“Are these really mavericks?” Jet asked. “The maverick virus was deleted so that'd mean these ones are all acting on their own accord. Isn't there some way to reason with them?”

“Make no mistake Jet,” X answered, “These mavericks have caused more than their fair share of trouble and must be wiped out. In their latest heist they've even kidnapped one of the Eight Judges. At least, we haven't found his corpse so we assume he's a hostage.”

“But if he's a hostage doesn't that prove that this group can be negociated with? Harpuia and Leviathan aren't mavericks, they'd never harm a human being. If they haven't done that, then they can't be defined as mavericks. This whole situation reminds me of Repliforce all over again.”

“The definition of a maverick has changed since you've been away Jet, just like the maverick hunters have. You are now a guardian of Neo Arcadia. Will you let the people down?”

Jet slowly shook his head, “No.. No, I'll do what needs to be done.”

X nodded, “Good. Then do as I've asked and eliminate the resistance scum that's taken our stealth factory. I don't care how you do it, just get it done.”

One of the resistance guards poked his head into the prison block, “Sir, a message from the stealth factory! Its under attack!”

Elpizo whirled around, “They've caught on already? Tell all personel to make for the trans server and evacuate. And get Cerveau out of there. And get someone to shut this fool up,” he gestured to Schilt who had begun laughing.

Elpizo sprinted through the base to the command room, to wait on the edge of the base's teleportation pad. Ciel was already there. “No one has come back,” she whispered.

The minutes ticked on. Eventually they were joined by Harpuia, Leviathan and most of the rest of the resistance. “That's it,” Elpizo finally declared, stepping onto the pad, “I'm going to see what's happened to them. Operator, transfer me..”

“But commande-”

“Transfer me.”

The operators input the factory coordinates and the telepad began to glow. Before the transfer was complete however, Harpuia and Leviathan jumped onto the pad as well.

“What are you doing here?” Elpizo demanded once the transfer was completed.

“You looked like you weren't going to be talked out of it,” Leviathan answered, “So we figured we'd at least come along to watch your back.”

“I don't hear fighting though,” Harpuia muttered, “I'd hazard a guess that we're too late.”

Elpizo ignored them both and walked into the hallway. The walls were coated in blood and other vital fluid, the parts of many a resistance soldier strewn about.

“Someone really did a number here,” Leviathan observed. As the trio marched to the upper levels the decour remained the same, nothing but blood and dead resistance members. Elpizo scanned the ID he'd taken earlier from Judge Schilt and the door admitted him, the codes had not been changed. The upper level looked just as it had a day ago. The computers were still running, some papers strewn about. A single fire chip sat on the floor holding down a map and a photograph. Harpuia picked them up, scanned them quickly and passed them on. Elpizo looked them over and handed the papers to Leviathan. On the map was a circle with two numbers that could only be global positioning coordinates. The photo was an image of Judge Schilt in his formal robes.

“I just love traps, don't you?” Leviathan asked.

Harpuia frowned. “We'd better get back and decide what we're going to do about this.”

“So that's the current situation,” Elpizo was saying. The entire resistance had been called together for briefing, they'd be leaving as soon as it was over. “It sounds as if they are proposing a hostage exchange, Schilt for Cerveau. It may well be a trap but the area they've chosen for the exchange doesn't look it. There's nothing out there, just an empty field a couple miles away from the Pacific Ocean. If we get there and things look bad we can warp back to base immediately, they've no way of jamming our signals out there.”

“Curiously,” Harpuia broke in, “They stealth factory is still empty, they cleared out our soldiers but never brought anyone back to man the place. Maybe it all happened too quickly for them, maybe they don't care about the place anymore. But from the way things stand now, they only attacked the place to kidnap someone and get Schilt back.”

“Judge Schilt is in charge of administrative duties for the Eight Judges, our best guess is that he was simply touring the place, taking inventory and such,” Elpizo explained. “Its no secret that the Eight Judges want to cut the size of the Arcadian military. But again, we have only guesses. I've spent all day trying to dig information out of him but he's stubborn and hasn't cracked for me. I'd have liked more time with him, but we risk Cerveau's life if we don't exchange prisoners now. Unless we abandon our comrade to torture and death this is our only option.”

Mission Start

The white light of the transfer was quickly replaced by a blinding ray of sunlight. The coordinates had led to a much higher elevation than anyone had predicted. It was early evening and the sun was just thinking about setting down for the night.

The party looked around, half expecting to be surrounded by Neo Arcadian troops but there was no one, and nothing in the area. Flat ground as far as the eye could see. Then in the blink of an eye a purple blur decended on the group and Schilt was gone. Something had swooped down from the clouds and grabbed him up, bearing him away toward the horizen. Without a moment of hesitation, Harpuia had risen into the sky and was giving chase as fast as he could.

Slightly baffled by the unexpected twist of events and the sudden disappearance of their prisoner and comrade, Elpizo, Leviathan and the others were forced to give chase on foot. “Operator!” Elpizo barked into the comm as he ran, “Get us some ride chasers!” The rides materialized about a hundred yards ahead of the pack, waiting to be used.

“Send out the units,” came a voice from Elpizo's coat pocket. Surprised, Elpizo reached in and came out with the receiving end of the listening device they'd placed on Schilt. “Transfer Schilt out now and send me the prisoner… No I'm not going to go back on the deal, he's theirs if they can get to me. Wait a second.. what's this?”

After a moment the voice resumed, this time speaking directly to Elpizo. It seemed they'd found the bug. “A weak attempt at espionage but one you had to take. Here comes my warm up Commander, I hope you all enjoy yours. I'll be waiting when you're through.”

As if on cue roughly two dozen dots appeared on the horizen. As they grew closer, resistance members could make out individual pantheons sitting on ride chasers of their own. With no time to lose, the resistance mounted up with their own vehicles and braced themselves for the charge.

Mortars rocketed through the air, creating craters in the ground upon landing. Leviathan gripped the controls to her ride chaser so tightly her knuckles went white. She drove straight into a group of three pantheons, ducked under a blast from one of their ride chasers and knocked one off their ride with a swing of her staff. Whoever that purple nut was, he had a lot of guts referring to her brother as 'warmup.' She dripped the controls and took the chaser into a sharp 180, whirling around and blasting the other two with the chaser's lazers. She knew her brother could handle it, but all the same she was anxious to get done with the grunts and go to his aid.

Suddenly, a long thin blast of electricity struck the engine of her ride chaser, causing the machine to explode and launch her through the air. Leviathan picked herself off the ground, searching for what had hit her. Her eyes zeroed in on one of the newer golems, hovering feet above the ground, three of its six electric charged shoulder cannons trained on her. As the golem fired again, Leviathan sent forth an ice dragon which absorbed the blasts and shattered on the ground.

The golems continued to advance but were interrupted by a barrage of shots from Elpizo's chaser. As he veered in a mortar exploded in front of his vehicle, causing it to flip. Rai and Stark quickly rushed to their commander's aid and with Leviathan's help, the golems were destroyed. Elpizo got back on his chaser to continue the skirmish. Several resistance members had broken off and were trying to get to Harpuia. Elpizo turned that way as well and poured on the speed, at least five pantheon bikers were locked on his back end and they weren't letting up. To make things worse, their chasers were a little bit faster than the resistance models. They were however, less maneuverable, but with so many on him there wasn't much Elpizo could do in way of shaking them.

Lazer blasts rocked the back of his chaser, a few inches higher and it would have been his own back. As the chaser began to smoke, Elpizo tried the last card he had to play. He twisted his ride sideways like he was going to turn, but he killed the engine at the last second, causing the chaser to flip and cast Elpizo into open space. The pantheons pursuing him weren't expecting Elpizo to flip, and they were too bunched up to move out of the way. Two of the pantheons ended up crashing into one another and exploding, two others went over Elpizo's downed ride like a jump sending them flying through the air. Elpizo crouched low as the two soared over his head and crashed in a head nearby. The pair of pantheons slowly crawled out of the wreckage of their rides and activated their arm sabers, looking for the fallen commander. Elpizo brandished his rapier and backed away slowly, looking for an opening to strike safely. Before he could do anything else, a pair of lazers struck the ground near him, the fifth biker had returned. Pinned down, Elpizo leaped over his chaser and huddled on the other side as lazer shots were pelted into it. The bike had taken too much damage at this point and the resulting explosion pitched Elpizo forward on his face.

The commander fumbled around for his rapier, his hands finally closing around a familiar handle. He started to push himself up for one final stand when a familiar voice shouted, “Commander, down!”

Without hesitation, Elpizo threw himself to the ground once more as lazers flew inches above him, this time coming from the opposite direction. The wind shifted again as a ride chaser zoomed over his prone form, speeding towards the enemy. Leviathan jerked the controls into a sharp left, spinning into the two pantheons like a bowling ball into pins. The enemy chaser closed in, bladed arm extended when Leviathan disengaged the spin and clotheslined the pantheon with her staff. The now empty ride chaser slowed to a stop, feet away from Elpizo, ready for a new rider.

“Looks like most everyone went after my brother and that other guy!” Leviathan shouted over the rumbling motors. “We seem to be a bit shorthanded over here!”

Elpizo grunted and climbed onto the new chaser, “The attack happened kind of fast, but you're right, looks as if most people have turned and gone after them.”

The two pulled off and sped towards a golem, streaking apart as the electric bolts cut through the middle of them. The golem remained trained on Leviathan as she circled around, dodging blasts. Elpizo took advantage of its distraction and peppered its flank with blast after blast with the ride chaser. The golem whirled around, searching for Elpizo, allowing Leviathan to get in close. The General of Dark Waters jumped off of her ride chaser and smacked her staff through the back of the golem's head before landing a few feet behind her still moving ride chaser.

“Well that's embarrassing,” she muttered, jogging behind it to climb back on. Elpizo pulled up beside her and helped her get back onto the chaser.

“You should go and follow everyone else,” she told him, “I can take care of what's left here, make sure none of them follow you.”

“You sure?” Elpizo asked, surprised.

“Sure I'm sure, look how they scattered now like lost sheep. You're their commander, go keep them in line, I've got this.”

Elpizo hesitated for a moment before nodding and speeding off in the direction of his forces.

Jet stood with his back to the group facing the sea as the resistance members got off their respective vehicles. On the ground beside him were Cerveau and Harpuia, the former bound and gagged, the other unconscious.

“So you have come for your friend,” Jet, his back still to the group. “That act alone tells me a lot about this group, about what exactly Neo Arcadia faces.”

“However,” he said, turning around and activating two sabers of blue fire, “There are other ways to judge a man. And now you're going to show me exactly who you are.”

Rioku attacked first, firing round after round from his machine fun which Jet dodged or blocked with his flaming sabers. Jet returned fire with a buster shot of his own, knocking Rioku into the ocean below.

Stark tried to reason with Jet, seeing as he seemed to be against needless violence but the new guardian stubbornly would not budge. Reluctantly Stark began an air battle but try as he might, Jet was too fast to hit with repulsor shots. Jet ceased his dodging and moved in for an offensive, striking Stark in the back with his boot and flying around him to deliver a second kick before he hit the ground.

Stark was stubborn too, and upon picking himself up he primed and launched a trio of missiles at Jet, who responded with a stream of energy which caused two to veer off and explode. The third, he sliced neatly in half. As Stark contemplated an attack which might work, Jet dove down and delivered a flaming kick to the face. Rai rushed in to attack but Jet whirled around and dropped him with a sweeping kick before flying off to engage someone else.

Zanji came streaking in, still atop his ride chaser. Upon seeing Jet turn his attention to him, Zanji turned sideways and tumbled off his mount, and launching his chaser straight into Jet. Whether this was an instinctual move or sheer luck, Raven capitalized on it, firing at the flying chaser and blowing it up in Jet's face. Though he could not be seen through the smoke and fire, Raven continued to fire at the place where Jet was last seen. Out from the smoke a concentrated blast of energy was fired - it was each of Raven's shots reflected back at him. Without taking the time to look at his comrade Zanji charged in and began a sword dual with Jet, but he too was knocked aside after a few moments of battle.

“Not bad,” said Jet as he wiped the sweat off of his face. He looked up and smiled as Elpizo's ride chaser pulled up.

“You've got a good group here Commander,” Jet called out to him, “I think I've got what I came for. So now you can have what you came for.” Jet gestured to Cerveau and warped out.

Elpizo stood puzzled for a moment, unsure how to react to this… He was honest if nothing else, he'd enacted the prisoner exchange as promised, and though he had been in position to kill Stark he'd stayed his hand. This was something to discuss later, for now they should also be returning to base.

“Operator, transfer…” Elpizo started to say. He slowly stopped, gazing at Cerveau who was still bound and gagged. The commander walked over, undoing the bonds and giving him a through bug check. There was nothing. “Operator, transfer us back,” Elpizo finished.

“Why didn't you destroy them?” X railed at Jet.

“Sir, there were too many of them to do it alone.” Jet answered calmly.

“You took the factory by yourself, you had the bait to lure out their strongest fighters and gut the rest of them. Why didn't you call for extra troops?”

“To be completely honest sir… I didn't think they would come for their friend. Most mavericks wouldn't have walked into an obvious trap, nor would they have been willing to give up Judge Schilt for a simple mechanic.”

“Useless..” X muttered, “Next time I'll pick a different guardian.”

“So what exactly happened out there?” Elpizo wanted to know. He, Harpuia, Leviathan and Cerveau had all crowded into Cerveau's room for debriefing.

“I'm not exactly sure,” Cerveau admitted, “That purple guy attacked the factory all by himself, wiped out all our guards without raising the alarm. I had no idea he was there until he appeared behind me and took me hostage.”

Elpizo nodded and turned to Harpuia who was sitting on Cerveau's bed, leaning into the wall. “So what happened when you chased him down? He beat you pretty quickly.”

Harpuia scowled, “I just underestimated him that's all. He fell with one attack back in the desert, they fixed him up good.”

“Wait, what are you talking about?” Leviathan broke in. “You fought him before?”

Harpuia nodded, “Fefnir and I got a call from Anubis awhile back, Jet was draining all the water from the secret base into the desert. We couldn't believe it was him, especially when I dropped from the chopper and took him down with one sword beam. He seemed pretty damaged though, so we took him back and let that pathetic copy see him, we let him know who he was. Jet was sent away for repairs, apparently now he's a new guardian.”

Elpizo considered, “He seems reasonable enough… he did keep his word and complete the exchange, something many of Copy X's generals wouldn't do.”

“He was good to me even though I was an enemy hostage,” Cerveau agreed. “Didn't beat me, the only questions he asked were personal ones, like he wanted to get to know me better. Nothing about the resistance.”

“Possibly something we can make use of down the line,” Elpizo mused. “So he's a former maverick hunter?”

Harpuia nodded, “I was actually assigned to him for a short time after I was created because of our similarities. There weren't many flying hunters back then. And he was the one who encouraged me to wield two swords. He went missing during the Elf Wars, I never did get the story there.”

“Completely barbaric, those resistance mongrels,” Judge Schilt was saying, “Its a wonder they are able to operate at all.”

“And yet they know the value of a good prisoner..” Judge Mantisk whispered, possibly to himself.

“The only reason they didn't kill me was in hopes of getting some bit of information from me,” Schilt went on proudly, “But I gave the scum nothing!”

“They were willing to negotiate when we gained one of their officers,” Biblio mused. “Perhaps we can use that to our advantage. The enemy of our enemy is our friend after all, and without X there is a chance the resistance might just disband. Its thanks to his policies and his warring that they even exist.”

“Help the resistance?” Foxtar almost screamed, “Are you really so senile yo-”

“We've already made plans to tear him down in the mind of the public,” Inarabitta cut in, his high voice overriding Foxtar's, “If we just let the resistance do our work for us and take care of removing X, we could still be heroes and stand poised to take back Neo Arcadia.”

“Impossible-” Foxtar started to say but she and the room went quiet when Judge Kelverian cleared his throat. Kelverian was a unique reploid, designed with a three part mind. These three minds worked together to come up with a single, fair verdict making him slow to come to a decision but wiser than the other judges combined.

“This kind of thinking will take us to a dangerous place,” he began slowly. “For X is the chosen ruler of Neo Arcadia and what you suggest is nothing less than treason.”

“However,” he continued, “X may no longer be the ruler the people need. He has made little effort to negotiate with these mavericks and has shown an utter disregard for the energy crisis… I must think on this. We must all think on this. We must not make this decision lightly.”

“I agree,” said Judge LeCactank, slamming his gavel on the table. “This meeting is adjourned, we shall meet again in three days time.”

Back at Cerveau's room there was a knock on the door. “Enter,” said Elpizo.

A resistance member stuck his head into the room. “Commander, we've a private message coming through an unknown channel. Someone asking to speak with you. Says he has time sensitive information for only you. Calls himself Todd Moniker.”

“Hmm, I'll speak with him. Get me a private line.”


*Author's note

This chapter was one of three that might have resulted from the choice that the players made regarding the fate of Judge Schilt. Players were given the option to Kill Him, Take him Prisoner, or Release Him. Each choice came with its own mission objectives, a different boss encounter, and would affect other factors of the RP.

Had you killed him you'd have angered the remaining judges who would in turn decide to stop cutting X's spending and help him exterminate you. You've also affected Jet's attitude, making him hesitant to kill you as he'd been ordered. If you'd killed Schilt, Jet's attitude would have changed, though you'd be facing a different boss for this mission, one of the two new guardians. Additionally, had you killed Schilt, they'd have killed off Cerveau. I know not everyone would have been heartbroken, however with Cerveau gone you'd have to deal with Dgoit as your mechanic, and everything in the shop would have costed 1.5x what it does currently.

If you had set him free, Elpizo and Schilt would have made a deal to work together to share knowledge and bring X down. And again, the boss wouldn't have been Jet.

I enjoyed this little scenario and I'm pleased with the outcome. I'm going to try to give more options in the future to give the Players a little more control over the story, where you influence events and outcomes.