“Holy mother of-”
Cameron yelled as he pulled his Scavenger into a sharp turn.
“Enjoying N2 mode, Cameron?” Stanley laughed as he spoke over the communicator.
Cameron was most definitely not enjoying N2 mode. It was a feature in the Scavengers that could only be accessed with Colonel Stanley’s ID consent.
When a Scavenger went into N2 mode, five extra thrusters were activated, which made a Scavenger so fast it would be extremely difficult to control.
Cameron struggled to keep the Scavenger from crashing into the ground beneath them, and yelled, “Not funny, Colonel.”
“At least we covered a decent amount of distance. At the speed we’re going in, it will probably be easy to blast in.”
“Blast in?!” Cameron exclaimed. “Blast into where, exactly?”
“Look down from your Scavenger, why don’t you?”
“Are you serious? You want to intentionally crash our Scavengers into the ground?”
“Chill out, Cameron,” Stanley sounded irritated. “I thought you had more courage than this.”
“Colonel, there’s a fine line between courage and stupidity. I think what you’re planning to do is more on the stupid side of things.”
“You’re calling me stupid, Cameron?”
Just as Cameron opened his mouth to speak, but he was cut off by Stanley.
“Don’t answer that question.”
“Okay,” Cameron sighed.
Stanley shook his head, before speaking again. “Don’t worry. The way I plan to do it, we’ll be breaking through a very small layer of ice, which should be quite close to the Valdorian Underground HQ.”
“It better be,” Cameron said, “or else we’ll be massively screwed.”
“I still have Tyson and Elizabeth to thank that for,” Stanley said, “The amount of data that we could potentially obtain would be what we Valhallans need to win this war.”
“What?” Stanley questioned.
“Oh, nothing. It’s nothing.” Cameron responded.
He was thinking about two nights ago, when Ray and the other Valdorians had captured him and his friends. Cameron winced as he recalled how easily he had gone down to their advances.
He just proved to be so useless as of late, that he was doubting his own competence. Everyone else seemed to be doing just fine. Cameron was the only one, who according to himself, was falling behind.
Tyson and Elizabeth had managed to bring down the entire Valdorian HQ down by themselves. Gia had suffered so much torture, yet she managed to stay strong. Zade, too, was out there, accompanied by strangers, fighting his way to the core.
And what he managed to do? Absolutely nothing.
Cameron flexed his fingers, as blue sparks shot across his fingertips, dancing in beautiful arcs.
Just as he was about to grab a water capsule to quench his thirst, Stanley’s Scavenger suddenly started ascending.
“Get ready, kid. We’re here.”
Cameron instantly pulled up, heading towards the sky, closely behind Stanley. They climbed for a couple of seconds, until the guidance system of the Scavengers gave an altitude limit warning, and their Scavengers instantly dropped below at furious speeds.
While Stanley didn’t make a sound, Cameron was screaming his head off. He experienced a weird tug in his abdomen, as they raced downwards, getting closer and closer to the surface.
Cameron closed his eyes, waiting for it to be over.
He opened his eyes just in time to see the ground shatter, as the two Scavengers kept heading downwards, descending into a huge rift.
“System,” Stanley said, “Disengage N2 mode.”
“Disengaging N2 mode.” The auto-voice responded.
Cameron’s Scavenger shuddered for a second as its speed reduced drastically, and he found it easier to control now.
“You alright, Cameron?”
“See, I told you it would work?
The two Scavengers finally halted as they neared a large settlement. Cameron could see numerous building on fire.
“Wow,” Stanley’s voice cracked over the communicator, “Elizabeth must’ve been really pissed.”
“She’s always pissed. And…don’t tell her I said that.” Cameron requested.
There was no response.
“Colonel?” Cameron asked nervously, “You won’t tell her, would you?”
“We’ll see.” Stanley responded with a malicious undertone.
The Scavengers came to halt near the edge of the city, as both Cameron and Stanley disengaged the cockpit shields, and jumped down from it onto the cold, snow-covered floor a couple of feet below.
They landed on their feet, as the Scavengers landed besides them, guided by the auto-pilot mechanism.
Stanley led the way, with Cameron tagging behind him. The pair ignored most of the tents, as they felt that there wouldn’t be anything worthwhile in them. Cameron suggested that they at least search the tents which were not on fire, in order to find any supplies left behind that could be useful to them, but Stanley was in too much of a hurry.
Cameron could understand why. Stanley had been searching for this place for nearly two decades. And now that he was here, all Stanley wanted was the necessary information.
“The city is built as crudely as Valdore,” Cameron recalled. He closed his eyes momentarily, memories flowing into his mind as he recalled sneaking through the streets after curfew, messing around with guards and even trying to break into the tents where the only two Scavengers in the entire camp were stored.
Raiding the food supplies with Tyson and Elizabeth, accompanied by Gia, who used to be so timid back then, getting into all sorts of mishaps, his mother…
“No,” He thought, “That’s one person who I can’t afford to think about.”
He wondered about how she was now, or if she was even alive, given that her son was a runaway.
In front of him, Stanley, who noticed something was up with Cameron, stopped as well.
“Take it easy kid,” He tried to comfort Cameron.
Cameron stared at Stanley, and wondered how Stanley could so easily read his mind. Was he that obvious?
“What?” Stanley asked irritably, “I can’t be caring?”
Cameron gave a weak smile.
“No you’re. You’re Colonel Stanley.”
Stanley looked down before giving a small chuckle.
“I suppose that’s what I’ve made myself to be known as, huh?”
He took a deep breath, and then walked towards Cameron.
Stanley hit Cameron’s back as hard as he could.
Cameron grabbed his back, grimacing in pain.
“What the hell was that for?” He asked angrily.
“For going all emotional on me,” Came the reply.
Cameron rubbed the lower side of his back the best he could, as Stanley was now whole heartedly laughing. Right there, in the midst of the flaming ruins, Cameron felt happy.
Stanley had been like a father to him for the past couple of years, and besides Tyson, one of his best friends. As the pair continued to walk, Cameron’s mind again drifted, recalling the day when he had first met the Colonel.
It was five years and a few months ago. The tensions between Valhalla and Valdore were at an all-time high, what with the recent killing of an entire Valhallan patrol by Joseph Valdore, his friend Tyson’s abusive and sadistic father.
The urban city had responded with the threat of a full scale annihilation of Valdore, but had stopped only because Ray Valdore, the leader of the Valdorians, managed to make a deal for compensation. What it was, Cameron had no idea, but if it was big enough to stop a massacre, he figured that it would be pretty important.
And so, while the entire Valhallan military was on its way to collect the compensation, citizens of Valdore had been instructed to stay put inside their homes.
However, Cameron, along with Gia, Elizabeth and Tyson were not exactly the most obedient people in the city, and so they found themselves swiftly dashing through the shadows of the buildings, for it had become night time.
Cameron remembered climbing on top of the tent nearest to the city gates, as the four of them hid under the cover of darkness.
The entire Valdorian army was gathered near the gate, with their weapons at the ready just in case the Valhallans tried any funny business.
Then the Valhallans arrived.
Cameron had never seen a more disciplined and organized force ever before. The soldiers were dressed in dark overcoats, white pants and heavy duty boots and wore mechanized weapons on their backs and carried discharge rifles in their hands.
At the front, a single man stood, as the same man walked besides him at that moment. Black jacket, white pants, grey hair and an intense fire in his eyes that had not once dwindled in years.
“Ray,” Stanley’s voice boomed, tearing through the tension between the two groups of soldiers.
“Stanley,” Ray retorted, his voice dripping with malice, as he beckoned a crate to be brought forward. A few Valdorians pushed it forward up till where Stanley was standing, then returned to their positions. From there, the Valhallan troops carried it out of the gates, but didn’t leave just yet.
“What do you think is inside it?” Elizabeth asked, her voice louder than what would be considered safe.
“Ssh!” Gia muttered, “Pipe down, Elizabeth.”
Tyson, as always, remained quiet, gazing intensely at the crate.
Cameron looked over the edge of the building, trying to see if anyone heard them.
Then he glanced back at Stanley, who to his shock was looking at the group’s direction. Stanley and Cameron’s eyes met, as Stanley smirked.
“Shit,” Cameron cursed, “We need to get out of here!”
“Why, what happened?” Gia asked.
“That Valhallan guy saw us!”
“Well, congratulations Elizabeth,” Tyson spoke softly, “You blew our cover.”
Down below, Ray had noticed that Stanley was smiling.
“What do you find so amusing, Colonel Stanley?” He sneered.
“I’m just seeing how badly your younger generation is being treated, that they don’t even have the freedom to go around openly.” Stanley replied, his gaze not shifting one bit from where Cameron and his friends were hiding.
Ray followed Stanley’s line of site, his eyes finally coming to rest on the group of teenagers perched on top the tent. A twinge of annoyance appeared on his usually stoic face.
“Joseph!” He shouted, and immediately, his right-hand man appeared, his electric whip coiled around his fist.
“So you are Joseph, huh?” Stanley mused.
Joseph smiled evilly. Turning to Ray, he muttered, “Boss, you sure we can’t kill these pests. If you don’t want to bother, I can wipe them all out, like that puny squad back in the Highlands.”
“How dare you!” One of the soldiers on the Valhallan side yelled, and as he tried to charge forward, his fellow members held him back, though according to Cameron, they too were angry.
“They were are friends. Our family. Sons and daughters to people. Brothers. Sisters. Not unlike you, a monster with no family.” He yelled.
Joseph grunted, momentarily calm, then again let out a huge laugh.
“What a bunch of fools. And I do have family. Speaking of family-”
Joseph flexed his muscles, stretched his legs and did a few twists before leaping off the ground and landing right next Cameron on the roof. Before anyone of them could react, Joseph grabbed Tyson by his shirt and flung him off the roof, as Tyson crashed onto the ground below.
“Tyson!” All three of them screamed, as they jumped off, but Gia wasn’t lucky. Joseph grabbed her by her hair and pushed her off the building.
“No!” Cameron was able to yell before he felt an intense pain as something sharp hit his back. He landed face first. His entire back stung as he felt the blood flow down his spine, and his fingers shot off tendrils of electricity into the ground.
He tried to get up, but was only able to move his head. Black spots danced in front of eyes as he made the effort.
He couldn’t even see what had happened to his friends. He heard Tyson groan, and saw a huge column of flame pass above him, but then, Elizabeth gave out a painful cry, and then, made a sound as though being strangled.
Cameron knew he had to do something, but he couldn’t even move a muscle. He was pretty skinny as a fourteen-year old, with not a lot of strength, so he just lay there, desperate to stop Joseph when suddenly, he heard Ray speak.
“You can teach these brats a lesson later.” Cameron turned his head, and saw an amused smile on Ray’s face. He instantly wished he could smack Ray in the face.
Joseph grunted with disappointment. He switched off the electricity in his whip, and that’s when Stanley stepped forward.
He injected a syringe into Cameron’s body, and as the fluid coursed through his system, he felt the effects of the induced paralysis go away.
Cameron got up hesitantly, not wanting to get whacked by Joseph again.
“Is that kindness I see? Who would have expected it from-”
“You should come to Valhalla.” Stanley simply cut off Ray.
Cameron could only reply with “Huh?”
Stanley cracked a smile. “Valhalla? The big city? Heard of it? You can come and stay there if you want. You and your friends.” Stanley motioned to Tyson, Gia and Elizabeth, who Cameron finally saw, all beaten up. He quickly left Stanley and rushed to them, only to have his path blocked by Joseph.
“Nice going, Joseph,” Stanley mused, “Beating up defenseless children. Makes you feel like a real man, huh?” He taunted.
Cameron could see Joseph was pissed. But he flashed his heinous smile.
“Want to take me head on, old man? Let’s see who the real deal is.”
“If I do combat you, you will end up with each and every bone in your body broken.” Stanley retorted, his voice steely calm, intimidating even Joseph, who stepped back and gritted his teeth.
Ray walked right up to Stanley, until their faces were mere inches away.
“Thanks for picking up the compensation,” he spat, “But I’m afraid that’s all you were here for. Now, why don’t gather your suggestions and hustle back to Valhalla.”
Stanley’s face became devoid of emotion. He looked one last time at Cameron and the rest, before turning and walking out of the gate, the entire Valhallan force following him.
“Go to Valhalla…” Cameron muttered, and as he saw the gates come down and the Valdorian troops disperse, with Joseph and Ray leaving him and his friends alone outside in the cold night, he finally knew what he had to do.