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Title: LoE 4: Lessons in Manliness or, Suicide Notes Author: Svywranth

[ed. note: LoE 3 and 5 are apparently lost in the time and space. If you happend to find them, feel free to submit them to the MaraFF]

Most bad guys hang out in abandoned warehouses, or other inner city altars of filth. Similarly, many like to be around gloom and darkness. This often means temples to greater daemons or dark castles or something icky like that.

Every so often there comes a bad guy who steps away from the norm, and dwells in brightly lit, spacious, and immaculately clean surroundings. While few and far between, these antagonists shine out from the sea of courruption like shining jewels.

Actually, they don't neccesarily shine. Or stand out, for that matter.

But it sounds much more poetic if I say they do.

Anyway, one such nemesis- Bright and clean- was Sparkles.

The juggernaut- neon pink in color- slowly floated amongst the halls of his starside fortress. The fortress was hacked together from stolen battleships and stranded derelicts, found all over the galaxy, and collected from all races known to the Pfhor. The fort had everything; Sturdy Nar framework, solid S'Pht armoring, powerful Jjarro defense systems and cloaking devices, versatile Human computer networks- The works. Also the perfect fortress for defending against soft organic troops- The whole fort was exposed to the chill and weightlessness of the black vaccuum of space. No organic being could survive within, wihtout the aid of special armor. The juggernaut inhabitants had no need for such things as warmth, air, and gravity. The fortress was, truly, a masterpiece of engineering in the name of pain and destruction (and other vices/curses/elements of life that make it fun.)

Save for one thing; a useful mode of transportation.

If he could make it go somewhere, Sparkles would be able to use this conglomeration of parts to wreak havoc amongst any who stood in his way. But this was impossible as long as it just drifted. For years he had sought an engine powerful and efficient enough to make his device of war ride onward to glory, but he had found none. As such, it drifted further and further away from Pfhor space, and slowly approached hostile Vylae space. If Sparkles did not find a suitable engine soon, his plans- standard bad guy plans for domination- would come crashing down on him like coconuts thrown from a slap-happy monkey with an adrenaline rush (or an equivalent of that ilk.).

So that's what Sparkles did. Looked for an engine.

Now, back to the story.... Oh, yes. Now, Sparkles, in a sort of gloom that only a depressant, enlarged Juggernaut can have, wandered his battleship. Beside him floated his consort, Gumdrops. Gumdrops was not as large as his master, yet huge in his own right. He sported a bright baby-blue shell and a recently added coat of wounds. The poor Juggernaut was busy gibbering a long series of apologies and compliments. He had been doing such, non-stop, for the past week. Sparkles appreciated what he thought was the only sign of loyalty the little jugg had shown since he failed in his mission a week earlier.

The two soon came across evidence of that failure. Entering a large chamber, they gazed upon a preservation cylinder. The liquid inside was specially designed to present the corrosion of metal. Floating inside this liquid was the metallic remains of a periwinkle Jugg.

Sparkles gazed upon the remains of Bubblegum with both derision and sadness. Bubblegum was one of his favorites. And he was scrapped thanks to the incompetence of Gumdrops. Sparkle's temper flared and he turned on the babbling Gumdrops with a malevolent fury. Gumdrops cowered in place, without stopping his babbling.

Sparkles lifted the baby blue jugg high above his head with an outstretched claw. Gumdrops hurried tha pace of his praises, to the point where he sounded like he was screaming. With a mighty toss, Sparkles sent Gumdrops through a observation portal into the orbit around the fortress, babbling all the way.

Sparkles turned once again to the preservation chamber. A snap of his jaw brought forth a Drone retainer hovering in the shadows. Sparkles transferred a series of commands via remote binary info feed to the drone, which then began to carry its orders out.

The little drone floated over to the main input/output console of the computer that controlled and monitored the preservation tube. It adjusted several settings and connections, and the preservation tube slowly detached from its holdings and floated eerily in the chamber. Five drones floated out and carried it away through the maze-like network of passages that made up the fort. Sparkles watched demurely before teleporting to his council chamber in a shower of static energy.

Sparkles' favorite hang was an immense cavern. Its walls were lined with monitors, displays, and holo-viewers, all tuned to every imagined station and frequency that one could conceive from all races and all nations. The Juggernaut's powerful, artificial mind saw all of these and watched all, constantly absorbing information and data in a non-stop stream of news, documentaries, and kid's television shows. Particularly this last one; Sparkles knew evey episode of Wonder Monkeys by heart.

But now, Wonder Monkeys wasn't playing. It was cancelled two months ago.

Instead of monitoring his info feed like he was supposed to, Sparkles sat in contemplation. His plans were starting to loosen. He needed to come up with an new strategy; brute force hadn't worked as well as he had planned.

Days passed as the ageless mechanoid pondered on what to do. The only thought that filed through his mind was brute force. As a being programmed for brute force, he couldn't really think of much else. So he shrugged to himself and decided to stick with his old plan; kidnap any involved personnel, kill the rest, and blow lots of stuff up in the process- a train of thought that had evolved from the thinking patterns of a species that had lived and died out many years ago; the Quake player.

But history is the subject of another (most likely boring) chapter.

Opening his mouth in a shriek of summoning, Sparkles called out to one of his most loyal servants.

"DEWDROPS!"

In a flash so fast in coming it could have happened before Sparkles had bellowed command, a pale pastel yellow juggernaut sprang into the chamber. It was identical to the normal, series-4 Juggernaut; the ones that were famous for their assault on the Human and S'pht forces. This series-4 Juggernaut was equipped with something new, though- in place of its set of fangs and its large mouth, a cruel, razor-sharp beak curled down, tapering to a fine metal alloy tip sharp enough to pierce the strongest material known to any race.

Sparkles observed the newcomer. He like Dewdrops for many reasons, least among them his color. No, this was not an attractive Juggernaut- but he had a sadistic streak in him that had made even Admiral Tfear cower in terror many years ago. Now, this being of evil hovered before Sparkles, the absolute embodiment of murder, rape, and pillaging.

Sparkles smiled wickedly and addressed his warrior.

"Dewdrops. You are undying in your loyalty to the Legions, are you not?" A small drop of acid leaked from Sparkle's mouth and floated, weightless, through the air.

Dewdrops grinned as best his beak could allow and bowed.

"I'll take that as a yes." Screeched Sparkles. "You have a new mission, now." Gesturing to a large holo-viewer emerging from the floor, Sparkles turned, alongside Dewdrops, to view the display.

The figure that faded into view was humanoid. It was dressed in a long cape, a set of robes, and a mask that hid its face. A tiara adorned its head, and words upon it read "Mediocre Burger." Below this tiara, a trio of firey eyes burned furiously. A badge upon the figure's front read "Hello, My Name Is F'Lush."

Dewdrops squinted at the the image and squeeled. Sparkles turned to face his cohort. "Do not underestimate this lowly Enforcer. He is the Mr. Special Chosen One. He single-handedly defeated Bubblegum a week ago, with nothing but his hands."

Dewdrops squawked.

The image blinked out and the holo-viewer slunk away. The two juggernauts faced eachother. Sparkles, being the only one capable of speech, spoke.

"You are set for long-distance teleportation at 25:12:16 K'lee'marks. You will go to the Merpfh international landing bay, on Pfhoria Prime. The subject will be arriving there five minutes after you. You are to capture him, alive. Use any and all means neccesary to take him; all we need intact is his torso and most of his head. He will be armed, and very dangerous, as well as accompanied by others. Do you understand?"

Dewdrops screeched.

"Good. You are to report immediately to Bio-Cybertechnics for secondary system upgrade."

Dewdrops bowed and faded out of view.

Sparkles sat for a while, thinking of what to do next. He summoned another Drone retainer, and conversed with it over a remote network, after disconnecting the printing processes in section #23. The drone departed to find out what happened to Gumdrops. in the meantime, Sparkles watched the various holo-viewers and displays.

"And now, on Kooking vith K'Luk, vee vill explore yet another method uv cooking Wasp bodies. Oh, how vee have a lot uv dead Wasps...."

".... In other news today, the wreckage left in the wake of a rampant Juggernaut's explosion in the city of P'Dunk was finally cleared out. The casualties so far have amounted to 12 dead and more that a hundred wounded...."

"New! Wow! Buy it Now! The Super buzz-tool. Watch it cut! Watch it slice! Watch how easily it severs this limb from this Nar slave! Watch how fast it cuts up the severed limb! Look at that blood fly. Fly, Blood, Fly. You can even cut through...."

"...Oh boy, Kids, Let's go to the Park. 'Okay, Blarney the Friendly Armageddon Beast!' "Oh look, it's our friend, Mr. Happy Jaws of Death. Wait a second.... That's Mr. Happy Jaws of Death's evil twin! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH- *crunch* 'Don't let this happen to you. Keep away...'"

"Are your war allowances adding up to just too much? Is the Empire draining you of every cent you own? Fight back! Join the Society for Just Plain Nuking The Humans. Together, we can stop this war."

The drone returned, Gumdrops following close behind. The baby blue juggernaut cowered behind the little drone, until it teleported away and the Jugg was left all alone with his master. He immediately began to babble more apologies and praises.

Sparkles raised a claw and slashed it, horizontally, through the air before him; The signal for silence. Gumdrops obeyed without question, shutting his flapping maw and shrinking down into a pitiful ball of terror. Sparkles glared and spoke his commands.

"You have a new assignment, Gumdrops. One of the accomplices of the Mr. Special Chosen One is positioned in a fast food restaraunt. You are to enforce Torment plan Betsy-Billy-Joe on him. Do you understand?"

Gumdrops muttered, then brought his voice up to barely audible levels.

"sureIguessso."

Sparkles nodded. "Then you are to depart immediately."

Gumdrops muttered a little more and teleported away.

Sparkles turned his attentions back to his displays.

"Now, at Omega Pyros Beta Burger, You can get a large Sigma Sandwich for just....

"..... One Large Sigma Sandwich? Oh, okay. That has been 1.1 Credit units. Your account has been docked accordingly. Thank you for purchasing your consumables from Omega Pyros Beta Burger. Remember, here at Omega Pyros Beta Burger, the customer isn't allways right, but we really, really like them."

The customer sat on the waiting bench as his order was being processed.

Pfhred finished ringing up the sales on the cash register and looked to see if there was anyone left in line. Everybody had been served, so he leaned back and thought to himself for a while.

He was in another fast-food restaraunt, remarkably similar to the Mediocre burger site that he had worked at a week and a half earlier. In fact, his former locale of employment was just a block down the busy arterial outside.

Pfhred had received a job at Omega Pyros Beta Burger immediately after they saw his resume; he had lied and said that he was in a management position at Mediocre Burger. Omega Pyros Beta Burger had thought they could glean some info from him on the tactics used by their competition, but they soon found out that Pfhred had not worked as management but as a lowly cash register attendant. He was still good at his job, though, so they kept him around.

And fond they were of keeping him around, indeed. He had been working a 15-hour shift for the past two weeks, and the strain was almost too much for the already stressed fighter to endure. But slacking off and staying home didn't retrieve much of a paycheck; although Pfhred could find as much pocket change as he wanted in between the filthy cushions of his couch, it wasn't enough to buy more than junk food.

But Pfhred had other things to worry about other than filling the holes in Legion of Eupfhoria's swiss-cheese like plot; he had a customer. The fighter straightened himself up, saluted the trooper that stood before him, took a quick glance at the greeting cheat sheet under the counter, and began his speech.

"Greetings, fellow citizen, and possibly civilian, and welcome to the most excellent fast food restaraunt in the history of the entire Empire, with the exception of Lord N'Fest'S's privately held, owned and operated personal salad bar. Today, in anticipation of your visit and subsequent patronage, we have prepared an excellently extensive selection of foods, drinks, side orders, appetizers, desserts and napkins. If it would please you, then I am prepared to take any and all orders that you might have, as long as they are related to the purchase and consumption of one or more of the foodstuff selections that we offer this fine day."

The trooper stared stupidly at Pfhred, and after a long minute of rest, recuperation, (and the normal pause that precedes a response directed by the oxygen-starved brain of a vacuum equipped Trooper) slowly opened his mouth.

"Yesss..... I'd like..... a...."

He was interupted by a large gong that sounded from the back of the restaraunt. Pfhred grinned and shouted something jubilous. The fighter then directed a pointed and slightly quivering finger at the trooper, and shouted.

"LUNCHTIME! In your face, dumbass! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

Pfhred spun about and dashed into the employee's lounge, leaving the stupified trooper staring at the small puff of smoke that was left in the wake of the departed Fighter.

The employee lounge of the restaraunt was a spacious room, decorated with a variety of dead potted plants and a few bean bag chairs. a large, flat, metal alloy disk on the carpet in the middle of the room was the closest thing to a table. Its purpose as such could have been discerned by the coffee stain rings that left a dull haze on the surface.

One of the chairs was occupied by K'As'Bah, a venerable Enforcer that lost his job many years ago and spent his remaining days hiding from the government in the virtually empty lounge. Nobody really knew what he did except for sleep, there... for that matter, nobody knew what he ate, or anything like that. This lack of knowlodge led to numerous rumors about the aged Pfhor. Some said he ate stray rats that found their way in from the nearby meat locker. Others said that all of the employees that didn't respect their bosses were fed to him when the two moons of K'Pook'Um were aligned with the seventh sea. Still others said that he just ate food that fell on the floor. Whatever it was that K'As'Bah ate, it had kept him strong and healthy all of these years.

After retrieving his small lunch from his locker, Pfhred entered the room and threw himself onto one of the bean bag chairs. K'As'Bah awoke at the noise and murmured something sleepily before yawning. The enforcer peered at the fighter, and the two of them grunted in greeting.

Pfhred began munching on the sandwich he had brought, smacking loudly and makng a mess of crumbs on the floor. While smacking, he looked over at K'As'Bah and started a conversation.

"Hey, Old Bit-" (A name most employees used to refer to the ancient Enforcer in an akward affecionate guy manner) "-Did you ever get to fight the Humans?"

The Enforcer furrowed his brow and munched on his lip, before peering at Pfhred and answering. "Nah, I fought them Drinniol, I did. Fought in that slave rebellion back thirty years ago.... ya, thirty years ago it was..... them drinniol, boy, are they mean ones...." He trailed off and sort of stared at the walls for a bit.

Pfhred gulped down a bite of sandwich and asked another question. "Had you graduated to Enforcer status yet?"

K'As'Bah shook his head. "No, no. I killed a Drinniol with my stick, I did.... Yes, I was a fighter. Yes. Yah.... then they were so impressed they made me an Enforcer, they did....." He trailed off again.

Pfhred finished his sandwich with a satisfied chomp and scratched at his head. "Cool. What's the initiation for the Enforcer order like?"

K'As'Bah shook his head. "No, no.... Can't say, no. It's a secret, it is..... against policy to say..." The enforcer nodded and fell asleep.

Pfhred watched him snore for a while, then got up and wandered back into the main part of the restaraunt. The clock on the wall showed that he still had half of his break left, so he went out back, to where most of the staff hung out during lunch.

Pfhred emerged into the mid-day sunlight, out behind the Omega Pyros Beta Burger outlet. He was surrounded by piles of trash, broken-down delivery trucks, Pfhred's shiny yet old hover-cycle, and a few Pfhor corpses, whom he didn't care much about, since he didn't know them when they were alive. Three other fighters lounged about. Two of them had little rolls of paper hanging out of their mouths. One was burning on the end.

Pfhred wandered over the where they stood. Everybody grunted a bit in greeting, then went back to just standing there. After staring dumbly at the paper rolls in his colleague's mouths, he decided to find out what they were.

"Hey, Tasz. What's that you have, there?" Pfhred pointed with one of the three fingers on his left hand.

Tasz grunted, looked down at the burning roll of paper, and then back at Pfhred. "It's something I got from the nearest military supply depot. Came from a Human colony. They call them 'Cigarettes.'"

Pfhred squinted a bit at it. "What does it do?"

Tasz shrugged. "Not much. It seems you put them in your mouth and set them on fire. I'm not sure what else happens, but it sure looks fashionable!"

Pfhred nodded. All four of the fighters grunted, then stared at eachother.

Pfhil, the fighter with the unlit cigarette, thought for a bit. Then, removing his cigarette from his mouth, he lit it on the burning end of Tasz's cigarette. It started to burn, giving off a foul-smelling, hazy cloud of chemicals. He then put it in his mouth.

All four fighters grunted again.

Pfhred looked over at the cigarette, then thought back to basic military training, several years ago. One of those humans he saw in a film had one of those "cigarette" thingies... and he was blowing those noxious clouds out of those two hideous holes that hung off of the bottom of that horrible "nose" protrusion! Barbaric, indeed. The Human fiends could breath clouds of poison!

"I've got it!" Pfhred shouted. The other three fighters grunted in question. Tasz thought for a moment, then asked a question all were thinking.

"Got what?"

Pfhred grinned. "You know those gross clouds that come out of the cigarettes?" The other three nodded, and grunted. "Well, you can breath them in. The humans do that, then they breathe them out in the face of their enemies, and poison them!"

Tasz's mouth hung open, and his cigarette fell to the ground. Pfhil looked down at his cigarette. The other three also looked at it. Taking a hesitant, inhaling suck, he let a small amount of the nasty vapor enter his lungs.

Immediately, he began to cough violently. The cigarette flew from his mouth and bounced off of Pfhred's blunt face. Pfhil continued to hack and wheeze, and collapsed onto the floor. Soon, he coughed out a puddle of yellow blood, then gradually, his squirmings stopped and he just sat there, wheezing.

All of them, even the fallen Pfhil, grunted in approval.

A gong sounded from the inside of the building. Pfhil picked himself up, and, aside the other three fighters, made his way inside.

Pfhred returned to his post at the cash register. A line of four or five Pfhor were waiting. An even longer line was at the other register.

The first in the line stepped up to the counter. The figure was large, towering above Pfhred. Its size suggested something lke a Drinniol. A red, glowing claw creeped forth, and set itself on the counter, tapping a slow, regular beat. Each tap scorched the countertop a little. Pfhred didn't bother to look at the patron, but concentrated on his Speech cheat sheet.

"Greetings, fellow citizen, and possibly civilian, and welcome to the most excellent fast food restaraunt in the history of the entire Empire, with the exception of Lord N'Fest'S's privately held, owned and operated personal salad bar. Today, in anticipation of your visit and subsequent patronage, we have prepared an excellently extensive selection of foods, drinks, side orders, appetizers, desserts and napkins. If it would please you, then I am prepared to take any and all orders that you might have, as long as they are related to the purchase and consumption of one or more of the foodstuff selections that we offer this fine day."

A voice that resembled the moans of the damned souls of the lowest reaches of hell answered Pfhred's query. "I would like a dish of revenge, served cold."

Pfhred nodded and punched up the button for Small Furry Animal soup on the register, which beeped in response. Pfhred looked up at the patron, and stated the usual response.

"Would you like fries... with......... th-th-that?"

Pfhred's hand, suddenly clammy and trembling, slipped from the keypad. He gulped a bit, then stepped back. The patron that stood before him was a Baby Blue pastel Jug.

Pfhred panicked for a moment, then composed himself, then panicked again, then set his feet firmly on the floor, and adressed his adversary with a voice that hinted of nothing resembling courage.

"I'll have t-t-to check th-that with m-m-m-m-m-my m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-manager."

The Juggernaut nodded a few times. Pfhred stepped back a few feet, before turning around and bolting. He reached his locker in the back of the kitchen, opened it, took out his light jacket and his wallet, and dashed out the back door as he heard a few explosions from the counter.

Pfhred hastly put on his jacket and pulled the keys forth from the front left pocket, opening the door to the parking lot in the back. He jammed a key into the ignition of his hover-cycle. After several failed attempts to twist the key while his fingers slipped in his haste, he finally started it, leaped on, and zipped across the sparesly occupied parking lot. An explosion and a roar from behind him heralded the emergence of the Juggernaut from the restaraunt's roof.

Pfhred sped up to near breakneck speeds, entering traffic and dodging back and forth between the various vehicles. The Jugg, eager not to fail to destroy his target this time, sped behind him. The speed of the chase ruled out any effective use of the Jugg's armament.

In anticipation of a long chase-scene, Pfhred pulled off onto the highway that, a week and a half earlier, he had navigated at extreme speeds under the control of a mass of puppies, aside his friend F'Lush. The Juggernaut continued to track him.

But this time, Pfhred would not allow the scene to drag on so long. Making a sharp and very dangerous turn, he made a near 180 degree spin and headed against traffic. Lifting up the front engine of his hover-cycle, he worked his way onto the hood of a slanted sports car and launched himself into the air. The airborn Juggernaut, matching the elevation of the flying Pfhred, opened his mouth and anticipated a quick snack. This was exactly what the ballistic fighter hoped for.

The next few moments were, as far as Pfhred could tell, the longest of his life. Cruising through the air in a odd looking arc, his cycle made a speedy and erratic beeline for the maw of the Jugg. The monster grinned a bit, chuckled, and increased the output of the acid ducts in its mouth.

Pfhred's cycle entered the Jugg's mouth, carrying its terrified passenger with it. The front end reached the back of the Jugg's throat. Instead of stopping where it was, the Cycle piered the metal of the Jugg's internal workings and, out of sheer inertia, created an exit for itself, on the Jugg's back. It glided out of the back of the Jugg amid a shower of acid drops, crude oil and metal fragments. Pfhred, cowering on the bike and holding on for dear life, made his way out as well with nary a scratch.

The Jugg coughed a bit, then slowed down, and stopped, as Pfhred's bike landed with a thump in the road, blew out its main engine in an attempt to absorb the shock, and titled over while skidding off of the road. Pfhred was thrown off and rolled over and over through the polluted, dusty soil, and came to a stop in a nearby bush, upsetting a small group of insects nearby. A large, military vehicle, abandoned long ago, was tipped on its side nearby.

The figher quickly righted himself and observed the Jugg.

It hovered in place, massive amounts of fluids pouring onto the road. Its eyes focused on the horizon, and off into the blackness of space, seeing things one could only imagine. Its mouth hung open. A sharp keen emitted from this mouth, before stopping as all functions of the ruined Jugg ended abruptly. It slowly tilted forward and began a slow and steady decent toward the roadway below. Traffic climed over itself in an attempt to escape.

Pfhred threw himself behind the unked car, using it as a makeshift shield, just as the main reactor of the Jugg went nuke and the dead monster ceased to exist in light of its own nuclear hard death. A small mushroom cloud and a steadily expanding shockwave of heat and radiation dispersed from the Jugg's ground zero, making a large crater in the ground, annihilating several nearby cars, and burning Pfhred's batterd cycle up.

The shockwave reached the car that the cowering Pfhred hid behind. The car, being a strong military type, was equipped with radiation shielding that absorbed most of the blast's power. However, it was still enough to upset the balance of the vehicle, which rocked back away from the blast's origin, toward again, and finally, back away, threatening to crush the small fighter unless he acted with haste. Pfhred stood up and scurried out of the way, just as the car fell down with a crash.

Pfhred hunkered down, expecting something else to, without warning, burst from a nearby hidey-hole and endanger his life.

Nothing else happened. No more explosions, falling things, mean monsters of anything like that. The Fighter, glad to have that over with, crawled over to the the car and leaned against it, wearily.

For several moments, the Fighter collected his scattered thoughts and shattered wits.

Something very, very wrong was going on. This was the second time he had had to fight for his life against a foe that was much more than a match for the fighter; a Juggernaut, the most powerful cybernetic being ever created by the Pfhor race. But these Juggs were weird. They had odd markings, not resembling that of any known Military force. Freelance Juggs were not unheard of, but terribly uncommon; most, though, worked for peaceful purposes such as delivering newspapers or serving drinks. Why, then, would a freelance jugg- no, two of them- give their artificial lives trying to annihilate Pfhred and his friends?

Pfhred opened to door to the wrecked car and climbed inside. It was more comfortable in there. Much better for thinking.

Now, returning to where he was... There was, many years ago, a rogue military composed of robots, cyborgs and androids- The Order of Nobody. But it was crushed by the Pfhor when one of its soldiers made an attempt to assasinate the Pfhor emperor. Perhaps the Juggs that Pfhred had encountered were leftovers from that force? Not all of the facts fit very well. The old military never used pastel colors like he had seen on the Juggs. They had all been colored a dark green. Furthermore, they wouldn't have had any sort of interest in a lowly laborer like Pfhred. Still, it was the most plausible explanation....

The Fighter, thoroughly confused, decided to go home and mull it over. F'Lush the Enforcer, his own apartment ruined (In the last chapter, remember? You should.), was staying over in Pfhred's place until he found a residence of his own. He would definitely be able to help with the matter of the Juggernauts.

Pfhred looked about the car he was in. It wasn't a bad car- indeed, it was a rather fancy one. Also, it seemed to be in good condition. Perhaps it might work. Pfhred, thinking for once that his luck was improving, reached over and searched the glove compartment. Sure enough, the keys were in there, right next to a pair of leather gloves. Pfhred put the gloves on and the key in the ignition, fired the car up, guided it onto the freeway, and headed home.

Pfhred fumbled with the various key-cards, thumbprint templates and voice verifications that opened the door his apartment, all the while fumbling with a sack of groceries that he had picked up on the way home. After five minutes of proving that he was, indeed, Pfhred, the he opened the main lock to the door and kicked it open. It swung inward and slammed into the face of F'Lush, who had been watching the fighter through the peephole, from the inside. The Enforcer snarled and fell backwards on his rump.

Pfhred entered, dropped the groceries on the coffee table, reached over and closed the door, and helped F'Lush to his feet. The Enforcer glared at the fighter and sat down on the couch. His abdomen was wrapped in bandages, his hands were encased in regeneratory casts, and he wore a brace to keep his spine in place. Other than that, he wore a plain t-shirt and a ragged pair of shorts. His robe, mask and gun were in the closet, across the room.

Pfhred moved the groceries to the kitchen before returning to the main room and throwing himself onto the couch. F'Lush looked over at him.

"You're home early. What happened?" asked the Enforcer.

Pfhred answered. "I had a visit from a friend today. I had to leave early."

F'Lush squinted. "What sort of a friend drags you out of work?"

"It was one of those Juggernauts."

"What? You mean they're still after us?" F'Lush scratched pitifully at the back of his mottled, hairless head with one of his cast-covered hands.

Pfhred nodded. "I can't tell why. I thought they might be leftovers from the old Order of Nobody. You remember them, right?"

F'Lush shrugged. "Yeah, but the last Jugg they had was recorded MIA three years ago. It disappeard somewhere on the border of the Empire."

Pfhred stood up and removed his jacket. "Hmmmm. What else could it have been?" He wandered to the closet and placed his jacket within, before returning to his seat.

"I wouldn't know. Rogue militaries are eleminated as soon as they are discovered, and I doubt any remnant of the Order of Nobody would have gone unoticed so far."

"Yeah... " Pfhred wandered into the kitchen to see if something there would inspire him. He found nothing of the sort, so he returned to the living room. An idea came to his head.

"Where was the Order of Nobody based?"

F'Lush made a curious little "hmmmmm" sound, before replying. "On the border of the S'Pht quarantine zone."

Pfhred thought for a moment. "Are civilians allowed there at all?"

F'Lush nodded. "Yes. They do have several civilian settlements in the same system, but they're Invite colonies. Oustsiders are only allowed in if they're with the military."

Pfhred scowled. "Damn. Well, I thought that-"

"Yes, yes, I know. You wanted to search their records there, and see what they had known about the juggs, right?"

Pfhred nodded.

F'Lush continued. "Well, the computer systems were removed when the main building was raided by the military. You wouldn't find anything there worth looking at."

Pfhred sat down ion the couch again, and thought. F'Lush assumed the conversation was over and turned the Holo-Viewer on with a cast-covered finger. The two watched silently.

Five minutes later, another thought came to Pfhred's mind. He looked over at F'Lush. "Do you still have access to secure documents in the mainframe?"

The Enforcer nodded. "Level 6 clearance. But I can see stuff."

Pfhred grinned. "The files documenting the raid on the Order's compound are just level 3, aren't they?"

F'Lush though for a while, before answering. "Three or four. I should be able to access them."

Pfhred grinned wider. "Great. Then you can find out where the Order's systems were moved to."

F'Lush nodded, then frowned. "Even if I have clearance, I don't have a way to actually access the mainframe, and even if I could, I'd only be able to find out WHERE the Order's computer went. The information that was in it is under at least level 8 security."

Pfhred's grin dissolved. "Yeah...."

The two sat in odd silence for a moment. It was F'Lush's turn to come up with the next remark.

"If one of us was to hack into the mainframe it would be a simple matter to patch into the Order's system."

Pfhred nodded. "But wouldn't they catch us?"

"Probably not. There's virtually no informational security in the mainframe other than the initial clearance and a few monitors."

Pfhred smiled. "Well, that's- wait, wait. Neither of us can hack into it, can we?"

"No... not really... and we don't know anybody that can... No, we do."

Pfhred looked over at the Enforcer. "Who?"

F'Lush flipped through the channels on the Holo-Viewer until he reached frequency 7.501. A cooking program was on. The host, a hunter in battered armor, was guiding the viewer through the process of baking fried Wasp legs.

Pfhred giggled. "K'Luk! Of course! He can access the Mainframe from the studio's communication systems!"

F'Lush nodded. "He knows us, I'm sure he'd help us. And I'm also pretty sure he'd want to help us get to the bottom of the Juggernaut incident, considering."

Pfhred stood up and bounced up and down, happily. "We're gonna find it out, we're gonna find it out, we're gonna find it- MAIL'S HERE!" Pfhred scampered over to the mail slot on his door, which had just let in a dozen small letters. He picked them up and returned to his chair. F'Lush looked over and watched the fighter flip through the letters. Pfhred announced their purposes as he came to them.

"Bills. Junk mail..... Oooh, a letter from my cousin V'Ny. Um.... You may have already won.... No, no. Okay..... Oh." He dropped the rest and pulled forth a single little letter, addressed to the residence of F'Lush of the Na'Sla'Tak'Rt clan. The front read, "Very Urgent." Pfhred showed the letter to F'Lush, who snatched the letter away from the fighter and tore it open clumsily with his encumbered hands.

His three eyes scanned it over hastily, then once again, a bit more carefully, then they focused on a few more words on the middle and stayed there. The Enforcer said nothing.

Pfhred fidgeted, then spat out a quick comment. "What's it say?"

The Enforcer looked at Pfhred for a moment, before looking back at the letter.

"'From the Desk of Admiral Pfhen'Fen. This letter is to inform you, F'Lush Na'Sla'Tak'Rt, that you have been selected to join the Seventeenth Storm Squad of the Southern arm of Battle Group Three.'" F'Lush looked apprehensively at Pfhred, who bit his lower lip.

"They're sending me away to fight the S'Pht'Kr."

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