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|I considered this thought for a moment: the power I had in myself was both the cause and the solution for everything.
According to their conclusions, the keystone to the cure for the elders’ incapability for optimization laid inside my own databank – but my ever growing standards, the superiority of my developing being increased at such an intense pace, the renegade Elders were sure they could not take it from me without my cooperation.
I was disproportionably stronger than my adversaries. And Poseidon himself once told me about a military maxim which teach us that worse wars are those between two disproportional combatants – at such condition each part, no matter if the stronger or the weaker, is willing to use any resource without any previous rationalization.
They betrayed the man who gave them the best gifts of their lives, they used innocent human beings as toys to get their intents, they’ve caused loyal agents to fall into their evil scheme against their will, plus, they had hurt my friend, fooled my rookie agents and kidnapped the man I loved. Poseidon and his buddy Hades were really trying their last play to get their intent – and I might even say they had a good game in their hands.
First, because I couldn’t really fight against my fellow Pantheon members, and they would sure use this as leverage against me; then, using Onyx and Zion as a trial study for their so-called virus, trying to break the resistance third-generation members had against their Pandora virus.
Finally, with Andy at their mercy, I would have to come to them and play by their rules.
Zeus approached me like the worthy man who witnessed his beloved brothers committing a felony, his face was dark, his eyes lost the usual glow of nobility – “Spartan, I am hereby resigning my authority to you. Pantheon was built by Elders, but I cannot let us destroy its glory – you are the leader now, and I shall surrender to your authority as one of the traitors!” He joined his fists together, waiting for me to arrest him as a criminal.
Holding him tightly as I hugged his muscular yet much smaller frame, I kissed his forehead – “Zeus, you are not resigning, you’re just making me team leader on this mission because you cannot deal with them, but once we rectify this situation you’ll assume what is your rightful place…”
I put him on the ground, looking down to the man who I used to think to be indestructible, however seeing this vulnerable side of Zeus made me admire him even more, I noticed at that moment that above every enhancements our bodies have, we are essentially humans – and that is not our weakness but our greatest strength.
Magnus and Haven also came around to show their appreciation by hugging our betrayed leader – “Sir, you can’t give up on us, we’re gonna bring all the agents back and we’ll punish who need to be punished!” – Magnus’ tone was a bit harsh, but he was feeling the same pain for being so cowardly betrayed. A friendly hand petted Zeus’ massive shoulder. Haven’s furry muscular frame dwarfed the leader like an incredible muscle bear, but his voice was calm and caring.
“Professor, if there’s anyone who needs to guide us, it’s you! You feel the exact same frustration as Hades and Poseidon, so it’s only natural that you also come with us”
The group of ultra powered agents I had around me was ready to act – The only doubt I had was how to strike without risking Andy’s life, because for the first time since I was recruited I feared for something, not for my life, nor my safety but for the integrity of that petite little man who meant the world to me.
The two renegade elders were anything but stupid; they would use everything in their powers to get leverage against us. Nonetheless, we still had the greatest leverage of all: my ever-surprising improvements.
Now that Roger was incapable of upgrading their information about my system, Hades nor Poseidon could only hope that I wouldn’t develop another enhancement until we our battle, but they had run out of luck.
Right after our “group hug”, I felt something very familiar about the two third generations members next to me, it was like I could actually feel the hardness of my own muscles through Haven’s and Magnus’ flimsy skin. I could smell the citric fragrance on Zeus’ hair but such sensation came directly from Jeff’s nose.
They looked at me, almost at the same time – surprised to hear my mind’s voice on their own system.
“So now we are mentally linked, without any need of the Pantheon’s intercommunication protocols. Matt, you big jerk, always hiding something under your sleeve!” – It was Magnus voice but it actually was more felt through my pores than my ears to be more accurate.
“I’m afraid this big guy can’t wear anything with sleeves!” Haven’s mockery spread through my system. It really felt like I was laughing of myself, every single fiber on their systems were in perfect harmony with my own internal commands.
We were not just communicating telepathically but most of all, we were feeling at the same time all the stimulations that each individual experienced, to each data input we were sharing three different perspectives, the possibilities of such increase were just unparallel – each agent who joined this feature would bring us into a whole level of cooperation.
The mutual contribution to our communal perception efficiency proved to be very useful because there was no need of tracking the signs on the agents, we just needed to access the data on the individual we wanted. A joint databank, probably the most powerful one ever imagined by mankind was just born, and this newest breakthrough was sure to be followed by many others at an intensified pace.
The first thing our joint brain processors figured out was that the Renegades would only go to one place if they wanted to keep all the field leverage over us - and with this in our minds we had no trouble at all guessing their hideout.
The Eagle Crest Island has been the location of Pantheon’s academy at the coast of Maine; an uninhabited island with a very irregular shore, rugged mountains of ancient granite rock formations.
An island especially designed by nature to keep strangers away thanks to its very difficult access – besides the fact that there was no beaches, the harsh terrible conditions aggravated by the polar sea current that reaches that area almost through the whole year, the harsh freezing wind that blows from the north, you’d only find a 200 feet high rock wall to climb all the way up to the island where there was almost no vegetation at all, a series of rocky caves and internal lakes that would attract only the bravest among the brave.
The perfect place for Pantheon to hide its state-of-the-art Academy, where the recently recruited agents were taken to be properly trained at their new abilities, a place in which they would be taught how to use their new capabilities at their own favor, the tough drilling program had absolutely no desertions, however, only those with the active Dashwood factor could actually survive through this period of time.
The Academy was indeed a very cleverly disguised complex, underneath the barren surface, built within the solid granite wall, a massive series of truncated galleries composed the operation center for the training activities – fighting rooms, super heavy duty, ultra equipped magnetic reinforced gymnasiums, conference rooms where they were taught almost everything Pantheon’s agents should have in their powerful brains, computer rooms from where the new agents would study the Pantheon network of data, and such well equipped laboratories that only seconded to those at the main facilities.
I could hear the sound of the Pantheon’s chopper cutting its way through the powerful stormy winds up in the skies.
We knew they’d be waiting for us, they knew we’d be ready for a welcome party; all of us knew pretty well that this was the last battle, but the victory’s secret still lied in the strategy. In the chopper were Zeus and Haven – After we were secure that Roger could not try anything to help them, my 6’5” bruised yet very strong butler took the former staff leader to my house, I was sure that Winston could handle Roger’s menace if he didn’t have anything from Pantheon technology to use.
I knew Zeus and Haven would be saluted by the at the heliport, they would be more than satisfied with his apparent surrender, after all both Hades and Poseidon’s best reason would be clouded by their pride: when Zeus, their former leader, announced his surrender to the renegades along with Haven, trying to negotiate new terms for my “acceptance”, that was the chance we needed to get our action plan in practice.
Using Zeus at the frontal flank was both risky and profitable – he would be the perfect negotiator while Magnus and I used sneakier methods, since Haven was there to protect our leader and keep us constantly informed of the ongoing action, we would keep the surprise element for much longer – we were sure to fight but at least we’d fight in our time and not theirs.
While the chopper lifted from the ship, we jumped into the dark stormy waters – at our current size and optimization level, that task was so easy that it was safer than riding that aircraft into the tempestuous night, but we needed to remain unseen by their instruments, thanks to the special signal mixers we were using, Hades and Poseidon would never trace our signals to their base.
Even though I was terribly worried about Andy, there was definitely an immeasurable pleasure to swim so easily and swiftly among such violent waters. The suit I had on me defied the very definition of “ultra-stretch” because it was clearly surrendering to my gargantuan mounds of titanic hardness, Magnus bet with that it would simply rip before I reached our destination, and frankly that was far optimistic prevision – it ripped as soon as I started swimming.
Using my massive arms I could easily win the resistance of the violent stream, the danger of hypothermia meant nothing to my self-adapting organism, my performance just got better, we swam between 20 and 50 feet underneath the surface to avoid the biggest and strongest waves, keeping beneath the surface for over15 minutes before I felt any need to breathe again, my lung capacity increased with my tremendous size augmentation, but mostly it was the optimized expenditure of the oxygen in my blood that allowed me to keep moving through water at such vertiginous speed. Even though he was noticeably slower than me, Magnus’ own motivation made kept him as near from me as his own massive muscles allowed.
That was a perfect night for stealth operation – the clouds encumbered the moonlight changing the whole horizon into pitch black darkness, occasionally flashed by the constant vigilance from this old lighthouse strategically placed at the top of Eagle Crest Rock. Completely unharmed by the fury of the raging waves shocking against the rock wall, Magnus and I just let the waves do their powerful job, our ultra resistant bodies could never be hurt against those rocks, so it was the perfect opportunity to get a start on our 200 feet climb up to the alternative access we would use as our entrance for this mission.
The sound of the waves also made it easier for us, because we only needed to use it as a decoy for our dynamite potent punches, breaking through the granite and using it as a solid support for the heroic weights of our physiques. Two massive dark figures climbing that rugged wall, without any preoccupation with the giant waves that kept coming – the power and determination in our minds would never surrender not even to the power of nature – at each new punch we were closer from our destiny, and there was no force on Earth which could keep me from getting my beloved back. His cute face burned through my corneas, I just had the urge to be with him again, and it only made stronger, harder…
If the Renegades could preview what was happening inside me, they would think twice before acting against my Andy. Even though we were still underneath the water when they reached the island, both Magnus and I had crystal clear view and perfect audio, sharing with Haven all the details we needed to keep our action hidden for the longest possible time.
The chopper landed at platform which just appeared through the camouflaged entrance right on the of the top of the Eagle Crest Rock – where this apparently innocent 18th century lighthouse disguised a state-of-the-art, surveillance apparatus – there was virtually no signal this highly sophisticated system couldn’t detect – except for the permanent data sharing among our systems, because it clearly happened in such a level still very far from Pantheon’s computers capabilities.
During the climbing I could actually taste Andy’s sweat in my mouth, he was very nervous, I could hear his heartbeat from underneath the water, and his right nostril was slightly hurt which gave a little whistling tone to his breathing – even though there was simply no sign from Zion neither Onyx’ mental physical activity, I could also feel their unique electronic frequencies strongly inside the building, which meant they were probably unconscious. All these sensations were downloaded on the data stream we now possessed, because I needed Haven to look for all the signs of Andy and the others from his privileged point of view, while my part of the mission team managed to infiltrate the base.
Hades leaded his “reception party” at the heliport: Cromwell and Yamamoto were right on his side and to our complete surprise – they were both optimized! Their expressions still emotionless and their minds felt empty to any contact we tried. That fact made our spines freeze, the Renegades also had a new feature at their side, whether if they rearranged the virus to work on optimized agents, or it was another resource they kept hidden from us, truth was that we now had stronger opposition, even though those agents were only at optimization levels 4 and 5, but it was still the equivalent power of a few nations entire armies for us to fight – and in our kind of mission, we couldn’t waste any of our scarce time with fights we are sure to win no matter how powerful our opponents may be.
Haven and Zeus didn’t waste any time talking to their hosts, they simply followed Hades and his controlled agents to the elevator. Although that was really an awkward because Jeff alone could easily overpower all the enemies, we still had to play by their rules, because they knew how to use their only key element to keep us under their power. The elevator descended for a few other moments.
The doors opened and Magnus and I could see through Haven’s eyes the interior of the Eagle Crest’s War Room – the place where the drilling agents are briefed before each new training routine. Inside, we found Poseidon’s large figure surrounded by Rhodes and four more optimized second-generation members, everyone with the same void resemblance. The Renegades choose a really strategic place as their HQ, because many second-generation Agents were serving there as Drilling Officers for the newcomers, even though, according to my databank, they didn’t need all that training anymore.
In my heart I felt deeply sorry for all the fellow agents I had to put down on my way into their hideout.
“I’ve never imagined you would be taken down so easy, old pal!” Hades’ arrogant tone echoed in Haven’s mind, he had never knew that man but he already hated him for betraying the noblest man he ever met in his life, which required from both Magnus and myself the will in order to overpower the urge to strike at that right moment. The amazing and completely smooth skin on his powerful body only emphasized the aversion he developed for anything that wasn’t predictable and stables (something that although I hate to admit happened to me several times during these years serving the Pantheon).
“Don’t you talk to me in that tone, Elijah, you and Wendell are nothing but miserable traitors to our cause!” Zeus’ voice was smooth and grave, he didn’t lose his temper, yet, it was noticeable that his anger and frustration in his tone.
“You’re still attached to this old “cause” excuse?” – My dear Sedgwick, don’t you never forget that it was you who dragged us along your puerile dreams, luring our shocked minds with promises of grandeur and power, something that you failed to accomplish shortly after this whole Pantheon madness started!” – Poseidon said walking around Zeus. Exception made only for Zeus, he was the most handsome middle aged man I’ve seen in my life, both as man and Pantheon. He had silver straight hair, a bit longer than I remember, hanging a little bit down his ears, his face was clean and very friendly, the thin lips had a slight imperfection at the right corner, his nose was classic and his light blue eyes contrasting to his rich tan, only made his grey hair seems almost mythological.
His built was rather phenomenal, at 7’1” tall and clearly around 450 pounds, Wendell Perkins had not only the muscles, but his whole figure inspired power, the rumors on Pantheon corridors always told stories about Zeus and Poseidon as great leaders, who strangely never seem to compete, and the few times they did not agree with something, usually Poseidon tried to persuade Zeus with his incredible charisma – it felt really difficult for me, even at this point to see this man as my enemy.
“How dare you blame Professor for such nonsense accusations?” Haven’s loud tone thundered at the dark night, he bravely stood between Poseidon and Zeus, towering over the elders at his optimized figure. Although Jeff was a massive giant of muscles and power, Pantheon’s second in command wasn’t by any chance intimidated by his glorious presence.
“I see you got yourself yet another new toy, old man” Hades said from back his position in a mockery voice taking his arms behind his muscular back, admiring the impressive physique on Haven, after a few moments the renegade elder’s grin broadened even more.
“So, isn’t that the little guy who had a crush the great Professor? You were supposed to be middle aged by now, I can see the new generation technology can work wonders on overlooked agents…” Jeff fought with his desire to grab Hades’ obnoxious little figure and toss him into the ocean beneath them.
“You listen here, “Agent Haven”, you have no idea what the Pantheon is all about, you just fell for the same story we bought several years ago, the power, the strength the promise to live young and strong for many years, becoming superior than mankind…” Poseidon said as he poked on Jeff’s protuberant abdominal muscles.
“DON’T BRING ME TO THE SAME LEVEL AS YOU, SCUM BAG!” The powerful blow from Zeus’ fist reached Poseidon’s face, sending him many yards back, a punch that would destroy at least three concrete walls at once, but only made the target hit the ground strongly, destroying the concrete flooring with his impact. Jeff got ready for anything, assuming defensive position to protect Zeus from any retaliation from the zombiefied agents, but they remained still. Hades slowly stood back on his feet, and cleaned his body.
“You still don’t understand do you, Zeus?” Hades said as he ran towards Wendell, who by his turn already straightened his position – “You doomed us all Sedgwick, your nano-technology still isn’t capable of optimization, and your further symptoms are just as bad as ours! Soon you’ll be completely useless, but we are not sitting here and watch our self-destruction!”
I felt a sharp blow on my heart. How could I be so ridiculously stupid? The whole Andy situation clearly eclipsed my better judgment If Hades and Poseidon suffered from the same condition of Zeus, the lack of optimization was just the tip of the iceberg!
*The Touch of Decay*
This expression flashed in my mind directly from the data I had downloaded from Zeus’ system, and it was somehow unlocked at the moment Zeus’s expression simply turned astoundingly sad. Something was very wrong with all my “brilliant” theory. Once again I thought about Andy’s advice - “True wisdom relies not in the answers given, but in the questions to be made. Think Matthew, don’t look for the answer, and look for the proper question, what are the greatest enemies from Pantheon?”
“What is the Pantheon? When was it actually created? Why would they create such thing?” None of the agents were there when the Pantheon was indeed created, just the elders, and we just took their word as true ever since…
Using Jeff’ warm touch at Zeus’ shoulder as my vessel, I managed to search the databank directly from the first elder, breaking through the defenses he built around it, guided by a premonitory feeling that I had to find the truth about the Pantheon. There were some highly complex protective barriers, information that had been kept from Pantheon’s data system all that time, thanks to a great deal of willpower spent by Zeus and his fellow Elders. For the first time in years, my trust over Pantheon simply disappeared, I decided to search for answers at the best source ever: Zeus’ own personal memories, his face showed the shock for noticing my unexpected breakthrough on his system, but at the same time he felt relieved with my decision, somehow the weight would be finally lifted from his wide shoulders…
The early experiences of Sedgwick Dashwood conducted, in reality, never considered the so called “Dashwood Factor”, according to his theoretical constructions the experiment would run perfectly, because the Y chromosome would provide the necessary opening to establish interaction. To prove his certainty about his studies, he was the first volunteer and the interaction was successful. Sedgwick then decided to share this glory with his best friends and his fellow scientists, men who he judged to be the best candidates for such honor: Elijah Barnett and Wendell Perkins.
At first the interaction went successful, three men with ever growing capabilities, increasing strength and almost infinite potential, but a little time after their interaction, both Elijah and Wendell reported to feel extremely weak after stabilization process. Zeus ran a complete scan on their system, to find out they were degenerating after each optimization. It was like their own technological part was destroying the biological self!
That’s why Zeus always felt so guilty about everything the Renegades did, the founding father of the Pantheon had sentenced his best friends to a painful death by deterioration, and meanwhile Sedgwick himself was getting stronger with each day! Dashwood’s best efforts to find a reason to such sinister difference resulted precisely at the discovery of the Dashwood factor – By some sheer force of destiny, the man who created the interaction system choose, by pure chance, one of the 0.2% of the world wide gay male population who would be perfectly suitable for the proceedings without any risk of side-effects.
In the earlier days of such tragedy, Zeus tried to give his friends the peculiar condition which made all the difference between their results, subsequent plasma transfusions, combined with constant implantation of Sedgwick’s tissues in the organs of the diseased men proved not only to stabilize the degeneration process but also reactivated the inhuman capabilities of Elijah and Wendell – but after relieving time, the treatment encountered a very powerful resistance: the own technology in their bodies learned how to attack even Dashwood’s material – Zeus was aware of that possibility, the intense sexual contact the Elders could mean the corruption of their only clean specimen, but Zeus admired and loved those men, he felt guilty for their condition and he decided that he would suffer from the same end if it was the price for his sins.
While he failed to create an interaction technology which didn’t need the DF+ character, the need for newer and different donators forced Zeus to finally surrender to the idea of finding more men with the same condition as his original one. Later, Dashwood managed to develop a second generation technology which would only work in carriers but it was also immune to any kind of infection provided by the Elder’s “touch of decay” and such immunity also could mean the solution for their problems because with different genetic patterns, the reaction program which attacked the organisms of the other Elders would be constantly “cheated” – a strategy which would buy Zeus some extra time to finally create the cure for their common damnation. Dashwood, Barnett and Perkins joined their powerful efforts to create the system which would locate the carriers all over the world, the only men who could actually completely benefit from the interaction.
However, just finding such men would still not solve their problem, they would have to convince those men to enter interaction proceedings and still be in constant usage of their new abilities , forcing their systems to overcome obstacles, developing into more powerful versions, in the selfish hope that would provide their so long awaited cure.
That was the real reason why Pantheon was created. To cover up for their hidden agenda, although the creation of some special Peace for force was indeed among the plans of Sedgwick and his friends, the need for newer donors, the intense desire to experiment the power and the strength their peculiar condition gave them, the selfish impulse that makes each individual fight to his continuing existence was stronger than any compassionate or humanitarian motivation. Thus, creating a superhuman organization which would help the weaker and those oppressed sure had a great appeal over the young minds of the heedless young men.
The new agents were not only immune to the degeneration provoked inside the Elder’s systems, but they also proved to be stronger and even more capable specimen, the advancing discoveries in such area marveled Zeus, but it also did not interest with the same meaning to Hades and Poseidon, they only cared for their cure.
Fortunately, the increasing libido of optimized agents and the enormous seminal production of their magnified endowments, especially during stabilization process proved to be a very useful moment to collect the material for their real intents. Over the years, all the Elders actually became “semen vampires” draining their amazing powers from the fresh semen of the second-generation agents, each new man that was located and integrated to the Pantheon system, meant a new source of fresh DF+ to be inserted on their constantly degenerating organisms. Although they seemed perfection in the flesh and in the mind, each Elder knew exactly that his state was not permanent; they feared their wicked condition would someday overcome their treatment, especially because it was not a cure itself, but rather just a palliative. Then, came the day when they could no longer optimize, not even after consuming fresh DF+ material. Their system was growing more resistant to the different genetic patterns; it would be a matter of time before they would no longer benefit of the stability of their borrowed time.
Until the day Zeus’ cells showed a different trace, something that seemed originally similar to the second-generation technology, but after deeper experimentation, the Elders found out that such genetic material produced on Zeus testicles was completely free of the pestilent Touch of Decay.
Although the Elder himself still was not free from his terrible condition, the nano interacted genetic material produced by his testicles, unlike all the others the rest of his body proved to be naturally resistant to the Touch, which was confirmed by constant expositions and experiments with samples of each Elder – that sample was 100% decaying proof. That’s how the third generation technology was born. Zeus was actually very right when he called us “his sons”.
Starting by me, along with Magnus, Zion and lately Onyx and Haven, the elders finally could see a light at the end of their tunnel. No longer would they carve for our sperm, in order to keep their power, they would finally be free from their parasite condition. The excitement grew bigger at new enhancement I showed, they desperately begged Zeus to get more samples of my material in order to copy whatever evolution I carried within my cells, they constantly sent me into dangerous scenarios, where I had to use all my resources in order to return alive. I may have done very honorable deeds to humanity, but that was just a smoke bomb to force my organism to push itself further and further into the direction they wanted me to: the cure for the Touch. And the same thing worked for Magnus as well, the precious second member of their new squad, they knew the reason why we were so much beyond their own standards, Zeus’s original immunity had to fight over years with the decay, but it finally managed to produce something so powerful not even the Elders’ curse would be able to destroy. But the worst problem to me was that everything Pantheon represented to that very moment was a fraud – Despaired Scientists trying to revert the side-effects of an ambitious experiment, using young unaware men to their own hidden agenda, filling our minds with cheap propaganda! Sending us into dangerous missions, with the excuse to save the weaker and the oppressed to disguise their only egocentric goals!
The anger within me spread to my companions, as I shared with such harsh facts, and I thank them for managing to calm me down – Haven shared his own memories with Zeus, how he had been always very worried with humanitarian causes, how he helped every student with a certain challenge to overcome. Magnus remembered me that if it wasn’t for Pantheon, Onyx, Castor and Polux wouldn’t be here at this moment, because it was through their intervention in the world, that these men survived. I weighed their arguments for a moment, although it still didn’t redeem most of their faults towards us, I could actually recognize that Zeus, at least, tried to keep himself as our friend, more than leader or master, he was truly worried with our development, even if that meant he would find the cure for his own condition…
That’s why the dispute between the Elders emerged. Hades and Poseidon wanted to shut down the whole operation in order to dedicate fully to the research for their cure, while Zeus had actually dedicated his life to the Pantheon cause, he did not want to disappoint all the friends he had done over these years, not to mention those who had not only accepted but counted on Pantheon’s forces to bring hope over their sorrow. Nonetheless, little did Elijah and Wendell care for such thing, they only could think on the degeneration they would inevitably face someday, and the only chance they had was kept inside us.
After a very vivid discussion, Hades announced that he would just drop his functions at the Pantheon if Zeus did not intensify the search after the cure for the Touch, a threat that Zeus would not take for granted. They would face each other in battlefield to finally settle their dispute, if it wasn’t for Poseidon’s intervention – he calmed the parties and told Zeus that they would wait for a more propitious opportunity, meanwhile Hades asked if the Leader would agree to intensify the challenges for the third generation members, in which he agreed. However, Zeus would find out only later that that was already part of the scheme – Poseidon and Hades were already acting on their own intent. They had isolated the main technological component of the “Touch” degenerating complex – the base codification they later gave to Roger (once they easily gained the weakling man for their side through sexual favors and the promise of becoming a Pantheon himself) for him to develop the virus called “Pandora’s box”.
According to their elaborated plans, they assumed that if I or any other third generation member was able to overcome such condition once we were truly exposed to its menace then they would have found their cure, but turns out even Roger’s virus didn’t have the full effect they expected. Still, there was something that didn’t connect yet. How could they control optimized second generation members? Such question still meant that they could have a very powerful weapon on their side, and I couldn’t risk any chance to save the rookies or Andy for that matter – The Elders might be decaying, but we would still prevail over the menaces, now that all the truth was unveiled, we needed to act with all the information we just gathered.
Magnus was almost reaching the spot we would use as our entrance, but before he squeezed his massive frame inside, I gently held his action by sending a communal thought, a sudden change of plans that would benefit our action, my fellow agent just stopped and looked down at my monumental thighs preparing a mighty kick – he punched through the rock wall and held as tight as he could. The whole mountain shook with my kick; the walls on several levels both above and beneath us were pulverized. Magnus and I jumped into different floors to cover a bigger area, he would go up to meet Haven and Zeus, while I would go down to find Andy and the rookies.
I could see through Magnus’ eyes while he proceeded through the truncated corridors of the Eagle Crest complex. The usual machinery wouldn’t stop a training agent, what to say about me and my mission partner, the bullets and the laser shots they fired was simply a smaller inconvenient. Meanwhile, I continued going through my level, following the smell I had captured from Andy and the rookies, they were close from each other, I could tell that, but it only made even more anxious to get them into safety.
After a few moments I met the first obstacles that would take me some extra energy to overcome: Members Stephen Truman, Felix Massena and Greg Briggs – three level 4 optimized agents, who apparently were not joined in cooperative mission, otherwise one would be the leader with them, that would be at level 13, although second generation members never reached such a high optimization proceeding before. I looked at three different men, with unique features of masculine beauty and corporal perfection equally powerful carriers of the Dashwood Factor, the very reason which caused their current slavery situation.
The look on their faces depleted of any expression, they moved around me assuming offensive position, I held my stance as much as I could, because I still didn’t know the extension of my strength at that point, I couldn’t take the chance to hurt them. I know they were optimized, but still the difference between our stats clearly showed they were clearly in inferior conditions, if I acted with anything more than just defensive efforts I could get those guys seriously injured.
Massena attacked me first, his flying kick actually just bounced on my pecs, but I knew it could actually knock down a whole building. I gently picked his legs on the ground and threw him far from my massive body as I proceeded towards Briggs and Truman who attacked me by the flanks (which would be effective if I weren’t so freaking wide that my muscles could actually absorb the different sources of impact). I held their bodies for a while, but they were actually clever, sliding through my muscles, taking a safe distance so they could come back again.
Their attempts got considerably stronger now that guys were the early stages of optimization, but even so, their combined power was no obstacle to get my intent. I had to knock down Briggs, Massena and Truman to proceed in my way to the lower parts of the complex, and so I just waited for their next blow. Each strike contained enough energy to vanquish entire blocks, but to me they felt like a gust of chilly wind, so as they gathered their efforts once again, I just used my massive arms to immobilize their tiny bodies, using the swinging movement to thrust their bodies through the granite walls, because I simply had no time to “Spartan kiss” them until they ran out of oxygen, nor I would resource to such radical solution as shutting down their systems (Although I knew by now that it would be possible in most cases, if I had enough time to concentrate on their network).
The repercussions of our strike were instantaneous. I watched as Haven fought with Yamamoto and Cromwell, while Poseidon and Hades ran in their fantastic speed through the other rooms, with Zeus at their chase. Jeff simply absorbed their attacks and followed our former leader through the hallways. I mentally knew that Magnus was ready to intercept the runaway Elders, bumping into his massive muscular fortress – Hades and Poseidon recovered pretty fast from the violent crash, just in time to Zeus, and Haven surround them. I couldn’t believe it was so easy after all, even though the controlled agents were still standing; the true enemies were soon to be put out of action.
Meanwhile, I felt that I got closer to Andy and the rookies, since I had the facilities map on my data, the easiest to avoid combating my fellow members was actually going down the levels by destroying the flooring underneath my immense bulk, I made sure that I would be landing through the corridors and not inside any room where Andy or the rookies could actually be held. With no effort all I finally got to the same level where Andy’s signs came from, although I tried to contain myself, the closer I got from my target, the emotion grew stronger me, and I actually could sense Andy’s heartbeat like it was inside my own chest.
There he was, my poor little lover, bruised and treated like trash. They had tossed into some room, he was lying on the cold floor, hugging his knees close to his chest, and Andy’s little face showed he had passed through lots of stress since they took him. I held my fist to destroy the door and recover my love when the words spoke to Magnus’ and Haven’s felt in me like the unexpected cold blade piercing through the flesh of a backstabbed victim – “I still don’t know how you can keep in touch without using Pantheon’s intercoms, but you’d better tell your big friend running lose downstairs that I can mentally execute his precious little human…”
Just at that moment, Andy realized I was there, in all my glory and power. His eyes grew wide, but I read fear in them instead of hope… He stood up and waved for me to go away, he knew of something I couldn’t percept so blinded by my emotions…
Poseidon glowed in pride of his own truncated scheme – “Right at this moment, the monitors show my system that our friend Spartan is right in front of his beloved. That’s actually very touching, isn’t it?” – Poseidon’s chest inflated as he walked across Zeus, Hades just nodded, looking at Magnus with clear disdain.
“It’s time to stop the madness!” Zeus’ appeal echoed through the room as more controlled agents gathered around. The Renegades grinned in agreement – “It was about time for you to come to reason, old friend” – Hades’ mockery tone made it clear that they were not kidding, but I didn’t have time nor patience to call for their bluff.
While I tried to focus on both places at the same time, Andy kept waving for me to get out of the place, like there was something that could actually threaten my heroic figure. I simply pushed my massive hands through the flimsy steel door and ripped it like it was tin foil, inside, I could see the perfect bodies of Onyx and Zion, without any kind of apparatus to prevent them from escaping from that tiny room, Andy tried to say something, but I held the rookie agents on my shoulders and before he could speak, there I was reaching for his tiny body and hugging him to my chest, he did try to call my attention by punching my humongous figure, and whispering something “Please, Matt, they want YOU, get out of here now!”
“It’s really funny how history repeats itself. You were a carrier and even though you were just as infected as me or Poseidon, your organism managed to overcome the Touch, producing the so precious “third generation” chips, that would be our salvation, isn’t it right YOU LIAR?!”
“You know better than anyone that I worked night and day in the search for our cure! The answer was so close, if you could only wait a little longer…” Zeus tried to argument, but he knew it was useless at that point.
“Don’t bother with another lecture on Pantheon’s code and the responsibility for other people’s lives Elijah, we know better than anyone that Zeus is not worried about his decaying condition, as long as he gets the powerful cum of his beloved agents, he is nothing but a beggar, a shadow of the man he once was, sending his precious super soldiers through dangerous missions, with the only purpose to have them huge and powerful, so they can discharge their precious “rejuvenating juices” over his collectors, so he can produce the elixir that helps us from turning into living mummies…” – Wendell’s words sounded like the desert.
“Truth is, Sedgwick, my so-called friend that we grew impatient with your inefficiency, we decided to take destiny in our hands, especially after Chronos emerged.” Hades revealed with a clear sign of pleasure in his voice.
Haven and Magnus stood there watching as Poseidon enjoyed his triumph. “Where Zeus’s organism was able to produce your precious technology, we were glad to find out that our own systems produced something equally surprising and with incredible potential…”
“Cut the crap, old men, and spill it out at once!” Magnus stomped on the ground with such power; it literally shook the stance of the Renegades for a brief instant. I felt just as nervous as Magnus, for the very same reasons, I just tried to understand why Andy wouldn’t want me to break though that flimsy door…
The massive pair stood in front of my companions – “The decaying condition is no longer to be feared, but Zeus would never accept it! The gift of timeless grace was ours to reach! Chronos is the name of the god of Time, the father of the Greater Gods, ruling above the universe, he is the lord of everything, consuming including his children to keep his absolute reign.” Poseidon’s words sounded suddenly very enthusiastic, and I felt my spine freezing…
“We figured that our cells were able to create perfect back-ups of our own systems, including our memories down to every single detail, perfect information that could be “downloaded” into the organism of the other members, resulting in perfect receptacles for our glorious minds and giving us the gift of eternity!” Hades opened his massive arms.
Zeus exclaimed “You can’t be serious… that’s what you intend? This is …”
“Nature. Survival of the fittest, and we are clearly the fittest, Zeus, but you were too weak to accept our true condition” – Hades simply said, bowing in front of Zeus.
“It would be the perfect solution, we would exist simultaneously into the bodies of the newly recruited agents, until we could find the cure for our condition, our power and experience would pass through these new vessels…”
“Vessels? These are living human beings! I’m sure your precious Chronos system would only wipe their own minds, depriving them from their own bodies, while your pestilent touch would destroy all the benefits of the interaction!” Zeus closed his fists, his massive muscles bulging underneath his special uniform.
“I guess it didn’t work out so perfectly, right geezers? Because we are still in complete control of our bodies and minds! You are nothing but delirious lunatics!” Haven replied standing behind Zeus, to protect him from any possible attack.
“We didn’t actually use it the way we just told you stupid buffoons!” Hades glared at Zeus’ protector – “We needed to gather some very important information…”
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