[August 9, 2078; 09:42 AM. Neuron HQ, Officers’ Lockers]
Roughly a month has passed since the encounter with Noah, two after having joined the Neuron. A lot has changed in this span of time, both in her life, and the Ark itself. The Ark is a bit more peaceful around, nowadays. Portals may still spawn randomly at these times, but now more and more Neuron officers have been granted the ability to wield a Legion of their own. With more helping hands, there’s certainly a lot less weight upon her shoulders.
Olive has been appointed as the new commander, with Marie helping her with the occasional paperwork. Brenda has taken the helm as the head researcher after Yoseph’s departure from this world, as well as having taken projects that may help restore the world beyond The Ark. Jin and Alicia have been able to resume to their usual duties, with their Legions being back and all. Hal and Kyle ventured off beyond the Ark, wanting to help make it a better place in their own little ways. Maybe it was all changing for the better, maybe the days to come wouldn’t be so bad. . .
And yet. . .
. . .
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back, I promise.”
. . .
“Go. And remember what happened here. It’ll make you stronger.”
. . .
These words would still linger around her thoughts, even to this day. Ever since that day, she would keep these words close to her heart and mind. She’d always look back to what happened, and it did make her stronger. He was right about that; her father was right about that. But what about coming back, why couldn’t have Max been right about that too? Why didn’t he come back? What really happened to him on that day. . .
All these questions kept on wandering her mind. Was he overwhelmed by the berserk Legion, or did the redshift get to him? Did he permanently fuse with his own Legionis, the Axe Legion, or did was it only a fraction of Max’s memories that his otherworldly companion share with him now. There were no other clues, no signs to help them find a lead on what was going on. All that’s left of him, besides that of his Legion and a semblance of his humanity present onto it, was that of his Legatus, and a chain. Maybe there’s a chance that he’s still out there somewhere, just as Akira is. Maybe he’s truly gone. Not knowing the answers to all these frustrated her the most. If she knew what actually happened, then maybe she’d feel a bit better.
Nobody knew what truly happened on that day, no one but Max himself. . .
[Two months ago, somewhere within the Astral Plane.]
“You’re the one who’s gotta save the world now. . .But for now, just do me one favor.”
. . .
“Your brother. . .Akira. Keep him safe. . . you. . . you got it?”
. . .
“Do that for me. GO!”
. . .
Those were the last words she heard from the captain, from her father. And those were also the last orders he gave to her, just as it was the last that he would ever see her face. As his teammates all made their way back to The Ark, Max decided to be the one to hold the rampant Legionis off. For his sake, and for theirs.
Without his axe by his side, and with his team retreating, all he had with him were two X-Batons to keep him able to fend off these unchained beasts.
Axe. Beast. Arrow. Arm. Four powerful beings once under the helm of Neuron now without masters and added to the list of potential threats towards humanity. Though Max is a trained officer, there was a reason as to why his team had to use tamed Chimeras to further their cause. And even with the physical prowess that he had, there was another problem he had to worry about; the redshift.
As the redshift levels of the now-untamed Legion began increasing, so too did his own. Chimeras practically breathe redshift, so the worst that could happen to them was becoming stronger. But Max. . .he was human, if his redshift levels became too unstable for him to handle, he may never recover from this. He could forget living as a human being again, he wouldn’t be able to return to The Ark once this is all done. And worst of all, he wouldn’t be able to see his kids again.
“. . .Looks like there’s no other way out. Bring it on!!”
But he didn’t back down. Though the redshift slowly got to him, he couldn’t surrender. He wasn’t willing to go down without a fight, and a fight is exactly what he was going to give these monsters. Taking a deep breath before battle, Max transformed the blaster on his right hand into the Baton’s Gladius mode. With his daughter no longer within the proximity of the fight, the captain charged towards the four monsters, letting out a battle cry from the top of his lungs.
As both parties were nearing the center, the Beast pounced onto the old man, with every intention of chewing him out. Of course, before he could do so, Max knocked the canine creature just as it left, forcibly pushing it towards the east. The mutt began spinning midair, just before landing onto its legs, ceasing the momentum of the push.
From the west, several arrows began heading towards Max’s direction. Just in time to save himself, he immediately parried these shots of light by knocking every arrow out. After the last shot has been blocked, the Baton within his left hand immediately shifted to its Blaster mode, firing towards the Legion at the distance before it could draw its weapon once more. The Beast to the east was trying to recoil itself from the knockback, while the Arrow to the west was momentarily stunned by the shots fired at it.
However, that left him open from attacks up north. Immediately the Arm came rushing towards him whilst charging its punch. Though Max was able to block this on time, with a pair of gladius blades, the power unleashed by the legless Chimera pushed him backwards. Both his feet and Batons slid the surface of the plane, with the captain taking a moment to catch his breath. There was no way he could keep this up.
All of a sudden, the Axe knocked him backwards without warning. Though his Batons had prevented a direct hit, the old man was still knocked back by the sheer amount of force the attack had, being sent near the edge of the isle they were standing on.
As he tried getting back up from his back, the four slowly approached him, with the being in front once more. A few bruises and scratches wouldn’t faze him, but his head began hurting once more.
“Argh! Not now. . .not yet. . .!”
He cried. The redshift was starting to overwhelm him once more. As a reaction to the pain he felt, his eyes momentarily squinted, while he placed his right palm onto his forehead in an attempt to ‘soothe’ it, somehow. As he slowly opened his eyes, he suddenly took a glance towards his Legatus and had an idea. Though uncertain if it would work, it was the only other option he had besides waiting for imminent death.
“This better fucking work. . .Eugh.”
Using the gladius as a support, Max slowly stood up once more, steeling himself for what is to come as he readies the device strapped onto his right wrist. In a gamble for his life, Max decided to slowly sprint towards the direction of the Axe, with the latter prepared to knock him down for good using the behemoth of a weapon he's wielding. As both of them charged at one another, the former captain flung the chain of his Legatus; a sort of leash to try and capture, as well as tame, his once otherworldly companion once more.
Though his comrades have already attempted such before leaving the very dimension, all but one having failed, the old man gave it another go once more. If his daughter could succeed, then perhaps he could too, right? It wasn't as if she was momentarily granted the power of a superhuman that allowed her to tame the Sword Legion once more. Rather, it was seeing all her colleagues lose control of their Legion, that weakening glimmer of hope, that gave her the drive to push on, and force the Chimera to her command once more.
And that is exactly the drive that Max himself was willing to bet on. For the sake of his survival, for the sake of minimalizing the amount of potential threats that The Ark may face, and for the sake of seeing those identical rugrats of his once more. The Axe Legion will be under his command once more!
"Got. . .you. . .Hrrragh!!!"
The collar at the end of the glowing chain managed to secure itself around the neck of the being. The monster which previously glowed red, gleamed a blueish light once more. But it didn't stop there. Had this been within the dimension of the living, the Chimera would have almost immediately succumbed to the will of man. However, in a dimension surrounded by, and practically built upon, the redshift, the will of the creature remains fluctuating betwixt that of the will of the Astral Plane, or that of its new (or in this case, former) master.
Both the Legion and Max himself are slowly being overwhelmed by the redshift, the former regaining its sense of liberation, and the latter slowly losing his. But he didn't falter, he didn't stop. He kept on going, forcing the Legion to go his way, to make sure that his gamble would work even if temporarily.
As he was busy stalling the armed creature, the rest of the unchained Legion decided to charge on towards the struggling Neuron. The Axe Legion continued to try and resist any attempts made by Max to tame him, with the latter trying to pour everything he has into trying to tame the Legion. Though already he was exerting a lot of what's left of his energy, his body was at the brink of giving up. . .
. . .
"Come on, Dad. It's obvious! We wanna save the world, just like you!"
. . .
"Wait and see, you don't have to fight alone anymore!"
Voices echoed throughout his mind. Those were the words of his offspring the very moment they joined the police force. To see them join the Neuron, it worried him so. Max wouldn't know what he'd done should something befell upon them. Yet, to see them follow his footsteps, he couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment as well. Even at this very moment. . .especially at this very moment.
. . .
". . .Just don't make me bail you out too much, got it?"
. . .
Ironic, isn’t it? Max has always been worried, training them to stand their own ground, to be able to protect themselves, all so that his fears would be alleviated. Though his children are safe from the dangers of the Astral Plane as of this moment, it was Max who needed to be bailed out at this situation. He may be doing this for the sake of protecting the twins. But he, in turn, has placed himself in a precarious situation, one that even he won’t be able to bail himself out of.
What perils await him, what fate has in store for him, what little amount of time he may have left in this world, all those ideas were but thoughts fleeting as each second passes. His adoptive children were safe. His comrades are safe. As much as Max would give anything to be able to see them again after all this, all that mattered now was keeping them from harm’s way.
The captain cried out, unleashing one mighty roar as his mind and body now both reinvigorated. Palms would tighten around the shackles that bind the beast. His soles, clenching to the ground as he maintained his balance. With one last pull, perhaps he could see through this, perhaps he could reach the light.
In the midst of his struggle, however, the Beast and the Arm ran towards his direction as the Arrow began charging its next shot. Now was an opportune time for the Chimera to launch an all-out attack towards the old bastard. With the power that the Legions bear, a single hit or two from either one would’ve been enough to free their armed brethren from the chains that clung onto it. . .
A devastating blow had been delivered. A strike so powerful that anyone at the receiving end of such a move would have had to been lucky to even survive that. No ordinary man would be able to sustain such a damage. . .
But Max, he was no ordinary man. He was the captain of the Neuron. He was a skilled warrior in combat. He was as resilient as he was impressive. And to top it off, his armor didn’t sustain any sort of damage from the move, whatsoever. There’s no way that his story would end here just yet, especially after just having regained control of the Axe Legion.
Indeed, the once berserk titan has been placed on its master’s leash once more. Just before the Beast and the Arm could land their attacks, the Axe struck them down with the gargantuan weapon it bears. It may take more than one blow to finish off a Chimera, but the action performed was certainly enough to knock them backwards. Immediately after, the Legion shifted its attention to the shot that the Arrow has fired, instinctively parrying the attack, knocking it back towards sender.
With the archer knocked out by its own shot, as well as both the canid and the brawler having sustained enough damage, the trio of loose monsters decided to flee the scene. Though they may be beasts, they rely on instinct, just as ordinary animals do. And their instinct tells them that they are no match for a tank such as the Axe Legion, being equipped with a massive weapon and the ability to shield itself from harm and all. Max himself was unsure as to why those creatures ran off, but he’s just glad that they saved him the trouble.
“Hah. Guess that checks things out. I better head back before things get—argh!”
Without a moment’s notice, his head began to hurt once more. His victory appears to be short-lived, as the pain he is currently experiencing was slowly worsening at each second. Every inch of his body would feel a burning sensation, as his mind slowly continued to be consumed by the redshift.
“N-No. . .not. . .yet. . .”
As the pain grew sharper after each passing second, his ears would continue to be engulfed by his own screams of agony. Slowly, his body would continue to change in form. In the brief moments that the pain would subside, he would take a look at what he is slowly becoming. His arms would turn pale, with fingers turning into claws. Lines around the lower area of his arms would start to form, emitting a purplish glow.
Just as he tried to process what was happening, another shock of pain would strike Max, increasing the amount of redshift energy being emitted from his being. Desperately clinging onto what’s left of his humanity, the captain tried his hardest to keep himself from changing further. Unfortunately for him, the redshift was just too much, and whatever might he had left already went used in trying to get ahold of his Legion.
. . .
“This is a big day for you! Come on, say cheese!”
. . .
Those were the words he declared during the first day of the twins’ recruitment. Words that once came from his own mouth, being uttered in such an excited tone, now serves as an echo of the past he once had. In a few moments, the life he once lived shall fade. The last look towards the faces of his offspring, wasn’t that of a heartwarming goodbye. Rather, it was that of a cruel fate, a figment of his imagination, a flash of the photo that they had taken together, in commemoration of that very day.
“Kids. . .I-I’m sorry. . .”
With his energy focused on suppressing the transformation for as long as he can, his last words were delivered in the manner of a whisper. No one could hear him, not even Max himself. Before he could fully descent into madness, he used the last bit of human in him to tear the Legatus out of his wrist. Just now, had he gotten his Legion back. And now, he’s forced to free it from his control once more. As the device that bonded the two was separated from his arm, the Legion’s core began reacting to the redshift as well. Once more, the Axe was free, unchained from whatever technological shackles kept it bound.
Presented before him was that of its old master, a man slowly being devoured by the malicious crimson energy that formed the atmosphere of this dimension. Oddly, the Chimera did not make a move. It stood there, watching Max lose his form to the Astral Plane. In his last second of humanity, Max took a short glance at his Legion, shedding a single tear as his eye shuts themselves. Ringing throughout the realm were the agonizing screams of a man in pain, slowly fading and being covered by the shrieks of a monster, prepared to start its rampage.
. . .
“Hey, you alright. . .?”
A voice called out to her. Having finally brought the woman back to reality, she immediately noticed the picture she held at hand. It was a picture of herself, Akira and her father. The very picture she held was that of her first day being a Neuron officer.
“Seems like you were blanked out, again.”
The same voice called out to her once more. Immediately, she shifted her sights towards the direction of the utterance. It was none other than her brother, Akira. Or, to be more precise, the person her attention was directed to was what’s left of her brother.
“C’mon, we’ve got assignments to get to. Olive wants us to check out the Square, says that a bunch of civilians filed reports about strange sightings.”
The woman’s mind was still somewhat lost. Though immediately, she processed what the other officer had to tell him, nodding in agreement as she looked towards him.
“I’ll meet you at the Helipad. Don’t keep me waitin’, sis!”
Akira gave his sister a rather weak smile just before parting from the lockers. As Akira left the scene, the woman took one last glance towards the picture. If only there was more of what’s left of Max like there was of Akira, she thought to herself. It didn’t have to be a replica of him, or the memories he carried. Clues, signs, leads, anything would do. But alas, none of those remained in this world. All that was left of Max were his Legion, and the picture of them together. But, maybe one day she’ll be able to figure out the truth, to know what truly happened.
Though for now, she decided to keep the picture aside. The woman stood up from the benches and walked out towards the hallway, making her way to the elevator. Max is still out there somewhere, and she’s determined to find him.