RotG: Dark Menace
Chapter 05 - Dark allies
"The same I could say about you", Locke brought out not knowing if he should laugh or cry. He was so glad to see Spectre again, alive and not controlled by Enerjak. But the dark Guardian looked terrible, weaker than ever before, probably only kept alive anymore by the Chaos Force around him.
"I'm sorry I disappeared all these months ago", he rasped. "I had no other choice. Enerjak was drawing way too much. I didn't know any other way to keep the Emerald's powers at bay without also destroying myself immediately. But I don't think we can make it much longer."
His knuckles weakly knocked at one at the cracks visible at the surface of the Master Emerald.
"One force draining powers from outside, another one trying to keep them inside. It's just too much." He paused shortly, then he continued, slowly as if his words were causing him pain. "I only wished I could have seen Kali one more time or that I at least had told her before where I needed to go instead of leaving her alone with all her worries."
That was when Locke thought he should finally break the news.
"She has a little daughter now. Nearly as dark as you but she got her mother's eyes. Kali named her Voni. I have met them only a day ago. They are now living at a camp near the edge of the desert." He also had wanted to tell the rest of their stories, that they now were refugees forced to live like outcasts thanks to the hate they received for being a Guardian's family but he swallowed the rest of his words. Seeing in what condition Spectre was he only wanted to cheer him up with those happy news, not bring him down even more.
Spectre remained silent and kept his eyes shut, also continued doing so after Locke had finished talking. And then the younger Guardian noticed the tear slowly running over Spectre's cheek. Locke turned his face away and stared at the ground instead, the best of privacy he could offer him in the Chaos Chamber when he didn't want to leave the cavern completely. He looked up when he heard Spectre's voice again, now sounding a bit stronger than before.
"Thank you for those news. The desert is probably the best place right now knowing how much the cities are under attack."
Locke knew that Spectre didn't have more information about what was going on outside of the Chamber than he had, at least not about the things that happened since he had been locked inside the Emerald, but there was another question that preyed on his mind right now.
"You are surrounded by purest Chaos Energy, also carry a part of Enerjak inside of you like all of us but still he hasn't taken control over you. How can you resist him? Why hasn't he become much more powerful yet?"
"Maybe I can resist him because I always carried him inside of me. You remember how I nearly had sunken into the darkness? Back then I faced and defeated it before it could wield power over me. Another part of him might be inside of me but he would never be able to take control again. We should have found out about what had remained inside of us earlier. At such an early state all of you would have been able to resist if you only knew about it."
"And he can't even become stronger with all the energy around you?"
"Although he is purest Chaos Energy he can't use the pure unchannelled energy inside of the Master Emerald. He needs it in a channelled way, might it be through the shell of the Emerald or the body of a Guardian."
"Do you know any other way how to get him out of our bodies and destroy him for good?" Locke asked eagerly. He didn't know Spectre had so much knowledge about the demi-god and now it was the last straw to clutch at.
"Only Enerjak's current forms can be destroyed by means we could use but to get rid of the energy that he actually is pure Chaos Energy is needed."
'Just like the essence of the Master Emerald that I tried', Locke thought.
"However such a dose would also kill a Guardian", Spectre continued. "And the only way to get him out of our bodies at the current state would be by destroying the Master Emerald. With the main source of channelled energy gone he would lose power way too fast and will probably leave the now useless bodies to find a new source."
"So that means we are doomed no matter what we try?" Locke asked beakly.
"We aren't doomed until you see fear in MY eyes", Spectre replied and tried a smile but that only turned into a grimace.
"Destroy the Emerald", he suddenly said. "Get all the people away from the island and Albion and then destroy it."
Locke stared at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious."
"Do I look like I am joking? Sooner or later it will crack anyways so my suggestion is to take the people to safety immediately and cause a planned destruction. If you are lucky the remaining free energy in this room will keep the island floating long enough to take care of Enerjak and then put together the Master Emerald again. The only one who will die that way is hopefully Enerjak. And me. I'm in here for months, doing nothing more but controlling the Chaos Force, without water, food or even sleep. The only thing that keeps me alive is the energy around me."
Locke slowly shook his head. "I can't... I don't want to..."
"Think about it, but how many other options do you know so far?"
Locke wandered around aimlessly. After leaving Spectre he needed to deliver the message to Kali that Spectre was still alive and see how Lara was but now he only wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Where should he go now? What should he do?
Maybe he should just go back to Haven and - do what? Asking the old Guardians if he should destroy the Master Emerald? Or maybe Haven's core had found another clue. It was worth a try.
When Locke entered Haven the ancient building was completely silent. No old Guardians whispered to him, might it have been words of comfort or worry, when he walked through the empty rooms. He nearly wanted to cry out in disappointment. But what had he actually expected? That all out of sudden Haven would have come up with a brand new idea how to solve his problems? If it had been that easy then he would have been told from the beginning.
He had just started browsing through the surveillance system - the mainly used one, not the one hidden in Haven's core - when he noticed that someone had repeatedly tried to contact Haven, the first call not even half a day ago. Locke dialed up the same number and after a while a Dark Legionnaire appeared on screen. The cyborg seemed very surprised to see Locke and same counted for the young Guardian when he recognized Lanzer. They had massively damaged him in the arena two years ago and completely destroyed his Chaos Core but obviously it was nothing that could have been repaired again - only the green glow from his chest that once originated form the Chaos Core was gone.
"I didn't know there was another Guardian beside my brother left in Haven", Lanzer said.
"Your...", Locke started but swallowed the rest of his sentence. He knew exactly who the brother must have been since there was only one "Legionnaire" in Haven. "Why did you want to call Spectre?"
"Mainly because he asked for it."
Locke raised an eyebrow. Why would Spectre ask for contact with any Dark Legionnaire, brother or not? He still held a grudge on them, Moritori's other bastards never were family to him and the only ones he had ever seen as his true family - his mother and her children - were dead.
"Being the strongest of all of Moritor's other sons and daughters it was my natural right to take his place as Grandmaster and thus I was the first to call", Lanzer answered Locke's unasked question. "Spectre might still hate us but he is clever enough to see allies in us now that we both have the same enemy."
"But why? You have followed Enerjak before so why don't you join him again."
"Not all of us wanted to follow him because we exactly knew what would have happened once he reached his desctructive goals and there was no need for us anymore but we had to bow to his orders or else we would have forfeited our lives even earlier. He never tried to recruit us a second time and we won't join him on our own."
Locke bit his lip. He wasn't sure at all how much he could trust Lanzer but on the other hand Spectre had done it enough to ask him for help.
"What kind of help did Spectre ask for and what do you want to tell us now?" he finally said, reluctantly shoving his worries aside.
"As far as Spectre told me he was the last one left in Haven and needed additional eyes on the whole situation. We should inform him if something really grave happened - not just the smaller attacks that should only spread fear but the first signs of a coming war. It happened now. Some people of Echidnaopolis are convinced enough to march against Albion, other allies who Enerjak has found all over the world - outcasts who have nothing to lose, people who hold their own grudges against the Echidna kind, have been mislead or would do just anything for power or money - will join them as well. Enerjak is following a certain strategy - Albion has to be taken down first because it's weaker, then with the white city fallen but Angel Island weakened as well because it lost a lot of fighters in the battle he will turn the tables and let his own army march against the towns and the city on our island."
"And you are absolutely sure about this strategy? How would you know if you aren't with him this time? It also makes me wonder why he wouldn't want to recruit his old army once more. You are outcasts too - banned from Echidna society."
Lanzer smirked. "Suspicious as a Guardian, aren't we? I think we have failed him one time too often, that's why we are rather on his destruction than on his future ally list. And just another kind of Echidnas - yes, we see you as another kind because you aren't cyborgs - banning us from their society doesn't make us outcasts. Outcasts are lone wanderers or live in small groups. We are Legion for we are many."
"So you will join our side in an upcoming battle?" Locke asked.
The Grandmaster sighed. "I wished I could have said that this isn't our battle and not our business but Enerjak is our enemy too and he will come for us as well. Let's just say we will fight on the side of our enemy's enemies but we will not join anyone."
"Sounds fair enough."
"If you excuse me now, my Legion has to be prepared. Over and out."
As soon as the screen went back to his normal surveillance mode Locke sunk back into the chair and covered his face with his hands. He was shivering and his heart pounded as if it wanted to do a whole life of beats within the next few minutes.
A war. Albion had to fight Angel Island. He couldn't join any of their sides although the people of Echidnaopolis would probably see him as the enemy as well. And then Enerjak would come over all of them. No one would be able to kill a demi-god, not even the Guardians - especially not the Guardians since one of them was fighting his own inner demons, their strongest fighter was trapped inside the Emerald and the last remaining didn't want to fight his two possessed friends.
"Haven help me", he whispered. "I don't know what to do. I don't want to die."
He could feel their presence all around him, could hear their whispers again, too silent to understand but he at least knew the Guardians of Haven were with him again. Locke slipped off the chair and followed them through the deserted corridors - not that he would have needed them to guide him there anymore, he already knew how to get to Haven's core.
Walking down the stairs he couldn't take his eyes off the black material and the wandering lights. What if this was the last time he ever saw them?
"Is the destruction of the Master Emerald really the only option to get Enerjak out of our bodies?" he asked as soon as he reached the bottom.
This time Haven's opinion and the whispered words were clear. No silent and hard to understand disembodied voices, no cryptic pictures.
'No, the last option would be Tikal's prayer but that could possibly kill the Guardian performing it and in its current condition also destroy the Master Emerald.'
'But the rest of you will be free.'
'The Guardian inside of it can't do it anymore because he is already too weak. But we are still connected to the Emerald. We could do it.'
'However we aren't sure what will happen to the Guardian inside.'
Locke stared into the blackness. Spectre had already told him about his fate and it probably didn't matter whether he died from suddenly unleashed energy or from the missing life support around him.
"And what will happen to the island?" he asked. "Or to Haven once its energy supply has stopped?"
'The island might stay afloat as long as the energy stays inside the Chaos Chamber and doesn't escape anywhere. It will return to the Master Emerald once its parts are together again.'
'Haven however will die, at least until the energy is back.'
Locke took a deep breath.
"Well, if that is the only way, then do it. Destroy the Emerald."
He leaned his forehead against the black pillar and listened to the whispers that now became more and more silent again. The metal didn't feel cold but also didn't have the same warmth as a permanently running computer. It was somehow ... like the warmth of a living being. Another living being that would die without the Emerald but unlike Spectre it could be revived afterwards. And without their powers, how likely was it that the Guardians after they were freed from Enerjak would survive the battle?
"Promise me that you will stay with me until it ends, my old friend", Locke silently said.
'I will', a voice answered. Only one single voice, not the many-voiced whispers he normally heard. Exactly the one his mind had been searching for. The corners of his mouth lightly twitched upwards but he couldn't hold that smile for longer than a second - not with the thought of what was still lying ahead.
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