X awoke to total darkness. For one terrifying moment, he thought he had gone blind. That's when he realised that his face was cradled in his shaking arms. Feeling like a bit of a jerkoff, X raised his head and turned halfway around to check if the others had survived the happy little trip through the electric force field.
Celeste was slouched forward, unconscious. Her coarse brown hair tumbled over her head, hiding her lifeless face. She was still in place, on her seat, due to the fact that she had donned her seatbelt earlier (Can you find the hidden message, boys and girls? :] ) "Well, she's in one piece." X thought dully. "That's something." Forrest was a rather comical sight...it seemed like he had not bothered with his seatbelt, and had taken a nasty spill when X had collided with the force field. He was also unconscious, and his face was pressed up right against the leather backing of the seat. X knew that Forrest would smother unless he was pulled away from the upholstery. Then again, Forrest smothering to death didn't sound too bad...at least X would be spared his annoying comments and "suggestions". However, the blue reploid knew that he couldn't kill his new partner. Celeste and several of the other Hunters had taken somewhat of a liking to him. Still, X was tempted to dump the unconscious reploid overboard and go on. The titanium titan could be a mean little bugger when he wanted to be.
The actual collision with the force field was a hazy image in the back of X's head...he could remember Forrest flailing his platinum arms wildly, shouting "Wrong way! Wrong way! What in the name of Gazooga ARE you doing!?!", while Celeste screamed her mother's name. X had ignored their wails and kept up the charge to the force field. Once contact with the force field was established, there had been a blinding glare and a tremendous *crack!* of either the force field giving way, or the Gryphon falling apart under the strain of being flung towards a stationary object with a few thousand volts of electricity running though it. X could remember intense heat, then suddenly waking up on the other side of the field, his head in his arms.
X shook his sore head, then landed a well - aimed punch to Forrest's platinum - armoured shoulder. That pushed his face away from the back of the chair, all right. It woke him up as well. Two birds with one stone.
Forrest opened and closed his eyes once. He gaped stupidly, like a fish pulled out of the ocean. "Uh...what...?"
X was disgusted at Forrest for no legitimate reason. He just felt like HURTING someone. It had been a feeling that the azure reploid had always repressed...a feeling bred by the jealousy X had experienced when Zero stole his thunder, played hero, etc. X knew that he would feel better if he talked about it with someone...or if he beat the holy God out of Zero. But Zero was such a likable guy (most of the time) that X could never think of actually taking a shot at him. Besides, with Zero's strength, the scarlet reploid would probably have him pinned, torn apart, and fed to the lions before X had even raised his arm cannon. So X had always done nothing. Sometimes in life you meet an arrogant putz or two. You have to learn to deal with them.
"Welcome back to reality." X hissed. "We're on the other side of the force field, Celeste is unconscious, and I have absolutely NO idea about what we're gonna do now!"
Forrest shook his head, trying to clear it. "X..."
"Why did you try to kill us like that?"
"Because if I didn't ATTEMPT to get us past the force field who would? You and Celeste were too busy singing about beer to even care."
Forrest seemed slightly annoyed. " That was your attempt to get us past the force field?! What the hell kind of attempt was that? You could have hurt someone. In fact, who knows if Celeste was strong enough to handle this ordeal? Look, she's still out cold. X my friend, I'm sorry to say this, but you have no logic whatsoever."
"Yeah, well you know what Forrest? You can take your 'logic' and jam it. I leave you to decide where."
Before Forrest had a chance to retort, a faint groan sounded from beside him. Celeste raised her head and flipped her matted hair out of her eyes. Her groggy gaze fixed on X.
"X....are you INSANE!?" She croaked weakly. "Do you have a death wish or something? If you were attempting to kill yourself, fine. But did you have to try and take me and Forrest WITH you?"
X didn't answer. Instead, he turned away from the dazed duo, cracked his knuckles, and gripped onto the controls of the immobile Gryphon.
"You know, neither of you has thanked me for getting to the other side of the force field." X said in a quiet voice. "But I won't rant on. I'll just mentally damn you two to hell, if that's okay."
Celeste and Forrest looked at each other and shrugged. "Fine with us."
"Okay, good. I'm done. Now, to business. The front door of Vile's fortress is just meters ahead of us. What should we do?"
Celeste spoke up. "I say that we use the Gryphon to charge down the door."
X couldn't argue with that plan. What else could they do? "Allllrighty then." He tried to start the engine of the blue behemoth. Instead of the usual healthy roar of the riding armour starting up, there was a sick, coughing sound from the engine before it died completely.
"Uh oh." X muttered. He tried again. This time, the engine merely sputtered.
"Aw, NUTS!" X tried one more time. There was no sound whatsoever. The engine was completely dead.
"Bloody freakin' hell! This tears it!!"
There was no doubt that the engine had been damaged by the force field. Its electrical current couldn't have been healthy for the Gryphon. X wondered just how damaged the armour was. He tried to lower the levitation platform. The controls didn't respond. This was bad.
Just as X was trying to think about how they were going to go on, a hearty thump from the roof of the Gryphon startled him out of his thoughts. Whatever had landed on top of the riding armour stood for a minute...then it started to walk about. There was the faint click click of large, SHARP talons scraping on the damaged titanium metal. The thing paused again, and X could have sworn he heard something snuffing at the roof of the Gryphon. Something searching for its next victim. But what was IT? A Maverick? Or something else?
Celeste had heard the thump as well. She sucked in her breath. "Just what is on our roof?"
"Whatever it is, it's big," Forrest noted. "and heavy. Look at the ceiling above me!"
X looked, and sure enough there was a large, convex bulge right above where Forrest was sitting. The platinum reploid quickly and wisely scooted over, away from the bulge.
X sighed. What a day. "Forrest, Cain mentioned to me that there's an emergency escape hatch on the roof. Do you see those rungs behind you?"
"Right above them is the hatch. Can you see it? It's on the ceiling."
"Oh yeah, there it is."
"Well, be a good little boy, climb the rungs, open the hatch and describe our guest, will you?"
Forrest returned his nervous gaze to the unmoving lump. Whatever it was, it was rather close to the hatch. If Forrest happened to do what X had asked him, the 'thing' would undoubtedly see him. Forrest had no idea what would happen then, but he guessed that he would most likely have his head ripped right off. Yet, Forrest knew that X was really having a hard time with this showdown. Everything was going wrong for the poor guy. "I guess he just doesn't have the leadership skills that Zero has...or had." Forrest thought to himself.
"Alright, X." Forrest said aloud. "I'll go and say howdy - do to our new friend." Celeste shifted over so that Forrest could get a hold of the rungs and haul himself up to the hatch. It was far from a long climb, and in no time at all, Forrest found himself struggling to open the hatch as quietly as possible...
Mission accomplished. The hatch had opened without a squeak. Below, X motioned for Celeste to remain still.
Forrest poked his head through the Gryphon's roof. The sun was beginning to set, and the cool summer evening breeze made Forrest feel a lot better after being stuck the stuffy riding armour for such a long time. That is, he felt a lot better until he actually saw what was on their roof. The creature wasn't looking at Forrest at all. It seemed interested in getting into the Gryphon. It stood still, snuffling around the roof, which seemed to be horribly damaged. Layers of titanium had peeled off as a result of the crash, and what was left was scorched and weak. The metal sagged dangerously under the weight of the 'thing'.
The 'thing' was reptilian. That much was certain. It stood upright, and its pebbly, beige skin took on an orange hue from the setting sun. Blood red markings were slashed across its back in an uneven pattern. Forrest was eye level with the creature's powerful back legs...which housed claws that were almost as long as Forrests' fingers.
The reptile suddenly reared its head, picking up an unfamiliar scent. It turned around. Seeing Forrest, it stooped its long, supple neck and slowly began to walk towards the reploid. Forrest noted nervously that the animal had a gleam of intelligence in its yellow eyes.
"What IS that thing...?" Forrest thought. "I've read about some creature that looked like this, but I can't remember where. It seems so familiar....the claws...the long neck...the birdlike walk...the intelligence..."
Then it hit Forrest.
"Ye GODS!" Forrest ducked his head back into the Gryphon, slammed the latch, and jumped down the rungs all at once. A bare second later, the velociraptor that Forrest had been staring at charged to the latch, its gaping maw striking the empty air that used to be where Forrest's head was.
Back in the Gryphon, Forrest clutched his heart, wheezing. As soon as he had recovered, the raptor above shrieked like a banshee, cheated of its prey. That unnerved Forrest all over again. He jumped to the front of the riding armour, and flung his arms around X's neck, screaming, "Raptor!! RAPTOR!! Don't let it get me!! HAAALLLP!"
X pried Forrest off him. He inwardly grinned. Here was big bad Forrest , Mr. Perfecto himself, screaming like a baby.
"Now now, Forrest. Take it easy. That nasty old...uh, what did you say was on our roof again?"
"I'm sorry, Forrest. I think my hearing is going. Did you just say a velociraptor was on our roof?"
"YES!!! A velociraptor! One of those nasty, carnivorous dinosaurs from millions of years back! And it's gonna KILL US! We're all gonna DIE!!"
"Calm down, Forrest. Are you saying that Vile built a mechanical dinosaur, which is on our roof right now?"
"No, you ijit! I'm saying that this THING on our roof is a flesh and blood creature!" Forrest wailed.
X was proud of how calmly he was taking the situation. But if what Forrest was saying was true, then there was a problem.
"Where in the name of Light would Vile get a dinosaur?" X thought aloud.
"Who knows what goes on over there?" Celeste said as she nervously kept her eye on the bulge in the ceiling. It had started to move around again. "I've heard rumours about Vile having some sort of 'giant lizard' that was created through some sort of freaky genetics procedure."
"Genetics!?" X sputtered. "Those idiot Mavericks probably couldn't take care of a tomato garden, let alone recreate something like a prehistoric creature."
Above, the annoyed raptor screamed like a dying man.
"Ugh." Celeste shuddered. "Wouldn't want THAT thing getting a hold of me. X, how are we going to get rid of this?"
"How should I know? Maverick Hunter training doesn't include a course on 'What do to if a hungry velocirapor is perched on your roof'!"
"I'm aware of that." Celeste growled. "I'm par t of the Maverick Hunters too, remember?"
X nodded. "Of course. That's why you're going to kill this thing for us."
Celeste looked blank. "What?"
"Celeste, according to Forrest's delirious ranting and raving, the roof is damaged badly, and can't hold much weight. If Forrest or I went up on the roof to kill that lizard - thing, it would most likely collapse. Combined with the weight of the dinosaur, we'd be to heavy for it. Then we'd have the raptor INSIDE, and you don't want that. Trust me. You're much lighter than Forrest and myself. You might make it, and be able to get rid of that thing.
Celeste couldn't believe what she was hearing. "But X, you and Forrest have full suits of titanium to protect yourselves...all I have is a vest of titanium. Plus, you and Forrest have arm cannons. I have a lousy lightsabre."
"You're very skilled at close combat." X tried to reason with her. "Come on Celeste, you're our only hope. Right, Forrest?"
Forrest just lay curled up in the seat beside X, shaking.
"See, Forrest agrees. Tell you what, Celeste. At least get the thing off the Gryphon. Then I'm sure that the roof would hold long enough to allow me to jump down and shoot the bugger. Remember, you're a Maverick Huntress...which means you should be ready to face any danger."
Celeste was annoyed with the way X made it all seem like the raptor was as easy to kill as an iguana. He should talk...reploids were much better equipped for killing the big nasties, while human Hunters were supposed to handle smaller enemies.
"All right X. I'll go. But that thing will probably have me for dinner."
"That's no attitude, Celeste. The rungs are over there. Good luck. You need it."
Celeste mumbled something about a scrapyard as she unsheathed the lightsabre