“Here is the message we received via the BEE system, sir” the lady said to Crow, as she made a few adjustments to the mobile uplink on his wrist.
“Thank you,” he said as she finished. As she returned to the guild room, Crow began the message.
RAcaseal, MagnavoxGT, speaking. Mission incomplete. Attacked by fellow Hunters. Disassembly occurred. Requesting assistance.
Crow frowned. Attacked by fellow Hunters? It’s unlikely the Black Market was involved. He pondered the implications as the force twins, Nyko, and Nyla, joined him. Quina wasn’t far behind them. Finished with restocking their supplies, they waited for his signal to go.
“According to the message, the android, MagnavoxGT, her party attacked and disassembled her. Our mission is to locate and assist her,” Crow told them.
“We should be able to find her using the BEE system. She should have the tracking ability to help us find her parts,” Quina suggested.
“A good point,” Crow said as the others nodded. He activated the uplink and opened the voice messaging. “Crow speaking. The guild is sending us down to assist you. Do you know you’re location?”
They waited a moment in silence.
“Let’s head down to the surface,” Nyko said.
“We might be able to get a better signal from there,” Nyla said.
Quina and Crow nodded and stepped into the teleporter. The twins surfaced in the forest first. Quina stepped out just before Crow appeared. The forest seemed serene but Crow felt uneasy. They all knew of the danger lurking within those trees, yet there was something else. Why would anyone attack their team mate? Missions to Ragol were often dangerous. To lose a party member risked everyone. The mobile device blipped and the RAcaseal’s voice crackled in the air.
RAcaseal, MagnavoxGT, speaking. Location just beyond Central Dome. Light is poor. Sounds of water and wind heard. Vegetation healthy and prevalent.
“That sounds a lot like where we found Nyko,” Quina said. Her brow crinkled in thought.
Crow nodded and spoke into the uplink, “This is Crow. We are on our way.”
“Seems a bit too easy, don’t you think?” Quina asked.
Night crept into the forest as they avoided the aggressive creatures of Ragol. Tired and hungry, Nyla hoped they find the poor android soon. The smallest of the group, she had to double her march to keep up with the pace Crow set. “Does the guy ever relax?” she muttered.
“What?” Quina asked.
“Huh? Oh nothing,” Nyla smiled, “I’m just getting really tired is all.”
“Crow, let’s rest,” Quina said.
Crow frowned but stopped. Nyla flopped down on the grass and her brother did the same next to her. Quina sat on a nearby log. Crow simply stood, staring into the never-ending trees.
The evening air gently breezed through, cooling their warm skin. Nyla smiled, enjoying the freshness. Nyko smiled also. They were seldom apart. She looked over at Quina. She seemed troubled in thought but still energetic and fresh. The twins admired her so much that they bleached their hair as white as hers and wear her colors, green and yellow, with pride. They had just met Crow but since it seemed that Quina had known him before the immigration, they respect him. She didn’t know what to think of him. He obviously cared for Quina. Maybe he had feelings for her? Static sizzled in the air, breaking up her thoughts. The crackling voice of the android began to speak.
RAcaseal, MagnavoxGT, speaking. Not far, a few meters north.
“This is Crow. We’ll be there shortly.” Crow turned to face them. “Let’s move out.”
They hustled their march, following the android’s directions. They came to the same clearing where Nyko met his unfortunate mishap. Someone scattered android parts across the ground.
“How convenient! It’s all here!” Nyko said merrily as he gathered them all and began assembling the pieces. Nyla envied his knack for such things. He made it all look so simple.
“Thank you!” MagnavoxGT said, observing Nyko’s work.
“What happened?” Quina asked, kneeling down by the android’s head.
“I received an assignment to deliver a very important message for a researcher. They hired a few other hunters to protect me. We reached this clearing and suddenly they attacked me, ripping me apart. They took the chip containing the message and left. I must recover that chip!”
Nyla sat next to Quina as Crow asked, “If the chip is so important, why didn’t they hide your parts before abandoning you?”
“I do not know,” MagnavoxGT answered.
“Surely they knew the guild would send you assistance?” Nyko asked.
“Yes, they had to have known,” Quina said, frowning.
“Perhaps you will understand once we find them,” the android replied.
Nyko shrugged and Nyla noticed the odd look on the faces of Quina and Crow. She began to worry.
“There,” Nyko said, “All set now!” He tightened up the last tiny bolts connecting her head to her torso. He puffed with pride as the android stood up. “I took liberty to tweak your system a bit. You should find better efficiency now.”
“Thank you,” she nodded her head.
Nyko stood, brushing himself off. “I don’t believe we have introduced ourselves. I am Nyko, this is my twin sister, Nyla, Quina is the lovely lady over there and the beefy man in black is Crow.”
The android nodded, “I am MagnavoxGT.”
“That’s an awful long name,” Nyla said.
“Yes, but it is my name.”
“Can we call you, Mag or Maggie?” Nyko asked.
“So, your former party has your chip. Have any ideas where they might have gone?” Crow asked.
“If they chose to deliver the message quicker without me for the offered bonus pay, they will be heading into the caves. If they did not, I have no answer,” Maggie said, hanging her head.
Nyko, patted her shoulder, “Ah, there, don’t be blue! We’ll find them and get the chip back.”
Girlish laughter filled the air. A boy and a girl entered the clearing. Twins with bright red hair and their eyes shone with an eerie yellow light. The boy wore light blue armor and waved his buster in the air. The girl wore a soft blue gown and cap and twirled her rod. They smirked as they said, “I don’t think so.”
Quina and Nyla stood. Crow, Nyko and Maggie gathered around them.
“Who are you?” asked Quina as another form entered the shadows.
Fluorescent blue eyes glowed as the voice said, “I am Sting Ray.”
“And we are the Blooms of Radiance!” said the twins.
“The what?” Nyko asked.
“I am the fragrance that fills the night, the force that sets wrongs to right. I am. . . the Ivy Rose!” said the girl as she displayed her skill with her weapon. She posed in front of them as her brother began to do the same.
“I am the steel of the soil, the hunter of whom evils recoil. I am. . . the Nightshade!” He made a similar pose next to his sister.
“What are you doing?” Nyla said.
“Don’t ask,” said Maggie.
“These are the guys that took you apart?” Nyko asked.
“That’s right,” the red-haired twins said, “And now we’ll do the same to you!”
A bolt of lightning shot from Ivy’s hand, paralyzing Maggie. Nightshade charged in with his buster. Sting Ray remained in the shadows in silence.
“Spread out!” Quina said as she blocked the buster with her Soul Eater.
Electricity charged the air as Ivy and Nyko shot their Zonde relentlessly. Ice formed and shattered as Nyla cast Barta. Crow simply thumped Nightshade on the head, knocking him out, allowing Quina to swing at Ivy. The Soul Eater grazed Ivy’s cheek, winning a high-pitched squeal.
“Enough!” Ivy shouted, covered the new mark, “You may have defeated us this time, but we will be back to claim our victory!” She ran over to her brother, cast Ryuker and they both vanished from the clearing.
“Pathetic,” Sting Ray said, “Here, I believe this is yours.”
A tiny object sailed through the air. Crow caught it easily.
Looking into Crow’s hand and seeing the chip, Nyla asked, “Why?”
“They came back to get directions from the RAcaseal. I’d say that you earned it,” Sting Ray said and disappeared into the shadows.
“What about Maggie?” Nyla asked.
“Probably tripped a circuit,” Nyko said, “Shouldn’t be too hard to fix.”
As the party traveled the short remaining distance, Nyko turned to Maggie.
“Don’t they just make the cutest pair?” Nyko pointed to Crow and Quina.
“He isn’t the one for her,” Maggie said.
“How do you know?” Nyla asked.
“Observe the way they interact with each other. They are too guarded with each other. No lasting happiness will come of it,” Maggie stated.
“Really?” Nyla asked.
Nyko nodded as he watched the two discuss which direction to take. They didn’t argue but they weren’t in agreement either. Nyko sensed they didn’t trust each other. It surprised him the android noticed it.
“Oh, I see it!” Nyla sang and ran up to the gaping hole leading to the caves.
The researcher tucked his small camp not far from the cave entrance. As the party approached, he came out to greet them.
“Finally it has arrived!” he cried, “The latest installment!”
“Latest installment?” Quina asked, looking at Maggie.
Maggie shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Come inside,” the researcher said, “I’ll show you.”
Only the researcher fit in the tiny hut, so they watched from the door. He put the chip into his laptop and turned it on. He clicked a few buttons and cheered as an animation played on his screen.
“Yes!” he said, “The newest game on the market! Phantasy Star 4000XL!”
“Are you serious?” Nyko asked.
“Yes,” Maggie said.
“This was your important message?” Nyla asked.
“It seems so,” Maggie shrugged.
“I don’t believe it,” Quina said, “I’m heading back to the ship.”
As the others followed Quina, the researcher gave Crow the payment.
“One thousand for each of you,” the researcher said, “Thank you so much! I was dying of boredom out here!”
“Anytime, sir,” Crow said and left to join his comrades.
Back on Pioneer 2, they planned for much needed rest and a meal. Who knew what tomorrow would bring?