Chapter 32:

Wings of Radiance

Code: Zero Defect

"Who the hell-?!" a soldier said as he and the other two who were standing behind him were shot dead in an instant.

In the halls of the operation center, echoes of footsteps struck fear into those who heard them. Along the way, grunts of pain and wailing cries were followed by gunshots.

Pitter-patter goes the blood, seeping through the floor and dripping down. Step. Step. And boom. Rinse and repeat.

"She's in!" shouted a soldier to another. "Call the-"

Before he could finish that sentence, a plasma-tipped shell pierced through his head. The other soldier slowly twisted his head, and through the darkness of the hallway, a pair of eyes shimmered. Two diamonds, one yellow, and one blue, both glaring at him with disdain.

"H-Holiday..." he muttered fearfully. "I... I surrender..."

She paused, but it took her no second later to lift her gunblade.

"You chose your side," she said scornfully. "And I chose mine. We are enemies. No more... no less."


Without even giving him a chance to speak another word, she pulled the trigger. The plasma shell blew a hole in his head, and he was knocked back. He gently fell, his blood staining the wall behind him as he went.

Holiday stepped into the room. As she expected, it was the main control room. It's no wonder why there were so many soldiers stationed outside.

She snooped around the many panels until she found the controls to open the gates of the Spire. From her pocket, she pulled out the access card that Blanc had given her and slid it into the card reader. After switching on a number of switches and pressing down on a giant button, a siren began to blare.

"Holiday to all stations, steer clear," she said. "The Spiral Gates are opening."

A massive shutter rendered the entire Arch silent. Slowly, the gates began to retract into the walls that held it together.

"How's it looking up there, Astrid?" Holiday asked.

"General Prostatis has shown himself, along with... the Argonauts," Astrid muttered.

Holiday stayed silent for a couple of seconds as memories from the past began to replay in her head.

"Copy," she sighed. "What is their status?"

"They're... chasing Loki and Strider."


"This is Loki!" Loki shouted before an ensuing explosion sounded in the background. "Could use some help over here!"

"Shit... Zephyr, assist them!"

"On it," Zephyr replied.

At the outskirts of the Arch of the Immortals, Loki and Strider were making a run for it. All the while, a winged monstrosity was trailing behind them.

"Don't trip, Strider!" Loki shouted.

"Just keep going!" he shouted back. "I can keep up!"

An explosion of pure light energy ruptured the building next to them, littering the ground with its broken steel plating. Through a series of underpasses and to the left of an intersection, the two ran to no avail.

"Loki," Zephyr came in through the comms.

"A little busy at the moment!" she chided.

"Tsk... Code: Temporal Acceleration."

Another energy bolt was coming, but this time, it was flying directly at them. Suddenly, Zephyr appeared right in front of it. She took the bolt head-on, allowing it to ride upon the edge of her katana before sending it off to the side.

The handle of her blade felt hot to the touch, but she did not let go. Instead, she merely stood steadfast against the adversary that levitated in the sky above them.

His long, golden hair flowed in the wind, and his mellowed eyes of the same color peered at them as if they harbored no emotions at all. Still, a soft smile was planted on his face, so indifferent that it almost seemed fake. A pair of massive mechanical wings sprung from his back, white and outlined by gold. Embedded within his eyes were the shape of stars, which was evident of his true identity.

"I bid you my salutations, Calypso," he spoke elegantly with his arm hung around his stomach. "I am Ramses Zakaria, General Prostatis of the Queen's Guard."

"A little late for an introduction, don't ya think?" Loki grumbled.

"My sincerest apologies. I was quite... surprised that Calypso would willingly come here, so I could not contain myself. You see, I've been a big fan of Calypso since the Reclamation. I still remember the broadcast of your very first mission, all six of you. It was a beautiful sight."

"Spare us the flattery and kindly fuck off."

"I must apologize again, for I can not fulfill that request. You see, I am a servant to the Queen. And those who oppose the Queen... must be eliminated."

"Strider, Loki! Move! Now!" Zephyr demanded.

With that, the two of them sprinted away in different directions, leaving Zephyr to face the general all by herself.

"What a shame," Ramses sighed. "Argonauts."

Suddenly, a small band of augmented humans appeared on the rooftops. Though she could not see through the silhouettes, she knew exactly who they were.

"Argonauts, huh?" she muttered. "Looks like things never change."

"Ignore the kid, and go after Loki," Ramses ordered. "Leave this one to me."

"Yes, sir!" they shouted.

Ramses watched them disappear further along the outskirts of the Arch before turning his attention to Zephyr. A subtle smile appeared beneath his curled eyes.

"So you are Zephyr," he said. "I recall Van Lachlein speaking fondly of you. 'The white-haired bitch,' she said. Hah. If I may be so blunt, you are quite beautiful. I've always been enamored by Calypso, and you, my lady, are no exception to this."

Zephyr curled her brows despite his seemingly kind words. Though, as kind as they may seem, it felt hostile coming from a man such as himself.

'What is this fucking weirdo talking about?' she thought to herself, before saying, "Stifle whatever admiration you have for us and raise your weapon. We are enemies, General Prostatis."

"I suppose that is true," Ramses scoffed. "You Calypsos have been the center of the spotlight for long enough. Is it not time for someone new to shine?"

Each of the mechanical wings that floated behind him had a propulsion engine towards the end, all of which were beginning to pulsate with a strange golden light. The wings flung outwards, pushing forth a powerful gale that nearly swept Zephyr off her feet.

"It is with great pleasure that I face you today," Ramses preached as his arms spread apart. " Ramses Zakaria, General Prostatis of the Queen's Guards, and loyal servant of the Queen herself. Let it be known today that I have the utmost respect for you."

Despite the force of the wind, Zephyr kept her ground. She held her blade stiff in a battle stance.

"Zephyr of Calypso," she replied. "Beheading my enemy is the only way I know how to show them respect. Forgive me."

Ramses chuckled lightly. "No forgiveness is needed for what must be done."

He then lifted his arm, and the wings responded by spreading further apart. A brilliant golden glow radiated from the four-pointed star within his eyes.

"Code: Sunlord's Dominion," he chanted.

A spherical wall burst outwards from Ramses, covering him like a barrier. The glare was so powerful that Zephyr had to cover her eyes to avoid optical malfunctions.

Through the darkness of the night sky, a sudden light as bright as the sun came to life, illuminating the Spire like nothing else.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Ramses said. "This wonderful brilliance of mine. Did you know that I am revered as a god among the people of this great city? So a god, I shall be."

He thrusted his arms forward, commanding the wings behind him to concave. The wheels around each of the propulsion engines began to rotate rapidly, and Zephyr knew immediately what that meant.

"Code: Temporal Acceleration!" she shouted.

With a crackle of thunder, she broke into a blurry sprint. That, however, did not stop the blinding rays of raw energy aiming right at her.

"Hahahaha!" Ramses laughed at the top of his lungs. "Run, little girl, run!"

Even though he couldn't see her, he knew she was struggling.

Within the faded timestream, Zephyr was barely managing to outrun the dozens of spiraling pillars that were crashing down behind her.

Even though everything came by so slowly, the sheer force of impact of just one beam tipped her balance. She twisted her body to the left, narrowly missing one that was coming. She jerked her head to the side, allowing one to inch past her.

For what felt like hours, she continued to whisk around the energy bolts until she could no longer keep up with her code.

The timestream collapsed, revealing Zephyr amidst a pile of rubble. She fell onto a knee to catch her breath. Upon the sleeve of her jacket was a mesh of scorch marks. Her skin felt tingly and painful to the touch of air, yet she refused to falter.

"And here you stand in the ashes of your own arrogance," Ramses chuckled with a pretentious smile. "Just like that former captain of yours. What was her name...? Ah! Nemesis, wasn't it?"

Zephyr bit her lips, refusing to answer. All she needs to do here is stall for time so that Strider and Loki can escape. She knew she couldn't let her emotions sway her, but it proved to be difficult.

"Would you like to know why she failed?" Ramses asked, before a short pause. "Because she kept herself hidden instead of facing the spotlight. She, among the denizens of New Olympos, was supposed to be revered as a god. Instead, she whittled away in the shadows like a rat and died a pointless death."

"All this talk about gods and shit," Zephyr muttered. "Who gives a fuck? I'm not a god, Nemesis wasn't a god, and neither are you, so shut the fuck up."

"Ah, but that is where you are wrong, my dear."

He then waved his arms out as the six wings behind him sprung aglow an even brighter gold.

"Look upon me and tell me the first thing you think of. 'A god,' no? Of course, a mere knave like you would never understand. Like Nemesis, you scurry about in the backdrop of peasants and beggars. A weakling; who ought to know their place when faced with absolute authority."

The next second came by in a blur. Ramses saw nothing, yet the urge to dodge encapsulated his body's every movement, and he found himself tilting away.

Suddenly, one of his mechanical wings was obliterated and reduced to nothing more than a thousand nanites.

"... Huh...?" he muttered.

After all the scrap pieces fell to the ground, he turned his eyes back to Zephyr, but she was not there. An aching pain abruptly spawned on his neck, and when he reached up to touch it, a spew of blood wetted his hand.

"So all that talk about beheading me was more than a simple jest," he chuckled.

A chill shot up his spine. He rotated his body again, and just like before, another one of his wings shattered instantaneously.

"But as I said, you're nothing more than a mere rat hiding in the shadows just like your former captain!" Ramses shouted as he pushed his arms apart.

The spherical barrier that surrounded him shrunk, before it expanded outwards, scorching all that it touched. From the concrete ground to the steel constructs, everything fell to ashes.

A massive black circle now stained the ground with Ramses levitating above it. He twisted his head left and right, but Zephyr was nowhere to be seen.

His first thought was that he had caught her within the inferno, but he knew better. Not only is she a member of Calypso, but she also has time manipulation as her code. Getting away without a single noticeable trace is second nature to someone like her.

With a huff of air, Ramses collected the remaining four wings and flew away in search of his prey.