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One week ago...

Dahlia had to admit, being behind the Saint Nazaire's wheel made her a lot more nervous than merely piloting the heavy vessel. When Cortes had left, taking Mila, on his undisclosed mission, he had left Dahlia in charge of the Saint Nazaire. It had been a bit of a learning curve. But it was nothing she couldn't handle. In truth, she had been becoming more and more frustrated with the task of simply being the ship's pilot. She was good at flying the Saint Nazaire. She knew that. Even Mahad had, begrudgingly, told her he thought she flew it better than he could. Of course, that being because he was more apt with a sleek, well balanced vessel, or so he'd proclaimed. Dahlia had simply rolled her eyes and smiled. Whilst there was still that cocky arrogance to him, things like admitting her aptitude for piloting the Saint Nazaire were dished out with almost as much frequency as his crowing about his own accomplishments. Mahad had grown up and, thankfully, learnt a few things.

But Mahad had his own ship. It may have been small, but it was his, and he was perfectly happy to be in full command of that vessel. Wayan had the ever growing fleet of Mosquitoes at his command. And Cortes still had her stuck piloting the Saint Nazaire! Dahlia had tried to see the positive side, but had only grown more frustrated. She'd told Mahad as much.

"So tell him you want a promotion," Mahad had told her with a shrug, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. "You'd make a good captain - you're bossy enough."

She'd thought about it, she'd planned to, and then Cortes had told her he needed her to captain the Saint Nazaire in his absence. And then he'd proceeded to download on her, for a full half hour, instructions about what she should do in case something went wrong, not to overtax the engines, and basically not to scratch one inch of his precious ship. If she'd initially thought he was putting her in charge because he trusted her, that had about scrapped any thought of that. In short, she'd ended up chickening out.

At least, she admitted to herself, she would now be able to prove how well she could captain a ship in practice. Perhaps that would put her in a better position to find something more interesting to do, if not for Cortes, then surely one of the other pirate captains would notice.

And she now had an opportunity to prove that worth, or to find out if she was completely unsuited for this sort of responsibility. Dahlia swallowed, and shook her head. No, she couldn't think about it like that. This was an important mission. She needed to concentrate on it, not how it could benefit her.

The Saint Nazaire floated lazily, flanking the slightly larger Leviathan.

"Anything on your scanners, Dahlia?" Iziel's voice came over the inter-ship communications. The older woman had command of this particular mission, and Dahlia had to admit her presence made her just a little bit calmer.

"Nothing as yet," she replied.

"Wait..." Behind her at the central console, Cheng tensed as a blip made itself known on his equipment. Then he relaxed. "Nope, just Mahad."

Cheng had grown so much Dahlia still found herself doing a double take whenever he walked into a room. He was not overly tall, but he had certainly shot up and his voice had deepened with age. Though he spent most of his time, still, in front of a computer he managed to maintain a lean fitness. Coupled with the fierce look he got whenever he encountered a system that gave him some challenge to hack, and evidenced by the conversations Dahlia had overheard amongst the younger girls on Puerto Angel, he was more in demand than he seemed to realise. What helped his case, in Dahlia's opinion, was that he didn't seem to have a clue about this. Having put up with Mahad's forced bravado in his younger days, Dahlia could see how this complete lack of comprehension on Cheng's part held an appeal. He was more likely to complain about the fact he struggled to grow a beard then to embellish his perceived strengths.

Dahlia glanced over her shoulder, catching him frowning in a moment of concentration.

"He's coming in pretty fast..."

"Dahlia, Iziel," Mahad's voice crackled over the communications at that very moment. Even with the static, Dahlia could hear the note of excited apprehension in his voice. Something had him spooked, and he probably wanted to shoot it.

"Mahad," Iziel's voice came through. "What have you found?"

"The reports we received were dead right. The Sphere is testing something out here. I've found what looks like a base of operations. They had a half dozen new ships parked up - can't wait to fight them. And looks like they've got some sort of new Brig."

"Didn't blast them right out of the sky then?"
Iziel asked.

"No," Mahad growled. "We can do much more damage with the warships. And our seijins. That Brig thing was putting out some pretty powerful blasts, nearly took out my left engine..."

"Wait, Mahad, they saw you?" Dahlia asked.

"Well, yeah. I mean, I needed to see what they were doing; I had to get in close. Also, that might be important, meant to mention that... think they're following me."

"Mahad!" Dahlia snapped. "If they've got new ships..."

"They're prototypes. They've probably got all sorts of faults..."

"I seem to remember the original Hyperion was a prototype, Mahad."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Iziel cut in over the top. "Relax, Dahlia. Just because you're captaining his ship doesn't mean you've got to jump at shadows like our good friend Cortes. We'll cut down as many as we can, and if we run into trouble, we bolt. Even if we don't make a sizable dent in them we'll be bound to learn something about their capabilities."

"Alright," Dahlia admitted begrudgingly. "I think we can manage that." This was, after all, her chance to prove herself. She couldn't do that by turning tail and running.

"Awesome," said Mahad. She could practically hear him grinning over the channel. "We'll take them, Dahlia, don't worry sweetheart."

"That's captain to you, Mahad."

"I know, I know. Hey, and send Lena over. I'll double back and we can do a bit of damage before you lot catch up."

"I'll get her," Cheng stood up and left the bridge.

Dahlia drew in a deep breath. She hoped they were doing the right thing. But then there was only one way to find out.

* * *

Lena was pacing the floor of Cortes' cabin when Cheng threw open the door.

"Lena, Mahad's found the Sphere. They've got new ships or something; he thinks he'll need your help."

Lena let out a sigh. "Finally!" It was a sunny day and that always seemed to make her itch for something to do. Whilst she didn't find it as exciting to blast Sphere ships out of the sky as her brother, doing so certainly fit the bill for releasing the energy building up within her. It seemed that as her power steadily grew, so did the urge to use it. She had never craved the enormous energy that at times seemed to course within her, but so far she had managed to keep herself from anything resembling the atrocities she had seen Oslo perpetuate. What she could do with those powers was to help the resistance, to help people, and so far this had more than satisfied her.

"Come on, you two. Mahad needs our help."

'You two' were Jared and Horatio, two seijins who Lena was currently tutoring and who had agreed to come on this mission for the experience. Horatio was somewhere in his forties, blond with a thick bushy mustache. He had somehow managed to hide himself away from the Sphere for years, and when the resistance had grown in strength he had joined. It'd taken him about six months to approach Mila and let her know he was a seijin. He wasn't overly powerful, but steady and consistent with what power he did have. He stood to his feet as Lena spoke. "I've been waiting long enough to blast some of those bastards out of the sky."

Jared was eighteen, wiry and jittery, and had the potential to become a fairly powerful seijin, should he be able to concentrate on anything Lena tried to teach him. He was currently pawing through Cortes' bookcase. "Give me one second," he said. "I heard a rumour the captain keeps an alcohol stash in here... somewhere..."

"He does," said Cheng with a sigh. "Or rather, he did. He's moved it. And if you go digging into it, he'll know, trust me on this. In fact he'll probably blame me."

"Jared!" Lena barked at him.

Two books clattered to the ground. "Sorry, sorry, coming..."

The whine of an approaching engine drew their attention. Outside, Mahad's ship pulled up. Modeled off the Hyperion, it was almost the spitting image of that ship. Mahad was always tinkering with it, complaining it wasn't anything like the original. He'd even gone as far as to ask the resistance's engineers for assistance, despite which, he still was convinced it just wasn't quite right. The ship was solid red, with a very deliberate plastering of the rebel logo on its hull, rather than the Sphere's which had still been present on its predecessor.

The hatch hissed open. "Come on!" Mahad shouted. "I haven't got all day."

Docking was not required. Lena stepped out through the cabin doors and sent herself sailing across the gap easily. She slipped into the seat beside Mahad and flashed him a grin.

Horatio and Jared followed suit, a little less confidently. Lena could see Mahad watching them with a slight smirk on his face, his hand hovering over the ship's control stick. "Mahad..." she said.

He pulled his hands back. "I wasn't going to do anything."

As soon as everyone was on board, Mahad shot away. "Dahlia, Iziel," he said into the comms. "We'll engage as soon as we reach them, but we're counting on you for backup, so don't be far behind." That done, he pushed the throttle to full power.

Lena glanced across at her brother. He was excited, that was a given. But he stared ahead with a steely determination and concentration that indicated he was seriously focused on the upcoming battle, more so than he usually was. "Mahad..." Lena asked tentatively. "Why didn't you just take out the Sphere ships by yourself? It's not like you to come looking for backup."

"You'll see in a minute," her brother replied, sparing her only a brief glance. "It wasn't the ships, though they might be a bit of problem as well. This Brig thing they were trying out attacked me. I swear if that shot had landed I wouldn't be here now." He drew in a breath. "Taking down that thing needs a seijin."

"Well, you've got three now."

Mahad grinned at her. "Exactly. So, if they want to have a little field exercise, I say we give it to them."

"Fine by me."

Mahad's console let out a chirp.

"What's that mean?" Jared asked, shifting nervously in his seat.

Mahad waved a hand dismissively. "Yeah, it does that. It's not important. It just means... that!"

Out of the clouds ahead a dark grey ship burst forth. Mahad tipped the control stick, and they slipped past by centimeters. Mahad pulled them back around. Facing them was a ship that was almost an exact mirror image of the Hyperion. It was a dark solid grey. Lena wasn't sure, but she thought its engines may have been a tad beefier looking - Mahad would be able to tell for certain. It bore the Sphere emblem, outlined in red.

"Holy crap," said Jared. "They've got your ship, Mahad."

"You going to be able to out-fly them?" Horatio asked.

Mahad's mouth twisted into a frown. "Like I said, I'm not worried about the ships."

The enemy ship made no move, and neither did Mahad. His console blipped at him again, and then out of the clouds another half dozen Hyperion look-a-likes drifted into view and surrounded them.

Lena swallowed. She knew her brother got some crazy ideas sometimes, but to just sit there was insane. "Mahad..."

"Wait for it," said Mahad. The corner of his mouth had begun to twitch upwards. "They're here for tests. They want to test their biggest weapon, not play target practice... you might want to get out on the hull though, I have a funny feeling..." He opened the hatch, and Lena slipped out. She was less worried about Mahad making an impetuous move with the Hyperion - powerful enough now to guide herself through the skies with ease, she was in no danger.

On the ship opposite the hatch hissed open too, and then a Brig stepped out. At least, it looked like it was supposed to be a Brig. It was more solidly built, rather than the almost skeletal appearance of the previous model. This one was broad and bulky like a man in an armoured suit, rather than a spindly machine. It bore a similar colour scheme to the Hyperion-ships. Dark grey, almost black. With a red emblem and a red at its seams that seemed to glow with energy. Lena concentrated on it. Yes, it was a machine. It felt like a Brig. But it also felt different.

At that moment it raised its arm, its metal palm facing towards her. She saw a blue light begin to build.

"Lena!" Mahad shouted.

She needed no further invitation. Lena felt the Hyperion's deck drop below her, the ship darting out of harms way. She shot into the air like a bullet, and felt the power of the blast tear through the fabric of the atmosphere beneath her. Nearby was a bloc, perhaps fifty meters across. Lena landed on this. Seconds later, the Brig-machine landed across from her.

Around them the Hyperion chased its counterparts. Weapons fire lanced the air. Lena ignored all this. That Brig's blast, the one Mahad was scared would knock the Hyperion clear out of the sky, was no ordinary blast. It was nothing that a simple machine could create. Lena had sensed it, in that split second before she had darted out of its way. The blast had been powered by seijin energy.

"What are you!?" she demanded.

"I am the enforcer," the machine replied. It raised its arm again. Seijin energy shot towards her. This time Lena caught it, and felt her whole body tense and tingle. She gasped, so unexpected was the surge, and though intending to fling the shot back at this enforcer, her shot went wide and flew off harmlessly into the sky.

Lena drew in a breath and fought to clear her head. She was far beyond the fainting spells she'd suffered so often when she was younger, when she had overtaxed her powers to breaking point. She had learned not to push herself. But in that moment she felt closer to passing out than she had in years. With a growl she steadier herself. "Okay, lets see how you handle this."

Drawing in the abundant sunlight, she built her own blast and flung it at the enforcer. The energy parted around the enforcer like water; the machine budged not an inch.

Lena balked. What was she supposed to do with this thing? It was playing with her. Mahad was right; it was out on a field test and it had simply incorporated the rebel attack. But she couldn't back down. I need help.

She sent the thought out telepathically. Either Horatio or Jared would hear, assuming Jared wasn't so nervous he'd forgotten everything she'd taught him. Sure enough, within seconds the Hyperion whipped past close, and Jared and Horatio thumped down onto the bloc beside her.

"What's wrong?" Horatio asked. "What is that thing?"

The enforcer waited patiently for their next action.

"It calls itself an enforcer," said Lena, eyeing it warily. "It... we need to blast it together. I just... it seems to be giving a bit of trouble going down."

The three seijins stood shoulder to shoulder. They built a blast before them, a solid wall of light, and the enforcer just stood there. Lena fought down the feeling that this was a really bad idea. "Now!" she shouted.

The blast flung forward. The enforcer caught it, then flung it back, splitting it into a dozen individual balls of concentrated light. Lena ducked and threw up a shield. She could hear the hiss as parts of it dissolved, and she wasn't sure if it was simply from the power of the enforcer's blast, or like her original shot, her shield was having no effect.

"Is everyone okay..." she looked up, and froze as her gaze fell on Horatio. He was staring ahead, blankly, at the enforcer.

The enforcer stared back, and tilted its head slightly to the side.

Horatio looked down, to the spot Lena was already unable to take her eyes off of. A hole the size of a golf ball was burned cleaned through his chest. His shirt smoked, but there was no blood. He swayed, and then fell face first to the surface of the bloc.

"Lena!" said Jared, his voice cracking. He had ducked to the ground to avoid the blast, and now stared at Horatio, shaking; it didn't look like he'd be able to stand.

Lena turned back to the enforcer. "You son of a bitch!" she shouted at the machine as her vision blurred. She planted her feet firmly apart, and gathered in all the sunlight she could muster. Power built along with rage, far more powerful than her first blast, still more powerful than the combined power the three seijins had previously hurled, and flung it at the enforcer. The light was blinding, and this time the enforcer turned its head slightly to the side as if to avoid the glare, but apart from that it barely flinched.

Lena felt her legs sway beneath her. Mahad. Then she sunk down to the grassy surface of the bloc and the world around her faded to black.

* * *

Through the heat of the battle Mahad heard Lena's voice. The ships were tough, but he had already cut down two. The fact they were almost the same as his didn't scare him - he was the one with the experience. He had the advantage. So he thought nothing of swinging around, thinking his sister had finally gotten the best of this new Brig and simply needed a pick up.

The bloc the seijins were fighting on swung into view. Horatio and Lena were down.

"Lena!" Mahad felt his heart rise into his throat. Completely forgetting the circling ships he pulled up next to the bloc and opened the hatch. He remembered at the last moment, and it was everything he could do to keep himself firmly planted in his seat, where he could access the controls, the weapons, if needed. "Jared, what happened?"

Jared was kneeling at Lena's side, visibly shaking. He heaved her limp body into her arms. "She's.. she's okay. Horatio's dead..." he swallowed.

Mahad glanced at the dark, bulky Brig. It was standing there motionless, but it looked unharmed. He risked looking back at Lena and Jared. "Get... get her back in here." He didn't know what had happened. He hadn't been paying attention to them, instead concentrating on fighting the ships, enjoying it. Whilst this had happened! Why hadn't he kept an eye on them?!

Under seijin energy Jared heaved himself and Lena into the cockpit, where he promptly collapsed on the floor and started to sob.

Mahad stole one last glance at the Brig. He could try blasting it, but if Lena hadn't scratched it so what could he possibly do? Horatio was still there, but then the machine raised its hand and energy began to build within its palm.

"Damn it..." Mahad pulled the Hyperion away, threatening to snap the hatch off due to the sudden acceleration. He only barely got this closed before it was damaged. The Sphere ships were following; he didn't know where the Brig was.

Before him, the bulk of two rebel warships parted the clouds. "Not now! Turn around!" Neither the Leviathan or Saint Nazaire responded. Mahad growled in frustration before realising it was because he hadn't activated the communications. He slammed a hand on the console and opened a channel. "Dahlia, Iziel! Turn around!"

"What the hell's going on, Mahad. I didn't come all the way out here to..."

"Iziel, Lena couldn't beat that thing! You will lose both ships if we don't turn around!"

"Nonsense, you just need a bit more firepower." The Leviathan surged forward and opened fire on the Sphere vessels. They darted away with every bit of speed the Hyperion was capable of mustering. "Seriously Mahad, what's gotten into you? These are basically your ship, you should be able to..."

One of the ships darted around behind the Leviathan. It's hatch opened.

"Back out!" Mahad shouted into the radio. His heart was pounding, Iziel was going to get herself killed, if she would just listen to him... for the briefest of moments, it crossed Mahad's mind that this was how he use to make Cortes feel.

The Brig stepped out and fired a blast of energy. It hit the Leviathan's shields with a hiss. Under the concentrated blast the Leviathan's shields quickly failed, but only at the exact point of impact. There was a hole in their defence, perhaps only a few meters wide. The Brig sent multiple balls of energy through this hole. Once beyond the shields the balls of light darted about, as if looking for specific targets, before punching into the hull at several different points.

The Leviathan let out a groan and its engines fell silent. It began to list to the side, streams of smoke escaping from its hull. The shields flickered and fell completely.

And then the Brig lowered its arm and halted its attack. It turned its attention to the Saint Nazaire.

Mahad felt his stomach drop. "No, Dahlia!"

Again, the Brig opened a hole in the shields, but this time only fired a few balls of light. They impacted various points in the Saint Nazaire's hull, but did not cause the same drastic failures they had on the Leviathan. The Saint Nazaire was smoking from two places, but its engines still ran.

Mahad slapped a hand on the console. "Dahlia, are you alright?" No response. "Dahlia!"

"It's okay, Mahad, I'm fine," Her voice finally came through and Mahad let out a huff of air, hanging his head in relief. "They've taken out weapons, half of the computers, but nothing critical... but Iziel, you need to check she's..."

"You have ten minutes to vacate the area,"
A new voice broke over the communications system. Mechanical, measured, but nowhere near as passive as the Brigs they were used to. Mahad didn't know how, but he immediately realised it was the Sphere's new machine that addressed them. "Be sure to inform your resistance of the new developments you have witnessed here today. Both the enforcer and Hyperion class vessels will shortly be deployed to halt your continued unwillingness to participate in, and direct opposition to, the future of Skyland."

"They're... they're letting us go?" Jared said, his voice quivering.

Mahad glanced over his shoulder. Lena was beginning to stir. Thank God. He swallowed hard. "Yeah. Looks like we're the messengers."
The Lady of Light - Chapter 3
Hey guys, so, hopefully this chapter has a bit more action. I've started getting into the main plot so things should pick up pace. I'm intending on updating and finishing this fic, but from what I've planned out so far, and where I want it to finish at, I'm thinking it's going to end up being a fairly long one. Basically, I'm trying to wrap up a whole lot things in Skyland with this one fic and give the whole thing a (relatively) decent conclusion.

What would really help is if you guys have any comments or feedback. I'd like to make this as good as possible, and I'm also trying to improve my writing in general. As I said before, I still intend to finish this, but comments would definitely help my motivation!

What I'd like to know at the moment:

1. Is Lena in character? I realised when I started writing her bit that I rarely do scenes from her POV, so I haven't had much practice. Also, since she's a little bit older I've tried to make her, obviously, act older. Does she seem like an older Lena?

2. The enforcer. I needed to introduce a technology/character that is a serious threat to the resistance. How’s this coming across initially? Threatening enough?

3. I'm also chucking a fair number of references to engineers in there. This is mostly for my own amusement, as I like the idea of having a character who I can use to make comments like 'who the hell designed that?!', if that's what I think of something. Also, I feel the resistance needs someone dedicated to maintaining their ships (and it shouldn't be Christophe). But let me know if I'm going overboard on technobabble or the like with these guys.

That's all I can think of at the moment, however if you've got any other comments on anything else feel free to let me know! :)

Previous chapter: hyperpsychomaniac.deviantart.c…

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Two months ago...

The battle was fierce. Sphere ships whizzed about and fired upon the rebel fleet. It was chaos.

"Hard to starboard!"

"Aye, sir!" The response of the ship almost beat Dahlia's words, so quick was her reactions. The young woman's skills had increased vastly over the last few years, and the Saint Nazaire responded even faster then when Wayan had shared the task. Weapons fire hit where they had been but seconds before. Cortes gritted his teeth, and surveyed the sky in the brief reprieve.

Sphere vessels outnumbered theirs two to one. Luckily, most  of the Sphere's fleet were S22s. Fast and with a decent amount of firepower, but could be knocked from the sky under concentrated fire in seconds. Fireballs and plummeting debris was more or less equal for each side. Mosquitoes whined past the forward windows like a flock of birds endowed with the teeth of wolves. Under Wayan's command that ever growing fleet tore through vessels ten times thier size. Behind all this, watching like a hungry predator, a Sphere flagship lazily parted the clouds and drifted towards the main battle. The apparent drift was deceptive; the vessel was moving quite quickly, but its massive size dwarfed everything about.

"I want the warships concentrating fire on the flagship!" Cortes barked into the fleet-wide communications.

Twenty of the larger rebel vessels responded; the designation of warship was loose, the rebel fleet was a haphazard conglomeration of all sorts of ships. They varied in age, though it was impossible to determine this in most, generally the hull was the oldest part with innumerable and unrecorded modifications, upgrades and retrofits.

A sleek red hulled vessel whipped between its counterparts, pulled a barrel roll and shot towards the towering flagship. Mahad. Cortes felt a brief flutter within his chest and winced. The young man still set him on edge with some of his maneuvers. But it was not this that worried him. Mahad could fly, Cortes knew that. It was the attitude. Despite the odds against them, the rebellion appeared to be steadily gaining ground. Both due to the growing power of the rebel fleet, and the even faster growth of the seijins under Mila's guidence. They had gained barely a dozen blocs to add to their claimed airspace, but the important factor was that they lost none of these. Once taken, the Sphere had been unable to reclaim, or even to enforce any regulations such as its water tax. These victories bred a boldness and confidence in the younger rebels that, though on the surface seemed to empower and drive them to even greater feats, brought an uncomfortable feeling to the gut of those who had been around a little longer. The attitude was not necessarily bad. What it was was familiar.

Personally, Cortes found the current atmosphere unbearable. As he watched the red vessel hurtle towards its target with reckless abandon, he found his mind wandering far back. A different vessel, smaller, red and white. Nearly twenty years ago, the rebellion had been in exactly this attitude before everything fell apart.

A flash of exploding shrapnel against the windscreen, metal shards clattering against the glass and protective metal mesh the resistance's engineers had insisted he put up there, brought Cortes sharply back to reality, acutely aware that he had no idea what had happened in the last few microseconds.

Dahlia swore, banking hard, and despite a brief moment where visibility was nil they pulled through, nothing that clattered against the hull sounded larger than a few square feet.

Cortes could feel his heart pounding now, and he was seconds away from activating a fleet-wide communication, calling for a retreat.

But that was not the right reaction either. He gripped the wheel in front of him, white-knuckled. He'd been here before, but this time he knew it. He would not blindly follow the momentum that had so quickly become a downward spiral. The rebels could not depend on their mounting victories, particularly as they seemed so in contrast to the rising forces of the Sphere.

In that moment Cortes realised they needed to do something differently to the last time, or they would follow the exact same spiral to disaster as they had before.

***

That one battle did not end in disaster. The Sphere flagship was not destroyed - this was one feat they had yet to accomplish, either this time round or the last. But it turned tail and fled when enough of the S22s that supported it were destroyed or disabled. The rebels still counted the fight as a victory, though they too had suffered losses.

In truth, Cortes realised he had been considering his next course of action for some time. It was not that moment in the heat of the battle where it had come to him, that had simply been when he had become aware of the thought's existence. It had crept up on him during sleepless nights spent listening to Sphere broadcasts, and remembering, in the wee hours of the morning when he barely clung to consciousness and his mind threw up long forgotten memories, the failures of the past.

Amongst these he had remembered the machine. He'd nearly scoffed and dismissed it. But its existence was more solidly etched than memories of the prophecy, which in and of itself, as far as Cortes was concerned, deserved derision.

After that last battle was when he decided to pursue it. He'd heard rumours of Marcus, knew roughly where to find him and how to go about pinpointing his exact location. But such a task required a leave of absence, and whilst he knew it was too soon to disclose to the full council his intentions, Cortes knew he could not embark on that mission on his own whim alone.

His first port of call, predictably Cortes had to admit, was the Vector. The man's reaction, when Cortes told him of his intention, was not what he had anticipated nor what he was looking for. "So, Marcus is alive? Have you told Mila?"

The lighthouse was still the old man's favorite haunt. Cortes paced the floor, pent up tension in contrast to the Vector's calm. He stopped and fixed the Vector with a glare. "I didn't come to ask you about whether I should have told her, or not. That I can deal with. But the machine..." He trailed off and almost absentmindedly resumed his pacing.

"The machine is dangerous." The Vector finished for him.

"Did you ever see it?"

"No. You'd have to ask Marcus about that. Or perhaps Mila."

"I feel we're on the verge of either turning the tide on the Sphere. Or smashing ourselves to pieces on the rocks. Just like the last time." Cortes swallowed and turned his gaze out the window to the village below. The place and its people had long ago burrowed its way beneath his hard exterior. The thought of anything happening to Puerto Angel, especially if they blindly hurtled into the same mistakes as they had before, ate at him more and more each day. Something had to be done, but a part of him feared the solution would only make things worse.

"Are you sure you're not simply letting the past cloud your judgement?" The Vector came and stood beside him. "Simply because you failed then does not mean you will fail now."

"It... feels the same," Cortes said. He knew it was a weak argument.

"The mind can play tricks on you," the Vector said quietly. "What happened twenty years ago, not just to the resistance, but to you. That sort of thing burns itself into you. Anything similar that happens to you, you'll associate all the feelings you had at the initial incident with the present situation..."

Cortes felt himself bristle. "You're saying I'm imagining things... I don't have time for psychobabble..."

"Cortes, that's not what I meant. Look, when you see an S22, what do you feel?"

Cortes paused and swallowed. "A lot of things..." Because he couldn't quite bring himself to admit fear for a simple ship.

"Even if that S22 is crashed, disabled, unmanned, you feel the same, am I right?"

"Of course I do! I've seen them do...." he shook his head. "Even if they're dead in the air, what else do you expect me to think of when I see them?"

"The fact the S22, or the situation, is harmless, does nothing to invalidate those feelings. But if you did something stupid like waste all your weapons shooting a dead ship out of the sky, then you're letting those feelings get the best of you. All I'm saying is you need to make sure your fear is for what is happening now, not what happened twenty years ago."

Cortes huffed. "This is what I came to ask you about! I feel we need to change our course, but I don't know if it's the right thing to do!"

The Vector drew in a breath, and then shrugged. "Cortes, I don't know."

Cortes felt the urge to yell, but that passed in a moment, and instead he swallowed hard and looked away.

"I'm not that good at reading the signs of the times," the Vector continued. "I can tell you where a certain bloc will move in three months time, down to three hundred meters with certainty. Whether we're heading for disaster or not? I think you have a better idea than I do."

"This is not something I want to decide on alone. But if I go to the council we'll get bogged down in argument. If I bring them Marcus... he'll convince them a hell of a lot better than me. But a part of me is afraid that might not be a good thing."

The Vector moved back across the lighthouse and seated himself down at his desk. It was covered in paper and books. Cortes had no idea how the man worked at it. The Vector fumbled amongst the mess and pulled out a pair of reading glasses, something he had started using in recent years. Cortes was convinced he had only adopted these so he could glare over the top of them at anyone he'd decided he'd done talking with and wanted to leave him alone. "If you want an opinion from someone who has done this sort of thing before, who can look at where we are now relatively objectively, I might be able to point you in the right direction."

"Who?"

"Your brother."

For a moment Cortes stared at the Vector as if he had grown a second head. "I know he took off at Ronston, and I know he thought he was helping the resistance. If you're saying him predicting our downfall was anything other than coincidence..."

"Nevertheless he did. And that's why I'm sure Christophe's thoughts on where we stand at this moment will be more beneficial to you than mine. Do you want advice or not?"

Cortes scowled. "Look, I know now his heart was in the right place. But what he did was reckless; I'm certain he never really thought it through. A part of me still wonders if it wasn't simply an act of foolish bravado."

"Well, if you decide to do this, and things go wrong, that may be exactly how your actions are viewed. Perhaps you should ask Christophe about how he handled that too."

***

Cortes found himself again thinking, in that irritating way that had snuck up on him of late, about how different it felt being able to locate his brother within a few hundred square meters and in so short a time. Even if Christophe wasn't on Puerto Angel it was usually only a matter of hours to either send a transmission, or days to wait for his return. It was impossible to bottle up his feelings, even on the numerous occasions that his brother found some way to cause havoc. He could yell at him anytime he wanted to. And more than that, he had been able to rectify any of the grievances they had held onto over the years they'd spent apart. Cortes found he had more chances now to find fault, grow irritated or duck a thoroughly un-warranted hug, but if asked he would probably say he was happier with their relationship now than he had ever been. Ignoring, of course, the fact he would never admit such a thing out loud.

Puerto Angel was one of the larger facilities within the currently held rebel blocs and it had become one of the focal points for the maintenance for both the Saint Nazaire, and much of the rebel fleet. With his apparently unequaled mechanic skills Christophe had ensured he found a position working on maintenance of the ships. However, his own view of his skills sometimes quite starkly contrasted with the lead engineer's. In fact, quite a number of their opinions on what should or shouldn't be done with a certain ship or ships conflicted. This was Cortes' greatest source of frustration with his brother lately. The last thing he needed was him stirring up trouble, and the worst part was he seemed to enjoy it.

It wasn't difficult for Cortes to spot Christophe amidst the flurry of activity. His brother was currently engaged in an animated discussion with said lead engineer. And as Cortes made his way across to the two he found himself growing apprehensive. What the hell was it this time?

"You know if you don't actually record what you've done to the damn ship, no one else is going to have a clue?"

"No one has a clue. These things have been butting around Skyland for god knows how many years..."

"Yeah, and you know how difficult it is to figure out whats been done to them?"

Christophe shrugged. "Yeah..."

"Well, if we record it now we won't have the same problem two years from now, just because you can't be bothered turning on the computer and telling it what you fixed!"

The words of the exchange became audible as he moved closer, but it was Christophe's movements that told Cortes his brother was on the losing end of this particular argument. It seemed he wouldn't be required to mediate in something he wasn't sure he completely understood. Christophe usually tried to affect an air of nonchalance, like he didn't really care what the other person was protesting about, or that they were being silly or illogical. This method was completely ineffective with Elise. Christophe had begun to shift uncomfortably under the engineer's demands, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck self consciously.

"Is he making a nuisance of himself again?" Cortes decided the argument was more or less won, and he would not be walking himself into a war zone.

"Captain." Elise was in her late thirties, dark hair scraped back in a short ponytail. She wore a greyish coverall that bore signs of grease and oil. She flashed him a tight smile. "No. No more so than usual."

Christophe let out a huff. "Aran. Right on cue. Can you tell Elise she's being unreasonable..."

"No," Cortes said curtly.

Christophe looked down at him with mock disappointment. "Aw, you always take her side."

Cortes felt himself tense. Great. His brother knew he'd lost, but now he was going to stir things up for sheer amusement. "That would be because she's always right, and you're always trying to take short cuts."

"Hmm," Elise mused. "No. I'm not always right. Just... what did we decide on Christophe, ninety two percent of the time?"

Christophe grinned. "I recall you had a couple more decimal points in there..."

"Ninety two point four."

"Sounds right."

Cortes was sure he had missed something. He glanced between the two for a moment; Christophe was grinning openly, and he was sure there was amusement in Elise's half smile, though she was keeping a far tighter reign on her expression than Christophe. "Look, have you sorted him out or not? I'd like to borrow him."

"Of course," Elise said. "Make sure he puts into the computer what he's supposed to, and he's all yours."

"Yes, ma'am," said Christophe.

"Come on," Cortes grabbed Christophe by the arm and steered him away before he could think of something else to joke around about.

"And I want you putting complete sentences in there, Christophe!" Elise shouted after him. "None of this 'fixed' garbage!"

His brother was never really a sore loser, but it seemed of late he was more than happy to be chewed out by the engineer. It hadn't been so when she'd first arrived. Their initial arguments had been louder, longer, and left each in far fouler moods than they were in now. Christophe was used to doing what he wanted, whenever he wanted and how he wanted. That applied both to how he went about repairing ships and basically anything else he set his mind to.

On the other hand Elise had been trained by the Sphere and it was somewhat ingrained in her psyche that there was a certain way things were to be done. Not doing it the right way was likely to get you shot - she had mentioned as much to him once, laced in sarcasm and almost as a joke but in such a short snappish manner and with an immediate change of subject that Cortes had strongly suspected that she was referring to an actual incident.

It was almost by chance that she had joined the resistance. The rebels had destroyed a Sphere base; they would have left the workers they deemed harmless there to be picked up by the Sphere, but Elise had seen her chance and taken it. One of the rebels ships had taken a hit in the rear manifold that, whilst not endangering any lives, had rendered the ship immovable. Under the threat of Sphere reinforecments ariving at the base in mere hours they would have been forced to leave it behind. Elise had ordered her engineers to repair the damage in record time. And then she'd demanded protection for herself and the small group of engineers she was in charge of. In exchange, she'd promised she'd take in hand the mounting problem of maintaining the rebel fleet. Escalating fights with the Sphere had not been kind to the aging ships. It had been a little rough at first - there was a vast difference between the rusting rebel fleet and the sleek Sphere fighters. The engineers quickly found that the tight controls they were used to simply didn't work with the rebel ships. But Elise had managed to adapt, and dragged the slack approach the rebels had previously employed somewhat closer to what she considered ideal.

Some of the upgrades she'd made to the Saint Nazaire had made Cortes a little uncomfortable at first, but none had had any adverse effect. In fact, he found his ship running better and with less sudden breakdowns. Most importantly, she actually let him and the other captains know what she had touched. If someone had to fiddle with his ship, Cortes would much rather it was Elise than Christophe.

After Christophe washed up and stopped at the dedicated maintenance computer (Cortes was sure his brother only punched in something along the lines as 'fixed as per instructions'), Cortes led him to the tavern. As he did he mulled over in his mind how to approach the issue. He found he had no clue where to start.

But Christophe surprised him, because upon sitting down with their drinks at an out of the way table he seemed to drop his jovial mood, and without any preamble asked: "So what's wrong?"

Despite the fact he'd decided to talk to him about this, Cortes felt himself tense up. He shifted in his chair and glanced away. "What makes you say that?"

"Aran, you didn't call me off duty half an hour early because you wanted to get drunk."

"You've got water, Christophe."

Christophe paused briefly, then shrugged. "Exactly."

Cortes huffed. It bothered him he was so easy to read, even by his brother. But he was letting himself get ruffled, and he knew it wasn't something he could blame Christophe for. He felt his shoulders slump. "You're right. There was something I wanted to ask you."

He explained everything that he had previously told the Vector. All the while focusing on his water bottle. It was harder than he'd expected. Though they had come miles in their relationship Cortes still found it difficult to ask Christophe certain things. Ronston was one, and though he now only related the current events that had him on edge it would not be long before he had to reveal the reason he was asking his brother's advice.

Again, Christophe beat him to the punch. "So what you're saying is you're worried about where the resistance is heading, but everyone else seems oblivious. You're considering doing something you're not sure will work out, something that if it fails will probably make everyone hate you, and might even work against the resistance." He paused and then added. "And if you really screw up, they might even label you a traitor."

Cortes risked a glance up at his brother then. Completely gone was any sign of his usually animated expressions; he simply stared across the table at him. For the brief moment Cortes managed to meet his eyes, he found he couldn't read what emotion currently dominated behind them.

"That's what you want to know, isn't it? Why I did what I did at Ronston?"

"Yes. I just... I don't know whether I can trust what I'm feeling about... everything. I need an objective opinion..."

Christophe smiled faintly. "Are you sure you're asking the right person?"

"Don't make this anymore difficult for me than is already is," Cortes snapped. He swallowed, and made an attempt to reign in his irritation before if got the better of him. "You predicted the resistance's downfall once before. I figure you may have the same feelings I do, assuming that I'm right."

"How long have you been worried?"

Cortes harrumphed.

"Bad phrasing," Christophe admitted. "I mean, how long have you been thinking we're heading for failure. And how long have you been thinking about this machine, about Marcus, and whether finding either of them is a good idea or not?"

"A few weeks."

"Hmm." Christophe frowned. "I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with how things are going either. It does remind me of things just before Ronston. If you want me to be honest, I do have a bad feeling in my guts."

"So that's all you based it on. A feeling in your gut?"

"What are you basing your feelings on, Aran? If you had anything solid, you wouldn't be talking to me, you'd be talking to the council."

"I can't take this to them. It'd never go anywhere..."

"Because it's just a feeling in your gut," Christophe finished for him. "You know, you don't have to fear what you're feeling? Maybe it's telling you something you haven't quite worked out in your head."

"Did you take any thought about changing sides at Ronston?" Cortes growled. He could hear the tension creeping into his voice, and he was fast losing his ability to control it. But that had always been precarious.

Christophe sighed. "Yes, I did. If you're willing to believe me. That's why I asked how long you'd been thinking over this. There are some things I'll do on a whim, but changing sides is not one of them. I considered what I had planned for weeks, and I figured that the fact I hadn't changed my mind meant I was on the right course, even if I couldn't explain it to anyone... even my own brother."

Cortes stared down at the table. "Look, I know we don't talk about this much," He felt as if he were forcing his words through a sieve. "I don't care that you did what you did without telling me; I'm over that. But I really need your help on this. However it looked, however I felt about you because of it, you were still right..."

"I wasn't right," Christophe cut him off, "I may have predicted what was going to happen. But I got everything else wrong. I barely made a difference, what confidence I was able to build with the Sphere was only good for getting away with..." he squeezed his eyes shut briefly and shook his head, "stupid shit on the black market. My entire crew left me, my first mate nearly beat me senseless when he'd had enough, I couldn't show my face on a rebel bloc for years. And you know how long it took me to win back your trust."

Cortes swallowed. "So should I do this or not?"

"If you don't, would anything convince you we're not going to run into trouble?"

"No." Cortes found himself answering before he even had a chance to think it through.

"Then stop deliberating, and do it. Even if you find Marcus, you can still change your mind on the machine. And the council won't take you seriously until you do. But, you do have to be prepared for the fact your actions might not be taken well by everyone. Just make sure you consider what could go wrong; don't let it stop you from doing this, but make sure you're willing to live with the consequences if they do."

Cortes swallowed again, staring at the table as his mind spun. Far from calming him, speaking to his brother had put him even further on edge. But as he thought about it, he knew he could not forgive himself if he was idle and the same thing happened to the resistance as it had under Marcus. Stifled and buried memories rose, spinning across his minds eye. Burning ships falling from the skies, the squawk and crackle of a hundred voices fighting for dominance, calling for help across the overloaded communications systems. Those voices falling silent. Tian. Drawing her last breath in his arms and begging him to take care of her newborn son. When Cortes finally spoke, he found his throat dry. "I don't think I can live with the consequences if I do nothing."

Christophe reached across the table and grasped Cortes by his lower arm, pushing the last persistent threads of memories away and bringing him sharply back to the present moment. "Aran, whatever you decide to do, I'll be behind you all the way. I know what it's like to have no one believe in you. But let me know what you're doing? I've heard it's a lot easier to trust someone's actions when they're honest with you."

For a moment Cortes felt the pull of his usual resistance to anything risky, anything that required him to step out of his comfort zone. He knew this was dangerous. But there was a point where he could no longer bury his head in the sand and he'd tip over into that steely determination he found equal parts terrifying and empowering. He had reached that point. He looked back up at Christophe, finally able to steadily meet his brother's gaze. "Can you help me?"

The corner of Christophe's lip twitched up into a crooked smile. "Just tell me what we need to do, little brother."
The Lady of Light - Chapter 2
I've decided I'm going to try and finish this. It's going to be long though, assuming I get everything in there I want to.

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(Contains: violence/gore)
The arena opened before him, a high-walled circle of impenetrable black granite. He had been told there would be no escape, but as fear gripped him the boy found himself roving over the walls with his eyes, looking for an escape. As he had been told, there was none. And those walls were not his primary concern.

In the centre of the rocky floor stood another youth. Leather wrapped around his wrists was his only armour, he stood bare-chested before him, his legs spread in a fighting stance. He was almost twice Cortes’ size.

What had he gotten himself into?! The thought reared unbidden in the boy’s mind, as his stomach lurched and threatened to heave up the scant breakfast he had been allowed, that he had barely been able to stomach as it was.

A roar rose from those seated in the stands that circled the granite walls. High above and safe from what was about to take place below. The threat of an audience added to his terror.

He would never had done this. Christophe had promised he would return in a few days, but it had been over two weeks. Cortes had waited, but grown hungry, he had to look out for himself otherwise he knew he would not survive. He felt a rage build in his belly at the thought of his brother. The bastard had abandoned him – at least that’s what Cortes chose to think. Nothing had happened to him, he could not had been murdered as had their parents and half residents of the bloc they had inhabited; his brother was too smart for that. He had simply abandoned him, and Cortes knew he would have to look out for himself.

If he was going to fight, he decided, after getting into a scuffle with a smaller child over a loaf of bread, nearly getting knifed for his efforts, he may as well get paid for it.

The woman whom he had presented himself to had looked him over with a casual disdain, studying as she might a cut of beef she wasn’t sure was quite up to scratch. “You’re a little scrawny,” she had finally pronounced.

Cortes had drawn in a quick breath of irritation. He’d made his decision to do this, and wasn’t going to be turned away so easily. “That doesn’t mean I can’t fight,” he’d growled. “My brother’s older, and taller, and he knows not to mess with me.”

“Perhaps he goes easy on you,” she’d replied. And then, quick as flash, she’d whipped out some sort of baton or stick from her belt and brought it swinging around.

Cortes had barely managed to duck the assault. He’d stood there, his fists raised in front of the woman, his breath coming in jagged gasps, but she did not try to hit him again.

“Good reactions. And you didn’t bolt, despite the obvious exit.”

Cortes had lowered his fists, glancing behind him at the open door.

“You angry?” the woman asked.

“Of course I’m fucking angry!” he’d screeched at her, his voice cracking.

“Good. Come with me. We’ll see how you go in the ring.”

Only hours later and here he was. Cortes was no longer sure about anger. He was terrified.

The other boy moved towards him, and then he was suddenly upon him. The roar of the crowd disappeared in a ringing as the boy’s fist connected with the side of Cortes’ head, tossing him to the ground. He was on top of him, slamming fists into Cortes’ torso and head and pinning him beneath his larger body.

The blows finally subsided, and the weight lifted off him. Cortes only had the strength to lift his pounding head, the rest of his body weighed down by the blossoming pain. He turned to the side and retched. When he looked up again, he saw the other boy had gone to a rack of weapons off to the side.

Weapons?! His blow addled brain finally caught on. The gladiator ring was not just some street scrap. If this boy had been stealing his money or food, there was just as good a chance he’d be left as he now was. But he was going to finish him off.

Somehow, in the state he was in, this didn’t seem to bother Cortes. He moaned and watched the boy make his choice. There was a selection of nasty looking weapons there, maces, long swords and chains with heavy metal balls on the end, but the boy simply selected a long knife. He studied it, and then held it up to the crowd. Cortes followed his gaze. A man was up there, probably the boy’s handler. He wore a tight fitting white uniform, a blue-grey stylised S on his left breast.

Cortes felt bile rise in his throat.  This boy was with them?!

His vision blurred. He could hear the ships again, the whine of weapons fire and the stomp of metal boots worn by metal soldiers that had torn and burned everything Cortes had ever known. And above them all, watching, that white uniform with the S.

Cortes felt his rage build, he could hear his own ragged breathing, and that brought him back to the gladiator ring, just in time to see the other boy moving cautiously towards him with the knife. But not cautiously enough.

Cortes rolled out of his way, kicking out as he did and catching the boy in the back of the knee. He dropped to a roar of approval from the crowd above.

Cortes didn’t hear them. He threw himself on the boy and snatched at the knife the boy held, not feeling as the blade sliced at his arms and palms, until he managed to slam a fist into the boy’s face, and then slam his knife arm into the ground, releasing the blade. Cortes threw punches in a flurry. “How can you fight for them?! You don’t know what they did! I couldn’t stop them!” Even he could not hear his own words, lost as all sound was in the roar of the crowd.

The boy finally managed to shift his weight beneath Cortes, and threw him off. Cortes landed with a thump and rolled onto his back, and found his hand resting on the knife’s blade. He drew the weapon towards him. The boy threw a punch downwards, his arm arcing wide, and at the same moment Cortes brought the knife up and buried it in the boy’s armpit. He pulled away from it and the knife slipped free, followed by a spurt of blood.

The boy staggered, dropping down across Cortes’ prone body. Cortes didn’t want him anywhere near him. He brought the knife around again, catching the skin of the boy’s belly, pushing upwards to get him off. Instead of shoving the boy off, the sharp blade sliced through skin and tore deep. A wash of blood and warm entrails sluiced from the wound and soaked Cortes’ thin shirt in an instant. He shifted, released the knife, and shoved again, and this time was able to heave the heavier body away from him.

The boy lay completely still, staring unseeing up at the sky.

Cortes staggered to his feet. Blood soaked his front, and his right arm and hands were stained red. He stared at his hands, and felt a shake overcome his whole body.

Again, the crowd roared. Cortes looked up and around him, but did not settle on anyone until he came upon that white uniform that looked down on him from the ring’s very side. He stared at the man, and for a moment they made eye contact.

Cortes felt his rage build again, but there was nothing he could do from down here. As fatigue took him over and he dropped to his knees, he made himself a promise. Fight in the ring he might, but one day he would learn to scale that wall and when he did he would put a knife straight through that S, and stain the white uniform red.
Skyland Fanfic: First Blood
Skyland drabble. Gore warning. o_O

I decided I was going to write something with a younger Cortes in the gladiator ring. Because we all know he was in there at some stage.
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Rayman Plushie by hyperpsychomaniac
Rayman Plushie
So this is my first serious attempt to make a plushie. Rayman, because I didn't want to try and make necks and arms and stuff like that. 
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The red headed man had been casting him suspicious glances ever since he'd arrived. Usually, this would be cause for Marcus to start a fight, but today he was still sober enough to keep his head down.

The tavern on the out-of-the-way bloc of Torquay had been Marcus' haunt for the last couple of years. It was secluded, there were not many outsiders that visited, and those that did tended to keep to their own business. He realised now how careless he had grown.

He had recognised the man as he entered, but was not yet sure if he himself had been recognised in return. The man had sat down at the tavern's bar and ordered a whiskey, with none of the usual apprehensiveness outsiders showed when they arrived in this dark, gloomy place. It was only moments later that he had glanced Marcus' way. Marcus hadn't been sure if it was recognition that crossed the man's face for the briefest of moments, because he had quickly turned his attention to his drink. But the furtive glances the other man continued giving him suggested that he may be close to guessing the truth.

Marcus knew he could not give him the opportunity to do so. He drew the cloak he wore around his shoulders close and pulled up his hood, shielding his face from view, and then pushed his barstool back. It made a scraping noise across the concrete floor, all too loud. Marcus winced, unsure if the sound had simply been magnified in his nervous state. But the red headed man did not glance his way, and Marcus slipped from the tavern as silently as the alcohol in his system would allow.

He turned quickly to his left, finding the alleyway that cut through behind the tavern and would exit on the maze of streets where he could quickly and easily lose himself. Despite the wash of relief he felt on arriving at the alley, Marcus cast a quick, furtive glance to the tavern door. Just in time to see the red headed man exit, look to his right and then his left, and make direct eye contact with him.

"Shit." Marcus forced himself to maintain his pace until his view of the other man was lost behind the alley wall, and then he broke into a run.

He careened through a puddle with a splash, seconds later he heard the stomp of boots through the water behind him.

"Marcus!"

There was no doubt he had been identified. Marcus gritted his teeth, and pushed himself harder. Already he could feel himself flagging. Bar fights were one thing, but years of hanging out in taverns and flooding his system with alcohol had dulled his fitness. He doubted he could outrun the man, not on even ground. Trashcans and discarded junk littered one corner of the alleyway, and Marcus flung these down behind him as he passed. The clatter of metal was followed by the sound of cursing, and Marcus felt a smile tug at the corner of his lips.

He dodged out into the street, across it and into another alleyway. Around two more bends and over a low wall he dashed, and finally slid to rest behind a large metal dumpster. Marcus pressed himself to the wall and drew in deep breaths. As his heart rate steadied he listened, but there was no sound to indicate he still had a pursuer.

"Never could teach that man the value of a well-timed retreat," Marcus said to himself as a smirk twisted his lips.

"There's a big difference between retreat and running away, Marcus Farrell."

Marcus jerked upright at the sound of the familiar voice, but was slammed back against the wall almost as suddenly as two hands gripped into his thick jacket at the shoulders.

Marcus coughed as the wind was knocked out of him, but as he again caught his breath he found it was a hacking, wheezy laugh that was the first sound to escape his lips, almost of its own accord. He had moved well into apathy in recent years, but it seemed somewhere deep down his sense of humour was intact.

"Aran Cortes, you haven't changed a bit!"

This wasn't entirely true. Cortes had aged since Marcus had last seen him. Frown lines creased his face and his eyes were less sharp, as if their intensity had been dulled by things seen. But there was still a spark in those brown eyes, windows as they were to emotions that at times the man seemed barely able to contain. This was one of those times it seemed, because as soon as the words were out of Marcus' mouth Cortes yanked him forward and then slammed him back into the wall again. Marcus' head spun.

"Why are you running from me?" Cortes barked.

"Your reputation precedes you."

Cortes stared at him.

"No, wait - that was someone else. Someone with more charisma. Someone who when he was in charge actually made something of the resistance - instead of the weak, ineffective nuisance you pretend to lead."

The punch caught him across the jaw and sent him sprawling into the damp alley floor.

"At least I'm not hiding in the gutter."

Marcus pushed himself back up and leaned against the wall. He wiped a hand across his dirty, stubbled face, and glanced at the saliva and blood that came away on his fingers. "Haven't been missing your little gladiator fights, have you Cortes? You seem to be enjoying yourself."

Cortes was staring down at him, with hands balled into fists and chest heaving. But his clenched fists he kept at his sides; this time he didn't respond to the barb. So, perhaps not quite the man Marcus remembered. He was seething, but he now seemed to have himself in check. There was nothing to be gained from riling in further.

Somehow, this made Marcus' own anger flare. "What do you want with me, then?" he snapped out.

Cortes dropped into a crouch, so that he faced Marcus at eye-level. For a moment he studied the other man. "I've known you were here for almost a year now, Marcus."

He'd known he'd been careless! "Shit. So what makes you come for me now? You want to discuss our past victories - for old time sakes?"

This time, it was as if the insult barely registered. "You wanted to remain hidden, that much was obvious. I almost told your family - almost. Right now, I'm glad I never did."
"A dead man has no family."

"You're not dead, Marcus!" Cortes snapped.

"Dead to you, apparently, from at least a year ago. But I'd guess you need me now, isn't that right?"

Cortes looked away for the briefest of moments.

"Figured as much." Marcus felt the wheezing laugh make its way up from his throat again.

"It's got to be nearly twenty years, Aran. And you still need my face to get a little recognition?"

"What were you so scared of?"

Marcus blinked, a breath catching in his throat. He had no answer. Not a short one, anyway. When had Cortes stopped being so predictable? He had always been easy to bait, but after getting in a few punches he'd calmed, and now seemed almost unfazed by Marcus' insults.  Well, it had been twenty years. "So why now?" Marcus growled, ignoring Cortes' question.

Cortes drew in a breath. "Say what you will about my leadership skills, Marcus, but we're closer now than we ever were to defeating the Sphere. At least, since Ronston. We can't afford to be defeated now. What I need is something to tip the scales."

Marcus had heard rumours. He didn't find it that hard to believe that Cortes had managed to pull the resistance up by its boot straps. Still, he drew in a short laugh. "Surely, you don't mean me."

"Don't flatter yourself. No. Something else. Something you buried right before you turned tail and ran..."

"The Hyperion?" Marcus began, but suddenly he realised Cortes did not mean that. He felt bile rise in his throat. "No..." He pushed himself to unsteady feet. The thumping Cortes had given him had rattled his brain more than he thought. "No..." he repeated, putting a hand out to the wall to steady himself.

Cortes stood to his feet as well, but made no move to halt Marcus. "No, what?"
Marcus couldn't look at Cortes, instead he stared at the alley floor. He swallowed. "You want to know where I hid that machine."

"I understand why you didn't want anyone to know about it," said Cortes. "You and Mila had created such a stir with the whole Prophecy thing, it was bound to do more harm than good. But it's not like it was back then, Marcus..."

"I hid it for a reason, Cortes!"

"Aye, because you were scared!" Cortes shouted.

Marcus paused, for a moment fearing this were true.

"I know what happened; I was there, remember? The defeat we suffered at Ronston, the fall of Azul, it would have shaken anyone's faith -  for all the show you and Mila put on, you knew she wasn't strong enough to use that machine."

"She would have destroyed herself and half of Skyland!" Mila. He hadn't allowed himself to think of her in years.

"So instead you hid it," Cortes growled. "And then you ran away. You know I had to deal with the mess you left behind, right? I... I can't go through that again."

Marcus pushed off the wall and turned back to face Cortes. "No one was more cynical of that Prophecy than you, Cortes. What's changed now?"

"Nothing. It's still a load of garbage, but I'm smart enough to see the strategic value of something that can alter gravitational fields. That on the battlefield? The Sphere armada won't know what hit them."

Marcus gave a wry smile. "You need a powerful Seijin to operate it. Someone more powerful than Mila ever was. You think you've found your 'lady of light' Cortes? I've been there - done that - and I was wrong."

Cortes took a step towards Marcus. They stood nearly nose to nose. "I don't believe in any lady of light, Marcus," he growled.

"Well then more fool you, Cortes. Believe me, she exists. But she won't help you one bit, because I'm not going to tell you where that machine is."

Cortes drew half a step back. "You'll come around."

Too late, Marcus realised Cortes' fist was flying towards him. He found himself face first on the alley floor as his world faded to black.
The Lady of Light - Chapter 1
I'm having a bit of go at plotting up a decent Skyland story. I'm not yet sure if I'll continue this, but let me know if you'd like to see more. ;)
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Well I've just recieved the novel writing course I ordered in the mail. So guess what's going to be taking up most of my spare time? D:

I'll probably still be posting up doodles and art stuff. Seeing as that runs on a slightly different wavelength in my brain then writing and might even accompany plotting/character development, etc. But I've been slowing down on the fanfic lately and that will probably stop. It's no longer assisting me with developing my writing skills; that's what the writing course is for.

So here's hoping I will be able to develop my writing skills further maybe up to the point where I can actually publish a novel. Which would be awesome.
  • Mood: Excited
  • Listening to: Creed
  • Drinking: Tea

deviantID

hyperpsychomaniac
Laura
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
Australia
Current Residence: Hervey Bay
Favourite genre of music: Rock
Wallpaper of choice: Not good with glue. Painted instead.
Favourite cartoon character: Random Virus, from Ace Lightning; Cortes, from Skyland. ^^
Personal Quote: "Meh."
Interests

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:iconswagstag:
swagstag Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Psst, remember me? xD I wrote that piece of crap, Twilight Love...which I'm re-writing. xD
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:iconhyperpsychomaniac:
hyperpsychomaniac Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Heeeeey! :D
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:iconswagstag:
swagstag Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Heya :D How're you doing?!
I've moved skype if you ever want to get back in contact xD 
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:iconhyperpsychomaniac:
hyperpsychomaniac Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, pretty good. :D

I'm still under hyperpsychomaniac. If you want to add me, I'll accept. ;)
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:iconfreddykrueger4eva:
Freddykrueger4eva Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
z10.invisionfree.com/Ace_Light…

Hello HyperPsychomaniac! Its ArcticChillAquaMarine! Come back to the message board :D We miiiissss youuuu
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:iconhyperpsychomaniac:
hyperpsychomaniac Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've visited and made a few posts! :D
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:iconfreddykrueger4eva:
Freddykrueger4eva Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I saw :P Im now under as Flightoftherose because I forgot the pass and stuff for my other account ^^;
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:iconhyperpsychomaniac:
hyperpsychomaniac Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay, cool. Thanks for the link too. :)

(had a slight panic myself trying to sign in and remember what my password was but I remembered XD)
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(1 Reply)
:iconalairis:
Alairis Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Do you post any of you original writing online?
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:iconhyperpsychomaniac:
hyperpsychomaniac Featured By Owner May 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Nah. I figure if its original I should try and make some money from it, but that hasn't happened yet. :)
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