Whoa, this thread finally reached 10,000 views! Thanks for reading, everyone, and let's see if we can hit 20,000!
Originally I had the final part of Mighty and Ray's quest slated for this chapter, but I changed my mind and decided to put this totally new chapter here instead. Just goes to show that nothing is set in stone.
Anyone remember Chapter 52? I enjoyed writing Lien-Da's flashback chapter so much that I decided to do another one. Enjoy, peoples! This should shed even more light on why Lien-Da hates the Nocturnus so much. If you're an echidna fan, this is your kind of chapter...so what are you waiting for? Read on. Sorry for more time skipping, but to make it fit this chapter has to take place a few hours before Thrash's little adventure in Nocturne.Chapter 70: RivalriesNocturne, Dark Legion barracks, afternoon
Lien-Da entered the Dark Legion's barracks intending to see her grandfather Moritori Rex, and was mildly annoyed to see the place brimming with Legionnaires. But she could be patient, as she was, after all, still hours away from destroying her lifetime enemy. As before, she waited around for her subordinates of the Dark Legion to leave before speaking to her grandfather, and once her people had sufficiently thinned she shoed away the last group of Legionnaires away, sending them off to go help rebuild Echidnaopolis. Finally, with the broad room empty Lien-Da walked over to Moritori's bedside and gently nudged his shoulder with her hand. Her aging ancestor's eyes opened immediately, almost taking her by surprise. "I thought you were sleeping...?" she asked in slight confusion.
"Well, dear...as you should well know, pretending is one of my strong suits," rasped Moritori Rex. "I could tell you wanted to talk, so I pretended to be asleep until we were in private, lest one of our rank-and-file overheard and tattle on us. Now, did you do as I suggested and meet with General von Stryker?"
Lien-Da smiled, which was, given her personality and the situation, a very rare occurrence. "I did, sir, and it went better than I ever could've imagined! Sure, I ran into a few snags at the beginning...the guy still hates our guts, obviously...but he's happy to help us blow this dismal place to pieces. After giving it some thought, we decided that a full-out frontal assault wouldn't be a particularly viable option, given how fierce and outright brutal the clan has proven to be in the past. Not only that, but after losing dozens of soldiers to the Egg Grapes and Enerjak, they outnumber us by too large a ratio for comfort, and heck, their weaponry is so advanced we barely stand a chance against them, as much as I'm loath to admit it. So, after carefully considering our options, the General and I opted to use a slightly more subtle method--a simple stealth mission, one that hardly stands any chance of failing. The stakes are higher than ever before, after all--this time, there is no room for failure. But I will make sure it succeeds. It has
I figured Helmut would see it your way," whispered Moritori, after which he coughed and wheezed a few times. "So have the two of your worked out some sort of arrangement as to what will become of our great Legion once the plan is put into place? Surely you didn't agree to leave the island, did you?"
Outside the chamber, Kommissar Gae-Na exited Nocturne's labyrinthine passages carrying a datapad with a complete catalog of what was left of the Dark Legion's weapons arsenal, as had been requested by the Grandmaster. She pushed open the door to the Legion's chamber, humming under her breath, and immediately noticed Lien-Da and Moritori talking without anyone else around, neither noticing the Kommissar's appearance. Oops, looks like I'm interrupting something,
she thought silently, backing away. Guess I better steer clear of her for the moment...I mean, she's not exactly in a good mood today, is she?
"Nah," replied Lien-Da, sitting on the foot of her grandfather's bed, "and even if I did promise that there's no way that I'd actually do
it. Basically I told him that we'd be able to work it out after we destroyed those barbaric armor-wearing beasts." She smiled, enjoying the mental image.
The as-of-yet unnoticed Gae-Na, who was slowly backing out of the room heard the words "destroyed those barbaric armor-wearing beasts." She nearly dropped her datapad. What in the world is she talking about?
she wondered, then the realization hit her like a charging pasha.
Moritori's smile twitched, but it otherwise remained. "I've been most curious as to how you will be carrying out this task. Mind enlightening this curious old mind?"
"Of course, Granddad," said Lien-Da. "In matter of mere hours our ally Thrash and the dingoes will be using a Warp Ring to bypass all of the citadel's defenses and install several heavy-duty explosive devices in Nocturne's ammunition storage depot...and once they're activated, the resulting explosion will have enough power to level this entire stupid place to the ground! With them out of the way, our claim on Angel Island's lands will be unquestioned save for that of those bothersome dingoes, and we can go and reclaim our fortress, eliminate the Dingo Regime, and then Angel Island will finally be ours
after four hundred years of struggling! Does that sound like a plan to you, Grandfather?"
"It does, but what about us? And let's say that echidna civilians are killed as well as the Nocturnus?" asked Moritori, rubbing his chin.
"Hey, I don't want to kill any innocents, just the Nocturnus, Grandfather," said Lien-Da, cackling maliciously. "Nocturne's plenty far enough away from Echidnaopolis itself, so there's hardly any risk of collateral damage. And you needn't worry; when the bombs go off every single being in the Legion--ourselves included--will be conveniently be outside, toiling away at the reconstruction effort...and far away from the actual explosion. Tonight, the entire Nocturnus Clan will die
--and I cannot reiterate this enough--of that you can be absolutely certain."
Finally, the dread-filled spying Kommissar, lurking by the barrack entrance, was unable to remain hidden any longer and not speak up. Her heart pounding and her pulse elevated, Gae-Na stepped out into the open from behind a wall fixture, ready to incur Lien-Da's wrath if need be if it meant doing the right thing. "You'll have to pardon my interruption, ma'am," she began, "but I couldn't help but overhear the details of your little plan."
Lien-Da's eyes widened and she jumped off Moritori's bed and vaulted across the room, landing swiftly on the ground by Gae-Na. She walked forward slowly while she locked eyes with and spat venom at her terrified Kommissar, who was fast becoming genuinely afraid for her life. "What do you think gives you the right to eavesdrop on my conversations?!" hollered Lien-Da, lunging forward, grabbing Gae-Na's neck and slamming her roughly into the nearest wall. "Well?!
Darn it all, woman, speak!"
Gae-Na's heart nearly stopped. "I-I-I was j-just d-d-delivering your w-weapons report, ma'am!" she offered lamely, holding up the datapad. Lien-Da swatted it from her hand and it clanged against the ground, sparking.
"Listen up, Kommissar," she spat in Gae-Na's face, "you are the most loyal and devoted Legionnaire to my cause I have ever met. I know that you wouldn't do something to jeopardize our friendship, or your standing in the chain of command...so let me tell you a little something, understand?
If you say a single word
to anyone about what you heard here today, or even so much as hint
to anyone about our plan, then I will personally see to it that those are the last words you ever say."
Lien-Da paused briefly to allow her words to sink in. "Got it?"
she inquired, her vice-like grip tightening on Gae-Na's throat."Y-Y-Y-Yes,
m-m-ma'am!" gasped Gae-Na, still pressed up against the metal wall, sweating and trembling madly. Lien-Da's lower lip curled and she relinquished her hold on Gae-Na's neck and let her drop to the ground, gasping for breath.
"Good, I'm glad we understand each other," said Lien-Da, who turned toe and stormed out of the room. Gae-Na watched the Grandmaster's shadow vanish and around the corner, remaining on the ground, massaging her aching neck and shaking uncontrollably. On his bed Moritori Rex rested silently, watching the conflicted Gae-Na sit pathetically with her head held limply on the floor, overcome with despair.
He grunted loudly, arousing her attention and reminding her of his presence. "Come here, girl," he beckoned, motioning with his index finger. Gae-Na took a moment to steady her breathing and rose, heart hammering in her throat, and made her way to Moritori's bedside. She sat on the bed opposite his and looked at her lap, unsure of what to say.
"To be truthful, not even I had expected that," said Moritori, half to himself. "I knew she hated the Nocturnus, but not the extent that she'd throttle her friends in her pursuit of revenge."
"I d-don't understand wh-what..." stuttered Gae-Na, head in hands.
"...What her problem is?" finished Moritori. "Well, at the very least, perhaps I can shed some light on her motivations for you."
Gae-Na looked up, surprised. "Y-You'd do that? Forgive my insolence, sir...but I never would've thought you were the understanding type."
Moritori frowned. "Truth be told, girl, I went through some...changes...when I was trapped in that Nocturnus prison cell. I had nothing.
Nothing but my hated enemies to keep me company for what felt like eternity. I was shunned and ignored by them for the most part...but we did interact. The whole incident cooled my passion--and
my temper. When Guardian Knuckles came to rescue me, I had basically lost what little drive I had left to continue striving toward the goals of the Legion..."
He paused, a bit embarrassed at his rambling. "Well...I'm afraid that's hardly your concern, so let's get on the point, shall we? It all started a long time ago...nearly twenty years in Twilight time. When Luger's offspring Kragok and Lien-Da were around the age of eight, the Dark Legion was able to exit the Twilight Zone due to a random fluctuation in the Zone's entropy levels. However, Luger's wife Merin-Da fell mortally ill after being exposed to Mobius' environment, and Luger made a choice that would forever affect the Legion's destiny: he ordered his people to re-enter the Zone via the portal out of his own volition, hoping to save his wife. Unfortunately for them, it was too late for Merin-Da, and she perished. To worsen matters, the portal had closed and the Legion was trapped once more, having to deal with a fresh onslaught of attacks from the other races also confined in the Zone. Amid the renewed Dark Legion/Nocturnus Clan war, Grandmaster Luger's children Lien-Da and Kragok were maturing into adolescence. They both still possessed a measure of innocence, however...until Imperator Ix made his next move..."Mother is gone,
thought a young Lien-Da as she watched Merin-Da's casket, adorned with intricate machine-like patterns, being lowered into the cremation chamber. Luger stood by her side, with Kragok on the other. They were in a large room inside the Dark Legion's fortress inside the Twilight Zone, inside the crematorium where the Legion honored its dead.
"Today we say our goodbyes to Merin-Da," said Luger with tears in his eyes as the casket continued sinking into the pit, "a bold and loyal soldier to our cause, a wise and intelligent woman, and an beautiful and loving wife. We will never forget you. Amen.""Amen,"
repeated the hooded Legionnaires in attendance. Lien-Da couldn't keep herself from weeping as Merin-Da's body and casket were engulfed in bright orange flames, the glow illuminating the entire room. Kragok, for his part, simply stared as Merin-Da was cremated, not a hint of emotion on his face.
Days passed. Weeks. Months. Years. Life for the Grandmaster and his family gradually returned to normal and they resumed the duties of their daily lives. The war between the Dark Legion and the Nocturnus Clan picked up again immediately after the Legion's return, but slowly but surely, the Legion managed to gain headway against the Nocturnus by staging multiple fronts against them, forcing them to spread themselves thin in order to maintain their mini-empire, which at the time consisted of the Precursor Colony, the Kron Colony, the N'rrgal Colony, and Voxai Colony Beta. The Legion dispatched as many soldiers as possible to help Voxai Colony Alpha and the Zoah Colony maintain their right to self-government, as well as sending extra weapons and supplies to the colonies under the dominion of Imperator Ix.
"And thanks to the efforts of the rebels in the N'rrgal Colony, we've managed to push the Nocturnus back to a small islet near the edge of the colony," Luger said to the crowd of Legionnaires around him in the Legion's command center. "I'm also pleased to announce that, following the recent Kron escapade, we've also taken roughly two dozen Nocturnus prisoners--including Imperator Ix's second-in-command."
Lien-Da and Kragok, both now young teenagers, looked at each other in the front row as the rest of the Legionnaires cheered on the news. "Sounds like we're finally making some headway," muttered Kragok. "But if I were in charge, though, we'd have done this two years ago."
"Agreed," responded Lien-Da with a scowl, folding her arms and watching her father walk away from the podium while the Legionnaires dispersed to perform their duties. "Well, I'll see you later, brother. I'll be in my room."
"See you," said Kragok, saluting with his cybernetic left arm. Lien-Da walked through the passages on her way to her quarters, which was a small room in the back of the floating Legion complex. Along the way she passed many Legionnaires minding their own business, all of whom turned and saluted to her as she was the Kommissar. She exited an elevator, passed a storage room, and into the troop quarters. Most Legionnaires had to share rooms with each other in what were essentially small closets, but being the daughter of the Grandmaster allowed for special privileges, of course. She pressed the button to open her door once she reached the room and flicked on the light switch.
Suddenly she found a hand grabbing her arm as she stepped inside. "What the--?"
she cried out, but a gloved hand covered her mouth and prevented her from screaming."Shhhhh,"
whispered the voice of the man behind her, "we don't want to cause a stir, now do we?"
Struggling, Lien-Da turned to look at her attacker, who appeared to be just an ordinary Dark Legionnaire, hood and all. She felt a spray of air brush against her cheek, and her vision blurred and she passed out, falling limp in the Legionnaire's arms.
"Well, that was painless, wasn't it?" he said to no one in particular, hoisting the unconscious Kommissar over his head. He wheeled around and ran out of the hallway on his way to the hangar bay. He encountered no resistance as he dashed through the dimly-lit corridors and passageways, which was moderately surprising but welcome. When he emerged in the base's hangar he immediately saw a group of Legionnaires standing by a couple of silver saucers, chatting casually amongst themselves. Upon catching sight of the newcomer with the Grandmaster's daughter slung over his shoulder, the Legionnaires instinctively reached for their blasters around their belts, only to be individually hit by stun blasts from the gun of the undercover Nocturnus agent. Not stopping to admire his handiwork he made a beeline to the nearest saucer and roughly tossed Lien-Da into the passenger seat before revving up the saucer, closing the cockpit even as more Legionnaires poured in and took shots at him. One of their blasts impacted his saucer's chassis but it wasn't enough to stop him from flying through the airlock tube and into the starry blankness of the Twilight Cage, free at last. "Not bad for a mere sleeper agent," cackled the echidna to himself as he flew toward Nocturne.
When Lien-Da came to, she was very much alone. She blinked several times, the memory of the unknown assailant coming back to her at once. What happened to me...?
she wondered to herself, looking around. She was in a small dark room, the only illumination coming from cyan and orange lighting strips on the walls and ceilings. She didn't recognize the place at all...but could hazard a guess as to where she was. "Oh, no, no NO!"
she screamed, staggering to her feet and rushing at the door, feeling a surge of panic surge through her body. She slammed her hands against the door and punched several times, the impact having no effect on the thick metal. Finally, defeated, she fell backward onto the ground, her knuckles raw and bloody.
She sat for the next several minutes, clutching her pain-ridden hands and crying hysterically, half from pain and half from sheer terror. She had heard about Nocturne in the past from her father, but...never did she imagine that one day she'd find herself kidnapped by a Nocturnus agent from her own home and spirited away to a cell to rot. Finally she got up and attempted to kick the door in, the blows having no more effect on the door than before. Right before her fifth try, however, the door swung open to admit a black-suited Nocturnus soldier, the blue insignias on his armor glowing with an almost insectoid look in the darkness. "For crying out loud, there's no need to make such a racket," he said, aiming his hand-mounted blaster at her quivering form on the cold floor. Lien-Da scurried to her feet in a panic and threw herself at him, only to be shot in the stomach with a low-powered blast from his thick cannon, just enough to briefly stun. The shot knocked her back against the rear wall. "That's enough!" he shouted angrily. "Do you understand?" He received no response. "I'll take that as a 'yes'. Now behave yourself, hear? And you needn't worry; if Luger cooperates and does as we demand then he'll see you again safe and sound."
With that he slammed the door and left, leaving the stunned Lien-Da to curl up into a ball and whimper on the ground, terrified for her life. One minute passed, then another, until finally the door opened once more and a pair of Nocturnus soldiers swooped in. One was the High Praetorian guard who had threatened her before while the other was a flying Decurion armed with a pair of sinister-looking blades. "Hey, wake up," called the Decurion to her. "Hey!" he shouted again when she didn't respond. He shrugged and rolled his eyes under his mask, while the Praetorian went and prodded her with his finger. She shook her head, regained a small amount of her composure and willingly got up (albeit at gunpoint), shivering but complacent.
"That's better," said the Praetorian, who roughly grabbed her shoulder and pushed her toward the door, his cannon on the small of her back. The Decurion followed, accompanying them on their walk to the elevator. While they were halfway there Lien-Da, fed up with her treatment already, screamed and elbowed the Praetorian in the face, knocking him to the ground before he had the chance to react. She shoved the Decurion against a wall jumped on top of the Praetorian, punching his torso repeatedly, before suddenly a sharp pain on her back caused her to cease her attack and fall backward, writhing in pain. The Decurion stood over her, holding his blades.
"Don't even think of doing something like that again," he warned dangerously, pointing one of his blades at her. "Get up and keep moving." She did so, crying and sputtering from pain, and allowed the Praetorian to grab her arms and walk her toward the elevator. Moments later the three emerged into a broad room with a tall-ceiling, featuring the same glowing aspects as the rest of the fortress, including a transparent floor with dim blue lighting underneath. The entire room was bathed in blackness, nonetheless, and in the very middle of the room sitting in an elegant golden throne was Imperator Ix himself, who, upon seeing his prisoner arrive, got up and floated over, scepter in hand.
"Welcome," he said, waving his arm for the guards to be dismissed. Lien-Da looked up through tear-soaked eyes, jolts of pain still racing through her back from where the Decurion had sliced through her flesh. She locked eyes with Ix, gazed into those solid blue glowing eyes, and shrieked in horror. She was in front of Imperator Ix,
the most dangerous man she had ever heard of. She was at his mercy, and mercy was something he had in short supply."G-Get away f-f-from me,"
she cried feebly, but Ix lowed himself to her level and grabbed her arm, pulling her to her feet with some effort. Wordlessly he floated back up and guided her to a chair next to his throne, Lien-Da herself being completely unable to resist at that point. He sat in his own seat and tapped a button, causing a holographic screen to appear in front of them featuring Grandmaster Luger himself."Lien-Da!"
he shouted upon seeing his daughter, relieved to see her in once piece. He then looked up at Ix, fire burning in his normally calm eyes. "What is the meaning of this, Pir'Oth?" he questioned with the unmistakable tone of hatred in his voice.
"I didn't realize we were on a first-name basis, Grandmaster," said Ix with mild annoyance, reclining in his throne. He moved his scepter in such a way so that Lien-Da's neck was caught on the C-shaped end of his staff, after which pulled her in front of his throne, which she did voluntarily. "But I'll let that slide. This ill-behaved child is your daughter, correct?"
Luger's normally kind and warm smile was little more than a grim slash across his muzzle that communicated nothing but contempt. "Yes, she is, you monster."
"Oh, please, let's at least be civilized about this," said Ix with an air of boredom about the whole affair. "After all, both
of us have something the other wants. You have my Procurator and several of my men. I, on the other hand, have your twelve-year-old child. Can you see where I'm going with this, Grandmaster?"
"I can," replied Luger with a solemn expression. "Very well. I shall send a transport with your men at once.""Hahaha!"
laughed Ix, relinquishing his staff's hold on Lien-Da's neck. "Straight and to the point! Excellent! Thanks for being so...cooperative, Grandmaster. I'll be anticipating your shuttle. Be here within the hour."
Ix terminated the connect and patted Lien-Da on the head. "See? That was easier than even I thought. Now come, it's time to go perform a little transaction." He led Lien-Da out of the room and into the elevator, and together the two made the short journey to a large landing platform outside Nocturne, with Ix jabbing her forcefully with his scepter when she delayed. Accompanied by several Praetorian soldiers Ix waited patiently with his prisoner on her knees at his side until Luger's ship flew within view, at which time Nocturne's repulsor field deactivated to allow the ship entrance to the fortress. The sleek silver craft made its way to the platform and touched down, the lift underneath opening. Luger himself exited first, followed by a group of Legionnaires and the eighteen Nocturne Triarius prisoners, all stripped of their armor suits and bound in cuffs.
Luger walked up to Ix and pointed at his daughter. "Hand her over," he commanded. Ix shook his head.
"Nah, I don't trust you. Give me my men first and then we'll talk," he said with a smug smile. The sweat-drenched Lien-Da looked up in renewed panic. We're in the heart of their base,
Lien-Da realized with sheer horror. If Ix breaks his deal, then...there's no way for Father to save me!
Luger locked eyes with Ix, gritted his teeth, and relented. He bent his head and gestured for the prisoners to come, which they did. The Nocturnus hostages walked by him and were quickly received by their brethren. At the end of the line was Shade, who stopped to look at Lien-Da on her way inside Nocturne. She shrugged and continued walking. "Thank you, Grandmaster Luger!" said Ix enthusiastically, grabbing Lien-Da's shirt collar and tossing her in front of Luger. He shouted her name and bent over, hugging the trembling girl and whispering that it'd all be okay. "Aw, how touching," said Ix with a smirk. "I very much appreciate your kindness in returning these soldiers to me. In return for your generosity, I'll give your happy little family there a merciful death."
Ix's Praetorian guards stepped forward and aimed their blasters at Luger and his daughter. As Ix laughed maniacally the Grandmaster grabbed Lien-Da and threw her backward to protect her, then drew a blaster of his own and shot Ix in the chest. The Imperator roared in anger as the energy bolt impacted his armor and flew backward into his men, impacting them and knocking them down. He shook his head and looked up just in time to see the Grandmaster disappear into his shuttle and fly off, just managing to escape before Nocturne's repulsor field activated again. "Hmph. I seem to have underestimated you, Grandmaster," said Ix. "But next time you will not be so lucky."
Lien-Da sat on the floor in the rear of the shuttle, shaking and crying. Luger was bent over her, whispering that everything was all right. "Lien-Da! Please calm down," he said with a hand on her shoulder. "It's all over."
Still shivering she looked up, her eyes red and puffy from crying. "I know!" she said in a low voice, pushing her father away. Luger closed his eyes, nodded, and walked away, giving her some time alone to gather herself. She sat up, rubbing her eyes as well as the wound on her back. You filthy Nocturnus goons. I will have my revenge if so help me it's the last thing I do.
Gae-Na's eyes were wide as Moritori Rex finished his story. The end was abrupt, but she continued staring long after he was finished speaking. "That...explains at lot," she said after a long pause. "But I still don't know what to do about it!"
"I can't tell you the answer to that," said Moritori, leaning back and pulling his cover back over himself. "You'll have to ponder it by yourself. Now please leave me be."
Gae-Na nodded, thanked him for telling her the story, and left. I can't believe Lien-Da never told me,
she thought. But for her own good I can't let her do this. I have to tell Shade or
someone, regardless of what she thinks.
As Gae-Na left to go speak to Shade, Moritori rested his head on his pillow, conflicting thoughts swirling around in his head. "I never wanted it to come to this," he said sadly to himself. "I never wanted to jeopardize the Legion's chances like this. But Lien-Da needed guidance, and..." He paused. "...I wanted her to believe I still cared for her, despite the fact that the plan was doomed to fail from the beginning. Lien-Da, dear...I'm sorry."