Chapter 5 – Fantasia

Clearwater, a rather small moon of the gas giant Solitari. Three years ago, it had been a decently big tourist attraction. It was strange, considering there were only two redeeming qualities of the moon that might qualify it for such a purpose.

The first was that the entire surface of the moon was encased in a layer of thin ice, but due to mild plate tectonics, as well as a pressure buildup, there was flowing water beneath the ice. In addition to creating one of the prettier aesthetics in the system, you could pay a pittance to one of the many drilling stations on the moon, and a worker would drill a small hole in the ice and procure you a nice, fresh, supposedly drinkable cup of Clearwater water.

The second redeeming quality was none other than the infamous Clearwater space elevator, rigged to go several miles above sea level and back down again. Depending upon the audacity of the tourists involved, the elevator may reach speeds of up to Mach 10 upon ascent and subsequently cause many a visitor to lose their nerve, and, perhaps more commonly, their lunch. If no such loss is incurred, one may gaze a full 360 degrees at the top, where there are two platforms on opposite sides of a central juncture.

This alone would not merit the place any distinction from your average space elevator, were it not for the enormous open air Termiball stadium situated at the juncture. It was the only one of its kind, and for good reason. Termiball is a hockey-esque game where the ball is replaced with a hovering cube programmed to increase in speed drastically whenever shooting towards a player. The goalies always had the worst of it. For this particular stadium, reinforced glass helmets were worn to allow players to breathe in whatever elements their species thrived on. However, during the first exhibition match, a staggering 15 of the 20 athletes died due to the ball puncturing their headglass. This was nearly quadruple the amount for a standard Termiball game. It was then realized that the whole concept of building the stadium in space was ludicrous on too many levels to continue giving a damn, and the project as well as the elevator was sold to some bald guy with white eyes for 100,000 galactic Credits. What he did with it is anyone's guess.

-Taken from 'The History of Transstellar Sport', Wain Broos

I stared, transfixed, at Ambien. Or at least what was Ambien. The older figure before me thrashed manically about, seemingly uninterested in her surroundings. She was presumably firing off gamma ray bursts wherever she saw fit.

"Command: Ambien Aerona, follow me to the right platform. I have a few planets I want you to target." As soon as Ana finished ou's sentence, Ambien ceased her wild movement and dazedly began following instructions. How was Ana able to control her like that? My teeth gritted themselves as I considered the possibility of aiming my rifle at Ambien herself.

Ana flipped ou's head to cast a hollow smile at me. "In this volatile state, she shan't last more than half an hour. Fortunately, she'll revert back to Stage 2 before then. She will not die, you have my word. Though I suggest you don't tail us, or I'll force her to kill you as well." With an air of finality, Ana gave a light bow before exiting the stadium with Ambien. Shaking with barely concealed anger, I slowly lowered my gun. I would bring the psychopath to justice, even at the cost of my life. But it was wise not to follow for the moment.

It was then that a faint 'X? Is that you? Get us the hell out of this bloody cell X! C'mon man, I've been running on chewing gum for the past 24 hours!' entered my consciousness. Charles! My eyes shot to the metal room at the stadium's corner, and I quickly connected the dots. A female voice issued from the container as well. With any luck she was the friend Ambien mentioned. I ran over and knocked on the metal. Steel, likely a foot thick.

"Charles! I'm here buddy. Is there anything in the room other than wall? Anything we can use?"

"Negative. There's a door and a few oxygen masks, but nothing short of explosives will bring the door down." True enough, as my plasma rifle was merely charring the wall after repeated blasts. There was only one other option to free them.

"Do you have your shield generator? Surely your organization has provided you with a concealable one."

"Yeah, I still have it," responded the imprisoned spy. "Why?"

"I was able to requisition control of Solitari's orbital weaponry earlier, and I have a nearby attack satellite approaching Clearwater. I can aim it at this location."

"…You can't be serious."

"Don't worry, I'm already running the calculations. You won't get injured. Put your shields up in the direction of the door. I'll do the same."

A resigned sigh – one X had learned to expect from Charles – emanated from inside. "Hey Xiang," he called, "you might want to get close. This forcefield isn't designed to extend more than a few meters."

I braced myself. "Firing in 3… 2… 1… ah, forgot to release the safety. 2… 1… there we go."

Instantly, a blue flash followed by an ear shattering explosion enveloped the area. I was thrown back violently as shrapnel burst forth in all directions. A stray piece bruised my skin as it whizzed past.

As the dust settled, I saw Charles and the one he called Xiang crawl out from a gaping hole in the prison cell, slightly bruised as well, but otherwise unharmed. They had the breathing masks around their heads, slightly obscuring their facial expressions. As I ran forward to embrace Charles, I scanned Xiang.

Name: Xiang 'Dem' Pearl

Age: 17

Appearance: Short, with long messy black hair and white skin.

Occupation: Student at Texas A&M

Area of Residence: Republic of Texas, Earth

Other: Has a long strand of hair that curls up from her head. Specialists have tried hundreds of gels to keep it down with no success. A construction grade chainsaw was used in an attempt to cut it off. The chainsaw broke.

Ability: Epigene Harmony, Stage undefined.

A fellow Earthling. Good to know.

Charles quickly turned serious. "Well? Do you know any more about what exactly is happening?"

"Well," I motioned over to where Ana had gone, "bald is beautiful over there wants to use Xiang's friend Ambien to irradiate and kill some people ou doesn't like. Purple alien in the formals is an idiot punster. Ambien herself is supposedly a Stage 4 esper, which makes her about the most dangerous entity alive at the moment. What do you have for me?"

"Xiang nor I have any abilities or weapons." Strange, the scan said she had some power.

"I have an ability." Charles and I raised an eyebrow at Xiang's interjection.

"Yeh. What, you don' believe me?"

"You told me you had no abilities," replied Charles.

"I said I had no abilities that would help us escape that horrid prison cell. I have an ability. I can use it to stop both Ambien and... Ana, was it? Without killing them. However, ya'll will need to distract them fer some time for it to work." The Texan teen said all this in a sugary voice that made her sentence come out more adorable than threatening. I cringed at the thought of her engaging the two veritable psychos just a termiball field away.

I unrolled a response embedded in my programming. "With all due respect ma'am, I am a trained police officer, and my intel classifies you as a civilian. I cannot in good conscience allow you to aid in this investigation. Please remain stationary until I give the all clear to leave."

She pouted. "I'm not a kid, ya know."

The three of us stood for several moments in contemplation. A voice then boomed from behind.

"You take the mirror, and see what you saw. You take the saw, and cut the table in half. Two halves make a whole. You climb out of the hole. Your move, knave." There Borislav stood, another plasma rifle in hand, menacing.

"I see someone knows how to Googleplex things," smirked X.

Borislav narrowed his glowing purple eyes. "Take that back. I did not simply use the internet, if that's what you are implying."

"Yeah, and I didn't simply place you on this system's most wanted criminal list. Oh, but I did. Just now."

"Pretty big talk coming from a circuit-headed knave."

"Pretty big talk coming from a blank-headed bitch."

Charles groaned. Since when was X this confrontational?

Xiang coughed. "Guys, if ya don't mind, we've got a genocide to stop. You know what, I'll do it myself. Laters." She sprinted off in the direction of Ambien.

"I said no civilians!" Exasperated, X followed.

"You are not going anywhere." Borislav fired almost instantly at X, the recoil forcing him to dig his foot in the ground. A blue light issued from the weapon and tore apart the air around it, speeding forward. In yet another instant, a blond-haired figure jumped in its path, and blue collided with white. The pure white shield energy flickered under the blue lasers fury, but continued to stand defiantly. The blue energy dissipated.

"Wha- you." Borislav shifted his attention.

"Hello. I'm sorry, but I shan't let you hurt my colleagues." Charles adjusted his sunglasses and re-energized his shield.

"What stake do you have in this, prisoner? If you stay out of my way, I'll stay out of yours. Master has no further use for you, so neither do I."

"Sorry, but I work at an organization known publicly as Epsilon, and it's part of my job to accost hooligans like you."

"Epsilon? But I used to work there! As a fact, I'm still protected by their insurance now! There's no way you have a permit to arrest me."

"Oops," thought Charles. "First layer of cover blown."

"Well, you see, I lied to you. I'm a double agent who in actuality works for Rho."

"Are you really now, knave?" Borislav waggled his gun threateningly.

Charles sighed. "Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. But do I really have to tell you something like that when you're going to die here?" The swole triple agent put as much venom behind those last two words as was possible for someone like him, and rushed forward, shield up.

Xiang pushed her back up against a wall, gathering her breath. The run was only half a mile or so. Then again she was stuck in a room for a full day with no water. She should have taken those meditation classes.

X caught up to her and stooped down to check his plasma rifle's energy levels. "So, are they behind this wall?"

"Yeah, I think so," breathed Xiang through her mask.

X adjusted his auditory inputs and listened. -blah blah revenge blah inferior alien species blah blah blah took me enough rewinds blah Katy Perry- Yup, it was them.

"Listen, I might be able ta make Ambien's abilities mah own if you can distract the bald one for, I don't know, 3 minutes?"

X stared at her long enough to discover she was being serious. He sighed. What choice did he have, anyway? It was only a matter of time before the oxygen levels around those two dipped to dangerous levels. He flipped around the corner of the wall, hands up.

Shields 27% - Not good. Charles' shields could only take one more shot. He had to get in close, but the platform was too narrow for any maneuvers. Worse still, the purple behemoth he was stalling didn't seem to be affected by the lack of oxygen. He had only one choice. To rush it, rugby style.

"Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. But do I really have to tell you something like that when you're going to die here?" Charles bolted in the direction of Borislav, and Borislav promptly let loose another wave of gun plasm. Five feet. The energy struck Charles' shield, stronger than expected. The shield was about to give. But Charles had no time for hesitation. As the spear of light slammed into his left, he curled up the fist on his right.



Charles fell to the ground, clutching his shoulder, and Borislav fell to ground clutching his jaw.

Borislav spit out a tooth. "You- you bloodied my pristine face!"

Charles tried not to go into shock. "You blew off my freakin' arm!" It was true. They even put a picture in this book. Eugh, I will spare you the details. Anyway, where was I?

Charles activated his pain implants, and Borislav seemed to be thinking over something intently. The spy grabbed for the rifle, now laying on the ground, but the servant reacted in time and snatched it from him. Borislav once again pointed the gun at his ex-prisoner. "Looks like you've been… disarmed."

Charles nearly choked. "I cannot believe you just made that joke."

"Oh, but I did." Blue energy swirled at gunpoint as Borislav prepared another shot. Charles kicked up his foot and knocked the gun in the air, which promptly shot its gathered energy and blew another hole through the glass insulating the space platform from the unforgiving surroundings.

A yell of rage issued from the muscular alien as he threw jab after jab at his – still somehow conscious – enemy. He would not let this knave get to his master.

"Would-" Charles dodged.

"You-" Charles ducked.

"Stop-" Charles swiveled.

"MOVING!" Borislav threw a hook with all his power only to be sidestepped and kicked in the loins. Rushing backwards to gain some distance, he found that Charles would not let up. Closing in on him, Charles pushed him against the railing and held a knife to his throat.

"Where did you pull that from?" Borislav questioned, slightly panicked.

"I'm the one who's going to ask questions here," Charles responded coolly. "Your 'master', he or she seems to be a time manipulator. Am I correct?"

"You are."

"And he is listed here as an experimental in the Ascend initiative, is this true?"


"Is it true or not?"

"Y-yes, we both were."

"Then where is his secondary brain?"

"I cannot tell you."

"You can and will."

Borislav elbowed a hole in the already cracked glass behind him. He took a step back and allowed himself to fall.

"No!" Charles' face betrayed confusion and worry as he reached out to grab Borislav with his single hand. Grabbing onto the alien's suit, he immediately appreciated just how muscled up the guy was, because wow was he heavy. As Charles strained simply to hold him in place without falling himself, he made a mental note to try and recruit Borislav for his organization later. With some training he could be useful. The thought did not last long.

Borislav grabbed Charles' fingers and twisted them, forcing his savior to let go with a cry of pain.

"Tch! Did you really want to die that badly?" Charles yelled at the rapidly receding figure.

Borislav yelled back. "Human concepts of true death are so infantile! And besides, who said I was going to die?" Charles could only watch as the alien who had minutes ago taken his arm clean off refuse a helping hand in favor of suicide.

"Damn," he thought, giving Borislav a quick, silent prayer. It was then that he realized his own pain and exhaustion. Upon this realization, he fell to the floor, passed out, still breathing through his oxygen mask.

"You have your hands up in the air, and yet, you are holding a gun. Why is that?" Ana fixed me with his focused yet ethereal stare. "Command: Oh, get that planet too, won't you Ambien?"

"Don't do it Ambien!" I half screamed, half commanded. "Ou's controlling your actions, don't let ou! Fight back!" Ambien seemed to recognize my voice and emitted a low growl. One minute and thirty seconds until my orbital laser was back online. If that didn't work, my hopes would then be pinned solely on Xiang and her mysterious ability.

"My, it seems as if the X-25 ENF is here to stop us. Command: Take care of him, would you Ambien?" Ambien growled what seemed like approval and lifted her palms straight to me. "Command: Oh, and make sure you use MASER capabilities or something. He's not fully organic, so gamma rays won't have a drastic effect. Microwaves, on the other hand…"

I had no idea what to think. "Wait, wait, wait, hold up a second. I'm not here to hurt you." I dropped my gun and slid it to the side with my foot. "See?"

"…And?" Ana's smile was irritating.

"Aaaand you should explain your evil plan to me, since I'm going to die here anyway. Deal?"

"Do I look like senator Palpatine to you? Besides, however will I have time to elaborate on my motives when you're planning on killing me with that low-orbit weapon of yours?"

I took a few tense moments to duly and efficiently process that new piece of information. "What?"

"Oh, I heard the sound from the military laser you used earlier. Saw it from here too. That's a QC standard model, isn't it? Five minutes to the shot, what it lacks in loading speed in makes up for in power. There's a newer one out, though. It's still being tested, but I believe the military and a few police units have access to it. You should look into it when you have the time." Ana sounded a bit too excited there.

Reading the shock written plainly on my face, he continued, "I wrote my college thesis on orbital weaponry. What are the odds?"

Wonderful. Next thing I know, Xiang's going to tell me she's a neurosurgeon and Borislav's going to tell me he's a babysitter.

"QC ready for use, Officer X," my personal interface chirped out loud, rather unhelpfully. Gonna have to remember to mute that thing in the future. Safety is off. Target coordinates locked. Well, here goes nothing. Fire.

For a moment, nothing. Then, a large, holographic 'yes' or 'no' question manifested itself.

A mechanical voice spoke. "Remote QC is not a free service. Your 30-day trial has expired. Would you like to purchase?"

Xiang stumbled out the side of the wall behind them into plain sight, laughing hysterically. Ana looked from the message to Xiang and back, and began chuckling. Ambien looked from Xiang to Ana and back, seemingly wondering whether attempting to laugh with them or continuing to commit mass murder would be more fun. I was beginning to develop a headache. I didn't even know us androids could get headaches.

I took the break in tension to press purchase – it didn't even state how much the full version was priced at, those money-grubbing corporate bastards – and press fire. Ana snapped ou's fingers, and Ambien shot a grotesquely wide green laser up in the air which collided with the blue laser careening downwards.

The ensuing explosion threatened to send the entire platform out of orbit. I hung onto the railings for dear life, while shielding my optics from the cyan light show above me. After seconds that seemed to stretch for minutes, the smoke slowly began to clear.

What happened next remains a blur to me. I suddenly felt very strange and slow. I recognized it as the same feeling I got right before Ana froze me in time the first time. I saw Xiang release a flash of light, which temporarily blinded me before I readjusted my optics. She rushed forward at blistering speed, almost as if she was in a video playing at x4 speed, and thrusted her arms violently but precisely, in the same manner that Ambien had done. As the strange feeling I had abruptly disappeared, I caught a glimpse of Ana, collapsed in a heap on the floor. As the dust settled fully, I saw that Ambien too was down for the count, sprawled out on the translucent platform below her.

She tilted her head at me and winked a childish wink, before running over to the fallen figures and checking their pulses.

"What… just happened?" What… had just happened?

"Oh, I was able ta borrow Ambien's powers fer a little and I shot gamma rays at the parts of their brains that exert voluntary motor control. There was a small chance I'd have killed 'em, but they're both still breathin'. Thank goodness, right? Sadly, there's a good chance they could be permanently paralyzed."

I continued to stare dumbfounded.

"Judging by the confuzzled look ya got," she continued, "and by the fact that white eyes was staring right at you, I'd say ou tried to freeze you in time before I intervened. No idea why he wasn't able to."

A remote part of my processing power noted that the girl in front of me, who looked to be in high school, just mentioned the possibility of accidently having murdered her best friend without so much as blinking. I had been running into far too many crazy espers the past few days, I decided. A less remote, larger part of my processing power noted that air was still being sucked out of the platform, and Ambien and Ana still didn't have oxygen masks.

Oxygen Levels: 16% safe minimum, my sensors noted.

"Oh no! We have to get oxygen masks on them quickly, or they'll die! Are there any left in that storage room?"

"On it," Xiang casually replied, before vanishing and reappearing knelt down over Ambien, two oxygen masks in hand. She began fastening the first over her friend's face, taking care not to let Ambien's extremely long nails scratch her. I then noticed that Xiang was shirtless.

"What… how… why…" I kept sputtering idiotically. Does not compute.

"I might've borrowed white eyes' temporal abilities too while I was at it." Xiang blew a bubble out of some bubblegum I could've sworn she didn't have two seconds ago. Yep, I was 100% done with today. However, my new friend wasn't done talking.

"Charles is missing an arm, by the way. I choked the bleeding with my shirt, but we need ta git 'im to a hospital. No idea where the purple freak who kidnapped me disappeared to."

"...Nice to meet you too, Xiang. Let's go home, shall we?"

As we walked, a question nagged at me. I eyed the short haired girl next to me. "How did you know exactly where the motor cortex of the brain was?"

"Oh, I'm a neurosurgeon." Make that 110% done.

X slung the unconscious Charles over his shoulder and slowly made his way to the space elevator, Xiang in tow, dragging Ambien. Good thing the floor was smooth. Backup would be arriving in an hour, X's last phone call told the both of them.

It suddenly occurred to X that he had purchased an entire military space laser using credits from his personal account. Trembling, he opened his online account.

You currently have a balance of negative two hundred galactic credits. Debts must be paid by the end of the month. You have seven hours remaining. Have a good day!

Xiang spent the next five minutes convincing X that, no, jumping out one of the holes in the glass was a bad idea, and yes, he would regret it later.

Name: Ambien Aerona – Ability Name: Light Manipulation 2 – Can bend and create light waves of all kinds, excepting infrared and gamma, to a moderate degree. Has been known to go invisible in tense situations. Future development should account for her being able to bend all types of light, even types yet unknown to science, as well as being able to create and concentrate light to a harmful degree. Combat Rating: Mildly dangerous.

Name: Xiang 'Dem' Pearl – Ability Name: Epigene Harmony – The uniqueness of this ability affords it an exemption from the traditional power rating scale. By rearranging the parts of her epigenetic code which account for paranormalities, she can copy and wield abilities of those near her, albeit to a limited degree. While it may take her a full minute or so to scan a target's epigene, she has been known to scan and use multiple unique abilities in the same timeframe. It is hypothesized that the closer she is to her target, the more effective her powers become. Future development should account for her being able to use abilities simultaneously and possibly even keep the epigene order for said abilities in subconscious memory for future use. Combat Rating: Highly dangerous.

Name: f'34,GG[]{{-9(\\\ Error rt45\\ Error – Ability Name – Temporal Manipulation 3 – The user can freeze time both universally and at specific locations. It is hypothesized that the user may be able to rewind time on a universal level as well. It is known that using said abilities puts the user's brain and blood vessels under tremendous strain. User's abilities brought forth during participation in the 'Ascend' Project. Combat Rating: Highly useful.

-Taken from Ascend Project: Classifieds #120, #45032, and #3

A/N: Was Ana really just a run-of-the-mill revenge villain? Will Ambien be okay, even after reverting back to Stage 2? But most importantly, why did X's 30-day trial expire when he had only taken control of the orbital weapon for an hour? All your questions and many questions you never had will (probably) be answered in the coming chapters! Stay tuned, Part I Epilogue is up next, followed by the beginning of Part II.

Anyway, this chapter wasn't as climactic as I'd originally hoped it to be, and the numerous action scenes really brought out my flaws as a writer I feel. Oh well, I'm writing to improve, after all.

BTW, Part II is gonna be epic. EPIC. Just to give you an idea, I spent 10 times the amount of time I spent writing this chapter planning events for the next few. Get hyped.

Till next time!