Part 14: We Can Be Happy Underground
An unfathomable amount of energy crackles around Edge as he falls, and he has no idea how he hasn't been incinerated by the power pulsating and encircling him.
Little does he know that once again he has been transformed into a softly falling ball of light...
which gives off a brilliant glow as it descends, casting sharp shadows onto the abyss he's fallen into. Once he lands, he takes a moment to take stock of his current situation, which unfortunately, is not good.
Edge: It's too high to climb...I've got no dragon...
In addition to all of his current problems, it has also become pitch black, and Edge can barely see past five feet - and neither can we for that matter, which is why there's no screencaps for this section - which makes it even worse when he hears the scuttling sounds of countless monsters echoing out from the inky darkness.
He draws his gun, preparing for a desperate fight for his life in this godforsaken place, when suddenly he hears a female voice ring out:
You'll only alert them that food is near. Pull the trigger and they'll swarm you. These creatures are blind. Keep quiet, and they will go away.
Lower your weapon.
It must be the girl, the one who was riding Atolm...Edge isn't quite ready to trust her completely yet, so he replies:
Edge: Come out slowly, then I'll decide whether to lower the weapon or not.
The girl's next reply sounds almost wistful to Edge's ears.
Girl: I would have escaped, if I was...able to...
What the heck does that mean? What sort of ruse is she playing at? Edge is tired of not being able to see squat in this ridiculous darkness,
so he lights one of the handheld torches he used to use while moving around in the mines in order to determine just what is going on here.
The light moves outward from his hand, dancing and playing over dusty-looking machinery and even more material made of the strange white shell that seems to cover everything that came from the Ancient Age. Edge takes a couple cautious steps forward, and eventually he sees the girl - lying on the ground with an enormous apparatus pinning her legs to the ground.
Compassion sweeps over him and he is gripped with the compulsion to help the girl, but his caution is still too strong.
if you're willing to show me the way to the Tower.
Girl: The entrance is already sealed. I suggest you concentrate on getting out of here alive.
Edge: What are you talking about?
Girl: The monsters are deadlier here than anything you've encountered before. You can't defeat them alone. My legs are pinned, so I can't escape on my own.
Edge: I'll put the gun away, but when we get out of here, I want some answers.
Girl: We don't have any more time. More of those creatures are coming. Quick, get me out.
There's a power switch underneath. Press it, quickly.
Edge does as she says, and the piece of machinery lying on top of the girl thrums to life. After a moment, it bodily lifts itself off the ground and then rights itself to present a profile of a wide cylinder with what appears to be a handle on top and several strange protuberances coming out of the bottom. The floater begins to hover in midair, and as it does the girl picks herself off the ground and nimbly jumps atop it, as a third voice comes out of nowhere and says "Battle equipment... operational."
I will control the ship. You deal with the monsters. If you can control a dragon, you can handle this.
Edge has no idea how to synchronize his gun to work with the floater, but finds to his surprise that his puzzling over how to do that very thing has somehow caused it to happen. Taking a place behind the girl on top of the floater, she begins to steer it away from their landing spot and into the Underground Ruins proper.
Girl: At the dome below us, there's an elevator that can take us directly to the surface...
Edge: Which means, if we can get there, we can leave this place, right!?
Girl: If we can get there without being eaten.
With that cheerful image running around in his head, Edge decides to take a moment to take stock of his surroundings. To their immediate left is a large door, but approaching it ends up being useless as yet another disembodied voice calls out Gate #1 locked... and the door refuses to budge. Turning around completely, Edge and the girl come to a dead end, with nothing of note there but a cross-like structure at the end of the room. Accessing it with the floater causes it to rotate rapidly, throwing off sparks in all directions, and the voice returns, saying:
Turning around once again, they near the door which blocked them previously. Thankfully when the voice speaks again, they hear what they wanted to in the first place.
Passing through the door, Edge notices a large amount of what looks like organic debris littering the floor. Monster bodies, remains of nests, and what look like eggshells are scattered everywhere. Edge doesn't like the mess of carnage and biological waste all over the place, but figures they're not of much consequence.
Edge decides they *are* of consequence a moment later, when passing by another pile of debris results in an ambush! A grotesque batch of gangly green creatures drops out of the sky on either side of the floater, trapping Edge and the girl in a pincer and commencing attack. If all that weren't enough, when Edge tries targeting the mutants with his gun, it turns out that they are resistant to it!
Luckily, the floater is equipped with lock-on lasers, and Edge is able to finish off the rest of the group easily.
A few moments later they are ambushed again, and this time Edge is able to discern two types of mutants: the green ones he fought before, and a larger, stronger-looking type of mutant with a blue frill. Edge figures them to be no different than their green cousins and unleashes another lock-on volley, only to have the girl comment, "They are absorbing the energy!" and Edge watches in horror as the blue-frilled one spotaneously mutates and takes flight!
It turns out that the green ones can absorb the energy of Edge's gun and the blue ones can absorb the lock-on lasers, so Edge must tread carefully, picking off the laser resistant mutants first before taking out the rest with volleys. It is a slow, laborious process, especially since the gun and lasers are Edge's only attack options, as the floater lacks the Berserk capability that Roderick has. (Also, since the dragon is actually the only one to gain experience, you don't get any EXP from any of the battles down here. Man, I hate this area).
Eventually, the two adventurers come across a giant clamshell-like structure that they can activate with the floater...
that turns out to be the elevator that brings them another level down. Exiting the elevator, they find themselves in another set of twisting, turning tunnels, with deposits of mutant carcasses strewn here and there (usually accompanied by mutant ambushes).
After a few moments, they come to what appears to be a dead end, with a gigantic hole blocking the way. Edge is gripped by a moment of recklessness - perhaps too used to riding around on the back of a much more mobile dragon - and rushes headlong into the hole, where the floater, designed to only float a few feet above the nearest solid ground, drops like a rock.
It does, thankfully, regain its hovering capabilities once it reaches a pool of water on the lower level.
Girl: It's the water tank of this plant...it's connected vertically with the floor above.
Edge thinks to himself, "No duh it's connected to the floor above - we did just FALL down here, didn't we?" Wanting to keep the peace between himself and his new companion, he refrains from blurting out an and instead asks,
Edge: Are you hurt?
Edge certainly wasn't expecting that reaction at all. Flustered, he stammers "Oh, uh, if not, let's hurry", and directs the girl to progress forward again. Further exploration of the lower level produces nothing but dead ends, and the two take their only remaining option, an elevator that takes them right back up to where they came from.
Avoiding the same hole they fell down the first time, the two head north instead, eventually coming to a section of tunnel that slopes downward. Without thinking twice about it, Edge keeps them going straight, and even begins to enjoy the sensation as the floater speeds down the incline.
When they reach the bottom, however, the girl speaks up, and Edge's good mood is gone in as short a time as it took them to traverse the slope.
Edge: ...? What now?
Girl: This floater is losing power. Once we go down, there may be no way of coming back up. Be careful.
Edge: Be careful? We already went down! Why didn't you tell me that before?
Girl: You didn't ask. (Looks like she has no compunction about ing you, Edge.)
In response to such a well-excecuted verbal reposte, Edge decides to act like a five-year-old.
Edge: All right. Fine. From now on, I'll ask you before I do anything. Even wipe my nose.
So, where do we go from here?
Girl: Go straight...there is something I would like to see.
Straight just happens to be the only way they can possibly go at this point, so onward they do indeed go. Turning a corner a moment later after passing over another pool of water, Edge's pissy mood gives way to awe, melancholy and confusion, as he sees an amazing sight that is composed entirely of death, but he still has no idea what in the world it could be.
These creatures...they look like my dragon.
Girl: They're the failures.
Girl: Long ago, this was a genetics lab, where prototype dragons were created. The project was terminated before they were finished.
Edge: Who created them?
Edge: Are you saying that humans created the dragons!?
Girl: Does this surprise you? Your dragon is no different than the monsters you're fighting. They were both created by humans, and exist only to fulfill the duties assigned to them. ...As do I...
Let's leave this place. If we stay here too long, they'll find us.
At this point, Edge's head is spinning. Dragons created by humans? A gigantic underground genetics lab, where human scientists from the Ancient Age performed experiments that created the monsters that terrorize the populace? His companion, numbering herself among them?
Fortunately, even in his addled state, he is able to recognize another one of the cross-shaped fixtures in a corner of the room, and accessing it with the floater produces a roaring sound that fills the chamber.
Girl: Wait...I hear water running. A waterway gate must have opened somewhere. Let's go...we can probably go down.
Turning back, Edge and the girl discover that the pool of water they passed over on the way in is now a hole, much like the one they fell into earlier. Doing so this time lands them in a chamber with yet another spinning lock mechanism behind them, and accessing *this* one...
Filling tank #2...
Causes the other tanks to fill in a reversal of the process. Catching an elevator ride back up, Edge finds another Extra Class berserk technique for the dragon on the other side of tank #2, and past tank #1 is a door...
which leads to the dome the girl mentioned earlier. However, the girl never mentioned that the door they were going to enter the dome from was in the *ceiling*.
Edge: We're gonna fall!! Hang on tight!
The floater holds up once more, and Edge is able to calmly take stock of the situation.
Edge: This must be the dome! ...But we can't go back up.
Girl: No problem. There's the exit. There's an elevator ahead that will take us to the ground level.
But, we can't go there now...we need to get the key first. It's somewhere down below.
The door on the other side of the dome leads to yet another floor of twists and turns, but nothing unremarkable. Finding another elevator and going down once more, Edge finds himself losing track of both time and space.
Edge: We've traveled a long way. How far down are we?
Girl: We're four floors underground...everything slopes downhill. The Dome Gate Key is probably somewhere in the middle. From here on, the passage branches into a series of complex paths. Be careful not to get lost...
If you can't tell from the girl's speech, B4F turns out to be a series of branching paths that all include several downslopes - which, if you remember, the floater can't go back up! So, that means that most of this floor consists of picking a path, going down it, getting to the end, and taking an elevator back up to do it all over again until you've exhausted every possibility. Have I mentioned I hate this area yet?
On the bright side, there is an entire hallway full of item boxes here...
half of which you can't open because the floater's lasers are level 0.
At least this floor does manage to introduce a new enemy, called Absorbora.
Absorbora are tricky little buggers. Edge quickly discovers they're anti-shot, as hitting them with the gun does no damage and simply causes the flower-like creature to abruptly stand bolt upright, like somebody jammed a pool cue up its ass. And then, when Edge decides to try using the lasers instead,
the three remaining Absorbora facing the floater unload their Discharge on it (ewwww...)
while the one locked upright shoots its bolts straight up into the air. In the interest of saving time, Edge takes them out with a few more volleys, even though it only invites them to counterattack every shot with a discharge.
After more going up and down than a game of Chutes and Ladders, Edge and the girl finally find the Dome Gate Key.
Girl: That should open the gate that will take us to the surface. Let's return to the dome.
Edge: Hold on, what about our dragons?
Girl: There's no need to hurry back to your personal vendetta. Besides, Atolm needs some time. I can feel his presence nearby...hiding until he's fully healed.
Edge: Atolm? You mean that black dragon you were riding?
Girl: Yes, he was prepared for me thousands of years ago. My only friend...
Maybe you should try to become one with your dragon too.
Edge ponders this as the two of them turn back and head for the dome. As they approach the door that leads back to it, the girl speaks up again.
Girl: I never thought this would happen...
Edge: What do you mean?
Girl: Without the dragons, I was sure we would die down here.
Edge: What were you afraid of? You've got me to protect you. Besides, who says we're out of danger anyway?
(Note: I'm sure you all know this already, but any time any character in any story says something like that - "who says we're out of danger?", "what could possibly go wrong?", or "I've got a bad feeling about this" - you know exactly what's going to happen next.)
As the two of them re-enter the dome, they notice movement up by the door they originally entered through, and it is the girl who recognizes a creature called an Energ clinging to the ceiling.
Edge: We can't hit it from down here.
Girl: There must be a way...it's coming.
Edge is quite correct in his assessment. The Energ is perched high in the air, and all that the two adventurers have in front of them is a bunch of Absorbora, and what the hell can they do? All they do is just shoot straight upwards in response to any hit after they get locked upright...A-HA!!!!!
As quickly as he can, Edge uses his gun to lock all four Absorbora in the upright positon...and then, with his gauges recharged, he fires his lock-on lasers.
Success! The Absorbora's upwards aim is true, and a few more volleys destroy the huge organism. However, all is not quite well, as there was a smaller creature that was crawling around on the Energ's body, and looked like at any moment it could have dropped some serious damage from that height (fortunately, Edge kept dodging the floater out of harm's way every time it moved) - and once the Energ is destroyed...
Girl: Just let it go. We've got to head for the exit.
Nodding in agreement, Edge lets the girl pilot the floater towards the door, and asks her a question that he's been wondering the answer to ever since he pulled out his gun upon landing here.
Edge: Why are there creatures so deep inside the ruins?
Girl: They've mutated, since they were born here.
Edge: They've mutated!?
Girl: The fleet took serious damage coming through here too.
Edge: Fleet? Craymen's Fleet's been through here?
Girl: They know we destroyed their nest...the rest will come for us.
Edge: Let's hurry!
With the Dome Gate Key in hand, Edge and the girl are finally able to activate the door that leads to the surface elevator, but right after they enter the passage beyond, they hear a tremendous crashing noise behind them and realize with a shock that the blue symbiote that was living on the Energ has followed them, bent on revenge.
The girl pushes the speed control on the floater to its maximum and puts all her considerable concentration on flight, as Edge puts his back against hers and concentrates on the huge beast bearing down on them.
Edge: Damn, it's gaining on us!
Edge tries firing a few shots, but the gun just doesn't do enough damage to deter their pursuer from its pursuit. If all that wasn't bad enough, the girl sees the elevator ahead begin to close its doors!
With great skill, she manages to slip the floater inside the elevator's shell at the absolute last second,
causing the monster chasing them to slam heavily into the elevator, knocking itself out in the process. Edge and the girl take advantage of the moment of tranquility to hop off the floater and get back to solid ground.
this will bring us to the surface.
Edge: Are you sure they won't follow us?
Girl: They never stray too far from their nests. We're safe now.
Edge: ...I hope you're right.
Leaning against the floater and sliding to the ground in exhaustion, Edge takes out a bit of jerky, and after tearing off a bit with his teeth, offers it to the girl.
Edge: Wanna bite? I never asked your name.
Girl: It's Azel.
Edge: Strange name.
Azel: It was inscribed on the bed where I awoke.
Azel: The place where I slept for thousands of years.
...I am different from you. I may look human like you, but internally, I am closer to the creatures we've been fighting. Only my powers are different.
Edge: ...Powers? Why did you attack me?
Azel: You stand in his way...
There she goes, protecting Craymen again. What could possibly be her motivation to shield such a ruthless, conniving, despicable man?
Edge: Why do you protect him!?
Azel: He is trying to save the world...return it to its former state. I will not allow anyone who stands in his way to come near him.
Edge: You fool! He's a lying murderer! To gain control of the Tower, he killed my Captain and my friends! Azel, he's lying to you!
Azel pauses, and looks visibly distressed at these stories of her savior. A moment of compassion?
Azel: Perhaps, but he woke me from my eternal sleep. That is why I defend him...
Edge: I was at your excavation site. I was sent by the Empire to defend the workers. They were all good people...
But as soon as you were found, we were betrayed. Without warning, we were attacked by our own fleet...and now I'm being chased by the Empire as well...
Azel: I'm sorry...
Azel: I am sorry. You are supposed to apologize at a time like this. I was taught...
She was taught? What is she going on about? Before Edge can explore this new development further, she changes the subject.
Azel: Let me ask, how do you control the dragon? They are not creatures easily handled by ordinary men.
Edge: I'm not really sure...I think...
Suddenly, the elevator compartment begins trembling wildly, and Edge and Azel are tossed about like rag dolls.
The creature is indeed back, and it is *pissed*, as the interior of the elevator is soon littered with dents from the impact of the beast's frenzied attacks. It pries the doors open and pulls the front edge of the elevator downard, sending Edge and Azel tumbling towards the abyss...
And leaving the two of them hanging on for dear life. As strong as Edge is, he cannot support the weight of two people on one hand, and his grip begins to slip.
"This is bad...", he remarks, moments before his grip fails and he and Azel are left to plummet to their deaths...but wait...the top door of the shaft is open, and Edge can see the bright light of day beyond it...and there appears to be a black speck in the middle of the shaft, growing larger all the time...now it looks like it's resolving into a shape...!?!?!?!?!?
In the nick of time, Edge's faithful dragon swoops down the elevator shaft and plucks our hero (and Azel) out of the air, returning him to his back, where he finally feels safe again.
Reunited with Roderick, Edge now feels invincible,
and not even the malevolent stare of the beast that returns to chasing them as they fly out of the shaft can put a dent in his confident mood.
It wants revenge. Do you think we can kill it?
Edge: It's no match for my dragon!
And with that, the battle with Basilus begins. The beast skims along the surface of the water, from time to tome causing it to explode in a powerful, damaging column. It also has four Absorbora attached to its back, and Edge quickly discovers that those are best taken care of from a vantage point that doesn't invite retaliation (meaning, attacking the Absorbora from a direction they're not facing).
Once an Absorbora on the back of the Basilus is destroyed, a weak point is exposed. Edge decides to use his gun with a new attachment he picked up in Zoah, the Sniper, which reduces overall damage but does great damage when hitting weak points. With this solid strategy in hand, nothing the Basilus can throw at our heroes can delay the inevitable...
and the great creature sinks, defeated, into the ocean.
Edge: What did I tell ya?
Edge: What's wrong, Azel?
Azel: Atolm calls. I must leave...
But, before she can, she gets to see something totally fucking badass.
Oh boy oh boy oh boy...
I think I'm gonna ...
Here it comes!!!!
The next morning dawns bright and clear, with a melancholy Azel staring off to sea, her loyalties starting to conflict with each other. Her first loyalty is still to Craymen, and as she leaves, she sharply reminds Edge of that fact.
Azel: Or else...we will...have to kill you.
Astride Atolm once more,
Edge can do nothing but watch...
as his new friend and her dragon fly off into the sunset, and he has the awful feeling that try as he might, he and Roderick...and Azel and Atolm...will once again be locked in battle before all is said and done.