This is the indirect sequel to Twin of Loneliness, Ahrganot Skiszgo's origin story. The story follows up on Operation: Money Cushion and details Ahrganot's actions leading up to Operation: Titanic Discoveries.
Prologue (Previously in Operation:Money Cushion)Edit
...aboard the Batra...
The mission was a success. Umbra was captured, but not without a great cost. Ahrganot clenched his fists as one of Umbra's comments echoed in his head. Ahrganot, you're useless. Clearly you are the weakest of the GSSOC. You have no special abilities. You are inferior. Everyone else on that team of yours is far more skilled than you." The one that echoed the loudest was, "'You know deep down that you were never meant to exist. You are but a mistake on this universe."
"No," Ahrganot replied. "Nothing. Let's just get on with the next mission."
Tholker could easily tell what Ahrganot was thinking by his wrinkled face and heavy breathing. For a long time, Tholker knew that Dhragolon made an effort to suppress emotions, but clearly this was not the case. Ahrganot began breathing harder and harder.
"Seriously, Ahrganot. Stop hiding it. What's going on?"
Ahrganot took a deep breath and tried to explain. "Um...Umbra."
"Him? Don't worry about him. We got him."
"Are they really getting to you? C'mon, he insulted all of us. Besides, aren't you Dhragolon good at suppressing your emotions? Certainly, you guys can do it a lot better than an Eteno."
"No, you don't understand. His comments..." Ahrganot paused for another deep breathe. "I...I...can't do this anymore. I need to prove that I'm not useless. I need to find my brother and challenge him. It's just...I can't go on like this. Not after that." Ahrganot reached for the GSSOC insignia on his right arm and peeled it off.
Everyone was shocked. No one could believe what Ahrganot just did.
Tholker said, "Wha- Why? Just...why?"
There was a briege moment of silence. Ahrganot's stress turned to anger. Ahrganot shouted back, "Don't you understand? You're a cyborg. Etah's an immortal. Pyro can breathe fire. Sol's a psychic. What am I? Nothing! I've got no powers. I've been nothing but a burden to you guys. I'm always getting myself hurt. I'm always having to get saved by you guys. I contribute nothing to the team."
"Look, maybe you just need a breather. I know Dhragolon don't get worked up like this, but c'mon. Aren't you going a bit...over the top?"
"I was never meant to work in a team! How am I supposed to know how strong I am?"
Etah interjected, "Ahrganot, listen to yourself!" The other GSSOC members cowered slightly at the volume of Etah's shout. "You sound nothing like the fearless Dhragolon that I've known all along. What the hell is wrong with you? As a team, we're stronger. Hell, you were picked because you are among the best of the best. I mean, so what you don't have any enhanced abilities? You are the best damn ninja I ever knew in my life, and that's saying something! If you were a Karnasaur, you'd be an Elite Assassin, and I know you understand what that means!" Etah was right; Only the best ninjas in the KMF were allowed to become Elite Assassins.
"Why have you become a pushover to some lowling?" Etah added.
"You know nothing of what I've been through for the past century of my life. I've been the weakest of them all. My brother. He's a reflection of what I could have been. I'm going to find him. I'll challenge him. To the death! I can't let you guys get in the way anymore."
Etah replied, "You've just betrayed us. I don't even know you anymore. Just...who are you?"
Another brief silence swept the room. Everyone had taken a deep breath. Ahrganot replied in a much calmer tone, "Look. Obviously, I've lost control of my emotions. They are but a weakness. I just...I just need to get this off my mind. Do you guys really want me to keep going on like this? Brooding about my horrible childhood? I'm going to take a self-rite of passage. Start from scratch. Go from planet to planet looking for my brother. Just...drop me off at Vitam II. We're not too far away from it."
"Vitam II? That place hasn't been touched in years. Are you sure?" Tholker asked.
Ahrganot without answering made his way to an escape pod. As the doors closed, Tholker shouted to him, "Well, you better come back."
The escape pod with Ahrganot in it plunged down to the small mining colony, Vitam II.
Ahrganot climbed out of the escape pod onto some grey rocky ground. Immediately, he saw the orange gas giant Vitam looming over head. Vitam II, one of the moons, was mine gather high-electron elements, while at the gas giant itself were some warp-space fuel mines.
The pod itself was like a miniature ship. With enough fuel, he could travel short distances to nearby planets. The escape pod itself lacked a sufficient amount of cells to power it, so he would need to go inside the mine and obtain some. After that, he would need to get to the gas giant so that he could leave the planet. He planned to go to Krar, as that was the most likely area where he could find rumors - a giant interspecies metropolis. Lots of things pass and go by there.
Ahrganot used the UPS to determine that the nearest mine was only a mile away across the rocky terrain. There was very little plant life. The place seemed quite desolate. For minutes, all he heard was the sound of wind and his footsteps against the ground.
Soon, he came to a large quarry and immediately read a danger sign. "CONDEMNED!" His radar detected some fuel cells within the mine. He had little choice as the next closest mine would be take days to travel to. The planet had very little resources and it was not feasible to survive here since everything was basically dead. He equipped a breathing mask and descended a set of spiral metal stairs.
Once he reached the bottom, the stench of death clouded the air. He could see a few Dhragolon skeletons. Whoever these miners were died a very long time ago. His radar began pointing to a mine shaft that was infested by some plant with tentacle like appendages that moved around.
As he got closer, he scanned it identifying it as a Squarglian, a native plant-like creature that overtakes tunnels and cave systems. While the creature had no vision, it sensed potential prey by touch. Touching the tentacles would mean almost instant death. They would wrap around its prey and suffocate it, and wold soon devour it later. The radar detected fuel cells rather deep inside the mine shafts, so this would not be an easy task.
He entered the mine shaft. He could see in it as clearly as day thanks to his Dhragolon eyesight. The ground was nearly covered in tentacles. With every step he took great care making sure that no part of him touched the plant. For the most part, this was an easy task. He even ducked his head a few times to make sure he didn't touch any on the ceiling.
After about five minutes, he finally found a fuel cell resting atop a table. Tentacles were covering it so getting it would be no easy task. Before grabbing it, he suddenly realized that no one could save him if he were to mess up here. The rest of the GSSOC would never be able to find him. He began shaking with hesitation, fear and doubt. He didn't feel as reckless as he usually was. Then, he took a deep breathe. He analyzed the situation.
The Squarglian was sensitive to touch. However, we wasn't sure if it could tell the difference between organic and non-organic things. The fuel cell was not organic, but he was. He did not want to risk chopping away some of the tentacles. He read that when a Squarglian detects danger, it begins waving around all its tentacles at once in hopes of subdueing any potential threats. That would be suicide. Instead, he wanted to test his theory on something else.
He looked around for a small plank with some slug-like creatures on it. Then he looked for a rock. He positioned himself at one relatively tentacle-free corner and tossed the plank of wood and the rock. As soon as the plank touched one of the tentacles, they began wrapping around it trying to crush it. With the rock, it wasn't exactly the case. They wrapped around a few times, but quickly let go after realizing it wasn't something organic.
Ahrganot then decided to take his chances. He grabbed the fuel cell and slowly dragged it from the tentacles. After detecting the movement, the tentacles suddenly squeezed for a second then loosened their grip. After Ahrganot slid the fuel cell a little more. The tentacles gripped then loosened again. After dragging it out for the third time, he managed to free of it of the tentacles, but soon after, the Squarglian went into a search mode. It's tentacles began waving slowly trying to find Ahrganot. He backed himself to the wall avoiding them.
The tentacles settled once more. Ahrganot holding the fuel cell with both hands crept his way back out. He was able to make his way back the way he came. After reaching almost the end, his foot bumped into one of the tentacles. It was not long until they began wrapping around his arms. He immediately tossed the fuel cell further out of the mine shaft so that it just landed outside out of the Squarglian's reach. Using his free arm, he drew a dagger and cut himself loose. He then made a mad dash to escape from the mine shaft, then promptly picked up the fuel cell.
With the fuel cell now, he could go to Vitam itself to obtain the warp space fuel he needed. Making his way back to the escape pod, he inserted the fuel cell into on the pod's compartments. He turned on auto-pilot and set a course to Vitam itself. The escape pod lifted itself in the air and left the moon's surface.
The pod got closer to the atmosphere of the gas giant. He was careful to not get too close or else he would be get sucked in by the planet's gravity. He made his way to a small floating platform amidst the red clouds with some large gas containers.
He landed on the platform and put on his gas mask as well as an environment suit. He stepped outside and looked for a suitable fuel cell among the maze of gas containers. Raiding the abandoned mine of warp-space fuel cells would be much easier as there were no creatures to stop him. As he was grabbing small fuel cells he saw a dark figure peek from behind a gas container. After the figure turned its head to look at Ahrganot, it promptly disappeared. What was that? He thought. He wasn't even sure if it was real or not.
He made his way back to the pod and inserted the new fuel cells. He set a course for Krar and disappeared into warp space, and would reappear a few minutes later in orbit of Krar.
As Ahrganot got closer to Krar, he soon received a radio signal as he passed by several Dhragolon ships.
"Halt! You do not possess a passport to enter Krar. State your name and business."
"I am Ahrganot Skizgo..." he said. Saying he was part of GSSOC would give him immediate clearance, but he did not want to say that. He took off his patch. He sat there for a second and awaited for a response.
He soon received another transmission. "Ahrganot Skizgo. I have an identity match...Wait, I've heard of you. I assume your business is classified. You may pass. Docking Bay 726 in Krar'Yallvus is now open."
Ahrganot came closer to Krar and eventually arrived above the city and entered a forcefield, finding a small spot to land the pod. As he left the docking bay, he arrived inside a presitigious room with a dome glass ceiling. A fountain was at its center with several trees dotted around it. He could see all sorts of species going by: Dhragolon, Eteno, Karnasaur, Sarkakion, and even some he did not recognize. Past the glass dome he could see a green nebula in the starry sky along with a white sun. The subtle sounds of a crowded mall and the rushing water of the fountain accompanied the view along with some uplifting, yet soothing piano melody playing from hidden speakers. He had never been to Krar, and never thought he would be greeted with such a marvelous sight, and he never felt so relaxed and soothed in his life.
He took a rest, relaxing on one of the benches after his close encounters on Vitam. An Eteno walked by and looked at him. "Ahrganot Skizgo?. I know you. You're part of GSSOC, right?"
Ahrganot lifted his head and leaned forward slightly to look at the Eteno. He paused for a moment trying to figure out what to say. "I'm on hiatus right now."
"It's classified, he replied with a rather long face.
"You Dhragolon are always so mysterious, aren't you? The name's Stevan Dubravko. I'm part of the exchange program to learn your ways. One of my tasks here is to interview an experienced Dhragolon Master. I'm supposed to learn what sort of skills your kind has."
"Maybe some other time."
"Oh c'mon. Don't brush me off so easily. Skilled Dhragolon fighters are really hard to come by. We were not allowed to interview our instructors. I literally spent days looking for someone like you."
"I'm really not up for it."
"Something's bothering you. How about let's go get a drink and we'll have that interview? My treat."
"Inviting me for a drink? What are you on about?"
"Now you're being ridiculous, man. You should really get whatever it is on your mind out. It's killing you."
Hesitantly, Ahrganot replied, "Alright, fine. Where are we going?"
"Well, Red Octagon is not terribly far. It's in the lower levels. Let's go."
Stevan and Ahrganot entered a bar with several neon signs. A jazz multi-species band was playing rather slow music. The sounds of glasses bumping into each other accompanied an ambience of a mumbling crowd.
"One beer, please," Stevan said.
"And him," said the Karnasaur bartender.
Ahrganot was spaced out. Stevan quickly nudged him, "Oh, uh...just an arkorha."
The two took a seat at a high table. Ahrganot took a sip of arkorha, an alcoholic drink originating from Ucharpli.
Stevan said, "So tell me, Ahrganot. What's on your mind?"
Ahrganot then realized internally that Stevan had got Ahrganot to consume alcohol so that he would be more open. A tricky one he was. He could not resist the question. "I'm looking for my brother."
"Your brother? Why's that?"
"He's my archrival. I'm going to challenge him to the death when I meet him."
Stevan began taking his notes so that he could get the information he needed to complete the task. "Ah, so you want to prove your skills over him? That's interesting. Tell me then. What kind of abilities do you have?"
"I'm no super Dhragolon. I don't have any special powers. No cybernetics or anything."
"You're pretty humble, you know. C'mon. Have some pride."
"Well, I did graduate from the Malinian Combat Institution."
Stevan replied, "I've heard of that place. That's some kind of ninja school, isn't it? Pretty prestigious for you to come from there. Tell me more."
"I served as both an assassin and a spy before joining GSSOC."
"Wow, pretty awesome. You must have some impressive stealth skills then."
Ahrganot was not sure what to think. All he could do was reply, "Thank...you."
"Well, I don't mean to brag myself, but we Eteno are taught to have the utmost pride in yourself. We are patriots. We serve the empire and die honorably. If you ever hope to defeat your brother, you should probably do the same. Anyways, thanks for the quick interview."
"No problem," Ahrganot said.
Stevan got out of his chair, while Ahrganot remained sitting finishing off his Arkorha. As Stevan was leaving, he accidentally bumped into a Katrakhan with a gas mask sitting on a high stool. "Watch it, ya runt!" he said in a gruff European accent.
"Excuse me?!" Stevan replied
"I said 'watch it'. Clear enough for ya?"
"Don't call me a runt."
"Ya think your tough, eh?" the thug Katrakhan said. He got off his chair grabbed Stevan's throat. Stevan could have easily broken free if another Eteno was doing this to him, but this was a Katrakhan. The thug's grip was much tighter. The Katrakhan lifted him above the ground, and Stevan struggled trying to get the Katrakhan's burly hands off, but couldn't. For a few moments, no one in the bar did anything. Ahrganot raising his head moved at a blinding speed and appeared behind the thug, drawing both of his daggers and putting them up the Katrakhan's neck. The band stopped playing and everyone else went silent to look at the comotion.
"Put him down!" Ahrganot said.
"Or what?" the thug replied.
Ahrganot said, "I said put him down!."
The thug let go, dropping Stevan to the ground. "Alright, put those knives away. Let's settle this with a fair fight." The Katrakhan swung his lumbering arm at Ahrganot who ducked his head and grabbed the thug's arm and pinched one of his nerve points paralyzing it almost effortlessly. "Argh! What ya do to my arm?!"
"Don't worry. It'll stay like that for about an hour."
"Alright, alright, you win," pleaded the thug. I didn't mean to cause you guys trouble.
The rest of the people in the bar resumed their businesss. Stevan was stunned at how quickly Ahrganot dealt with the thug. He hardly had time to blink. He ran to Ahrganot. "Wow, you are truly an amazing warrior. I've never seen anything like that!"
"It was nothing I couldn't handle."
"Well, thanks anyway. I better be off now."
As Stevan left, Ahrganot inquired the Katrakhan. "Alright, since I defeated you, I have some quick questions. Heard anything about shady Dhragolon?"
The Katrakhan, clenching his paralyzed arm, replied, "That's all ya want from me? No Sporebucks or anything? Just some information?"
"Just tell me what you know. Any rumors. Anything. I'm looking for someone in particular. He's a...shady Dhragolon if you know what I'm talking about."
"Well, alright. Haven't seen any shady Dhragolon but I've heard of them. People tell me that these Dhragolon can't die, and they vanish and reappear in thin air! They're like ghosts I tell ya!"
"Do you know where I might find one?"
"I haven't got a clue, mate. Though I heard about this new black hole discovered. They call it the Void of Answers. But only a madman would look there."
"Void of Answers?" Ahrganot asked.
"Aye. They say whatever you're looking for can be found in it. Many have gone in. Few have come out. And those who have come out have come back mad."
"Now, I'm not one to trust rumors, but I've got little choice. What are the coordinates?"
"Yer a madman! I didn't think you would actually want to go there! Here's the coordinates," the Katrakhan said. Ahrganot nodded his head and returned to his pod to leave Krar and enter warp space once more.
Soon enough, Ahrganot arrived at the Void of Answers itself. A nearby star was being devoured by it. Near the black hole, he could see ruined spaceships and other piece of space junk. He took a deep breath.
"I've got nothing to lose," Ahrganot said. "My life has already been pretty wrecked." He activated the Wormhole Key. Then, he turned to look away and pressed a button to make the pod go forward straight into the black hole.
Ahrganot could hardly recall the past few minutes. All he remembered was flying into the black hole. Everything turned to white. Now, he was standing inside an old temple. The area looked and sounded abandoned. There was not even the sound of wind. It was completely silent, and Ahrganot could only hear his breathing. There was rubble on the ground and the benches looked rotten. Parts of the long red carpet he was standing were torn away. The altar at the end had lit candles with a statue of a figure he did not recognize.
All along the walls were stained glass windows of non-humanoid figures. As he walked down the carpet headed to the altar, he looked to his right and immediately recognized some of the stained glass figures. One portrayed a large blue dragon perching atop a mountain. The dragon roared out a series of strange letters that seemed to resemble the dragon giving off some sort of knowledge.
Another one showed an emaciated, red demon with a strange expression on its face. It was a grin, but it appeared it was focused on one side of the face. The eyes were only partially opened. The expression was very mocking.
Another one from across the dragon and the demon was what appeared to be a woman watching over a fortress. Along side those, there were many others he did not recognize at all including a tall skeleton creature with a scythe as well as some sort of disk-shaped spaceship.
As he walked further down the carpet, he spotted a humanoid man standing behind the altar with some red and grey robes along with a shepard's staff. He could not see the figures face. Ahrganot came closer.
"Hello?" Ahrganot said.
The figure replied, "Ahrganot Skizgo." His voice echoed in a way that made him seem ethereal.
"How do you know my name?"
"Many have entered this old, descrated realm in hopes of knowing where treasure is found. I have nothing to offer to the greedy of heart. That's not why you are here, is it?"
"No, it isn't. I'm looking for someone."
"You are looking for your brother."
Ahrganot exlaimed, "Just who are you to know that? And what is this place?"
"I am Dominion, keeper of the Old Realm. You stand upon descecrated ground. This was the former home of my kind and I have been told to look after it as a reminder to the rest of us that this universe once existed. The symbol of hope for our people now resides in your universe. Wherever that is specifically, you will soon find out. As for who exactly my people are, I will not say as once again. You will soon find it."
"What do you mean once existed? I'm in another universe, but clearly we're standing here right now."
"You are in a world once inhabited by everything. Then, it was reduced to nothingness by the manifestation of my Master's anger. All that exists in this world is this temple. Outside, you will find nothingness."
"Master's anger? Why? Why would this universe deserve destruction?"
"His anger will inevitably return to destroy the universe you originally came from. It awakes to the noises of chaos. It cannot be stopped. Only postponed."
Ahrganot was slightly disturbed at that last comment. Sure, it was inevitable, but if Dominion was telling the trurth, that would only confirm the Dark Prophecy. But what puzzled him more was Dominion's master. If the figure of the dragon was indeed Kray, it would be at the altar, not on the side of some glass window. He had difficulty believing that there was something more powerful than the god his people worshipped for millenia. Lots of questions rushed into his mind, but he didn't forget why he was here. Ahrganot said rather impatiently, "But all I want to know is where my brother is. Can you help me or not?"
"I can, but are you worthy? It seems you've forgotten most of your training due to recent events. Deep down, do you still have the courage? The intellect? The strength? You must pass my challenges. If you do so, I will tell you where you will meet your brother."
"What are these challenges?"
Behind me is a door leading to a room that will change appearance to become the challenge. When you are ready, step through the door."
Ahrganot took a few more steps to open the door behind Dominion. An intense bright light shined from it. Ahrganot put his hand above his eyes to shade them. Then, he stepped in and the door closed behind him.
"Etah," Tholker said. "I'm starting to worry now. Do you really think he will come back?"
"Why should he?" Etah said. "I can read him like a book. He's trying to be independent. Trying to learn things for himself. I can't argue much with that. That's a Dhragolon's hardwired mindset."
"I just can't get it off my mind that he would just take off and leave. I mean, I'm starting to doubt we'll be able to do the next mission without him. He's the best at stealth here. And besides, we won't get things done as efficiently."
"So you're suggesting we go after him, then? That's ridiculous. He could be anywhere in the galaxy right now if he even managed to find his way off Vitam II."
"Etah, c'mon. You know you want him back as well. Let's go look for him. I'm sure we can find him based on his warp trails."
"Fair enough then. Pyro," Etah said to him, "we're changing course. Let's go back to Vitam II."
Ahrganot stepped into the white void of nonexistence that was beyond the temple door. After a bright flash, the room took the shape of a large circular sanctum with many pillars. The room was similar in architecture to the chapel though there were no windows nor doors. Only a few torches dimly lit the room along with some candelabras.
The voice of Dominion echoed, "The first challenge is courage. Are you brave enough to face something more powerful than you?" Emerging from the shadows came a jet black dragon with flaring eyes and four legs, each with a set of deadly sharp claws. It filled up almost one fourth of the room and its wings brushed against the ceiling. It let out an intimidating roar with showed off its ferocious teeth, each of them as long as one of Ahrganot's daggers.
The dragon walked speedily towards him trying to bite him. Ahrganot had never battled something this large. He always faced opponents only slighter taller than him, but never a creature like this. Not sure what to do, he quickly took cover behind one of the pillars trying to think of a strategy. It wasn't long until the dragon had saw him go behind the pillar and smashed it seconds later using its lumbering tail.
Ahrganot dashed around the perimeter of the sanctum trying to get behind the dragon which was very slow at turning around. Attempting to climb onto its back, Ahrganot was soon swatted away by the tail and shoved into a corner. The dragon then turned around trying to face him and tried to bite him again, but he was quick to dodge. Ahrganot tried to back away, but he bumped into a candelabra. That gave him an idea. Noticing the carpet the dragon was standing on, Ahrganot swiftly raced to grab one of the torches mounted on the wall and threw it on the carpet setting it on fire and engulfing the dragon. Of course, Ahrganot knew that this would not immediately kill it though it did scald some of its scales. Desperately, the dragon flapped its wings trying to extinguish the flames. It suceeded, but also extinguished all of the torches and candelabras making the room completely dark.
Ahrganot was still not sure if the creature could see in the dark, although he could certainly see himself. He carefully eyed the movements of the dragon's head. It did not immediately turn to look at him, but it attempted to sniff the air trying to detect him by his scent. Ahrganot was at an advantage. This time, Ahrganot tried to land a hit using some of his shuriken, but they merely bounced off simply giving off where Ahrganot was in the room. The dragon charged forward knocking down a few pillars in the process and attempted to bite him only narrowly missing. However, this gave Ahrganot another oppurtunity.
He quickly grabbed hold of the dragon's neck and stabbed it with one of it's daggers. It let out a roar of pain and attempted to shake Ahrganot off. He still held on as the dragon rapidly shook its head around, then he stabbed it once more.
"Cease, mortal!" the dragon shouted rather than a roar. Ahrganot soon loosened his grip and ran some distance from the dragon. The creature then shapeshifted in the shape of Dominion. "You have passed." He then disappeared and made another door appear from the center of the room where the burnt rug was. Ahrganot opened the door leading to yet another white void.
In another room, the white void turned into a smaller chamber with two identical humanoid statues and two identical doors positioned slightly behind the statues. "The second challenge is intellect. Solve the puzzle to complete the challenge." Ahrganot took a look at a plaque inscribed on a small statue in between the statues. He read it:
"One of the doors will lead to your death. The other one will lead to light. You may ask only one question to only one statue, not both, and whichever statue you choose will give you an answer. One of these statues will always tell the truth. The other one will always tell a lie. Should you not get a clear answer from the statues about which door is correct, both doors will lead to death."
Ahrganot thought for a few moments very carefully. He was never good at riddles. Usually, the answer would just arrive to him when the situation was needed. After about ten minutes, he finally gave an answer hoping that it was right.
"Statue, answer me this," he said to the statue on the left. "Say if I were to ask the other statue which door will lead to light. What will its response be?"
"Challenger, my fellow statue would say that the door on the right is the path to light."
Ahrganot then took the opposite door - the one on the left - and opened it up. Indeed it led to light. Ahrganot stepped through to yet another white void. As he stepped through, he heard, "You have passed."
The final room materialized itself. Ahrganot was standing atop a small walkway that extended the diameter of a large cylindrical room filled with stained glass windows. These windows depicted people that he knew. He could see Tholker, Etah, Sol I Dor, Pyro and Grandmaster Zerif. There were plenty others there. One in particular was a female Dhragolon, but he could not put his finger on who it was. He could see neither the ceiling or the floor. "Your final challenge is strength. You'll have to conquer your greatest opponent." Another Dhragolon dropped from the ceiling and landed on the walkway. It looked identical to him from the hair, to the green jumpsuit to the orange eyes. "Yourself."
The clone said, "We left GSSOC for a reason. We envy their abilities don't we? Oh, how much we would like to have cybernetic powers. Perhaps we should get caught into an explosion deliberately!" The real Ahrganot got all tense. The clone was an embodiment of all of his dark thoughts he dared not share with anyone. "What's wrong? Are you too afraid to fight? Perhaps Umbra was right after all. We should accept who we are. Weaklings."
Ahrganot charged forward in anger and sparred his clone, balancing on the bridge. "Youre wrong! That's not true! I'm strong!" The clone was just as fast as he was and blocked each on of his attacks.
The clone replied, "We are curious what makes Etah immortal, aren't we? Perhaps we should find a way to kill him?"
"Stop saying that!"
"Or maybe we should disable some of Tholker's cybernetics! We can become stronger than him!"
"You can't conquer your negative emotions. How about you should take advantage of me? Give in to the darkness! That's our only chance of defeating our brother!"
Ahrganot finally got so angered, he dealth one strong blunt blow causing the clone to lose his balance on the bridge. It slipped and fell, but Ahrganot grabbed its hand just before. The clone was no dangling over an endless abyss. Ahrganot said to his clone, "Negative emotions will not get us anywhere! They will only slow us down! Besides, those were some horrible, horrible thoughts you had there. I may as well get rid of them."
"No, don't do this! I make you stronger, don't I?"
"I can do without you. Thanks, but no thanks," Ahrganot said, letting go of his clone and letting him plunge into the bottomless, dark pit below. As Ahrganot got up, another flash of white light went by bringing Ahrganot back to the temple. Dominion was at the altar waiting.
"You have passed all of my challenges. Now, I will answer your question," Dominion said.
"But what was all that? Was all that even real?"
Dominion replied, "I will only answer your question regarding your brother's location: Alk'charis. Head there. Wherever you land on the planet, you are sure to find him."
"But where's my pod?"
"Do not worry. When you exit through the door at the back, you will reappear outside the Void of Answers. Your ship will be given enough fuel to make the trip. Now go. You have little time to spare."
Ahrganot made his way down the torn red carpet to the large double doors at the end. He turned his head to Dominion and simply replied, "Thanks." Then, the double doors creaked open and he entered the white void. Moments later, he reappeared in his pod outside the black hole.
Ahrganot set a course for Alk'charis. The planet was outside the galaxy and was infamous for being the location from where Uszaroth immerged into the mortal world. Why would Wezga be there? The trip is very long, about a week. Eventually, he entered the starless void of intergalactic space. The single star Meezinho floated in the distance with Alk'charis orbitting around it. After entering the atmosphere, he landed on some very rocky terrain. Then, he looked at his fuel gauge. Zero. There was no turning back.
Ahrganot stepped out into the desolate landscape. There were chills in the air. Ahrganot walked aimlessly for about a mile, looking for wherever Wezga might be. Then, at the horizon, he noticed a dark figure. It vanished. As he wandered around more, the dark figure appeared closer. The figure had reappeared once again, this time about several feet away. Ahrganot could see it clearly now. It was a Dhragolon in black robes and with white bandages about his neck about Ahrganot's height. Then, the shadowy took off his hood and revelead its face.
"Skizgo," the figure uttered.
"It's been a long time, brother," Wezga said.
Ahrganot readied his weapons, while his brother did the same. "Far too long. I've been waiting for this moment ever since Falan murdered Eiketsu. Only one of us will stand after this."
"Falan, hmm? Yes, I remember that day. But let's not waste any time reminscing about the past. Let's get this over with shall we?"
"Yes...let's." Both of them charged at each other, then took a synchronized leap. Ahrganot swiped his daggers while Wezga blocked them. They both landed on the ground. Ahrganot was on the offensive while Wezga was desperately blocking.
"You've gotten better, brother. But I still have something you don't!" Wezga vanished into a cloud of darkness and reappeared behind him. Wezga tried to land a hit, but Ahrganot was quick to block. They both leaped backwards. Ahrganot lept forwards attempting to strike him. "Too slow!" Wezga shouted reappearing behind Ahrganot and kicking him to the ground. Ahrganot quickly got up and dodged a vertical slice. This duel was very similar to that with Umbra with the reappearing in different locations. However, Wezga was much more skilled and agile.
Ahrganot quickly dashed in a circle around Wezga and parried him. He landed a hit, but his daggers went through Wezga. "No." Ahrganot exclaimed.
"Why should you be so surprised? I'm ethereal, remember?" Wezga taunted. Wezga was on the offensive now. As Ahrganot focused on blocking and even dodging a few of Wezga's short distance teleporting tricks, Ahrganot flashedback to the battle with Umbra. Sol I Dor had used some psychic techniques to deal damage to Umbra. Ahrganot had also recalled using the Malinian Ice Rage on Wezga the second time he battled him which stalled him. However, it would be too risky to use it in this situation. That would leave Ahrganot open for attack. Then he got an idea.
Ahrganot now decided to keep himself distant from Wezga. Ahrganot using his fingertips tried to harness some psychic energy to see if he could coat his daggers with icy energy. Then, he made a dash for Wezga and managed to land a hit on Wezga, leaving a scratch on him. Both of them were just as surprised.
"Not bad, Ahrganot! You've improved! But so have I!" Wezga almost blinding move behind Ahrganot and put a scar on his arm.
The battle continued. Now that they landed hits on one another, more and more scars began appearing all over their bodies. However, Ahrganot was in the lead. He noticed Wezga was panting harder. Then, Ahrganot went for the finishing blow. He cripped one of Wezga's legs and knocked him down. Wezga shrieked in pain as he lay on the dusty, hard gronud. He was defeated.
Wezga barely tried to get up standing on one knee from the heated battle. Both of them had scars all over their bodies.
"You win," Wezga said. "You finally beat me. You are the better of the two of us. Now, finish me off." Ahrganot walked up behind him drawing an energy sword and stood. He lifted the sword, blade pointed downwards, aimed Wezga's upper back. Ahrganot's hands were trembling. Wezga turned his head to look at Ahrganot. However, Wezga's expression was a huge contrast to menacing stare he always gave. Ahrganot could now see his inner thoughts. A single tear trickled from Wezga's left eye. It was as if Ahrganot were looking in a mirror. A reflection of his own self and past. Wezga, trying not to burst into tears, said, "Just make it quick." Ahrganot immediately sensed something different. He lowered his sword.
"You...don't want to kill me? Then, why did you come all this way, hunting me down? You shouldn't hesitate to kill when your enemy is wounded."
"The dark teachings of Falan have been taking advantage of you all along, hasn't it? The look of your eyes tell me you are your true self now." Wezga tried to stand up. He was gripping his side after a sharp pain. However, he quickly fell back to his knees.
"Skizgo. There was something that I always wanted to tell you. But the dark thoughts clouded me."
"Is it about..."
"Yes. The Kaden family. When I was young, I overheard my parents about you. They never wanted to get rid of you. Not at all. They loved you. Mother had always wished that she would see you again one day. That was her will."
"Will? You mean..."
"Yes. It was right before we both took the final exam and duelled with each other. Remember when I had used the power of darkness against you? Well, before that, something happened to mother. She...she was...murdered. The killer was never caught." Ahrganot's face turned to shock, but he let Wezga continue. "I couldn't stop crying over the grief. I thought I could save her using what I learned from the academy. I never felt so...so powerless. I felt like I wasn't strong enough. I failed to protect her. I went on for days, until I was approached by Master Falan. He told me of the ways of darkness. Those taboo rituals used by the Dark Warriors of the Second Era. He said that using my own grief, I could become stronger. I could turn my own negative emotions into power itself. That was the last day I recall I was my true self for once. I never realized what he had been doing to me. The darkness. It just...consumed me. I was never the same again."
Ahrganot said, "So it was Falan all along that did this to you? He must have been part of the Altusian Brotherhood. But Wezga, without you, I probably would have never strived to become the Dhragolon I am today. I always enjoyed competing with you at the academy."
Wezga said, "Guess you're right. But, look what I've done. I've killed so many innocents. I've escalated galactic instabilities. But Skizgo, you've given me hope. Maybe I can redeem myself."
The next instant, a dark figure emerged into existence. It was a tall Dhragolon with a kingly robe and a crown with a staff. He had two menacing red eyes. The figure spoke, "Oh no, Wezga, this is unfortunate. You've lost to your own brother, yet you were so much stronger than him. This is unacceptable!"
Ahrganot looked at the figure. "YOU! Falan! You did this to him!"
The figure responded, "Falan? Oh, that old alias I used all those years ago. I prefer Altus Infra. I haven't got much time. I just came back from a battle on an ocean planet. But, I suppose I can spare a few moments."
Ahrganot said, "Oh, you son of a Blizzardpaw, Infra...Falan, whoever you are. How dare you show up!"
"You've got a lot of guts speaking to a god with that tone! If you really are as strong as you say you are, how about you prove it, Ahrganot? Raise that sword of yours and strike that pathetic mortal down! You defeated him. Get rid of him for me. I have no use for the weak!"
"No! I won't!" Ahrganot shouted. "He doesn't need darkness to be strong!"
"Then perhaps I'll do it for you," Infra said. He twirled his staff once and stabbed it through Wezga's back and through his chest, then quickly pulled the staff back out. Wezga didn't scream. He just collapsed to the ground and promptly vanished into dust.
Ahrganot could not say anything for at least 10 seconds. He was so overcome with shock, he couldn't move.
"What's wrong?" Infra taunted. "I'm just removing what isn't needed. Don't feel bad for him. He was garbage, a pathetic, lowly life form. Why? All it took was a snap of the fingers to dispose of his mother and he turned to me for help. It sickens me how gullible you mortals are."
In response, Ahrganot was breathing harder with so much anger. "He's still a Dhragolon! He wasn't garbage!"
"Oh, and if you were wondering what happened to his body, well it's gone forever. Since he accepted the power of darkness, he no longer had a free soul to go about. He's removed from existence. 'Tis a shame, isn't it?"
Ahrganot could not believe that someone as cold-blooded as Infra could even exist. No amount of words could describe Ahrganot's hatred, and no amount of curses could express it. At that moment, he could no longer contain his anger. He let out a shout and charged towards Infra with two daggers ready. However, Infra merely swatted him away with his staff like a fly knocking Ahrganot to the ground. He quickly got back up and planned his attacks more careful, but this time to no avail. He could not even land a single hit on Infra who swung his staff effortlessly. Once more, Ahrganot was knocked to the ground.
"Pathetic. I only haven't killed you yet so that I can laugh at your feeble attempts to stop me." Infra used the other side of his staff as a blunt weapon and began bashing Ahrganot.
As Ahrganot took the thrashings, the Batra appeared overhead and Tholker beamed down. "AHRGANOT!!!!!" Tholker shouted seeing Ahraganot severely injured. Tholker quickly aimed and shot Infra a several times with his pistols only to have them deflected. Etah had beamed down moments later along with Sol I Dor. Pyro had stayed in the Batra to maintain the ship.
Infra said, "Ah, so you must his friends. It is unwise to stand up against a god."
Tholker replied, "You're no god! You are just some low-life with a bunch of toys. I can tell by your arrogance; you must be that Infra character we heard about from the battle at Asylum!"
"Ah, so you know my name? You'll die proudly then." Infra raised his staff ready to send a flying ball of energy, but Sol I Dor, quick to his senses, managed to block Infra's attack with his psychic energy." Infra was just as startled as the rest of the GSSOC.
"Pyro! Beam us up! NOW!" Tholker shouted in the radio. That instant, the four GSSOC members on the ground were beamed to the Batra and immediately went to warp space evading Infra.
Infra stood for a moment. "I won't go after them. I've got preparations to make. I've announced the time limit. Thirty days. That's all they get." He then disappeared into a dark cloud.
Ahrganot slowly awoke lying a bed. About an hour and a half had passed. His GSSOC patch was on a night table next to him. The other GSSOC members were also standing in the room.
"Well, I'm glad you're back," Tholker said.
Ahrganot began, "Look, I'm sorry-"
Tholker interrupted, "No need to. You did the right thing."
"But Infra. I couldn't...I couldn't stop him. He was just...too powerful."
Tholker replied, "Neither could any of us. There's only one way we can ever hope to bring him down. We have to work together. What do you say? Want to take down that arrogant pretender?"
"This is my battle though. I saw with my own eyes what cruelty that vile Dhragolon can do. He ruined my entire childhood...my entire life!"
Etah replied, "No, this isn't your battle. It's ours. We each have our own reasons. While you were gone, some juicy information was squeezed out of Umbra."
Tholker said, "He started the Aldaris Incident! And his cronies were the ones that released Uszaroth!"
Etah added, "It was Infra's Altusian henchman who assisted the Hashaeon in the theft of the IU-D, starting the Aperture incident. He assisted the Cult of Cain, and by Sauran rights, deserves nothing less than death."
Tholker then finally added, "Oh, and it was Infra who murdered Rustiagon Karrel! This is way more than just your battle, Ahrganot. This battle is for the DFM and the Galactic Senate!"
Ahrganot took the patch from the table and put it back on his arm. "Well, then I'm not going to rest until we stand over his dead body, but I need your guys' help. No matter what it takes or how long it takes. We are going to destroy him!"
Etah said, "Now, that's the Ahrganot that I know. Let's get on with the next mission. While you were out, we just got a message from Admiral Cinder of the GHD. From what I hear, it sounds like the only chance we have against Infra, but we better hurry up. We've only got 30 days to stop him."