Chapter 11: The Hades Gate
It took five minutes for the First Children to sort themselves out at Virincorparates. Matthew waved them off as they left once more, Incarnate could see. Incarnate chuckled: however dystopic the adventure was, he always enjoyed getting back out there and into the action again, knowing that he could be making a good difference to others.
He walked through the ship, occasionally using his gravity powers to make the dust rise from the floor in mini avalanches, which always amused him. He knew it shouldn't, but the thought of destruction amused some sort of dark side of his personality.
There was an empty room which no-one had appeared to have used and went inside and sat at a desk in the centre of the room on a cushioned swivel chair. How retro Incarnate thought as he span, before locating the desk's drawers and opening one. There was a few pens and a couple of sheets of plain, white paper inside. He got them all out and placed them all on the desk, before making them all levitate.
Incarnate felt an overwhelming urge to do so as a voice spoke in his mind. An alien voice that was somewhat recognisable from years ago. One of the pens was crushed swiftly as Incarnate carried out the command, before dropping the items onto the desk once more. He held his head in his hands, but his hands became wet. He wiped his forehead, noticing how sweaty it was. “The hell?” he asked himself.
You try to fight. You cannot.
Incarnate recognised the voice now. The voice that had haunted him before Pandora had bound that bracelet to him. Then, that voice was repressed, but he could hear Pandora and all her actions and surroundings. “Why are you back?” he asked, before feeling stupid for arguing with himself.
I never left.
Incarnate ignored it this time, got up and left the room, almost bumping into Charon on the way out. Charon turned to face Incarnate, having to look down considerably to even see Incarnate. Incarnate gulped. “Sorry.” he muttered.
Charon turned to face him full on. “You. Incarnate.” he hissed. “You crushed me, didn't you?”
Incarnate was getting angered now. “You tried to kill us. Can you blame me for crushing you?”
Charon thought about it for a minute. “I guess we can call it even. For now.” Charon said, as if issuing a threat. Which he was, really.
“Thanks.” Incarnate breathed a sigh of relief. He still remembered how Charon had nearly killed him, Pandora and Hurricane.
Charon walked slowly away and, although the encounter with Charon had shaken him, Incarnate could no longer hear that other voice. He smiled his little half-smile he always smiled: Charon had some uses. He continued walking through the ship.
“Incarnate!” came a voice.
Incarnate turned to see Foton jogging towards him. “Hey Foton!” Incarnate called. “You OK now?”
Foton stopped in front of Incarnate. His armour had new dents in it but Foton himself looked fine, if only a bit pale. “I'm in a bit of pain, but nothing I can't handle thanks. How are, though?”
“I'm OK, thanks Foton.” Incarnate replied. “Although,” he looked around suspiciously, “I don't really like working with Gold or Charon.”
“I know what you mean.” Foton agreed darkly. “It is a bit weird, working with those who were trying to kill you. But then, I guess that's how Department H felt last year. “
“Yeah, I guess.” Incarnate said. “But we didn't actually target them in specific. They were just dispatched to combat us.”
“Well, even so.” Foton gave in. “I guess Gold and Charon probably feel just as awkward as you do, my friend.”
Incarnate smiled. “Probably moreso.”
“Yeah, most likely.” Foton added needlessly.
They walked together through the ship in silence for a minute or so, before Incarnate said, “I missed you, man.”
Foton looked at him out of the corner of his eye. He could tell Incarnate was being sincere. “I thought you were dead, Incarnate. The news report with you on was like a dream. Or, a nightmare.” He joked.
“Oi!” Incarnate laughed, gently punching Foton on the arm. “Although, it could've been zombie me.”
“God, that woulda been terrifying.” Foton confessed.
“Hey, it'd be worse for me.” Incarnate said.
“I dunno. At least you lived twice then.”
“Yeah, but I'd still be dead. Technically.”
“That's what Aran's husks are, Tahkshi said.” Incarnate explained. “He said they were like zombies, but not quite.”
“Oh dear.” Foton said, turning a little bit more pale.
“What?” Incarnate asked, a small smile curling onto his face.
Foton looked around, before whispering to Incarnate, “I don't...like zombies, K?”
Incarnate moved away. “Really?” he asked incredulously.
“Yeah.” Foton answered. “Pa used to show us zombie films and I was terrified.” He saw that Incarnate was smiling. “What you smilin' for? You best not tell anyone this!”
“Well...” Incarnate taunted.
“Don't you dare, Incarnate!” Foton threatened.
“Oh, I won't.” Incarnate admitted. “I probably owe you for something.”
“Most likely.” Foton retorted.
The banter went on until the alarm went off and Tahkshi's voice came through the intercom. “Alright, people, we have entered the Thanatos Galaxy and Matthew, from Virincorparates, has sent us co-ordinates for Aran's Fortress. We'll be there in a few minutes, so get ready to go. We're all going on this mission.”
Foton led Incarnate to the armoury, where he offered Incarnate a pistol. “Look,” Foton explained, “Your powers are all good and all, but mine have all but gone now, so you take this, y'hear?”
“Yeah, OK.” Incarnate agreed.
“Good.” Foton handed it to him. Incarnate took it, and placed it in his pocket after checking that the safety catch was on. “Don't want you dyin' today, not after all the trouble we went to to save ya.”
Incarnate and Foton then met up with the others at the front of ship, near the boarding ramp. They saw a moon with craters that seemed to have deliberately created to make it seem like a skull. What unnerved Incarnate was that that was where they were going.
Then he saw it: the Fortress. It was a huge structure, more like a medieval castle than a military fortress, it had a few signs of weaponry from the tallest tower. It even had a portcullis, for Christ's sake. Incarnate knew not why: the moon was pretty abandoned and the solar system around it was uninhabited, as so may were. The ship circled the fortress, searching for a place to land, but found none actually inside or on the fortress. Now Incarnate understood the reason for the portcullis: anyone who lands on the moon would have to get through there to enter the fortress. The walls would not be worth the effort to break as it would attract too much unwanted attention.
“Land us over there!” Tahkshi called to the autopilot that wasn't actually fully automatic.
The ship slowly descended, throwing up huge clouds of dust as it did so. The ramp descended as the dust cleared, but that only threw up more. The First Children ventured cautiously out, Tahkshi leading the way, Terran blade at the ready.
There was nothing to be seen bar the clouds of dust that were thrown up. They obscured the view of Aran's Fortress so only the merest of outlines could be seen.
“Lets go!” said Tahkshi, trying not to open his mouth in fear that the dust was poisonous, which it very well could be. He jogged steadily through the terrain, keeping his eyes as closed as possible without closing them completely.
They soon reached the portcullis of the fortress. It was everything you'd expect a portcullis to be, really: black, metallic and spiky. Tahkshi looked at it, and then looked through it: he could see a few Gardor milling around in there, all under command by some other being. He assumed it was a Husk, bit he couldn't quite see.
“So,” Gold asked. “What are we gonna do about that portcullis?”
Tahkshi peeked around the portcullis and saw what looked like a lever. “Devilclash.” Tahkshi said, “You can get through those bars, right?” He didn't wait for an answer. “Can you pull that lever?”
The portcullis opened just as Tahkshi finished. Devilclash walked back through the gate, armour fitting back onto her figure. “Way ahead of ya.” she said mockingly.
But the Gardor had seen them now and, as far as Tahkshi could make out, their arches were glowing once more. But Charon was running at them now, so Tahkshi followed and watched as the Gardor's beams done absolutely nothing to stop Charon, despite them all hitting him. Lifting a Gardor in his giant gauntlets, her clenched his fist and crushed it, before moving on to the next, slapping its head off. Tahkshi joined the fray, stabbing a Gardor through its flimsy armour before it could do anything. By the time the others caught up, the Gardor were all destroyed and only one thing remained standing.
The Husk stood tall, but what it had in height, it lacked in width. A skeletal figure with only the smallest indication of muscle and tight skin wrapped around it. It looked like Tahkshi imagined Xaos would without the cape, only somewhat less impressive.
“Looks weak.” Hurricane observed.
And then the Husk leapt, faster than Tahkshi would have ever thought. It landed on Hurricane, knocking him down. Viretta made to grab the Husk, to pull it off of Hurricane, but the Husk batted her aside casually and hissed at her.
But then the husk was in the air, held aloft by the Blade Of Olympus that had skewered it through the abdomen. Gold smiled at the Husk stopped moving. Foton breathed a sigh of relief and Hurricane picked himself up off the ground.
“Is it dead?” asked Tahkshi, looking at it suspiciously.
“I think so.” Gold said.
Before the Husk launched itself from the Blade Of Olympus and landed on the ground, a gaping hole in its chest quickly closing. “The fuck?” roared Foton, noticing that the husk was actually a zombie, for use of a better term. “Kill it with fire!”
Devilclash and Tahkshi turned on the husk. Devilclash threw a flickering, orange-red fireball at it. It screamed in pain and backed away, before Tahkshi set the Terran blade on fire and sliced the Husk's head clean off.
They watched the Husk's corpse for a while to make sure it didn't regenerate any-more. When it didn't, they continued to edge through the Fortress.
The walls were covered in what appeared to be black marble. Skulls of various animals hung from the walls with a small, bronze plaque underneath them, proclaiming the species of the skull. The corridors were eerily deserted, yet dragged on forever. Red carpets hid blood stains well, but Tahkshi noticed that you could still see where things had been brutally slaughtered in the Fortress.
“So,” Foton asked as they reached a turning. “How do we know where the Hades gate is?”
“Well,” Tahkshi explained, choosing to go left, “The Blade Of Olympus seems to be moving in Gold's hands, does it not, Gold?”
“Yeah.” Gold answered shakily.
“So, I thought we'd just follow where it's pointing to.” Tahkshi explained. “Not exactly foolproof, but might as well try it. And if we run into Aran on the way, we'll get him to show us.”
They ventured through the fortress, Gold leading them using the Blade Of Olympus, which guided them through the maze-like fortress.
Eventually, the Blade OF Olympus pointed straight ahead, then straight into the air.
“So, we have to go up?” asked Tahkshi.
“No.” Gold said. “The Blade's under my control again.” He swung it around, as if to prove it. “But I don't see no gate.”
“You're not wrong.” Viretta said. “Apart from grammatically.”
“Hmm.” Tahkshi muttered, walking over to the perfectly normal wall. It seemed to be made of marble, just like all of the others, but there was a different sort of feel to it.
“What're ya doing?” Charon asked.
“Just...checking.” Tahkshi explained.
“What for?” Foton asked.
“Something, anything.” Tahkshi explained desperately. “It can't end here. The trail...”
“It definitely ends here, Tahkshi.” Gold said defensively. “Look, the Blade don't point anywhere no more.”
“You're not wrong...” Tahkshi muttered, feeling around the wall.
There was nothing for a minute, before Tahkshi made water sprout from his hands. He threw it at the wall, then stood back with the others.
As the water dripped down the wall slowly, their faces turned from confusion to that of curiosity. The water seeped into cracks, and slowly, these cracks were revealed.
To reveal the shape of a pentagram.
“Give me the Blade, Gold.” Tahkshi requested.
“K.” Gold said, before tossing the Blade Of Olympus towards Tahkshi, who caught it by the hilt.
Tahkshi pressed the Blade against the wall and it resonated a high pitched frequency that would have made bats wince. He moved it away, clutching his ears. The others were doing so as well.
“The hell was that?” Foton asked, rubbing his ear pointlessly.
“It sounded like...feedback.” Tao said. Foton gave him a blank look: idioms were awkward to translate. “As in putting the microphone too close to the speaker.”
“Yet, one can't exist without the other...” Tahkshi said philosophically, before he clicked his fingers. “Of course!”
“What?” Tao asked as Tahkshi placed the Blade Of Olympus on the ground.
“If I destroy the Blade Of Olympus, the Gate might unlock. Like it did before. But if I destroy them completely, it might stay unlocked long enough for Hades to return.”
“Maybe!” Gold exclaimed.
Tahkshi drew the Terran Blade and gripped it tight, before swinging it at the Blade Of Olympus as hard as he could.
“Oh, what the shit!” Tahkshi exclaimed, throwing the Terran Blade on the ground in fury.
Viretta put an arm on his shoulder cautiously: Tahkshi was prone to bouts of sudden anger. “It's OK.” She said soothingly.
He moved her hand off of his shoulder. “No, it's not.” He said forcefully, picking up the Blade Of Olympus again.
He examined it, looking for seams in the combined Four Swords. The handle was made up of the Beta sword, whilst the actual blade was the combined remnants of the Theta and Alpha sword, whilst the omega was wrapped around the blade to make it more serrated and dangerous. There were barely visible seams between the four blades, such as the line that marked the two halves of the blade. He sprinkled water over the Blade like he did with the Gate and noticed that there was a break between the blade and handle and between the three components of the blade.
“Hurricane!” Tahkshi called. “C'mere!”
Hurricane came over. “What?” He asked reasonably.
“You have atmospheric powers, right?” Tahkshi asked.
Tahkshi interrupted him. “Can you make it cold enough over the Blade Of Olympus to make water freeze?”
“Yes, why?” Hurricane asked, bending down and retrieving the Terran blade. It was heavier than he expected, so he handed it to Tahkshi, who sheathed it awkwardly.
“To weaken it. Ice expands, remember?” Tahkshi said.
“Oh yeah.” Hurricane said absent-mindedly whilst waving a hand over the Blade. The cracks opened slightly more as the water froze and expanded.
Tahkshi put the Blade down on the floor, before bringing the Terran Blade down on it. Structurally-weakened as it was, one blow shattered the age-old Blade Of Olympus into pieces, scattering over the room.
There was a rumble as the pentagram shape in the wall moved forwards, becoming entirely separate from the wall behind.
Then came footsteps as Tahkshi sheathed the Blade Of Olympus. A door, previously unseen by the First Children opened and a figure came into the hallway, observing the First Children and the Hades Gate.
“And what,” He said, “Is going on here?”