The lights flickered on, and from behind me, there was a voice. “We’ve finally got her.”
I couldn’t find the source of the male voice. Neither could Darwin, though he knew something was around. Chance and Fuzzball backed into a safe-looking corner.
I finished tying the knot on my mask to secure it, ensuring my identity was safe. I drew my sword. “Show yourself, I command you!”
“Stand down,” the voice demanded, “Revenant.”
I thought I knew the voice from somewhere, but it also appeared that the voice knew me.
“Madison,” he continued. “Madison Chance deGrave. Agent ‘Draco Thunder’. Agent ‘Bronzewing’. Or Revenant. Take your pick.”
Oh, no. He knew my entire identity. But a single question came to my mind: how could he have done so? He used not only my obsolete Pulse codename, but my rarely used Delta codename and my full, true name, alongside my common pseudonym.
I looked back momentarily at Chance, whose eyes widened when he heard my full name. Yes, that was why I had told him he had a respectable name; it belonged to me.
“I never expected to see you again. I thought you were done for, on that day, so many years ago.” He rose up from behind one of the computer consoles, and so did a great white animal behind him.
I gasped. “Bear?”
Yes, it was! Kendall Cory, Agent Bear King, with his dirty brown hair and wild, amber eyes, was standing before me, in full Southwind uniform, beside his polar bear Aura.
Something was fishy about this. I slipped my fingers into my pocket and slid my fingers over something, confirming that it existed. It was still there… how was this possible?
Another voice came from behind another desk, this one slightly higher-pitched. “Revenant. Impressive. The name is legendary.”
It was Agent Whiplash, who disappeared in the mission with Frost. His monkey Motley was hanging from his neck, but looked ready to strike.
I held the sword out in front of me, not accepting of this betrayal. But it was only beginning. I heard a female voice, along with a familiar growl that made me realize what I had walked into.
“Madison, what are you doing here?”
Oh, no. Oh, no. This can’t have happened. Not Frost, too. Not her. And they even took the arctic wolf Quicksilver?
But then I realized that they were all wearing not only five-star rank pins, but also the pin bearing the insignia of their former alliances: Whiplash was wearing a six-point star with a detailed phoenix in gold, Bear had a circle with a five-point star and another circle inside it in bronze, and Frost’s pin was in the shape of the Delta triangle, in silver.
They had fully abandoned their previous causes to be the leaders of Southwind.
I didn’t know what to do. The object in my pocket, and the shock of seeing them all aligned against me, made me doubt that any of this was real. Finally, I figured it was simply denial on my part, and giving into that denial would get me killed. I simply raised my sword and did not say a word.
Chance came closer to me, drawing his own sword. “You know these people?”
I nodded. “Yup. I know ’em…” I tossed him my lock-pick set and turned to defend against them, pulling out my saber as well to hold back what I knew was going to be a barrage.
Two versus six. Myself and Darwin versus the three generals and their partners.
Agent Whiplash was the first to jump forward. Darwin left my glove and knocked Motley away from him. Whiplash’s primary weapon was a whip, so he was much out of my range, but I still was able to defend myself from the blows with my sword. Finally he swung the cord hard enough towards me that it was cut against my sword. The other piece dropped at my feet.
He didn’t dare come closer with only his damaged whip, or he would have been in range of my longsword. Fortunately for him, Bear and Frost were ready. Both of them approached me with their own swords. I switched my saber to my right hand and, with it, held both of the other swords as high as I could get them.
Frost immediately pulled back and struck at my chest, but I blocked with my sword, expecting dirty play like that. I jumped on a desk to gain an elevation advantage. “How are you doing on the door?” I asked.
“It’s a good lock!” Chance argued. “Need help?”
I heard a growl, and I knew there wasn’t much time. Knocking aside a blow coming for my head, I remembered that we still had one more weapon. “Send in Fuzzball or something, or I’m going to be bear food!”
Fuzzball went flying from Chance’s shoulder. He landed on Aura’s face and dug his claws in, agitating the bear. He shook his head wildly, confusing Quicksilver as well. It solved my problem for now. “Thanks. Keep at it, Phase!”
Suddenly, I realized that Whiplash was readying his secondary weapon: a bow and arrow. He released the arrow, aimed at my side. Only by quickly shouting “Da’ar” could I defend against it.
Now he aimed at Chance. I quickly yelled, “Chance, look out!”
Chance realized what was happening. “Corpi ferre!” His entire body suddenly became metal, and the arrow glanced off his shoulders.
I didn’t expect that move, but it made a lot of sense for him to do so. Once again Whiplash aimed at my chest. This time, I didn’t have time to react, but it quite accidentally glanced off my saber as I reached up to stop another slash.
Finally I saw a slight opening, and I took it, but a block fell over my blow. The accident caused my sword to make a long **** over Frost’s left eye. She recoiled immediately, covering the cut.
Now I had two blades against Bear’s one, and I took advantage. I managed to push him back against the wall.
I glanced over quickly to survey the situation. Darwin was having some trouble against Motley, but was doing alright. Chance was still working on the lock, growling. “It’s jammed!” Whiplash was drawing another arrow.
But Fuzzball was helpless. He couldn’t do anything to steady himself against the bear, whose great paw swiped him away from his face. Fuzzball fell to the ground, very injured, and Aura and Quicksilver turned to me, unconcerned.
“Da’ar,” I shouted again, and I ducked under Bear’s sword to reach Fuzzball. Another of Whiplash’s arrows hit an invisible barrier and broke.
Now, unfortunately, I was cornered by a great polar bear and an angry wolf. I picked up the squirrel and set him in my bag, where he hopefully would be safe, then I picked up my sword and saber.
I held my blades in a threatening way at both of the predators, but the wolf ignored my saber, ducked under it, and grabbed my left arm.
My metal left arm.
I grinned. This arm was impervious to any physical harm now. Until now I had failed to realize that it was possible for me to use it as a weapon. Grinning, I slammed Quicksilver’s head backwards against the wall, knocking him out.
Aura growled at me again, but because the bear was a bigger target than Quicksilver, he dared not come closer to my swords.
Another arrow flew at me. “Da’ar!” I commanded just in time, preventing another shot from hurting me. But Whiplash was ready this time, and he fired three more in rapid succession.
“Da’ar! Da’ar! Da’ar…”
All three arrows were met by a barrier. But now I was in danger from another source: I had used twelve of my fifteen sho. I had one more block, and I would max out if I tried again. If that final block failed, I could be shot before I turned to stone, and I would be dead by the time I regenerated.
“Dang! The lock’s made with graphena! I can’t do anything, not even acid!” Chance grabbed his own sword, tossing aside the lock picks. He did his best to engage Bear, his metallic armor deflecting every blow. Before Whiplash could shoot again, Chance reached sideways and stabbed him in the heart. Whiplash fell to the ground, killed quickly by the wound.
Then I heard a sickening crack, followed by a terrible screech. I looked up, desperate to find the source.
Motley the monkey had grabbed hold of Darwin’s wing and cracked the bones. Darwin was screeching in pain, and Motley grinned evilly, a handful of feathers as a trophy.
Oh, no. Now what could I do?
Chance saw my face and gave me a look that told me that it was over.
I dropped both my sword and my saber. “Stop! I wish to plead surrender!”
Chance lowered his sword in shock. Bear ceased to fight him momentarily. “Your terms?”
“My colleague Agent Phase and his partner go free. They’re not who you want.”
Bear laughed. “Alright. Anything else?”
I meditated on this. “My partner won’t be hurt any more, and I attempt to heal him. He’ll go with Agent Phase. You don’t hurt me, and you don’t kill me. I also get to send a message back to Delta confirming that I am a prisoner of war. I will send them no information about my whereabouts. Then I will self-destruct my handheld.”
Frost leaned back against the wall, still holding her eye. “And what do we get?”
Chance cancelled his metal body spell, his face desperately pleading me not to say what I was about to say. He knew what I would answer, and he knew he had to be as diplomatic as possible.