Chapter Twenty-Two: Thin Ice
Marcus and Liam jumped to the side just in time. I wasn't as prepared as them. The only thing I could do was close my eyes and hope for the best. Just as The Autolizard was about to tear through the table I was behind, someone pushed me off to the side. I heard a grunt, and when I opened my eyes I couldn't believe what I saw. Jack was the one who had saved my life. I was confused. Why would he risk his life to save me? He hated me.
The table had shattered and now Jack was sprawled across the floor. He wasn't moving. I feared the worst, but when I ran up to him, he was breathing. He slowly opened his eyes and managed to cough out a word. "Run!"
I hesitated. I couldn't just leave Jack here, but he was right. I saw the Autolizard, and it had its fog-green eyes on me. I looked back at Jack once more, and then I bolted to the doors of the mountain.
When I got outside, The Autolizard wasn't far behind. I frowned, unsure of what to do. Then, my mind wandered to that day when I was alone with Marcus.
I smirked as a plan formed in my head. If I brought The Autolizard to the patch of thin ice next to the mountain then maybe, just maybe, its weight would be too much and it would break through. I only hoped that The Autolizard didn't have more absurd powers like the ability to climb walls. If I was lucky, I could damage the Autolizard. Well, either that or make it angry. If The Scarlet Man was with me, I might be able to destroy it once and for all. I had to try. For The Resistance. For Kieran.
So I ran. I ran for the thin patch of ice.
Liam and Marcus watched in horror as Rex ran out of the mountain flailing his arms wildly. They looked at each other with their eyebrows raised. "Who knew he could be such a good decoy!" Liam said with a smirk. "Should we go help him now?"
Marcus shook his head. "Nah, he looks like he has this under control. Besides, we have other matters to deal with." Marcus directed Liam's gaze towards Griffin Blake and two other Autofficers. One looked like a trigger-happy Autofficer that didn't seem to have any experience. No, he actually looked like a madman! He didn't seem to care if he shot a Resister or the wall.
"I'll take Blake and you take the other two." Marcus said.
"Hey, that doesn't seem fair!" Liam said. "That one looks like he could take the Resistance on by himself. But if you say so..."
As gunshots exploded around them from the battle, the two Resisters pulled out their swords and charged towards the group of Autofficers.
The three imperials were surprised to say the least. Griffin Blake spun around and retreated back towards the prison cells while the other two stayed to block the path. The youngest Autofficer spun his weapon around in some futile attempt to threaten the Resisters. "Just try to get past me." He taunted. "My name is Autofficer Jim, and this is Autofficer Gray. We will stop you, and I will not-"
He continued to talk on for quite some time. He seemed to be distracted by his own "pure skill" as he stated it. Marcus looked at Liam. "You got this under control, right?"
Liam nodded. "Should be fun."
Marcus ran towards Autofficer Gray and rammed straight into him. Both men fell to the floor. Jim was so startled by this action that he dropped the pistol he was spinning around. Taking the opening Marcus supplied, Liam charged into Jim. Marcus got to his feet again and charged towards the prison past automatons and Resisters alike. Autofficer Gray recovered soon after and ran to protect Autofficer Blake.
Liam and Jim wrestled over a pistol that was on the floor. The Autofficer punched Liam in the gut, but the Resister ultimately gained the weapon. He rolled away from Jim so he was at a safe distance, and then he aimed the weapon at the Autofficer's chest. Jim's eyes opened wide as he realized his defeat. He raised his hands into the air immediately. "I give up."
Suddenly, the mountain shook violently and Liam lost his grip on the gun. "What was that!?" He shouted to himself. The doors to the mountain were open, and Liam could see that two of the airships had taken off. They must have been launching cannonballs at the mountain!
Liam grabbed the pistol again and turned back to Jim, only Jim was now gone. He sighed. "Great."
Marcus slowly walked towards Griffin Blake, maneuvering himself in front of the big hole in the wall that was the Autofficer's only exit. (He was pretty sure that the hole didn't used to be there.) "Give up," Marcus said. "There's nowhere to hide!" Griffin had his arms behind his back as if he was in control of the situation, but he had a look of fear in his eyes, and his head darted around the room for other possible options. Marcus slowly moved towards the Imperial. "Call your automatons off, now!"
"I- I-" The Autofficer stuttered. When Marcus got a few feet away from Griffin, the mountain shook. He stopped to steady himself.
Griffin's fear quickly diminished, and he didn't seem to be affected by the shaking as much as Marcus. It was as if he was prepared for it. "I will not." He quickly moved his hand from behind his back, revealing a pistol. He fired the weapon.
Marcus jumped to the side, but the bullet still hit his leg. He gasped as he fell to the floor. Autofficer Gray entered the room shortly after that. "Time to go, sir."
Jim ran in a few seconds later. "Let’s get out of here!"
Both Griffin and Autofficer Gray sighed. He survived. "Fine," Griffin said. "Call back the IIAs, and then let's go before this entire mountain comes down on top of our heads!"
I could tell that the ice I was running on wouldn't hold for much longer, especially since The Autolizard was right behind me. After a few seconds more of running, I decided that I was deep enough in the middle of the ice that The Autolizard wouldn't be able to run away quickly enough if it broke. I pulled out my sword and spun to meet The Autolizard's gaze. We stood there for a few seconds just staring at each other. The green gaze of the Automaton was kind of unnerving, actually.
Overhead, two of the imperial airships were bombarding the mountain. I gasped.
I was afraid. Afraid of what might happen to my friends. Afraid of what might happen to me if the ice broke. I was worried that my plan wouldn't work. If The Autolizard wasn't destroyed by this, then I wouldn't know what else to do. The Resistance itself may very well depend on the outcome of this battle. Something as powerful as The Autolizard couldn't be allowed to stay functioning. It could probably take down the entire Resistance by itself. I had to succeed.
And with that in mind, I charged forward with my sword raised. The Autolizard charged too. I dropped down to my knees and the ice slid me under The Autolizard. I stood up again and jumped onto the Automaton's leg. From there, I climbed up onto it's back.
In Jefferson's Camp, I remembered Kieran saying something. He told me something... There was less of something behind the automaton's head. I looked there and my face was instantly blasted with hot air. It was a heat vent, and by the looks of it, there was no armor protecting it. (The heat was soothing, actually. I was freezing.) The Autolizard immediately tried to shake me off. At first I had a good grip, but then I began to slip. The ice underneath The Autolizard looked very brittle. If I fell now, I might break through.
I couldn't hold on for much longer. I tried once more to climb up, but I just kept falling more and more. Just as I was about to lose my grip, I heard a gunshot. The Autolizard roared as if it was in pain, and I winced, wishing that I could cover my ears.
I used this diversion to scramble back up to the heat vent. I scanned the plains of snow for the origin of the gunshot, and I thought I saw someone in a white outfit escaping the scene, but the figure was gone so fast that I wasn't sure. I was just thankful that he came, whoever he was.
The sound of ice cracking came to my ears, reminding me of what I was doing. I looked back down at the heat vent and raised my sword to strike it. I closed my eyes, hoping that this would work. And then I opened my eyes and plunged the sword into The Autolizard.
The automaton made a hissing sound as fog poured out of the heat vent. It blasted into my face and I gagged. The Autolizard's head sagged and rested on the Ice. That was too much for it to handle, however. The ground cracked one last time before shattering. I saw The Autolizard fall, but I didn't. Was I floating?
I looked up to see that someone had grabbed my arm right before I fell into the pit. When I looked at who saved me, I couldn't believe who I saw.
"Kieran! You're alive!"
Kieran chuckled. "What, you think that a mountain falling on top of me would kill me?" He pulled me out of the pit and I smiled at him. "It's good to see you again."
"You too, kid, but we shouldn't get all mushy while standing on top of unstable ice."
My eyes widened. "Oh, right!"
Liam squinted. He was pretty sure he placed the bomb on one of those airborne airships, so if he detonated this right...
Liam grabbed his detonator, waited for the right moment, and then pushed the button labeled "detonate". The airship on the left immediately erupted into flames. It lost control and began to spin. Liam smiled. "Yes! That's one down..." The airship tilted slightly and spun towards the second one. It crashed into the other airship and both of them plummeted towards the ground.
Liam nearly jumped into the air and shouted: "Yessssssss!" But he didn't because that would have drawn all of the automaton's attention to him. Instead, he settled with: "Two out of three isn't that bad."
When Liam was done admiring his work, he spun around and ran to aid Marcus. On the way there, he noticed that the battle was dying down. The Resistance was winning by a lot. Without leadership, the automatons got weaker.
When Liam got to the prison however, his friend was lying on the floor and the three Autofficers were escaping through the tunnel. "What happened?" Liam said urgently.
"Griffin caught me by surprise..." Marcus said. "You have to catch them... Don't let them escape!"
"We can let them go this time!" Liam said to Marcus. "Their superiors will probably punish them for this loss anyways."
Marcus sighed. "You're probably right."
The two Resisters heard a cheer coming from the main room. They frowned. "Help me up." Marcus said to Liam. Together, the two entered into the main room to find that all of the Resisters were cheering. Marcus shook his head. "I can't believe this." The two Resisters looked at each other and smiled. "We won."
One week later...
I sat on a snow bank that was overlooking the mountain. It had been a while and I still couldn't believe we won that battle. Ever since the attack we've been working on repairs. And since The Empire knew this base existed, we were also working on defenses.
We excavated the medical center as soon as possible so we could move the wounded there. We had minimal losses, and everyone was glad to hear that.
Jack turned out to be okay. I thanked him for saving my life and he actually got close to saying "you're welcome."
I really enjoyed the friendship that the Resisters of this mountain shared with each other, and I was so happy to learn that Marcus accepted my request to stay here with them permanently. They said that I really made a difference, and without me they may not have won. It was probably all flattery, but I would like to think that it's true.
I watched the sun set as another day went by. Like all of the others, it was good. My friends made sure of that.
"Congratulations on your victory." A soft voice said behind me. I jumped up and turned around. Standing right in front of me was a man dressed completely in white. I was going to ask who he was, but I think I already knew.
"You're The Scarlet Man."
He nodded. "I am. The color of my Snowmoors outfit usually throws people off, though."
I remembered seeing a man in white during my fight with The Autolizard. "You saved my life."
"I did, didn't I?" Replied The Scarlet Man.
"Why are you here?"
"To see you."
I blinked. "Me? Why me?"
"Why not you?"
I opened my mouth to respond, but I found that I didn't have anything to say.
"Rex, you did well during the battle of the mountain."
"Thank you, but I couldn't have done it without your help."
"You underestimate yourself."
I looked down. "What happens if I need your help but you aren't there?"
I felt his hand on my shoulder. "I will always be with you."
When I looked up, The Scarlet Man was gone. (He didn't even make any tracks in the snow! How does he do that?)
It felt like a burden I didn't know I was carrying had been lifted. I trusted The Scarlet Man's words, and I found peace knowing that the Great Engineer would be with me always. I smiled. "Thank you."
(Later, Rex found out that The Scarlet Man wore his Snowmoors outfit because (and I quote The Scarlet Man)"It's extremely fuzzy and comfortable.")