Michael takes another shot with Sylvana.
"I was sabotaged, I'm telling you!" I raised my voice, trying to convince her about my suspicion.
"Yeah, right." Synthia rolled her eyes skeptically. She didn't believe me after I woke up in the reincarnation chamber, and she didn't believe me now, as I was standing in my crew chamber.
It was a rather cozy place; the MI allowed me to have anything I wanted in here. At least anything I was able to fit.
My double bed took up half of the room. I could still place some closets near it, and I also managed to get an old-fashioned lamp on the ceiling. They had the same grayish color as the walls, although Synthia recommended them to be in gold. They might have been better that way, or they might not have been, we will never know.
I didn't like to decorate the walls too much, my wall-sized window was almost enough for me to look at in the evenings. But there were two pictures that I still wanted to have. The first one was an old painting of Tony Stein, he stood up for what was right, and he was quite good at killing Japanese – just like I was. This picture went on the wall next to the window, the other one was standing in the drawer on the side of my bed. It was the picture of Sylvana of course, I couldn't wake up in the morning without seeing her.
"Who the hell would even sabotage you?" Synthia asked after some consideration.
"I don't know. What about that mysterious race which obliterated your entire civilization? They must be very happy about all this messing with the timeline." It was just a theory of course. But what else could have both the reasons and the technology to do this?
"So what about our next mission?" Synthia asked, I should have known she would do this. She did this every time I brought up those guys. Next time I had to be more careful if I wanted to know more about this subject.
"So I still get my chance with her?"
"As I said, you will have another go with her," she nodded. "So what do you have in mind? Want to try one of those classic first date warnings?"
"I have to go back way before that," I said, shaking my head. Sylvana was relentless after the war broke out, she didn't care about dying for the cause. It was impossible to convince her about anything with the good old you will have a meaningless death scenario.
"Before that? Are you sure you got out of that chamber with a functioning brain?" She sounded surprised, and it was one surprising idea indeed. Thing is about Sylvana, she never chose to be a cyborg, she was forced to be one. The Japanese took her, they did everything they wanted with her, and then they made sure she wouldn't disobey them. I was the one who captured her, rescuing Sylvana from that fate. It was a heroic thing to do, but right now it made things rather complicated.
"It's the only way."
"And where do you want to go exactly?" There were two big choices ahead of me. I either went back to the time-period where she was an enemy agent, or I could go back before she became a cyborg. Knowing her early life, I had a better chance saving her while she was killing Coalition troops.
"I will take my chances at Argos," I answered, explaining my plan. "I will go back to those times when the Japanese found the planet and they started to kill every living being down there. Sylvana was forced to take part in that, I will find her in there."
"Your funeral," she answered with a grin on her face.
"No, my time of glory," I told her. As always, I was quite sure about my success. Something happened in that place; a terrible thing that will serve me the best on my mission. It will help me with Sylvana, and it will help me against my saboteur as well.
Besides, I failed so many times before that I had to succeed now.
"Alright, let me know, when you are ready." She didn't agree with me of course, but she didn't have to. I would worry about her consent later, when I would go and save Earth.
I looked out the window watching the red emptiness known as ”No Man's Space”. I admired the sight for a moment, then I turned back to Synthia.
"How about now?"
Some say Argos was as beautiful as Earth. Knowing the glorious sight of our overpopulated smog-ball, this wasn't a very assuring statement – but it sure was a precise one. Earth was a beautiful planet before humanity kicked in, and I could say the same about Argos. It became a contaminated wasteland by the end of the war, but as of now, the Japanese had just found it.
The planet was as beautiful as Earth was before us. Endless forests, tall mountains covered with snow, and rivers so clean they were actually blue instead of black or brown. I could even see the sun in here, although I got used to that in the past – as I was visiting alien planets. Those usually had a clear atmosphere, they just weren't so good at being livable as this place.
You could easily settle down on Argos, but it wasn't so famous just for that. This was among those rare planets that were settled by extraterrestrial life. It had its own animals, some strange birds, and it even had a sentient race called the Egho'kani. They were a primitive, tribal civilization, but they lived here for a long time. As of now, they were present in quite large numbers – so large, it took almost five years for the Japanese to kill every single one of them.
Now that I landed here with the Judgement, I had only one question in mind: Where on Argos could I find Sylvana?
According to the MI, she was welcoming the Egho'kani in the middle of the forest located right in front of me. But it was a large forest of course, and I had to get there in the right moment – otherwise the outcome wouldn't be very pleasant.
I saw some smoke in the distance, it came from the end of the forest at the foot of the mountain. It must have been a small fire that erupted just now. Hopefully it wouldn't burn me alive as I was searching for Sylvana.
Because I started to walk straight towards it.
It was quite peaceful for a burning forest. No birds flew away from the smoke and no animals ran away from their cruel fate. The closer I got, the worse the situation became. I smelled the smoke in the air, I felt the heat on my skin, and I saw the flames crawling up on the trees.
There was no way that every living being felt okay about this. But then why didn't they run away?
Thing is, they fled the place long before the fire.
I saw a strange creature between the trees. It looked like a hairless upper body of white-skinned monkey. No legs, no torso, only two arms and a large head filled with sharp teeth. I was almost like an Egho'kani. I froze when I realized what I saw. This was indeed an Egho'kani; something grabbed the creature, tore it into two, and dropped his upper body in here.
The creature was dead for a while, its yellow blood left a small stain on the brown forest ground. It either died before it was torn apart, or it was torn apart long before it got here. Either way, I had to be careful. I wasn't the only predator in here.
Going forward, the heat got worse and worse. I didn't want to be burned alive, but I couldn't let Sylvana out of my grasp either. It was hard to breathe this close to the fire, and it seemed like that wasn't my only problem.
I saw other dead Egho'kani on the way, half-torn bodies, arms and legs torn off and thrown away into the ground. This wasn't just any predator, it couldn't have been. Something was hurting them systematically, not for food, not for self-defense, but for fun.
This was the work of my beloved girlfriend. I was sure about that now. She didn't do it for her entertainment, but there was no way this happened out of necessity. Some Japanese guy had "a lot of fun" making her to do all this.
Reaching the center of the fire, I heard the intense, cracking sound of the flames. I would have suffocated from the smoke, if the wind were to blow to my direction. But instead it blew towards the mountain, allowing me to get here with only "a bit" of a breathing problem.
I found myself in the middle of an Egho'kani settlement. Dozens of burning wood houses surrounded me, dead bodies laid on the ardent ground. Sylvana was standing in the middle of the destruction, silently looking over all the pain and suffering she had caused.
She wore black clothes torn by the Egho'kani warriors. Wounds covered her pale skin, some of them were deep, others were shallow. She barely lost any blood from those, the Japanese knew how to build a cyborg. They could control them just as well – but still, there were some glitches in the system.
That is the reason why I came here.
Sylvana never talked about this day, she suffered a lot from being used like this. The slaughter caused her so much pain that she was able to resist them for a while. The Japanese managed to overcome it later on, but in the end, when we captured her, we used this very moment to break her programming, setting her free once and for all.
Hopefully, in the wake of her rebellion, I could do the same thing with the right words.
I froze, when she looked at me. Tears flew from eyes to her cheeks, falling down to the ground.
"Coalition agent. Name: Michael Brown. Rank: lieutenant. Order: terminate," she grabbed her plasma gun, and shot me, aiming at my face.
My shield absorbed the shot, saving me from the heat of the plasma.
I didn't understand what happened at first, not completely. She was supposed to be resisting, denying the orders of her superiors. What if they were already controlling her again?
"You are wrong, I'm..."
"Dead," Sylvana said as she started to run towards me.
She reached me within a moment, trying to hit me in the face. I was fast, almost as fast as a cyborg. Leaning back from the hit, I almost managed to avoid her fist. She struck me with unbelievable strength. I found myself on the ground within an instant, I felt one of my teeth flying out of my mouth; luckily, the others decided to stay.
She thought I was done for, but it wasn't so easy to beat the Coalition's best. Despite the pain, I jumped up from the ground. She wanted to hit me again, this time I managed to leap to the side from her fist. I struck back as hard as I could; my fist went straight into her temple.
I hoped to cause some trouble with her systems. Punching her felt like hitting a wall made of bones and steel – mainly because that is exactly what happened. I broke my fingers instantly, Sylvana didn't even feel it.
The cyborg struck back, hitting my chest with her left palm. I flew meters in the air, right into a burned tree. I broke two of my ribs, as I hit it with my back, and I heard the control panel of my personal shield breaking into pieces.
I fell back to the ground; trying to get up, I found myself looking at the barrel of her gun.
"Order: terminate," she sounded determined, yet she didn't stop crying for a single moment.
"Sylvana, this isn't you!" I raised my voice, trying to reason with her.
Knowing my luck, I didn't expect much from this. But I had to try.
"Not all of me. Most of me." She put the gun away, then started to walk in the other direction.
"Wait!" I yelled, as I tried to get up from the ground. I couldn't, I was way too injured for that.
The cyborg stopped, then turned towards me. She gave me a look, one last, desperate glance, and then she walked away.
I wanted to go after her, but I couldn't. Unable to get up, I thought I was going to get burned alive. But the wind started to blow stronger and stronger, and eventually the fire started to die out.
I was glad for a moment, despite my situation. I could crawl back to the ship, Synthia would surely heal my wounds. Finally, after all those times, I could get back to the ship in one piece.
"At least I didn't die," I said it out loud, just for myself.
I was shocked when I heard an answer.
"Wrong." A tall man stepped above me. He wore ragged, brown and grey clothes, he had to be at least fifty or sixty years old. He held an old fashioned pistol at my face.
"Who the hell are you?" I asked, reaching for my gun. I was hoping he wouldn't notice it, but he did.
The man looked at my hand, and he blew my brains out without hesitation.