Writing: Saviors of Hakdok (unfinished work) - Chapter 2

The second chapter.

- I won’t let you sleep with her, I don’t give a shit what Logan said!
Jumper argued with Red while the team that was expanded by Diablo and his sister was trying to find their place in their room. The bedroom in the subway car was not particularly huge; in fact, beyond the three double beds, that was almost empty. Only a long but narrow window, some digital ads, a cabinet and two smoking tables were provided. It did not bothered Drifter, though; with the very momentum he laid down on the edge of one, fell asleep near immediately thereafter. His loved one was sitting on the bed next to him, supporting the wall and holding his hand, as his head was hanging down on the edge, and she kept him not to fall down. The boy did not wake up even when the two became louder.
- I told you that you won’t dictate what can I do! – The orange-haired responded to the previous burst of the grey-skinned, leaning closer to him with a threatening look. – None of your business!
- She might be my daughter, for God’s sake, and I clearly know, what douchebags like you want to do with such girls!
- I did that every single week, asshole, even before you were even born!
- And yet you changed nothing, you immature filthy prick!
- What did you say?! – Nate grabbed his shirt at his neck.
- Take your hands of me!
- Come on, guys! – Diablo laughed, sitting on the middle bed with Sam. – Don’t hurt each other!
- Oh we aren’t! – Will noted. – The actual hurt is only about to come if this asshole won’t stop!
- Jumper, you’ll sleep with Sam, and Red will with Diablo! – Shori shouted. – Just stop it! We have much better things to do!
- Indeed! – The devil-skinned clashed his palms. – I almost forgot to apologize for the size of the room.
- Don’t even mention! – The amazon smiled. – At least we have a place to sleep.
- Considering Drifter, he’d have either way. – Red noted. – Sorry for him, by the way, Logan. He’s always like that. I know you wanted to tell the whole story, but I guess we should wait him to wake up.
- However… - Shiori took the floor once more. – I would be interested, what to expect now?
- Now? – Diablo scraped his chin. – Four days on the subway. You can use the FH-Web or even watch some television if you want, but to be honest, these local channels are not too interesting. Anyway, you likely won’t be bored but we should focus on the mission as well!
- That’s what I’m asking! – The girl said. – What if we arrive?
- We are living near to the main station. – Sam answered. – Me, Logan and our father. You can stay there until you’re ready to meet Dr. Jensen.
- Yeah, that won’t be easy. – His brother noted. – The doc is quite busy, even I rarely have time to make a chance to visit him personally. Nah, I guess we’ll be a bit more willing for that, if he find out what you can do for us.
- I can even show you the downtown before that! – Sam smiled with shining eyes. She was exceptionally happy when she met the team; she thought they are the only ones who can stop those who threatened their lives, though what she could also barely hide is her enthusiasm by seeing THESE people personally. It’s been for a while that Drifter and his girlfriend defeated the infamous Darkeye Society, and the girl was following their story ever since that. She and her hometown lived under constant pressure because of the fear of a possible terraforming malfunction, so the little Sam as were growing up have always idolized the Superhumans, including his brother who has been a so-declared guardian of Hakdok for an entire decade.
Shiori smiled and nodded; she had the feeling that the young girl is excited on their presence. Jumper also nodded, but then changed the subject:
- I still can’t imagine, though… how some street gangsters and paramilitary criminals can infiltrate to a likely well-secured and complex industrial plant? Won’t they get lost in such a huge settlement?
- The Red Fist intel is not something you should underestimate, William. – Diablo responded. – They have got a tough enemy. During the millennia of war against the Justice Empire, they improved a lot.
- I know about that, I’ve had the misfortune to be incorporated to their organization for some time.
- What you may not know for sure is that they compensate their technological disadvantage…
- …with quantity.
- And intel! Heck, some of our spies reported that even Jensen is possibly a Red Agent.
- That’s impossible! – Sam shouted. – You know him, all of us know him! He’d never betray us!
- I know, sis, I know! But you see – Then he turned back to Will. -, everyone’s suspect!
Red sighed and took the floor.
- We’re under surveillance everywhere. The red scum, the brown scum, the blue scum, the AIs, heck, even the Cloudans are after us! I guess it’s better to accommodate to it, centuries of experience tell that. – However, he quickly had to note after seeing the anger on Diablo’s face. – I mean OF COURSE you have to fight for your homeland, and I’m willing to fry those shitbags alive! I’m just saying, and mostly for you Samantha, that stress won’t help at all. Don’t worry on spies, let this problem be solved by us!
The girl smiled gently and nodded.
- Speaking of centuries – Diablo stood up. -, can you tell me what it feels to be a non-temporal? I’m damn interested.
Shiori turned away, surprising the devil-skinned.
- Please don’t ask her – Nate answered quietly. -, she arrived through a terrible way. Drake was who could bring her back to sanity when she was a newcomer.
- Oh. So that’s why they are together?
- Well… - the grey-skinned laughed quietly. – Inter alia.
- I see. Can we discuss in the smoking car? I think both me and Sammy would be interested to find out more about you. Of course only if you’re willing to tell.
- Hey, why not? – The orange-haired stoop up with a smile. – Not that we are Superhumans or something…oh wait, well, we are, but not less ordinary than you.
- That’s glad to hear. – Diablo kept on smiling. – Several Supernatural people become narcissistic or believing themselves gods or something…
- That’s why they will never find the Gate! – Even Jumper smiled at this point, expressing his ambition and bravery. – Just look at Drake! Quite a loser, a little bit autistic, not even as strong as me or Red, but still…maybe it sounds stereotyped or something, but apparently, that he can keep human is what will make him able to find the Gate.
- Interesting. - The devil-skinned wondered on these words for some seconds. – So you actually think the Gate exists?
- Let’s discuss it outside. – The grey-skinned noted, and left the crowded bedroom, soon followed by the others, except Shiori, who was already lying on the bed, snuggling her loved boyfriend; the one who brought her back to sanity back in those days, ten long and adventurous months ago.

- Why are we doing this at all?
The man in orange working uniform squatted nervously in the tight room. His partner was in the air vents near him. He was screwing and drilling.
- Don’t ask, pal! – He said as quietly as he could to still make his partner hear it. – You know the Werewolf Division!
- Yeah, yeah, but…
- No skepticism!
- Hey, I’ve also been at the briefing, you don’t have to repeat!
- Don’t make us into trouble then! They are merciless as hell! – He was heading out from the vents. –Gimme’ the laser driver. – He went back when he got the tool. – Remember that we are only temporarily here. We do the job, we go back to the base, we get the next briefing, we go to the next planet.
- Quite much like prisoners, if you ask me…
- Hey, I know it’s a dirty job, but we do the same as usual!
The squatting male sighed, sipping a drag from his cigarette.
- You know…I miss the old times at the Future Empire.
- Me too, pal…me too. But we’re just workers. The god damn pawns on the chess table of the Reds. Hell, we’re worse than pawns. We’re the cockroaches below the figures.
- And we’re just removing a tile to make a rook fall.
- Exactly.
The squatting male sighed again before another drag.
- Too much poetic shit for a day.

The second day at least as uneventful for the travelling team as the first one was, but in a different sense. Drake did not sleep that much now, for his previous day nap was more than enough – not that anyone would have doubted the fact that he deserved it; they have been through some really tough situation since they left Nebula City. However, with his awakening, the problem of boredom has also appeared. It was not as terrible as a complete sensory deprivation, that the metalhead worried, but more than enough to irk his beloved amazon. She also had similar problems, so exactly as usual, they ended up constantly arguing, eventually. They did not even care much about the other arguing duo, or the Hakdokian brothers; the doubt of Shiori towards them have quickly disappeared after some talking at breakfast. The details of their mission were still not discussed, but she did not care – she knew they most likely will have a chance to do that when they arrive. The devil-skinned also hesitated to urge; he knew what they have done at Poepra, and in general, he wished to leave time for the team to recover and relax. Diablo was also aware that the real danger is still far – or that is what he thought.
- Mr. Jackson! – A waiter suddenly accosted Diablo when he and all the other members, with the exception of Shiori and Sam had their lunch in a room within one of the dining wagons. They were separated from the other people who were eating.
- Doesn't that guy make you into trouble? – Drake asked with mouth full - he was greedily chewing some mint-green meatballs. The Hakdokian dabbed.
- Nah, he's in the swim. – He said and turned to the waiter who soon entered. – What's the situation?
- Sir, I think we should have a private discussion. – The waiter whispered, staring at the Gate Hunters with half eye. – There are some issues regarding one of the wagons.
- They are the people I hired. You can talk to them about anything.
- Are we hired? – The metalhead asked with slight surprise.
- What were you thinking?! – Jumper asked while he was politely wiping his mouth.
- We didn't even know the details!
- We will, calm the hell down! – Red interrupted him and turned to the waiter. – Sorry for our fellow, he's not always on the top. Can you tell us about the issue?
- Ooh…su…sure! – The waiter combed his slightly disheveled black hair with his palms and then sat down, next to Diablo. The brown-haired was sitting in front from him, with Will on his right and Nate on his left. All of them were staring at their new lunch guest.
- Well… – He started. Some of the security cameras of your wagon were off-screen for a while and when the stream returned, instead there was nothing visible on-screen but the Red Fist symbol and an arm pointing towards the edge, but…
- But?! – The orange-haired shouted in his dismay.
- It was not like a regular hand. From the index finger, a small stripe was going out to the same direction.
- PINFINGER! – Diablo shouted out. – That filthy monster!
All the Gate Hunters leant forward with similar dismay in their eyes.
- What?!
- Colonel General Savely Matveev, leader of the Werewolf Division. – Diablo answered.
- The Republic pays a billion RCs for his head, according to the OpenSH list. – Drake noted soon as he was browsing a touchscreen below the table. – Ranked #27th on the Most Dangerous list, close to Immortal.
- I know them! – Jumper shouted. – I know the Werewolves, I've seen them in action when I was incorporated. Those are beasts!
- Absolutely! – Diablo nodded. – The most feared formation among every Red Fist Armed Ops. Pinfinger in constantly attacking on the Free Heaven borders, I've got to fight their people several times back in the day, during my Space Angel duty.
- What the fear? – The orange-haired asked. – Never heard of them.
- Of course you didn't because Red Fist never goes to space! – Jumper shouted. – Even in the Great Augoma System Siege, their fleet was the smallest. Don't talk shit 'til you didn't see them!
Red just dabbed, dragging his finger in the air, dragging a bright red electric arc.
- I've seen some things up in space. I won't be scared by some morbidly muscular steroid-addict fanatics! They die the very same painful and disgusting way when they are electrocuted!
Jumper growled angrily.
- Don't underestimate them, Nate! – Diablo said. – They are not simply morbidly muscular or something, they are genetically modified. Literally werewolves! Well, except that scum Matveev… - He quickly became agitated by mentioning that name again. – That piece of shit values human life to nothing! He literally uses even his own people as fuckin' dogs!
Drake got an ambitious, slightly evil gaze.
- Then we'll tame those dogs! – He said. – And whatever inhuman torture this Pinfinger scurf is going to try against your people, we won't let that! – He stood up, raising his right fist to the air. – I swear to the very grappling hooks built into my arm that no Red Fist trash will hurt any of you!
Jumper jumped up, kicking him into his face; the metalhead hit the wall almost less than a second later.
- ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND, DRAKE?! – He screamed. – Those are LITERALLY animals! They gouge out your eyes, slit up your throat and put down to make you killed by suffocation before you bleed to death!
Drifter did not move, but stared at the anxious grey-skinned with the same ambitious and slightly evil look, without even saying a single word. Will was panting in anger.
- From Darkeye to the Poepran traitors, you've got to make us into A LOT OF TROUBLE, but NONE, I say NONE of them was even REMOTELY as terrible as these beasts are! For fuck's sake, I've seen them skinning a prisoner's face to wear that as a freakin' mask!
Even the orange-haired and the waiter became horrified at this point, but Drifter did not move.
- Do you want to lecture me about sadism? – He asked quietly. – Do you want to lecture me about mercilessness?! Didn't I tell you not to underestimate me?! – The metalhead was yelling at this point.
Indeed, he had every reason to do so. Drifter grew up in a cyberpunk world; in a city, where even the sky itself was barely visible. Ever since his mother was killed in that incident, when the criminals infiltrated into the Arcology, and he and his father escaped from, to live in the outer districts, his live had been surrounded by death, disgust and the darkest side of human nature. For a long time, he was unprepared and weak, but when his father was also killed, something seemed to break down within him finally – and even the fact that he has found real friends in the afterlife did not change this fact. No; Drifter did not get his nickname by accident or by some delusional prejudice of a Republic Force Officer. He had finally become a criminal at that point, and committed the worst crimes a human can do. He has never believed in the power of forgiveness anymore; he tortured, dismembered and murdered everyone in his way – though not without thinking. He did not hurt or kill people on principle, but only on his own. He had nothing to lose anymore, and when he lost the last thing he had – his life -, and got a final chance to do something, in this new, otherworld-like life, with the constant promise of resurrection, he finally forgot any portions of forgiveness. Meeting Shiori and the new friends later known only as the Gate Hunter Fellowship changed him a lot, but if there was something he did not forget is the act of mercilessness.
- You're just a kid, Drake, don't even try to… - Jumper started acting contemptuously again, but he was interrupted by the grab of the metalhead on his neck.
- I'M NOT A KID! – He yelled with a much more evil look. Will would normally beat the shit out of anyone who treats him like this, but the scary look of Drifter made it clear for him that he is not screwing around.
- Let me down, brat! – He shouted. The kid did so, but without stepping back.
- Don't think you're the only one who's been through hard shit, Jumper! – He said angrily, threateningly showing up his index finger. - I've also skinned some face, I've also carved out eyes, I've also tore hearts out by pure hands, and yes, even my throat was slit once, just look at me Will! Look at me!
Drifter raised up his chin, showing a long ugly scar running through his neck. The grey-skinned sighed.
- Look, I'm just saying that they can be anywhere at any given time, and with a sudden act, they can and will easily dismember or truncate you! They are some kind of offensive assassins, not the simple ones.
- Got it, got it… - The brown-haired stepped back and waved. – I promise I'll be careful and such.
- And we really should be. – The waiter went on. – It is quite possible that they have incorporated agents even on this train!
Diablo shook his head.
- It doesn't add up, guys… - He said. – It's unlikely that such a behemoth can hide on this subway for so long…they can't find shelter in the air vents or something.
Nathan stared at the wall next to the devil-skinned, with his arms folded. He was thinking on something.
- Right! If they are actually assassins then who know, what kind of alternate methods they have.
- What do you think? – Jumper asked after sitting back with Drifter.
- It was and still is a frequent demoralizing action on space ships and bases. Sometimes, even in the Starcloud cities. I'd bet someone's fooling us. They want to makes us believe that even the FH-Web is already infected, while only some of the cams are rewired.
- I'd never underestimate such threatening, though.
- No, it's not underestimating. – Nate scraped his chin. – The threat is real, that's quite sure now, I guess.
- That's sure! – Diablo said. – The Reds have been aimed Hakdok for a very long time. Not because of us, people, but the Monument access to Poepra and our other brothers!
- And I think they would cut a gigantic hole in the Free Heaven Movement's transport web. – Jumper noted, to which the devil-skin silently nodded.
- I know you might be still quite tired, but this is something you should realize NOW. By eliminating the population of the Pole, the Monument would be really, REALLY defenseless. Most of our security facilities are centered high there. Sammy doesn't know about it, she's just worrying for the people.
- Just like you do. – The grey-skinned said to which Diablo nodded again and kept silent for some seconds before turning back to the waiter.
- Anyhow, we won't have much time when we arrive to Pole City. Best case is one day for a mission briefing, preparing, relaxing and equipping ourselves with the necessary arsenal. Worst case it that we'll be already late.
- Fortunately, that's less likely. –The waiter responded.
- I think of the same. Thanks for the information!
- That's the least I can do.
- Tell the others not to tighten much on the rules, otherwise the Reds may found out our suspicion. Instead, just simply stay prepared.
- Right sir! – The waiter soon stood up, shook hands with the devil-skinned and left. Diablo then turned back, elbowing on the table, supporting his head with the back of his palms, with a slight smile.
- So…you already know what the situation is. – The Gate Hunters were sitting silently. – We here are all fascinated by your power and that's why I was waiting for you to come. This issue with the Reds is rooting back to the past quite deeply, this is by far the worst we have to prepare. I wasn't entirely sure, what to expect, so the presence of Pinfinger's dogs surprises even me. Such surprises are why I thought only you can help. Or the Pirates, but I think you know even better than me that Immortal in untrustworthy and practically unstoppable.
- Oh, sure he is! – Nathan laughed. – Not I have ever planned to defeat such a strong elite squad in the predictable future but…hey, it's about money!
- And about a lecture to the fanatics! – Drake interrupted him, to which, he only nodded.
- Anyway, you had better never, NEVER EVER choose to ask the help of the Cloudan Screwers. Even we did only because they were voluntary up in Nebula City. So, yeah, if I have to help, and this is why you'd rather leave Immortal and his gang alone, fine by me. – The orange-haired leant back in his chair, sipping from his tea. – Just please, don't tell any of these nasty details to the girls!
- I've never planned, actually. I'm sure Shiori can handle case, but…I'm unsure about sis.
Drifter nodded, and then clashed his palms and grinned.
- Okay, soooo, now, as the rough details have been discussed, let's finish this great meal and then go after them! – After this sentence the boy started eating very quickly. Red and Diablo smiled while Jumper was only watching him with a slightly annoyed face, before raising his shoulders with a rather tired look and keeping on eating.

- God damn touchscreens!
Sam and Shiori were lying in the bedroom meanwhile. The blondie was just throwing a smartphone to the wall in front of her bed – it did not come apart but its loud clash scared her short-haired roommate.
- What's the problem? – She asked only to get an angry face as a response that however soon calmed down.
- It doesn't work! Oh, how much time Drake showed it already, but still I can't…
- You're not into modern technology, right? – Sam chuckled that made even the amazon smile.
- Don't even mention… - She lay back with tires voice. – Nothing! Absolutely nothing. I can handle nothing that works with electricity. Only the lamps. And the doors sometimes. – She sighed. – There was a month that I and Drake spent up in space, yet before me met anyone but Will and Micah…
- Epte Merinos! – The young girl yelled. – The space center of the Republic!
- Yyyes, how did you know?
- Me and bro watched every news about you on the TV! – The girl seemed outstandingly enthusiastic.
- Really? – Shiori was surprised. – Why are you so huge fans of us?
- Kidding? You defeated the Darkeye Society! Even the Free Heaven could not get a grip on them!
- Ah yes…I remember. – The amazon sat up in bed, as Sam sat down to the edge of it meanwhile. – That was another terrible week. Space and space suits and that strange rocky planet…Drake said it's like the Moon or something. All the Monument Portals were permanently sealed and…
- That's why couldn't beat them! – Sam interrupted her. – No one ever could approach them, but you…
- We were prisoners, Sam!
- Oh.
- Drake saved me from death, practically. All the mess we did was mostly because he wanted to make me escape, and inversely.
- Even that explosion at the core?! - Sam's eyes were shining in amazement. Shiori approved silently with a smile and a slight blush. – There already were legends about your indestructible love, but the fact that a seventeen-year old boy defeated the veteran Matis Saro and exploded his headquarter planet is just…just…IT WAS TOO AMAZING TO BELIEVE!
- Oh well… - The amazon laughed and blushed even more, nervously scraping her tattooed right leg. – What you people may not know that we weren't really together back then.
- Really? – The amazon nodded.
- There were some kisses and hugs before, but we were rather co-fighters or something like that back in Vel. And the Darkeye story…well, it just happened too quickly to concentrate on such things.
- Oh. – Sam stared the wall near the girl's head with gentle blush on her face. – How long you've been then?
She slipped back on the bed to support the wall, raised her right knee and looked up to the ceiling.
- How long? Well…officially, it's about…half a year.
The Hakdokian made some calculations in her head, becoming silent for some seconds.
- You were…exactly on Epte Merinos, aren't you? – Her roommate nodded. – What happened there? I mean, would you mind if I ask, how?
This was the question that made Shiori to become flushed entirely.
- Uhm, well…likely you've heard that we returned from space after the last action in a smaller ship. – The Hakdokian approved silently. - There was some kind of official report or whatever that we were found nude and apparently robbed in the ocean. – She got the same reaction. – Indeed it was true that the ship was robbed by the Cloudans, but…our clothes were not stolen. You can still see the very same clothing I wore up there. – Shiori gently pushed up a small hanging edge of her brown-ish leather skirt. – It has been on the deck with the artifact we stole back and such.
- Why you were nude then? – Sam asked, but the amazon's suspicious look told her everything. She was less innocent in real life then she seemed, yet this fact was so unexpected that some seconds later she covered her mouth in surprise.
- No one knows – Shiori went on with a smile. -, not even his closest friends, Red or Hammer, but…before Epte Merinos, Drake was a virgin. Not that I wanted to do against it, but… - She sighed with a slight shine in her eyes, indicating some really small teardrops to appear. – That was a risky adventure, Sam. I was held by the Cloudan pirates for a week. They were simply too far from his ship. None of us could do anything and…and they were close to do that strange thing with the ship, you know.
- Hyperjump? – Sam asked, and the amazon approved.
- Drake told that only the pirates had that ability for the ships, and it was just…scary. If I'd have been transported REALLY that far from him, I…I'd be doomed.
The short-haired listened to her with a sad look, even when he wiped her eyes and sighed once more.
- It was a hard time, Sam. No one's dealing with the events at Epte Merinos, because »W r the Darkeyez and w r soo suuupeeeeerrrr cuz w defted saroh«, but in fact…his power had behind his criminals. You see, even Drake and I could defeat him! But the Cloudans….those are monsters! Poor boy had so many troubles getting me out of their claws. And it was not even the first time he saved me, you should have seen my arrival at Vel!
- Yeah, I can remember you didn't want to talk about that.
- By a reason. So ultimately, I had to repay somehow, and I was even in love so…we made love up in space. – She avoided eye contact while saying these words. – No one would trust me if I'd try to defend myself but you can be sure that I'm not a whore or something…I know that it was early and we didn't even do anything that would…you know, lead it up.
- Foreplay?
The amazon still stared away in blush.
- Maybe, I still don't know what you call how. The matter is that I'm not a girl who has sex with every single newcomer, so it'd be embarrassing to tell anyone that after four months, I did it.
- You can be sure that he already told them… - Sam answered with a slight anger. – Men are like this.
Her roommate raised her shoulders while turning back.
- What can I do…at least I'm quite sure they won't misunderstand. Unlike you or the other outsiders, they knew about, how bad that was for us. And you know…they would never try to lay me.
- It's so heroic that both you and Drake are so loyal even on this level! – Sam's enthusiasm appeared again. – I also want a man like him!
Shiori laughed.
- No way, Sam, trust me, you don't want a man like him! I would have never dealt with him at all if he won't save me. Actually he told me, I'm the only one who he has ever saved among similar circumstances.
- Oh…
- He also has some problems regarding people and such. I don't want to explain in details because he's really anxious about whether people are aware of it or not, so…
- It's okay. – She approved. – I can understand!
- Not even talking about his age…girl, he's five years younger! FIVE YEARS!
- Isn't it only four chronologically?
- Well, yes, yes, it is, that non-temporal phenomena really messed things up. Think of Red and his two CENTURIES, girl! What did he do for 200 years?
The Hakdokian chortled.
- He's funny! Hard to believe he's not as old as me chronologically, only biologically.
- Well… - The amazon put her index finger to her lips as she was thinking. – It's quite possible that our personalities tend to stay close to or original age. At least that would explain the other identities of Micah…he's still a 9 years old partially, even after an entire millennium. And yes, actually, Nate is also not far from a young adult.
Sam smiled again, but this one was different. Even her roommate noticed; the short-haired was thinking of Minkren and while doing so, she blushed, smiled and even her look was different. Shori looked at her for about half a minute, and then leant her head back to the wall and her view returned to the ceiling.
- You know, Nate used to be really greedy before he met us. He still is, at some point, but when he and Drake have got some time to talk about the world and things like that, he was convinced, apparently.
- About what?
- Just like most of the team, he was also uninterested in the Gate, but somehow, Drake pulled out something from him. Basically, he's not the kind of romantic person, not nowadays at least but…he met a lot of non-temporals in those space cities and a lot of them were pirates in their previous life. He kept on gathering information about a girl who was living in one of those worlds. A girl, who's exactly like him: a pirate with short light red hair, greedy, tricky and often aggressive. He has even got to make some drawing how she'd look like, and I think… - Shiori also chortled this time. – I think you look like exactly as her! Yes, it's likely, and I think this is why Red is so kind to you.
- Me?! – Sam surprised. She was indeed aggressive sometimes, but she was otherwise different.
- Yup! Well, I think he's still going to follow us, I REALLY hope so at least…but anyway, he's with us because he really wants to leave after 200 years, mostly to find that girl. I think she's the perfect one for him. I doubt he really changed deep inside, but it's sure that he keeps on telling about »getting everything on the world« much less frequently.
- I guess he's like the macho who still have feelings inside. – Sam said; Shiori nodded.
- Pretty much, but he'd never admit! – She laughed, followed by the Hakdokian, who then grinned with a sudden an unexpected charming look.
- Well, he's quite handsome, I have to admit! I'd spend some days with him to decide if he's really such a dork. – The amazon laughed on her sudden change; just like everyone else, she also thought that Sam is a rather shy and introverted girl. – What about his tattoos, by the way?
- The tattoos? Something about electric blah, never understood. What I could get is that his skin stores that electric power and that is released on his nipples. That's why he can't wear any shirts; those "discharges" or whatever set any clothing on fire, except some special ones. Anyway, he said all the plus sign on his left palm, the minus on his right, both circles around, and the stripes going up to his nipples are Ethereal Runes, written extremely tightly.
- Like the ones on your leg? – Sam looked at the maze of black runes on the right leg of the amazon, all through from her ankle to her thigh. She nodded.
- Something like that, apparently. Mine was rather a work of my tribe, though.
- Tribe?
- I'm called Amazon because I told I'm from a jungle world. I was a shamangirl there, some kind of warrior. It's hard to describe for you.
- A shamangirl? – Shiori approved. – Why no one has ever called you like that?
- A lot of people did, actually. Not sure, why you don't use it here. – The amazon raised her shoulders and moved forward, to lay on the bed. She supported her head with her hands below the nape.
- Anyway, he's really, REALLY powerful, you can be sure that your world will be defended by his force.
- By who's force?! – A familiar male voice interrupted. That was Will, as he was returning from lunch with the metalhead, the devil-skinned, and the aforementioned lightning man, who was arriving from the background, hitting the grey-skinned one's back with a silly laugh and yelled:
- Well, not by yours Sergeant Shit-out!
- Shut the fuck up! – He turned back with threatening. – You're not funny at all, half-naked ladyboy!
Instead of initiating fight, Nate was only laughing this time. Samantha noticed it, and deeply inside, she appreciated – especially considering Shiori's words.
- Heeeere comes the Rock'n'roll Train! – Drake, who was quite silent during the others' arguing, suddenly shouted and ran as much as he could, just to jump to his bed by full force. By this, the shamangirl slightly flew up to the air for a second, only to fall back into a completely messed bed.
- Drake, you bastard, I'll kick your teeth out! – She yelled to the metalhead, poking him with her knee and grasping him at his shoulder. He just kept laughing, and kissed her lover after she calmed down.
- Girls, we've got some new info. – Diablo stated after everyone sat or laid down to their own bedplace.

- Did the bait work?
The tall man was standing in grey fur clothing in the dim corridor. Sounds of boots stepping on the rigid steel tiles of the floor were echoing through the entire building.
- It did! We got the contact to the entire subway line!
The other person wore a wolf head-shaped mask on his head. Otherwise, his clothing consisted of standard dark green private uniform of the Red Fist Armed Ops.
- Great! It's a shame we couldn't bribe the maintenance shift, only the com-service.
- Be positive! The Boss can see everything now, by himself!
- Ah, the Boss…I'm quite sure heads fall down for this "mistake".
- Don't even mention…
- Can you imagine what happens if those anticommunist roaches can leave the Pole City Station alive?!
- You said they won't.
- Only over my dead body! Well, not literally yet. – The tall man put his own mask upon his head; it was similarly shaped like a wolf head. – The fight is going to come only days later!
- And the Hakdokian resistance will collapse like an ant hill with no queen!
- Hey, idiots! – A mysterious man in black coat leant in at the corner. – Jensen is coming, get the hell outta here! – And as soon as finished this sentence, disappeared.
The two shook hands, saluted, and said "For the Red Dominion!", before quietly sneaking away. Two people in white laboratory coat were coming; two males, a little one with short blonde hair and round glasses, and a significantly taller one with short black hair combed upwards, wearing rectangular glasses and an elegantly cut goatee.
- Anything else, Bieito? – The black-haired was wiping his eyes in fatigue.
- Some of the Ethereal Capacitors suffered outage. – The blonde man, apparently an assistant answered. - It is going to take about 36 hours to replace them, fortunately the material is present but the network capacity will have lass backup until that.
- Argh, great.
- Your proposal on the expansion of the facility is on a good way in the Future Empire Research Priority Assessment Process, but it steel needs weeks to get the licenses and the tech from the center. What is good though that the excavation team has found some additional unconnected EEC Driver Devices.
- Site C-77? Or F-77?
- The latter, Mr. Jensen.
- For science's sake, the major will complain again…
- We can hope the best, sir.
- Yeah, we can always hope, but in Ethereal Science, there's no such thing as hope.
- Trust the ruins, sir! You are the one who's always been talking about the technological magnificence of the Shapers.
Dr. Shaun Jensen stopped with a strong stomp.
- Damn it, Bieito, these ruins are million years old! Even if their material is indestructible, carving out the Runes again takes up all our money! The current EEC driver block took an entire year to be cleaned!
The assistant kept silent, yet did not change his aspiring look.
- Mr. Jensen…
- Nah, I'm sorry. – The engineer continued his path, followed by the blonde. – Just the stress. Twenty hours every single day and it's still barely enough to keep this rotting facility in one piece. My nerves are getting break down.
- You should relax, Mr. Jensen.
- No way, Bieito, no damn way, the people above us rely on our work. Don't forget the Oath!
- The Oath of the Technocracy of the Future Empire?
- Exactly, my friend! We promised to an entire world, after years of heavy study and research, that we'll serve the indestructible conception of human advancement, progress and rejuvenation to raise our species out of the age of darkness. It cannot be done without protecting the vulnerable ones! Human ingenuity is stronger than any of the natural elements and Hakdok is the prime example of it! No, Bieito, I won't let it collapse, I'll fight for it 'til I die trying!
- Speaking of which, Diablo is heading back to Pole City. He brings four of the Gate Hunter Fellowship.
- Really?! – Jensen raised his eyebrows. – What's their current status?
- We do not know, sir. FH-Web contact is still delaying or lacking within these portions of the facility.
- Great…
- What I could gather so far is that a certain "Wolf Eye" followed them on the subway. He was ordered to eliminate the Gate Hunters and Diablo but he was somehow defeated. According to our sources, he managed to murder some maintenance workers before a security personnel member threw him out to the rails.
- And Diablo?
- He was not aware of the incidents, as his sister and the Gate Hunters neither. Another incident happened though, during which some disguised or at least bribed workers hacked the security camera system. Now both the subway personnel, Diablo himself and the Gate Hunters are aware of the impending threat of Matveev and his division.
- Are they in safety? – Jensen adjusted his glasses to prevent them from falling down.
- They most likely are. We do not know, though, how strong is the presence of the squad of Matveev within Pole City.
- Meh…this entire Werewolf problem is on our shoulders for weeks. I have enough that our precious city is swarmed by these low-life DNA-hybrid mongrels; my stomach is turning on their disgusting masks.
- And the worst of all is that it seems like they are planning something, sir.
- That's why I suggested Diablo to see if the Gate Hunters arrive in time, Bieito.
- Oh…I'm sorry, Mr. Jensen, I was unaware of this fact.
- Nah. – The engineer dabbed. – You're also tired, I guess. We can rest soon, my son! The reinforcement is on way, and if they, or WE, can sweep the red waste out of the Hakdokian properties, then we can start fully concentrating on the stabilization of the facility!
- In the worst case, we can replace the entire Shaper ruin with Future Empire technology, can't we?
Jensen looked down to his assistant with a smile; such a smile that bore every pride of an undefeatable man, who worked for the life of hundreds of thousands.
- Bieito…there is no such thing, as impossible for a Future Empire Technocrat! We'll terraform the entire planet, at any costs! – He grabbed the shoulder of the assistant. - Trust me, your grandchildren are going to swim in the water within the remains of the former Merois Lava Lake!
Bieito nodded with a smile and followed Shaun out of the dim metal corridor.

- What about your skin? – The starman asked the question that made everyone wonder about Diablo.
It was the last night they had to spend on the endlessly moving underground subway. Both Drake and Shiori could accommodate to the rather crowded deck, even Will could pass the time away with the short-haired sister of Logan. He and Nate also discussed a lot of topics during lunch and breakfast, but even though they kept on talking all day, this question somehow missed the lightning man's attention.
- Glad you asked. – The devil-skinned smiled; he was indeed happy that Nathan asked right at the dinner table, when the entire team was present. With a negligent move, he dug his hand into an empty cup, put a partially melted ice cube out, threw it up into the air, and as it was falling down, he smashed it with his right fist. Instead of spraying water drops, pieces of ice and such, what the team could experience was a weird sizzling voice and trail of vapor flying around his hand.
He was just keeping smiling while the rest, with their jaw dropped, attempted to understand the situation.
- He's been doing this trick for months! – Sam laughed. – Bro loves to make people amazed.
- What?! – Drake yelled.
- How?! – He was followed by the orange-haired.
Jumper silently shook his head.
- If I start focusing, I can transform the energy my body exerts via force convert into pure thermal energy, well, only above a certain threshold of force. The coloration is only a side effect of the constant use of this type of Ethereal Energy. It's the tattoos around my eyes, probably.
- Doesn't sound too strong for fist. – Will noted. – How does it help you in fights? Especially if you're vulnerable to your own power.
- I'm not! – Diablo grinned, pinching the skin on his forearm. – Of course I'm not, just like you aren't, Atmo-Jumper! My skin is thermostable, I swear it's better than asbestos!
- Are you resistant to fire?! – The shamangirl widened her eyes. He kept on grinning.
- Yes I am! Even my lungs and eyes! Well, the latter need those tattoos.
- I guess those are like mine. – Nathan took the floor; the devil-skinned nodded.
- Or like the runes on the blondie's leg. Ethereal Rune tattoos are extremely beneficial if they are well chosen and organized. I'm not saying it didn't hurt so much that I almost broke my arm while grasping to the chair when these were made but…when I was on Space Angel duty, I had no choice.
- And does it mean any chemical or mechanical defense? – Will asked again, leaning forward in the chair, above his plate that still had some trails of a beige-colored sauce.
- As a strange side effect, I'm immune to capsaicin. – He responded. – From chili to pepper spray, nothing can induce my receptors.
- Not even pepper spray?! – The grey-skinned also widened his eyes at this point, but the devil-skinned laughed out loudly.
- Ah man, that's the best part! There was a time back in the day, in Angel service, our squad got some peppers from Dox Zagao, that's where we got food usually, you know, but something was fucked during the transport and we got these peppers, but man! The boys said it's like poison, practically inedibly strong stuff. No, seriously, no one could eat anything they cooked from that at the canteen!
Shiori and Will giggled, while Logan stopped for some seconds, wiping his eyes in laugh.
- Ah man, the sergeants wanted to kick the entire squad in the ass! It took a lot of cash to change the stuff back to something edible but then it was sent BACK with the cash, saying they also can't do nothing with that shit! And then…shit, I'm still crying in laugh…and then it was sent back to the canteen and the sergeants ordered them to cook something and for an entire year, the punished got nothing to eat but that! And when I got a penalty, for…for God knows what, maybe slept on guard or something, but anyway, I ate the last sup of that stuff, MAN, THOSE FACES!
Drake, Sam and Nate were all laughing as well at this point.
- They said – Diablo went on. -, god haha, they said, I mean the sergeants said that if I can eat one more bowl, I'm freed and even get a week of leave if I can eat another bowl!
- I guess that was a calm week. – Jumper smiled.
- Oh yes, it was! I slept through the half of it, but I made them remember to me!
- Hell yeah, I was sure! – The tone of the grey-skinned went a bit more serious then. – The pepper spray thing is the best of it, I think. But can you actually kick of hit huge enough to induce bigger impacts?
- Well, partially, I'm immune to explosions as well, so it's quite interesting sometimes. Exploding a barrel of kerosene by a slap is definitely among my basic abilities but…I can set other things on fire as well.
- Go on…
- If I hit something, my arm or leg can break, of course, but it's may worth if a steel beam starts melting down or bending then. In extreme cases, even the air heats up, so some slash into the air can be enough in rather hot environments.
- Like the outside. – The amazon noted.
- Oh yes! It made my job significantly easier when we had to clean the Reds, or sometimes, the Browns out of their hidden badland bases.
- Badlands?
- Ah, sorry, that's how we call the dried plains and hills beyond the volcanic lakes. Not a friendly place but apparently enough for them to hide out. If you've seen any World War bunker system from the Old Earth Ages, you saw nothing compared to what those did there. Literally like fuckin' cockroaches, you can't destroy them! Well, after smashing the coolant system and the isolators…they had really ugly death. I'm not a fan of these methods but…you know how it works.
- Oh yeah, absolutely! – Jumper was approving. – Don't even think for a second the Republic Forces are any better…especially the AA Units. There's a phrase on the Borderrealm that "the scum of humanity goes to the prison in the Future Empire, the executors in the Red Fist, the elite in the Justice Empire, and the AA Units in the Republic."
- Speaking of which, what's the nature of your ability? – Logan asked while taking a bite from a meat roll.
- Not sure how much you may know about the AA Unit 15, but I'm not among them for over a decade so it doesn't even matter I guess.
- The Atmo-Jumper Guild, right? What we may know is that you're the only living exiled member.
- Yeah, something like that. Long story, matter is that I was treated with a compound that modified my chemistry and such. That's about my and the other Atmo-Jumper's skin…we are partially converted into Aurosts. What they couldn't achieve is the power we got, somehow, that stuff reacts to our muscular system this way. I can kick myself out to the atmosphere of a regular planet without any significant injuries. Well, some of my comrades died of it, but usually it's survivable for us.
Diablo trembled for a second.
- Terrible even to imagine…
- It is. But hey, that's what I got. – The grey-skinned stared his reflection in his drink. – My life was and at some points is still ruined, so the Republic scum will pay for it one day, but…I don't know. Maybe it's worth more to travel with the Darkeye Duo and leave the fuck away. And after all, they helped me to take revenge back on Epte Merinos, so…I think they deserve me to repay and not to chase the traitors anymore. The idea that working for the Republic in enough penalty…well, that makes sense.
- Shiori, did it happen when you had… - The sister of the devil-skinned asked, but he was interrupted by the shamangirl, accompanied by an obvious leer, indicating for Sam to stop.
- Yes, it happened during that. He also had a hard time around those days…
Diablo sighed and after some seconds, turned to Red.
- So Jumper has lethal kicks and untearable skin. What about you, Lightning Man?
- Well… - The orange-haired took a final bit from his bread. – I'm a living capacitor of some kind. Firstly I was like a Faraday-cage, since only my skin got this ability, and that's still true, but you know…after that incident on Star Vegas, I learnt to use that Plasma Phasing stuff you're all talking about and…
- Ah yes! – Diablo was shaken up by this sentence. – Jensen was incredibly amazed when reports told you became plasma and then back to human.
- You got it then. Well, I constantly attempt to expand my abilities since electricity is something that surrounds of everywhere, you may know. This stripe on my arms might be strange but they also serve this purpose.
- But why your nipples?
- I don't know, man! – Red laughed embarrassingly. – Looks like charging accumulates there. Maybe my skin is too thin there or something…it might be the pain-sensing nerve ends too, but the lips are unaffected strangely. Anyway, my body stores even the smallest electric charge that touches my skin and I can discharge that anyhow I want.
- Sounds like a great base for a ton of abilities.
- Well, I won't hack into your smartphone by my brain waves, but yeah. From magnetic manipulation through various electric arc discharges, heating things up, charged punches, electric field manipulation to the Plasma Phasing, I can do a lot of things. But of course it took all those decades I've spent here to learn. This Ethereal shit is hard, daaaamn hard.
Samantha listened to his words with a visibly excited and interested mien. Nate responded with a barely visible ogle, making her blush.
- Well, about you, a lot is known but… - Diablo turned to the metalhead and the amazon. – We're unsure about that the true nature of your abilities is known.
- I don't do the Ethereal thing. – Drake answered. – I have augmentations only.
- Ah, the grappling hooks, right?
- Yeah, I added them in the earliest times, yet before I traveled to Vel. There are some in my brain too, those from the previous life.
The devil-skinned raised his eyebrows.
- Really?! What can you do with them?
- An echolocation sensor, well it's a bit weak but can help me navigate without seeing, on a basic level. Not too much, really, it's an early model and is about to be worn, but I doubt it's gonna be much worse. At least in darkness I'm not fucked. And that was important back in the day on those streets, you know.
- I see, I see. I think we've got some similar Ethereal Energy users too.
- The other is an agility enhancer. That's in my ear so my sense of balance is greatly improved. That's the biggest help actually, because without it, my motion is…well… - The boy jiggled. – Damn lame. The hooks were originally attached to my arm but I had to mount and remove them often so…when I started going on with the old business here, before Vel, I thought I must implant them into my arms. - Diablo nodded. – There are various setting for the hook itself so…it can be used for several applications. Quite hi-tech stuff, the thread is generated from some sort of nano-foam, it's damn cheap and can even be stored in a canister in my forearm.
- Doesn't that hurt?
- A little bit, but none of the original stuff are cut out or something. Well, half of my forearm on both sides is mechanic but… - Drake raised his forearm above his head. – As you can see, it's not visible.
- You've got those laser pistols, right?
- Oh, yes! I'm the man of weapons, not these supernatural shenanigans that the other SNSH people use. I'm simply augmented and trained to kick ass! And energy weapons are essential for that, since they need no ammo, only charge! I have to save that usually, but still better than carrying a shit-ton of shells and packets. In my method, that's unacceptable.
The devil-skinned nodded again.
- It doesn't seem to be much, or enough at all, but still…all your actions from Vel through Darkeye and the Destroyer to Nebula City were fascinating!
- Thank you! – Drake jiggled embarrassingly. – It's really just about us, not the world. I don't give a shit about the world, honestly.
- Why are you doing it then? – The Hakdokian was quite sure in the direct answer; the team was not called "Gate Hunter" by accident. However, the legend of the Gate, a superstructure in the void-like emptiness above the Cosmic Disk has already attracted the attention of millions, if not billions of people, mostly the non-temporal ones. All of them knew: such an interdimensional complex is the only way of escaping from the otherwise inescapable endless circle of their afterlife existence within this dimension.
- Actually, it's about a promise. – Drake gently grabbed Shiori's right hand with his left one, caressing it and looking at her face with some lovely glances. The amazon did so as well, as she also remembered to the promise the boy made.
- A promise?
- Shiori was in a morbidly traumatic state when I found her on Vel. Not only leaving that industrial sewage pit, but even attempting to recover her at all was hard and exhausting. Finally it took some weeks but we could leave, but she was still way too distressed, so when we finally arrived to Gaohuacao in safety and she was still in trauma, I convinced her to find the Gate together.
- Sounds like a promise for a child that would be forgotten.
Drake shook his head.
- Look…you didn't see what I saw. I've been through some terrible shit but Shiori was by far in the worst state I've even seen. Won't go into the details, but her shiver and cry in the alley…you can imagine something but multiply it by ten at least. I used to love telling people I have no heart, but…but that was different. SHE HERSELF was different. – He chewed a small chunk of meat and then continued: - Ever since I've found out the very first time this Gate thing, I was SURE she has to go there! This world is not for her. And not for me neither, I mean, even you can't believe seriously that this is the otherworld!
- I didn't care much about such things, Drifter. My life is dedicated to protect the others. Whatever ugly ways of my death is gonna have, whatever awaits me in the afterlife, I can take it for the life of others.
- Well, all of those me, she or Red could have protected are in another dimension. We are on our own, and it seems I'm a non-temporal who, let's say, can't really live on the fact there's nothing else to wait for. I know it was less than two years, but I surely won't wait two CENTURIES like this sucker on my side! – Drifter poked Red in his side with the ankle, who responded with a tense and annoyed look. – So yeah, I don't care what it costs, I'll find the Gate and I'm gonna start a new life with this hot chick on my side!
- Oh come on! – Shiori grinned in blush, gently hitting Drake in the head.
- You see? – Will leant towards the grey-skinned. That's what they do when they aren't arguing!
The devil-skinned laughed.
- I have to say pals, your love towards life and your passion is really motivating and exemplary!
- As I said: anything for money! - Red smiled while placing some additional meat rolls to his plate. – If I've learnt something during all those decades, then it's that sharing your greediness can be more entertaining than being alone at the top!
Jumper turned towards him with an annoyed face, as he went on eating.
- Nate…for God's sake. All we know why you want to visit the Gate.
- I don't care, my priority order is clear: money, ice tea, you guys, and only at the end: the orange girl! – In the very second he pronounced the last word the starman gulped a huge, almost starting choking on the meat piece he swallowed. With a panicked look he checked if Sam was listening to him – she was.
Even the metalhead and the shamangirl turned towards Red. The air suddenly become heavy, as Red realized what he said. Everyone but the sister of the devil-skinned and the starman was smiling; particularly Jumper, in his schadenfreude, and Shiori, who already knew Sam knows about the secret.
- Well, it's not about you, Sam, I mean… - Red started explaining the situation in his embarrassment. – I mean it MIGHT be about you, and such, but there's a legend I heard and…
Sam silently shook her head.
- Don't worry! – She said with a smile. – I got it. Shiori already told me.
- Really?! – The starman calmed down, with appreciative wink towards the amazon. – You know then. But I keep my opinion that you'd have a really good rank on that list!
The grey-skinned shook his head.

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