Frollo's Entourage, Part II
THE CASTLE LIVING ROOM
A good number of soldiers had grappled done with steel ropes down to the same balcony that Coyote had dived off of. They then walked into the living room slowly, still keeping their machine guns at the ready. The marines were darting their eyes about, staying in cautious formation. Only a few of them broke off occasionally to observe artifacts or decorations Horvath had stored around the room; they had been told to observe anything that looked even remotely magical. However, they heard some small sound coming from a table which had a map of the world on it. It sounded like some kind of goo bouncing off glass. And that's exactly what they saw next to the map. It was a black goo, bouncing all around a glass cup that restrained it. Suddenly it stopped, seeming to latch onto the side of the glass directed toward the soldiers. They slowly approached, their faces still lined with disciplined steel of emotion. One of them, a man with a scar over his left, grayed eye looked at it. He pressed his gun toward it.
"Careful, Bludd," said an African American soldier behind him.
"It's Major Bludd now, remember? I know what I'm doing," arrogantly replied Bludd, who had an Australian accent that just reeked of cutthroat intent.
He continued to observe it for a couple more seconds, his cold exterior beginning to belie great curiosity. As he started to back away from it and observe the map, which clearly must have outlined plans that Horvath must have had. But then, they heard a voice.
"Hey," said another cold Australian voice.
The entire contingent quickly turned to the source of the voice, the very same door through which they had entered. There stood Dingo, in his golden body armor. He carried his helmet by his side, cradling it in his arm as he stared the soldiers down.
"Look mates. I don't enjoy this anymore than you do. So how 'bout we-"
However, as he spoke, Bludd stepped forward and raised his handgun toward Dingo's face. But as he fired, Dingo moved his head to the right just in time to dodge the bullet. He then slowly looked back at the group.
"You know," he said as he began to shift the helmet into both of his hands.
"I was going to be friendly with you guys."
He then put the helmet on his head, as the eyes of it glowed red.
"But now you've pissed me off."
He then charged toward them. The soldiers raised their guns at first, but Major Bludd held up his hand to signal them against it. Their bullets would dangerously ricochet around the room should they fire with regular guns. So Bludd had an alternative. He took a step forward and held both of his hands out. So Dingo, keeping his sense of honor intact, halted.
"You look pretty good at what you do. Are you?" asked Bludd.
Dingo relaxed a bit.
"You know martial arts?"
"Hand-to-hand combat, eh? How do I know you won't call your cronies on me?"
One of the soldiers stepped forward. It was the same African American soldier as before.
"Major, we don't have time for this. Let's just hold that black slab of goo there at gunpoint. Whatever it is, it looks important."
Bludd turned a moment toward his subordinate.
"Get out. This is between me and him."
Bludd then raised his pistol towards his second-in-command's forehead.
"Frollo pays you to do what I say. Now get out before I redecorate your face for the family picture."
He then pointed the gun toward the other marines as well, with a smile on his face.
"All of your faces."
The soldiers looked around at each other nervously, Bludd's right-hand man merely looking at him defiantly. After a couple of seconds, he looked toward the men and signaled them out of the room. The second-in-command left calmly and professionally through the entrance that led to the lower level of the castle, knowing that proceeding to the top and engaging Horvath would be suicide, whereas the others were hurrying to get away from Major Bludd before they felt the brunt of his wrath. As they left, Dingo cracked his knuckles. Major Bludd tossed his neck away and over the balcony, cracking his neck as he did, a confident grin on his face. Dingo, seeing that Bludd was now unarmed, turned a small knob on the right shoulder compartment of his armor, causing it to all drop off. This left him in his more customary combat outfit, one that he could move about more easily in.
Bludd then attacked first, throwing a punch toward his face which Dingo blocked easily. He then bent his hand over and delivered a solid, quick, downward punch to his face. Bludd was pushed back as Dingo delivered more of those punches, bloodying his face, then proceeded to knee him hard in the groin. His frustration at the quickly losing battle eventually overpowering his tactical mindset, he made a hasty grab toward the glass that contained the black goo and smashed it into Dingo's face as he was just beginning to adjust his view toward his opponent.
As the muscular mercenary was pulled back, Bludd prepared to advance, but felt something growing on his hand. He looked back to see the black goo latching onto him, growing over his arm. A look of frustration and confusion contorting his face, Bludd tried to rip the goo off, but it latched onto that hand and began to grow there as well. It wouldn't even let that hand move away. He began to grunt and yell in frustration at this substance that was completely beyond his control as Dingo merely looked on in bewildered, but steeled horror. The goo quickly spread to the whole body as Bludd continued to fruitlessly tear at it. Eventually screaming in rage and a bit of fear, Bludd could only continue to tear at the goo without fruition and drop down to his knees in pain as the goo took him over completely. And while he had originally resisted, now he felt something different. He felt a tormenting, yet addictive power override him. A murderous pulse took him over, filling him with rage, hatred, and blood lust. And he would unleash his newfound power, and take every drop of blood that his enemy had. It was a feeling that repulsed even him, but it was one that was slowly overwhelming him.
With his fists up, Dingo cautiously approached the goo-encased major, whose tired breathing was now deepened and eerie. As Dingo got closer, Bludd raised his head, now encased completely in the goo, which gave him the form of a humanoid monster. With a savage, inhuman roar, Bludd leaped like a tiger toward Dingo, sending the two flying across the room. Dingo and Bludd collided with the elaborately decorated wooden wall, creating a large fissure in it and knocking the breath out of the former. They then slid down, Dingo's slouched, beaten form pressed against the wall by his sub-creature adversary. Bludd raised his right hand, the fingers of which were now lined with claws, driving them down toward Dingo's face. But the muscle bound mercenary grabbed the blow with a grip of iron, tossing him fiercely over his head. Bludd was slammed backside against the wall, but as he fell down onto his head and Dingo was beginning to recover, Bludd rose with inhuman speed and struck his enemy with a mighty backhand, sending him flying over the map table and onto a chess table, which toppled over as he tumbled down to the floor. Bludd then leaped over the room toward Dingo, and before he could even react, shot some kind of black webbing from his turned wrist to his chest, pulled him up through the air at an astonishing rate of speed, and kicked him with both feet down to the floor, the area where he landed cratering around him.
Bludd then shot the same webbing toward the ceiling while still in mid air, pulled himself up with a flip, and then kicked straight off, preparing to give an incredibly strong punch toward Dingo's chest and stop his heart. However, as he dove in toward the mercenary, who was too weary and beaten to even give his attention to Bludd, he felt himself flung away by another opponent, with Olympian level muscle and fur. As the two tumbled onto the ground, Wolf dug his claws into Bludd's throat and bit into his face, pulling back to tear it out. However, Bludd kicked him away as he landed on a nearby piano, which broke in half upon Wolf's impact. Hyena and Jackal, who had rushed in shortly after Wolf, then charged toward the monster. Jackal raised his right hand, his fingers shooting from his hand like missiles. However, as Bludd was standing near a large flat screen Panasonic television, he shot a web toward the screen and, with a mighty, yet effortless pull of his hand, he pulled the Panasonic into the way as it was blown to bits. However, the force of the explosion still forced him to stumble back as new fingers rose from Jackal's knuckles in their place. Dingo, still recovering, had regained his senses long enough to see the Panasonic bite the dust.
Grunting as he began struggled to gain his footing, he rose to his feet, ignoring the soreness in his body to charge toward Bludd, who was now dodging around Hyena's finger knives.
As she made an overhead swing, Bludd ducked and made a charge toward her muscular abdomen, preparing to tackle her off the balcony and grapple himself back up, but Dingo quickly grabbed onto him before he could do this, flipping him over his head and preparing to slam him down onto the ground and subdue him there. But Bludd put his left knee and his right foot onto the ground, holding himself up as he began to push. However, the enraged mercenary placed the black-suited enemy into a choke hold, which Bludd responded to by springing his face in webbing, and pulling him over while it was still attached to his wrist. Bludd then prepared to stomp on Dingo's face, but was once again tackled by Wolf, this time against a wall, which cratered from the impact. Bludd began to push against Wolf, but the savage mutate tossed him over his head and slammed him into the ground, this time before the former could regain his balance and stand up before his back collided. However, the abomination was able to toss him over his feet, only for his enemy to nimbly roll back up, grab onto a nearby couch, and raise it to slam it down on Bludd. But Wolf quickly found his feet ensnared by more of Bludd's black webbing as his feet were pulled out from under him. But as Wolf fell onto his back, he felt hot air brush harshly over his fur-covered face, and saw something thin pass quickly over his head, leaving a trail of smoke and flame. Then, as he looked back toward Bludd, he saw him flipping through the air, hitting the wall with his head hard enough to get it stuck in there. He had just been struck with more of Jackal's finger missiles. Now, the goo was beginning to melt, and Bludd pulled his head out of the wall, pieces of wood falling as he emerged, he stumbled about for a brief moment, but stood up again. However, a good deal of the goo was still melted and trying to solidify again so that it could latch back onto Bludd's body.
The couch was still falling toward Wolf, so the mutate launched his legs up and kicked it back up. Then, he sprang himself back up off his back and caught the left of the couch before it could fall again. Backing up so that he could get a better grip on the edge of the sofa, he span around and slammed it into Bludd, who was sent flying to the right. Instead of catching himself on his feet like he usually did, he rolled over near an open window, ending up flat on his stomach. Seeing this, the Pack realized that Jackal's missiles had weakened him. Seizing the opportunity to land a blow, Hyena charged in and leaped into the air with a flip, sending her foot down in a kick. Bludd moved his hand up to grab her foot, still stumbling a bit, but found himself wreathed by flames coming from the rockets in the woman's rocket feet. He reeled back, the goo beginning to melt completely as he reeled back and out the window. As he fell, the goo abandoned him completely. Though a good deal of the intense flames still remained on Bludd himself, they were slowly doused by the harsh, powerful air that he fell through as he went a long way down. His loud screams of pain, rage, and fear were blocked out by the rage of the battlefield, which was now decimated and torn apart by the fight. After nearly a mile of continuing his long, sense wavering fall, he landed with a large splash in the water, which shattered both the surface of the liquid and many of his bones.
The Pack stood in the tattered room in victory. Though Wolf and Dingo, who was leaning over with his hands pressed hard against his knees, were very soar, and the other two were a bit tired from the entire battle.
"Well that was fun," said Jackal, admiring his blood-stained claws.
"Shall we go for another hunt?"
Dingo cracked his back as he stood up as straight as he could.
"First thing's first. One, I need to suit back up. Two, I need to get paid more for this."
NEAR THE CASTLE MOAT
Outside the castle, the battle was still raging like a storm. Coyote was still advancing through the field, decimating every tank and soldier that stood in his path. There were some dents and penetrations on his armor, but he was still holding the upper hand against his many enemies. And near the castle, Drake still stood guard. All of his inanimate soldiers had been destroyed, but he was still fighting, and though he was covered in dirt, sweat, and the blood of the enemy, he hadn't received a scratch. He was grinding through enemy ranks with his magic, using long ranged attacks through flames and sending down fire-extinguishing planes to implode upon the soldiers and tanks. He even killed many of the marines by enhancing his strength with magic and tearing them limb from limb with his gloved hands. Sheer rage and hatred drove him as he fought the forces of the man who had broken and destroyed him. And Horvath was still destroying every fighter that came his way. But at the rate that they were attacking him, he wouldn't have the time to gather his full power to finish them off. And if he made a distance away, there wouldn't be any extra protection for the castle and for Drake while he was gone, what with the Pack busy fighting on the inside. He needed to find where these were coming from. There must have been a good number of aircraft carriers out and about. So, as he blocked several incoming bullets from all sides by spinning his cane around, he simultaneously send out a telepathic current that went into the gargoyles built on the edges of the castle walls. And he gave them a simple command:
"Find the source."
But around this battlefield crept the fighter pilots, who had found the need to regroup to the side of the moat to avoid Drake's wrath. They then counted numbers briefly; all eight of them were there. So they planted the charges and sped away, keeping their heads below the tall grass to avoid detection.
THE COMMAND PLANE
Simmons continued to look down on the battlefield, hoping that the fighter pilots that had landed on the ground could make it through this mess. Suddenly, his concentration was broken when he heard the pilot say,
"They planted the charges, sir. What now?"
Simmons grinned slightly. Now everything was in place. However, there was still one loose end. Horvath was right where he needed to be, but Drake was a liability, and a dangerous one at that. And yet another problem occurred when he pulled the detonator from his army jacket pocket and pressed it, only for nothing to happen. It was a minor setback, but a hindrance nonetheless.
Then, a jamming noise sounded from the plane's radar.
"Sir, something's wrong," said the pilot.
"Shit! Somebody's hacking me! And I don't think it's any kind of normal hacker!"
Simmons looked down at the radar. Either this was another threat from Horvath or his plan coming to fruition.
"What're they doing?"
"It looks like they're looking for the base of command. It's linking them to the leading aircraft carrier. If they go after that, then-"
"Good," responded Simmons.
"That's just where I need him to fire his next bullet. Now give me just a sec."
As Simmons walked out of the cockpit, going to the storage closet of the plane on his immediate left, Godfrey followed him.
"Are you mad?! If we lose those planes, we lose the battle!"
Simmons opened the metal closet door without even looking at Godfrey.
"If Horvath gets the boats, we win. I told you I had the game under control."
"What in God's name are you talking about?!"
Simmons sighed in annoyance of Godfrey's arguments of this, and turned toward the latter, standing straight up and staring him down.
"They keep saying that Horvath is a strategist, a master of the board. So the best answer is to turn the board the other way around so that he checkmates himself. The minute that empty boat blows, the charges blow. That's how I rigged it. The first charges are designed to evaporate their water supply. It'll send the moat water up in steam along with the water on the castle left behind by the fire fighting planes. The second ones induce radiation into water vapor. We get some fire power headed into the mist, we light the castle like the edge of a cigar. Even if he survives, we'll have buried a good deal of his wealth, and we can use whatever programming he hacked us with to predict his next move, maybe even track him down."
Godfrey's look bore utter surprise at Al's thinking. He leaned against the other door behind him, which led to the bathroom. The knight looked away for a moment, thinking of the plan's validity, then shrugged nonchalantly, seeming to hide how impressed he was.
Simmons then turned around coldly and bent over, continuing to dig for what he was looking for.
"Pilot," he said while grabbing a parachute pack and continuing to dig through bullet proof vests.
"Lower us beneath the clouds. When we're beneath them, get a good distance away from the castle and above that kid down there. Then drop the back door. I'm taking him out."
"Yes sir," the pilot responded as he complied with his orders to the letter.
Godfrey looked briefly out the pilot window as they descended, once again staring in awe as they moved through the sky. He then heard something heavy clunk against the closet wall as he looked toward Simmons to see him wearing a parachute pack on his back and carrying an RPG.
THE CASTLE ROOF
Planes were still flying in around Horvath, as he kept on twirling his cane, taking each plane down with debris, energy bolts, telekinetic fields, and gasoline overloads. Most of the planes had already pulled off from him and were already heading off. Horvath had already found the station of the enemy's command when his gargoyles used telepathy to hack the enemy planes. They had magic that enhanced them, along with fragments of the now legendary, but destroyed device known as Cerebro. Now, they were hacking planes to send them down before they had the chance to fly in close to get a good hit on Horvath. Now, the pilots were changing tactics, sending their planes in Kamikaze style to destroy him. However, raising his cane so that his hand was on the bottom like he had before, he slammed the sapphire top on the ground and sent out a shockwave, which destroyed dozens of planes that were coming in, and even many that were retreating. Even the Pack, who were still fighting (and winning) inside the castle had to cover their ears in pain, along with the soldiers that they were annihilating.
THE COMMAND PLANE
The command plane was now below the clouds, with many of the other planes pulling back. Simmons walked down a large ramp to the very back, where the back door opened. He had prepared several bomb carts, which would roll out when he pulled a single wired string that kept them tied together and in the plane. He looked out of the plane briefly, keeping a relatively good distance from the edge so that he didn't fall out, to see that they were right over where Drake was fighting off Frollo's army. The mercenary walked back and pulled the grenade pin which topped the string, which let the bombs fall. Then, walking to the edge of the plane door, he waited until the bombs were a good distance down below. He needed to be at least twenty seconds behind them so that they could blow before he shot from his RPG. And he didn't need to worry about weight distribution, for the bomb carts were heavy enough and powerful enough to fall faster than he was, despite the heavy firearm he was carrying. So he waited that very amount of time, took a deep breath through his steeled, emotionless face, and jumped, free-falling through the air.
DRAKE'S LOCATION IN THE FIELD
Drake was still fighting and still decimating the field around him, his power fueled by inhuman rage and the secrets he had learned from the books sent to him in Chateau d'If. He had made sure to get rid of the tall grass around him so that the enemy couldn't take him by surprise. As a wounded soldier at his left tried crawling away, he grabbed him and tore his head from his shoulders, throwing it right into the face of one of his vengefully approaching comrades, knocking him to the ground hard. Then, from a large tower of smoke nearby, more marines approached, firing their machine guns intensely at him, unleashing war cries and voracious insults at him while doing so. But all of their bullets were blocked with a telekinetic shield raised by Drake, who then sent the shield flying back toward them with tremendous speed. The shield was superheated by the young magician before it went back, so it incinerated the soldiers when it contacted them. As they fell to the ground, he looked toward more soldiers who were approaching. They kept their distance, but Drake could notice them subtly rolling grenades toward him, for the magic that he was using not only enhanced his strength, speed, and stamina, but his five senses as well. A terrible snarl on his face, he merely stomped on the ground, his boot's contact with it so powerful it sent the grenades flying back toward the soldiers, who only had time to begin an unsuccessful runaway before the grenades exploded. Conjuring the flames left by the grenades to his side, he waved his hands about, the fire spinning around him until it rose up into the air in the form of a large orb, subject to his power.
"Is this all you've got?!" shouted Drake.
"Is this all you can give me?!"
Suddenly, a large cart of bombs strapped together by metal rope landed several feet on his right, the resulting explosion so powerful that it sent him flying back and singed his right arm, sending shrapnel tearing through it and into his torso. As Drake tumbled excessively through the grass, he gathered his strength with magic, standing up and trying to re-focus on his rage. But another cart landed behind him and in front of the moat, sending him flying forward this time as more shrapnel tore into his back. Thankfully, none of it went through his spine or any of his vital organs, so he was still able to survive. But the injuries from the shrapnel made him weary and in a state of terrible pain, which greatly hindered his focus on his magic. But he had to keep fighting. For his revenge. For what had been taken from him, he had to keep fighting.
Barely able keep his concentration together over the searing pain that began to dominate his senses, Drake looked to the sky. His vision was hazed, but he saw something heading toward him. Then as his sight began to clear, he saw the black mass that he had originally perceived the object as form into a cart of bombs that flew down toward him. Widening his eyes, he suddenly regathered the strength that allowed him to utilize magic, hurriedly conjuring an energy bolt in his fist and firing it toward the bomb cart. With surprising accuracy, it hit its target, the resulting explosion seeming to ripple the very air. However, despite having fended off the cart, the young man's weary state still left him prey to the resulting shrapnel, which struck him in the right leg, very close to his groin area, and the foot. Drake surged forward in unrelenting pain, ready to fall flat on his face. But he held his hands out, grasping onto what little energy and power he had left to hold himself in place. It wasn't through magic, but his will, focus, and refusal to surrender to the likes of these people that allowed him to stay on his feet. But as he caught onto his balance and looked back up, through the cloud of flame and smoke left by the explosion came a rocket-propelled grenade. He had just recovered the energy which he was now only barely holding onto, and raise his arm to conjure a telekinetic shield before the grenade struck it. He had successfully, if only barely, blocked the projectile, but his shield was broken by the impact and he was sent tumbling a long distance back through the tarnished field, several pieces of shrapnel penetrating his already badly damaged body. One piece of shrapnel had ricocheted off of his spinal cord and penetrated one of his lungs.
As Simmons watched the young man bounce along the ground backwards from his parachute, an indifferent expression hiding the lack of pleasure he took in doing what he did, he then looked further along the field to find that Coyote was still decimating the main army. There were still several soldiers and units left, but it appeared that he wouldn't go down easily. So, still several stories above the ground, he kicked his feet back to tip the top of the parachute the other way, utilizing the currents so that he could travel toward where Coyote was laying down his destruction. And
As his journey backwards came to a painful halt, he made a long role after bouncing off his head. He could barely breathe or move with the damages to his lungs and his spine. He felt the icy grip of death beginning to take hold of him. He felt it in his labored breathing, in his highly obscured vision, and in every waking second that he spent in his pain. And then he closed his eyes, drifting into a slumber in which only the reaper would collect him.
A series of memories suddenly flashed through Drake's consciousness as he slipped further and further into the void. There was a beautiful night of dinner at Drake's penthouse with Rose, a bouquet of flowers left at a shut door on a rainy day, a letter from an unruly force of law, an emerald ring on display at an expensive shop, and a house surrounded by police cars, an ambulance, and caution lines.
And as the memories ceased, Drake awoke once more with renewed determination, great reserves of magic filling every fiber of his will and awareness, as he raised his eyes to see a marine with a large injury that tore through his shoulder aiming a sub-machine gun toward his face. His eyes suddenly bulged as he screamed in fear-inducing rage. He stood with inhuman speed and swung his left arm up, snapping the gun into pieces upon contact and tearing through the soldier from the bottom of his left rib to his right collar bone. And though he was still mortally injured and weak, his will was fueled by impractical magic, which kept him alive through pain and anguish. He was a walking beacon of anger, very barely alive.
THE TOP OF THE CASTLE
Horvath now had several rocks and stones from the castle levitating within telekinetic spheres, which also projected large magnetic fields to disrupt the planes' signal or send them off course should they approach. He was able to do this with the aid of the gargoyles, which were enchanted to utilize magic if need be, which not only augmented Horvath's powers, but also fought opponents that the former apprentice of Merlin couldn't fight on his own. More and more planes flew in to attack, and more and more fell. However, soon enough, they were pulling back from the castle and retreating. Horvath fired a couple of well aimed energy bolts to destroy the fleeing fighters, grinning at his success. This was all that Frollo, one of the most powerful men in the world, could conjure. But his moment of victory was soon overshadowed by a feeling of concern when he sensed something sinister around him. A malignant aura surrounded him, and he began to feel anger within himself. Something powerful was casting this aura. But who?
He continued to sense the aura coming from the battlefield. His awestruck feelings evident from the look on his face, Horvath began to walk over to the edge of the castle, but felt a great pain enter his mind as he proceeded forward. Holding his left, cane-free hand to his top hat covered head, he doubled over as if he had been injured greatly. This presence that he felt was something inhuman. But he continued his walk, which quickly turned into a limp as the nefarious aura grew ever stronger within his mind. Using his cane for support and calling upon his own magic to block out whatever evil this was, not calling on the gargoyles so that they could focus on destroying the enemy command post, he finished his procession to the end of the castle as he saw the source of this vile energy: Drake himself. He had injuries on him from shrapnel, bullets, and fire that would have easily killed him, yet he was still standing, the power that his rage and painful memories gave him sustaining him. There were still bullets being shot into him by the soldiers who surrounded him, and anguish was evident on his face, but he pressed on, firing energy bolts and incredibly powerful gusts of wind toward the surrounding soldiers, who either dodged the shots with combat roles and ducking or were struck by the spells, which were weaker like their conjuror was. No matter how strong Drake's will had become, he could not survive for much longer, and Horvath still needed him for his plans.
So as Drake struggled to stand as more and more bullets tore through his body, anger continuing to drive him, a flash of sapphire light suddenly shone behind him, the sound that came before it like thunder. He heard energy bolts being fired at quick speed and mighty power, and saw soldiers before him struck by more of these bolts and reduced to ash. Now able to cease fighting, Drake let the anger slowly slip from his mind as he dropped to the ground, using one of his last ounces of strength to look behind him as he fell, to see Horvath sending the marines on a retreat as they were quickly and violently torn apart by the energy bolts. As they fled into the tall grass, Horvath twirled his cane as fire emerged from it, and then thrust it forward. The flames from the cane shot forward like a lightning bolt, setting the grass aflame. As the soldiers' shrill screams filled the smoke drenched air, a tank emerged from the flames, its gun pointed directly toward Horvath, who only grinned confidently in response. A deafening bang filled the air as the gun shot a missile toward Horvath, who quickly rose his cane, gripping the missile within a telekinetic field, turning it around toward the tank, and firing it into the nozzle of the gun, blowing the entire tank to smithereens. And he performed this entire blur of motion within a matter of seconds.
However, none of this mattered at the moment. Horvath looked back to find that Drake was slipping into slumber, into death. The experienced magician knelt down, placing the sapphire of his cane against the young man's chest, sending an electrical charge through his body that caused his body to jolt and his heart to start pumping at a more lively rate rather than its current, slowly deteriorating rate. Drake's eyes bulged and he looked around as if he were blind, struggling to get a grip on his senses through his injuries. Horvath grabbed him by the hair and twisted it, hoping that the pain would bring him further back into consciousness.
"You are not meant to die yet, boy!" he said, his calm seeming to break as he sent another electrical charge through his chest. Drake was coming to, but he was still mortally wounded. Only Morgan could heal him now.
WITHIN THE CASTLE
Inside of the castle, every soldier who had infiltrated the stone building lied dead, within halls filled with wreckage and carnage, fallen prey to the deadly skills of the Pack. Dingo was walking through the hall that he and Jackal were in. There were dead marines everywhere, on the ground and even strewn to the walls or the ceiling by Jackal and Hyena. They were in the east wing of the castle, and were very close to a window which was also splattered by blood and depicted a heart-shaped moon rising into the sky, millions of people kneeling before its illuminating glow. The two mercenaries were checking the bloodied corpses to see if the soldiers were truly dead. Meanwhile, Jackal was entertaining himself by pictures on the castle walls with their blood, most of which illustrated him standing in victory over his fallen enemies. Dingo was too busy looking down at the corpses, a sight that was not pleasant for him, to notice what his cohort was doing. Looking away from the motley sight of death, he was greeted instead with the sight of Jackal's horrific drawings.
"Wanna respect the dead, Jackal?" Dingo said in disgusted irritation.
"I'm appreciating them. For each one, I'm drawing a picture of how I killed them. Just think of how they'll be remembered in this little museum of ours," he said, his voice dripping with more and more malice as he finished his words. His expression was like that of a child on Christmas, not even taking his eyes off of his present, as he stared intently at his "artwork". Dingo and Fox were the only ones in the group who would be disgusted by it.
As Jackal continued to paint his work on the walls, Wolf and Hyena came in around the other end of the hall, walking in from the left side with nefarious grins on their faces.
"All dead," said Wolf with an eerie chuckle and what must have been gallons of blood on his fur.
"We made sure of it."
Dingo looked away, grimacing with contempt at his cohorts' disturbing bloodlust. But as he turned his head, he caught notice of something strung onto one of the soldiers' belts. It was a peculiar looking device that was obviously some kind of powerful, high-technology bomb. It was silver and well polished, with a black glass in the center. As Dingo knelt down to get a closer view of it, something happened.
THE CASTLE ROOF
The magic in the gargoyles, with the aid of Cerebro's fragments, had found the enemy command post and were now hot-wiring the aircraft carrier's systems to self-destruct, just as Horvath had instructed them to do. And they were also able to link to the other aircraft carriers and planes through the ship's computer mainframe, unaware that they were truly wiring the bombs, and therefore, the radioactive air that now surrounded the castle to detonate. And so, just as Horvath had enchanted them to do, they set the ship to self-destruct.
BACK IN THE CASTLE
The lights on the bombs began to flash red, slowly flashing faster and faster as they came closer and closer to detonation. The bombs were powerful enough to level the castle, and if that didn't work, then the fuse lit by the radioactivity would incinerate the building. Quickly realizing what was about to happen, Dingo rose and began to run toward the window.
"The place is gonna blow! Let's get outta here!" he shouted to the other Pack members.
As the others were standing closer to the window than he was, having been walking through the hall when he warned them, they leaped out the window at about the same time that he did. Jackal and Hyena flew away with the cybernetic rockets built into their legs while Dingo grabbed Wolf by the hand, flying away with his rocket boots, the mutate in tow. Shortly after they flew from the window, the castle violently exploded behind them, sending them careening forward. They barely made it safely away before the radioactive air also lit aflame, heating Dingo's armor and Jackal and Hyena's cybernetics to uncomfortably humid temperatures, albeit briefly.
"We've gotta get back to Manhattan!" said Dingo.
"We stay longer, we'll die."
"Screw you!" shouted Wolf to Dingo.
"I didn't get this much blood on my coat just to run home like a woman!"
"Dingo's right!" said a brooding Jackal.
"We'll go back to Xanatos. If the sorcerers survive, we'll know. And Coyote's easily replaceable."
Wolf grunted, rolling his eyes at what he saw as Dingo and Jackal's cowardice.
"Fine. Why Fox got you on the team, I'll never know Dingo."
"If you use what little humanity you have left to think, it may come to you."
The Pack then flew away to a small island, for which Xanatos had prepared a private, underground plane bay for them, which they would use to fly back to Xanatos Enterprises under the safety of their plane's cloaking device. And the island was far away from the battlefield, meaning that Frollo's forces wouldn't be able to break their cloaking device and find them. And so the Pack lived to hunt and kill another day.
HORVATH AND DRAKE'S LOCATION
Horvath turned his attention away from the mortally wounded Drake all of a sudden as he saw his castle blow itself to smithereens. The air itself was quickly lit aflame as well, the Pack flying from the building in retreat far from it. Horvath closed his eyes and made a shrill sigh of frustration. This was a minor setback, but he had made the foolish mistake of underestimating Frollo of all people. Clearly the command post of the enemy had been re-routed to some kind of powerful bomb and a group of radioactive mines that had been placed in the castle, or at least in very close proximity of it, as Horvath deduced. But none of this mattered at the moment. If Drake was to survive, he needed to make haste for Castle Pendragon, where Morgan resided. So, hurrying before the soldiers would be able to find them and resume attack, Horvath raised his cane, the sapphire pommel glowing once again. Harnessing the forces that lied between space and time that allowed one to travel through its barrier, commonly known as the Nexus, he created a blue flash that enveloped him and Drake. And once the light quickly subsided, the two sorcerers had vanished through the Nexus.
COYOTE'S LOCATION ON THE BATTLEFIELD
The only soldier of his side left on the field, Coyote fought on. Though there were a good deal of dents and penetrations in his armor, from which broken wires and small, brief sparks of electricity flaring, the upper hand still belonged to him. The soldiers before him were exchanging fire with the robot while retreating through the long grass, which had been trampled, flattened, and burned by the tanks and their destruction by Coyote. And as hope seemed to slip more and more from the soldiers' hands, a radio message was sent to them by Simmons.
"Fall back into the good grass. Don't fire, just divide and run. This metal mother fucker's mine."
Doing as commanded, the marines turned and ran, spreading out and running into the tall grass a great many feet away. Now able to take them all out at once while also saving bullets, Coyote raised his right arm, the shoulder of which was massively dented, as a nozzle protruded from the middle. This particular nozzle was designed as a flamethrower powered by diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, enough power to burn the entire surroundings of grass to a crisp in minutes.
However, before he could fire, he felt a rocket-propelled grenade strike his arm, tearing it apart and sending a wave of force and electricity through his circuits. Whatever this bomb was, it was designed to disrupt his programming. His sight system and thought processes were being interfered with and he fired about blindly from the gattling gun on his left wrist, determination to follow his primary directive behind every shot he took. But his assailant was not on the ground, but above him, and he fired another missile. This time, the next missile struck his head, leaving nothing left but charred scraps. The metal husk that was Coyote fell to the ground, its entire programming erased and its functions destroyed. And near the burning scrap landed Simmons, who dropped his RPG to the ground and took off his parachute pack.
Taking his communicator from his belt, he held it to his mouth with a cold disposition sealed on his experienced face.
"This is Simmons. Find any survivors and round them up. After we're done here, drinks are on me."
MANHATTAN, 5:34 PM, TWO DAYS LATER
Xanatos stood in the workshop of the Eyrie Building, typing in a series of programming codes into a large-screened computer plastered on his wall. Five figures, varying in sizes, draped in gray sheets stood on a metal stage. He then walked over to the figures, a clipboard in his left hand, a pen in his right. He was prepared to unveil them and write down the functions they would serve when his hand would inevitably be forced in the war. Suddenly, the silence of Xanatos' hard work was broken by the opening of a pair of automatic doors. Owen walked through them into the workshop.
"Owen," said Xanatos, still keeping his focus on his work.
"Fox is currently supervising the guards upstairs. If I may ask, why have you suddenly taken such an interest in this security upgrade?" Owen calmly asked.
"I told you about my brush with LexCorp and the underworld. If this war is going to send a force that powerful to my doorstep, I want to be ready," Xanatos replied. There was obviously a degree of concern in him, but he still remained level-headed and calm.
Owen then looked toward the figures that stood on the stage.
"New robots, I presume?"
Xanatos took a break from writing on his clipboard to look toward the draped figures. Laying the clipboard and the pen down on a nearby table, he walked toward the stage and unveiled each figure one by one. Each one was indeed a powerful, well-designed automaton, each one in the same design as each version of Coyote.
"Replacements for our old Coyote?"
"More or less."
Xanatos took a step forward, his focused look beginning to bear a clever grin.
"Judging by what I found out, the Coyote I sent to help out Horvath almost took down an entire ground army before it was destroyed. It's time to take the robot to the next level."
Xanatos then knocked on Coyote v4.0's armor, seeing if it was still as potent as he remembered.
"Each robot you see here is the first of many that I plan to make. When the thick of the war sweeps over, I intend to meet it..."
His slight grin then turned to a complete one.
"With an army of Coyote soldiers."
LEXCORP BUILDING, METROPOLIS, 6:32 AM
Lex Luthor was pacing about his office, conversing in a group on his cell phone with his new clients.
"Yes, gentlemen. The meeting is still scheduled according to our original plan. Our newest associate will introduce himself there and our operation will begin. This operation will bring not just the underworld, but the entire globe to its knees. No sorcerer, no authority, not even Frollo himself will stand in our way."
"I'll believe it when I see it, Lex," said d'Amico.
"I already got screwed over by one partner's fuck up."
"I am not Chudnofsky, Mr. d'Amico. You will not be disappointed."
"We'd better not," added Warren Fisk.
"And once again, Mr. Wilson," said Luthor.
"Thank you greatly for your recent donation to our cause. Once my new world comes to light, you will be showered with glory and praise."
"I'm quite confident in your new world, Mr. Luthor," said Mr. Wilson.
"You have my utmost faith."
"Thank you for your time, gentlemen," said Luthor.
"Until our true meeting."
Luthor then pressed the end button on his cell phone, flipping it shut and tucking it safely into his coat pocket. He then turned and sat down at his desk, a knock on his door interrupting his brooding silence.
"Come in," said Luthor without even looking the door's way.
The door opened, and in walked Doctor Wily, who had an eccentric grin on his face.
"Doctor Wily. I trust you acquired the conduit that shall forge my army."
"Our army, Luthor!" the doctor replied with a sudden, terrible snarl. Luthor was good for business and offered him great things, but the two's superiority complexes easily put them at odds.
"Don't you dare rob me of the power you promised me!"
"You will indeed play a part in creating a golden age. But it will be my world, Wily. Now, did you or did you not acquire the army?"
Wily resumed his eerie grin. Reaching into an inner pocket of the right side of his lab coat, he pulled out a plastic cube, in which lied the very black substance that had possessed Major Bludd. Luthor edged toward it, reaching his hands toward it as if he wanted to grab it, briefly breaking his traditional colder exterior as he made a grin that bore suppressed insanity within it.
"The Venom symbiote," Luthor said, his voice coming out with a menacing streak.
"Said to be the greatest enemy of the Spider Man himself, excluding Mr. Osborn. And now, the pinnacle of my army."
"Our army!" exclaimed Wily once again, the frustration once again becoming clear on his face.
Luthor greedily snatched the cube from Wily's hand, seeming to cradle it like a child as he walked away from the mad doctor toward the window.
"The power of the deities in the grasp of my hand. And this is just the beginning. With this might, I shall surpass the Creator Himself. The world will bow before the might of Lex Luthor, and Xanatos shall be the first to fall."
Wily rolled his eyes at his benefactor's delusional nonsense.
"Let's not forget who helped you with this."
Luthor continued to ignore him, but calmed down just as he seemed to be about to continue on his rant. Straightening himself back up, he placed the cube down on his desk.
"I presume that you enlisted our test subjects as well."
"I did. They're strapped down downstairs. A word of advice though, Mr. Luthor."
"And that is?" said Luthor as he turned back around toward Wily.
"My experiments on the creature have determined that it possesses senses and physical capabilities on a superhuman level. But it is especially vulnerable to soundwaves and fire. You will have to let me fix those minor ticks before we proceed."
"Very well. But make it quick," said Luthor coldly as he sat down at his desk.
"Xanatos is most likely to strike quickly, without hesitance. Should the soldiers not be ready, you will be to blame."
"I work quickly, Mr. Luthor. I merely expect you to hold up your end of the bargain."
"I reward any worthy servant, Doctor Wily. Now get to work."
PARIS, FRANCE, 5:25 PM
Judge Claude Frollo stood before his fire place, a long table behind him. And at that table sat his inner circle.
"Gentlemen. Here, under the watchful eye of our Lord, we gather within the ever-growing maw that threatens to bring the purification that He has granted our world to utter ruin."
"Look, Frollo. We're here for firepower and ground to keep, not God," said a black haired, Russian major general with a brawny, bald, muscular looking Soviet by his side.
"And that you shall receive, General Dragovich. But a new power is rising across the world of the Lord's children. A power that threatens the stability of this world's order. Criminals, magicians, demons. The likes of which will be able to topple your individual power as well as mine. That is why I called all of you here. To restore order through might and infallible resolve."
Frollo then turned around to face the table.
"For years, we have wielded a shield that has held the rising malice of the Devil at bay. We have charged with a sword that has struck fear into the hearts of the amoral, into the souls of the damned children. And now, our sword and our shield alike are to be tested. Enemies arise and unite in a common cause: to tear the Lord's world apart. Together, we shall restore order, bring back power to the children of God, and cleanse the plague that sorcerer, mutant, Gypsy, and criminal debauchery prostitute and maim. Together, we shall forge a power unlike any the enemy has ever seen, and reclaim the world for those chosen to lead it."
Frollo then walked to the table. The members of the inner circle were passing glances with each other, seeming to ask each other if Frollo's words seemed reasonable.
"Now I ask. Who shall raise their arm in pledge to our unification against the darkness that threatens to enslave and butcher our world? Who shall pledge their oath to the Second Order of the Golden Cross? Who shall rise to defend what is rightfully ours, to fight for the euphoria that we have sustained with our might for too many years to yield to cowards and vagrants now? Who shall join me to eliminate those who stand in our way and make way for the Lord to raise his scepter to reclaim his creation? Who shall stand to fight for what is rightfully theirs?"
The table made final glances toward each other. And then they stood all at once and spoke one at a time.
"King Ratcliffe of the British Empire pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Nikita Dragovich of Soviet Russia pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Enrico Maxwell of the Vatican's Iscariot Organization pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Hernan Cortez, champion of the Spanish Empire, pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Count Rokoff of the Soviet Union pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Vladimir Makarov of the Ultranationalist Movement Cell pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"General Hershel von Shepherd III pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Imran Zakhaev of Soviet Russia pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
"Khaled Al-Asad of Pakistan pledges his allegiance to the Order of the Golden Cross."
Frollo then drew a dagger and stabbed it into the table, the sound of metal piercing wood ringing through the air.
"Together, we shall bring true order and purity to this decaying world. The Order of the Golden Cross rises again today."