was billowing and that her hair was being blown about by wind. Where was it coming from? The outer walls of the building were still intact, but something was creating a strong wind and its intensity was increasing.
“Look!” yelled one of the Star Brigade officers, pointing to the portal. They could see Marsius and Alex flying toward the portal, and the landscape behind them covered in flames and smoke.
“He did it, he managed to set off the bomb!” Marhsi exclaimed. The wind was actually howling inside the building now as she realized it was the shock wave from the bomb coming through the portal as well. Marsius and Alex came hurtling through the portal, the shockwave pushing them so fiercely that they both crashed to the floor colliding with the Rikti in the middle of the room. Immediately the other Star Brigade officers laid down cover fire as Marshi and Gavin dove into the pack of Rikti helping Marius and Alex to their feet. Another two Star Brigade officers died as the plasma fire intended for Marsius and Alex ripped into them instead.
“The portal, shut it down, now! This isn’t the full brunt of the bomb’s shockwave. It’ll tear the building apart!” Marsius yelled as he quickly turned and fired a force field blast into the Rikti knocking them to the floor. He watched as Marshi frantically worked the controls on the console. “It’s no good! It was damaged in the fight, I can shut it down!” she yelled. More screams, and the last four Star Brigade officers fell to the Rikti weapons. One of them remained alive, and struggled to crawl back to them, his legs shattered. Gavin leapt into the firefight to take his hands. He never saw the Rikti Conscript raise its large blade, or even hear it cleave the air as it brought it down on both of them.
“Gavin! No!” Marshi screamed and tried to run to them. Marsius grabbed her and held her back and swore under his breath as he watched Gavin fall lifelessly to the floor. “It’s too late for them, Marshi. Get behind me.” Marsius yelled, “Alex, I need some time to do this.”
“All over it Mars.” Alex answered as she stomped the ground violently. The floor cracked and shattered as the floor shook underneath them. Marius extended his arms, concentrated and a field of star energy shields surrounded them. The four of them stood defiantly as the last half dozen Rikti warriors stood up from Alex’s foot stomp and raised their weapons. The room imploded as the full force of the shockwave erupted through the portal.
The portal room was completely destroyed. The computer control console had been ripped from the floor and shattered against the wall. The portal itself had collapsed from the force of the shockwave and lay in a crumpled heap on the raised platform that just days before had served as its housing mount. The last three days the three of them had removed the bodies, placing the fallen Star Brigade officers in caskets draped with the flags of the Kairin Empire. The Rikti bodies had been immediately claimed by Vanguard and Marsius offered no protest when they showed up to take possession of them.
The damage hadn’t been contained to just the portal room of the KEA. The top floor which held Marsius’ apartment was gone and had fallen to the city streets below. Already demolition crews were working around the clock to clear it away. Fortunately Marsius had the foresight to have the building evacuated before their trip into the Rikti dimension and there was thankfully no loss of civilian life. The floor below the portal room that housed the KEA offices and VIP apartments had also fallen in, crushing another three floors beneath them. Several offices would find themselves closed for business for months to come. Many would no doubt end up bankrupt. Already lawyers were preparing and filing lawsuits against the KEA. Lady Grey of Vanguard and the secretary for the newly formed U.N. Department of Extraterrestrial Affairs promised Marsius that many if not most of these lawsuits would ‘go away’, but the damage was overwhelming. The public opinion polls showed that sentiment towards the KEA had swung severely. Many of Paragon City’s citizenry felt the KEA had been just as dangerous to their existence as the Rikti they fought.
“They’re idiots, the whole damn lot of them. They don’t realize what you and the Star Brigade officers have done for this planet.” Alex said, throwing the latest edition of the Paragon Times newspaper onto the floor with the rest of the wreckage.
“And since we were here on a covert operation at the request of Lady Grey and her Vanguard operation, they never will.” Marshi added.
“Still, their fears aren’t without merit. We didn’t end the Rikti War. They still have troops here on Earth and still raid the city almost daily. The crash site of their initial invasion is still under their control. All we did was cause them a setback on replenishing their troops, and we have no guarantee that they don’t have resources elsewhere.” Marsius said as he hefted a segment of the destroyed portal and tossed it into a large construction dumpster.
“No Marsius, we did more than that. We sent the Rikti a message. With the information we provided Vanguard they now know that Earth can access their dimension as easily as they do Earth. They’ll have to realize now that the tide of this war has shifted.” Alex told him and she put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’m more worried about Marshi. The portal is gone, and she’s here on Earth now as well.”
“Well, I wouldn’t quite say that.” Marshi said.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked. Marshi took a quick glance at Marsius who nodded it was okay for her to continue. “We have a starslider parked outside the moon’s orbit.”
“What? You’re kidding? I thought the starslider technology was experimental?” Alex asked.
“It was when I left six years ago. Once I managed to make contact with Andromeda and Star Brigade, they realized that the drive worked and immediately commissioned them into service. When Marshi and the others were dispatched, the Star Brigade also ordered a ship sent to Earth.” He stopped for a moment looking around. “In the event that… this… happened. I wanted to be certain that they could get back home. Only I failed to anticipate how heavy our losses would be.” His shoulders slumped and he suddenly felt weak. He sat down on a pile of rubble, the crushed mortar and steel shifting out from under his feet. The destruction was everywhere even after all the cleaning they had been doing. “All this is on me. I shouldn’t have pressured Lady Grey to let Star Brigade send troops. All these men are dead because of me. Some of them had families, promising careers in the Star Brigade, now I’ve robbed them of that.”
Marshi turned to him. “Marsius no, no you didn’t. They took the same oath that you and I did when we joined the Star Brigade. They knew that coming to Earth had a high probability of being a one way trip. They came anyway, because they believed in the charter of the Star Brigade, that all life needs to be protected by forces that would seek to enslave or control them.” She knelt down and took his hand. “Marsius, you asked for fifty of the Star Brigade’s finest to aid in this battle, yet over two hundred volunteered.” Marsius looked up in surprise. “They all wanted to come to Earth to meet the legendary Marsius Denthar, the man who had given up his world to come and aid another. They wanted to meet the man who inspired so many others to join the Brigade in the last years in hopes of someday also paving the way to contacting new worlds.”
Marshi stood back up and approached the caskets of the fallen Star Brigade officers placing her hand on the one closet to her. “These men died, Marsius Denthar, because like you they believed that the life of their human brothers outweighed the danger to their own, and that fighting to preserve it, whether they were Andromedan or not, was the only course of action a Star Brigade officer could take. Don’t mourn them, Marsius, honor them.” she said.
Dawn was just about to break and the soft reddish glow of the sun peaked over the horizon. Alex watched as Marsius and Marshi loaded the last of the caskets onto the small shuttle that had come down to retrieve them. Vanguard had made special arrangements for the shuttle to land in a field on the edge of the city away from the prying eyes of the media. If Lady Grey had noticed that a Star Brigade starship had hours earlier emerged from behind the moon and taken orbit around Earth, or that the same vessel had then launched a shuttle the size of a small naval ship, she made no mention of it. “With all the Rikti raiding ships and our own experimental air craft now patrolling the city, I wouldn’t be surprised if one managed to slip by our monitoring." She had whispered as she left the empty field, turning briefly to nod to Marsius.
The two of them walked back to Alex. “That’s the last of them.” Marshi said.
“Then I guess that’s all that remains to be done.” Marsius said. He and Marshi looked at each other for several long moments, not speaking until she finally broke the silence.
“Are you sure you won’t come with us?” she asked.
Marsius lifted his head, letting the first rays of the rising sun hit his face, feeling its warmth. He breathed in deeply, taking in the scent of the wildflowers and pine trees from the forest at the edge of the field. He thought of the French toast and sausage that was Alex’s specialty and that she herself said she was looking forward to making when they got back in the city.
“There was a time when I would have gladly climbed on board. The last six years have been an adventure, not always good, and sometimes I wonder why I stay, but it’s always been rewarding in the end. I was born in Andromeda, but Earth is home now. Maybe someday I’ll return, but for now, I’m content here.” he answered.
Marshi smiled. “I understand.” She stepped over to Alex. “Well Alex, it was good to see you again, even if it was while fighting for our lives.” She leaned over and hugged her. She pulled back and turned to Marsius and assumed an official Star Brigade stance and salute. “Pulsar Denthar, Crimsonstar Brax respectfully requesting to take my leave sir and return to Andromeda.”
He returned the salute. “Permission granted, Crimsonstar Brax. May Kairin guide your ship.” As Marsius and Alex flew over the tree line and approached the edge of Paragon City, they heard the soft roar of the shuttle as it lifted off and headed for Earth’s orbit to rejoin its host ship.
Marsius sat in the large conference room joined by Mark Lowenfield, the owner of the public relations firm he had hired months before to help KEA gain public exposure. They were meeting with Susan Maxwell, an attorney for the Kirsh, Lang and Sawyer law firm and accountant Paul Theron. Both of them had come in carrying large manila folders that were stuffed to the point that they both kept unconsciously shuffling the papers and forms in them in an attempt to make the folders stay closed.
Ms. Maxwell made notations on her seemingly unending pile of papers as she spoke. “Well Marsius, the good news is that after the first Rikti attacks, many of the businesses in your office building had the foresight to either increase their insurance coverage, or add the new,….”she paused to look at him. “Alien and meta human hostility rider coverage that was introduced later by the Insurance Services Office, to their policies.” She signed one final stack of documents and looked the packet over before she slid it across the table to Marsius. “So that means that those businesses won’t be suing either you or the former KEA. Also, and I can only surmise that some outside influence that I don’t know of was at work here, the insurance companies have also stated that they will not be subrogating against you. That’s good considering KEA had no insurance plan.” Marsius smiled, knowing that the ‘outside influence’ Susan spoke of had no doubt been Lady Grey at Vanguard. She had been as good as her word. “The only lawsuit against you is the one by Lincoln Realty Management for the destruction of the top seven floors of the building located at 19 Siegel Way where KEA held offices. That has been resolved by the settlement offer you’ve made and I have already arranged for payment from KEA accounts for that, with the help of Mr. Theron.”
She stood up and flipped the packet open to several pages. “So, this packet states that any and all litigation against you and KEA has been amicably resolved and that you authorized Kirsh, Lang, and Sawyer as appointed attorney’s to represent you in these matters.” She pointed out the areas he needed to sign, smiled and placed all the paperwork back into her briefcase and sat down.
Mr. Theron took that as his cue to address his portion of the meeting. He cleared his throat nervously as he started to rummage and move his own pile of papers around. “Well then…yes…..so Mr. Denthar. I’m curious as to how KEA managed to have, well, how it managed to have so much capital at hand.” He said.
“There is a precious Earth metal that is abundant on one of the Andromedan worlds. The government of the Kairin Empire made a substantial amount of it available to me to provide funding for KEA. The sale of it on the world markets provided the funding we required.” Marsius said. Mr. Theron gave a curious glance to him and Mark who silently mouthed the word ‘gold’ in reply to his questioning look.
“Ah, okay then. Well, after paying the settlement to LRM, the bill for cleanup services to McCann Construction for disposal of the wreckage of the office building, the attorney fees to Krish, Lang and Sawyer, and uh, my salary, KEA is officially left with…” he referred to the financial statement in front of him. “ …Six hundred, thirty nine dollars and twenty six cents.”
Marsius could hear Mark make a low groan as Mr. Theron informed him of the amount. “It’s okay Mark.” Marsius whispered. Mr. Theron stopped a moment to look back at them. “I’ve closed the KEA account as per your request Mr. Denthar and have placed those funds in the newly opened account you requested, here is all the paperwork on that, and the closing agreement contract that states the services I’ve provided were to your expectations.”
Marsius signed this second packet of pages and slid them back to Mr. Theron and stood up. “I believe this concludes our business then?” he asked. Both Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Theron rose from their chairs, gathering their belongings. Marsius shook both their hands and thanked them for their services. Marsius stood with Mark to wait for the elevator.
“So, I guess this is it then?” Mark asked holding out his hand. Marsius took it and shook it firmly. “For now, yes. Thank you for all your hard work Mark.” The elevator chime rang as it arrived on their floor. “So I’m one of the select few in your inner circle that knows exactly what went down? I mean with you and your Star Brigade officers and what happened two weeks ago?” he asked. Marsius just gave him a nod and neither of them said anything more on the subject.
Mark adjusted his tie and jacket as the doors opened. “Well, I have one more duty to perform as public relations manager for the Kairn Earth Alliance, and that’s facing the horde of reporters waiting outside.” He stepped into the elevator. “Good luck Marsius.” Mark said and the doors closed. Marsius went to the end of the hallway and out the stairwell to the roof access of the building. He only stayed on the roof long enough to watch Mark address the media circus out front and then took off into the sky.
Icon Tailor and Clothier shop, Founder’s Falls location.
“Here you go, Mr. Denthar.” Said the saleswoman as she set down a case on the counter and opened it for Marsius to inspect. Inside it contained two new sets of gauntlets in the colors of the various uniforms he wore. He took one out and tried it on, examining the workmanship. “I have to say, I’m surprised you put in an order for these. Most everyone here knows about your gauntlets with your Andromedan technology. When we placed the order, Serge himself called inquiring if the order was actually accurate.”
“I no longer have those gauntlets.” Marsius said. The new gauntlets were made from a lightweight metal alloy, so while they were a littler denser and heavier than his old ones, they at least wouldn’t be so heavy as to constantly remind him that they weren’t his original Star Brigade issued ones. He closed the case. “Guess I’ll be changing my outfits the traditional way for a while.” He said and smiled as he left the shop.