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Phantasy Star Zero

Chapter 9: The Sacrifice

SC 337.03 / EY 1875 / BW 211

Suddenly, out of the cover of shadow, a multitude of mutant creatures appeared and charged the loaders.

“We can’t let them stop us! Order your men to engage!” Kalewm pleaded.

Stephen hastily obeyed, ordering the other four loaders to surround the Avenger in a defensive formation with the loader’s comlink.

“As soon as there’s an opening, we need to leave!” Kalewm cried, his mewling voice barely audible over the roaring monsters,” Dark Force is trying to stop us here! We have to punch through!”

Stephen began to protest, but the sight of another mutant fly diving towards their craft distracted him. The loaders did not have enclosed cockpits, only a small windshield, which Stephen rested his beam rifle against as he aimed and fired. Missed. He fired again, and the flying insect half vaporized, chitinous limbs flying in all directions.

He heard soldiers yelling from all sides, and the whining of beam rifles being fired in quick succession. Looking over the side of the craft, he saw the creatures were even more warped-looking than before. There was another of the elephant-creatures, but this one resembled a botched science experiment more than anything else. Half of its skin and flesh were gone, and its pulsing organs seemed to be moving around inside of it. Extraneous growths that resembled spider-like limbs stuck out at odd places, twitching of their own accord. The other monsters were in similar shape; it was as if they had been corrupted into a sick parody of corpses joined together in the most grotesque fashion.

The shots from the soldiers were still effective, but they were becoming surrounded. Boxed in, the loaders slowed and formed a defensive square. Stephen watched helplessly as the macabre elephant-thing stomped a loader to shreds and, to his horror, the creature’s organs reached out and seized a helpless, screaming soldier, pulling him into the body of the abomination. The rest were firing frantically at the nearest monsters, doing their best to keep them at bay. Shea had swiveled the plasma cannon around and was firing as often as the deadly weapon would allow. Green bolts of plasma melted corrupted flesh, but it was not enough to stave back the horde of monstrosities.

The situation was hopeless. Kalewm used a technique to try and protect the Avenger, but it wasn’t enough. The monsters were so close that several had latched onto the underside of the loader, and were attempting to drag it down. Stephen pointed his rifle straight down over the side and blew away a fungus-like creature, and then aimed toward an adjacent target. When he saw what it was, however, he froze. It was a human skeleton, half-rotted flesh still hanging from various bones. Empty eye sockets met Stephen’s hesitant stare, and the skeleton’s jaw clacked as if laughing. Ossale forced himself to pull the trigger, and the former colonist's entire skull and rib cage vanished in a heated puff of dust.

The remaining soldiers were not faring any better. The elephant abomination had grabbed another soldier, but Stephen noticed this one frantically pulling the pins on his remaining grenades as he was grotesquely sucked inside. The multiple explosions blew the fiend’s guts in all directions, and the enemy fell to its side, apparently dead. Two more loaders had been pulled down, and the soldiers swamped by all manner of disgusting monsters. Stephen turned to check on Melissa, as she was trying to shake off the creatures clambering aboard by shifting the Avenger from side to side. It was futile. Stephen saw a claw reaching up to snip off his pilot’s head, only to see a huge blade come down, neatly slicing through flesh and chitin alike. Melissa quickly looked up at her savior, and Odin just winked before turning his attention back to blowing away the monsters.

Suddenly, the craft was rocked by an explosion. Greg had thrown a grenade over the edge, dislodging the monstrosities attempting to pull them down. Melissa saw the opening and took it. Throwing the craft into full throttle, she expertly dodged through the sickening enemies and pulled forward, away from the carnage. As the distance between their loader and the others grew, Stephen turned and saw the last of their fellows finally overcome by a literal wave of the monsters. Shea stopped firing as they finally moved out of range. Stephen forced himself to turn around and look straight ahead, concentrating very hard on not letting the fear, anger, disgust and sense of loss take control. Those men had died so that they could make it through… this had to end now.

He turned again to check on the rest of the passengers. Melissa was concentrating on her piloting, her short blonde hair only slightly ruffled by the airflow. Her face was grim and her jaw set. Kalewm crouched, eyes closed, ears flat against the back of his head again. Shea was trying very hard not to cry, but her eyes were wet even as they gleamed with forced determination. Greg was puking over the side of the loader, and when he sat back down, Stephen saw that his face was white as a sheet. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have brought him, he considered suddenly. Oh well, too late now.

As for Captain Thomas Odin, his helmet was back on and his face unreadable through the transparisteel faceplate. Ossale suspected that Odin had wanted to die back there with his men, but if the soldier was upset he didn’t show it. He was a professional. Stephen was suddenly very glad to have him aboard.

A mewling screech quickly brought Administrator Stephen Ossale’s attention back to the fore. Melissa had slowed the loader to a crawl.

There, in front of them, was the five-hundred year old remnant of Dark Force.

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