Sa loob ng Leviathan, nagtipon sina Victoria, ang apat na natitirang Valkyrie at si John. Sa screen naman ay lumabas ang window ni Bossman.
“Athena Celeste suffered bruises and wounds on her back, buttocks, shoulders, back of head, some on her face, and some burns on her arms and legs. She also suffered minor fractures on her rib cage, left clavicle and some muscle tearings on her upper torso. And one of her ear drums is perforated. So far, she is in a stable condition but it may take a couple of months for her to recover especially if she is staying here in Leviathan. I suggest we bring her to India Headquarters, Cerberus’ recovery labs could be of great help to her.” Report pa ni Victoria kay Bossman.
“It is unfortunate that Athena is out of the team but it is a blessing that she is still alive. For now I will present Yvonne Jackson as your temporary team leader. The mission may have gone south but we still managed to achieve our main goal. How is how prisoner going?” wika naman ni Bossman.
“As of now he is undergoing truth serum administration and still unconscious. We will proceed to the interrogation once he regains consciousness.”
“Commander, we are receiving incoming transmission from Cifer Black.” Report naman ni Galatea. Bumukas ang isa pang window. At lumabas si Cifer.
“I heard of what happened. I am sorry. But it’s still good that you managed to grab Dr. Arkhan.”
“what happened to Athena is your fault Cifer!” Galit na sabat ni Barbara. Pinigilan sya ni Victoria.
Shut it Barbara, you know the risks of our duty. This is just a part of our job description. However, what really bothers me is how did that camp managed to detect our movements. It’s as if they were waiting for us. It’s just a lucky thing that my Valkyries still managed to accomplish their mission.” Wika naman ni Victoria.
“SAMAEL’S forces possessed some of the most advanced technology known to man. They could have already managed to detect you as you goes inside their camp.”
“We managed to slip passed their guards and when all hell broke lose, our enemies still acted as if they already know we were there.” Sabat naman ni Yvonne.
“My scope cam records shows their movements changed before the initial attacks. I passed the footage on our receivers.” Wika rin ni Bellatrix.
“Cifer, have you been communicating with the enemy?” tanong naman ni Yvonne.
“No, believe me I have no idea what happened down there. All I knew were the basic informations that I managed to gather from my assets.” Mula sa likod ay lumapit si Himeko at may ibinulong ito kay Cifer. Tumango naman si Cifer at nagbago ang facial reaction.
“Valkyries I apologize but I have something important to do. I will contact you once I have more information on this mysterious super weapon.” Sabay disconnect ni Cifer.
“Can we really trust this man, Bossman?” seryosong tanong ni Victoria.
“For now. I want full reports on your interrogation later. Bossman, out.”
Lumapit si John kay Victoria.
“Ma’am, I would like to escort Athena to the India Headquarters.”
“Okay John. Prepare your things. You will leave immediately.”
Sinundan ng tingin ni Cassandra si John hanggang makalabas ito ng conference room. Sumunod na umalis si Victoria at Yvonne. Maging si Barbara ay umalis na rin. Nilapitan ni Bellatrix si Cassandra.
“Do you have some ideas what happened there?”
“No, I got nothing.” Sagot ni Cassandra. Tumalikod ito para lumabas pero huminto sandali.
“Bella, I’m not sure but I feel there is something off about our mission. Stay alert.”
“Alex, what do you got?” tanong ni Gabriel kay Alexander Ford via videocall sa Berlin Sting Headquarters.
“Shit’s gone crazy here since you left man. Okay, here’s what I got, camera footage on that highway in Tokyo shows one person attacked Yumiko’s convoy. The assailant uses guns and a sword. The fight lasted for a couple of minutes until Yumiko was defeated. Then they vanished. I tried zooming in but the quality is so low she could be anyone.” Paliwanag ni Alex habang pinapakita ang footage kay Gabriel. Naka upo lang si Gabriel malapit sa lamesa at wala itong damit, pero naka suot lang ng pajama.
” Yeah, apparently, this person is a female. Focus viewing datas suggests 80% chance it’s a woman. But I don’t know who. I cannot ID her.”
“her movements….. looks like the ancient swordsmanship techniques used by the Oda clan.”
“The Oda clan? Hmmmm… “ kaagad nag research si Alex.
“Ah yes, the Oda clan. They’ve been one of the known rivals of the Ashura clan. However, since the former head of the Ashura clan stopped doing shady stuff like ones of the Yakuzas, the Oda became a powerhouse in the Yakuza operations in Osaka. Could it be an Oda abduction?”
“It’s possible. But what of the motives? Has the Ashura crossed paths with the Oda lately? Could it be business?”
“If it’s business then they should have something they need from the Ashura right? I mean, this attack is not an statement, it is too bold yet covert.”
“They needed a demand. Some ransom. But Akira said, Yumiko’s been gone for days and no demands came from the Oda clan. Yumiko’s movements seems to suggest she is talking to her abductor as they fight. Does she know her? She can’t attack properly with her dress, and her techniques are too obvious. She’s not focusing. Is she threatened? Not from this woman, she seems threatened by something else. She’s thinking about it. And what’s disturbing is that she shot this woman point blank and she is still alive. How can that be? Magic? Is she immortal? That’s impossible, but could be technology? Instant regeneration.”
“That sounds bad Gabriel. Who could be capable of having such unearthly abilities? “
“It’s a huge possibility. If SAMAEL is involved, this is no ordinary abduction. He needed her for something. I don’t know why but she is in serious trouble.”
“The question is, where did they took her?”
“Alex, do you have any current information to SAMAEL’S activities?”
“Uh wait… let me get that… umm… “ mabilis na nagtype si Alex. Ilang sandali pa at may ipinakita ito kay Gabriel.
“There’s been rumors that SAMAEL is massing scientists to create a super weapon called Black Sun. We also got some datas from Cerberus… “
” Cerberus? I haven’t heard that name in a while.”
“Hehe yeah, they’re still around man. They gave us incomplete datas they got from some unknown sources. So far, all we know this weapon is non radiating. It is something else. Something unique.”
“Where was the last place SAMAEL has been seen?”
“Well he’s completely out of the radar. No one knows where he is. But to have an educated guess, I say he’s here in Europe. The man is a textbook tyrant. He wants power, influence and the strong need to conquer.”
“And what country would cater such a person? A country where he could go off grid. Somewhere with less surveillance. A poor European country could be a candidate. But what? SAMAEL is the type of guy who will challenge the world if he wants to. Sooner or later he will show himself. Let’s just hope the world is ready for him. God knows what type of evil he will unleash on this planet. “
“So, are you gonna come here?”
“Heh, I don’t know. I am gonna be a father soon. I need some time to think. Thanks for your time Alex.
“Man, fatherhood. Hehe that’s the next step of manhood my friend. Well cheers to that man. See ya’. “
Ilang minutong napa isip si Gabriel sa kanyang upuan. Malayo ang tingin nya at hinde sya kumikilos ng ilang minuto. Napabuntong hininga sya muli. Napakabigat, animo’y pasan ang mundo. Pumikit sya ng ilang segundo. Kinakausap ang sarili.
“Handa na ba talaga ako? Sa ilang taon kong nakipaglaban para sa kabutihan, hinde ko alam kung kakayanin kong harapin ang pagsubok na ito. Jusko, ano bang gagawin ko… “ bulong ni Gabriel sa sarili. Walang ano-ano’y bumukas ang pinto ng kanilang silid. Lumabas si Karen. Lumapit ito kay Gabriel at hinaplos ang ulo ng mister nya.
“Karen… may sasabihin sana ako sayo.” Tumayo si Gabriel at hinarap ang asawa. Ipinaliwanag nya ang lahat sa kanyang magandang asawa. Tulad ng inaasahan, nabigla at natakot si Karen. Nangangamba ito sa bagong panganib, sa bagong pagsubok. Pero ang mas pinangangambahan nya, ay ang makita ang tila natatakot na itsura ni Gabriel. Sa dinami-dami na ng pinagdaanan nila, ngayon palang nakita nu Karen si Gabriel nang ganito.
Matapos makwento ni Gabriel ang lahat, matagal silang natahimik. Walang makakibo.
“Karen….hinde ko kayang pagdesisyunan ito ng mag isa. Kailangan kita.” Pagbasag ni Gabriel sa katahimikan.
“Iligtas mo si Yumiko, hon… “ sagot ni Karen. Nabigla si Gabriel sa sagot ng asawa.
“Pero paano ka, ang pagbubuntis mo? “
“wag ka mag alala sa akin. Kaya ko ito. Papatirahin ko nalang muna dito si mommy. Para may makasama ako.”
“Malapit ka nang manganak Karen..kabuwanan mo na… “
“Mas kailangan ka ni Yumiko hon. Alam kong ayaw mo akong iwan rito pero napakalaki ng utang na loob natin kay Yumiko. Kung hinde dahil sa kanya, wala ka sana rito ngayon. Marami syang ginawa para sayo at para na rin sa akin. Itinuturing ko na rin syang nakababatang kapatid. Ayokong may masamang mangyari sa kanya. Kaya ako na nagsasabi sayo, iligtas mo sya. Ibalik mo sya sa pamilya nya.”
Pumikit sandali si Gabriel. Nagbago ang itsura nya, seryoso na ito.
“Sure ka ba?”
“Basta ipangako mo lang na babalik ka ulit sa akin ng buhay.”
“Pangako yan Karen.” Hinalikan nya ito sa labi.
“MY LORD.” Lumapit ang isang advisor ni SAMAEL. Naka toxido ito at mukhang isang aristocrat kung pumorma. Payat at medyo matangkad at may manipis na balbas na pacurve.
“Kingdom is done with his preparations. All we need is your plan to proceed your grace.”
Bumukas ang double door at pumasok ang isang malahiganteng lalake. 8 feet ang tangkad neto. Napakalaki ng mga muscles at maraming mga metal enhancements sa katawan. May suot itong armor at ang panga neto ay gawa rin sa bakal. Malalakas ang mga yabag ng bawat pag apak neto. Ang kaliwang mata nya ay may peklat at walang itim habang ang kanan naman ay may metal plating sa paligid at robotic enhanced. Pagkalapit nito sa harapan ni SAMAEL ay lumuhod ang isang paa nya sabay bow sa kanyang amo.
“The shock drones are ready MY LORD. And I had dispatched my army going to the Ukrainian borders. We will hit their Capital in less than 5 hours. What is your bidding LORD SAMAEL?” Wika ni Kingdom. Isa sa mga myembro ng Zehn Schwerter at ang leader ng Makenaria Legion. Isang buong army ng synthetics at robots na kontrolado nya at ng kanyang mga tauhan. Ang pinaka-unang unmanned army na syang gagamitin ni SAMAEL sa pakikipagdigma at planong pananakop.
“DESTROY THEIR ARMY, BLOCK OUT THEIR RESOURCES AND PUT THEIR ECONOMY TO ITS KNEES. WE WILL TAKE OVER THEIR LAND BY TOMORROW AND WE WILL LET THE WORLD OF NATIONS THAT WE ARE THE NEW ORDER.”
“Yes MY LORD!”
Lumapit muli ang adviser ni SAMAEL.
“What about the unified forces of allied nations MY LORD? It will be troublesome if they enter this war.”
“THEY WILL NOT DO ANYTHING FOR NOW. AND WE WILL BE READY FOR THEIR RETALIATION. IF THEY ATTACK US, WE SHALL STRIKE AT THEIR HEARTS AND RIP THEIR SOULS OUT. WE SHALL LEAVE THEM NO QUARTER. ALL BUT REMAINS ARE THEIR EMPTY SHELLS THAT WE WILL FEED TO THE WORMS.”
Tumayo sa trono si SAMAEL at nagsilapitan kaagad ang mga tauhan nya. Nagformation ang mga ito sa great hall.
“THIS IS MY TIME TO RISE! NEVER AGAIN SHALL I HIDE IN THE SHADOWS! WE WILL MAKE THEM WATCH IN HORROR AS I BURN THEIR HOPES AND DREAMS! WE WILL DESTROY THEIR WORLD! AND IN THEIR ASHES, WE WILL RISE AS MY EMPIRE WILL RULE THIS CONTINENT! AND ONCE IT IS DONE, WE SHALL HAVE ETERNAL PEACE!”
“SHAAKKK!! ” Tinaas ng mga tauhan ni SAMAEL ang kanilang mga kamay sabay sandal sa kanilang dibdib.
“FOR LORD SAMAEL! FOR THE EMPIRE! HOORAAAAAHHH!!! ”
India Cerberus Headquarters
Nakahiga sa isang clinical bed si Athena at ipinasok sa isang air tight capsule. Sa loob neto, dito sinimulan ng isang advanced recovery machine na gamotin ang mga pinsala ni Athena. Sa paligid nya ay may tatlong specialists na nag-oobserba sa kanya. May malaking glass window naman sa isang dingding kung saan nakatayo si John at pinapanood ito. Katabi nya si Yvonne at Bellatrix.
Tahimik na pinagmamasdan ni John ang ginagawa kay Athena. Kita nyang naka oxygen mask ito at nilagyan ng antibiotic fluid ang buong capsule at may mga makina naman na syang isa isang nagtatrabaho para isara ang mga sugat at may iba pang nag oopera ng mga nabaleng buto at napunit na mga muscles ni Athena. Napabuntong hininga si Yvonne at umiling-iling. Lumabas ito sandali para kumuha ng kape.
“Will she recover faster with this machine?” mahinang tanong ni John.
“Well yes, we’ve been through this thing whenever one of us gets screwed over.” Sagot naman ni Bellatrix. Tinignan ni Bellatrix si John at napangiti ito sa binata. Halata namang nagtataka si John.
“You know John, you’re the first Housemaster who has ever cared with us Valkyries. Most of Housemasters will just stay in the Leviathan. But you, you seem very concerned for our well-being.”
“Well it’s a filipino thing really. We’re family oriented so whenever someone in our group gets sick or something bad has happened, we filipinos will be very eager to help out.”
“Hmm so you consider us your family then? “
“Ye.. yes of course.”
“Aww that’s sweet. But you know, just a word of advice, don’t get too attached to any of us. You never know what’s going to happen next and you will only get hurt in the end. Trust me, I’ve been there.”
“So.. what happened?”
“You really wanna pry some personal things do you?”
Napa isip sandali si Bellatrix. Tinignan nya sa maliit na bintana ng flip open doors sa kabilang hallway si Yvonne na nagtitimpla ng kape.
“I had a sister once. Well technically she’s a friend. We’ve been through a lot, training, missions, that kind of stuff. We were so close together that we are both trained as snipers. But one day, an enemy sniper got wind of her position and buried two inched bullet right between her beautiful eyes. I was never the same since then. I learned not to be too attached.”
“So who killed her?”
“I don’t know, just some regular baddies who got fuckin lucky. I killed that person right there and then.”
Dumating si Yvonne at may dala itong kape. Humigop ito kaunti at tumabi kay John.
“What did I miss?” Tanong neto.
“Nothing much. Don’t worry John, she’ll be back in no time. I gotta go, I needed to stretch my legs. Wanna come?” aya ni Bellatrix kay John. Tinignan ni John si Yvonne at para itong nahihiya.
“Well I ain’t your nanny, man.”
“Ah yeah.. sure… I wanna get some fresh air too.” Ngiti neto. Napa iling lang si Yvonne at ngumiti ito sandali sabay kindat kay Bellatrix. Ngumiti naman ang pranses na Valkyrie at lumabas na sa recovery room.
Magkasama si Bellatrix at John habang namasyal sa syudad. Nag ikot-ikot ang dalawa sa mga pwedeng pasyalan. Nag enjoy ng sandali at nakalimutan ang ilang problema.
“How long have you been a Valkyrie?”
“A couple of years. I don’t want to keep track on it.”
“Do you miss home? Cerberus employees aren’t really allowed to go back home for 5 straight years.”
“I’m an orphan. I accepted this job because I don’t really have to worry about going back home. I don’t have to worry about anyone when I go or when I’m gone. And maybe that’s why Valkyria accepted me.”
“Does it have any kind of requirement to get it to work?”
“Valkyria only reacts to certain things. No one knows what it is but it’s been theorized over the years that most accepted subjects are either a psychopath or just plain weird.” Sabay kindat kay John.
“Haha! No, I’m the other one.”
“So all Bossman had been Valkyries before right? How many Bossman had been there?”
“Hmmm, I think there’s been four including our current Bossman. And our Bossman is the youngest so far.”
“Really? How old is he then?”
” Ho I don’t know. Mid 30s maybe?”
“You seen him right? What was he like?”
“Um, a bit serious. But he’s kinda cool. He’s calm, mannered and has a mysterious charm. I think he’s married though. A man like that, he would not stay available on the market for long.”
“I heard he had some conflict with this Gabriel guy.”
“That’s just rumors.” Mabilis na sagot ni Bellatrix.
“I don’t know much about Gabriel but I know he’s a former STING AGENT. And he’s a filipino like me. Did you met him before?”
“No, but I would love to.” Halata ang kilig sa…