Part 17: Disc 3, Part 3
The true cruelty of the Empire hits Edge like a ton of bricks. They knew Vaiman was responsible for sending the dragon after the Air Force post, and yet instead of arresting him (which they easily could have done), they destroyed the whole town. So many innocent lives lost...Edge is sickened by the sight. And yet it seems to make no sense. Wasn't the Empire occupying Zoah in the first place for the Guardian Fire? Why destroy the town and deprive themselves of their prize?
Suddenly, Edge realizes their purpose. After he destroyed the air force post, the Empire's focus became one thing and one thing only:
The destruction of Zoah was simply a lure to bring Edge out of hiding...to get him to chase after that massive ship, which they must think powerful enough to neutralize the dragon long enough to capture him. Even though he knows that a trap is being laid, Edge vows to avenge Zoah. The Empire must pay!
Unfortunately, he can't do anything about the Empire right now - not with an unconscious Azel still lying in his arms. With Zoah a smoking wreck, Edge has nowhere to go but his own camp, allowing the Empire to retreat for the moment and prepare themselves for battle.
By the time he returns to camp, Azel is still out cold, and Edge is beginning to worry. He still has no idea how to help her, however, and with Paet dead, no idea of anyone else who could help either. He figures that he's just going to have to leave her here for now - his camp is secluded, so he's not particularly worried about monster attacks - and decides to resume his quest for the moment, resolving to do what he can to help her when the opportunity arises.
But, for now, his curiosity has taken over, as he realizes that with Roderick's latest change in form, he has finally achieved level 4 laser rank, and might finally get all the way to whatever is hiding inside Shelcoof! Back to Georgius!
After arriving, Edge heads straight for the final level 4 pyramid, the one that he is now finally able to open. Firing a volley of lock-on lasers, the flow of energy out of the pyramid is so strong...
back of that ship!
Once inside, Edge and Roderick fly through the long corridor as normal...until they are stopped by a sudden crackling of energy in the center of the tube.
The ghost dragon leads them down the corridor, through doors that had stopped Edge in the past...
and finds the end of the corridor at last, which leads to a room called the Genesis Chamber.
but what is it doing in here!?)
Edge grabs the contents of the item boxes and then re-examines the Dragon Crest. It looks a lot like the one he found in the ruins at the excavation site, right before Roderick showed up...could there be another dragon here?
Just what is...this?
Hmm...guess not. It looks like a young Coolia, actually - a flying one, true, but still.
Regardless of what it is, it's following Roderick around now, and it won't leave. Edge figures that there's no harm in letting the pup tag along with them, turns around, and leaves the ship for the final time.
Once outside, Edge figures that the ship has given him all that it can, and decides that it is time to destroy Shelcoof. He begins opening fire on the large wings protruding from the side of the ship...
and is suddenly grabbed by tendrils of energy from the back of the ship, pulling him away. After fighting them off, Edge returns to firing at the wings, eventually doing enough damage...
to start the great ship exploding.
Taking a quick detour, Edge and Roderick head for Uru, to pick up the final level 4 item box there, which contains D Unit 5. They are trailed the whole time they are there by the pup they found in Shelcoof, who at one point proves useful by flying off into the sky, bringing back an item when Roderick calls him back. Still, as they fly back to camp, Edge can tell that the new pup is definitely following Roderick and not him.
With Shelcoof destroyed, Uru cleaned out, and Azel still unconscious. Edge has no choice but to attack the remainder of the Imperial fleet, which is still hovering over the smoldering ruins of Zoah, taunting him.
The dragon is approaching fast! We will attempt to intercept.
Grig Orig: Roger. Good luck.
There is no subterfuge or deception this time. The dragon is coming, and Edge wants the Empire to know it. Judging by the radio chatter, the giant ship that destroyed Zoah is called the "Grig Orig" - with a name to put to the horror, Edge finds his resolve strengthened to destroy it.
The fighter squadron that initially attempts to intercept goes down quickly, giving way to a patrol of Enforcers, the smaller gunships.
Enforcers engaging the enemy. So, this is the infamous dragon...
We cannot fail before his highness. This day is ours. Obliterate the fool!
Needless to say, the Enforcers don't end up oblierating anything. Neither do a second squadron of Stingers...or a third...or a Punisher attack group. Soon, Edge has fought his way all the way to the flagship: Grig Orig.
The east convoy's been annihilated. They've breached our defensive line.
All weapons, lock on! Hit it with everything we've got! Commence anti-air artillery strike!
The ship is so big that Edge cannot even fly all the way around it - his only attack options are from the front, rear, and left side. Setting up on the left side, Edge opens fire with the lock-on lasers, doing plenty of damage...so much, in fact, that the ship begins to overheat, and must open an exhaust port on the rear of the ship.
And as anyone who's ever seen Star Wars knows, exhaust ports are the weak points of giant ships with huge, world-destroying beams as their main weapon.
After doing plenty of damage from the rear, the exhaust port closes, and Edge resolves to start pounding away at the Grig Orig's armor with the lock-ons again, when suddenly an exhuast port opens on the front side!
Swinging up there, Edge resumes pounding on the weak point with his Sniper gun attachment, eventually doing enough damage to the flagship to shut it down.
...for approximately three seconds, as no sooner has the Grig Orig's life bar emptied that it begins to refill, as the huge engineering staff on the Empire's flagship goes to work, repairing the damage caused by the dragon with lightning speed.
Engine Room... power reestablished.
Cannon tower... operational.
Flight deck, replacement complete.
All repairs completed. Ship stable.
Edge listens to the status updates in disbelief...even the power of his dragon is nothing compared to the might and durability of the Grig Orig!
All units clear the blast area!
Still, his failure to destroy the great ship soon heads to the back of his mind, as the cannon that leveled Zoah charges up and prepares to fire!
Being inside the beam of the Imperial Cannon is the worst Edge has felt in his entire life. The red-tinted air is hot enough to boil the blood in his veins, the noise is deafening, and he cannot breathe.
Roderick's power continues to protect him, and the two survive without a scratch. Edge has now thrown his best up against Grig Orig to no avail, and the flagship's most powerful attack has done no damage to the dragon. What will break this stalemate?
Zastava and the Black Fleet showing up! Looks like Craymen's offer to help went both ways...but as the majority of the fleet goes to engage the Imperials, Zastava himself breaks off from the formation, and instead heads towards Edge.
Zastava: Did you really think you could just run away from this, Edge?! My Lord has instructed me to leave you alone, but he is a fool.
and destroy the Empire!!!
Zastava's ship, the Spectre, is as nimble as it was at Uru. Almost effortlessly, Craymen's lieutenant is able to dodge out of the way of nearly anything Edge can throw at him.
Berserk techniques seem to work, however, and Edge remembers that a little while ago, Roderick learned his own version of Atolm's Berserker Rage. There's no better time to use it...than now!
The Spectre begins to explode, and Zastava knows that his time is up.
I killed your friends. You've avenged their souls...
Was revenge enough, Edge!?
My Lord is different...go meet him...
He waits...at...the Tower...
And with those final words, Zastava pilots the Spectre into a suicide run at the Grig Orig, and is gone.
Wearied from the battle and more than ready to let the Empire and the Black Fleet slug it out, Edge and Roderick turn back to rest at camp...
where they are greeted by a happy dragon pup at their return. After greeting the pup, Edge turns to check on Azel, and notices a couple of letters left on the ground near the unconscious girl.
Edge has no choice left but to trust Craymen, as he is very worried that Azel is still unconscious. Besides, the Tower was always his goal anyway, and now he can finally make it there. Leaping back on Roderick, he takes to the air again, bound for the Tower at last.
Step onto the light...
A circle of light appears on the floor, and when Edge steps onto it, it carries him through the Tower, face to face with Craymen himself.
Watch the screen. Take a good look at death itself. The Flagship Grig Orig.
such power... That fleet, that Tower, it all belongs in the Ancient Age.
Edge: ...What about you? What are you doing here?
Craymen: Come with me. I have something to show you.
As Edge and Craymen slide through the Tower on circles of light, he notices a stream bubbling along beside them.
Craymen: The path to Uru. ...That is the purpose of these ruins, or what we call the Tower. It creates a habitable environment for an already dead planet... To this day, we're protected by the power of the Ancient Age.
I'm sure you've grown to loathe the monsters. They have a purpose. Essentially, they act as the caretakers of the ecosystem. Their actions, all, are to protect mankind from extinction.
Edge: They protect us!? What are you talking about!?
Craymen: Even in your short involvement with the Empire, you must have learned. Their actions are nothing but an endless waste of resources, war, and death.
...Even if the Tower restores the world, the humans will just consume and destroy it again. Someone, or something, must take control of everything. Or we shall continue to destroy ourselves forever.
This world was constructed by the ancient ones as a delicate balance. The Tower, the monsters, everything is interwoven...
among the ancient ones. After centuries of fighting, the warring factions built this.
It's nearly impossible to destroy the Tower from the outside. But it is possible to break inside, and take control of it. Especially if the intruder was one of those monsters...Azel was the weapon created for that purpose.
The Emperor discovered this and searched for her. But I found her first. Yes, she is the one. I freed her from her ancient duty and gave her a new objective...
The screens come to life again, showing more scenes of the Grig Orig and the massive Imperial fleet.
Edge: The Empire!?
Craymen: They are trying to control as much biological technology as possible. Those fools...they cannot even handle normal weapons. They'll never be able to
wield such power...
But, there is no one left to stop them.
Edge: What do you want me to do?
Craymen: Nothing...I merely set the stage. You must fulfill your own destiny, in your own way.
As Edge turns to leave, he realizes the truism of what Craymen is saying...but as he goes, he has one thing left to say.
Still, he dashes for Roderick and mounts the dragon, ready to take on the Empire once more. As he flies through the azure corridors of the Tower, he hears Craymen's voice booming over the intercom.
invading the top of the Tower, and they're heading for the control area...
Edge: Craymen...we'll finish this, when I return.
Craymen: And... I look forward to seeing you return safely...
Passing through the corridor leading from the chamber where Azel was being revived, Edge finds himself in a vast vertical chamber, stretching upwards into the darkness.
Edge: What's this? Is this the center of the Tower?
Craymen: The Tower consists of vast areas connected by gates. Fly to the top. The gate to the shortest route is already open.
As Edge flies through the corridors in the upper floors, however, he is continually attacked by advance groups of Imperial ships.
(...The Imperial Forces are much faster than I expected...There's too many...)
As if reading his thoughts, he hears the voice of Craymen ring out once more.
invaded the upper floors of the Tower. You don't have much time before they reach you. Go to the upper floors, and hit their Transport Ship.
Edge: So you're just going to sit back and watch, huh?
Craymen: I want to fight...but it would be in vain. You're my only hope now.
With no choice but to press on, Edge continues to climb the Tower...up to the 5th floor...the 8th...the 11th...the 13th...
to their ship!?
Craymen: Fly through the center, and it's one floor above. Hurry, Edge.
Making his way to the next floor, he hears Craymen again.
Craymen: That's the upper floor of the Tower. The presence of the Transport Ship was verified. This is it...
to rid this world of the Empire!
The "transport ship" that Craymen was talking about, however, turns out to be an extremely combat-capable ship, called the Exterminator!
Our reports were correct. Attack!
The Exterminator comes equipped with a rotating magnetic cannon, a missile launcher, a weak spot in the front, and a safe zone in the rear. Edge, as always, uses the safe zone to charge the gauges, then swings around to hit the weak point, using Roderick's speed to stay out of harm's way...
for the most part. Still, as always, Edge and Roderick get the better of the Empire's best,
landing the killing blow and feeling pretty good about themselves, until they get a load of the radio chatter coming from the dying Exterminator.
Ship hull integrity dropping. Danger! Captain, the reactor is overheating!
A message from the Main Fleet...bottom floor of the Tower is secured. Our sacrifice was not in vain.
Long live the... Aaaaagghh...
The bottom floor of the Tower is secured? With a gasp, Edge realizes - it was all a trap! The invasion of the upper floors of the Tower was nothing but a ruse to pull Roderick away from Craymen and Azel. Cursing the Empire's deviousness, he dashes at top speed back down to the bottom floor of the Tower...
but as soon as he gets there, he knows he is already too late.
As Edge runs in to what he already knows to be true, he sees Azel, stripped of Craymen's coat; Craymen himself, bound and on his knees; an Imperial guard, holding a gun to Craymen's head; and a man in red robes in a floating chair, who can only be the Emperor.
Emperor: Oh, you're in for a real bad day.
Craymen, you'll pay for your crimes. As for the hunter, there are some rather uncomfortable experiments in store for you. You can control the dragon, I want to know how to obtain such power.
Even bound and threatened as he is, Craymen is ever crafty, and slides a handgun out from his sleeve, taking one last shot at the Emperor - which bounces harmlessly off a full suit of body armor the despot is wearing under his robes.
Emperor: I expected no less from you, Craymen. And now, you will die.
The Emperor opens fire with a hidden machine gun in the arm of his chair, riddling Craymen with bullets as he rolls painfully across the floor. A stricken Azel runs over to him, sobbing, as the megalomaniacal Emperor proclaims his triumph.
Emperor: At last...the world shall be mine...
Open the gate, Azel!
With this proclamation, the Emperor seems to be correct, as the Tower's internal lights begin to activate, tendrils of energy creeping up the walls...
until Azel, who has been weeping over the prostrate body of Craymen the whole time, lets out a heartwrenching scream of anguish...
summoning another one of the monsters that Edge remembers from his first encounter, back in the mine. (Again, without his bazooka!)
The creature's first act is to kill the Emperor, shooting a bladelike appendage out at him, knocking off his chair with such force that he is dead before he hits the floor. As the guard turns to uselessly fire his weapon at the beast, drawing its attention and getting himself killed in the process, Edge goes for his own gun.
Unfortunately, his own shots don't seem to any more damage than the guard's machine gun, although it does seem to stun the monster a bit. Running for Azel, he starts to help her up, when he hears Craymen croak his final words.
Craymen: Edge...your destiny...
The monster extends his appendage a final time, spearing Craymen straight through the chest, ending his life as well.
The man he desired to kill for so long is dead...and Edge has no idea how to feel. True, he had not forgiven him, but Craymen had saved Azel, explained to him the inner workings of the Tower, and fought against the Empire just as Edge did. All that is left to feel at the moment is anger at the creature that killed him and is currently endangering his and Azel's life, so he fires...and fires...and continues to fire until the monster lies still.
Exiting the Tower, Edge has never seen a more reassuring sight than the faithful Roderick waiting for him...
and once again, Edge and Azel mount the dragon and prepare to make their escape. As they fly away, however, it becomes apparent that Azel was able to do much more with her cry of despair than summon a single monster.
Um, who ordered the massive swarm of bio-weaponry?
Looks like the mass of monsters issuing forth from the Tower aren't all bad, eh?
Grig Orig: Communications are down! All of our battleships are destroyed.
But before the cannon can fire, an advance swarm of monsters makes a kamikaze run on the Grig Orig...
destroying the cannon before it can fire. With their prime weapon out of commission, the Grig Orig is overwhelmed with the sheer number of monsters assailing it...
And is completely overcome.