The war enters its darkest phase yet...
| Hank Borlo threw up into a bucket next to his bed. He was supposed to go down to the Republic’s Chinese headquarters to meet with the local officers, but he had a horrible, stomach flu. Instead another soldier had volunteered to drive down, let them know what was going on and report back to him. Several painful hours later several wounded soldiers were brought into the hospital across from Hank’s room. He was starting to feel better and went over to see what was going on. A boy whose face was covered in ash with a trickle of blood running down his cheek stood just inside the building in shock.
“Oh, thank God!” He said seeing Hank.
“What happened here?” Hank asked, completely dumbfounded.
“We thought you were dead!” The boy exclaimed. “The jeep was you were supposed to be in hit a mine someone planted in the road just outside HQ! The explosion was like nothing I’d ever seen. We couldn’t find anything left of the jeep but bits of scrap, and dozens of people were wounded when the mine went off. We had to bring some of them up here.”
“Woah.” Was all Hank managed to get out, feeling like someone had just punched him in the stomach.
“HQ told me to give you a message as well. There is Imperial movement in the north of the country. General Han has been spotted in the area.” The boy added.
Several things clicked together in Hank’s mind at that instant.
“No.” He whispered fiercely.
He made several phone calls, they confirmed his suspicions.
“We have to get to the north and into Siberia now!” Hank roared to anyone who would listen. “Dart and the entire army are in trouble!”
They didn’t have much time.
Dart tugged his ski cap down and pulled his scarf tighter. The wind and snow tore at his soldiers as they struggled to prepare their defenses. This has to be one of the most miserable places on the planet, he thought to himself. But a small Imperial army had crossed into Siberia from Alaska, so here he was to ensure their positions in China weren’t endangered by the move. His forces were larger, better trained, and better equipped for once. It looked like the invasion would be easy to repel. Several hours later, they at last spotted the invaders in the distance.
“Open fire!” He ordered, and ordered again, over the roaring blizzard.
Some soldiers at least had common sense and opened fire on their own. Imperials fell but it was impossible to tell whether they were dead, wounded, or just taking cover. Dart looked up and down the trenches and fox holes they had dug. Some shells were landing where the handful of Imperial tanks fired back at their guns and a bullet smacked into the snow here and there. Inevitably and unfortunately, some of their soldiers were wounded or killed but it was the Imperials catching the worst of it.
Panic suddenly gripped his soldiers as they were fired on from the south. A desperate soldier ran up to him.
“They’ve broken through to the south! It’s a huge army, at least twice our size and General Han is with them!” She screamed into his ear.
Dart swore. He was sick and tired of these traps. As he issued withdrawal orders he suddenly found himself under attack by a squad of elite Imperials. They glided along on skis and took careful aim at him. Dart’s eyes widened in panic and he dove into a crater to take cover. That was no solution though, in moments he found Ichiro Han personally attacking him. Dart got off a shot that sailed harmlessly into the air as Han knocked his arm aside. A moment later, Han’s fist connected with his eye and then he drove his knee into Dart’s stomach. Dart had the wind knocked out of him and folded up. The attack was so swift and so targeted he hadn’t even had time to get his sword out, he thought hopelessly. Han lifted his pistol and aimed it at Dart.
“Your girlfriend caused me quite a bit of trouble back in Australia.” He hissed. “But no worries, she’s being dealt with now, and you can join her.”
A fire ignited inside Dart, new energy flowed through his veins. He roared and lunged at Han whose weapon went flying off into the snow. He knocked him to the ground and began wailing away at any part of his body he could reach. At last, bloody and battered, Han managed to free himself from Dart’s grip.
“Kill him!” He roared to the black ops team.
But no bullets came.
Another army had appeared and come to their rescue! And Hank was leading them! Now it was the Imperials threatened with destruction. Most of Han’s troops weren’t trained for this type of warfare, they were already even more miserable in Siberia than the Republic’s troops and being attacked from both sides was the final straw. They broke and withdrew their general leaving with them.
“What is going on?” Dart asked Hank, exasperated.
“I don’t know for sure.” His fellow Light keeper replied. “But it’s something terrible. There have been attacks on Light Keepers all over the globe. When the jeep I was supposed to get into yesterday exploded, I knew you were in trouble and we rushed up here to head off Han’s men.” He finished.
“My God.” Dart said in awe. “What about everyone else?” He pleaded with Hank, remembering Han’s words concerning Rose. She’s being dealt with now. Hank only shook his head.
“I only learned that there had been similar attacks. Not their results.” He answered spreading his hands.
“Then we need find out! We have to see if we can help anyone else!” Dart yelled, running for the nearest communications post with Hank on his heels.
Four Light Keepers were dead, four remaining. That fool Wexler had survived too. He was damn lucky to survive both bombs but no matter. It was still a triumph. Victor received congratulations from the Supreme Leader and was greeted with cheers by the soldiers in Berlin, Germany at the Supreme Imperial HQ in Europe. The HQ was new and had been chosen because Berlin was the largest city on the continent in Western Europe. It was a testament to their power to have it there. But there was no time to celebrate or relax. Only the first blows had been delivered. He wouldn’t stop now. The Light Keepers had yet to see the worst.
The four surviving Light Keepers, battered and shaken but not yet beaten, gathered with Erik in Moscow. He looked worse than they had ever seen him. It looked like he was physically ill. Large purple and black bags hung under his tired eyes.
“I don’t understand.” He said. “You’re the chosen ones. You’re supposed to beat the War Lords. What if I was wrong? My God, this is all my fault.” He said holding his head in his hands.
“No!” Rose protested. “You can’t talk like that Erik. All this proves is that we aren’t invincible. We have to be careful, we were naïve, we made mistakes. Nothing can change that now but we can do better in the future.” She said.
“This is bad.” Erik said, shaking his head. “But there is of course hope, as always, or we’d be totally lost. Now, tell me. What became of our friends’ swords?”
“I got Jamie’s.” Rose said. “Victor or his men got the rest of them.”
“Those are what the Elders used, along with a special device I have been hunting, to find you.” Erik said, with a frustrated sigh. “Without them, the chosen ones cannot be reborn or replaced. I think Victor is trying to destroy all of you once and for all. Be very careful, especially after these events.”
They all nodded and took in the new information. But they didn’t have much time to rest. More pressing issues were still arising.
Rose and Hank were on a ship bound for England. Rose’s eyes burned from the tears she had shed for her friends and her body ached from its wounds but she knew it had to be worse for Hank. He’d lost Macy and Rose knew that they had become close. Neither one had confided much in the others but they’d been very good friends with each other, maybe more than that. Rose could only imagine what it would be like to lose Dart. He was closer to her than anyone in the group.
She looked at Hank as he stared out into the sea with deep sympathy in her eyes. She couldn’t bear to do nothing anymore and she had to talk to him.
“Hank, we’ll set everything to rights, we will. They won’t get away with what they did.” As she placed a hand on his arm comfortingly.
He nodded as his eyes welled with tears that he held back. For whatever reason, Hank felt comfortable talking to Rose at that moment, her nature consoled him the way only a friend could in dark times.
“Rose, I-I loved her. And I only had her for such a short amount of time. Now she’s gone. That bastard butchered her.” He finished weakly.
“Macy will always be in your heart, in all of our hearts, Hank. And she would want you to be happy. Victor wants to infect us with the misery and hatred that consumes him. Macy wasn’t like that, she wouldn’t wish for that. We have to be better than him, as good as Macy would want us to be. Let’s do it for her.” Rose finished.
“You’re right, Rose.” Hank said, dabbing his eyes. “You always know how to make things better. You fix people. You know that? And you could make someone we know very happy if you’d only say how you feel to him.”
“What do you mean?” She asked, blushing and stumbling over her words. “I just try to be nice to everyone.” She said, protesting.
Hank only laughed which made her turn even redder. Even if it was at her expense, however, she was relieved that she made him smile and her mind switched to their new mission. Albert had returned to England to prepare it for them. It was extremely dangerous but even Erik felt it was worth the risk. Plus, except for Dart, they were are all together where they would be safer. Dart was still in Russia, helping Erik prepare for their counter attack against the Empire, which they were praying was at last possible. The main purpose for their trip was the small nation of Switzerland. It had remained independent from the Empire all this time. And now they had had a major diplomatic breakthrough. Switzerland’s leaders had offered to join the Republic and its fight against the Empire. They wanted a diplomatic mission to come to them to negotiate the plans with a surety of secrecy. Despite the danger of being surrounded by the Empire, the Light Keepers decided that the fate of a nation, indeed the entire planet, was more important to their safety. So far there had been no problems though, and they were soon able to spot England off in the distance. Rose sweated as the ship came in for a landing, scanning the skies for Imperial fighters, but her fears weren’t necessary. They docked without incident.
“Welcome to England.” A soldier said saluting as they departed the ship.
“Thanks.” Rose said, putting on a smile.
Hank simply nodded. They walked across the docks where Albert waited for them and shook hands with both of them.
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you made it here safe.”
“That makes three of us.” Rose said.
“I have a car waiting to take us to the airport. We have a plane waiting disguised as an Imperial transport. We’ll use it to slip into Switzerland undetected.”
“Sounds good to me.” Rose replied, they didn’t have any other options.
They followed him back to base and rested up for a few hours. Rose went into the bathroom and splashed cool water on her face. Suddenly, she started sobbing. She let it all out, crying for her friends, for everyone hurt in the war, for the entire world. She cried until she didn’t have any tears left and then she lay down in her bed. She just need to rest for a while before she could face anything else. She drifted off and only woke when Albert returned and knocked at her door with Hank in tow.
“Everything is ready.” He announced.
Rose nodded solemnly and followed them to the plane. It was a large, bulky, black beast covered in the proper Imperial ID numbers and markings. Without hesitation, they boarded it hoping they would get back to England safe and sound. Rose sat down in one of the seats and found it to be monstrously uncomfortable. The Empire truly was cold and hard, down to even the designs of the chairs on a plane. Rose sighed and did her best to relax as the engines roared to life and the plane left the runway.
Several hours later, and again, without incident, Rose, Albert, and Hank got off the plane in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. They were greeted by Robert Bailey and Amy Maxel, the joint leaders of Switzerland. It was a nation that had remained free and continued as before the war, ruled by both genders jointly in a style of government more similar to the Republic than the Empire.
“Welcome to Switzerland.” Robert said, extending his slightly trembling hand to each of them.
“We’re very relieved you made it safely.” Amy, eyes wearily red, added, imitating Robert.
“If you will follow us we will take you to your lodgings.” Robert said politely, gesturing with his hand toward the government center behind him where the meeting would take place.
It was new building, a large series of white domes divided into many different, complex sections. The walls were all the same pristine white color and everything in the building was clean and utilitarian yet still elegantly decorated. Rose couldn’t help but admire how wealthy the entire city looked, including its people. Peace had done Switzerland well.
“Tomorrow we’ll meet back up with you and accompany you to the meeting hall where we can better discuss our plans.” Amy said as they left.
Rose almost feinted in delight when she saw her room. It was spacious and filled with every amenity she could have hoped for. She allowed herself a small smile as she explored the suite. The view was breathtaking. The city was spread out below her and off in the distance lay the shining white caps of the Swiss Alps. Everything was simply perfect. This was just what they needed after all she, and her fellow Light Keepers, had been through. She let herself fall into the folds of the huge, soft bed that sat in the center of the room and allowed herself to relax for once.
Later in the evening, after a dinner that was as fantastic as the room, Rose changed into a long, purple nightgown and met with Albert and Hank who had also changed one more time before they called it a night.
“Well they seem friendly enough.” Albert said.
“Still, we should be careful though. Robert seemed so nervous.” Rose noted.
Albert winced slightly at the reminder of what had happened to their friends. Hank hung his head in a type of sad agreement.
“Tomorrow morning, we’ll get through these talks as quickly as possible and get back to the Republic.” She said more encouragingly.
“I think that’s smart.” Hank agreed.
“Ditto. I’ll feel better once we have everything settled and we’re back on home soil. Amy looked upset yesterday too. It’s odd. But I’m sure it’s nothing” Albert mused.
“Of course.” Rose said, not sounding so confident. “Yes, I mean there’s nothing that weird about it. Maybe they just had an off day.” She added, trying to reassure herself as much as the others.
“Well, I’m gonna head off to bed.” Hank said, after a moment of silence.
“See ya in the morning then.” Rose replied.
Albert hung around, however, looking at Rose nervously.
“What’s up?” She asked him quietly.
“It’s just, I wanted to talk to someone but…” He suddenly burst into tears.
Rose was shocked but immediately put an arm around him.
“Albert, what’s wrong? It’s ok, you can talk to me.” She said, trying to sound as comforting as possible until at last he managed to speak.
“We’ve lost so many of our friends, Rose. And I know it’s selfish, but Jamie was my best friend and I never told her how I felt about her. She was so bright and brilliant and now she’s lost forever.”
Rose’s heart ached, even if he hadn’t killed or maimed them, Victor was finding every way possible to inflict pain on their group.
“Albert, we’re all hurting for them. It’s healthy to grieve and we all have to until we learn to live with the loss. You can’t let guilt consume you, and you’ve nothing to be guilty over. You and Jamie had a wonderful friendship. We can’t let her sacrifice be in vain. We have to be strong for that, for the rest of our friends, and for our people. They all depend on us.”
“I know, Rose, I know, it just hurts so much.” He said, wiping his nose on his sleeve.
“Look, Albert, get some sleep. You need to rest and if you don’t feel better in the morning we can talk again, I promise. I’m here for you and Hank is too. We’re a team right?”
That at last seemed to cheer him up some.
“Yes, a team, and we always will be. Thank you, Rose.”
She smiled back at him and they wished each other a good night’s rest for the next day before heading back to their rooms.
Rose tossed and turned in bed for hours before getting to sleep. She’d barely drifted off when she was awake again, speeding along at an inhuman pace. She wanted to scream, wanted to do something, anything but felt trapped. All she could do was turn her head and watch Jamie die again as an explosion rocked her dreams. She heard the cold, cruel laughter of her worst nightmare and was mercifully awake. Rose gasped for air, covered in a cold sweat.
She wearily got out of bed and stood in the sunlight coming in through her window. It was at last dawning on her that this war wasn’t just leaving scars that she could see. She glanced at the clear, white gash on her wrist, but ones that she could not see as well. Scars she would always carry. She sighed but her memory brightened slightly as she thought of the friend who had saved her life from the one who gave her that scar, the one who bore similar scars and whose life she had saved as well. Hank could see it, was she that obvious? But she had to put Dart out of her mind for a while as she got dressed and left to attend the meeting with Robert, Amy, and the other Light Keepers.
Rose greeted Hank and Albert and they had a short breakfast before Amy and Robert showed up.
“I trust you all had a good night’s sleep?” Amy asked them, looking as weary as ever.
Looking at her and doubting the same was true for her, Albert and Hank nodded. Rose hesitated for a split second, before doing so as well. Amy smiled and motioned down the hall, and they got up and followed her and Robert. They walked toward the meeting hall through the same magnificent halls that had come through the day before.
“How did you manage to stay free all this time in the middle of the Empire?” Rose inquired.
“Yeah.” Albert added. “And what makes you want to join us now? You’ve done well just staying at peace.”
“Well…” Amy began, carefully. “They have been very distracted fighting you and the mountains help make invasions difficult and costly. As for your other question, we are natural allies, we believe in freedom, not dictatorship, and none of this would have been possible if a cell of your advisor’s men hadn’t been determined to keep Switzerland out of the War Lords’ clutches.” She finished.
“Some of Erik’s men helped you?” Albert asked, surprised.
“Yes.” Amy replied. “As I said, natural allies.”
They came up to the door of the meeting hall. It was a large, oaken door with golden handles. Robert opened the door and held it so they could enter, Amy came in behind them and Robert closed the door. They took in the large room: it was luxuriant, and centered on a long oak table that reminded Rose of the door they had just entered. But something was amiss. There was a group of people at the end of the table. Rose’s heart stopped, and her world spun wildly, dizzying her, as terrible pain flooded her senses once more. It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t.
The Light Keepers froze, immobilized by shock and fear. There at the end of the hall stood the living nightmare, Victor Voktor, his aide Capt. Christopher Cartwright, and his menacing bodyguards. Albert was the first to act drawing his pistol but Victor was infinitely faster, he blasted the gun right out of Albert’s hand. Albert hissed in pain and clutched his hand. Seconds later an Imperial black ops team materialized behind them cutting them off. If looks could kill, the one Rose sent the leaders of Switzerland would have left them dead on the floor.
“We’re so sorry,” Amy pleaded.
So that was why her eyes had been so red, and Robert had been so nervous: the tears and fears of betrayal.
“They parachuted in!” She said, reliving the event in her mind. “And they had spies in our country too!” She asserted, anger entering her voice for the first time.
“They seized control of the capital so fast we couldn’t react.” Robert added. “And they threatened to slaughter our people if we didn’t cooperate, we had to submit.”
“Shut up.” Victor said, in a cutting, deadly tone. “That’s more than enough of this pointless drivel, take them away. I’ll deal with them shortly.” His smile was sickening and his laugh even more so as they were disarmed and led away.
In a separate room, on the other side of the building, Victor turned to Robert.
“I must admit. I am extremely interested in your work with cryogenics.” He continued when Robert said nothing. “I take it this machine will achieve the purpose I have set for it?”
“I have no idea.” Robert replied. “This machine is only in the testing phases. You put someone in it…it’s as likely to kill them as anything else.” He protested. .
“As if I care about that.” Victor said, chuckling. “Fortunately for these fools, the Supreme Leader does. So we’ll test it first. I say on Albert. He’s been enough trouble to deserve it, and the Supreme Leader will let it slide if just one of them dies.”
Robert looked at his invention again, for the first time, in loathing. How could it have come to this?
Meanwhile, in a cell in yet another dome in the complex, the Light Keepers despaired and finally began to unfold the plot. Rose swore and ran her hands through her hair.
“First, he spread out us out. He knew we’d be easier to beat separated, and the whole time he was spying on us!” She said.
“Yeah, and he figured we’d regroup and just needed bait to draw us all into the final trap.” Albert said.
“But what about Dart? He doesn’t have him!” Hank said trying to look on the bright side of things.
“Yet.” Albert retorted. “What do you think we are? I bet they’ve already sent a message asking him to come too. And then they’ll have all of us.”
Hank’s face fell glumly and he said down on one of the thin benches in the dark cell. Rose felt a horrible pang of guilt that it was partly her fault Dart would fall into this trap.
“And we fell for the whole thing.” Albert added for good measure, punching the wall before throwing himself onto another of the benches.
Rose stood in the center of the cell with her arms folded and stared at the walls. After what seemed like an eternity but couldn’t have been more than a few hours, the door opened and a swarm of grim looking black ops men entered the room. Victor’s aide Christopher was among them. He looked at them all with the highest contempt.
“Come with me.” He commanded.
No one moved.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” He said, his eyes narrowing. “Trust me, these guys won’t complain if you prefer the latter.” He added coldly.
They looked at one another wearing worried expressions on their faces but realized they had no choice, they allowed Christopher to lead the way. When they reached their destination a door slid open in front of them. The room was ice cold and possessed an eerie, blue glow. There was a large glass chamber across from them. Inside it sat a chair with restraints. Victor and several high ranking Imperials talked animatedly off to one side. They seemed to be arguing, but Victor was clearly winning. His bodyguards and the leaders of Switzerland were present as well, off closer to the chamber. The Light Keepers came to a halt near them.
“What’s going on?” Albert sneered at Robert.
“You’re being cryogenically frozen.” He replied.
“I’m being cryo-what?!” Albert said in shock.
“I don’t know why. But that machine is just as likely to kill you as anything else.” He whispered nervously.
Victor won the battle with his officers and motioned with his hand. The black ops troopers grabbed Albert and began to force him into the chamber.
“NO!” Hank suddenly roared. “I won’t let you murder anyone else, Victor!”
He threw himself at the soldiers who had taken hold of Albert and tackled them both to the floor. His powerful fists rained blows down onto them until they were beaten into submission. Then he saw stars as Victor smashed the hilt of his sword into the back of his head. Hank groaned and slumped over, clutching his head. Before he had a moment to recover, Victor’s boot smashed into his ribs several times.
“Victor, stop! Please stop! I’m going quietly, look!” Albert pleaded, holding his hands up and walking into the chamber on his own. The War Lord lowered his foot, which had been ready to deliver another blow, and smiled.
“You bastard, you murdered our friends, you’ve murdered countless people, and you murdered the girl I loved.” Hank choked out from his prone position.
Victor knelt down next to him and looked into his eyes.
“Yes, I did.” He said, coldly. “I twisted this blade into her heart and tasted her blood on my lips.” He taunted, hefting his sword and eyeing it with pleasure. “Before we’re done, many more will die, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Remember that, Light Keeper.”
He stood again and motioned to his men. They hauled Hank to his feet and bound his hands tightly behind his back. Others strapped Albert in and the glass doors of the chamber hissed shut. An Imperial at a control panel pushed several buttons and the chamber began to fill with a strange mold. Albert held his breath and looked around nervously, struggling to break free. Victor’s eyes bulged with excitement.
“You’re drowning him!” Rose yelled, making a run for the glass, she’d restrained herself through as much as she could stand.
The black ops men grabbed her and held her back, a task that required all their strength. Then in an instant, an icy stream shot through the mold. When it cleared, Albert was perfectly frozen into a gelatinous block. Victor laughed and clapped his hands. Rose sobbed quietly and buried her face in Hank’s shoulder.
“Well? What is the verdict?” Victor asked.
Robert pushed aside the boy at the controls and took a look. He looked more nervous than ever and then sighed with relief.
“He’s alive.” “
"Bah.” Victor said lightly. “Oh well, still a victory I suppose. Put him on board a special plane that will take him back to the Americas. Oh, and take Hank here with him.” He said, jabbing his thumb in Hank’s direction.
“Damn you, Victor! You monster!” Rose cried, surging toward him, but the soldiers held her back again. “What did this to you?” She begged. “You were just like everyone else before all this. What happened to you?” She demanded.
“You!” Victor began spluttering, her outburst had taken him by surprise. He stormed up to her, leaned to within an inch of her face and roared, “You know nothing about me! Nothing!” Then he rounded again and went back to his men.
“What about her?” Christopher asked, his eyes narrowing towards Rose.
“Reset that thing and tie her up in front of it.” He ordered, trying to regain his composure as a trooper came up to him.
“My Lord, Dart has just landed at the airport.” He reported.
“Excellent, he must have gotten your ‘urgent message.’” Victor said laughing at the looks on the Light Keepers’ faces. “Make everything look natural and make damn sure he ends up here.” Victor ordered. “And clear out this room! He belongs to me.”
Robert and Amy exited the trap Victor was preparing and walked down the marble hallway together.
“This has gone too far.” Robert said.
“I know.” Amy agreed. “And I don’t think he has any intention of leaving us in peace either. I can’t believe we trusted him!” She said, slamming her fist into her palm so hard that it stung.
“We were afraid and rightfully so.” Robert said. “But we still have time to fix this.”
“Are you thinking what I am?” Amy said, conspiratorially, and was relieved to see Robert nod.
“But it’s so risky!” She said, her anxiety returning.
“Well we might get killed if we do it but we’re definitely dead if we just stand around and do nothing!” Robert insisted.
Amy bit her lower lip and nodded. They cut down a hallway and made their way through the building to a corridor no one was monitoring. Amy kept watch as Robert opened a secret panel and entered a series of codes. They quickly entered the hidden chamber, closed it behind them, and ran over to the monitors and communication equipment.
“Alright, let’s send out orders to all our defense forces to counterattack and prepare for imminent Imperial attack.” Robert said.
“Yes, and we’ll have to hope the Empire doesn’t realize what we’re doing and start slaughtering people here. But it’s a risk we’ll have to take.” She said as they began typing away and transmitting orders.
“I’ve also ordered our reserve units in the capital to seize the airfield so we can get the Light Keepers out of here.” Amy added.
“Good thinking.” Robert said. “I think that should do it.” He said several minutes later. “Now let’s hope this Dart is good enough to beat Victor and rescue the others.”
Amy nodded, but they were far from certain that it could be done.
Dart had been told to head to a meeting hall where his friends and the leaders of Switzerland were holding negotiations. He opened the door and it immediately slammed shut and sealed behind him. When he took a second look at the room it wasn’t a meeting hall it all. It was a strange facility: a dim, eerie, blue glow filled the room and its strange glass chamber on the other side of it, and in front of the chamber…
“Rose!” He shouted as he ran over to her, bound to a chair. “I’ll get you out.” He said as he began untying her.
But something wasn’t right, this whole place wasn’t right for that matter. Rose’s eyes were so wide it seemed like they would pop out of her head and she was trying to yell something at him. As he looked into the large black pools that were her blue eyes he saw something behind him in the reflection. He dodged just in time to miss being hit in the side of the head with the flat end of Victor’s sword.
“And now the final part of the plan falls into place.” He said, smiling his thin, bloodless smile.
“What is going on here?” Dart asked astounded.
Rose finally managed to work free the cloth that had been preventing her from speaking.
“It’s a trap! The Empire is taking control of the country and we were betrayed by its leaders!”
“Precisely, and now I will ensure that all of you are taken to Supreme Leader to meet your destiny.” Victor said.
Without another word, he attacked. It was awkward battling in the oddly shaped circular chamber. Victor stabbed at Dart who knocked the blade aside.
“You think you can beat me?” Victor said, mockingly.
He slashed at Dart in a series of quick blows, but Dart forced him back.
“Of course, your evil has never triumphed and never will.”
“You’re an ignorant fool.” Victor hissed. “You’ll pay for all the trouble you’ve caused us.”
Dart swung sideways at Victor who ducked low and then shifted backward to give himself room to kick upwards at Dart. The blow landed directly on Dart’s chin and he fell back into the chamber. A second later Victor slammed a button. The glass doors hissed shut and sealed Dart inside. He pressed a few more buttons on the control pad and liquid began seeping into the chamber.
“I killed your friends, and you’d all be dead by now if we still didn’t have a reason for keeping you alive. But don’t worry. It’ll be no more than second now.” Victor taunted.
“Dart! Oh, Dart, you’ve got to get out! You have to stop him!” Rose pleaded, fighting her bonds more desperately than ever.
“Silence you silly girl!” He spat.
As the solution lapped against his knees, a light went off in Dart’s head. He threw himself against the glass as violently as he could several times and shattered the barrier. The strange liquid and ice vapor poured out clouding the room and an alarm sounded and flashed red. Victor couldn’t see anything. He nervously looked around and searched for a sign of his enemies. Then something smacked him in the back of the head, he groaned, and slumped to the ground.
“We‘ve got to save the others!” Rose exclaimed, giving Dart a hug after he’d finished untying her.
“Where are they?” Dart asked.
“Victor ordered them out on a plane. They were taking them back to America!” She said.
Dart swore. “It‘s too late. I saw a plane taking off earlier. A few armed boys out of uniform were getting on in a heck of a hurry. I thought nothing of it then but it must have been them.”
“Oh, no. Just…no. This can’t be happening.” She said shaking her head, her hair flowing back and forth with each toss.
“Let’s get out of here.” Dart said putting a hand on each of her shoulders and looking into her eyes. “If we’re the only ones left, we have to get out alive! I have a helicopter waiting at the airfield. Hopefully the Empire doesn’t have total control yet.”
“How do we get out?” Rose said looking at the sealed door.
“Uh oh.” Dart mumbled, he hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.
“I have it!” Rose exclaimed after giving it a moment’s thought.
She ran over to Victor and checked his pockets. She found his ID, a small metal crucifix, and a key card.
“This must be it!” She said scanning it across the screen next to the door which opened for them.
“Wait, where is your sword?” Dart asked before they left.
Rose’s hands flew up to her mouth. “I almost forgot! Victor was doing something with them earlier. He looked at them so strangely.”
She took her sapphire encrusted sword from a table, Hank’s onyx encrusted sword was there as well but Albert’s emerald sword was gone. “
Maybe we should take his sword too. Erik might be able to use it.” Dart suggested, bending over to take Victor’s sword.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Rose cautioned.
Then Dart’s hand closed on the handle, embedded with a black diamond. Immediately horrible pain surged through him, but it wasn’t bodily pain, it was pain of the mind. Then he saw a dizzying stream of images, a dark figure fought back by a girl in white, the same figure screaming in pain as blinding light slammed into it, and a thousand other images too fast to even comprehend. Then he was back.
“Dart! Are you okay?” Rose asked. Her hand was on his arm and he’d dropped the sword.
“Yeah, I think so.” He said, blinking and shaking his head.
“What happened?” She demanded in a concerned tone.
Before he could answer her, they heard a groan and Victor rolled over. Their eyes widened in terror.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you later.” Dart said.
“Agreed! Let’s go!” Rose yipped, grabbing his hand and dragging him along.
As they were heading out of the building an announcement went over the loud speakers.
“This is Robert Bailey speaking. The Empire is taking control of the country. We have retaken the main airfield and are still in control of large portions on the nation. We encourage everybody to get to the nearest escape route as quickly as possible and get out before more Imperials arrive.”
“Turns out they were able to do something right after all.” Rose remarked as they headed toward the airfield.
Although the airfield had been retaken, getting there wasn’t easy going. Imperial troops were pouring into the city now. They had managed to find an empty jeep outside the government buildings and took it. As they drove toward the airport they had to make several quick turns to avoid oncoming Imperials and civilians running from them. When they finally got to the airfield they found it under siege, taking almost constant mortar fire. The couple abandoned the jeep and ran towards Dart’s helicopter. They were only a few hundred feet from in when it exploded.
“Are you alright?” Rose yelled, getting up and helping Dart to his feet.
“Yeah, but how do we get out of here now?” He asked, staring at the burning remains of the helicopter.
An Imperial tank smashed through the wall protecting the airfield. Imperial soldiers stormed in with Victor in their midst. He looked furious and had lost his officer’s cap, one frame of his glasses was shattered, and his uniform was tattered and covered in dust.
“You two!” He shouted in Rose’s and Dart’s direction as he sprinted toward them.
They drew their swords and waited, there was nowhere else to run to. It didn’t take long for him to reach them. Dart blocked a blow from Victor and slashed back at him. Rose stabbed at him from another angle but he turned the blow and slammed into her. She reeled back and Dart steadied her.
,“Find a way out of here!” He shouted. “I’ll hold him off.”
,“Are you crazy?” She shouted back. “I’d never leave you and especially not now!”
Victor wasn’t letting either of them go, in fact he increased his attacks to the point where he was lashing out at each of them at the rate of a strike every second. He began to look like a blur and the two Light Keepers knew they couldn’t hold him off much longer at that pace.
“This…ends…now!” The War Lord panted in between blows.
Then there was a wet thud as a bullet smacked into his arm. He let out an inhuman scream and toppled backward clutching the wound.
“Come on!” Robert shouted as he lowered the gun he had just shot the War Lord with.
“They’re getting closer!” Amy added as they boarded the plane.
“What about you?” Rose yelled at them.
“We can’t go! We have to stay with our people!” Amy said.
“We got them into this. We have to pay the price now.” Robert added.
“You do them no good dead! Come with us!” Dart insisted.
The two hesitated for a moment and then both hopped on the plane. The rest of the final flights from the airport took off as the Imperial forces wiped out the remaining resistors. Meanwhile, the dejected War Lord, holding his shattered arm, roared again as they escaped.
As the plane flew back to England Rose explained to Dart what had happened. He in turn told her what had happened when he tried taking Victor’s sword. Then she turned to the former leaders of Switzerland.
“Although you saved us you’ll have to be kept under watch in England until the war is over.”
Amy looked at Robert who had hung his head and hadn’t looked up for some time. He nodded weakly.
“We understand.” Amy said. “If we were you, we wouldn’t trust us either after what we did.”
The plane flew them back to England. The exiled leaders exited and bid the Light Keepers farewell. Dart and Rose boarded another plane and from there they went back to Moscow. Only two of the original eight Light Keepers remained as the hellish year came to a close.
Rose and Dart hovered over a map with Erik in their HQ in Moscow. They went over the simple, if anything was simple, military situation for starters. The situation had gotten better and worse if that was possible. St. Petersburg was on the brink of collapse and most of the battlefronts had no leader due to the shortage of Light Keepers. Victor had evened the odds to two Light Keepers and two War Lords now, perhaps even swung them in his favor considering the power of the two War Lords. On the other hand the Empire had to be exhausted after three solid years of attacking. Soon it would be their turn to take the offensive. But eventually Erik worked around to asking them what had happened in Switzerland.
Rose took a deep breath and told him about everything. Then she stopped and looked at Dart nervously.
“What is it?” Erik asked.
“I tried to take Victor’s sword.” He said.
“Oh my.” Erik said. “What happened?”
Dart recounted the mind bending agony and the blurred images.
“That is very strange.” Erik said after long silence. “I think that the sword had a reaction to you, or vice versa, because of the clash of the polar opposites, light and darkness, that occurred when you connected. As for the images, I can’t say. I have a theory but that is neither here nor there. We have more important things to discuss.” The pair nodded and Erik continued. “I have discovered the location of a very important object. It is called a Cupitor. As far as anyone knows only two exist. The first was destroyed when the Light Keepers fell in America, the ‘New World.’ The other was located in the ‘Old World’ of Europe. I have determined it is in England. We shall travel there as soon as it’s safe and use it to locate the Light Keepers destined to take up the two swords you recovered.”
“So we will be able to rebuild our numbers?” Rose asked excitedly.
“Yes, I think we have been given a second chance here.” Erik said.
“Maybe, just maybe there is light at the end of this tunnel after all.” Dart said.
They nodded in agreement. It wasn’t over yet, not by a long shot.
Victor sat in his HQ in Berlin and ran his hand over his arm where the bullet had struck him. The wound was healing quite well. Christopher came up to him.
“Although our successes these past few years have been great we did not complete our mission in its entirety. Some of the Light Keepers escaped the traps. So we have exhausted our offensive capabilities and must go on the defensive next year.”
“Well, we bought ourselves a year of time. They stood their ground until we were exhausted now we must do the same to them. This will be a year of clenched teeth.” Victor responded.
He truly had drained the Empire, barely any soldiers remained to occupy the territories, and the armies on the front lines were small and exhausted. He would have to pray he would beat back the onslaught of the Light Keepers, but never the less, he was prepared for the coming struggle. He doubted they were.
Rose looked out at the massive army assembling on the Russian front as the new year dawned. Millions of soldiers gathered, thousands of tanks and planes, not to mention the cannons, bullets, rifles, trucks, and even wagons loaded with supplies to keep the army moving. Everything was at last coming together. They had pulled together everything they had while the Empire was as weak as it would ever get.
“We survived.” She said, awe in her voice. “And now we can fight back.” She added gleefully, looking out at just one piece of that mammoth machine that would roll back the Empire.
“And the War Lords and their minions will pay for their crimes throughout the world.” Dart added.
They nodded hoping this was the beginning of the end. No one would ever be able to imagine what the next year would bring.