Phantasy Star Zero
Chapter 8: Preparations for Battle
SC 337.03 / EY 1875 / BW 211
It was night. Nocturnal insects chorused mating calls, and flying mammals swooped and darted about. Stephen Ossale, Melissa Maxim, Shea Keller and Gregory Young were all silent as they went about various preparations. Kalewm had informed the humans that the land around the remnants of Dark Force were tainted and poisonous, so they could not approach by foot, which was why the Musk Cats couldn’t finish the job themselves. Kalewm had mentioned something about a legend of Musk Cats with the ability to grow wings, but didn’t elaborate. Apparently there were either none left or they had forgotten how.
Since they had to approach by air, the humans had to rely on their scant supply of hover loaders. Despite what Kalewm had once said, Stephen made sure the single nuke was on standby back in the basement of the Capitol building of Camineet. If this Dark Force won, Ossale would rather see the colonists destroyed quickly than slowly and painfully by the evil entity.
There were only five loaders available, and all had been modified with armor and heavy weapons were mounted on them. They were designed as simple utilitarian vehicles, so certain features like the open cockpit canopy and cargo area could not be fully protected. They were capable of speeds up to eighty-two kph, and could hover a maximum of two meters from the ground. It would have to do.
Steven perused the modified vehicles. Four had beam cannons, the fifth the plasma cannon Shea had reattached more efficiently. There was enough room for five people on each loader, including the pilot. Two rode in the front, two in the back cargo area, and one manned the heavy weapons. The best and bravest militiamen were chosen for the other four loaders, but the one with the plasma cannon, whom Shea had named “The Avenger,” was Stephen’s. Melissa Maxwell, the best pilot he had ever known, would fly the craft. He would ride next to her in the passenger’s seat. Kalewm sat perched between them, silent and grim. Gregory crouched in the back, idly checking and rechecking his beam rifle. Shea manned the Plasma cannon, leaving room for one more. Stephen looked around for someone else to join them, but the other men were busy loading into the other vehicles and focusing on their upcoming battle. There! The Militia Captain was about to jump into a craft when Stephen called him over. He recognized the man as the one who saved him from the mutant fly during their last battle. The man still carried the heavy machine gun, bandoliers slung over both shoulders.
“Sir?” the man saluted. Stephen returned the salute and spoke, “Captain, are your men ready?”
“As ready as ever, sir. Several of them lost family and friends to those monsters, and they’re itching for revenge.” Kalewn looked over at the captain worriedly. Stephen knew what the Musk Cat was concerned about.
“This isn’t about revenge, Captain,” began Ossale,” but about survival. This thing we’re fighting feeds on negative emotions, and can use them against us. Leave the men who want payback, and bring only the ones with a level head.”
“Yes, sir!” The Captain barked, spinning on his heels with discipline as he went to carry out the Administrator’s order. Stephen heard angry cries of frustration, and quite a bit of swearing as well. Soon enough, the Captain returned, saluted again, and assured Stephen that only the most mentally stable were coming along.
“What’s your name, Captain?” Stephen asked.
The Captain removed his helmet, exposing a stern face with a strong chin, steely eyes and a well-trimmed, brown crew cut, “my name is Thomas Odin, sir, although with all due respect, I prefer to be just called Odin. It’s… something of a family tradition.”
“Well okay then, Odin,” smiled the Administrator, “We have space for one more, and I’d like it if you came along.”
“Yes sir!” Odin replied, quickly jumping into the back of the loader.
Greg eyed the new passenger wearily, “Why do you insist on using that ancient weapon? It has to be over a hundred years old.”
“I’m not really sure,” the Militia Captain replied, “ I just never really liked energy weapons. They feel weak to me, despite the damage potential.”
Greg simply nodded in half agreement. This Odin fellow was certainly muscular enough to use the heavy weapon without having to use a tripod or other mounting. He also noticed that The Captain carried a long blade sheathed at his side. Realizing it might be prudent to have a backup weapon himself, Young quickly opened the case of grenades situated in the back of the loader and grabbed a few.
“Is everyone ready?” Stephen turned and asked the assembled troops mounted in their loaders. They all responded with a deafening “Yes sir!”
“Then let’s do this!” Ossale cried, fastening himself into the loader’s passenger seat.
With a dull whine the loaders lifted from the ground, and the noise turned into a deeper bass thrumming as the vehicles began to move forward. The Avenger took the lead, while the other four formed up in a V-formation behind.
“Which way?” Melissa asked Kalewm.
“There,” was the Musk Cat’s only reply, pointing toward the northwestern continent.
The five vehicles gathered speed and sped off into the night. The journey took a few hours, and dawn was rapidly approaching as they neared their destination. As the sun began peeking over the mountaintops, the sight that greeted them was sickening. The entire land was withered and black, and the stench of death was overpowering. Skeletons and broken carapaces of local bioforms littered the spoiled land. Dead trees stood as a mute testament to the evil at hand.
“We’re almost there,” Kalewm stated, and for the first time, Stephen heard true fear in the Musk Cat’s voice.