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Phantasy Star Zero

Chapter 10: Shards of Terror

SC 337.03 / EY 1875 / BW 211

The thing was hideous. It was mostly black, the dawn sunlight giving its body a bluish hue. The remnant of evil incarnate had apparently broken out of its prison, and rose before the loader like a snake rearing to strike. A single, malevolent eye shown in the middle of its “head,” which seemed to merge with the thing’s torso, if it could be called that. A single, tri-clawed arm grew from the partial Dark Force’s left side, but had none on its right. Sharp growths and twisted tubing seemed to sprout from random locations, and various parts of the creature pulsed with disturbing regularity.

A half-formed mouth filled with sharp teeth screamed defiance, and it was deafening. Stephen was paralyzed with fear. How in the hell were they to…

Suddenly a yellowish streak shot toward the abomination. Kalewm had latched onto what passed for the Dark Force’s head and rent with both tooth and claw. With a great shudder the creature turned, and with its sole arm seized the Musk Cat and flung him aside. Why the hell did Kalewm just do something that stupid? The answer was obvious: He bought us time.

A deep and familiar pulsing shook Stephen from his brief insight. Odin was firing his machine gun at the dark force, the slugs tearing deep rents into its body. Stephen gripped his beam rifle tightly and began firing wildly, trying to aim for its single eye but the Dark Force kept twisting and thrashing.

“Keep firing!” He screamed, ”we’re wounding it!” Did he dare hope…?

A grenade went flying and exploded, sending black matter everywhere. The multiple whines of beam weaponry and the controlled burst of machine gun fire told him everyone was concentrating fire on the evil being. Acidic ebony blood spattered everywhere, burning holes into loader and personal armor alike.

Suddenly, the Dark Force remnant raised its huge arm, ready to strike the small loader.

Melissa expertly maneuvered the craft to dodge the blow, and she began quickly circling the Dark Entity. It tried to twist to keep up with the small craft, but was having difficulty. Everyone kept firing their weapons, pulses of light vaporizing chunks of the thing, while a well-placed hit from the plasma cannon melted off a twisted growth sprouting from the creature’s back. Greg threw another grenade, which missed and exploded harmlessly behind the monstrosity. Stephen took careful aim, and fired once more, hitting its half-formed mouth, which evaporated into nothing but a toothless maw.

The fragment of Dark Force suddenly stopped trying to keep up with the craft, and evidently was waiting for something. Ossale took the opportunity to check his beam rifle. Nearly empty. He tried to reload but with the twisting of the Avenger, accidentally dropped the cartridge, which bounced out of the open cockpit onto the blackened land below. Swearing, he gazed up at the scrap of Dark Force, and a thought crossed his mind. Concentrating, he raised his hand. "FOI!" He yelled, and a beam of light shot out from his fingers, burning a small hole into the arm of the fiend. So much for techniques, he thought disappointedly as he saw the small amount of damage the tech had caused. The others were still pressing the attack, however, and Melissa was continuing to circle the Avenger when they once more passed the front of the creature.

Now Stephen understood why it had been waiting. Between its eye, and several of the perverted growths, a blue energy field was building. The evil entity discharged this energy, which coursed through the air as forks of lightning. The unnatural force rippled throughout the craft and its occupants, who collectively reeled in pain. Worse, the Avenger suddenly lost power, slowing down rapidly before settling into the tainted earth with a hard impact. Shaken, Stephen and the others gazed up at the malevolent entity, which stared at them, seemingly pleased with itself as it readied another attack.

"Now!" Ossale yelled,” We have to kill this thing now!" Slapping another energy cartridge into his rifle, he took aim and blew off another of the abnormal growths, one of those responsible for the energy attack. Melissa kept trying to restart the loader, but was having no luck. The plasma cannon was still functioned however, and Shea expertly swiveled the weapon and fired a green bolt of pure destruction at the creature's only arm, which to Ossale's dismay only partially melted away. Gregory was desperately throwing grenades as fast as he could, each one blowing dark chunks of evil from the Dark Force's serpentine base. Odin, for his part, had stripped a bandolier from his shoulder and was calmly reloading the archaic weapon he carried.

The Dark Force remnant thrashed in apparent frustration, screeching, its sole arm swinging around wildly. Unfortunately, it happened to be on a collision course with the downed Avenger.

“Holy s---! Everyone bail out!” Melissa suddenly yelled, leaping overboard. Everyone quickly scrambled to escape the doomed loader. Dark Force’s tri-clawed fist smacked the side of the Avenger, crushing the little craft like a confetti egg and sending pieces flying.

Ossale landed with a dull thud. As soon as he touched the tainted ground, Stephen realized what Kalewm had meant. It immediately sapped his strength like a dark poison, and he staggered, trying to stand up. Hastily looking around, he saw Greg and Shea both sunk to their knees, feebly attempting to fire at Dark Force, as their weapons had run out of energy. Why did they not reload? The effect of the taint must be too much for them to bear. Melissa was already unconscious, on her side near the smashed loader. Only Odin continued to fire at the evil incarnate, and, dodging another blow from the creature’s fist, resumed the onslaught. His primitive weapon was ripping great holes into the body of the enemy, nearly eviscerating it. The creature screamed and twisted, but Odin was not able to avoid the next blow as he was knocked backward a clear ten meters. He hit the ground with a jolt and lay still.

Stephen then caught a glimpse of a small, prone figure to his immediate left and quickly ran over and picked up the injured Musk Cat. Had it not been for Kalewm’s near-suicidal assault against the Dark Force remnant when they arrived, the evil being would have simply reached out and crushed the loader and everyone in it before they had a chance to overcome their sense of fear and awe and attack.

“Are you okay?” he hastily asked Kalewm. The Musk Cat opened his eyes, which were now glowing yellow.

“I understand now. I’m ready,” was Kalewm’s cryptic reply, and he suddenly touched his paw to Stephen’s forehead again.

Like before, a brilliant white light filled his vision. Unlike before, however, something else was awakened. Something that was definitely not there before. All fear, doubt and despair washed away as if from a cleansing stream. His vision cleared, he looked down at the Musk Cat, which merely smiled, his eyes still gleaming yellow. Together they turned to face the crippled Dark Force remnant, who had also turned to finish off its last foes. Its ruined mouth gurgled menacingly, and its half-destroyed arm reached for them…

Staring the entity in its single, malevolent red eye, Stephen raised his right hand. Kalewn jumped from the crook of his left arm, except this time, his leap stopped in mid-air. Kalewm began glowing yellow, and a burst of light emanated from the small creature, tearing a gigantic hole in the Dark Force, which reared backward.

Stephen closed his eyes and focused. Deep from inside his being, he drew upon every last shred of goodness, hope and humanity in his body, and to his mild surprise found he was drawing from his nearby friends too. Their energy added to his own, he wordlessly released this overwhelming light energy toward the Musk Cat, which redirected it like a mirror toward the flailing remnant of Dark Force. A piercing wail filled the air, and grew louder and louder. Stephen just kept his hand raised, ignoring the deafening cacophony. Emotions of anger, hatred, jealousy assaulted his mind, but were deflected and cast aside like rotten garbage. Suddenly Stephen was knocked from his feet, and opened his eyes to see the beautiful skies of Palma spin madly. Strange... the entire atmosphere seemed to glow yellow...

And then there was nothingness.

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