The Ghost Highway

Aftermath

“I’m pretty sure that he’s dead,” Sol’kanar says as she pokes at the sparking M.O.M. devices sticking out of what is left of Zeeb’s skull. The flesh around the sparking devices, as well as the devices themselves, are burnt or melted to a large degree from a series of fireballs thrown by the powerful psychic.

“Never can be too sure with these Crazies,” Sergeant Darius “Sarge” Hannan’s somewhat gruff voice is muffled slightly by his helmet as he fires another round into Zeeb’s rapidly cooling corpse.

“So, that was one fine shooting match I’d say,” Wooglin steps out from the large patch of darkness that had protected him from much of the enemy fire over the last few minutes that made up the ranged battle with Zeeb’s forces in the base, his elderly European voice ringing out in full flavor and heavy accent. Despite the ferocity of the battle, the adopted strategy of firing from behind cover saved them from receiving any real damage.

While all of the party seems worn out from the conflict, Sol’kanar and Jazz both appear more drained than the others, but otherwise all are whole and care little for the alarms going off throughout the base.

“Yeah, too much more of that and things might have gone from bad to worse.” Jazz says, wiping the sweat from his brow as he cancels the enchantments on his armor and removes his helmet. Despite constant training it is fair to say that the battle was almost rigged against Jazz as he had little in the way of time to replace the weapons taken from him and his only modified weapon suffered a failure during the battle, it remains where he discarded it, smoldering from a short somewhere in the firing chamber.

No one hears the approach of the large cyborg or the wolf, but the exhausted four find the pair behind them.

“It appears you have all survived, good,” the cyborg’s voice is metallic and cold, but his pose suggests relief to a degree.

“Well, they would hardly be worth your time if they weren’t,” the wolf interjects, his white coat matted with blood, not much belonging to him.

Remembering the scene from the butchers’ room Sol’kanar shudders slightly at the memory. Regardless of the fact that she could hardly care less for the dead, the fact that some of the victims of the disassembly were alive at the time of their butchery was, and still is, against even her ethical code of conduct.

“We can celebrate at a later time, but we must evacuate the area I am afraid.” The cyborg points to the passage behind him, back towards the large lift elevator, and back to relative safety.

“First I’m going to need you to give us your name, and state your purpose good sir,” Wooglin struts forward to poke his finger into the metal chest of the cyborg before continuing, “and you might as well take that armor off and let us see your face as I don’t imagine we’ll be running into any more brigands since we blocked off the passageway.”

“While we cannot truly spare the time I am convinced that you will not pursue the correct course of action until your curiosity is satisfied. Very well,” The cyborg rises up to full height and says in a strong voice states plainly, “My designation is X-13, I am a cyborg and I am an agent of the noble Xilu Federation sent to Rifts Earth on a mission of collecting candidates for possible use by my masters. Each of you has been carefully vetted before you have reached this stage in the selection process and further information will be dispatched should you survive the tests to come. The wolf and I have taken the liberty of moving those captured from Blights Village to the large lift, though a technician said that we would require the command card held by Zeeb in order to make the lift operational.”

“You mean this command card,” Sol’kanar waves a plastic card towards the cyborg.

“Yes, that appears to be the correct card, if I may…” The cyborg holds out his hand but Sol’kanar quickly tucks the card into her folded arms.

“What exactly is in this for me?” She asks, her eyes burning with both mischief and power.

“What are you talking about, Sol, we need to get out of here and that card is the only way.” Jazz walks over to Sol’kanar, a confused look on his face.

“Sorry, ‘Jazz’, but you may be willing to help these people out of the goodness of your innocent little heart, but some of us have spent considerable energy on procuring this card. As you so graciously stated, this card is our only real way out and I need a little more than gratitude to be willing to part with it. Business is business.” Sol’kanar smiles a charming and dangerous smile.

When it appears that the other three would take little action the wolf speaks up, his voice a threatening growl, “I’m not exactly sure what your companions are waiting for, but I don’t think it would take all that much energy to simple remove the card from your possession…” He moves forward, low and with his teeth bare.

“Do not think me so weak, wolf, that I am unable to defend myself!” Sol’kanar’s posture changes and the very air around her tenses with power, warm air begins to swirl around her and her eyes seem to glow. Sarge readies his rifle and keeps his sight picture moving to possibly fire on multiple targets.

Before anything can happen the cyborg steps forward and plants himself in the middle, between the two, and says calmly, “While I understand that some of you would wish to procure from this place what you would call ‘loot’ I have done my best to collect items that may hold value or utility that I am willing to exchange for your temporary compliance. Sol’kanar, I have the ability to compensate you for your cooperation and we can discuss the matter, business as it were, when everyone is safe.”

It takes a few heartbeats for the situation to diffuse, but eventually the wolf backs down and Sol’kanar relaxes and hands over the card. While Sarge and Jazz recover weapons and ammo the rest of the group patches up armor and the whole group walks back to the lift room as the alarms switch from one of intruders, to one of evacuation as the facility begins to rumble.

Jazz hits the switch that closes the large doors behind them after insuring that everyone that could be saved was in the large lift room before walking over to the control panel with X-13 to program the lift’s outer doors to open and engage the lift.

The ground beneath them rumbles as large plumes of multicolored smoke fill the air behind them as the group drives several large trucks away from the now collapsing and burning harvesting facility and back towards blights village. Instead of cutting through the woods the convoy heads out to the Ghost Highway to shorten the journey back home.

As they travel the group’s energy level increases as PPE and ISP is absorbed from the lay line and through meditation and while they recover the general disposition and mood improves for all.

Not all is well as they turn off the Ghost Highway a few hours later and being the trek through the woods to Blights Village. Jazz worries about the reception awaiting him as he dwells on what he considers a failure on his part in the events leading up to the attack. Wooglin dwells on his situation and wonders what will become of him in his new reality. Sergeant Darius worries a little about the fate of his friends in the militia and also wonders just what he has gotten himself into. Sol’kanar is mostly concerned with whether or not she’ll actually get paid as the sun rises over the fields and trees surrounding Blights Village…

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The Return

With a faint blue haze along the horizon a large convoy approaches a cave tucked away in the forests of the Magic Zone several miles to the North of a burning town known as Blights Village. As many of the motorcycles and hoverbikes pull away from the convoy only two vehicles remain to enter into flame lit maw of the cave. Containing dozens of people a large truck backs up to an unloading bay and several men dressed in black rubber begin to drag the unconscious masses deeper into the cave. Personnel attached to the convoy via the other vehicle depart as a large two wheeled contraption is pulled from the remaining truck.

“Hey! Did you hear Zeeb?” A spry young man dressed in leather and buckles pokes at the back of a thin man who is naked from the waist up.

“Oh, Spike…Did I hear what, pup?” The man known as Zeeb replies, walking slowly further into the cave. His thin, white body ripples with barely controlled muscle spasms as if his whole being was forced to remain in place rather than bursting outward. Zeebs head is pierced by several small cylinders and his eyes dart in every direction like a man living in slow motion would take in the world.

“They totally bought the illusion and everything!” Spike says excitedly as he points to the unloading bay, then to a small medallion which he presses, appearing to increase in size and take on a very Juicer-like build.

“Really? I suppose since I have never actually led the Road Raiders, who ever claimed to be me would appear to be me. Interesting isn’t it, pup?” Zeeb holds out his hands, bright red blood dripping from the cup formed as he holds a heart out for Spike to inspect.

“Zeeb…Not again.” Spike lowers his head in resignation as he waves to guards to open the gates leading into the well lit concrete base hidden in the cave, and presses the medallion again, returning to his original form.

“What, do you mean I have done this before?” Zeeb asks, a look of genuine horror graces his chiseled face.

“Of course you have Zeeb, and the Sleep Gun Raith gave me worked perfectly too.” Spike point to the red gun on his right hip.

“Good. Raith has been in constant contact with Lord Huegar in order to supply him with information. What did I say the last time, pup?” Zeeb indicates the heart by moving it closer. As he does so crimson splashes the nearly white tile of the inner base.

Spike and Zeeb exchange different viewpoint of the squishy-ness of hearts, the various textures, and generally vile details before arriving at a large metal door with the name “Raith” spelled out in American.

Opening the door the imposing figure of Raith appears, various switches, wires, and gems dangle from his leather work apron.

“Spike,” Raith says with a nod in the young man’s direction, his voice low and markedly sinister, “Zeeb, why do you have a human heart in your hands?”

“Oh, Raith, the man to whom this squishy heart belongs decided that I couldn’t have it and tried to hit me, so I took it…Any word from Lord Huegar, pup?” Zeeb’s expression flashes from confusion and concern, to warm and inquisitive as the subject changes.

“Yes, he says that there are few sacrifices remaining before the ceremony can begin, we are to collect our harvest and purify the results before meeting up with him. Speaking of, what was today’s haul, Spike?” Raith’s turns his large, muscular body and with a wave of his hand he summons his fellows into his room to sit on one of the many chairs within.

“Total captured, forty-eight, total dead in Blights Village, 120 or so. Among those captured are two magic users, a young man and a boy, one psychic and one sensitive, two or three militia members, and a large cyborg among others. No one younger than 14, no one older than 40.” Spike replies in a calm, measured voice.

“Good, I guess the Sleep pistol worked well then?” Raith smiles when the red weapon is exposed again.

“Like a charm, but this might interest you more.” Spike tosses an ordinary looking gun to Raith, who begins to examine it carefully.

“Amazing, fear…or horror, did any of you men get hit with this?” Raith asks as Zeeb begins to gnaw on the rapidly cooling heart.

“No, actually someone pointed it at themselves and nearly drove half a dozen of my men away.” Spike replies before reaching over and taking the heart away from Zeeb.

“Very interesting. If the individual who constructed this is in the lot you brought back, and he survives, I might wish to have a word with him. Anyway, you two go and prepare the next batch for extraction, we need to secure these last shipments to Lord Huegar as soon as possible.”

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Mission Report: 1b

Masters. It has come to my attention that the paths currently set by the actions of those we seek will not require 12 or I to intervene. Irony, it seems more noticeable of late. Part of me wants to just collect them and then leave, but I know why things must be done this way. Blight’s Village is the perfect place for the first of many tests, it is a target of so many whom wish it captured, destroyed, or terrorized. I have surveyed the “village” covertly, or as covertly as is possible in my new body. Thanks again, by the way. I know, I know. “Loyalty is more precious than blind obedience.” I haven’t told 12 yet, I think she’ll figure it out sooner or later being able to do all those crazy things just with the power of her mind.

Ah! I almost forgot. One of the targets died unexpectedly, he ran right into a patrol of Glitter Boys…they’re more like 1 man, close fitting robots rather than the power armor they resemble. Our target thought that his magic would allow him to defeat three well trained Glitter Boys high on Crash. Needless to say they left him broken and bleeding, but didn’t put him out of his misery. I did. They then decided to attack me. Before our association I would never have gotten involved, much less tried to fight. I’ve never been so calm. Regardless I shall endeavor to bring another charge to replace the one killed. Rifts Earth is such a violent place, we have to move quickly or they all may die.

A bright flash of purple light races towards the heavens and disappears. The large metal form of a full conversion cyborg walks away from where he delivered his message, and away from the corpses of three Glitter Boys and their pilots.

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Mission Report: 1a.
Impressions

Masters. Though I do not presume to know your thoughts, or your plans, I must admit a degree of concern with these candidates. It took only a few months for 13 and I to locate all of them, some were far more obvious than others.

To be home again… so small. But, as per your instruction, I have focused my efforts on locating the Techno-Wizard. His flamboyant nature is hardly a cover, he has significant skill beyond that of others in his profession. He has already begun to master the forces permitted by the lay lines, for one so young it can be impressive. A new lay line has developed, I suspect that the fall of Tolkeen had something to do with it, so much death and release of magic… The lay line has awoken and animated an army of ancient construction robots who have constructed a road that follows the lay line, the Techno-Wizard follows the road now.

13 is working on the others, and as the Vale will not permit him that is where I must go. I trust 13 more and more, he is trying to shepherd as best as possible the candidates with minimal harm. His power is frightening, even my enhancements can not compete with the raw firepower he can bring to the fight. It is something of a shame, though, 13 is normally so peaceful.

This ends my initial report my masters.

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