170 Pages

Class: Story
Status: Incomplete
Author: Nautilus888
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Book 1: The Beginning of the EndEdit


-The Nimbus System-

-The Maelstrom-

-Crux Core-

His footsteps echoed throughout the massive, floating shards of rock that made up the perilous bridge across the heart of the Maelstrom. They clinked across the rough stone with a horrid, metallic sound that seemed to writhe like a dying flame every time the man’s plastic feet hit the ground. Below him was the vast expanse of nothingness. A steep drop into the ever-waiting maw of the monstrous, aphotic, violet vortex that was the cause for the Universe’s terrible problems: The Maelstrom. The fruit of the labor of one who could only be named as the Darkitect. The Destroyer. The Dismantler. Baron Typhonus. The man continued his path, down the dangerous trail and deeper into the abyssal roots of Crux Core; the home of the Darkitect. He wore armor as black as coal that had died down a century before, the only light visible being the glowing red embers deep within the shadowy recesses of his helmet, flaming circles that once must have been eyes- and, of course, the dark crimson emblem on his terrible, sharpened shield: a scarlet scorpion. The man also sported a pitch black cape. And at his waist was a scabbard. An obsidian sheath that held a terrible blade, one crackling with corrupted energy and dark power. But the most prominent asset on the shadowy Minifigure was what surrounded him; a dark, purple aura that curled from his armor in smoky wisps that seemed to absorb all the life around the man… Then, the chilling clinking of his metallic boots came to a halt, and the embers beneath his helm flared to life as crackling flames. He had arrived at his destination: the center of Crux Core… the heart of the Maelstrom. Ahead, the jeopardous bridge opened into a great chunk of floating land. The ground had been crystalized into a hardened form of corruption that coated the shattered shard of the lost world of Crux. Cracks littered the floating chunk of land, and they often spewed the same, smoky aura that surrounded the shadowy figure. Sizzling Maelstrom goo poured from the edges of the chunk in an almost never-ending, thick, and monstrous waterfall that was lost as it vanished into the oscillating abyss below it. But the most terrible thing was right in the middle of the miniscule island: a throne. It was carved with terrible pictures of helpless Minifigures being smashed by half skeletal beings with glowing scarlet orbs as eyes. And emblazoned on the backrest was the carving of a massive tower with a great nexus flowing from the top. A tower that was almost completely destroyed, with what was left crumbling and being blown out of existence by massive warships that circled it from the skies. And high above, watching it all, was a skeletal face looking out from a massive swirling whirlpool in the sky. But that wasn’t the worst sight. Not by a long shot. On the throne sat the Darkitect. He sat hunched on his seat, one gnarled, gloved, plastic hand holding a long, shadowy, Maelstrom crystal topped staff. A great, dark cape swirled around him, covering most of the throne and flapping against the stale, poisonous wind. A large, aphotic top hat crackling with wisps of pure corruption sat on his head, set so low in his head that you couldn’t see his face. He was staring into an orb that stood on a pedestal engraved with carvings similar to those on the throne. The ball swirled with a purple flame in the center, and the air around it rippled as if it was generating heat- but it was colder than an ice cube in space during the Frostivus Season. The Seeing Stone, the reason the Darkitect always knew when to strike- a present given to him by the Ronin of Forbidden Valley, allowing him to peer into dreams. Then he looked up, showing a pair of glowing, blood red eyes and a scarlet, evil, skeletal smile. “Have you done what I asked?” He moved his crimson lips, but his voice seemed to come from every direction, crashing down on the dark Minifigure who had just entered with a force powerful enough to shatter glass, churn seas, and paralyze even the bravest of warriors. The mere movement of his mouth sent cracks etching through the ground. The armored man before him fell to his knees with a reverberating ‘CLANG!’, and let out a few pained, ragged breathes. “Y-yes, my lord. All Stromling attacks have receded and the bulk of our troops have amassed at Vulgar Main. The N-N-Nexus Force b-believes that they-they are winning, my lord.” “Good… very good.” The Minifigure kneeling before the Darkitect screamed before he was knocked to his back with the force of the words emitted from his master’s mouth. He desperately crawled to his feet, gagging for air with the effort of moving. “Now… now w-what shall I do, m-m-my l-lord?” The Darkitect smiled widely, sending more small cracks meandering through the terra firma beneath him. “I have a more subtle mission for you now.” The man screamed, but his master continued, “The Nexus Force has a new ship. One they call ‘The Venture Explorer’. It is an exact replica of the Venture Koi, the original ship that… brought the Four Explorers to Crux.” He looked down to see if his minion had registered what he said. The man was writhing on the ground like a worm in the sun. “Did you hear me?” “Aaagghh!” The Minifigure gagged, before managing an agonizing nod. “Good.” The man was sent another yard backwards, his throat numbing with the effort to keep yelling out in pain. The Darkitect then continued once again, “It is an exact replica, but it has been refurnished. It is now far more powerful than the original, and is being used as a transport ship that brings new Minifigure recruits to Avant Gardens to become true Nexus Force warriors. The Explorer can withstand almost a month of constant bombardment, and its weaponry can obliterate most of our ships. This isn’t good for us. The Nexus Force’s numbers are amassing by almost three dozen per day, and, even though we outnumber them, they outgun us. For my plan to take even greater action, I need you to eliminate this threat.” The armored man gulped and nodded once again, “I need you to capture the ship, make sure no one escapes, and bring the captain to me.” The Minifigure stood up, wincing in agony, “Who is the captain, my lord, and where is this transport ship?” Baron Typhonus grinned evilly, “The cruiser will be passing over the Maelstrom in about three days, after returning from a trip to Nimbus Falls. The captain is known as Sky Lane.”


-The Venture Explorer-

Bob simply loved his job; he loved everything about it. The Venture Explorer’s wonderful, ever intriguing design, the constant voyage from young Minifigure homeworlds to the beautiful, forested, planetary chunk called Avant Gardens, and, of course, the fact that the transport cruiser was impenetrable. He loved the Nexus Force, meeting new recruits and showing them around the wonderful ship, teaching them the ways of the mystical element: Imagination. And he loved the Venture Explorer’s fearless captain… Sky Lane. He had loved her since they had first met, when they were ever so young… but she only treated him as a friend. Her eyes never stared at Bob’s ever smiling face, for she always gawked at another boy, a haughty showoff who could think only of himself…and his heroes: the Sentinels. Epsilon… Epsilon Starcracker. “Um… excuse me, sir?” Bob snapped out of his mental discussion to see a young man- around 16- with a short, blond rat’s rest on his head. He was smiling brightly, obviously excited about what was to come. Every Minifigure longed to join the Nexus Force. He wore a black Space Jacket, the usual outfit for new recruits travelling from their homeworld to Avant Gardens. But his smile only slightly hid the dark circles under his eyes: he was obviously still drowsy. All Minifigures were put into sleeping capsules when they boarded the Venture Explorer, to keep them fit for the end of the three day trip so that they would be ready to start their training as new recruits. This one must have been one of the first to get up. Bob smiled, “Yes, err”, he bent down to see the youth’s nametag, “Turnip, what can I do for you… oh, wait, you wouldn’t know! How about I show you around this wondrous ship, and then we can get to Imagination!” The teen nodded vigorously, his short blond hair flapping from side to side and slightly covering his bright green eyes. He easily blew the hair out of the way and shook his head again, “Yes Mister Bob!” Turnip eyed his guide carefully, taking in every detail that could be seen in the little man; there wasn’t much to him. His pants were completely blue, with absolutely no texture whatsoever. His shirt was the same, except it was red in color, and his skin, well, it was yellow, like everyone else’s. On his face was what looked like a plastered smile, and he had black pinpoints as eyes (Not to mention he was completely bald, with nothing but a stud at the top of his head). All in all, he was completely ordinary. Bob smiled once again. He loved how everyone knew him, yet he wasn’t famous. It was a wonderful, subtle type of admiration. “OK then… let’s get a move on!” He put his arm around the Minifigure’s shoulder just as a girl with a long, black ponytail and a dark blue version of the boy’s jacket came running up the steps towards them. “Uh… Turnip? Who’s this?” She asked nervously, stepping back so that she tumbled down the metallic stairs. Turnip and Bob raced to her aid “Ginger! Are you okay!?” Turnip leaped down the stairs just after Bob put this Ginger into a sitting position, patting her soothingly on the head. “Obviously!”, she snorted, hopping to her feet and dusting herself off (Which wasn’t necessary, because Bob took pride in the cleaning crew onboard). She scowled at Turnip- who was obviously her brother- then turned and gave a radiant smile to Bob, “I am so pleased to meet you, Mister Bob!”, she shook his hand vigorously. Their helper laughed, “Pleased to meet you too, ma’am!” Ginger blushed, “Oh please, don’t call me that, sir.” Bob giggled, “Oh please, don’t call me sir!” The two burst into laughter as Turnip edged towards Bob, “Uh, Mister Bob. You shouldn’t trust her. She’s dangerous. Handy with the wooden sword.” Bob snickered again, “I’m sure she is. And I can see just by looking at you that you’re quite the adventurer.” This time, it was Turnip’s turn to blush. “Well”, Bob started, “We’d better get a move on! Before more Minifigures start to wake up. Then it’s really rush hour, and you don’t want to see the traffic when dozens of Minifigures come running in to learn about Imagination.” He put his arms around the two younger recruits and proceeded to show then around the ship. “Up this hover-platform is the Control Room. There, Sky Lane pilots the ship…” Bob trailed off, and his eyes glazed over as he said the captain’s name. Turnip stepped on his foot. “What else?” He looked rather proud of himself. Bob shook his head before continuing, “To your right is the door to the Engine Room. The engines are what power the Venture Explorer. That’s where most of the maintenance is done. Below us, through that door to your left, are the kitchens and the dining hall. You wouldn’t want to miss a meal before getting ready to kick those Stromling’s plastic rears!” Turnip and Ginger followed their guide; awed expressions on their faces as Bob lead them around, showing them every nook and cranny of the majestic ship. Soon, they returned to their starting point, the place where the siblings had first met Bob. It was a platform, with stairs leading up to if from behind and from the front. On either side, three metal pedestals moved up and down as some sort of obstacle course, and, right in the middle of the platform, was a holotable (Where Bob could track everyone who boarded the ship to make sure they were okay). “Alright! Now, we begin the main attraction of joining the Nexus Force. Everyone has Imagination when they are built, but they don’t know how to use it from the beginning. The Nexus Force grants access to the mystical- almost mythological- powers of this wondrous element. I will teach you how to harness and use Imagination to build your way through-” He was cut off as all the lights on the ship flickered. Bob turned to see the hologram on his table turn off, then turn on again. Something was wrong. Suddenly, there was a great jolt and Bob, Ginger, and Turnip were knocked from their feet. They heard screaming in the upper stories of the ship as the staff and the many engineers began to frantically try to find out what was going on. Bob heard the shattering of glass as many of the sleeping capsules were torn from their perches and sent crashing down to the floor, resulting in even more screaming. He stood up, holding the hands of the horrified siblings he had just gotten to know and mumbling soothing words into their ears (One’s that, of course, he didn’t believe. Neither did they). “Why now. He didn’t tell me it was happening already.” Bob said in a hushed whisper so that the two frightened Minifigures at his sides couldn’t hear him. Then he heard an engineer yell out in terror, and everyone followed his gaze to the massive window on the side of the ship that served as the observation deck. In unison, everyone cried out and frantically ran in every direction, yelling, “Get the rockets! Escape! Escape!” A familiar voice called from the intercom, “This is the captain of the Venture Explorer, transport ship of Minifigures and Rocket Modules. You must not panic. I repeat, this is your captain speaking, don’t panic! Everyone, get your rockets immediately! If you are without sufficient Imagination or rockets, others must help you off this ship; you will be instructed on Imagination when you land on Avant Gardens! Sky Lane, out!” Bob, a tear running down his ever-smiling eyes turned to face the window and saw a horrible sight: A swirling, purple vortex with two ginormous eyes and an evilly laughing mouth clearly visible- the Maelstrom.

Chapter 1: Tension of Avant GardensEdit

~Twenty Four Years Later~

-Avant Gardens-

Avant Gardens. Arguably the most beautiful world in the Universe. Its fleeting, pine forests swayed in the breeze, spraying their bright, evergreen needles onto the ground to make a wondrous, uneven texture on the bristling, grassy ground. The sky was the bluest sapphire you’d ever see, with almost no clouds in sight, and a surplus of birds often more exotic that the swarms of parrots and starlings of Gnarled Forest. The hills were put up like the waving sand dunes of a desert, just colored a dazzling emerald in color and littered with a vast variety of trees. Epsilon Starcracker smiled at the perfect nest of a racket tailed drongo, admiring the detail of the twigs, straw and leaves, the color of the eggs- just as he kicked the Stromling behind him to the ground. Before the infected Minifigure could recover from the shock, Epsilon spun around and shot it in the face with his zipgun. The creature mumbled something to itself before slumping to its knees and shattering into a dozen, smoking bricks. “Such a beautiful world, ruined by worthless minions of the Maelstrom… typical.” The Sentinel scout grumbled, turning around and blasting an unsuspecting Mech in the eye. It flailed its arms, hopping on one leg before it was taken in the chest by a firecracker. The robot exploded, and a new Nexus Force recruit laughed in delight. Epsilon scowled, “They always smash the ones that I make incapacitated. You can never find a proper Sentinel these days.” “Why so grumpy?” A patched up Minifigure with red hair that stuck straight upwards snickered from behind him. Epsilon jumped back, startled by the voice, “WISP! Why do you have to keep vanishing from your post, appearing next to me, and scaring me out of my brave ol’ wits?” The Space Ranger spun around angrily, and was met by… nothing. Scratching his helmeted head, he muttered something under his breath and went back to staring at the drongo’s nest. “Beautiful. The bird’s eye for detail is marvelous. Would make fine Stromlings, if you ask me; could make better tanks than Stromlings could anyway.” Epsilon Starcracker clamped his hands on his mouth to prevent a startled yelp from escaping his lips. “Wisp. I’m serious; next time you sneak up on me, I’m going to blast your Spark out.” There was a crack like lightning slamming into a soda can, followed by a billowing purple smoke. The Space Ranger gagged, his eyes stinging as he began coughing incessantly. The dark violet smog soon receded, and, in its place, was the Minifigure that Epsilon had called Wisp. He wore a gray jacket that was held together with dark red belts, topped off with half-tarnished clamps. The section right below his chest, around his belly, was covered with long, beige bandages that wrapped around him as if he was a mummy. There was a dried of spot of Maelstrom close to his belly, obviously showing of the remains of a nasty encounter with some infected being. A scarlet bandana covered half of his face, completely hiding his mouth and making a strange contrast to his slightly purple- yet mostly crimson- hair. His right eye was plastered by another bandage- one that looked like someone had taken it off their finger and slapped it on his face. He stood hunched, one hand rightly grasping his plastered belly. And on his left shoulder, there was an emblem: a tiger’s eye in the middle of a black and white tornado. The sign of the Paradox, the most mysterious of the Nexus Force’s four Factions. But all that wasn’t the strangest thing about the Minifigure. What was really unusual was his hands; they were a dark, swirling sort of violet and emitted a shadowy purple smoke. The man- who was obviously a Scientist- patted Epsilon on the back to stop the scout from coughing. “Yes, I agree that my teleportation skills are a bit rusty. I only practice them, what, twenty times a day?” Epsilon laughed a hoarse laugh that sounded more like a bark, “And yet you don’t even know how to toss a shuriken properly.” “Yes, but I’m handy with the blaster. You, however, smash Stromlings so slow that new recruits have to do it for you.” “Oh shut up, I’m better with firepower than you’ll ever be. And get back to your post, look at all those newbies who are completely lost and don’t know what to do.” The Scientist smiled, “They’ll all just come back to you, you know.” “Well, why don’t you lead them to me?” The Paradox Minifigure scowled before vanishing in another blinding flash of earsplitting smog. He appeared a few seconds later at his post, right outside a massive building made out of mostly gray bricks, with a great surplus of chimneys and Paradox insignias. The next flash knocked the startled new recruits backwards, but the Scientist obviously didn’t notice. He simply introduced himself as Wisp Lee, head Paradox researcher of the Avant Gardens Project, and sent them off to the waiting Epsilon Starcracker. “I hate that guy.” Epsilon snarled, once again, under his breath. “Uh… Ma$t£r W1$p?” The voice sounded metallic, like the creaking of old and rusty cogs. Epsilon turned saw Wisp Lee turn to face one of the Mechs guarding the entrance to the large Paradox building. The robot was large, as least twice as tall as a normal Minifigure (And thrice as wide). It had one eye right in the center of its curved head that blazed with an inner blue light, and its body was painted mostly white, with the exception of the few black of silver bricks- along with the telltale orange signs of plastic rust. “Well? What are you looking at?” The scientist said hotly, nursing his belly with both his hands. Then his remaining eye brightened, “Oh, I know…” He kicked the guard Mech next to him, causing him to hop around, squeezing his foot in pain. “What. Am. 1. L00k1ng. at?” The Mech blankly responded, before gurgling, “N££d. Spar£. Paaarrrrrrrrt$.” Wisp snickered, already foreseeing what was to come. The Mech teetered on one foot, spun around, its eye whirring and its arms flailing, before it fell apart. “Uh oh! PRDX-4’s not going to like that!” Wisp chuckled, “Next time you give a recruit a weapon, tell him to tell PRDX-4 up at the Picnic Area that his brother fell apart again… then maybe the newbie’s weapon will have a more… challenging opponent!” The scientist hollered over at Epsilon. The Sentinel scowled, “Hey, that droid’s a Paradox agent! You can’t just go around smashing your men!” “Yeah, you have a LOT of Faction pride in you!” Wisp put a little too much emphasis on the word ‘lot’. “Ha-ha.” Epsilon murmured blankly, clearly not understanding what his half Maelstrom infected friend had said, causing the Scientist to shake is almost completely shrouded head. The Ranger went back to admiring the bird’s nest and kicking curious Stromlings, while Wisp trotted over to the entrance of the massive building. “The Paradox Research Facility.” He smiled. The Paradox was extremely proud of the newly renovated facility, for it had taken a long time to clear the place of the Maelstrom, and longer still to rebuild it. The Research Facility had once been a majestic place, but had been destroyed… because of him. Wisp looked down sadly, reminiscing the terrible moment when the… the monster has escaped. And how it had been defeated- defeated but not smashed. That sacrifice had ruined Wisp. But he had survived. And almost thirteen years ago, the monster- the Queen of the Spiders – had finally been smashed after its escape. Wisp Lee looked up and grimaced, stepping forward and typing in the secret combination on a panel next to the sealed, plastic door before him. There was a small BEEP!, and the portal opened with a slick, sliding noise, causing freezing cold steam to vent from the inside of the facility. “Home sweet home.” He whispered sadly, and walked in.

Chapter 2: Duty Comes FirstEdit

The sun rose over the great hills of Avant Gardens, and with it came light. And, of course, a break from the freezing nights that Minifigures had to endure here. Other than Frostburgh, Crux Prime, Deep Freeze, and maybe Starbase 3001, Avant Gardens was the coldest world in the Nimbus System, closely followed by Forbidden Valley. Epsilon Starcracker slowly opened his eyes, and then drowsily shut them again when he was blinded by the contrast between his closed lids and the blazing ball of fire high in the sky. He turned over in his sleeping bag, and was met by the face of a Stromling. “Whoa!” He yelped, hopping to his feet just to fall back down because of the fact that we was rather incapacitated in a sleeping bag. Shocked, the Stromling leaped backwards, landing on both its legs and the hand without the glowing violet blade. Its eyes were bright red, and it had hair much like Wisp Lee’s, sticking straight up. But it was different. It was nearly black, with the faintest trace of purple, and it was emitting a dark violet smoke. In fact, its entire body was doing that. All the way from the right side of its shoulder to its left hip, it didn’t have the plastic skin that all other Minifigures had; for those parts were completely skeletal. A rib cage, also almost completely black, oozing with Maelsrom Goo that dripped to the ground, causing the grass below it to shrivel and die occupied that area. Its right leg was also completely bony, with plastic, skeleton toes digging deeply into the ground around it. And its left arm was tipped by not a hand, but a three foot blade. The crystalline sword curved menacingly, also dripping with the terrible, chaotic substance that oozed about on its bones. All in all, it was a completely normal Stromling. Thinking fast, Epsilon slammed his hands into the ground to get a proper hold. He then rolled around, keeping his iron grip in the grass and weeds below him, using his momentum as an advantage against the stunned, corrupted Minifigure. Then he let go, sending him oscillating at the Stromling. He knocked it from its feet, sending it sprawling onto the ground and yanking off its skeletal leg. As the creature desperately pulled itself towards it fallen leg, attempting to regain it and stick it back onto its socket, Epsilon Starcracker preformed a perfect backflip, leaping upward and kicking the sleeping bag off his body. He landed on the ground in a barrel roll, stopping mere inches from the Stromling to spin around on one hand and kick the creature in the face before expertly hopping to his feet in the exact same movement. Dazed, the Stromling attempted to stand up with one leg, but it knew it was too late. Epsilon pulled a blaster from a hidden compartment under the ground that served as his post, aimed, and fired. The flaming blue stud whizzed from the weapon’s barrel, lighting the grass below it on fire before it smashed into the Stromling’s chest. Wide eyed, the former Minifigure was sent hurtling into the Outpost Console behind it. It slammed into the machine, causing a slight fizzle of energy as the console exploded, sending rubble and what remained of the Stromling spinning far behind Epsilon. “I’ll fix that later.” The Sentinel mumbled to himself before trotting back to the open trap door. From within, he pulled another blaster, strapping both of them to the belt on his waist. The zipguns were larger than the ones Space Rangers usually had, and each held a menacing bayonet below the barrels. He also pulled out three modules, two identical ones that looked like great robotic arms topped by rocket boosters, and one that looked a lot like a metal backpack covered in air vents and buttons. The Sentinel held up his hand, and his gloved, plastic palm began to glow a bright blue. Miniscule spheres that could have passed for Will-o-Wisps swirled around his hand, connecting into larger balls that danced all along his arm. He raised another hand, and the same thing happened. Then, all of a sudden, what looked like wisps of the purest blue meandered from his hands, crawling through the air towards the three modules on the ground before him. When the wisps touched the pieces, all three of them were lifted into the air, spinning around each other. There was a blinding sapphire flash, and all three had been connected, one of the rocket-arm like modules on each side of the metallic bag. Epsilon smiled to himself, “The power of Imagination.” The glow around his hands vanished as quick as it started, and he proceeded to picking up the contraption he had just built and slinging it around his shoulders. He grinned contently, pulling a lever on his back. Flames erupted from each booster, and the Space Ranger slowly floated into the air. He laughed, loving the feeling of the wind lapping at his face, causing his hair to fly straight upwards… Then, all of a sudden, he heard a beeping by his arm. The Sentinel sighed, turning off the rocket-pack and falling back to his feet. He looked at his arm, where he kept his communicator safely strapped. He clicked the ‘Answer’ button and spoke into the receiver, “Yes boss?” A voice blasted through the communicator full power, causing Epsilon to stumble backwards, “I need you, soldier. I need you now. Everything else can wait; I don’t care if your post gets overrun. Just get over here!” Epsilon snarled something under his breath before turning the communicator off. “Yeah, yeah Strongheart.” The Sentinel dug into the trap door, this time pulling out a neatly polished blue helmet. He easily donned it, and then kicked the door to the secret stash shut. He pulled the lever on his pack again, and was off. A few minutes later, he saw his destination: The Sentinel Encampment. The Space Ranger switched the ‘gears’ on his boosters, allowing him maximum speed against the power of the wind blowing in the opposite direction than he was heading. He rocketed towards the gate, an archway blocked by a large bus that was connected to metal ropes that pulled it up and down when Minifigures wanted in. The guards stationed there would make quick work of any minions of the Maelstrom who also wanted in. Epsilon looked down and eyed a Stromling menacingly. The Stromling waved back, looking rather happy with itself. Epsilon sighed sadly. It must have been a new recruit who had just been infected by the chaotic powers of the Maelstrom, and turned into a Stromling, but not yet lost his mind. This was pretty obvious, since it was wearing a darkened and a corrupted version of the Space Jacket new Minifigures wore, and on its arm was a spear, a weapon often given to newbies by… Epsilon. This kind of thing happened too often, and really dealt a savage blow to the Sentinels, who were tasked with protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. Sadly, with Epsilon’s gaze on the former Minifigure for just a moment, he forgot about the truck that served as the Sentinel Encampment’s gate. He looked up, and, eyes wide, mumbled, “Oops.”

Meanwhile, inside the encampment, the guards, hearing a ‘knock’, readied their rifles. “Rico!” One mumbled to his partner, “Raise the truck.” The guard next to him, the one called Rico, nodded uneasily, running towards the large metal wheel next to the gate. He grabbed one of the many handles and pushed downwards, forcing the wheel to slowly spin around, and, in turn, pull the metal ropes that held the truck and pull it upwards. Rico wiped the sweat from his brow, “Grit! I did it!” Grit- Rico’s companion- nodded his approval, and then put one of his two plastic fingers on his rifle’s trigger. There wasn’t anything there, other than the multiple Stromlings roaming around the field- Stromlings who obviously didn’t know that the way into the camp had been opened. “There’s nothing here!” Grit said to his partner. “You sure?” Rico replied, slowly being pulled up by the wheel, which was desperately trying to spin back into its normal place. Grit nodded, “Yes, I’m absolutely-” He was cut off by a little shard of glass that fell to the ground from the truck. “Ohh no…” “What?” Rico pressed, not noticing that he was being pulled higher and higher- and the truck was going lower and lower. “Something’s in the truck!”, Grit scrambled backward, aiming for the windows, “Rico! Come here! Now!” “Right-o!” Rico let go of the wheel to help his companion. The metal circle then took action, propelling back into place with uncanny speed. Rico was knocked into the sky screaming, and the truck fell back to the ground, forcing Grit to leap out of the way to avoid being crushed. Grit’s gun flew from his hand and landed, trigger first, on the ground, causing a flaming bullet to shoot from the barrel, over his head, and straight into one of the ropes that pulled up the truck. The rope snapped, causing the truck to swirl to the right, slamming into Grit and knocking him into a wall, all while leaving a massive gateway open for a Stromling attack. In the meantime, Rico was oscillating in the sky practically yelling his lungs from his saliva-spewing maw. A few second later, he landed head first on a wall far to the right of the camp- a wall that was under construction. The impact of his helmet sent the site crumbling down, making another open hole. After about a minute, Rico sat up. “I’m okay, I’m okay, don’t worry about me!” “Oi! You smashed it again you mad man!” A Minifigure who had just awoken from the commotion, leaping from the warm, flat rock that he had been sleeping on. “Fitz, I said I’m okay!” The Sentinel guard murmured again before passing out. And in the cacophony, the frantic guards had awakened their boss. The door-like flap of one of the multiple tents that lined the inside of the encampment flew open, and a man walked out. Grit looked up from the ground, “Oh! Mister Strongheart!” “Get up, soldier”, the man snarled, “Explain yourself!” He glanced disgustedly at the two wide open holes in his perfect defense. “Umm… well… err… there was a bang, and… ehrm… glass fell… we could see who was there… Rico learnt to fly… and… err… well… I dropped my gun, aaaand… you came.” Beck sighed, “What did I do to end up with you guys? The guards I had ten years ago were perfect. Too bad they were the first to be sent to investigate the Spider Queen Crisis.” Grit stamped his right foot into the ground and saluted, “Sir, I agree with you, sir!” Beck pushed past him, “What did I do to deserve you indeed.” He then looked up at the truck, and squinted through the window, “Ah! I see Epsilon has come!”

Chapter 3: Orders are OrdersEdit

Grit looked up in petrified amazement. “Wha- where, sir?” The guard mumbled, more to himself that anyone else. He instantly regretted the notion when he received his boss’ venomous glare. “Sorry.” Grit whimpered, biting his lower lip and taking sudden interest in his plastic feet. Far behind, there was the crashing sound of shattering glass and someone yelped in pain. Soon, the explosion of what must have been a firecracker resounded in the same place, followed by the earsplitting result you get when an improved scythe of whirlwind gets too much armor polish. Klaus Zett crawled out from his booth, muttering something vile under his breath. He was wearing a breastplate that was colored half in blue and half in white. The same pattern showed on his shirt and pants, the only difference in color being the small yellow pads that were fastened on each shoulder. The vendor also wore a white helmet, shaped much like the kind you would find on the head of an intergalactic miner, except for the fact that it had a black visor that covered most of his face (If you could call it black, stained with the remains of a hundred melted quicksicles). All that was left was his mouth, which was half covered by an overlarge communication receiver. “Zett! What are you up to now?” The vendor looked up hotly. However, he quickly cooled down when he saw who had spoken. “Ah! Becky! How ya doin’ on tis fine, fine day?” His smile was far too wide, showing off more than one silver tooth. His boss seemed to seethe in anger. “Becky, eh? HOW many times will I have to tell you NOT to call ME BECKY!?” Klaus raised an eyebrow, “What? You’re name’s Beck, so I call ya Becky. Mah name’s Klaus, and ya call mah Santa; reason: unknown.” Beck Strongheart sighed, “Santa Clause. You’re name’s Klaus. I’m amazed you didn’t get the reference.” Klaus Zett barked something that might have passed for a laugh, “Oh, you’re funny. Since when did I give presents? I’m a vendor for Builder’s sake!” The leader of the Sentinels of Avant Gardens scowled, “Forget it. Just get me Epsilon.” “Forget it. Just get meh Epsilon.”, Zett mocked, “Well where on Avant Gardens is ‘e? And there’s such thing as a communicator!”, he tapped his headset’s receiver a little too violently. Beck clenched his fists, “You can’t call someone in a coma.” Klaus seemed to raise his eyebrows under his helmet, “Coma? You’re vague.” Beck pointed upwards, “Look through the window in that truck.” The vendor looked up and grimaced, “Can’t see a thing, the sun’s in my eye line.” He grumbled, reaching behind his booth and grabbing what remained of a half-shattered bottle of notion potion. Beck’s body went rigid with rage, “Oh… I’m going to…” There was a loud ‘BANG!’, and Beck Strongheart closed his eyes, trembling in anger. “GRIT!” He roared, leaping in a one eighty degree arc to face his guard. Grit jumped upwards in surprise, dropping his rifle, one again on the trigger. The guns recoil hit him in the plastic toes and he helped in pain. Beck was on him in seconds, needing someone to take out his anger on. “WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING AT!?” Grit gave a hurt expression, and Klaus laughed behind his boss. “Hey, Becky. Look to your left.” Beck was about to turn on the vendor for taunting him again, when he noticed what was going on. Stromlings, dozens of them, and at least five Mechs, were taking interest in the fact the ‘gate’ was open. “Ohhh boy…” Beck stepped back, his face contorted in a silent snarl. Everyone in the camp braced themselves. “EVERYBODY! MAN THE DEFENCES! GET THAT BUS BACK IN PLACE!” Everyone in the camp, noticing the danger that was upon them, didn’t argue. They all rushed to the bus and began to push it back in place. Klaus climbed through one of the windows and into the drivers, seat, attempting to drive it. He looked to his right and nearly flew out the bus in shock. Klaus look through the window. “I’ve found Epsilon!” But that was not the least of Beck’s worries now; the Stromlings were getting too close. He sighed and tromped back to his tent to gather his weapons. He didn’t get far.

Chapter 4: BetrayalEdit

~Vulgar Main~

~The Overpit~

~Paramount Courtyard~

Bob opened his eyes. He hardly noticed that he was on his knees, kneeling on a cold stone surface, in front (If he was in front), of something dark swirling around him. He scarcely registered the monstrous laughing that pounded into him, wilting him like a sick rose in a blizzard. He felt only pain. Only anguish. Only hate. Tears spluttered half-heartedly from his bloodshot eyes, trailing down his face like oil that wished only to stay in the ground. His visage was contorted, his mouth open in a silent, tormented scream. “Why?” Bob gagged, weakly slamming his numb fist into the icy terra firma around him. “Why?” He looked up as he heard the familiar clinking of boots, resounding in a terrible sound that resembled the writhing of a dying flame. Only one person could make footsteps like that. “Go away!” Bob sobbed slamming his other hand into the ground and bending his head downwards, allowing his tears to slowly dribble to the ground in a fashion much like a candlestick under a flamethrower. “Please.” The footsteps stopped right in front of the tormented Minifigure’s sagging head. “Look up, child.” The mocking voice sounded more like the scratching of flint than something that would come from your throat. “Never.” Bob whimpered, turning his head away for no apparent reason. The expected blow hit earlier than Bob had anticipated. The once plain old Minifigure felt a choking sensation, a prickling feeling all over his body, before he was sent hurtling backwards. Aphotic tentacles seemed to slash all about Bob, lifting him up and attempting to yank him into pieces. What felt like fire seemed to burn in his insides, sizzling at his Creation Spark with an unimaginable kind of pain. Bob fell to the floor, his mouth opening and closing but not uttering a sound. Then the voice came again, “Let me tell you again; Look at me.” The man put a menacing spacing to his last three words, and it seemed that the very air that the radius of his voice reached seemed to twist and turn in terror. Suddenly, a tentacle apparently made from shadows shot from the ground and pulled at Bob’s rounded chin, forcing him to look up. In front of him was a frightful sight. A man clad completely in black, spiked armor peered menacingly at him like a cheetah would peer at a gazelle, with eyes appearing as nothing but two flickering flames under a monstrous helmet. And in his hand was a sword, sizzling with the dark energy that had just been used against Bob. The blade resembled a scimitar, opening into two, razor sharp tips. Massive amounts of Maelstrom energy pounded at the very air around the sword, and it looked as if the thing had a mind of its own. The scimitar looked as if it was grinning malevolently at the defenseless Minifigure before it. If the man had a face beneath his helmet, it also seemed to smile. Bob shook his head painfully. He was replied with the ends of a scimitar at his throat. “Y-y-ye-yes i-it’s wh-wha-what I-I wan’t! B-b-but-” Bob lay down on his stomach, fists clenched, and sobbed into his arms. “I-I can’t d-do-o i-it! I can’t! I… I won’t.” “Oh”, The man said soothingly, “But you will love how it goes. The screams, the people running around and bumping in walls, oh, it’s lovely. The havoc gets into your bones. Soon enough, it’s a habit!” “NO! Please… please, don’t make me do this. I b-b-beg of you. Please. I cannot. She…she- I…” Bob hesitated, but the glistening in his eyes had given away too much. The man seemed to grin again, “Don’t worry. You can- you will- do it. After all, you’re nothing but a slave- and slaves must please their masters.” The evil knight was right. He couldn’t care… about anything. Not even her. He had to do it. It was right.

Chapter 5: Scattered GravelEdit

~Avant Gardens~ ~The Sentinel Encampment~

The racket tailed drongo put the finishing touches to its nest, and then chirped in delight as one of its batch of three eggs gave a little rattle. The great bird hopped from one food to the other in excite, ruffling its feathers to make a good impression to its newborn. There was a resounding crack, and a tiny, sharp plastic beak broke the surface of its shell and began its life in a new world. Little did the drongo know that the crack had nothing to do with the hatching of its child… A rock as big as both his fists squashed together slammed into the back of Beck’s head with immense power; he was unconscious in seconds. The Sentinel general’s limp body stumbled forward before falling head over heels, landing on his face with a sound like an airbag after colliding with a hardhat. The Minifigure stopped moving completely, but the fact that he wasn’t in pieces clearly stated that he hadn’t been smashed. There was a slight rumbling as three more boulders rocketed from the ground, spraying grass and small pebbles in every direction. The trio whizzed across the ground like meteorites, shaving the grass off in a clean line before shooting upwards in a wild but precise arc, uprooting a bush but hitting home. All of them hit a Stromling who had managed to get into the camp with the power of an asteroid. With a crack that echoed across the hills for miles, the creature’s arm flew off of its socket. Shocked, the Stromling began to scurry to retrieve its lost limb- but it wasn’t quick enough. The next two came whizzing from below the infected Minifigure, slamming into its chest and face. In seconds, the monster had been reduced to rubble. Klaus Zett peered from the window again, his eyebrows seeming to shoot up in surprise under his helmet. “What on Crux was tha-!?” Before he could finish his sentence, he felt a massive lurch, sending him crashing through the bus’ windshield with a shocked yelp. It is a well-known fact that ever since Minifigure’s were first built, they’ve always wished that they could fly. One Minifigure got that wish. Sadly, in the short period that Klaus was airborne, he wasn’t at all excited. In fact, he was screaming his head off- literally (My Minifigure standards, that happens pretty often). As he was flung across the sky, he looked down, and was met by something far more terrible than heights- there were two Stromlings below him. Two Stromlings that seemed to be grinning as a helpless, ‘flying’ Minifigure plummeted into their hooked hands. Before Klaus could say any last words, the world had gone black.

Beck Stronheart’s eyes shot open and the Sentinel sat up, holding up his pillow in a defensive position. Noticing the absurdity of what he had just done, he replaced his pillow and relaxed once again. Then something struck him. “Where on Crux am I? What’s going on?” He thought aloud, slowly sitting up again. He was in his tent- that was for certain. The tattered blue canvas was unmistakable, and no one else had as many maps and battle plans taped to the wall as him- but… something was wrong. How had he gotten in here? Who had brought him in here? What happened with the Stromlings? All he remembered was something hard hitting his head with an unimaginable force, and- blackness… But what had hit him? “Morning.” Beck leaped to his feet, hardly registering the friendly tone of the voice, pillow in hand once again. He was met by the steady gaze of a man clad in black...

Chapter 6: The Maelstrom SpyEdit

~Avant Gardens~ ~The Paradox Research Facility~

His footsteps echoed through the confined, closed off metal halls of the Paradox Research Facility of Avant Gardens, their sounds ricocheting off the walls like some sort of clinking sonar. He arrived at a section of hall where the walls suddenly turned into an extremely thick glass, nearly unbreakable. These were holding back all sorts of terrible Maelstrom beings that were under experimentation by highly trained Paradox Scientists. Wisp Lee smiled. One day, the Paradox would know how to once again purify those who had been infected by the evil, corrupted essence of the Darkitect, finally vanquishing the Universe of his dark powers. But that day, no matter how much he wished it, wasn’t today. All research had been temporarily postponed because of some unnatural Maelstrom readings on the world. Very unnatural. Every scanner had gone haywire with the immense concentration of corruption that had somehow arrived on Avant Gardens. Concentrations that rivaled Crux Prime itself. Wisp Lee ignored the constant howling of incapacitated Maelstrom dragon chicks, the powerful slams against the glass that shuddered the entire building as multiple angry apes pounded at the transparent walls. He had only one thing on his mind at the moment. At the end of the hall, the Paradox Scientist arrived at a sealed, porthole-like door. After mumbling something under his breath, there was a click and a little slit in the wall opened and produced a small panel. He typed something into it, and then pushed it back into its small cubby. There was a resounding creak as the massive metal door slid open, revealing multiple other portals that also creaked and the showed the way, opening upwards, downwards, horizontally, vertically, or even all four. After a few minutes waiting for everything to open, Wisp stepped through the gate, arriving at a massive room with ceiling so high you could only fathom where they ended. A necessary illusion, only for precaution. If you wanted to join Paradox, the number one rule was that you had to be paranoid. If you weren’t too taken up with the mostly fake ceiling, you’d notice the even more dazzling things that surrounded the place. It was filled with massive pipes that started on the floor and shot up all the way to the ceiling, meaning they weren’t that tall if you didn’t have illusions everywhere. Multiple panels filled with buttons lined the walls, along with a gazunder or two (With large curtains, of course), all being worked by the massive amount of scientists. Wisp walked past all these towards the pipes. From afar, they’d look like the kind of cylinder that carried Maelstrom goo- but if you got close, you’d know that they were transport terminals. He passed multiple ones, some labeled ‘Armory’, ones plastered with the words ‘Library’, many engraved with the characters, ‘Chemistry Room’, and quite a few saying, ‘Necessary’. Soon, the scientist arrived at a nearly invisible pipe labeled, ‘TCR’, for ‘The Control Room’. He stepped right though it (Which would be strange to most outside of the Nexus Force, or even outside of Paradox), and vanished.

Wisp Lee appeared a few seconds later on the highest tower of the Research Facility (Which from outside looked more like a massive chimney). A few more Minifigures who were a part of Paradox turned to face the newcomer. “At last!” A fellow scientist in great, bulky armor sighed happily, patting Wisp on the back with a force that would have knocked the unwitting clean out the window (Most- including Wisp- and learned it the hard way). Wisp Lee turned to inspect the man. He was wearing goggles on top of his helmet, and his mouthpiece looked more like mandibles than a breather. On his back were strapped four Dark Spiderling legs that looked a lot like extra arms, and all along the man’s waist were the weapons of fallen Stromlings. “Arms Director!” Wisp gagged, nursing his sore stomach. The man laughed, “Only because of you, my friend!” The armored scientist then turned to face the others, “Let me introduce Wisp Lee, Head Researcher of Project Ima-” He was cut off by a rather grim looking Sorcerer. “I think we know who Wisp is, Panos. And not even a Stromling wouldn’t know Project Imaginate.” The scientist- an obviously jolly man- laughed again. “Can’t take a good joke, can you?” He moved to pat the sorcerer on the back, but the man raised his Doomslicer menacingly, “Okay, okay. You can’t take a joke.” Wisp Lee limped off and shook hands with the sorcerer. “I’m so glad you could come, Silas!” The spellcaster- who must have been known as Silas- nodded back and replied in a voice like Maelstrom goo sliding down gravel. “An honor.” Wisp quickly backed away when he met the man’s smoky violet, unblinking gaze. “Now.”, he continued, “What’s going on? I heard about the energy readings, and I must say you’ve got my attention.” Panos the Arms Director gave a hearty giggle once again. “That’s something rare!” The sorcerer turned his head to face him, and Panos quickly shut up. “Here’s the story”, Silas growled, tearing his eyes from the Arms Director and setting them on an uneasy Wisp, “Yesterday night, something strange happened.” “What?” Wisp gasped, too intrigued to notice the Minifigure’s steely gaze. “The Spiderlings went mad. Absolutely insane. They were crashing at their cells all around the Facility, and soon, everything we’ve been studying went totally crazy, falling teacup over tea-kettle to get out.” Wisp frowned. He knew things like that would be strange, but he couldn’t see how it was dangerous. Silas caught his expression and continued. “They seemed to grow a little more sentient. One ape even managed to escape.” Wisp gasped, but Silas didn’t stop, “The creature was quickly destroyed with security, and we ray shielded all the cells.” “But that isn’t all. At first, we didn’t know what was going on. But know we know, even though the answer is still very vague.” The sorcerer stepped over the central control panel and hit a button. A hologram materialized, and Wisp noticed that it had been extracted from one of the security cameras the day before. What he saw nearly knocked him out cold. The hologram showed that, right outside the door into the facility, there had been a Minifigure. The ground all around him had somehow rotted away, all the grass had simply wilted and died. And the terra firma had sprouted about a dozen black tentacles that swayed all about the man. The Minifigure himself was covered by a flapping cloak and hood, completely covering any features. But the telltale purple mist that surrounded him said too much. “A Stromling.” Wisp mumbled, more to himself that anyone else. Panos, for once, seemed to turn suddenly grim, “Not just a Stromling. That’s someone who had the influence to make everything corrupted hysterical. It’s one of the Darkitects finest men.” Wisp opened and closed his mouth in shock. But now, only one question was in his mind. “Where’d it go?” “Into the former Paradox Mine.”

Chapter 7: The False NemesisEdit

“Ah!” Beck Strongheart laughed in delight as he saw the man before him, “Rocco Sirocco! It’s wonderful to see you again!” The Sentinel made to pat his old friend on the back, but the ninja easily sidestepped and tripped him. “Haven’t lost any of your natural guile, I see.” Beck growled under his breath, spitting into the packed earth beneath him. “Good to see me? Were you blind for a while, Sentinel?” The man’s voice was subtle, extremely quiet, yet growled with a rumbling that could create an avalanche. “Blind? Ha!” Taking it as sarcasm, Strongheart raised his hand in a high two, grinning widely. The ninja glanced inquisitively as the gesture, then, as quick as an asteroid rocketing to the desolate surface of Crux Prime, snatched the hand, twisted it, and, one eye closed in a sort of un-opening wink, inspected it. Beck gasped in pain as he was spun around, trying desperately to pull his hand from his friend’s grasp. That was as possible as burying your hand under a mountain, then attempting to pull the entire thing upwards and toss it to the moon. The Sentinel gave a massive heave, and then stumbled forward, falling to the ground in a jumble of legs, arms, and hatpins (Don’t ask me where they came from). When he got up again, he was missing a hand. “Oi! Rocco, this isn’t funny, alright! Nobody, I repeat, nobody, treats a Sentinel- especially me- like that!”, then, as an afterthought, he roared, “SALUTE!” The ninja- who was still standing in the mantis position, inspecting the wiggling, bodiless hand- suddenly stood to attention, and, mockingly, saluted… with Beck’s hand. The Sentinel sighed, knowing that he couldn’t harm the man before him with words. “Alright, I give up. Just please give back my hand.” He was replied in a way you could only explain as ‘slapping yourself’. Once everything was well and done, Beck, not being able to hold back his pride, spoke again. “What did you mean by ‘Were you blind for a while’?” Rocco looked up, seeming to raise an eyebrow under his hood. “I’ve been here for a while.” Beck smiled triumphantly. “Where, eh?” Rocco probably returned the grin, even though his eyes stayed as stony as ever. “Let’s just say you were hit in the head by something I threw at you.” The Sentinel gawked. “Why you-” He was cut off as, seemingly out of nowhere, a stone appeared in front of his face. “Yikes…” Beck pushed the rock away (Resulting in the cracking if his knuckles), and inspected his guest a little closer. Rocco Sirocco had been an initiate in the ways of Spinjitzu, a mystical form of fighting that surrounded you in a whirlwind, helping you to fight and move more proficiently. Spinjitzu was divided into sections, or elements. One was fire, one was earth, one was water (Often depicted as ice), and one was air (Often depicted as lightning). Rocco’s robes were black and he wore a badge that depicted a golden stone dragon’s head. He was a practitioner of the ways of earth. Or once was. He was obviously no longer an initiate. His robes were no longer emblazoned with merely a badge, they showed off a beautifully intricate pattern of a dragon, its head starting at his chest, and then ending at his legs with the tail. A dragon of earth. “I see you’re back from the Gauntlet!” Beck laughed, sticking his hand up again. He quickly hid it behind his back when he noticed what he was doing. Rocco nodded. “I am no longer an apprentice to Grand Master Cole- I’m now an Earth Spinjitzu Master.” The Sentinel laughed again. “How’d that happen? Last I saw you- my, ten years passes quick- you had forgotten your scythe at the Monastery!” He was met by three more menacingly hovering stones. “I am now a Master, a Dragon Rider.” He steadily said again, before turning and walking out of the tent. Beck muttered something under his breath. “My, my, what did I do to deserve that Minifigure as one of the Avant Guardians, I’ll never know.” He stalked out of the tent, searching for something to take out his anger on- something that wasn’t Rocco. His eyes landed on a pile of rubble on the far wall. “Fitz!” He roared, startling the Sentinel Engineer (Who had been gratefully sucking on a quicksicle), “Fix that wall!” Before the Minifigure could object, Beck yelled at him again. “And get to it! ‘Cause you’re getting Epsilon out of the truck and fixing it next!” Fitz Vanderbuilt, the steam jetting out of his non-existent ears clearly visible, saluted (Resulting in the remains of a half-melted quicksicle to stick onto his forehead), then stomped to the ruined wall, tearing bricks from the ground and sending them flying as if he was a professional discus thrower, even stepping on the face of a still unconscious Rico. He looked like he wanted to pick up a Doberman by the tail and swing it at a couple of Stromlings. Which, to the dog’s yelping surprise, is exactly what happened.

Chapter 8: Beyond the BoundariesEdit

“So… what was I called for?” Epsilon Starcracker yawned, stretching at if he had just slept for half a day (Which he had). Beck Strongheart shot him a venomous glare that could have churned a bucket full of crocodile milk. “If you remember, the general always- I repeat- always, talks first.” “Sorry sir!” Epsilon hastily apologized, knowing otherwise than to make his boss angry. Strongheart nearly slapped himself (But he was careful not to, because his hand was still numb and ‘irresponsible’). “Are you deaf or what?” “Sorr-“ Epsilon was cut off by an infuriated Beck. “DON’T TALK!” The Space Ranger stumbled backwards in shock, tripping on one of the small pebbles that were still there from Rocco Sirocco’s entrance and landing with a plasticized ‘clunk’ on the grassy ground. He almost said ‘Ouch!’, but quickly thought otherwise. Before Epsilon could regain his drowsy footing, he was knocked another few millimeters back as his boss roared, “SALUTE!” Hastily, the Space Ranger obeyed, hitting himself sharply on the left eye as he did so. Epsilon winced, crinkling up his non-existent nose, but Beck had already lost interest in him. “Now,” Beck said, “Down to business.” He opened his mouth to continue, but was cut off by what sounded like more of a squeak than a question. “May I talk now?” “NO!” “Okay.” Beck ignored the last word and restarted. “Long story short, Dark Spiderlings have begun to crawl past the expanses of the Maelstrom Mine.” Epsilon Starcracker raised his eyebrow, sticking up a hand and opening his mouth to speak. He was met by Beck’s ‘the look’. “Only about thirteen of those foul arachnids have done so, but, nevertheless, it is very rare. One new recruit was smashed… another infected and turned into a Stromling.” The Sentinel leader continued, grimacing as he spoke through the last sentence. The Sentinels were tasked with protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. A Maelstrom victory like this, no matter how small, would hurt even the most valiant of warriors deeply. Epsilon thought back on the infected Minifigure he had seen before his crash, but wisely held back from informing his general. A few seconds later, Beck started talking again. “I’m afraid a hoard might develop soon, and we cannot risk a group of Spiderlings bursting from the mine and wreaking havoc in the vicinity. They will be exterminated easily enough… but I’m not sure we can promise that any younglings will survive. I have sent Melodie Foxtrot back to her former post at the entrance of the mine to protect the cave opening from the main Spiderling cavern. Venture League scout Kit Wanderware is exploring the deeper expanses of the area, and both are reporting regularly. I just hope it’s enough.” Epsilon sat wide eyed and gawking. Sure, the situation wasn’t that bad, but what worried the Ranger was that it had never happened before. If things had never occurred, you could be sure that something was wrong. But there was something that he had to ask. “Sir- ehrm, am I allowed to speak now?” Beck snorted and nodded, rolling his eyes. Epsilon sighed in relief. “Thank the Mythrans. That was torture.” The Sentinel general raised an eyebrow. “Is that all you wanted to ask me?” He frowned disapprovingly. “Yes, well… no… well…” Epsilon looked around for some help. If he didn’t think of something soon, he’d be having a nasty meeting with a roll of duct tape. Beck gritted his teeth, clenching and unclenching his fists. The Space Ranger opened and closed his mouth. “Uhhh.”, then he got it. Epsilon grinned at how smart he was. “What do you think is causing this?” Now it was Beck’s turn to smile, resulting in a very content Epsilon. “I was hoping you’d ask that. Well, we contacted Paradox this morning to see if they had noticed the strange happenings. They had, and they think they’ve found the culprit.” Epsilon scratched his head quizzically, but, before he could ask another question, his general continued. “Using their security, they found a person outside their Facility at the time Spiderlings came out. Inside, every Maelstrom creature was going berserk. This Minifigure, however, wasn’t any normal Minifigure. It was a man in a cloak, Maelstrom energy generating off him in a way that would have made you think the Facility had blown up a second time.” Epsilon raised an eyebrow again. “I want you to find and smash this man.” “WHAT!?” The Space Ranger cried, “That’s suicide! This guy has the potentiality to make everything infected go ballistic, and you want a mere scout to defeat him?” “You may NOT speak! I never gave you permission! Shut up and keep listening!” Epsilon could have punched Beck in the face. Wisely, he didn’t. “I want you to go to Melodie and Kit. Work with them. This guy’s bound to come up sometime- and when he does, I want you to be ready. All three of them will take him, and you’ll have over two dozen fully trained Sentinels at your back.” Epsilon relaxed, numbly smiling in relief. “Now, salute, and begone!” “Sir yes s- wait, am I allowed to speak now, sir?” Beck Strongheart felt like administering a good spanking.

Chapter 9: Patrolling the MinesEdit

“Shhraaiiathh… sshhiiirriiaathhh… rrreeesssiissstthhh…” The horrid, spidery voices echoed through the vast and shadowy tunnels of the former Paradox Mine, the sounds crawling along the jumble of stone as if they too moved on eight nasty legs. Maelstrom goo oozed from the high stalactites, staying connected to the spiked ceilings until the wicked droplets of pure evil landed softly on the ground, creating a nigh impenetrable prison of darkness. The ground erupted in rare but sudden puffs of scalding, violet mist that vented upwards like miniscule, toxic volcanoes packed with nothing but steam. Melodie Foxtrot hated the place. Of course, being a Sentinel, she wasn’t near the horrid feelings of arachnophobia- it was just the remains of the Mines that sent shivers up her synthetic spine. Unlike the Paradox Research Facility, this place hadn’t been cleaned up. Why? It simply couldn’t be cleaned up. You can’t really bring a mop into a place that you can hardly walk in- especially if, over the years, it’s gotten worse and worse. Now, the inner chambers of the caves were simply impassable, leaving a perfect sanctuary for the Maelstrom; possibly better than the lower trenches of Crux Prime. And, after nearly twenty years of freedom, Melodie Foxtrot had been appointed to guarding it again. Some job, the Sentinel thought grimly, unsheathing one of her imaginite daggers and tossing it into the air. She switched her wrist-com to show the time and sighed, absently catching the knife by the hilt and dropping it back into its scabbard. It was 1:62, Avant Gardens time. Almost twelve minutes past Kit’s arrival time. Kit Wanderware, Melodie’s only companion on this dreary venture, had been tasked with lurking deeper into the Mine and attempting to map it out for the Nexus Force, watching out for any suspicious activity in the meantime. But now he was close to thirteen minutes late; he had probably found something suspicious. Too suspicious. However, even though she knew it was right and knew that her friend was in danger, she couldn’t get herself to brave the menaces of the deeper tunnels. After all, she was a Sentinel. She was trained to run in and start smashing, not to stand around patiently for a Spiderling to walk by and then hop six meters to another rickety ledge. Melodie turned sadly and looked sidelong from her crouching position behind a small rocky outcrop. Her back to the opening into the Mine, she could clearly see the main entrance into the caves, about sixty meters away. She could also see the entrance chamber, a nasty expanse of stony clearing that was filled with Stromlings. Former Paradox Scientists and Security Droids marched about on their dark duties, overseen by a few Spiderlings- the small amounts that were permitted by their arachnid superiors to venture beyond the boundaries of their shadowy home. The Nexus Force often sent newer recruits into this area, as it was one of the more challenging but not so deadly of the training grounds on Avant Gardens. A few Spiderlings were no problem, and at least fresh Minifigures would learn what horrid adversaries they were. All Melodie could do was hope that Kit was safe- and if he wasn’t, whatever had got him wouldn’t come to get her. Then, all of a sudden, a hand touched her lightly on her shoulder. Her daggers were unsheathed in mere seconds, the Sentinel, ducking, spinning, sticking out her leg, tripping her new adversary, back flipping, kicking him or her in the face, using her momentum to leap forward and grab the things throat with the legs, and pointing both knives sharply at the things face in a single movement. Below his helmet, Melodie knew that Kit Wanderware’s eyes were bulging in shock and horror. The Sentinel let go of the startled Minifigure in relief, barrel rolling off of him and hopping back to her feet. “What were you doing? You scared me!” Kit snorted. “Ha! You scared me more like it!” “Why couldn’t you have started humming or whistling or simply yelling, ‘Melodie! I’ll be there shortly!’?” The Venture League scout raised his visor, revealing dark circles under his eyes and a horrid scar running down his left cheek. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you!”, he said in mock apology, “I just didn’t want to make so much noise that you’d be startled not only by me, but by a few hundred Spiderlings. Scold me when you have the words ‘Rest in Pieces’ above your plastic skull, will ya?” Melodie sighed, admitting her defeat but not admitting her slight loss of status. “Fine. I never did like working with you map brained Ventures anyways.” Kit didn’t seem to notice. “Speaking of maps”, he said in a more joyful tone, “Look at this!” He handed her a roll of parchment, and Melodie quickly unrolled and inspected in, using her slight control over Imagination to lift the daggers from her hands and slip them back into their scabbards. It was a map, and a good one at that. “I stayed in a little longer, because the belly of that beast is simply filled with nothing but candy! You should have seen the crystals in there!”, Kit suddenly lost his vigor, “Well, Maelstrom crystals of course. But still, it was quick a sight… no matter how dim!” Melodie rolled her eyes, and then caught something to get back at her partner with. “You stayed longer? Defying the orders of General Strongheart himself?” “Beck told me that, if I found something important, I could stay longer.” “Crystals are important?” Melodie snarled back, not letting her sudden triumph fall from her (Tight) grasp. “Well…”, Kit mumbled, allowing one moment for the glory-hungry Sentinel, “It was interesting.” “HA!” Melodie could have danced (Even if she didn’t know how to). Then, all of a sudden, the sound of a constant stream of lasers being fired reverberated through the cavern. “Wha-?” Foxtrot started, but was quickly cut off as a Maelstrom Mech’s clockwork eye hit her sharply on the back of her head. The wonderful sound of startled Stromlings running around in shock and Spiderlings attempting to gain control filled the small cave room, causing Melodie, even if she was annoyed at the projectile to the head, to smile. When she turned, however, she quickly grimaced. Only one Stromling remained, but its body was shot out from between the rest of it. The creature looked down in amazement, noticing that its chest, belly, and hips were gone, and then tumbled to the ground in a heap. “Did I miss anything?” Came a familiar, gruff yet overly haughty voice. “Sometimes, I hate the General’s decisions…” Melodie growled, her hands grasping the hilts of her daggers till her two, smooth knuckles went white. Epsilon Starcracker grinned at her in return, blowing the smoke from his two zipguns. “Hello to you too!”

Chapter 10: A Stationary EscortEdit

A few hours later, the depressing oozing of the stalactite fluids was interrupted by expert marching. Metallic boots clinked across the plasticized grasses of Avant Gardens and dozens of legs shuffled across the hilly terrain, not stopping for any rest. Melodie Foxtrot looked up nervously. Sounds like that didn’t happen often, especially in Avant Gardens, which was one of the more peaceful worlds. “What’s going on?” She mumbled, more to herself than anyone else. To her dismay, Epsilon heard the words. “Aww, that’s adorable. Are you worried?”, The Space Ranger completely ignored the fact that he had been very frightened when he first heard the news of the hooded Stromling. Melodie snorted her distaste at the man, and then turned to walk back through the still empty and utterly Stromling-less cave clearing, heading to the entrance. Kicking pebbles along the way, the dagger wielding Minifigure stepped into the fresh air of Avant Gardens and inhaled enough air to inflate a zeppelin. She smiled. The foul, apathetic air of the Mines was horrid to breathe; it clogged your thoughts in a thick and oozing jam that seemed to drip sluggishly from your ears- it made the intake of air an almost choking experience. Sometimes, Melodie even forgot it was air, and held her breath for a dangerously long time contemplating what would happen if she finally gave in to a ragged gulp of the deathly gas. Sadly, Melodie’s bliss was quickly interrupted when she heard the whoosh of air by her nonexistent ear and the solid thud of metal against stone. Shocked, the Sentinel spun around, both her dagger flying into her hands as she did so. Behind her was a blade imbedded halfway into the hard stone wall of the outside of the cave. The kind of blade that Stromlings often had attached to their arms. A blade that had been cleanly sliced from the arm of whoever possessed it. Melodie suddenly remembered the ominous marching that resounded through the grassy planes of Avant Gardens, and silently turned, holding her breath in a mixture of horror and excitement. On one of the swaying hills, a person became visible; a Stromling. The creature stumbled forward, tripping headlong in the grass. Frantically, it attempted to regain its footing- but it couldn’t. It was missing an arm. Melodie looked sidelong at the sword imbedded in the rocks behind her and smiled. The marching wasn’t being made by an organized troop of Stromlings. It was made by a score of… Sentinels.

Epsilon Starcracker grinned as the troop of Sentinels entered the cavern. “Dirk!”, he cried, dropping his zipguns to the ground and unslinging his jetpack, “My man, I haven’t seen you for a while!” The man he had called Dirk, probably the leader of the band, laughed in reply, probably smiling widely under his helmet. He charged forward, taking the unwary Ranger in a massive bear hug and lifted him from his feet in what sounded like a gagging fit. The Knight replied in a voice that sounded so mechanical that you could have sworn it was emitted by a droid, “Good to see you, my old friend! How’s it goin’?” “Greeaat…” Epsilon coughed in reply, his eyelids fluttering over his bulging eyes and his hands rubbing his forehead to get rid of his dizzying illusions. Nothing could make you more vulnerable to your surroundings than one of Dirk Manleigh’s infamous embraces. Melodie Foxtrot looked at the bulky Knight before her again, still enthralled by his appearance. Of course, she had seen him multiple times, but his armor simply hated to disappoint. Multiple Minifigures around the Universe had been given prototype armor for testing. Almost a decade ago, Project Valiant had started, a workshop that the Faction Leaders had started to turn the tides of the war against the Maelstrom. Their first creations were called ‘Valiant Weapons’, massive arms that were so heavy that they could only be held with both your hands and all your strength. The weight was worth it, though, for the weapons were an amazing success. Over the years, the Faction Leaders continued Project Valiant, adding more armor and weapons to the display. Dirk Manleigh, a former Faction Representative of the Sentinels who, along with his cooperatives, had been put into a secret group known as the Avant Guardians for help the war’s cause more than simply standing around, had been one of the first to be blessed with the new gear that had been released. And you couldn’t blame Melodie for gawking. The former rep and present Knight wore the most magnificent of armor. The bottom layer of his plastered clothing seemed to be chainmail shaped to look like the scales on a dragon, tipped with a dark golden that gave a little punch. He wore a beautifully embroidered belt designed to look like a leather coiled snake, and right below his neck was a moderately large armor plating shaped as a golden oak leaf. Over that, he sported some very fine shoulder pads indeed; for pointing downwards were two scaled down dragon heads made of gold and silver wielded together with red imaginite for the eyes. The dragon’s ornamental horns rose up in a curving arc that stopped by the Knight’s armored throat, serving as a beeline for the eye to arrive at the man’s helmet. The helm was amazing. Its general shape looked like the well-known third rank Sentinel Knight armor, but that was the only resemblance. Two great golden oak leaves sat on each side of the helmet, partially covering the Minifigure’s eyes. If you could see the eyes, of course. Covering his lenses was a thin visor that glowed in a dazzling blue- the extra addition was probably to magnify things, find an enemy’s weak spots, and could probably even serve as a foe-finding GPS and com-unit. Dirk’s mouth was concealed by a dark grey oxygen mask (Explaining the Minifigure’s near-robotic voice), obviously allowing him to travel into more Maelstrom infected areas. The visor and mouthpiece completely covered his face, giving total protection, but that wasn’t everything. Being held up by two hinges over his head was another visor- one that looked like the thing a medieval lancer would wear. It was topped not by a plume, but by a shimmering sapphire eagle- the emblem of the Sentinels. This extra visor could obviously be pulled over his heavily armored face for extra protection. At the Knight’s waist was a beautiful, imaginite incrusted scabbard that held a Sentinel greatsword- obviously a new design. All Melodie could see of the sword was the hilt, which was curved much like the bottom of an umbrella, ending in a small golden dragon head. She couldn’t fathom why anyone could have use for a completely curved hilt, but she was sure that is wasn’t just made to look pretty. Then there was his cape. Attached to his wondrous shoulder pads, the dark blue garment emblazoned with the emblem of the Sentinels flowed downward, waving around him like an ocean in a thunderstorm. Slung easily on his shoulder was another awesome sight; his shield. It was no longer the standard, mostly squared shield that she was used to seeing. This one was a massive semicircle, as least as large as any other of the parallelogram defenses, but far more dazzling. It was painted with a blue and gold eagle, striking from the sky, with mountains and a setting sun behind it. And the curved part of the shield was covered in metal feathers. Dagger sharp metal feathers. And then, of course, there was the Powerjouster. One of the original Valiant Weapons created by the Four Faction Leaders, but Powerjouster was used only be the most skilled of Sentinel Knights. A massive lance tipped by a deadly blade and a flag that waved even when there was no breeze, it was a dangerous weapon- especially if it was being held with only one hand, as was the case with Dirk. Melodie Foxtrot’s mind was rather numb, but she knew that her stodgy days as a sentry in the caves had just gotten a lot more exciting.

Chapter 11: The PursuerEdit

-Present Day- -The Maelstrom- -Vulgar Main- -Umbara-

He ran. Ran for all he cared for. Ran for his life. He felt that it was pursuing him- he knew it. Something in him told him he wouldn’t survive, but he ran anyways. Sweat beaded from Turnip’s forehead and his weary, blood-shot eyes twitched every time he moved one of his pained muscles. Turnip clenched his two fingered fists tighter around the remains of a loaf of bread that he had stolen on his run from the horrid thing that was chasing him. He held the bread close to his chest, and tears began welling in his stinging eyes, slowly meandering down his ashen face. Turnip tripped on one of the many misplaced cobblestones of the Maelstrom’s capital city- Umbara- causing him to stumble and fall on his face to the aphotic ground. He tore himself from the sticky, chaotic goo that ran down the streets freely and continued his circumvention. He dodged multiple bent and rusty lamp posts as he entered the Shades- the underworld and criminal sanctuary of Umbara. Turnip didn’t stop running. His blond and matted hair hardly swayed at his rapid pace, the Maelstrom goo covered dreadlocks only swung rigidly from side to side. His heavy leather coat was now nothing but rags, and the beige fedora on his head seemed burnt to a crisp. He had lost his crossbow in the fight against the- the thing, along with half of his whip and all his medical rations. But worst of all- he had lost his sister. “Ginger…”, The Venture League Adventurer sobbed under his ragged breaths as the stale yet harsh winds of Umbara whipped against his face with more accuracy than his own deadly weapon. In his grief, Turnip slammed into a passing Stromling vendor, causing them both to fall to the ground. “Aaiiirrgh!” The creature squawked in the typical Stromling way of speaking, “Yoo ded! I keel yoo!” But Turnip was gone before the minion of the Maelstrom had finished cursing its bad luck and begun picking up its fallen Dreadfruit (A delicacy among vegetarian Stromlings). The Adventurer stumbled into a dark alley, pulling a bandana over his mouth to protect from the near-toxic air around him. The city of Umbara had oxygen, but the massive expanses of Maelstrom fog filtered it into a deadly poison, making the entire world either filled with dangerous fog or dangerous air. Turnip dropped heavily beside one of the walls that made up the alley, pulling what remained of his jacket over him and sobbing into his knees. He halfheartedly gnawed at the partly infected and utterly stale bread, not even thinking enough to spit out the parts that had been infested by the Maelstrom. He was too grieved, too filled with anguish for his lost sister, to care about anything. Anguish. That one word shot him into action. He had to escape this terrible world- or worse things that mere sadness would overcome him. After all, he knew that he was still being followed by his pursuer. Turnip hopped to his feet, his energy all but renewed by his sorrow. He pulled the remaining half of his barbed whip from his hip and slipped his last crossbow bolt into his other hand. He was of the Nexus Force- and we wouldn’t give up without a fight.

It watched intently as the Nexus Force recruit arm himself and set off down the cobbled streets of the Shades, marking the doomed Minifigures every move and scanning for weaknesses. If the leader of the Maelstrom Faction known as Anguish knew something, it was patience. The faction had gotten its name from the way they tortured their foes, leaving the victims as spirit-less heaps on the ground. With patience came the knowledge of the most dastardly and painful methods to make an enemy speak- something that Anguish prized. The creature thought back on its first encounter with the Minifigure. He had been brought in only a week ago, captured along with his sister on a stealth mission to the Vanguard’s Outpost, a small world orbiting Avant Gardens. Two days ago, they had escaped slavery and killed multiple Stromlings, running off into the wilds of Umbara. But Umbara was the capital of the Maelstrom; and the Maelstrom never let anyone get away. The entire world of Vulgar Main was alerted to the escapees, and the dark faction known as Anguish was to be the main part of their capture. The Adventurer’s pursuer remembered when he had found the two rogues a day ago. The girl had been a Sentinel, a third rank Samurai, and had brought up a good fight. But she was no match for a faction leader, even with her natural skill with the katana. In moments, she had been defeated. And the mechanical leader of Anguish had taken her Creation Spark- the one essence that could keep him alive. The Venture Leaguer had cried out in horror, in sorrow, and had wasted almost all of his arrows on the murderer. Those menacing, imaginite-tipped bolts had been more of a nuisance that any damage, mainly because the leader of Anguish hadn’t had time to pull the bolts from his heavy armor before taking on the chase. He had easily destroyed the crossbow, and then sliced the Minifigure’s menacing barbed whip with his retractable laser sword. Grieved, the Adventurer had bolted. And now, the mechanical leader of the Anguish Faction was after him.

Chapter 12: The Thief of LifeEdit

-The Maelstrom- -Vulgar Main- -Umbara- -Outskirts of the Wilds-

Turnip leaped over a small crevasse in the badly made road that marked the end of the Shades and the beginning of the Umbaran Wilds, a massive toxic jungle filled with multiple scientific research facilities. The Umbaran Wilds were the birthplace of the Dark Spiderlings, and many more terrible beasts. But the facilities within the forests were virtually unprotected, meaning a ship off this waste wouldn’t be hard too find. He took a last savage bite from his loaf and tossed it behind him, hardly noticing as the misshaped baguette skidded across the dark soil and teetered at the side of the crevasse. “This is for you, Ginger.” Turnip growled, taking comfort in the crossbow bolt in his hand. He stepped forward, but a familiar voice held him still. “Going somewhere?” Turnip stood fast. The voice was sweet, the kindest voice he had ever heard. A voice that had a subtle strength to it. “Ginger…?” The Adventurer whispered, then shook his head and grimaced, “If you want me, you’d better not use my sister’s voice.” His own voice was on the verge of breaking- hearing his sister’s from the mouth of her murderer was too much for him to handle. An almost mechanical, yet with enough dark emotions to feel more real than any other, laughter resounded through the streets and forests. The leafless trees rustled, dropping deadly spores to the aphotic ground. A ‘WANTED’ poster emblazoned with Turnip’s face fluttered off the cobbles, floating over the crevasse and past the Adventurer. Curtains in the multiple Stromling manors rustled, almost in anticipation. The bread loaf inched just a little closer to its fall. “I hate you.” Turnip growled, waving what remained of his barbed whip above his head. “But you’re my brother!” The sweet voice chirped again, sounding immensely hurt. It was closely followed by the evil mechanical laughter. “I hate you so much!” Turnip rushed towards the general sound of the voice, leaping over the crevasse and landing on both his legs. His whip had been longer than usual, meaning, even if it was severed in half, it was only a little shorter than any other whip. He used it now to slash at the ground, the resounding crack’s echoing through the ghost town. “I’ll smash you!” The laughter continued, but Turnip knew that that was an advantage. Being an expert tracker, he rushed at the sound with pin point precision, his whip trailing behind him as it meandered over the misshapen rocks. Turnip realized that his target was invisible just before it struck. The Adventurer was tossed back like a rag doll by the immense strength of his nemesis, and he kept rolling on the root-filled soil even after he had hit the ground (Almost three meters from the crevasse). Turnip, however, easily hopped to his feel, seemingly unscathed. He tightened his bandana around his mouth and nose as hundreds upon thousands of deadly spores floated to the ground from the trees. Swatting them away, he rushed forward, intent on not letting his pursuer away. But pursuers are pursuers, and pursuers don’t run away. They just keep pursuing. Before Turnip could hop back over the small crevasse, something with immense strength knocked him straight to the ground. The Adventurer groaned, attempting to get back up, but he didn’t have to. He was grabbed at the throat by a clawed, metal hand, and his enemy slowly de-cloaked. “Well, well, well,” The thing said in Ginger’s voice, before quickly changing back to its own, “What do we have here?” Turnip gagged, grabbing at the thing’s mechanical arm and attempting to stop the throttling. No air would enter his lungs. The monsters released, and the Adventurer limply fell to the ground, gulping at the oxygen around him, not caring for the fact that it had all been through Maelstrom fog. When he looked up, he was stung even more. Before him stood Ginger, in her former beauty- her red hair waving in the wind, her bright green eyes glistening in the darkness. Her kabuto sat comfortably on her head, and her armor- as always- fitted perfectly. Turnip almost exploded into tears. Only one thing was certain- Anguish knew how to do their job. Well. “It’s okay Turnip. We’re safe now!” The pseudo-sister smiled brightly at her brother, extending a hand. “You’re not my sister!” Turnip roared, leaping to his feet and lashing out with his whip. ‘Ginger’ instantly went into motion. Her eyes suddenly became a fiery purple, and her katana whipped from its scabbard. Her incredible skill with the sword had obviously been monitored and copied by the droid, for it fought with the same technique, increasing Turnip’s pain. The Adventurer lashed out with his barbed whip, trying to keep away from his ‘sister’ but also trying to find a way into her expert defense. The loaf of bread edged ever closer to the crack in the ground. To Turnip’s relief, the katana vanished, and so did the disguise of his sister. The droid stood there in front of him now, over two meters tall with glistening black armor and a glowing red eye in the middle of its shadowy head. The Venture Leaguer knew that he had one chance, and only one. His arm reared backwards, and then sprung it forward with incredible speed and power. The arrow that he had been holding struck a bull’s eye in the robot’s photo-receptor. The thing leaped back in pain, horror, and surprise, clasping both its metallic hands at its shattered eye. A mechanical moan ran across Turnip’s skull, but he didn’t notice. He just turned and ran. The baguette fell, but a small patch of Maelstrom goo held it in place before it could plummet into the abyss. Suddenly, a robotic hand shot out from the shadows and clamped around Turnip’s neck for the second time. But this time… it wasn’t intending to let go. The Adventurer writhed in the things hand as he was lifted off his feet, eyes bulging and mouth opening and closing in a silent scream and a desperate intake for air. The droid held him at eye level and seemed to grin. “Take this as a sacrifice. You will fall- fall to aid in the downfall of the Venture League. Your power will strengthen me dearly.” The monster whispered, probably snickering silently in its programmed mind. Turnip swiped his hands feebly at the slim mech in a silent protest. “All I can say is”, the robot continued, “Thank you.” Turnip felt his strength drain, and the world suddenly began to go dim. He noticed something light blue, transparent and rather velvety being sucked into the droid’s waiting ‘mouth’. He had seen the same happen to Ginger before she was smashed. The thing was stealing his Creation Spark. The loaf of bread gave way and fell, spiraling to the bottom of the crevasse.

Chapter 13: An Unexpected ReunionEdit

-One Day After the Tragedy on Vulgar Man- -Avant Gardens-

It was nearing winter. The racket tailed drongo, along with its newly hatched chicks, had taken off the day before, migrating to Gnarled Forest- one of the only chunks of Crux that was hardly affected by the dreaded season. Of course, winter brought many joys. The snow was wondrous, floating down from the sky in beautiful flakes that soon had the almost the entire Universe covered in a perfect snowball battlefield. Snowmen of different styles and artistry popped up everywhere, and all kinds of sounds and smells drifted from the lit windows of houses, boasting loving families laughing over their scrumptious dinner. Then, of course, there was Frostivus- the greatest festival in the entire Universe. Frostburgh, one of the smaller chunks of Planet Crux, would thaw in the warm rays of the sun, and the time for festive holidays would begin. All foods, trinkets, toys, anything you could think of would pour from Frostburgh’s factories, and the joyous times would begin. All that was fine, but what Epsilon was mainly looking forward to was the fire place. And Sky Lane, of course. They were to fly to Frostburgh together and have the time of their lives- like they did every year. Epsilon Starcracker sat down in the grassy expanses of Avant Gardens right next to his post, leaning on one of the makeshift barricades. He smiled to himself, remembering the day before, when he was relieved from his duties in that horrid Maelstrom Mine. He smiled even wider when he thought of the wonderful experiences he was going to share with Sky Lane. Little did he know that those experiences would never be shared.

“We’ve lost Camera 12! I repeat- we’re blind to the outside!” The scientist frantically yelled into the speaker in the control room. The Paradox Research Facility almost froze. That had never happened before. Camera 12, the most important holo-recorder in the entire Facility, had turned off. Without it, they couldn’t find and warn anyone of an impending attack. Panos Barong, Arms Director of the Paradox, burst into the Control Room, his helmet under his arm. He was completely bald except for a small, purple Mohawk that ran from his forehead to the back of his neck, and he had three stripes- one red, one black, and one white- tattooed on his cheek. The scientist turned to face the Arms Director. “We’ve lost Camera 12!” He moaned again, before falling onto a stool, head in his hands. “Well then, why don’t you fix it!?” Panos had completely lost his usual good humor. If the only security camera that could scan the surface of Avant Gardens had been turned off, they were in major danger every second that passed. The Space Marauder picked up the stool- scientist and all- and flung the wailing Minifigure to the ground. “FIX IT!” He roared again, kicking the yelping Paradox recruit away and replacing the stool. He sat heavily on it and looked through the large window, scanning for any dangers.

Epsilon Starcracker opened his eyes. He shot up, his head darting left and right to see what had happened. He settled down, however, when he noticed that he had just taken a snooze. The Space Ranger looked to the sky, and saw a giant starship orbiting the Avant Gardens space above him. He smiled. That ship was known as the Nexus Koi, and was ultimately the replacement for the Venture Explorer. The Nexus Koi had been constructed to perfection, and now didn’t only serve as transportation for new recruits- it was a warship as well, able to sustain any assault by the Maelstrom. And it was piloted by Sky Lane’s sister, Peppermint Lane, who had once been positioned on Frostburgh, but had been released from that world’s horrid summers. Epsilon stood up and stretched, preparing for the multiple newbies that would land on the surface of Avant Gardens in only an hour. He pulled open the secret compartment at his post, the trap door swinging open to reveal the compartment where he kept all his weapons and gadgets. None of them were in there now, for we had all of them handy, so he pushed the cubby downwards. This swung down to reveal a rope ladder, which the Sentinel quickly scaled. The inside of the area was practically an armory. It was a large, square room, made mostly of moldy wooden planks. But the place was filled with piles upon piles of weaponry, mostly basic spears, swords, hammers, and multiple others. However, it also showed of multiple barrels of reserve water and food, along with many more weapons and a couple of sticks of dynamite. Epsilon was back on the surface in a jiffy, dragging along a large assortment of basic weapons (About twenty in total). He sat down again, this time with a large can of armor polish, and began to scrub the weapons to perfection for the new recruits that were arriving. He turned to see Wisp Lee, also making preparations (Which mostly consisted of smashed PRDX-7, the Paradox Guard Mech), causing the Sentinel to sigh in exasperation. But something else caught his eye. A Minifigure- obviously completely new- walking towards Wisp Lee- from the wrong direction. He hadn’t just come from the Nexus Koi- he had come from the Maelstrom Mine. “What on Crux?” Epsilon mumbled to himself, hopping to his feet and dusting himself off, watching as the Minifigure made a beeline towards Wisp, who also seemed to have noticed this Minifigure’s strange appearance. But something made Epsilon uneasy. Was it… recognition? No, it couldn’t be… but… The newbie was, in short, completely plain. He wore blue pants, a red shirt, was bald, and a brightly smiling face that seemed to be plastered to his face. Could it be…? No… “By my grandma’s 2x6 dentures...” Epsilon Starcracker whispered under his breath, “It's Bob.”

Chapter 14: He Betrayed UsEdit

Wisp Lee couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Bob! He had thought the Minifigure to dead, his long lost friend to have been smashed with the Venture Explorer. This was one of the best days in his life. He simply couldn’t bring himself to register this sudden, completely random reunion. “Bob!”, he cried, rushing forward to greet his long lost friend, a massive grin widening under his red bandana as if flapped about his shoulders. Bob didn’t return the grin. But Wisp didn’t slow. The man had been lost for 24 years! What else could he expect! He had probably just found his way off some floating wreckage. “Bob!” He said again, tears of joy welling in his tired eye. Epsilon Starcracker smiled, walking forwards with a relief that he hadn’t felt since Sky Lane had accepted his first request for a date. But somehow, he knew that something was not right the moment he dropped the spear he was polishing, the moment he stepped to the ground, whose grass seemed to be waving in joy. Wisp Lee’s eyes widened as he too, noticed that something was very out of place. He slowed down, but he was too late. Bob’s hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat, lifting the startled Paradox Scientist from the ground with uncanny ease. Ease that the plain old Minifigure could never have done before. Wisp desperately tried to escape the monstrous grip, but it only tightened. He gasped for air, his hands tugging as the arm that held him. “Bob…”, he tried, a tear running freely down his remaining eye. A tear not of happiness, but of betrayal. Dark energy suddenly coursed through the weakening Minifigure’s body, and Wisp opened his mouth under his bandana in the form of a silent scream. Bob threw the limp, unconscious Minifigure halfway across the front of the Paradox Research Facility before turning, with a satisfied grin, to face Epsilon Starcracker.

Panos Barong cut, slashed, and slammed his helmeted head into the gate to get outside the Paradox Facility- and failed every time. He had even planted explosives all over the door, but, sadly, it was he who had designed it in the first place. Meaning it was as good as indestructible. He cursed his magnificent ingenuity and stalked back down the hall. Panos pulled out a walkie-talkie from his massive pack, pressed down on a green button, and spoke into the receiver. “Cailan! Cailan, do you copy!” Cailan, the scientist who had been left at the Control Room to look out the tower’s window, didn’t reply. Panos cursed once again, this time at his stupidity at leaving such an absent minded professor in the Control Room, and pounded towards the teleportation pads. He stopped short when he turned a bend in the hall. All the Maelstrom creatures that were held captive had gone berserk. Dark Spiderlings were screeching incessantly, apes were pounding at the thick glass walls that held him, and all manner of other vile creatures were just floating, hopping, flying, or running around howling. Panos Barong suddenly put two and two together, and knew what was outside. “The hooded Stromling…” He growled under his breath. All chances of him regaining his humorous attitude plummeted a whole lot deeper.

Epsilon Starcracker took a step backwards, stumbling over the can of armor polish and spilling the slick, black goo all over the grass around him. “Bob!”, he cried, “What are you doing!?” His long lost friend looked up at him, his evil grin transforming into a horrid scowl as his eyes began to glow with an inner, flickering dark violet flame. Every time one of his feet left the ground, the grass where he had been standing wilted and died, soon being reduced to nothing but ebony, smoldering studs. “You left me there.” Epsilon raised an eyebrow under his visored helmet. “What?” Bob continued, almost as if in a trance. “You left me there to die. But he saved me.” Now the Space Ranger was really confused. “Who… saved you?” “My master. He saved me, and all you saved was her.” “Her?” “You betrayed me! You left me to die!” “I-what?” But now wasn’t the time for questions. There was a brick-thirsty monster who wanted him smashed, and Epsilon knew that he couldn’t defeat the thing alone. “You’re not Bob.”, he growled, stumbling away. A black tentacle shot from the ground and coiled around his leg.

Chapter 15: Bombs AwayEdit

Desperately, Epsilon Starcracker scrambled to his feet, tugging himself from the tentacle. But the ebony thing just tightened around his leg and began dragging him towards Bob, and was slowly- but surely- stalking towards him. The Space Ranger unhooked one of his zipguns from his belt, turned to his back, and began shooting at the squirming, black thing. But the flaming studs that zipped from his blaster’s barrels simply rocketed right through the tentacle and hit the ground if a fiery blast that scorched the grass, but dealt no damage whatsoever to the cursed thing. “Bob! Why are you doing this!?”, he roared, frantically searching for a way out of his predicament. “You left me to die.” Was all that Bob said to him, taking another step closer to the Sentinel’s demise. Then, all of a sudden, Epsilon had a spark of Imagination. He knew what to do, even if he didn’t want to do it. He turned and found the spear close enough for him to grab- The tentacle gave another heave, and the Space Ranger was sent sprawling backwards. But Epsilon wouldn’t give up so easily. His breath was taken from his as he used all his strength to pull himself towards the slick, fallen spear. His eyes bulged, as he stretched out to get a hold on the weapon. His plastic hands closed on a slippery hilt. But before the Sentinel could cry out in triumph, the tentacle gave a final lurch, and Epsilon was sent flying into the air. His zipgun fell from his hand and spiraled to the terra firma far below, thudding to the ground a flattening a small patch of grass. The spear began so slowly slip from his grasp. “No!”, Epsilon roared, pulling the spear closer to him in a desperate attempt to keep the spear from falling. He looked down to see his right leg still entangled in the obsidian rope, the tentacle holding him dangling upside down in the air. “Drat”, he growled, shaking his head to keep him from getting blurry vision. He closed one eye and looked towards the Outpost Console, a machine that could let him have direct access to the pilot of Operation Firestar, known better as Airstrike 17. With it, he could ask Firestar to bomb a certain sector to keep away Stromlings. The only way to turn the console on was to press a button, and if the button was just in the slightest way harmed, all communication was lost. Sentinels never had a thing for building. But now, Epsilon had to rely in all of his skill. He shook his head again, and threw the spear with all his power. The slick black projectile spun threw the air with such speed that the grass below it quivered. It skimmed only slightly above the button, and then slammed into the rocks with an earsplitting ‘crack!’ that rendered the spear rather split in half. A voice sounded from the deep mechanical bowls of the Outpost Console. “Now what, Epsilon?”, came a bored, sleepy voice yawned through the speaker. A small scratching sound seeped through it too, along with the dying screams of a thousand lice. “Air Strike 17! Air Strike 17! Come in, Operation Firestar!”, the Space Ranger gasped, waving his hands around for no one in particular to see. “I’m in. You, however, sound preeeetty out. Out of your mind, that is.” Epsilon grimaced as he heard at least a dozen people laughing in the background. “I need you at Sector 3- NOW!” Epsilon roared as loud as he could so that his voice would carry to the receiver. “Now? C’mon, we’re watching Vanda’s Panda! And Stewblaster Cooks is up next. You know how much Meringue loves that show.” More snickering reverberated from the speaker, especially at the mentioning of Meringue, an old and lazy guard dog whose idea of protecting its master from certain doom was a twenty four hour powernap. Bob finally began to register what was going on, and snarled in protest. He waved his hand, and the tentacle holding the Sentinel jerked backward, flipping Epsilon head over heels and slamming him face first into the ground. “YES, NOW!” The Space Ranger spluttered, his voice only slightly muffled by the packed and grassy earth. He pulled himself upwards with his arms and remaining leg, just to be spun into the air again. “Okay, okay.”, the man speaking through the Outpost Console mumbled, “You’re sounding more and more like Boss Beck every day.” More laughing. And in the meanwhile, the tentacle was enjoying itself playing whack-a-mole- with Epsilon as a hammer.

A few minutes, a few unfortunate moles, and one big concussion later, three jets soared into view, light blue smoke trailing from behind like bright, sapphire snakes. The voice echoed through the Console again. “What!? You want me to smash a newbie?” The dizzied Epsilon didn’t reply, only raising a hand into the air feebly before being hurled to the ground once again. “Never mind.” The voice said again, and the three jets tilted sideways, turning to zoom towards Bob. Then, all of a sudden, a piercing whistle could be hard creaming through the air. Bob looked up, glowing violet eyes suddenly growing wide in terror. Firestar’s bombs hit their target. “What the? That- no, it can’t be…” The voice said again, once the dark blue smoke had cleared. Bob was still there, seemingly unharmed. Unharmed, and a lot madder. The Maelstrom spy roared in contempt, waving its hand again and sending Epsilon spiraling into the rocky outcropping behind his post. Bob then raised both his hands, and four more black tentacles shot from the ground around him, causing all grass in a three meter radius to wilt and shrivel. One of the tentacles found a hold on one of the three plane’s wings. “Evasive maneuvers!” The voice yelled, just before the Outpost Console was torn to pieces by two of the meandering shadow ‘snakes’. Two of the jets managed to spin out of the way of more tentacles, evading them by centimeters. The other wasn’t so lucky. The tentacle that was holding it yanked it from its escape, causing flames to blast from the wing. Far below, Bob grinned maliciously as purple flames spat to life in it outstretched palms. A fireball whizzed through the air in a jet of steam, and the jet exploded.

Chapter 16: A Simply Smashing OccasionEdit

Wind lashed out at the pilot’s face as he plummeted from the flaming remains of his jet. Red hot bricks appeared as crimson flashes all around him before they hit the grassy ground in hundreds of fiery explosions. The pilot came to his senses as the ground hurtled towards him. He cried out in horror, making a somersault in the rushing air as he frantically searched for the string that would open up his parachute. The Sentinel sighed in relief and pulled at the thin, silk rope, and a massive parachute emblazoned with a blue eagle unfolded from his backpack. Another fireball whizzed by from below him, and, all of a sudden, he wasn’t gliding downwards any longer. The shocked Minifigure looked up just to see his parachute in a rather non-existent state. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he fell, but the speed of his decent simply made the salty droplets slide upwards and into the air above him. His helmet shot off his head like a marble in a mortar and went up in flames as another fireball was hurtled at him by the murderous Minifigure below him. Bob was getting closer. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” The pilot whimpered and he braced himself for the crash. It didn’t come. The Sentinel tentatively opened his eyes and looked around. Something was strange… was he… upside down? He looked up to see his left leg held by a shadowy black tentacle. “Great.” The dangling Minifigure groaned, crossing his arms as his black hair hung limply from his plastic scalp. Then he felt a horrid, churning sensation, as if he had just taken a ride of an extremely sophisticated roller-coaster, and- He was upright again! The pilot looked down, and his sudden elation was pushed off a ledge by the grim reality of the situation. He was still in the air- and the black tentacle was pulling him to his doom at over five hundred kilometers per hour.

Epsilon Starcracker gawked as the falling pilot was slammed into the ground by one of those dreaded tentacles, and winced in shame as he noticed the man had been reduced to nothing but bricks. The Space Ranger, however, had no time to lament the situation, for even though a Minifigure had been smashed… many more would fall if Bob didn’t go down. Epsilon’s two zipguns were in his hands in an instant, and he flew into the air, white hot flames jetting from his pack. Dozens of glowing blue studs whizzed from the weapons’ barrels, hurtling towards Bob. They went right through the evil Minifigure, making a scorched trail in the grass in behind him. “By the Mythrans…” Epsilon gasped, swimming across the air to change the trajectory of his flight. He didn’t move an inch, and, before he knew it, he had been slammed into the ground by some unknown telekinetic force. “I hate the Maelstrom.” The Space Ranger growled before flipping to his feet and shooting at Bob once again. Then he looked up, and saw through the blinding sun- a shadow. A shadow with wings that didn’t flap around wildly. Epsilon smiled, and kept up the charade, blasting at the Maelstrom spy with renewed hope. Two jets soared into view behind Bob, and not too soon; the Stromling general had pushed Epsilon into a cubby in the stones behind the Space Ranger’s post, and violet flames had begun to lick at the attackers hands, ready to be hurled at the Sentinel. Epsilon Starcracker reared back and leaped over Bob’s head with all his strength, preforming a barrel roll to get as far away from the ‘plain’ Minifigure as possible. Almost a now familiar whistle echoed through the air as almost ten Imagination filled explosives plummeted towards Bob, hitting their mark. But the jets weren’t finished yet. They spun around in the air, making a U-Turn and rapidly firing lasers through the billowing smoke that once had been Epsilon’s post. When the blue-tinged smog cleared, only one thing could be properly seen; Bob had been smashed.

Chapter 17: Victory, eh?Edit

In a few minutes, the two remaining jets had landed beside the Paradox Research Facility. Epsilon and the pilots sat panting and laughing at their victory. But the Space Ranger couldn’t help but to feel sorrow. Bob, one of his greatest friends, had just been smashed. He had thought the Minifigure lost forever, and, when he returned, he hadn’t been himself. Only the Darkitect could be blamed for something this horrible. Dash Abscond, the leader of the pilots, patted Epsilon on the back. “It was the right thing to do.”, he assured the ranger, “If we hadn’t smashed him, half of Avant Gardens wouldn’t be quite as alive as before.” “I’ll take it as I can get it.”, Epsilon murmured, silently punching a clenched fist into the singed ground. Dash didn’t push the conversation any further, removing his sympathetic hand and returning to speak with the other pilot, who was busy sitting by the bricks of the pilot who had been smashed by the late Bob. Epsilon hardly heard as the pilots left their lost pal and sat down, laughing again. “Way to blue-ray that infection injection!” Dash hollered, trotting over to his jet and rubbing a small scratch on his cockpit’s window. “I know! My shot smashed him instantaneously!” The other pilot cried. “Bah!”, Dash retorted, “The coming winter’s cold is giving you misperceptions. It was clearly I who defeated the Stromling!” Through it all, Epsilon just pondered. Then, all of a sudden, he remembered Wisp Lee. The Sentinel scrambled to the place he had last seen the scientist, and was grieved to find that his friend wasn’t there. Maybe Paradox had picked him up? No… then they would have helped Epsilon and the pilots out… His eyes caught deep prints of Maelstrom goo trailing away from the patch of grass he was looking at. “Dark Spiderlings…” He growled, pulling a zipgun from his waist. But then something very strange happened; his blaster was pulled from his grasp. Epsilon looked down to see an arm with a red sleeve simply sitting there, pointing the gun at him. Before the Space Ranger knew what was happening, the arm pulled the trigger, and a flaming projectile whizzed past Epsilon, missing him by millimeters and scorching his plastic cheek. “What the-?” He cried, kicking the apparition backwards, disarming it. Epsilon picked up the zipgun, inspected it, and then shot the arm. But it wasn’t there. He looked in the general direction that Bob had been smashed, and gasped in horror. The arm picked up Bob’s right leg, then his left, putting them side by side and attaching them with a waist. The arm then heaved on a red shirted body, and swung a left arm into its socket. The arm that had attacked Epsilon hopped back to its hinge, and Minifigure bent down, picked up its head, and fitted it back onto its place. Bob’s eyes glowed red once again, and a dark black and violet cloak materialized over his body, completely covering him. He had rebuilded himself, brick by brick. “Celebrating so soon?”

Chapter 18: Run Like the Stagnant WindEdit

Epsilon Starcracker, being a Sentinel, had seen many things in his life. He had fought of monstrous abominations from the chaos infested jungles of Ivywood, had led a patrol of bombers throughout the horrid expanses of Crux Prime, had wrestled an angry (And infected) Silverback off of a high Gnarled Forest cliff, had hidden himself in a Stromling Aerial Cannon, and had escaped the Venture Explorer with a sobbing Sky Lane just before the heavily armored star cruiser had imploded. But nothing, I repeat, nothing, could prepare him for what had just taken place before his eyes. “Dash! Dash! Ready your fighters- NOW!” Dash Abscond, who was sitting with another pilot watching a holographic recording on his plane’s Black Box, turned drowsily, a scowl printed sternly on his usually somber visage. “C’mon. We just have an amazing victory, and first you’re all depressed, then you say it’s time to- by the Mythrans…” Dash leaped to his feet, kicking his partner in the face and frantically fumbling for the pistol he always kept at his belt. He grabbed onto the blasters hilts and rested shaking fingers on the triggers as he slowly walked backwards. He then pivoted to face his fighter and ran to the cockpit screaming. His cooperative wasn’t so hasty. He gave a little yelp, rubbing his bruised cheek, and hopped backwards in fright, pulling a long-barreled blaster from his back and fired. A glistening, spherical projectile shot from the gun and whizzed towards Bob. It hit him in the head, but simply bounced off and landed, rolling, on the ground. The pilot then decided it was a good time to run- but he was too late.

Panos Barong rushed back to the main door to the outside world. He had asked Silas Penumbra, former Paradox Representative and current Avant Guardian to check on Cailan, the young scientist that was positioned as lookout. As the Arms Director ran, he tossed a detonator at the door, causing the entire Research Facility to shake- but only adding another small scorch mark to the door. “I hate myself.” He grumbled, pulling out stick of dynamite and lighting it with a retractable laser beam on his wrist. He kicking it at the door in vain, cursing himself once again for his ingenuity at making indestructible toys, and pulled out his walkie-talkie to check on how Silas Penumbra was doing.

The Valiant Sorcerer skidded to a halt right outside the teleportation console to gather his wits about him. Hundreds of eyes turned to look at him in wonder. Silas Penumbra hated when that happened. But, being an Avant Guardian, he had to live with it. After all, even he thought his Valiant Gear was rather stunning. The Sorcerer had been sad to see his famous, pointed hat be tossed out of the picture, but he didn’t mind at all the wondrously intricately designed cowl that had replaced it. The hood- which was as black as a starless night and covered in glowing violet lace that made ever changing pictures all around his head- was pulled far downwards, almost completely covering his face. But if you could have seen his face- you would notice the mask that rendered his visage ‘gone’ instead. The mask was a deep, dark red, with multiple traces of black and violet. The only holes you could see were where his eyes were and where his mouth and nose were. But his face must have been wrapped in bandages much like those of a mummy, probably enchanted with some spell, rendering his mouth and nose completely covered as well. And his eyes? Well, they were pretty much replaced by a glowing mass of dark, writhing purple that danced upwards in an infernal violet smoke. His beautiful shoulder pads lay comfortably in their place, showing off four massive, curving blades that rose high above his head, obviously more for the fearful looks than the damage. The pads connected perfectly to a flourishing purple cloak emblazoned a tiger’s eyes in the heart of a tornado- the emblem of the Paradox. Silas also sported a belt, which smugly sported a small, crystal skull. Attached to his hips were two intricate wands and a crystal ball, which was inside an infected metal case- shaped as a skull. Slung across his back was a staff that silently shivered with the dark energy infused into it. Its top was shaped like the head of a dragon, with bristling, crystalline spines all along its wooden ‘back’. Smoky, violet ‘breath’ wafted from its jagged maw, followed by the coinstantaneous dribbling of Maelstrom goo. And then there was the Doomslicer, a massive scythe shaped much like the staff, but with three dangerously sharp Maelstrom blades curving from the back of the things metallic ‘head’. Silas Penumbra rolled his eyes, causing the smoke that covered his lenses to whirl around in various violet rings, and stepped into the teleporter.

==Chapter 19: Unmanned Kamikaze

The pilot ran for his life. Sweat dribbled freely from his forehead, dripping into his already stinging eyes as he fled towards his fighter. Dash Abscond had already started up his engines and was getting ready to take off, but his cooperative was only halfway to his jet. The pilot knew he was a goner just before his plane gave its first shudder, and he stopped short, not even having enough air to pant as he gawked at the bomber that was slowly being lifted into the air. Bob began to laugh insanely.

Panos Barong clicked the ‘redial button’ on his walkie-talkie for about the twentieth time, but it was as vain as trying to get that wretched door open. “To the Underworld with this excuse for scrap metal.”, he growled, tossing the trinket to the ground and pulling another detonator from his bandolier. He closed one eye beneath his glowing red visor, rearing his arm backwards and getting ready for another expert throw- and another expert fail. The Paradox Scientist threw the explosive at the gate with all his strength. It hit the metal with a clang before dropping to the ground. A dreadful beeping echoed through the hallways, adding to the noise that the captured Maelstrom creatures were making. The countdown stopped, and the detonator exploded. It took the door with it.

Epsilon Starcracker stumbled backwards, falling to his rump in the sudden fiery explosion. The pilot looked just as taken aback. Bob had lifted the plane into the air, then, without a thought and hardly a movement, tossed it unceremoniously at the multi-layered door into the Paradox Research Facility. If you could call it a door anymore. The jet had gone off like a bomb, leaving nothing but a smoldering hole in a portal of half-melted bricks. The pilot looked around helplessly, trying in vain to find a way out of this predicament. All thoughts of escape vanished as he too, was lifted into the air. His eyes bulged as he noticed that his lungs had stopped working. No air, no matter how hard the Minifigure tried, would enter. His mouth opened in a silent scream as he noticed that a glowing violet scimitar of aphotic proportions had materialized in Bob’s hand that wasn’t telekinetically holding him up. Then, before he knew what was happening, he was being pulled towards the blade’s wicked tip.

Silas Penumbra appeared at the Control Room a few seconds later, trying to look stern under his mask and hood. He was greeted with six, glowing red and bulbous eyes attached to the body of something with four, jagged and armored legs. The two beautifully carved wands were in the Sorcerer’s hands in an instant. Their tips glowed a violent red as Silas gave a twist, sending two bolts of pure Maelstrom energy right into the creature’s middle eyes. The Dark Spiderling howled in pain, leaping backwards and hissing, its mandibles frothing menacingly. In the short time he had, Silas looked around the room. It was in a mess. The massive window used as an unsophisticated and telescope-less observatory had been shattered, the edges of the broken glass smoking with dark Maelstrom energy. Chairs had been turned over, curtains torn, and multiple panels and computers smashed. A single, glowing orange cocoon hung from the smoldering ceiling, held there by another sizzling cord. Silas knew instantly that Cailan was inside the cell of webs, but at the moment, he had other things on his mind. Almost a dozen Dark Spiderlings burst from various hiding places along the wreckage, hissing malevolently as Maelstrom goo dribbled hungrily from twelve pairs of clicking mandibles. Silas Penumbra replaced his wands and drew his Doomslicer.

Chapter 20: Your Soul for your Slavery, How’s that for a Deal?Edit

Panos Barong’s eyelids fluttered open, and the Paradox Scientist rubbed his forehead. He grimaced as a jolt of pain shot through him, setting his teeth on edge and causing his left leg to enter a spasmodic fit. The Minifigure licked his sooty lips, his face set in grim agony as he attempted to stand up. His right eyelid twitched, and he balled his fists to keep away some of the incessant agony. A few minutes later, he was back on his feet. Panos limped towards the shattered and smoking remains of the door. So, it wasn’t indestructible after all. Just when he was feeling proud, however, he noticed why it had been destroyed; a Sentinel jet had crashed tail first into it. Wait, tail first? That wasn’t usual… Panos painfully looked out into the grassy plains of Avant Gardens and gasped in horror.

A tear trickled down Epsilon Starcracker’s cheek as he saw the pilot fall to the ground. He looked towards the sun, and, to his relief, saw that Dash Abscond was safe on his way to the mountain headquarters of the Bombing Squads. “What in every Builder-forsaken chunk of Crux are you?” He growled under his breath, unhooking both his zipguns for the second time. Bob smiled. “I’m me.” Flames spouted from his unarmed hand, growing larger, longer, then solidifying into the form of a second scimitar. “You’re a monster.” Epsilon bit his lower lip, keeping back the tears that were welling up in his eyes, keeping back the throbbing in his head and the stinging in his throat the marked absolute anger, absolute hate, absolute sorrow. He was replied with by a laugh that the Sentinel could have sworn had come from behind him. “Foolish Minifigure. You are as much of a monster as I! What is the Nexus Force, really? Your precious leaders created the dark vortex; they allowed the Maelstrom to be made! Then they made an army, and army to fight what they had unleashed themselves. An army to protect them- guard them in their little highly secure offices in the heart of the Tower!” Epsilon clenched his fists around the hilts of his zipguns. “Why…?”, was all that he could utter from his contorted mouth. “The Dismantler found me, he took care of me. You just ran away with Sky, not even thinking for my welfare. You left me to smash. You took her from me. Ever since she first laid her eyes upon your doomed features- blargh! You stole her from me!” “Love isn’t your choice to make.”, Epsilon growled. His anguish was slowly diminishing, being replaced by the incessant nagging of pure hatred. Bob smiled. “It wasn’t- that I will agree with. But you see, I’ve made a deal with the devil.” He snickered at the reality of the phrase. The Sentinel grimaced. “You joined the Darkitect, the Unmaker of Worlds, for love?” “No.”, Bob grinned maniacally, “For revenge.” “What!? How could you? He’ll kill you- when you’re done with me, the Darkitect will have no need for you!” “Oh really? He needs more from me than that, you fool.” Bob’s laughter could only be compared by the sound of a megalomaniac harlequin juggling dynamite. “What happened to the smiling, happy, laughing, jovial… Minifig you once were? You’re Spark was the purest of the pure, you were so innocent. You had never smashed anything in your life, not even a Stromling. And now you have joined the one who smashes the most.” Epsilon took a step back, slowly raising his zipguns. “Shut up. I’ll give you a choice; join us, or be smashed… permanently.” “I would never join you… and neither would Sky!” “Ha! We will see about that! Now, join me! You must know that nothing can destroy the Maelstrom! Nothing!” “If I agreed… we’d both be wrong.” Epsilon growled, training his zipguns and firing two simultaneous shots. Bob raised his scimitars, blocking both the shots and sending them to the ground, causing them to leave two purple patches with shrinking imagination to scorch the green grass. “I’ll take that as the wish to be smashed.”

Chapter 21: Short Sighted LookoutsEdit

The first Dark Spiderling leaped forward, its four legs flailing in midair as the creature descended upon its target, Maelstrom goo trailing from its clicking mandibles. Four legs fell to the metal floor with plasticized ‘clinks’, and what remained of the screeching Spiderling was pulverized by three quick slashed with a deadly, half infected, triple bladed scythe. But as the first fell, two more scuttled into the fray, with nine others chattering their contempt of the Minifigure. But Silas Penumbra had expected the move. In a flash, he had pulled his Doomslicer far behind him, and then arched his practiced arms forward with as much strength as he could gather. A few seconds later, one Spiderling was screeching in pain, attempting to free itself from the Valiant Weapon that had impaled it to the metal ground below. In another blinding movement, Silas had unslung his staff and whispered a few strange words under his breath. Dark violet lightning lashed out of the weapon and at the other Dark Spiderling, the constant projection of electricity forcing it backwards and causing it to hop around squealing in pain and surprise. The Spiderling that had been trapped temporarily by the Doomslicer escaped the weapons jagged tips, limping towards Silas with purple foam frothing from its horrid mandibles. It was smashed by a massive ball of fire. Sensing the danger, every other Dark Spiderling screeched in anger, charging at the Sorcerer in unison, spraying blazing orange webs at their competitor. Silas cut two more into worthless, smoldering pieces before he was caught on the leg by one of the dreadful webs. Pain shot up his leg and into his hips, numbing his feet and causing him to buckle. His legs gave way beneath him and he fell to the ground. The seven remaining Dark Spiderlings got ready to pounce.

Panos Barong took a step back as he saw the hooded figure battling Epsilon Starcracker. Everywhere the thing stepped, the grass simply wilted and smashed, being replaced by a flailing tentacle of darkness. Violet energy reverberated through the man’s cloak, rising into the air in wisps of pure evil. The thing was invincible. Panos pulled out a long barreled blaster that was tipped with three orange claws and began to limp out to help the Sentinel Scout. But then the hooded figure turned to face him, its glowing red eyes squinting malevolently, as if whatever visage was under the cowl was smiling- grinning, even. The Paradox Arms Director heard the cracking of glass behind him. “I hate the Maelstrom.”

High above the battle, sitting comfortably on the edge of the construction site of the Assembly Bridge, Vector Longview was contently gnawing on a bun. Rye with poppy seeds, with three slices of Gouda inside, if you want to know. She was obviously bored… extraordinarily bored. This job was extremely tedious, for all she did was sit all day long looking at the horizon to see of anything bad had happened. Nothing bad had happened since the day the Spiderling’s had gone beyond the boundaries of the Mine, and even then, they didn’t go anywhere near being a danger. Vector Longview had joined the Venture League at a very young age, just over sixteen, for her unquenchable thirst for adventure. Now she was in her thirties, and she still hadn’t seen any fun beyond the high peaks of Avant Gardens. She longed more than ever for exploration. Vector sat, contemplating the wisdom of her decision to join the Nexus Force. She had arrived with the name of Vette, Vette Longview of Nimbus Falls. However, she had been nicknamed Vector by Sky Lane, her only really good friend on Avant Gardens, because of her love of science, computers, and math. She was the only Venture Leaguer who like that kind of stuff, so she had been posted to keep track of everyone’s foot-race times as newbies travelled up the magnificent structure known as The Monument. Then, all of a sudden, she heard a sound that made her drop the bread roll and hop to her feet, activating her ultrasonic electro-binoculars: The explosion of a Sentinel Air Squad. Vector loved the sound, it always promised a show to behold: Shocked Mechs looking up at a faint whistle, Stromlings screaming madly and scuttling away, and then there was the moment when the explosives hit the ground… it was like fireworks to the short-sighted Venture scout. But this time, the sight was not at all a sight to behold, not a single stud of it…

Chapter 22: Ehrm… Who’s in for Bananas?Edit

And so Epsilon Starcracker, the greatest Sentinel Scout ever to have been built, the Minifigure who had fought so many battles, won so many victories, charged headfirst into the battle of his life- literally. The Space Ranger fired up is rocket pack, jetting forward and slamming into Bob’s infected chest with his helmet. The hooded Stromling was sent sprawling back, but easily hopped back to his feet as if nothing had happened. Dozens of dark tentacles erupted from the ground, and Bob hurled two sizzling spheres of flame at the Sentinel. But Epsilon was ready. He flew upwards with as much speed as his pack would allow, then turned abruptly, shooting downwards towards Bob and simultaneously shooting him with a barrage of Imaginite projectiles from his zipguns. The shocked Stromling Spy had no time to even contemplate blocking the shots, each of which was fueled by nothing but hatred. Every single projectile hit their mark, and soon, Bob was down. Epsilon Starcracker turned off his boosters, falling to the ground and landing with a barrel roll, light blue smoke floating from the barrels of his guns. He stepped tentatively towards the panting figure of Bob, his blasters trained of the traitor’s head. Bob groaned, falling to his knees, causing almost three meters of lavish grass to shrivel and wilt. But then, to Epsilon’s absolute horror, the hooded Stromling looked up, apparently grinning beneath his shadowy cowl. And that’s when it happened. Hundreds of bricks sprouted from the ground around him, which had begun to simmer and die, creating purple circles that waded through the ground like jellyfish made of some dark, perverted element. The bricks began to slowly spin around the kneeling figure of Bob, sizzling with dark energy. Bob spoke again, but this time in a deep, rumbling tone that sounded like a cross between a badly made tuba and the horrid sound you hear when a dinosaur burps when you’re already swimming in its digestion fluids. “You thought you were so smart- so intelligent. You and your Nexus Force thought that with your technology, with your magic, with your simple-minded wit that you could defeat any foe. But the coming events are too big for you.” The bricks began oscillating around the prone hooded Stromling with a far higher velocity, whirring with a sickening buzz. Then, all of a sudden, with a magnetic ‘clank!’, the bricks slammed together around Bob. In the form of a giant gorilla with sleek, black fur, oversized fangs, knotted muscles and eyes that steamed red with hatred. A Stromling Ape. “Welcome, my dear Epsilon Starcracker, to a cataclysm that will begin the remaking of the Universe.”

Panos Barong turned around very slowly, a stick of dynamite of each of his plastic hands. The Spiderling legs attached to his back buzzed with an inner electricity as they charged (The Arms Director didn’t wear anything for show). His suspicions were quickly proven. All the glass walls that kept the Stromling specimens at bay had begun to slowly crack, the jagged creases in the glass dripping with Maelstrom goo. Every single glass barrier exploded, sending sizzling shards and fragments in every direction. Three slammed into the wall right next to Panos, shattering on impact and peppering the Minifigure’s helmeted head with thousands of tiny, twinkling specks. “And I thought I made those indestructible as well. Ah well, a day’s a good day as long as you learn something new.” Panos snarled under his breath, igniting both explosives in his hands with his manual laser beams. Dozens of Dark Spiderlings, including three horridly mutated ones, burst from their cells, clicking their mandibles with glee and scuttling all about. They were closely followed by a troop of Sawlings, strange Stromlings with chainsaws instead of crystalline blades as hands, and a group of Stromling Mechs. “Well, as long as you survive the day you learn that something.” He muttered to himself as an afterthought, tossing the two sticks into the midst of the overjoyed enemy. Almost fifty Stromlings had just escaped. There was a massive explosion that shook the foundations of the building. Only thirty five remained. Against a single Minifigure. “Ah well. At least I’ll learn how it feels to be smashed.”

Chapter 23: Bob, the Tyrant of Avant GardensEdit

Epsilon Starcracker was in the air before he knew what was happening, desperately shooting at the massive ape that held him dangling with one of its muscled arms. The Space Ranger felt the crunch of rocky, packed earth as he was slammed into the ground. He was quickly picked up again, swung upwards into the air, and slammed into the terra firma a second time. Epsilon switched on his jet pack, causing the flames rocketing from the boosters to burn through the gorilla’s hairy fist. The Maelstrom Ape roared in agony, tossing Epsilon twelve meters away as it rose to its hind legs, beating its chest with its arms in anger. The Sentinel went crashing into the space right outside the Paradox Research Facility. Epsilon looked around, dazed, and rubbed his eyes to be read of some of the searing pain in his rattling skull and regain some of his vision. He saw the massive gorilla charging towards him just a moment too late. It bit him with its massive maw, sinking its fangs into Epsilon’s armor. The ape then tossed its head back and forth violently, slamming the dizzied Space Ranger into the walls of the Facility. Epsilon hardly knew what he was doing, but some sixth sense allowed him to clear his mind of the agony and raise his zipgun. A flaming projectile hit the Maelstrom Ape in its chest. The Stromling roared in anguish once again, flinging Epsilon into the wall with such force that it shattered, sending the Sentinel’s helmet spiraling away. The helmet hit the ground with a clink, sliding across the marble floors on the Facility, stopping as it clunked into yet another wall. A huge, hairy fist crushed it into hundreds of tiny little pieces. Epsilon Starcracker limped back to his feet, his bleary eyes rimmed with moisture at the pain. He knew that he had a concussion, but he couldn’t worry about that at the present. But then, to his surprise at utter satisfaction, the Ape fell to the ground, roaring in protest. Soon after, it exploded into hundreds of tiny little fragments. But that wasn’t it. The bricks were still there, sizzling, swirling around an infuriated Bob. “What th-!?” Epsilon gasped, leaping backwards just as the bricks collided with each other with another sickening, metallic crack. In Bob’s place was a Dark Ronin. Bob could shape shift. “So. You-want-to-play-hard-eh?”, Bob moaned in the quick, wind-like stutter that all Ronin spoke in. There was a flash of violet light, and a crystalline katana appeared in the Stromling’s strange, smoke-like hands. Unlike most other Stromlings, the Ronin of Forbidden Valley weren’t infected. They were manifestations of evil who had joined the Darkitect, not been bent to his will. He had unwittingly released an ancient civilization of evil on his foes, the remnants of the Samurai, and so they, being an honorable clan, were under his temporary command. Ronin were merely the armor of the legendary warriors, bent by dark magics to serve the one who released them from their stone prisons, to serve, and repay a debt to their ancient leader- a debt to destroy the Ninja of Forbidden Valley, the worst enemy of the Samurai. Being nothing but armor, they were merely a kabuto and an o’yoroi, held up by some mystical darkness. Instead of arms and legs, they had writhing, smoky masses of unknown origin. Bob charged forward with the unmatched discipline of an ‘honorable’ warrior, his katana pointed behind him as he rushed towards Epsilon. But the Sentinel had dealt with Dark Ronin before. Epsilon raised one of his zipguns, and a resounding clang followed as the shadowy katana swept a ringing blow into the intercepting bayonet. Bob stepped back at the unexpected blow- and that was his first mistake of the day. The Space Ranger gladly snatched at his good fortune, pulling out a small, circular device from his jacket. He tossed the bauble through the air with all his strength just as Bob was getting ready for another lunge. The attack didn’t come. The surprised Ronin snarled in anger as it was pulled towards the device that had landed behind him. In the small ball’s place was a swirling obsidian mass- a tiny black hole. Bob groped at the grass, pushing all futility from his mind before he was pulled into the void. He was spat out of the hole a few seconds later, but the move had bided Epsilon a little more time. As Bob sat dazed, trying to make two and two out of his confuzzling circumstances, he never noticed Epsilon pulling out a small beacon from his waist-belt. “I’m sorry, old friend…” Epsilon pressed a button on the mechanism, a tear running down his cheek. The orbital strike came into action immediately. When a Space Ranger was first taught, he or she was given a satellite that would follow the Sentinel anywhere, but stay high above them. When activated, the machines would shoot down a beam of pure Imagination at the appointed target. The beam swirled from the sky like a cylindrical tornado, hitting Bob instantly. But the Ronin was still completely intact. And it was very, very angry. The life-less suit armor sped forward, whirling its katana in a series of strikes that Epsilon hardly had time to block. Over hand. Back hand. Uppercut. Lunge. The attacks began come in more furiously, with almost overwhelming power, agility, and accuracy (Well, for a clunking hunk of metal). Epsilon knew he would lose in a fair fight against the quick slaps of Bob’s deadly katanas. He resorted to giving the Ronin a hearty kick in the tummy… err, armor. That resorted to him dropping his zipguns to the floor, hopping around whilst clutching his foot in pain. Bob charged in again, uplifted at the fact that Epsilon was disarmed. The Ronin stopped a hair’s breadth from the Sentinel, switching its momentum so that it spun like a top. A top with a dagger-like, glimmering sword. The whirring blade removed Epsilon’s hair from its place, and the shocked (And now bald) Minifigure dived to the ground to avoid being hashed. He frantically kicked about at Bob’s smoky underside, attempting to trip the suit of armor- to no avail. Luck saved him from what happened next. The Ronin suddenly stopped its spun, glaring down at Epsilon with its glowing, yellow baubles just as its katana swing down for the killing blow. The blade sliced one of the jet-pack’s boosters in half, the unexpected interjection causing the katana to bounce away. Epsilon Starcracker rolled to the side, pulling his glob of wet hair from the grass. He hopped to his feet, wringing the sweat from his head-piece, and dropped it unceremoniously onto his head before diving one again to the scorched earth, luckily dodging another deadly swing. The Sentinel preformed a sloppy cartwheel, spraining his left hand and landing in a pile of ash before flipping, undeterred, to his feet again, this time with on if his zipguns in his right hand. The Space Ranger attempted to close an eye to aim his blaster, and then quickly noticed that the eye he was trying to shut was already sealed due to his nasty landing, and fired. The blazing blue projectile bounced off the armor of the enraged Samurai spirit, leaving nothing but a dent and a scorch mark. “Oh my Mythrans, Bob, you’re annoying.” The Ronin didn’t reply. Instead, it screeched its contempt for the Sentinel as it floated up to him. Epsilon dropped his zipgun to the ground, cracking his knuckles, a grim yet set expression stamped onto his visage. As Bob neared for another blow, Epsilon unslung his jet-pack, swinging the boosters in a backhand arc into the Ronin. The explosion sent Epsilon sprawling, but he wasn’t done. He leaped over one of the dazed Ronin’s half-hearted swings, landing behind it. Bob obviously wasn’t in the mood for any piggybacks, but the Space Ranger was set on his task. He held a firm hold on the curved horns on Bob’s kabuto, pulling at it with all his might. A massive, arcing pulse of Maelstrom energy sent Epsilon flying. The Ronin seemed to turn to dust, its form blowing away with the wind. The sparkling, violet specks floated around in the air, oscillating around the Sentinel before settling to the terra firma. Then more dust appeared. And more. And even more. The purple mass rose, then took shape, slowly solidifying. Bob, in his normal, completely non-infected and non-cloaked appearance pulled Epsilon up with at the scruff of the Space Ranger’s jacket. “This is too big for you.” Bob said again, in his normal voice. Tears poured freely from Epsilon’s eyes, making trails in his ashen face. The meandering droplets fell from his visage, splattering to the ground in tiny, swirling puddles mixed with ash and salt water. “True”, Epsilon managed to choke through his constricted throat, “But I’m sure you’ll find the Universe, with all the brilliant minds, with all the selfless souls, with all the brave Minifigure’s who won’t give up till the end- I’m sure you’ll find it too big for you.” Epsilon Starcracker grinned broadly at his statement, thinking back on his times in battle, his times at peace, his time with Sky Lane. Those were the last thoughts that entered the mind of Epsilon Starcracker, Space Ranger and scout of the Sentinels and honorable warrior of the Nexus Force, before he was smashed by one of the Minifigures he had trusted most. Bob, the Tyrant of Avant Gardens.

Chapter 24: Scheming in the CapitalEdit

-The Maelstrom- -Vulgar Main- -Umbara-

He scuttled across the desolate ghost town that was Umbara, his four, heavily armed legs clicking on the cobbles with a sound that resembled a piece of chalk falling off a cliff. His scaly body glistened dimly in the moonlight, adding to the ominous feeling as he rushed for his destination, the dagger-like pincers he had as hands snapping in agitation. The bounty hunter hated being called to the Council of the Factions. He and his group of mercenaries and assassins, the Dark Hunters, had been drafted into the hoards of the Maelstrom because of an irresistible sum of gold. He and his band were regretting the choice already. But the selfish leader of the secretive Dark Hunters knew that if he hadn’t promised to work with the Darkitect, he wouldn’t be walking right now. The four-legged mercenary soon arrived at his destination; The Black Citadel, home of the Factions of the Maelstrom. He grinded his massive arsenal of three inch fangs, a shadowy tongue meandering up his face and licking his dark blue eyes as he entered the building, his mandibles snapping in anticipation.

An hour later, in the main hall of the Black Citadel, the four Maelstrom Faction leaders sat, grimly awaiting the arrival of their insane master. Baron Typhonus arrived moments later in a flash of violet flame. His mere appearance seemed to rip the very air in the room into thousands of minuscule ribbons, and even the slightest of movements on his part sent a thin crack etching through the dark, marble floor. “Greetings”, The Darkitects voice seemed to come from every direction, smashed into the four Faction Leaders present and causing them to groan in pain, “I am here before you this night to discuss… business.” He turned his head, his cape thrashing about his body as he faced a heavily armored knight in black and red armor. His eyes glowed bright red, and his slightly tilted top hat seemed to twist malevolently in the shadows rising from the Darkitect’s body. “Vladek of the Paramounts”, he purred, and the knight seemed to wince beneath his helm, “Status report.” “B-B-Bob has destroyed to Sentinel Space Ranger.”, Vladek groaned, shaking his helmeted head to relieve himself of some of the pain. Baron Typhonus’ skeletal mouth widened into a sickening grin, the movement sending more cracks meandering across the marble. He then turned to face a horrid looking man. He had cloak seething with Maelstrom energy draped over his body, but his hood wasn’t up. Covering the Minifigure’s head instead was a bag, the type that an executioner draped over someone’s head before they had a conversation with the noose. A single hole revealed one inquisitive, crimson eye. The Darkitect’s head continued to move on, however. He had not given orders of the shadowy order known as Nix as of yet. Typhonus’ gaze settled on the form of a four legged, reptilian creature with pincers as hands, dark blue eyes, monstrous fangs that dripped acid and a pair of anxiously clicking mandibles. “Nidhiki of the Dark Hunters”, the Darkitect growled, his wide, skeletal grin receding into a scowl. He despised the powerfully-willed mercenary, and hoped to dispose of him as soon as he could. However, Baron Typhonus needed the skilled bounty hunters for at least the first and most vital stages of the war. Nidhiki whimpered at the force of his hirer’s voice, gnashing his fangs and spraying venom in a sizzling arc to the floor. “What?” The Darkitect’s eyes glowed dangerously, but he continued. “I have a delicate job for you and your band of money-lovers. I need you to go to the isolated world of Gnarled Forest and… contact someone called Captain Redbeard.” Nidhiki’s angular features seemed to brighten, and he nodded his consent. Then Baron Typhonus turned to face a one eyes, black droid. The Leader of the Anguish Faction. “I need you and your masterful servants to do something that will change the tides in the coming battle.” “What shall I do for you, m’lord?” The Darkitect’s grin returned. “I knew making you myself would instill some obedience, Unit Necrosis I!” Then he suddenly turned serious again, and it seemed as if the entire universe a gone quite to listen to his words. “I need you to infiltrate Nexus Tower and… dispose of Duke Exeter.”

==Chapter 25: There Goes the Ceiling

Two of the many Stromling blades he kept were in his hands in an instant, parrying the deadly Minifigure’s blow and sending the thing sprawling. Panos Barong then tossed one of the blades and the confused Stromling, smashing it as he drew another purified blade from his waist. Another Stromling pounced, followed by two Dark Spiderlings who took to scuttling along the walls. The first stream of lasers rocketed rapidly from the infected arachnid legs that Panos kept slung along his back, the glowing red beams hitting the soaring Stromling at least ten times in the short second that it was still built. The Spiderlings rushing on the wall noticed the danger, and began shooting their own bolts of energy. Sizzling, spherical orbs of destruction whizzed towards Panos, who managed to deflect one projectile but lost one of his four laser guns on his back to the other. He threw both his blades at the Spiderlings, smashing one and removing one of the other’s legs. The now three-legged arachnid fell to the ground, rolling and spitting venom from its gnashing mandibles. The last thing it saw was a barrel of a gun. Panos blew the violet smoke from his blaster, grinning widely beneath his helm at his handiwork. But then the usually dim-witted Stromlings got a revolutionary idea: They realized that sending wave upon wave would get them nowhere. The hoard charged forward in unison, screeching, howling, and beeping their contempt for the Arms Director. “I’d better stop balancing a full glass on a chargin’ rhino’s horn.” He groaned, bracing himself of the angry stampede. The entire world seemed to shake, and rubble fell from the ceiling. Panos knew the end was nigh. However, only one of the known symptoms of a stampede had occurred; the shaking of the earth. The other one- being the fact that you’d be squished- didn’t happen. Panos opened his eyes to see that the ceiling had given away, crushing all the charging Stromlings. And sitting on top of the smoking pile of rubble, looking rather dazed, was Silas Penumbra. Surrounded by at least a dozen equally befuddled Dark Spiderlings.

Smoke billowed from the entire front wing of the Avant Gardens Paradox Research Facility, smoke that was strangely tinted with purple. High above it, at the construction site of the Assembly Bridge (A massive highway spanning the entire length of Avant Gardens), it didn’t go unnoticed.

Rusty Steele was an intelligent yet burly man, his eyes shining with the inquisitive spark that was necessary for all recruits of the Assembly Faction. His body, however, wasn’t shaped as the usual skimpy frame that most construction Minifigures sported; Rusty’s muscles would remind someone of a Sentinel Knight. Honed to his sharpest skill in both mind and matter, the Foreman of Construction on Avant Gardens deserved his high stature. And, of course, he deserved his wrench (Mainly because only he could carry it). The massive tool was at least twice his length, with a very large vial of pure Imagination running through it, resulting in an almost perfect building technique. He wore an orange and yellow jacket, opened just a little at the top to show his thick coat of curly chest hair. His eyes were brown; his pupils abnormally large, and his constantly shaved stubble was beginning to get the color of salt and pepper, indicating that he was around his forties. On his head contently sat a rusting hardhat, which partially covering his greying sideburns and completely concealed his thick mat of bushy hair (Probably also getting a rather silvery tone). But, despite his age, he worked as well as he did in his youth (If not better). Rusty gazed across the bridge to marvel at a gigantic structure that rose far higher than the highway he was currently working on. It was a statue of a massive Minifigure, bald with nothing but a round stud on his head, with a red shirt and blue pants. The stature held a large, stone shortsword and was hammering the blade at a helmeted skeleton holding a scepter shaped much like a small stick with the tip of a scorpion’s tail on top. The skeleton was colored in a bony hue, but was tinged with a violent purple. Its helmet and scepter were colored completely violet, with a trace a black. This structure was called ‘The Monument’, a giant statue depicted victory over the dark forces of the Maelstrom. It had been twenty three years since Rusty Steele had finished the Monument, and he still considered it his finest work. Rusty opened one of the two small bags that he kept at his waist, pulling out a beautiful blueprint, the original idea for the Monument; a tall stack of multiple, massive stone bricks. He cracked a rare smile on his usually stern visage, catching the eyes of multiple Assembly craftsmen who were hammering or sorting through the bricks that would make the final touches to the Bridge. Rusty then pulled out two photos, replacing the blueprint in the bag. The first picture showed a massive mountain, and the second showed the Monument twenty four year prior to the present day- the Monument rising from the mountain, being carved from the very stones of the natural wonder. The rock Minifigure only had its head and body painted. But then something caught the Assembly Foreman’s eye- smoke. Rusty turned to see the entire front of the newly renovated Paradox Research Facility in flames.

Chapter 26: Being Awake isn’t called SleepingEdit

Vector Longview woke with a start, sweat pouring from her forehead. The fact that she had woken cheered her up greatly. She had obviously fallen asleep and dreamt (Or shall I say, nightmared) the fight between Epsilon and the strange Stromling. Vector stood up, smiling widely in relief. When she thought back on the nightmare, she realized how silly it was. A Stromling capable of un-infecting itself and turning into different Maelstrom creatures at will? Ha! “Boy, am I silly or what?” She looked around, noticing that there was no one around to hear her. “Yeah, I’m silly.” If the Venture League watchgirl had turned around, however, she would have had a completely different line of thoughts.

“Where is he!?” Beck Strongheart, leader of the Sentinels of Avant Gardens, roared. “I want a thorough explanation at why Epsilon Starcracker is tardy!” Beck was an easy going man, one who didn’t get angry easy. But two things got him mad pretty easy: Disobeying orders and being late. Epsilon had disobeyed orders by being late. Rico and Grit, and two Sentinel guards who protected the gate into the Sentinel Encampment, exchanged nervous glances. “Rico! Grit! Get over here!” The two Minifigures cringed, waddling over to their infuriated leader. “Yes boss?” Grit managed, hardly noticed the trembling form of Rico beside him. “I want you to go to the Paradox Research Facility and see what’s going on. He’d better not be napping!” The guards nodded, and then hurriedly began to turn the wheel that lifted the truck barricade upwards. “That won’t be necessary.” All three Sentinels turned to face Rusty Steele, who had an Assembly Engineer and a construction worker at his sides. The worker was holding a small bundle covered by cloth in his hands. Rico and Grit gave a simultaneous sigh of relief, falling to their rumps in joy. Beck was too confused to notice. He knew Rusty Steele when he saw the Foreman, and could see the famous Engineer from a mile away. He was known as Ellgren Stackwell, a former Assembly Representative and a present Avant Guardian, the only Minifigure to have access to the magnificent Valiant Engineer Gear. A pitch black windshield covered half of his face, and an oxygen mask connected to two pipes on either side covered the other. The pipes descended into his shoulder pads, which sported two violently spinning, bright blue light bulbs on his shoulders. A single robotic arm rose over his head from his back, metallic pincers snapping wildly to find some bricks to build with. At his waist was a horse-shoe shaped object that was colored blue and orange with black, sideways stripes. This was the newer design of the Magnetizer, a weapon that all Engineers held dear. Close to the Magnetizer was a Valiant Wrench, a gizmo that greatly resembled two third rank wrenches attacked together by a quarter-meter long glowing blue crowbar lined with red Imaginite. The space between the two ‘fingers’ on each wrench section was coursing with electricity that crackled with an incessant need to create- and smash. “The front of the Facility is burning. I have sent a squad of three Inventors to see what is happening, but we have found everything there is to know about the outside.” Beck gestured for the foreman to continue. “Wisp Lee, Head Paradox Researcher for Avant Gardens, has apparently gone missing. A third rank Venture League Adventurer coming in from a tracking mission on Forbidden Valley for a rest found his way to us, and promised to postpone his break to see what was going on. Wisp was taken into the former Paradox Mine by a Dark Spiderling after being possibly knocked unconscious by another Minifigure. There was a brawl and a bombing, two Operation Firestar jets apparently crashed, but one escaped. Why the front of the Facility is down is still unknown to us.” Beck Strongheart pondered this for a moment, his visage very grim indeed when he thought things over. Something powerful had arrived at Avant Gardens. “What if Epsilon?” He asked in a hushed whisper, dreading the answer. The construction worker beside Rusty whipped the cloth off the object he was carrying, and walked forward, gingerly handing over the scorched and cracked remnants of one of Epsilon Starcracker’s zipguns. “I’m sorry.” Rusty Steele whispered, moving to the stricken Sentinel General and patting him on the back. “He was a good man.” “Indeed.” Beck murmured under his breath. “Tell your men to get out of the Research Facility. I care not for knowledge- I have had enough. But I fear that whatever smashed Epsilon was using minimal power to dispose of him. Three Inventors will be nothing against this new foe.”

Chapter 27: You’re LateEdit

“If you came in on a rescue mission, I’m so to say that you’ve failed terribly. Not a single Stromling left for your vile ‘one-sting-then-useless’ insectoids.” The Assembly Inventors stared at Silas Penumbra, who was leaning comfortable on his Doomslicer upon a pile of Spiderling bricks. Smoke was wafting from Panos Barong’s arachnid leg blasters. The Assembly Faction was lead by the eccentric Doctor Albert Overbuild, one of the most intelligent beings in the Universe (And definitely the best… and most imaginative… builder). Inventors specialized in creating new, well, inventions to help them on both architectural and warmongering tasks. And favorite offensive attack? Bees. Swarms and swarms of the buzzing, honey-making insects. The lead inventor swallowed hard, shaking his head in disbelief. “At least we tried, Mr. Always-stuffed-in-a-Book.” “Do, don’t try. You’ll end up getting yourself killed if you do nothing but attempt without thinking of succeeding.” Silas barked, then, as an afterthought, added, “And books smell good.” The Inventor gave up. “We should get out of here before the fire reaches the control room. I’d rather not explode, if you take my meaning. At least not at this age.” Silas snickered again. “Still thinking with numbers, are you? Well you can stand here and count the time till detonation.” Panos stepped up before the Assembly Minifigure could raise a goggle-covered eyebrow. “We must stop the fire, or at least activate the security shields on the control room. If this place blows, more than just wreckage is going to go flying about. My tireless work included.” The lead Inventor shook his head in disbelief. “Come on. Even we can give up on work that won’t survive! Let’s get out of here!” “Duke Exeter won’t be happy.” Panos snarled, even managing to get Silas Penumbra’s attention and the mention of the Sentinel Faction Leader. When he was sure everyone was looking at him, Panos continued. “As Arms Director, he put me in charge of a top secret project- a war machine with firepower that will rival even that of Brick Fury.” The mention of a droid more powerful that the famous Brick Fury, a malevolent and brick-thirsty cyborg who wanted nothing but complete revenge over the Maelstrom for incapacitating him, worried everyone in the room- even Panos himself. “His inner frame was designed by Doctor Overbuild himself, the weaponry designed by Duke Exeter. I made the armor.” Panos continued. “And I would hate for another of my indestructible toys to be used for bad.”

The Tyrant of Avant Gardens found the war machine before the small group of Nexus Force warriors. The thing was magnificent- far greater a work of art than what Lord Vladek had explained for step two of the conquest of the Gardens. It rose at least three times the height of an average Minifigure, and four times as wide. A beautifully crafted, rectangular head sat on a huge, bulking but obviously light weighted body, two lightless eyes staring into nothingness. On each shoulder was a small rocket launcher, each miniscule battery capable of firing four deadly missiles. And strapped to its back was a massive, two handed, double barreled blaster, slung right over a pack that altered the gravitational field around the wearer, allowing the power of flight and incredible strength. Right above the gun was a large, meat cleaver-like blade, glimmering malevolently in the dull gloom. Bob grinned beneath his shadowy cowl, Maelstrom energy crackling in his palms. Pulsating dark power swirled around the robot, creating a whirling bubble of evil. The Maelstrom soon faded away, rising into the air as wisps of violet smoke. The droid opened its lamp-like eyes. They were a dark, swirling purple in color.

Chapter 28: Unbreakable Black ToysEdit

Panos Barong froze as he saw the hooded Minifigure turn on the war machine. “And I thought me being smashed was to be delayed to another day.” He groaned, his mouth quivering in horror beneath his helmet. He was suddenly overcome by a tidal wave of raw anger, and roared in contempt at the man with the cowl. Bob turned just to be knocked back by a constant stream of at least six dozen laser bolts. He screamed in agony, bursting into pieces just as the massive robot took its first, precarious step forward. The Inventors and Silas cheered over their victory, but Panos knew that it was far from over. But even he was surprised by what happened next. Bob’s bricks seemed to float downwards in slow-motion, until, with a deepening, magnetic ‘clank!’, he rebuilt. “Plasticized nachos in avocado-less guacamole, this is bad.” He whispered under his breath. There was a flash of dark violet light, and a scimitar materialized in the hooded man’s left hand. He roared in distaste, vanishing in a puff of aphotic smoke and appearing next to one of the startled Assembly Inventors. A flick of the Maelstrom blade smashed the poor Minifigure, and, before anyone could make a move, the scimitar had been replaced by two purple, double barreled pistols. The second Inventor gave a shout of horror before bursting into scrap, leaving Panos Barong, Silas Penumbra, and the head Inventor to stand and gawk. Silas made the first move. He whipped out both his magnificently carved wands, twirling them once in his palms before sending two coinstantaneous jets of lightning at Bob. The hooded figure’s blasters were replaced by two deadly scimitars in a flash of violet, and he easily parried the blows before vanishing again. But Silas Penumbra was ready. He spun around, the tips of his wands glowing malevolently and slowly being coated by a glistening purple metal. By the time Bob appeared next to him, spinning his scimitars in a wild arc, Silas was holding what appeared to be two daggers with glimmering, transparent blades. The four weapons clashed, the ringing sound sending shivers down both opponents’ spines. Silas then expertly spun his ‘daggers’ to the side, causing them to point right at Bob’s chest while managing not to lose his out gloved hands in the process. The double-sided blades that tipped the wands instantly vanished, the magical twigs becoming themselves once again. The next thing Bob knew, he was pinned to a wall while three doves and a white rabbit bit and pecked at him. Silas looked down at his wands and shook his head in disbelief. “I hate it when it doesn’t shoot Maelstrom and sends out some random nonsense instead. At least it wasn’t jellybeans this time” As if on cue, some little, squishy, colored objects dropped to the floor from his wands. But the hooded Minifigure just waved a hand, sending a pulse of energy that instantly destroyed the three birds and the small, long-eared rodent. Maelstrom infected bricks began to ‘melt’ out of the ground, swirling around him in slow motion. There was another metallic clank, and Silas was facing a massive, winged lizard. A Maelstrom Dragon. Silas put back his wands, unslinging his Doomslicer from his shoulder. He whispered something under his breath, and the blades on the scythe suddenly seemed to glow a little brighter. Violet smoke wafted from the eye-holes in the Valiant Sorcerer’s mask. But the dragon ignored him. It simply sent a fireball hurtling towards the ceiling from its maw, burning a hole through to the next story. The dragon then flew upwards, gauging its way through marble, plaster, and bricks. Silas closed his eyes beneath his mask, concentrating on a summoning charm. Soon, purple smoke vented from his hands, solidifying into the shape of a beautifully carved, black broomstick with flaming violet bristles at the end. A scream from behind dispelled all thought of following the dragon. The Sorcerer spun around to see the massive, hulking robot smash the head Inventor with its cleaver-like blade. There was a swarm of bees futilely stinging at its metallic, box shaped head. Panos Barong tossed a flash-bang to the ground, and bright white smoke made a virtually impenetrable wall between the two remaining Paradox figures and the brick-thirsty android. “We can’t win this battle.” “What do you suggest?” Silas growled in his usual, slick tone. “Run, I suppose.” “You suppose?” Dozens of explosive projectiles diminished the wall next to Panos to dust. “Yes, run.”

Chapter 29: Run I Tell You, Run!Edit

Silas Penumbra and Panos Barong ran for their lives. The two Paradox Minifigures rushed through corridors, leaping through walls of fire and dodging massive chunks of metal as the Research Facility slowly began to crumble. “What is that thing!?” Silas roared, cartwheeling over a shelf that had once held all manner of potions, but was now strangely surrounded by tusked squids with polka dots and butterfly wings. “It’s the Prototype SNTL Mark V Warmaster Unit! I can’t believe that hooded Stromling turned it against us! We’re dead!” Penumbra grimaced. The SNTL (Which stood for ‘Sentinel’) Mark V production of robotic troops had been a great success in the field, reducing many of the Maelstrom hoards on the Stromling infested expanses of Crux Prime to dust. The Mark V Warmaster had probably been programmed as a leader for the deadly mechanical squads. A jagged cube of solid rock dislodged itself from the ceiling, taking a glittering chandelier down with it. Silas kicked Panos to the floor before leaping into the smoky air, whipping his Doomslicer from its place. The shimmering blades on the malevolent scythe tore through the stone, smashing it into dozens of deadly shards that embedded their tips deep within what was left of the walls and floor. Panos leaped out of the way of a natural shrapnel tumbling back to the ground when he was halfway through his leap. “Whoa! You could have killed me!” The Valiant Sorcerer didn’t answer. He just re-slung his Doomslicer and continued on his way.

The SNTL Mark V Warmaster didn’t follow the two runaway Nexus Force Minifigures. Its orders had been straight and the consequences for not completing the mission were grave. It clunked along, its heavy, two-handed gun resting easily in its metallic grasp. The Warmaster soon arrived at the next wing of the Paradox Research Facility, escaping the billowing smog that distorted its vision and the flickering heat from the fires that would confuse any missiles the thing sent at a foe. Alarms were blaring, and Paradox Scientists were running about, saving what they could before the flames caught up to them and their work. The first one to notice the robot was a first rank Space Marauder, a member of the main shock-troopers of the Paradox. He leaped back, pulling out a small, black gun that largely resembled a miniature bullhorn, and frantically attempted to switch on the communicator on his arm. He was smashed before he could alert his doomed Faction companions.

The Prototype SNTL Mark V Warmaster soon arrived at its destination. The Teleportation Room. Several Scientists were bustling around, grabbing machines, potions, and blueprints to various inventions. Multiple men in black and red hazmat suits were shooting at the flames with fire extinguishers, and many others were keeping several horrid malfunctions caused by two wrong potions hitting the ground and mixing at bay. The Warmaster raised its gun and fired, smashing dozens of the rushing Paradox workers before anyone knew what was happening. An entire new set of blaring signals joined in on the fire alarms. But the Warmaster didn’t stop. He barreled through the screaming figs, smashing many and tearing multiple volatile machines apart. Explosions flared all across the room, smashing many more unfortunate scientists. Then, all of a sudden, six third rank Space Marauders appeared from various teleporters, weapons drawn. They were the main security regiment of the Facility. In unison, the Paradox defenders raised their left hands, each of which were holding a rocket launcher set with two Maelstrom-powered missiles. A dozen explosive projectiles whizzed towards the Warmaster, slamming into its armor with enough force to knock it back. But not even a dent appeared on the robots sleek black body, which was now writhing with violet energy. The Warmaster greeted the Marauders with missiles of its own, two of the projectiles whizzing off towards the small specks of fire that had come into the room. The rest, however, hit their marks, smashing five of the surprised guards and wounding the last. The remaining Space Marauder groaned, pulling himself towards the Control Room Teleportation Terminal with his one good arm. He pulled of the arm that had been hit, inspected it, then put it back on, seeing that he couldn’t heal the burns at the moment. He groaned, coughing inside his helmet and trying to keep the pain at bay. He turned to his back, panting in agony, and pulled a Notion Potion (An elixir made from pure Imagination, often used as a healing-aid), removing his helmet and pulling the cork off with his mouth. He spat the cork out just as a hulking shadow loomed over him.

Chapter 30: CountdownEdit

The SNTL Mark V Warmaster might have grinned if its head wasn’t a block of shadowy iron. It had entered the Control Center, leaving no survivors in its trail. Anyone who hadn’t come across it would be smashed soon enough. A glowing scarlet beam of light suddenly shot from the droids left eye, scanning the multiple panels and computers. The Warmaster walked across the room, pulling its blaster from its back as it continued to scan the machinery in the tower room. There was a small beep, and the Warmaster triumphantly raised its blaster. It fired at the control panel it had detected and activated its rocket pack, shooting out of the shattered window of the tower and spiraling into the cloudless sky, leaving a trail of violet smog that put a horrid scar right through the milky complexion of space. A melancholy, artificial female voice echoed through every speaker that hadn’t been harmed by the fire. The countdown till the detonation of the Paradox Research Facility had begun.

Sweat poured freely down Panos Barong’s helmeted head, the salty liquid failing to dribble out of his helm (Which was specifically designed to allow one to breathe at the bottom of an ocean or in the middle of the starlit expanses of space). He swore under his breath, the little pond of sweat that had now completely submerged his neck sloshing up and down in his frantic run. Panos swore once again when he slammed into Silas, who was standing stock still in the middle of the highly volatile pathway. “Do you mind!?” The Arms Director roared, forgetting his normal apprehension of the shadowy warlock in the dire situation. “I’d rather not be buried without a proper burial!” Silas put up a gloved hand, and then Panos heard it as well. A monotonous feminine voice that sounded like it had been made on a computer: “The Paradox Research Facility will detonate in one minute. Countdown procedures: Initiated.” The blood was drained from Panos’ face, and his right eye twitched in terror. “Nice robot to you made there, Panos.” Silas growled, muttering a few spells and waving his now violet smoking hands. “It’s not my fault that all my inventions have gone against me!” The Arms Director groaned, his chalky seriousness being wiped off the blackboard and replaced by the menacing sight of algebra almost instantaneously. He blanched even more, if that was possible. “54, 53, 52, 51.” “Well, if you’re done with your idle moaning, I think it’s time to run. After all, you want a proper burial, do you not?” “48, 47, 46, 45.” Panos fell to his knees in defeat. “We can’t possibly get out in time!” He hollered in painful resignation. Tears welled up in his twitching eyes, but he hurriedly slammed his head into the wall, reminding himself of the false truth that men didn’t cry. The tears added to the miniscule pond of sweat anyways, and he turned his head shyly from Silas, even though he knew his helmet was covering everything. “39, 38, 37, 36.”, the voice continued. “Right. Give yourself up to the gallows, I don’t mind. But I’d rather have the words ‘R.I.P.’ over my skull than then tons of flaming concrete, thank you very much!” Silas said in what could have resembled a jovial tone if you ignored his cold, hard, universe-hating accent. The Sorcerer ran off, his agility obviously increased by the spells he had cast, leaving Panos to contemplate his last thoughts. His last thoughts were, of course, the fact that he might as well get to his feet and run after his colleague.

The Warmaster had forgotten a very important fact. The half-obliterated room still had a Minifigure in it. Hanging right over the massive hole in the stony ground, stuck firmly to the smoldering, cracked ceiling, was a dimly orange glowing cocoon made of the webs of a Dark Spiderling. Cailan, one of the newer additions to the research of the Maelstrom of Avant Gardens, plunged a dagger through the thick walls of his prison.

Chapter 31: ExplosionEdit

Silas Penumbra and Panos Barong ran for their lives. The small puddle of sweat entrapped in the Arms Director’s helmet had grown high enough to partially cover his mouth, forcing him to constantly splutter out the spiced, hot liquid (Which added saliva to the swirling mass). Silas wasn’t doing much better either. A chunk of rubble had tumbled from the ceiling and hit his shoulder, and the entire arm was now prickling with pain, and he could hardly move his two fingers. But still, the two friends pressed on, wanting to at least get as far away from total obliteration and closer to less ‘wiped from the face of the Universe’ annihilation, attempting vainly to ignore the eerie, feminine voice that had become their lives. “27, 26, 25, 24.” “How far’s the closest exit!?” Silas yelled over the monotone and the rumbling of a collapsing facility. Panos raised his arm and clicked a button, and a shimmering blue hologram soon came to light, showing off an ever-changing map of the Facility and where everyone was. He saw that most people had been smashed, and only him and Silas were close to any way out. He felt terrible leaving all those frantic souls behind. “About two hundred meters!”, he cried back, but all that came out of his mouth was a bubbling gurgle, causing by the increasing level of sweat, tear, and saliva. “What!?” Silas roared back, unslinging his Doomslicer in a flash and slicing a jagged block of concrete into two smoldering halves. “Two hundred meters!”, the Arms Director yelled again, his spluttering still nigh incomprehensible. “How many meters?” The Sorcerer was beginning to lose hope, wondering what on earth was stopping Panos from speaking properly. But this time, Panos didn’t answer. On the part of the map indicating the Control Room, he saw a blinking red light. A Minifigure who was still alive.

Cailan cut through the last sticky, sizzling ribbons of web, the effort nearly smashing him then and there. His hair was singed and matted with the stringy substance, and he sported hundreds of burns all throughout his body. Dark Spiderling webs were powerful stuff, capable of capable of rendering the toughest and most heavily armored of Sentinel Knights to smoking heaps of complete and utter uselessness. Cailan was amazed he had survived the experience. The Paradox Scientist was now hanging by one of the scraggly strands, his hand searing in pain as the web burnt through his plastic skin. He winced in pain, but kept to the task before him. Cailan plunged his dagger back into its sheath, growling angrily and the ominous voice counting the time left till detonation. He pulled down the fly-like visor that served as his goggles and grimaced, swinging back and forth to attempt to leap to the cracked ring of stone that was left of the floor. When he was swinging enough, he spun out his dagger and sliced at the web holding his hand. Cailan was airborne for about three seconds before he slammed into the middle of the opposite wall, scraping down sluggishly until his groaning form found the ground. The Scientist grinned triumphantly, spitting out a tooth that had dislodged itself in his collision with the wall. He took a step forward, then leaped back in shock as the part of the ground he had just laid his foot on crumbled and plummeted to the floor below. He tentatively hopped over the crevasse, silently hoping that it wouldn’t give way as well. To his relief, it didn’t, and he continued forward until he got to the control panel. Cailan turned on a small holoterminal, frantically typing a number in a keyboard. About four beeps gnawed at Cailan’s slowly diminishing hope and sanity before someone picked up a transmitter.

“Cailan! You’re alive!” Panos Barong cried in joy, his voice being drowned by a stream of gurgling. “No time.”, Cailan said, hardly noticing the fact that Panos had spluttered instead of spoken. “You have to get out of here. The place if going to blow in-”, he winced, “Twelve seconds!” Panos gave up, resorting to pulling a small panel on his neck and yanking at a miniscule strap. Steam jetted from his helmet, along with a waterfall of saltwater, and Panos pulled off his help, gasping for air. “We can’t possibly get out in time!”, Panos yelled back, struggling to keep up his pace with Silas, who was too far away to hear the conversation. “Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven.” The shimmering picture of Cailan looked about frantically, and Panos saw his apprentices face grimly light up. “No…”, Panos gasped, already knowing what the young Scientist had in mind.

Cailan rushed about hastily, pulling levers and pressing buttons as fast as he could. Sweat beaded on his forehead, dribbling coolly to his goggles, where the droplets stopped and slugged around the sides. “Six, Five, Four.” He kicked a generator off the side of the floor, the mechanical rectangle spiraling to the next level and adding another explosion to the thousands of sulfuric ‘CRACK!’s. “Three.” Cailan screamed in anguish, frantically pressing buttons as fast as his hands allowed it. “Two.” The Scientist reached over a cubic mechanism and pulled open a small panel, revealing two wires; one red and one blue. His hand flashed to his belt, but his dagger was gone. He spun around to see it dangling from the torn cocoon hanging in the middle of the ceiling. “One.” Cailan yanked a shard of broken metal from the floor, leaping up and preforming an overcut that sliced the two wires in half.

Panos Barong and Silas Penumbra winced, hardly savoring the last moments of their lives. “So, I am to smash today.” Panos sighed, leaping over a shard of glass that had spun towards him. The world seemed to have gone into slow motion, everything crumbling around him distinctly falling but hardly moving at the same time. Silas slapped him on his bare cheek, bringing him back to his senses. “The Facility didn’t blow up.” Panos cried out in joy, grabbing his holocommunicator and yelling into the receiver. “Cailan! Cailan! Woohoo! You did it!”´ Cailan walked back into view, his smile hardly jovial. Panos suddenly realized what had happened. “You only managed to close it down temporarily, didn’t you.” Cailan nodded. “Run.” “No!”, Panos roared. “I shan’t leave you behind! I won’t!”, he suddenly brightened, grinning again. “There’s a small generator. You can open it and type in the code- PRDX12653- to shut down the detonation!” His apprentice didn’t return the grin. “I pushed it over when I was trying to temporarily shut it down.” The Arms Director gawked. He hardly noticed the tears welling up in his eyes, completely ignoring the whole ‘Men don’t cry’ side of things. “No…” “Run!”, Cailan pressed, pulling his goggles away from his face. “I won’t leave you behi-” “I said RUN!” Cailan roared, and Silas, seeing that he could do nothing to save Cailan, grabbed Panos’ shoulder and yanked him away. The holocommunicator fell to the floor and shattered into hundreds of tiny bricks. “NO!” Panos roared, knocking Silas away with a backhand swipe. The Sorcerer didn’t nurse his new bruise, instead flashing out one of his wands and sending a spell hurtling towards the Minifigure. The Arms Director staggered backwards, dazed, but still refused to give in. “Never!” If you looked at Panos’ face, you couldn’t have been able to fathom that he was, deep inside, a humorous and jovial man. He looked like a savage animal, his eyes glazed over with overwhelming madness and hate, multiple burns and scars plastered to his constricted, teary face. Even his Mohawk looked downtrodden. Silas sent three more blasts at his companion with his wand, and Panos finally went unconscious. The Sorcerer then cast a levitation curse, lifting the Minifigure up and running away, turning only to nod gravely at the sizzling remains of the holotransmitter.

Cailan smiled as he saw the two Minifigures escape to the outside world. All the other Scientists had also taken advantage of the delay, making their way out the back exit of the Research Facility. Cailan sat down on a chair heavily as the last one got out. He thought back on his life. It had been rather uneventful, now that he thought of it. But it had promised so much more. Ah well, he thought, dreaming of the man he could have become. At least he knew that he had completed his one greatest wish: He had made the Universe a better place. He smiled again, tears welling up in his eyes. Not tears of anguish, however. Tears of joy.

Chapter 32: InfiltrationEdit

-The Nimbus System- -Nexus City- -Nexus Tower- -Top Floor-

The Third Rank Sentinel Samurai hopped off her rocket with nigh-unimaginable grace, flipping thrice in the air and landing on her feet. She was a very pretty girl, although you wouldn’t name her ‘Drop-Dead-Gorgeous’, so to speak. Just pretty, no special effects- as charming as an old movie, you might say. She had long, waving crimson hair that mixed into a dark brown, and her eyes were a bright green. The Samurai wore a large, black kabuto that fitted perfectly upon her waterfall of scarlet, and the glistening armor of the same color (But tinted with glowing light blue) that she wore seemed to be part of her body, following her every movement with perfect fluidity. The Samurai clicked her fingers, and the Startalon Rocket- a vehicle that was designed to look almost exactly like a massive, dark blue eagle with its wings spread wide- that she had arrived in suddenly burst into hundreds of bricks, all of them vanishing in a flash of sapphire. Minifigures, using their Imaginations, could store massive amounts of bricks, gear, food, and drink in a figment of their minds that they nicknamed ‘The Backpack’. They could also take whatever they wanted out of the imaginary rucksack at any time. Rockets were very often stored in Backpacks because of their large size but great usefulness. The Sentinel smiled, walking forward with the most fluid and graceful of motions, leaving the hovering Launchpad on the top floor of the magnificent structure known as Nexus Tower- Pride of the Nexus Force. Nexus Tower was the tallest building in the Universe, reaching simply thousands of miles high into space. The tower had ten thousand floors in total, each one as large (And often larger) than a mansion. But most importantly, the Tower was the site of the last Nexus of Pure Imagination. A power source reaching far above that the roof of Nexus Tower, the Imagination Nexus was the source of the power of the Minifigures: the mystical element known as Imagination. It allowed one to build whatever they could think of, only the farthest outskirts of the Bastions of Creativity being the limit. The top floor was the second highest point in Nexus Tower- the highest being the rooftop- and was the home of the Factions, the powers that made up the magnificent Nexus Force. There were four factions- The Assembly, led by the ingenious Doctor Albert “Atom” Overbuild. The Venture League, led by the fearless and rather notorious space pirate, Captain Hael Storm. The Paradox, the shadowy nation of secretive Minifigures who’s primary target was to study the Maelstrom, led by the mysterious ninja, Vanda Darkflame, and the Sentinels, led by the mighty Duke Exeter, a group of brave warriors who protected the weak at all costs. The Third Rank Samurai was of the Sentinels, and she had urgent news for her leader. “Naomi?”, the Samurai said in a soft, silky and compassionate voice that had, deep down, a subtle overpowering strength to it. She was standing in front of a holotable, which was situated before another far larger hologram-machine which was showing the massive emblem of the Nexus Force, surrounded by the four banners of the Factions. The holotable the Samurai was standing by suddenly switched on, and a fizzy, transparent blue figure appeared. It was a female wearing a pilot’s helmet and clothing that had the ‘Imagination’ emblem emblazoned on her chest. “Ah, Sentinel!”, the hologram, known as Nexus Naomi, said in an obviously artificial, monotonous voice. “How may I be of service? I could tell you the directions so that you can find your way anywhere in the tower, I can book a meeting for you, I can transport to different holoterminals on the way if you get lost anywhere, I can tell you exactly where all the water fountains are, I can give you the directions to the elevators, I can show you to the cantina- where you can get many exotic meals, because, lucky you, Heimlich Stewblaster finally agreed to cook for us one day and one day only (Today)- I can also-” The Samurai cut off the annoying hologram. “I need a meeting with Duke Exeter.” She said, then, as an afterthought, included, “Now.” “Business?” Nexus Naomi asked, re-fitting her holographic helm. “Confidential.” The Sentinel said simply. “Occupation?” “Third Rank Samurai.” “Name?” “Ginger.”

Chapter 33: DeceptionEdit

Duke Exeter watched the holographic armies of the Nexus Force marching through the desolate wastes of Crux Prime. They met almost no resistance, only about five thousand (Which was a very small number, compared to the close to a million that walked upon the world’s surface before) Stromlings were on the massive chunk of Planet Crux, which disturbed the Sentinel Leader more than the day he found out that the Paradox Research Facility had blown up, releasing a horrid, four legged arachnid that greatly resembled a beast from his worst nightmares. His mind flashed back to the day he, along with Doctor Overbuild, Hael Storm, and… Baron Typhonus had discovered the Imagination Nexus. That had been the most terrible day of his life, and, if it wasn’t for an accident that had occurred with the Doctor, he wouldn’t be standing as here now… He watched as Typhonus reached out a hand, dreaming up the one beast that would change the Universe forever. Duke Exeter shook his head, and the flashback left his tactical mind as quick as it had come. He looked grimly at the holographic map before him, absently stroking the simply embroidered scabbard at his waist. The sheath was not fancy at all- Duke Exeter didn’t believe in fancy. All it had to do was get the job done, not make Stromlings come up to you and ask for your signature (Bullet Mullet, Duke’s guard, often argued that if Stromlings came up for your autograph, you could dispose of them quick and easy, but Exeter was an honorable man. An unfair fight wasn’t going to be a fight). Suddenly, Bullet Mullet came rushing up the carpeted staircase to Duke’s study. “Sir!” Mullet cried, standing straight, tucking his finely polished spear beside his right armpit so that it rose over his shoulder in a perfect line and saluting. “There is someone to meet you, sir!” “Bring him in.” The leader of the Sentinels replied nonchalantly, removing his hand from his scabbard and saluting in return, without removing his eyes from the tactical board below him. Bullet turned around before stopping, his helmet moving so far at the sudden freeze that it now covered half his face. “It’s a she, sir.” He said, a little louder than he intended. Duke Exeter raised an eyebrow. “Well then, bring her in you hilt-headed godfather of a spectacled mole!”

Duke Exeter couldn’t believe his eyes. His visitor was Ginger, one of the best Samurais he had ever trained- she was so good, in fact, that she had been chosen to be the successor of Xeno Blueblade, the greatest Sentinel Samurai in the entire Universe, if anything bad ever happened to him. Exeter had feared her smashed, and he had regretted every day since he had sent her to the shadowy city of Umbara, in the heart of Vulgar Main, a chaotic and maddening world deep within the evil expanses of the Maelstrom. He had known the mission to be too dangerous for her and her brother, Turnip (Who, ironically, was one of the greatest Adventurers Hael Storm; leader of the Venture League, had ever trained), but had had no choice but to send them. Rumors had come to his ears that dark business was being concocted on the shadowy world. But now she was here, all was well, and finally he’d get answers. Ginger smiled, her perfect grin sending warmth down Exeter’s pained and weary spine. For some reason, she always made everyone around her happy without even trying. “Duke! Goodness, it’s so good to see you!” She laughed, and Exeter, overjoyed as he was, couldn’t help but notice something strange. He bounded up to her, saluting with a smile widening on his own usually grim visage. But then he saw it again. Ginger’s eyes didn’t have their usual dance, their fire. Their love for life. They belayed the wondrous grin in every way possible. They magnified through hundreds of looking glasses a pure, seething, almost mechanical hate for absolutely everything. Duke Exeter stopped in his tracks just as Ginger, in one fluid motion, whipped out her katana. She was no longer smiling.

Chapter 34: AssassinationEdit

A jumble of thoughts and emotions flashed passed Duke Exeter’s mind in a flurried shuffle of memories, fantasies, and logics. Only one thing was left in his brain as he heard the clanging on steel against steel: This was not Ginger. He looked down at his left hand and smiled as he noticed that he was lightly grasping his sword. Years of war had forced this skill unto the skilled, veteran fighter- and he wouldn’t have survived a day as the leader of the Sentinel’s without it. His hand gave a deft twist, knocking Ginger’s glowing katana out of the way before he came down hard with another, almost instantaneous and blindingly quick undercut. Followed by that came two more swings, each with enough power to unbalance his foe, but with enough precision and balance enough to make sure that not a droplet of his energy was sapped. The mighty Sentinel could fight for hours, and he intended to, for whatever could look like Ginger, whatever could fight like Ginger, whatever could speak like Ginger yet wasn’t Ginger obviously was a powerful foe. Blow against blow rained down on Ginger, but she kept on the charade, blocking the attacks as best she could. She could see that Exeter wasn’t giving his best- we was greatly angered, yet was curious enough to keep his wit about him and not smash her. Finally, the Faction Leader had enough. He gave a final, cascading strike that took all his power, knocking Ginger to the ground and sending her katana skidding away. She hurriedly tried to get up, but Duke Exeter gingerly laid the tip of his sword at her throat. He peered into her eyes and shuddered. This definitely wasn’t Ginger. “Who are you?” He snarled, putting just a little more pressure on his blade’s handle. Ginger smiled. “I thought you would know who I was by now! Wasn’t it you who had such great faith in me, wasn’t it you who gave me that sword?” She pointed over at the katana that lay silently on the ground. It was a beautiful weapon, far more elegant than any owned by any other Samurai. With everything from gold filigree to embroidered silk- it was a magnificent blade. Not much more beautiful than the Duke’s own sword, in fact. That slight hesitation proved fatal. The projectile hit Exeter in the shoulder, knocking him back in sudden pain and shock. He turned to see Bullet Mullet grinning at him, smoke wafting from his double barreled blaster. “But… Bullet!” Then he noticed it. Mullet had the same, dreamy glaze to his eyes- one that generated a hate for everything. Bullet Mullet wasn’t himself either. Duke Exeter winced, pointing his sword towards Bullet. The blade began glowing with bright blue energy, and a swirling beam of pure Imagination rocketed towards his newfound foe. The blast hit Mullet in the chest and he was sent spiraling into the opposite wall. Then it happened. Bullet Mullet fell to the ground, and then his armor began to fade away. His helmet slowly vanished, making way for a tall, heavily embroidered black and violet hat covered in beads and small chains. His eyes were hidden by what might have been a blindfold tied into multiple shadowy rings, and he sported a waving, bright purple cloak, along with an enchantingly stylish vest and button down jacket. But the most obvious thing was his skin: It was a dark, swirling blackish-violet in color, and you couldn’t see his mouth at all because of the writhing aura that snaked all about his body. You could see two faint pinpoints of crimson glow beneath his blindfold. A Stromling. One Duke Exeter had never encountered before. The blaster elongated into a long and gnarled metallic staff, inlaid with winding purple designs that greatly resembled a spider web, and the top of the staff sported a bundle of slightly glowing cloth, surrounded by two deer antlers that were each tipped with several pulsating crystals. In a flash of light, a small scepter topped with a shard of glass and bottomed by a wickedly curving dagger appeared in his free hand. Now Duke Exeter was one hundred percent sure of himself. Both Ginger and Bullet Mullet had somehow been abducted or smashed and replaced by some vile new minions of the Maelstrom. He would take it upon himself to make the Darkitect’s attempt a failure. But then a voice that sent chills down Exeter’s sturdy spine, send a ripple through his unwavering soul and tested his courage bounded up to him like a horse rider without a head. “How many Minifigures will the Sentinels protect when you are gone, I wonder?” Necrosis I, leader of the Anguish Faction, whispered into Duke Exeter’s ear.

Chapter 35: ApparitionEdit

Bullet Mullet’s eyes opened drearily, the Sentinel Guard escaping the last pockets of the unfathomable darkness that had shrouded him. He blinked, tentatively looking at his surroundings. He was in an extremely ornate, rectangular room that was covered with swirling golden paintings and mirrors. On the ceiling hung a small chandelier. Bullet was in one of the many elevators in Nexus Tower, bound and gagged and hanging from the ornate lamp. Suddenly, he remembered a man in a trench coat with slick black hair, a bandana covering his mouth, large, shimmering goggles, and a black fedora that sported a massive, violet feathered plume. The mysterious man had been emanating a strange purple aura, and you could slightly see his glowing crimson, pupil-less eyes beneath the goggles. Bullet remembered the metallic clinking of the man’s steel-soled boots, and the ominous scraping of the jagged spurs against the marble ground. And the chloroform… the horrid smell that instantly made his body go numb. He remembered his eyelids shutting with a sound like a gong falling down a mountainside. The man had been a Stromling, that much was certain. And he had somehow infiltrated Nexus Tower. Then he found another figure lurking at the back of his mind- another Stromling, dressed in lavish purple with a long staff that sported two deer antlers. The man had been blindfolded, and his hat rose to at least half his own height. The man had chuckled, then transformed into Bullet, looking exactly like him except for a maniacal glaze to his eyes. And behind him was a woman- one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, dressed fully in a marvelous suit of polished, third rank Samurai armor- someone who had been thought to be smashed. Then another thought entered his probing mind: He had been chloroformed, and he was Duke Exeter’s guard. The leader of the Sentinels was in trouble.

Duke Exeter painfully lifted himself from the ground, having been tossed away like a rag doll by a giant. He longed for his shield, encrusted with the magnificent emblem of the Sentinels- a great blue hawk- but he dared not lead his foes to his room. From there, they could find all his plans, everything he had ever done and everything he was planning to do. He set his jaw to a tight, stoic grimace, curling his gloved fingers around his beautiful sword. Necrosis I was on him immediately, leaping up to him in a single, mechanical stride and kicking him in the chest with such force that, when the Sentinel hit the opposite wall, cracks meandered across its metallic surface. Exeter gagged for air, falling to his knees and clutching his belly in a pain that he never knew he would feel. He had broken ribs, been gashed by swords, been shot at and been tossed off cliffs, but nothing could possibly wish to compare with a single kick from the droid’s black, clawed foot. The Duke grasped his blade’s intricate handle even tighter, not noticing his yellow skin slowly turn white under the pressure. The sword crackled with energy, and he pointed it at the robot. A beam of pure Imagination put it in its place: slammed against a wall, sending cracks meandering through its surface. Exeter sighed in relief, knowing that the battle was far from over but gratefully snatching at the time to suck more air back into his pained lungs. He turned around, spinning his sword in his hand experimentally, but had forgotten about the second attacker. A constant beam of multicolored light bolted from glass tip of the lavishly dressed man’s scepter, blinding Duke Exeter. The Sentinel screamed in agony, grabbing at his face as if his eyes had exploded into flame. He stumbled back, his deep-set survival instincts being the only reason he was able to block the arcing dagger that was below the Stromling’s scepter. The sound of steel against steel rung across the room, but Exeter proved the stronger, easily disarming the man without even knowing what he was doing. The Stromling cursed under its breath, sending a pulse of energy from its long, antlered staff. The Faction Leader absently parried it and charged forward. But he instantly halted when the Stromling made its next move. It slammed its gnarled, metal staff into the ground, sending ripples through not the ground, but the air. The Duke gawked when he saw what happened next. It was as if six, writhing, aphotic violet clouds had fallen from the sky and landed in the floor in a swirling mass of darkness. When the clouds cleared, the man was surrounded by six exact clones of himself.

Chapter 36: ContemplationEdit

Seven beams of scouring Maelstrom energy slammed into Duke Exeter’s sword, the force of the multiple blows knocking the magnificent weapon from his grasp and flinging him to the floor as if he was riding an unnaturally sentient rodeo bull. The bull then charged, its horns set for the inevitable and terrible end that would come to the man who fell off the mad beast. Duke Exeter dodged another blow before pouncing on one of the Stromling, kicking it in the face and sending it sprawling. He didn’t need a sword to do the dirty work- although he greatly preferred the advantage of a magical blade. The Stromling groaned, hopping to its feet, its tall and lavish hat slowly sliding off its head. The thing raised its staff, and the bundle of cloth between the two antlers burst into violet flames, the many crystals on the deer horns shimmering malevolently. The Stromling gave one last yelp before the Sentinel Faction Leader rapidly punched it in the chest thrice, tripped it, and then, before it could fall to the ground, lifted it up by its hatless head and tossed it at another clone unceremoniously. They didn’t smash; instead, both the clones burst into violet smoke, billowing to the ceiling before slowly fading from existence. Exeter had no time to rejoice at his two foe’s defeat, though. There were still five Stromlings left, and the robotic leader was quickly recovering. The Sentinel barrel rolled towards his next target, narrowly missing a bolt of sizzling purple lightning. Before he slammed into the Stromling, though, he abruptly stopped his roll, ending crouched on his boots before leaping over the confused things head. In midair, he performed a graceful roundhouse kick that reduced another enemy to wisps of billowing mist. The last four Stromlings stared at him in disbelief (If that was possible, with their ornate blindfolds), before slamming their staffs into the ground simultaneously. Four bundles of cloth burst into flame, and the crystals atop four pairs of antlers reverberated dangerously. There was an earsplitting ‘Bang!’ behind Duke Exeter, and he winced as he felt the heat of a bullet rocket past his cheek, leaving a light mark of trailing Imagination. One of the stylish Stromlings gave a shriek of unearthly defiance, as if all its plans for power and corruption had been extinguished in a single moment, before it fell apart. Duke Exeter raised an eyebrow when he saw its bricks clatter to the floor- it hadn’t exploded into smoke like the other three. The remaining clones looked at the original Stromling in shock before exploding in a puff of violet fog. Somehow, when the clone’s host was smashed, the rest would be defeated as well. Duke Exeter turned to face Bullet Mullet. He quickly dived for his sword, inspecting his guard’s eyes suspiciously. They looked normal to him. “Sir! Stromlings have infiltrated Nexus Tower, sir!” All Exeter’s joy for seeing his guard was flushed away by a large, concrete block of exasperation. “You don’t say.”, he growled in his thick accent (The species called ‘Humans’ from a distant world called ‘Earth’ would name the heavy accent as ‘English’, though Minifigure Scientists have decided not to trust extraterrestrials). Bullet winced, then, catching a small piece of dialogue before the nasty chloroform from his memories came in, he continued. “The Stromling I- err, we just smashed was called an Illusionist, from-”, Mullet grimaced before finishing his sentence, “From a Faction called the Anguish.” Duke Exeter was taken aback. “A Faction?” “The Darkitect apparently has had four Factions of his own ever since we started the Nexus Force. They have been a secret until now.” Exeter gawked at the news. “Maelstrom Factions… unknown to us for over fifty years…” Bullet Mullet opened his mouth to tell his leader about the creepy man in the trench coat and fedora before a bolt of Maelstrom energy slammed into his hip, sending him spiraling to the ground in an explosion that even pushed Exeter a little backwards. Necrosis I was back on his mechanical feet, and his hands had somehow been replaced by what looked like two large gun barrels. Duke Exeter stared at his fallen friend, his first thought one of relief to see that Bullet was still intact. He came back to his senses when the melancholy clinking of metal feet against marble floor crept to his ears.

Chapter 37: FluctuationEdit

Duke Exeter barely had time to deflect the mighty blow that came in next. Two sizzling projectiles of pure corruption slammed into the Sentinel’s blade, knocking him a little back, again leaving Exeter with only a split second to parry the next couple of attacks. Necrosis 1, knowing that it could easily outdo its enemy, decided to have a little sport. What seemed to be Imagination swirled around the droids arms, disassembling the two cannons on its hands and replacing them with two glimmering scimitars that crackled with Maelstrom energy. Duke Exeter gawked in disbelief, lifting his unarmed hand to rub his eyes. A Stromling, a minion of the Darkitect, a spawn of corruption, a slaving soul to the aphotic expanses of the Maelstrom could use Imagination. It wasn’t possible. Duke Exeter and Necrosis 1 weaved about, as if each of them were spinning their very own web of deceptive strikes and counterstrikes. Exeter soon found that his technique easily outdid the clunking mass of black metal- it was the droids unnatural strength that kept him on the defensive. Necrosis 1 spun in a wide arc, kicking the Duke in the sternum before leaping into the air, rocketing at least half a dozen meters into the air before turning to fall like a sentient asteroid upon its opponent- an asteroid tipped with two crackling blades. Duke Exeter shouldered the splitting pain from his mind, attempting to push out the obvious fact that he had broken a few ribs. He leaped out of the way just as Necrosis 1 slammed into the ground, sending the floor rippling in a metallic wave before it exploded with the amount of corruptive energy that had been transferred into it. The Sentinel Faction Leader seized his opportunity, taking a leap of faith and landing on the robot’s glistening back. Exeter coughed, shaking his head at his sudden intake of shoe polish before slamming his sword into the droid. Necrosis 1 seemed not to notice, but was enraged nonetheless. It gave a final tug, tearing its bladed arms from the smoldering floor and preforming a cartwheel. One of its knees took Exeter in the temple, and the world instantly blurred as he slowly dipped into the shadowy depths of unconsciousness. But he was a warrior, a veteran of a thousand battles, and he wouldn’t give up so easily. However, in his current discombobulated state, he was vulnerable, and before he could hit the ground as he was tossed off the robot’s back, he felt the cold sensation that you only feel when a hand made of metal clamps around your throat. The world was swirling around in a jumble that mostly comprised of Exeter’s sword- which was embedded in the ground in front of him- and a single, glowing red photoreceptor. The next thing the leader of the Sentinels knew was the ‘Clang!’ and the involuntary shudder of his body as he was tossed unceremoniously and far too powerfully to the wall. Exeter gagged for air, but knew his peril as soon as he saw the flash of Imagination again. His vision cleared for a split second, revealing that Necrosis 1 had once again switched to his blaster-like hands. A dozen flaming violet projectiles teasingly created a dot-to-dot silhouette around the Duke before he could even move. Duke Exeter barely dodged the next round of projectiles, ones that, this time, weren’t shot for fun. A sizzling bullet took him in the shoulder, doing even more damage to it. He cried out in pain, dropping to his knees in a failed attempt to a barrel roll. He fell flat on his face, dipping even deeper into the inevitable darkness, not even caring for the distant clinking of metal feet. Well, distant in his current state of mind. Necrosis 1 was actually only meters away, and was closing in quickly. Duke Exeter was brought back to his senses when he heard the ‘Bang!’ of a gun, and the monotonous, mechanical yelp that could only be emitted from a robot. He looked up blearily to see smoke drifting from the droids rump. “What in the Unive-”, he began, and then saw what had happened. Bullet Mullet was standing, his jaw set tight and smoke dancing from his blaster’s barrel. He took a nasty kick to the chest, sending him sprawling. But that was just enough time for Duke Exeter to gather himself. He pounced forward, yanking his sword from the ground and charged at the baffled Necrosis 1. He leaped onto the dumbfounded droid, knocking it back and literally lifting it several feet from the ground before driving his blade into its single photoreceptor.

Chapter 38: The Garden HeightsEdit

-Avant Gardens- -Solid Catarrh- -Mount Inizio- -Frostbit Fjörd-

Flakes of snow flitted to the ground, adding to the desolate and rocky landscape as many more frozen droplets spiraling down from the cloudless skies of Avant Gardens. The snowflakes, no two of the majestic things being the same, would have been a beautiful sight for anything except a mindless robot with nothing to go along with but its brick-thirsty programming. The Sentinel Warmaster trudged along, leaving steaming footprints between its wide gaits. Its shimmering crimson photoreceptors clicked and beeped as the hulking robot took in its surroundings, weighing every detail of the landmarks that had been set into its hard-drive by Bob. The bare and traitorous mountain range known as Solid Catarrh was not a welcoming place, especially when one penetrated deep enough into its freezing wastes to come across the tallest and most deadly mountain recorded in the known Universe. Mount Inizio was one of the least homely places ever, rivaling the stagnant chill and creeping tension of certain death than even the desolate expanses of Crux Prime in winter. The Mark V Warmaster had arrived at the mountain range shortly after leaving the Paradox Research Facility to explode, rocketing high into the sky before making a beeline for the treacherous snows of Solid Catarrh, the location for its next task. It pulled a highly powerful explosive from its waist, fingering it with the strength that only a robot would dare use whilst holding a bomb capable if incinerating everything in a multiple meter radius. The Warmaster seemed to snicker- if that was possible- before continuing its monotonous lumbering through the deceptive snows.

Dash Abscond desperately leaped from his jet’s cockpit, tripping on the windshield and falling head over heels to the ground. The veteran pilot shook his head in annoyance, remembering the purpose of his arrival. He tightly set his jaw in grim determination, pushing his flying goggles from his face and charging forward, not bothering to remove his helmet or even loosen the tight white scarf that was tightly tied around his neck. Epsilon Starcracker needed him.

The Mark V Sentinel Warmaster finally came up on its destination. On the very peak of Mount Inizio, apparently built into the stone, was a massive fortress. Half of it arched over a viciously flowing river, foam leaping about as the rapids cascaded over rocks with so much power that, instead of swerving around the large stones, the water completely dislodged them. Frostbit Fjörd, home of the Prime Inizio River (For there were hundreds of less prominent streams flowing from various springs on the mountain), and the site of the magnificent castle-like structure known as ‘Sector X’. Sector X was the most heavily fortified Nexus Force base on Avant Gardens- the building which housed the Bombing Squads. The Warmaster scanned the hundreds of helipads and slabs of jutting rock for jets and planes to land, hardly noting the massive turrets that lined the fortresses’ many tall… err… turrets or the large cannons and armed guards that dotted the walls and frozen, rocky grounds. It switched on its rocket boosters and flew into the air, unnoticed by anyone or anything inside or outside the building. It continued fingering the bomb.

==Chapter 39: Shudder

Dash Abscond slammed his fist into the table, causing more than just one drink’s contents to ripple. “Epsilon Starcracker is in trouble! For all I know, he could already be smashed! I will not let his sacrifice be in vain.” Another Minifigure dressed very similarly to Dash with a very bushy mustache that covered his mouth retorted. “But you said bloody Stromling was immortal! How are we supposed to defeat something that simply cannot die?” Several other pilots nodded their agreement with the man with the thick stache, a few even lifting their drinks in regard for the man. “Think of the two fliers who were smashed by the hooded monster!” Dash pressed, pulling at his scarf to relieve himself of some of the heat. Coming from the shadowy cold of the outside world and entering the hazy warmth of headquarters wasn’t improving his mood. He probably already had a fever. The Minifigure with the bushy mustache shook his head, rubbing his soot-blackened nose (If Minifigs had noses, that is…). “Once again, the darn thing can’t be smashed. I’m not charging head first into a foe that I know won’t suffer from my blows!” This time, the surrounding pilots gave a hearty cheer, taking swigs of their drinks and tossing playing cards into the air. “But-” Dash pleaded, trying to find a way to convince his companions. If worse came to worse, he’d have to contact Beck Strongheart- a leader that didn’t encourage running away, even if someone ordered you to do so. The other man dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand, pushing a glass to him with his free arm. “Have a drink.” Abscond balked at the Minifigure “Skipper! How can you just leave people behind, dismissing them with a mere drink!?” The Skipper grinned beneath his bush. “I can’t. I just do things casually.” “Starcracker might still be ali-!” Dash began, but he was cut off by an earsplitting explosion and a rumble as the entire fortress shook. He looked down to his belly in disbelief, then look inquiringly to the Skipper. “If only that was your stomach, dear Dash. If only it was.” The Skipper chuckled, pulling a rifle from behind his chair.

The Warmaster barreled through the massive hole in the stone wall, knocking three shocked pilots away with a single swipe of its arm. It drew its massive, double barreled blaster and commenced the next stage of its attack. It had gone from silent infiltration and the delicate task of bomb planting to downright mayhem and havoc. Shadowy violet projectiles whizzed through the air, hitting multiple jets and planes and causing the vehicles to explode into hundreds of flaming fragments. Yelping engineers screeched in terror, running to and fro and frantically dialing wrong numbers in their walkie-talkies. Many more vehicles were destroyed before everyone noticed what was happening: The robot was destroying their jets and planes, making escape almost impossible. Making bombing almost impossible. This was only the beginning of something much larger. A storm was coming.

Chapter 40: Hair Oil and StromlingsEdit

The Skipper loaded his shotgun and fired at the partially frozen stone ceiling for good measure, laughing in glee as little shards of ice shattered overhead, their glinting, dagger-like tips being reduces to chilled droplets before they hit the ground. All the other pilots who had been at the meeting were bouncing around in similar excitement, shooting with pistols and rifles at random intervals and telling tall tales of their best airborne maneuvers. Dash Abscond wasn’t so anxious to meet whatever had set off the explosives. A chill ran down his spine, both mentally and physically (For a droplet from the ceiling had dribbled through his scarf and down his leather jacket) as he thought back on the immortal Stromling, fantasizing the best way to ensure that his horrible and inevitable end came as abruptly and quickly as possible. He nervously fingered his newly oiled, glistening black pistol, holding its leather handle so tightly that his yellow knuckles went white. The gun could only hold six bullets- bullets that wouldn’t harm the hooded monster in the slightest. He tucked the weapon back to his waist, removing his helmet and tucking it under his left arm as he pulled a small tube of hair-oil from his back pocket with his right. If he was running to his certain death, he might as well look proper (Well, proper in a ‘tuff’ pilot’s eyes. Hair-oil wasn’t really considered something that made you look good to every other Minifigure who wasn’t some sort of slang-loving gangster). He carefully applied some of the light brownish guck to one of his plastic finger, capped and replaced the tube, and smothered his hair in the sweat-smelling, half solid, half liquid matter (At least he’d call it matter. Scientifically, matter DID mean ‘stuff’… in a matter of speaking). The he heard the screaming in Hanger 69- the screaming of Minifigures. Along with the explosions of planes and jets. “Everyone!” Dash cried desperately, “The thing’s too strong! We’ll all be smashed! We have to gather everyone to escape from the ninety nine hangers than remain in Nexus Force control.” The Skipper gave him a poisonous glare. “So be it. I care not if I smash- but I shan’t let my own men, my partners, my friends be smashed like this. I will put an end to their misery- and keep them very much intact.” And with that, he stormed away. The jovial attitude of all the other pilots had been all but flushed down the necessary, the lingering stench of their glee going down in the swirling waters that would soon lead them to the sewers. “Don’t let them be smashed in vain!” Dash pleaded, but the Skipper would hear none of it. The determined man just shot the ceiling again before charging down the hall, to the gate to Hanger 69. All the other pilots shook their heads in disbelief, sneering at Dash’s cowardice before running after their leader. Leaving Dash to stand there, alone, to contemplate his words. He slapped some more hair-oil on his head, this time completely missing and hitting himself on the face.

The Mark V Sentinel Warmaster sliced a jet in half with its cleaver, its dark, hulking form charging through flames and scattered bricks. Unable to stop its momentum, the massive droid stumbled, attempted to turn on its heel, but slipped, landing with a heavy clunk to its back. It was up in seconds, however, its rocket-pack boosting it back to its feet before turning off. Then it heard the unmistakable hissing of steam as a pressurized door swung open. The Warmaster slung its blade back into place, swinging its massive, double barreled blaster into place as easily as a Minifigure sling a backpack off his or her back. The charging pilots, led by the Skipper, didn’t know their peril until it was too late.

Dash Abscond rushed down the many stone steps in Sector X, in his urgency completely forgetting about the elevators. His pure white scarf (Now a little darker in tone because of the many droplets of melted water that had fallen to it) flapped vigorously behind him, as if there was a heavy gale sweeping towards him. Run like the wind, he thought desperately, cold sweat peppering his forehead. The fact that there was no wind in the heavily secured fortress didn’t improve his mood. Soon he arrived at the large, metal gate to Hanger 67 (He had accidentally past Hangar 68 in his haste), but even then, he didn’t stop for a breath. He rushed towards the gate adrenaline pumping through his plasticized veins, slammed face-first into the door three times, spun around like a top once, and made his eye go through the identity scanner one time too many (Which obviously caused the gate to close again). After bumping into the gate a few more times, spinning around like a top one more time, and scanning his eye (This time the correct amount of times), it finally opened. Revealing a horrible sight. Stromlings had somehow taken over the Hanger. “Oh corkscrews.” Dash muttered, wiping some of the oil on his face away with his jacket’s sleeve and unsuccessfully attempting to put it into his hair (Ending in an oil soaked sleeve and a long abandoned rats nest). He spat to the ground, licked his lips, spat again as he noticed that he had tongued some of the oil that remained on his grim visage, then pulled out his pistol. “This bottle just refuses to open.” He finished, moving to lick his lips again but intelligently stopping himself.

The Skipper yipped in glee, firing at the hulking robot with pinpoint precision, relishing in the savage recoil of the weapon and the ringing sound of bullets clanging off the droid’s body. Wait- clanging off? No metal could be hit by an Imagination fueled bullet without even being scorched! Apparently Dash had forgotten about a massive killer mech. The Mark V Sentinel Warmaster laughed (If that was possible) before raising its huge weapon, firing a single, crackling violet projectile. “Duck!” The Skipper roared, but it was too late. He didn’t even hear his men scream as three Minifigures shattered behind him. The remaining pilots leaped back in terror, yelping as the electrical flames licked at their rumps. Most of them dropped their weapons, and the Skipper knew that he had led his men, his friends, to their doom. A whole new batch of adrenaline pumped through him in the tiny instant that he envisioned watching his pilots smash, and he gave an inhuman, guttural roar before shooting at the robot several more times in rapid succession. Then, as if remembered something, he pulled out a dog-whistle. If he was going to smash, he wanted to smash beside his pet. He blew the mechanism, hurriedly tucking it back to his belt and firing again once he was done. The lumbering mech switched on its pack, and it rocketed into the air, almost hitting the high ceiling of Hangar 69 before spiraling downwards like a big, black meteor. It slammed into the ground next to several more frantic pilots, knocking them away like rag dolls and causing thick cracks to etch themselves through the solid rock floor. Then it turned, its photoreceptors giving a small ‘beep’ as it noticed the last jet in the hangar through the wavering heat of the flames. The Skipper screeched in anger as the Warmaster rushed past him, kicking him out of the way before giving a leap and landing right beside the jet. It had been picked up and hurled towards three more pilots, the resulting explosion smashing them where they stood. The Skipper just stared as his world collapsed under his. A small chunk of rock hurtled to the ground from the ceiling, splintering into shards of deadly stone right next to him. He didn’t even notice as one dagger-like fragment whipped past his head, severing his goggle’s straps and immediately felling them. All he wanted to do was smash the droid. Then he heard a low, lazy barking from a little while away. He spun around to see his pet- all the pilot’s pet- the ten year old obese and overly lazy dog they called Meringue (The hound usually barked while people called up the Air Squads to do some bombing, often disturbing the clients). The dog, after many seconds of tired speculations of its surroundings, went wide eyed, its lenses desperately pushing at the flabby and stringy fur that usually prevented it from seeing anything. If fell to its belly, lay down, and then propped both is chubby, claw-less paws on its head and whined. The Skipper smiled. He loved that dog. His grin quickly turned into a grimace, however, when the Warmaster charged towards him. He shot at the robot one last time with his shotgun before diving to the ground, narrowly missing and low sweep of the cleaver-like blade. When he got back to his feet, he saw that his gun had been sliced in half. “Great.” The Skipper groaned, ducking under the massive robot’s legs again and rushing towards the massive, metallic gate that opened into the freezing outside world of Solid Catarrh, allowing flying vehicles to rocket off on their business. He pinned his back against the gate and stuck his chin out on defiance, his bushy mustache raising so high from his fright that his thick hairs almost completely covered his eyes. The Warmaster, seeking to further trap the lone pilot, dropped its cleaver to the ground and shot on the far side of the gate. The Skipper leaped forward just as the gate snapped open, venting steam into the night sky. Snow drifted into the massive room, and the Minifigure’s sweat already began to condensate. The mech’s photoreceptor’s seemed to gleam a little brighter crimson as it raised its blaster for the final blow. The Skipper closed his eyes, a grim smile set firmly unto his visage. A bang resounded throughout the entire facility. The Skipper opened his eyes, his smile receding into a puzzled gawk before rising into an ear-to-ear grin. The Warmaster had been hurtled to the far end of the room, and smoke was wafting from its now severely dented chest. It had obviously not been deleted, but delayed. The Skipper whistled to Meringue to come to him before he turned to face a sleek black biplane painted with fire, and grinned even more when he saw who was piloting it. “Hop on!” Dash Abscond cried, “Before that bucket of razor-sharp bolts comes ‘round!”

Chapter 41: Ominous SignsEdit

About the twentieth melancholy clang echoed through the rocky caves of the former Paradox Mine, the sanity-gnawing clinking rebounding off the hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites like some sort of skin-crawling sonar. Bob yanked his shimmering, violet scimitar from the hard stone terra firma once again, chuckling under his stale breath as he tossed it unceremoniously to the ground again, sending another reverberating noise ricocheting to and fro about the aphotic caverns. His hood wasn’t over his head, and his darkly smoking cloak curled slightly to the side, almost like a shadowy, cloth cowlick as he leaned easily upon the webbed remains of a battered and rusted launchpad. The rocket-pad held up a half-smashed Darkwarp Paradox rocket, held together only by multiple iron-like cords of Maelstrom crackling Spiderling webs. Bob was overlooking a massive canyon, one that dipped straight down for almost a kilometer before ending in a swirling mass of nothing but complete and utter Maelstrom. High above him, among the maze of hulking, jagged stalactites, dozens of sizzling violet cocoons could be seen, all surrounded by literally hundreds of giant spiders. The huge, four legged and six eyed arachnid mutants were some of the first of the Darkitect’s spawn, children of a myth said to have been created when the Imagination Nexus was first transformed into the Maelstrom by Baron Typhonus. The creature had been the biggest spider of them all, at least eight meters in height- the symbol of corruption. The Spider Boss. Bob turned his gaze from the interminably deep canyon to the other side of the gigantic ridge, where a tall building, nothing but a black silhouette from this far, rose high into the ceiling. Even from this far away, Bob could see the thousands of pairs of glistening, scarlet Dark Spiderling eyes staring back at him from the building. Then he heard it, a plastic-curdling shriek that made every web quiver, made a few smaller stalactites dislodge themselves from the ceiling, cause even the swirling Maelstrom essence far below billow and constrict. Bob smiled. “Ironic that she made her home on the one place dedicated to taking her down.”. He chuckled once again, yanking his scimitar from the ground again. The ensuing clang couldn’t be heard over the horrible roar that still echoed through the maze-like caves of the Maelstrom Mine.

Melody Foxtrot yawned, her eyes fluttered open and closed lightly as she weakly stretched, adjusting her sitting position so that the boulder might be a little more comfortable. She just got another sharp ridge in the rock painfully into her plasticized rump. The Sentinel cursed under her breath, realigning her Gluteus Maximus once again (And, once again, failing). “To the Maelstrom with these good-for-nothing scouting missions.” She snarled absently, a rather subconscious, dreamlike state. She imagined flying a Maelstrom Piglet and whimpered, then quickly got a hold of herself as the swine morphed into a Stromling. She made a flailing motion with her hands, as if to swipe the Maelstrom creature away, before something far more substantial than a dreamt-up Stromling poked her on the back. Foxtrot was conscious immediately, her hands dancing to the scabbards on her hips in a fluid, whip-like motion as she simultaneously flipped from her slouching positions and landed in a cross-legged crouch, two daggers in her hands and the sound of metal against metal ringing eerily across the caverns. “I’d think that you were from the Paradox by your recent paranoia, missy.” Kit Wanderware muttered after a moments shocked pause. He yanked his spear away from its defensive position and sidestepped, causing the equally baffled Melody to topple forward to her face. The Sentinel rolled into a sitting position and snarled at Kit, spitting to the ground and sheathing her knives. “I told you.”, she growled calmly in a low- but loud- voice that made Kit instinctively tighten his grip on his spear, “Never. To. Sneak. Up. On. Me. Again.” Kit noticeably relaxed, dropping his weapon to the floor and grinned, pulling up the visor on his helmet. “I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for you to wake up, just to scold me for being the first thing you saw when you returned from your porky dreams. And anyways, scouts are supposed to tap people on the backs- and would you please speak a little quieter, you’re hurting my eardrums… and my training.” He added after a moment’s hesitation. Melody didn’t seem to notice. Instead, she screamed. “I broke a nail!!!” Wanderware flinched, rubbing his ears gingerly before letting out an exasperated sigh. “I’ve told you so many times- we’re Minifigures, we don’t have nails. That’s only the mythical giants of the mystical, fog-shrouded world of Earth.” Foxtrot punched the stony ground she was sitting on. “Fine. I wounded my Imagination.” She snarled half-heartedly. Before Kit Wanderware could reply, a horrible sound echoed through the caves. A plastic-curdling, insect-like screech that didn’t just send a chill down, but sent the spine hurtling to Absolute Zero. “We’ve got company…” Melody Foxtrot whispered, whipping out her Imaginite daggers a second time.

Chapter 42: Silhouettes Against the Setting SunEdit

The sun was setting over the desolate peaks of Mount Inizio, bathing the icebound ranges in a nigh-morbid, pinkish scarlet light. Like a flickering candle, the massive sphere of flame and gas descended from the snow-raining sky, reflecting wondrously on each and every snowflake. It could have been a winter wonderland if it wasn’t for the screams, explosions, and the general nature of the harsh mountains. Chilly wind slapped at Dash Abscond’s face, the freezing torrents of air giving the feeling that he had suffered an extreme case of frostbite, and his face was being torn into miniscule pieces as the biplane whipped through the darkening skies. “How’s it farin’ back there, Skipper?” Dash roared behind him, his voice being carried so far back with the wind that the man he was addressing hardly heard him. The Skipper’s teeth chattered in return, the moisture lashing about him freezing solid in a matter of seconds all about his icy-stalactite covered moustache. “Thought so.” Dash mumbled, not hearing his boss’ click-clacking but guessing the obvious answer. The Skipper had been pulled into the plane without goggles, a bandana, or even a scarf, and that wasn’t good at all in the treacherous peaks of Inizio. It was better than being crushed into dribbling melted plastic by a hulking, eight food robot, though, and the Skipper had gladly taken up on the opportunity. Abscond weakly peered to the side of his open cockpit, looking into the glazed-over mirror. He grinned, catching some movement from their side. Just before he had hitched his ride from under the noses of five dozen heavily armed Stromlings, he had called for all the pilots on Sector X (As the massive, air-field fortress built into Mount Inizio was called) to quickly evacuate before the entire place was overrun by Stromlings. The fortress was, to make a long story short, a fortress, and could withstand siege for months. However, with a clearly indestructible and highly skilled robot on the loose, along with probably hundreds of Stromlings, even the brave greasers of Sector X had played the more favorable card: Retreat with minimal childishly frightened screaming. The movement to his right was obviously one of the planes that had escaped, and was making its way to the appointed rendezvous point- a place known only as the Avant Plateau. But then something caught Dash’s eye- two pinpoints of red. His lower jaw would have hit the floor if it wasn’t so restricted in its natural construction.

The Mark V Sentinel Warmaster swerved away from the hazy barrage of snowflakes, making itself easier to see before striking. It switched its jet-pack’s course, and the hulking war-bot slammed into Dash Abscond’s biplane, grapping tightly to the top set of wings with one mechanical, clamp-like hand as its other arm reached for its massive cleaver.

Dash Abscond never knew he could scream as he just had, and he had never imagined that he would hear the Skipper wail even louder. Purely on instinct (And a good measure of downright, blind terror), Dash pushed at the controls with all his bodyweight, forcing the plane to take a spiraling dip straight downwards. The shocked Warmaster was wrenched from its hold, taking a large chunk from the top wing as it was sent sprawling along the biplanes tail. The droid was forced to slam its cleaver-like blade right through the plane’s tail to keep itself from falling to the jagged, rocky spires beneath. “Skipper! Do something!” Dash wailed, his half-frozen goggles inching themselves off his face as the place continued its plummet. He frantically began pressing buttons, not even hearing the Skipper’s small whimper in his stress. He screamed at the futility of it all, deciding to make for the parachutes. Parachutes. Dash almost leaped out of the cockpit in glee (Though he kept himself in check, knowing the obvious consequences). He pulled a lever, grinning widely and not noticing the fact that his flying goggles were gliding half a mile above. A bright orange parachute, designed for slowing planes down in fast landings, shot from the back of the plane’s tail, the force of the ejection (Along with the fact that there was a five foot broadsword imbedded in it) tore the tail apart, blasting the Warmaster backwards. Dash wailed again. He hadn’t expected for the tail to be ripped into two pieces. His screech was short lived, however, for the biplane came to a sudden halt as the parachute did its part. The baffled Warmaster was once again tossed upwards, and the frantic droid made a desperate swing with its cleaver. A swing that severed the cords that held the parachute to the remains of the biplane.

Chapter 43: Children of the Hive QueenEdit

Melodie Foxtrot didn’t even have time to move before the first set of bulbous, glowing crimson eyes appeared in the shadowy expanses of the cavern tunnel that led deeper into the Paradox Mine. When she and Kit Wanderware had been replaced in at this post after the Spiderling extermination, she wasn’t expecting at all that they would have to smash another batch of Spiderlings. Kit laid his hand on her shoulder, a determined set planted on his features. “You get Dirk, I’m going into the tunnel to hold the line.” Melodie gawked at the notion. “No, definitely not! You Venture Leaguers are the ones who run off from a fight to get reinforcements, not us Sentinels!” When she looked back into scout’s steely gaze, however, she nodded her consent. “Very well. But you’re going to regret this.” Kit snickered, pulling out a pistol and flexing his spear-arm. “Oh, I agree.” And without another word, he sped off into the gloom. Melodie closed her eyes, shook her head violently at the unorthodoxy of it all, and made her way out of the former Paradox Mine, taking care to keep away from the multiple Stromlings who guarded the exit.

“Oh, I can already smell their bricks smoking away on the ground! And they’re quite separated, ha-ha!” Dirk Manleigh hollered the strangely mechanical voice that his helmet gave him. He rubbed the sharpening stone upon his Powerjouster’s blade one more time, the horrid grating gnawing at what was left of Melodie Foxtrot’s thin line of bravery. As the stone came clinking to the ground, the nerve-tearing clanking resonating through the dark caverns, the Sentinel scout lost all the strength in her already quivering voice. “Shut up. There’s bound to b-b-be at least a hun-ndred Spiderlings i-in th-th-e-ere!” Melody whimpered. Not many things could get her scared, especially not mutant Spiders, but the monstrous roar that had barreled through the entire mine succeeded in setting her teeth on edge. She could hear a Dark Spiderling screech as valiant Kit Wanderware smashed it in the dark expanses of the caverns. However, he was only one Minifigure in the territory of the most terrible beasties on Avant Gardens, and if there truly was as many as Melody had estimated in there, he didn’t stand a chance. A silvery streak zipped past Melodie’s head, trailing fiery sparks as it rocketed into the darkness beyond. Another of the four-legged spiders gave one last click-clacking scream as the Powerjouster destroyed it. Dirk Manleigh laughed triumphantly, nodding vigorously to force the jousting visor over his helm. In what seemed like a blur to Melodie’s hawk-like eyes, his strange sword and his ornate shield were in his hands. The blade seemed to shimmer with an angry blue light, and, as he waved the magnificent weapon about experimentally, it left trails of the azure light. “Let them come. They’ll swarm in by the hundreds, they’ll swarm out by the ones- ones that won’t get far, mind you!” Dirk roared into the caves in his usual, nonchalant and cocky manner. Melodie tapped her feet nervously, chewing on one of her dagger blades in anticipation. But what happened next even made headstrong Dirk take a step back. Suddenly, the cave wasn’t a shadowy black any more. It was red, gleaming with the flickering, hatred-filled eyes of thousands of tormented arachnids all too ready to pay the Nexus Force back for their troubles. “I… I… I think w-w-we should… s-swarm o-o-out b-by the ones, i-if that’s o-okay wi-ith y-y-you…” Melodie mumbled under her breath, the blade slowly slipping from her twitching lips. Dirk Manleigh let out a nervous snicker, pulling his magnificent, metal feathered shield from his back and slamming the hilt of his sword on its gold designs three times. “Go ahead. But I’m a warrior, and warriors only surrender when it’s a good idea to surrender.” Melodie Foxtrot blinked incredulously, hardly managing to wrench her bulging eyes from the scene of hundreds of Dark Spiderling spilling from the tunnel entrance. “A-and when w-w-would it b-be a good idea to s-s-surren-d-der?” She stuttered, her orbs slowly making their way back to the swarming mass that was quickly making a thick ring around them. Dirk laughed again. “When we’re surrounded, of course!” Foxtrot tapped him on the shoulder and urged him to pivot 360 degrees. Dirk gulped, opening his mouth beneath his helm in protest as the thousands as the last open spot in the living ring was shut by easily three dozen screeching arachnids. He looked up to see hundreds of pairs of eyes dotting the many stalactites above, and quickly sidestepped as the first sticky orange web dribbled down towards him. “Oh no.” Dirk sighed, waving his sword around again, this time with less enthusiasm.

Chapter 44: PopEdit

Dash Abscond felt the freezing air whip past his paling face, his eyelashes slowly freezing together, forcing his eyes shut and blinding him to his certain demise. How long a time it felt, falling to your doom. Dash shook his head in amazement, feeling as if he was falling through water rather than air. “Well, get it over with.” He murmered, painfully yanking open his eyes and sitting in a lotus position, his hands tapping his thighs impatiently. He let out an exasperated sigh, watching bubbles stream up from his mouth. He gave a slight giggle, releasing more of the air filled things. Then he hit the ground, but not at all as hard as he was expecting to. It was just a slight bump, and then he floated a little bit upwards, as if he was flying, and he slightly tilted in midair. Wait- bubbles? Moving slowly? Floating? Dash shook his head, not believing was he was going through. Only then did he notice that we wasn’t breathing, so he took a deep draught of air. His eyes bulged, and the pilot clutched his throat, jerking about wildly. He was swallowed water! He wasn’t moving through air- he was in one of the freezing lakes that littered the Solid Catarrh Mountain ranges! Freezing lakes. It’s okay! Dash thought, shaking his head again. I just lost consciousness while falling, and didn’t notice that I landed in the water. Now I just have to swim up and be glad that I wasn’t squashed into a dozen little frozen Minifigure patés just to be eaten by a polar bear! Lucky me! However, everyone knew that the lakes of the mountains were far more dangerous than a two kilometer fall. Dash only noticed that once he began losing the feeling in his toes.

The biplane ricocheted off a third mountain peak, spinning to the side just to have its right wings blown apart by a jutting rock by another mountain. The flying vehicle then rocketed downwards, spiraling across one of the many freezing lakes that littered Solid Catarrh before crashing, cockpit first, on a high glacier. The plane sprung head over tail, landing on its destroyed backside and then crashing down to the battered cockpit four times before it landed on the lower left wing, spun around in a semi-circle and broke in half.

The Skipper’s head was pulled out from the icy clutches of the frozen terra firma of the glacier a minute later by the cold, metallic, clamp-like hands of the Warmaster. Although dangling upside down with a major case of frostbite across his glowing red face, the veteran pilot could see that the hulking drone looked battered indeed. Where bullets and projectiles had failed, the forces of nature had succeeded From the ice, the robot looked more grey than black, it was heavily dented, one photoreceptor was nothing but shattered glass with a halfheartedly flickering red bulb behind it, its left leg was bent to the side like a metal rod that had been thrown at a diamond mount by a troll, and its right arm had been completely torn off, the only remnants of the metallic limb being a few sizzling wires. The mech didn’t seem to care. “Terminate.” It gurgled, its rock hard electrical voice being flushed out by the constant sound of streaming oil. The next thing the Skipper knew, he was on the icy ground, cracks meandering about his shivering form. He weakly sat up, feeling his numb face, and noticed that his prized mustache had been frozen, and then broken off by his impact with the ground. Before the pilot could retort, however, he was by his foot and swung six meters away, almost losing consciousness as a searing pain engulfed his head once he landed back in the ice. He sat up again, his head spinning. Then he noticed something: Cracks in the ice. Triumphantly, the Skipper easily dodged the next swipe, newfound energy coursing through his body. He leaped across the ice many more times, skating past the agitated robot before he was hit again (And that was only a slight nick in the shoulder). His plan was working. The more he dodged, the more the icy ground was pounded. The more cracks appeared in the ice. Then, all of a sudden, it happened, faster than anyone could register. A massive chasm appeared right between the charging robot and the sliding Skipper. The hulking berg slowly broke apart, snapping into two pieces. The Warmaster desperately tried to turn on its rocket pack, to no avail. In moments, half the glacier was tumbling into the dark lake below, and the Mark V Sentinel Warmaster was lost to sight.

Chapter 45: HelplessnessEdit

The second screech resounded through the winding tunnels of the Paradox Mines, almost completely vanquishing what was left of Dirk Manleigh’s boastfulness. All the Dark Spiderlings began chattering and shrieking simultaneously, their many legs click-clacking upon the ground nervously as they back away, widening the ring around the two Sentinels. Monstrous footsteps echoed throughout the complex, accompanied by another horrendous, insectoid howl. Then, all of a sudden, the Spiderlings blocking the way deeper into the Mine began desperately climbing over each other to make a path, a path not blocked by four-legged mutant arachnids. And from the shadows, a battered helmet rolled into view. It was painted in several shades of green and white, and had a now-utterly-shattered black visor. A helmet with no head to wear it. Kit Wanderware’s helmet.

Dash Abscond gave one final, half-hearted jerk before he began drifting into the blackness that he would never wake up from. His eyelids fluttered open once or twice, the freezing water gnawing at his blood-shot eyes. Bubbles stopped floating from his mouth, and his eyes closed, his limo body sinking deeper and deeper into the crushing and unforgiving depths. Then the iceberg hit the lake. The force of the falling, frozen block sent unnaturally powerful undercurrents ricocheting all about black waters, bouncing about like gas molecules in a tiny jar. Dash was yanked upwards with such force that he managed to open his eyes in surprise. And then he saw light- light that in the obsidian-hued lake could only be seen if you were very close to the surface… But then he stopped, meters from the surface of the dark lake, and, unable to move, began to sink again. And he had absolutely no breath left.

The Skipper thought himself quite intelligent as he walked away from the severed glacier, smiling smugly to himself. He felt his bare upper lip and chin again and winced- he wasn’t used no not having a mustache and goatee. But the fact that he had lost his facial hair did nothing to diminish his jovial mood; he had won! He had defeated the most dangerous Stromling in the known Universe. He thought that nothing could wipe that ear-to-ear grin from his face. Nothing other than a flaw in his wondrous plan. Another crack appeared on the glacier—and this time, it wasn’t behind it. It was in front.

Dash Abscond’s life flashed across his eyes in seconds, foretelling his certain demise. He remembered his father, an antique dealer who had gotten into planes when he had found a vintage spy plane from almost a century before. He saw his mother with one of her famed pies- ones with the most delicate for breads with wondrous toppings that made it resemble a lasagna… except for the face that in the center, there were hidden three crepes with honey. He remembered the time when he had gotten his head stuck in one of his father’s vintage, four eared vases, and they had to break the porcelain pot to get him out. His dad had spent so long gluing it together! But most importantly, he remembered the time he had first flown a plane. It had been the beautiful red biplane that he and the Skipper had escaped in. The plane was destroyed. Dash tried to cry, but with the crushing waters surrounding him, he found that impossible. He decided that his terrible smash was inevitable. At least until the second berg, the one with the Skipper, hit the water.

Chapter 46: When Spiders get ArachnophobiaEdit

Melodie Foxtrot blinked, unable to orient herself. Kit Wanderware’s helmet! That wonderful Venture League scout… he was gone. Smashed. Just like that! How could he have been such a fool? Running headfirst into an army of thousands of chaotic monsters, ordering her to go call Dirk! A fire suddenly made its way into her eyes, and she grimaced in determination, pulling off the band that held her orange and blue dyed hair in a ponytail. The two Imaginite daggers were in her hands in a flash. But then she heard something- something over the monstrous screeching and stomping… a yell. “GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS CRAZY! JUST GET OUT! NOW! Ohhh, WE’RE ALL GONNA SMAAAASH!” There was no mistaking that voice. Kit Wanderware shot out of the tunnel, hopping right over his completely battered helmet and bulleting past the steadily opening gap in the Spiderling defences. “OUT! NOW!” He screamed in an overly high-pitched and panicked voice. Melodie just stood there, gaping, tears of joy rimming her eyes at her colleague’s sudden reappearance. Dirk Manleigh, however, wasted no time in beginning to gouge a way out of the place, taking Kit’s extreme fear as motivation. Adrenaline coursed through the veteran warriors plasticized veins, and he stabbed his glowing blade into the ground, single-handedly whipping the Powerjouster from his back. The Sentinel took three steps back, flexing his arms and aiming at the rapidly closing ring of insectoid masses before tossing the massive, deadly-tipped lance at the hoard. The halberd plowed right through the multi-layered swarm that stood between the three Nexus Force Minifigures and the one way out, slicing what seemed to be only the thinnest of lines in rapidly melting cheese. In a second, his sword was in his hand, his two plastic fingers tightly grasping the strangely arched blade as he pulled readied his magnificent shield in a throwing position. Just as the frantic Kit took up his spear and gun and Melodie readied her daggers, Dirk muttered a word under his breath, and the metal-feathered shield seemed to crackle with light blue electricity. He then threw the shield, and it spun towards the Dark Spiderling mass, oscillating like a boomerang. Every arachnid the spinning shield touched was instantly lifted three feet in the air by an unnatural voltage of electricity, smashing them before they returned to their four flailing feet. It was a crazy scene, watching dozens of spiders twirling about in the air, crackling with lightning. Then the shield turned around, spinning back into Dirk’s hand. Without missing a beat, the Sentinel raised the defense like a gun, and the crackling electricity formed into a single beam of lightning that zipped into the enemy ranks and decimated two thirds of the layers. Everyone, even the Spiderlings, stared at Dirk in disbelief. “Well?” he asked in a mechanical tone, “Charge.” And that’s what he did, slashing at the thinned Stromling ranks with renewed hope, his sword and shield whipping about in perfect harmony. Wanderware and Foxtrot turned very slowly, regarding each other incredulously, and then nodded. “CHARGE!” Melodie roared, throwing both her daggers at a Spider simultaneously, relieving it of two of its legs. It was chaos, and only surprise allowed the three heroes to have even a sliver of hope of surviving and escaping. That sliver was extinguished as fast as it arrived. Suddenly, all the Dark Spiderlings froze in complete and utter fear, parting and rushing up to the ceiling in terror. Soon, there were no arachnids on the battlefield, just a few thousand cowering above. Dirk’s helmet’s lamp-like eyes shone through the lancing visor, regarding the shadowy depths of the tunnel. “This isn’t good…” From the tunnel, Maelstrom fog was billowing out like a steaming cloud of violet chaos, sizzling horridly. Anything the fog touched seemed to half-melt and half-burn with some monstrous, acidic component. But worst of all, the fog seemed to take the shapes of thousands of things at once, mocking the three Minifigure’s very existence as the thousands of Spiderlings chanted in their clicking, slick voices. “Sshhhrrrrrraaashhhhh! Shhiiiaaaathssss! Rrraaatthhhhhhhhh!” Kit bent down to recover his battered helm, the eerie light reflected off a whitish scar that ran from his right eye to his lower jaw. He replaced the now ill-fitting thing on his head and managed a strained laugh. “Heh. Avant Gardens.”, he giggled, almost insanely. “They should rename it Arduous Gardens.” The other two didn’t seem to hear what he said, and when he followed their stricken gazes, he lost his voice as well.

Chapter 47: AltitudeEdit

Dash Abscond was falling- falling up. He was breathing, ragged gasps of much needed air, and there was no water around him. His wet hair was fast freezing, a feeling that he didn’t quite like, and- He was falling- falling down. Dash looked down, his hope of breath going as fast as his hair was turning to ice. The iceberg had made him shoot out of the lake like a rocket, but now he was descending to the black waters once again! A shadow zipped by from under him, but he hardly noticed, his eyes intent on his certain demise. Then the shadow turned about, spun thrice, and- The last thing Dash saw was complete and utter blackness.

Dash Abscond’s eyes fluttered open, cracking the light sheet of ice that had frozen his lashes together. Above, there wasn’t the cold and hard sky of the Solid Catarrh Mountain Ranges, but darkness. The pilot’s heart leaped to his throat, and he quickly took a deep draught of air, making sure that he wasn’t looking up at the surface of the dark and freezing lake- from under it. But the breath came in, filling his cold lungs with warm, succulent air. Then there was a hearty splat upon his face, and he was coughing up thick, warm and gooey water. Dash pounded as his chest, the hacking taking much of the liquid from his maw, but a huge, two hundred pound form smashed into him, pinning him down and almost flattening him with its surplus of fat. A big, fat, pink tongue slapped into Dash’s face, almost breaking his nose and sending him flying three meters across the room. The tongue then made its way into Dash’s mouth, and the pilot coughed and coughed, frantically kicking at the monstrous body. He even attempted to bite it but his teeth simply bounced of the things blubbery licker. Then a shrill whistle sounded from behind them, and the fat shape bounded off of Dash, crushing him into the ground before bouncing to the place where the whistle had sounded like a ball. “Bloody hound.” Dash gagged, weakly lifting a greatly shaking arm before resignedly dropping it back down again. “I see Meringue is happy to see you!” A familiar voice chuckled, the Minifigure’s heavy boots clinking as he walked towards the prone Dash. Abscond tentatively uncurled from his fetus position and rolled to his back, keeping an eye on the monstrous dog that was more like a cross between a hair-less rat and an oversized turnip with little patches of dead weeds growing from it than a hound. Dash looked up into the hard eyes of the Skipper, and his heart leaped (Not into his throat this time) at the sight of the man who obviously hadn’t been smashed. The Skipper grinned, his blackened teeth showing more than ever because of the fact that his thick mustache had fallen off. “Happy to see me, eh?” Dash scoffed, almost rolling his eyes before thinking of a better comeback. “I’ll be happy when I get some grease.” Skipper laughed, producing a cylindrical can, making Meringue bite off the top (And eat it), then dropping the contents onto Dash’s head with a sickening ‘splat!’. “Gee, thanks.” Abscond sighed, wiping some of the brown guck from his face and slapping it onto his hair (Which had lost all of its frost because of the potent grease). Quickly changing the subject, Dash asked, “How on Crux did I get here?” The Skipper grinned widely. “Same way I did.” Dash rolled his eyes. “Where’s your mustache?” The Skipper grimaced. That had hit a nerve. “Fine, fine”, he said, “The monster Maelstrom Mech was battling me on top of an iceberg while you were swimming about lazily at the bottom of a lake, when I stomped of the ice so hard that the berg cracked apart, dropping half the glacier to the lake- along with the foolish mech. The impact of the frozen block sent to sky high, and then I fixed your plane and flew out to safe your skin.” Now it was Dash’s turn to smile. “Gee, thanks”, he said again. The Skipper gawked. “You believed me!?” Dash grinned even wider. “Nope.” The Skipper sighed. “Alright, the Mech was hitting the ground real hard, the berg cracked, he Mech fell with half the glacier. Then my half fell and I began screaming like a girl, to no avail. Then one of the pilots came down with his jet and saved me, then flew down to save you- the impact of the ice had made you shoot sky high. Happy?” “Only because of the grease.” Dash promised, now smiling ear-to-ear. The Skipper just shook his head.

Chapter 48: AraknarokEdit

It would spark the beginning of the end of the Nimbus System, possibly even the entire Universe. I creature of legend, a monster of nightmare. A story parents told to keep their kids in bed. Six, huge scarlet eyes glared back at Kit Wanderware’s trembling eyes, the only thing obscuring the details on the monstrous silhouette being the curling and steaming masses of blackish violet Maelstrom fog, fog that had now completely surrounded the three Minifigures, blotching out the hundreds of nervously chattering Spiderlings. “Back to back. Now.” Dirk Manleigh breathed in the mechanical tone that was made from his helmet. A glowing blue photoreceptors beneath his visor seemed to shimmer a little lighter, and the other two Minifigures took no time in forming a tight circle, Dirk facing the six orbs. “Well, well, well. Look what we have here!”, came a strangely familiar, disembodied voice. Kit scratched the shattered remains of the visor on his now ill-fitting helm and Melodie Foxtrot, recognizing the voice, gasped in disbelief. Her impossible ideas were confirmed when a Minifigure walked through the fog- a bald Minifigure with a smile plastered to his face, a Minifigure who wore blue pants and a red shirt. “Bob.” Melodie breathed, taking a step from the circle. Dirk moved to intercept her, but she easily ducked under his heavily armored, outstretched arm (Which was moving slowly because of the weight of his dragon-head shoulderpads), skipping towards the long lost Minifigure, as giddy as the girl she once was. “Bob!” Kit was about to run to the man as well, but Dirk quickly tripped him, dropping his face down to the ground. “Wha-!?”, the Venture Leaguer cried, gaping as the Sentinel Knight picked up his fallen flaregun and settled his hand on the trigger, aiming for Bob. “What are you doing!?” Kit cried, trying to get to his feet to intercept the heavily build man, but he was met with the heel of Dirk’s armored boot on the flat of his face. “Oi!” “Bob!” Melodie cried again, tears of joy dribbling down her fair, yellow face, a strand of her dyed hair tickling at her nonexistent nose. Dirk fired, and Bob, after going wide eyes and falling to the ground, gasping for air, fell into pieces. Melodie skidded into a halt, staring at the bricks at her feet. Very slowly, she turned to regard the Sentinel Knight, a look of the sheerest horror painted upon her face. Dirk seemed not to notice. “I saw it in his eyes.” “WHAT!?” Melodie screamed, bawling, drawing her daggers and charging for the Sentinel, the man she thought had been his friend. Then she stopped, her face taking a greenish tint, her eyes bulging, before she was yanked back to Bob’s bricks with a Maelstrom infused whip that had tied around her throat. “Really, Dirk, I am impressed.” Bob snarled, his body now seething with Maelstrom energy, his eyes ablaze with an inner crimson flame. “Proof that some Minifigure’s aren’t idiots. That won’t help you here, though.” Then, all of a sudden, his right hand- the one that wasn’t holding the whip- began to glow a violent purple. He pointed it at Melodie’s writhing body, lowering it, and then shot a bullet- the flaregun bullet- at her foot. The Sentinel scout tried to scream, but the only sound that came from her constricted throat was a dry gargle. “Bob!” Dirk roared, picking up his Powerjouster from the ground. “What are you doing!?” Bob grinned. “Picking the winning side!”, he snickered, lashing out with his left hand and sending the choking Melodie flying, untying her of her throaty bonds. Then, before anyone could make a move, he began fading away, his corporeal form melting into a violet smoke and blending in with the monstrous mist around them. “The time of the Minifigure, of Imagination, or the Nexus Force, has ended. The time of the Stromling has come.” He smiled, his wretched grin hidden by the chaotic ooze that covered much of his slowly dissolving face. Then, a leg bigger than anything the trio had ever seen, a chaos infused, twelve food leg, stepped from the gloomy mist. The leg of a Spiderling- and a very big one at that. Bigger even than that of the Spider Queen, a monstrous arachnid that had terrorized Avant Gardens for the longest of time before being obliterated on one of the nearby Property Worlds, known as Block Yard. The six eyes leered down at them, and a horrific, sticky, dark and clicking voice resounded throughout the caverns, causing the thousands of Dark Spiderlings hidden in the mist to shriek in terror. “Finally, I can ssSSsshow mysSself to the NexSSssus Force. Finally, the UniversSse will be oursSs once again!” The monstrous, bulbous head holding the half a dozen crimson eyes peeked through the mist, acidic ooze cascading from its three foot mandibles. On the left side of its head it had a massive, double-barreled gun and what looked like a metal version of a dragon’s head. On the left, it had large, oval thing with the front end cut off, kind of like what held cement in a construction truck. It was a Dark Spiderling, one that was almost twenty feet high and had a look in its eyes that outweighed the evil in any Stromling. Then, after the initial shock, the thousands of Spiderlings began chanting, their guttural speak actually sounding a bit like the common tongue that Minifigures used. “Araknarok! Araknarok! Araknarok!” Only Kit Wanderware of the trio understood the name. In the language of the Maelstrom, Araknarok had only one translation. The Spider Boss.

Chapter 49: SubterfugeEdit

-The Nimbus System- -Nexus City- -Nexus Tower- -Top Floor-

Sek Ressi grinned widely beneath his bandana, his shimmering crimson eyes glowing through the dark obstruction provided by his black goggles. He straightened his large, wide-brimmed hat and turned around, producing a grappling hook from the dark expanses of his shadowy cloak. He peeked over the edge of the large Imagination Fuel Tankard he was standing upon and his aphotic grin grew even wider. Below, six Sentinels were carrying away a completely battered pitch black droid, its single photoreceptor crushed and flickering with scarlet light. The guards were heavily armed, with large assortments of armaments- from guns to explosives to blades. Stupid Sentinels- never knew when it would be a good idea to keep light! Sek lightly tossed the hook to the nearest Imagination Pipeline, the trinket making but a whisper as he nimbly hopped to the pipe. He then kneeled down and produced what looked like a small, leather briefcase from his cloak, opening the rusty latches and pulling out the pieces for a sniper rifle.

A following click as the deadly weapon was assembled resounded throughout the entire hallway. “What on Crux was that?” One of the Sentinels asked, turning about and pulling out an imaginite broadsword. He motioned for two of his companions to draw their weapons, and told the remaining three to continue taking the droid- Necrosis I, it was called- to the Nexus Core, where Dr. Overbuild was to check up on it. The three holding the droid nodded and started off, quickening their pace and leaving the other trio behind. Bad idea.

“I don’t see anything, sir.” One of the three guards that stayed behind murmured to the one holding the sword, obviously the leader. The leader bit his lower lip anxiously. “What reinforcements are the closest?” “Only those provided by Yawny Goodknight, and he’ll not get us help in ages.” The leader was about to reply when he heard two muffled blaster shots and the shrill cry of, “Help!” from down the corridor where the Sentinel’s escorting Necrosis I had went.

“We should never have left them!” He roared instead, yanking a shield from its place on his back and charging to the aid of the other trio. They arrived to see the smoldering bricks of two Minifigures lying on the ground, the black droid in a heap on the floor with the last Minifigure kneeling in front of it, a blaster’s barrel pointed at his forehead. “Don’t shoot!” The leader of the group cried, motioning for his two companions to draw their weapons- one produced two pistols and the other a rifle. “Oh?” Sek Ressi laughed, tipping his hat with his free hand and pulling the trigger with the other. “NO!” The Sentinel with the sword and shield cried, charging forward in a fit of fury, followed in rapid succession by the Imagination projectiles hurtling from the guns of his companions. They didn’t notice the Imagination Spark of the Minifigure who had just been smashed float from the poor Sentinel’s broken bricks and into the body of Necrosis I. They didn’t see its single, shattered photoreceptor flicker to life.

Sek Ressi easily sidestepped the charging Sentinel, tripping the headstrong warrior in his blind rage. The leader flew head over heels to land, chin-first, on the hard metallic ground, but managed to keep his momentum going, using the force of the interjection to roll back to his feet, weapons ready. He wasn’t fast enough, though. The guard holding the two pistols went down as a dagger flew from Sek’s nimble and gloved hand, and the one with the rifle, also overcome by hatred, charged in blindly, waving his weapon like a club. Sek eyed the Notion Potion on the man’s waist, a drink that could replenish strength and fight off any minor Maelstrom infection. The agent grinned beneath his bandana, sidestepped the second charging Minifigure, and, in a flashing, fluid movement, yanked off the cork of the bottle, sprinkled some greenish dust into its contents, and plugged the stopper in again. The Sentinel tripped too, and made his second and last mistake. He smashed almost immediately after he took a swig of the potion. “You Stromling monster! I’ll destroy you!” The leader roared, charging forward so quickly that a surprised Sek had no time to arm himself against the wrecking ball before him. He didn’t have to. A black form intercepted the Sentinel’s form, its metallic hand clamping around his throat and lifting him up to face this new danger. The leader, the last Minifigure in the group, flailed wildly, but to no avail. Then, as he stared into the shattered receptor of Necrosis I, he knew there wouldn’t be any left soon enough. He felt his strength dissipating, saw his Creation Spark being pulled out of him and into the horrid droid. He saw blackness.

Chapter 50: When Spiders get Arachnophobia; Part IIEdit

Wisp Lee slowly opened his one good eye, its lids fluttered about in a failed attempt to blink. The Paradox Researcher sat up on his rump, scratching his mess of hair and giving a hearty yawn before almost folding himself in a backwards stretch. He then lay down, adjusted the bandage covering his left eye, and smacked his lips, tucking his hands under his head and trying to make himself comfortable. “Sshhhrrrrrraaashhhhh! Shhiiiaaaathssss! Rrraaatthhhhhhhhh…” Wisp Lee leaped to his feet, waving his infected arms around in wide, whirling arcs as he danced and spun like a jackrabbit who’d seen too much of a bottle as he screamed out threateningly at every nonexistent thing in a fifty meter radius. Nothing was there. The Scientist gave a little sniff, producing a tiny little dagger from his hip- a dagger that looked as incompetent in the cavern he was in as a half-burnt and wingless mosquito facing off with a fly swatter. Then several red orbs began to come alight about him, and dancing scarlet circles seeming to float around the high, rocky walls, followed only by the clicking of dozens of armed legs on stone, and the hungry ticking of Dark Spiderling mandibles. “Sshhhrrrrrraaashhhhh! Shhiiiaaaathssss! Rrraaatthhhhhhhhh!!!”

When people watch movies, they often see a character standing stock still in the middle of the road, wide-eyed as a car comes zooming in full power to plow the unfortunate person down. The spectator of the film always thinks, ‘Well, jump out of the way, why don’tcha? Idiot´’. Melodie Foxtrot had the exact same words in her head, but, of course, her legs were rooted to the ground like a century old tree who’s died, fossilized, crumbled, and, in the end, become part of the terra firma beneath, which turns to solid rock as more dead things and defecation comes’ a’ callin’. Of course, in the movies, some hero comes diving so save whoever’s become… well, hard. Usually it’s a lucky tackle, but, in this case, it was a well-placed blow to the head with a jagged shield that was still crackling with electricity. The hit toppled her, allowing her to narrowly miss the incoming, heavily armored spider leg. Araknarok’s leg incinerated the rocks beneath, sending rapidly melting shards in every possible recorded and unrecorded direction. “Run Melodie! Run!” Came Dirk Manleigh’s desperate call, the Valiant Knight also only just dodging a leg. Instead of falling, however, the Sentinel spun in midair and sliced down at the Spider Boss’ leg with his Powerjouster. The impact of the deadly blade on top of the lance seemed to do nothing to the monstrous arachnid’s hide- instead, the dangerous point was bent and dented so severely that it looked like it would fall right off the shaft, which already had had a prominent and quickly widening crack through it.

Dirk stepped back, the look of pure terror obviously stamped on his face resonating through the two layers of helmet that covered it. In that moment of truth, he turned and ran, closely followed by a screaming Kit Wanderware. The Maelstrom fog billowed about like an overly substantial cloud in a storm, venting from every plasticized pore in the Spider Boss’ body. Dirk and Kit ran right out the exit of the cave, for all the Spiderling who had been guarding it were cowering, and many seemed to be shrieking in pain. Melodie Foxtrot looked into the six, massive, bulbous orbs of Araknarok, and knew her time had come. She ran anyway.

Outside, Kit Wanderware was frantically running towards the Sentinel Encampment, sending blazing signals with his flashgun. Meanwhile, Dirk Manleigh was frantically trying to put together the bricks for one of the many Air force Signals that were stashed in crates about Avant Gardens. They weren’t fast enough to save Melodie. The Sentinel scout ran out of the cave, her heavily dyed hair trailing in knots behind her. But then a swirling beam of pure Maelstrom energy came spiraling from within the cave, disintegrating all the grass in its path and reducing everything to slimy violet slime. The beam hit her in the back, sending her flying into the air to crash heavily into the grass, her limp form smoking and dripping with ooze.

Dirk dropped the bricks he was holding, not bothering to wipe off the wave of sizzling guck that had been strewn upon him. Kit just ran, ran as if his life depended on it, to skid to a stop at Melodie’s side. “Melodie!” He cried, “Melodie! Oh, don’t leave us! Melodie!” He began frantically shaking her cold body, flicking off the acidic goo with his bare hands. Tears began welling up in his eyes beneath his bettered helm. “Don’t go…” Dirk walked up behind Kit, quivering. All he could utter was, “A-at least she isn’t… smashed…” But then something terrible happened. She stood up, almost mechanically, and began to shiver, her entire body vibrating as if the very ground beneath her was shaking. Her eyes dimmed, the lively blue being swallowed up by the newfound swirling mass of lamp-like crimson.