[Sanctuary of the Elusive Captain] Ch 7-2. Rules of Engagement
[Sanctuary of the Elusive Captain] Ch 7-2. Rules of Engagement
May 03, 2022
“I may consider making your punishments less severe only if both of you survive. Regardless of the outcome, let this be a lesson you won’t forget.” Captain Galhardo raised his book. “Let’s begin.”
Fittingly, his first attack had the title of ‘Study Session.’ He touched his fingertips to different pages of the Interstellar Forces Handbook, summoning holographic copies of them like apparitions from a spell book. They swirled around his ankles to his torso, from where he flung them at Leon and Roxie at breakneck speeds.
Just as the cyan pages approached, they slowed down to a near halt, clustering together. Only narrow space remained for Roxie and Leon to squeeze between them. Despite the danger, Roxie remained impressed. She wasn’t the only one.
“You can clone real life objects into the simulation?” Leon dodged oncoming pages. “That’s so cool! How did you do it?”
The captain did not answer. In fact, it seemed like he flung more pages in Leon’s direction.
“Uh, permission to ask how you did it, sir?”
“Rookie, over here!” Roxie attempted to call him over to her area, where the pages were less dense. However, the captain started throwing more at her too. Did she break another rule? “Permission to speak to my teammate, sir?”
Well, that would be a problem. Teamwork helped the two so much in the previous battle. How could they ally together if they couldn’t even talk?
Before she could think about it, the next pattern, ‘Racing Pawns,’ began. Captain Galhardo waved one hand left and the other right, summoning rows of blue walls between him and his opponents. Much like his brother’s ‘Soundwave,’ the walls approached them and contained gaps, but these walls bunched much closer together and simply moved left and right, alternating between rows.
Roxie leapt through the first gap. From there, the movement of the walls became disorienting, but in her, might she powered on. Struggling, scrambling, she pounced at every opportunity to enter the next gap. She soon made her way toward the back wall. The tanks were protected by new walls materializing, so Roxie made sure to give them some space. Captain Galhardo probably set it up this way purposefully, but thinking of him gave rise to a new thought: Where did he go?
The captain vanished from his initial position at the back wall. Roxie couldn’t see any trace of him when she looked around, but far behind her, she could make out an ominous cloud of red bubbles approaching. Luckily, she was too far away to have to worry about them.
…But was Leon? He hadn’t made it to her row, and from the looks of it, nowhere close. In her rush to self-preservation, she’d abandoned her boy!
She made her way back through the walls, but the timing was trickier since they moved away from her. About halfway through, the red bubbles drew near, only a few rows behind her. An ominous caped silhouette stood behind them. Still no sign of Leon. If he were any farther back, there may be no hope of saving him. Just when all her hope had died, she heard a clap.
Leon waved his hands, mouthing. ‘What are you doing?’
Along with him, Roxie stepped back through an oncoming gap. She pointed at him, mouthing, “You!”
A red bubble phased through her hand. More followed, flying toward them faster than the rest and cutting their silent conversation short. Roxie made her way back toward the wall, this time keeping an eye on Leon as he did the same. Shortly after Leon caught up, the walls and bubbles ceased to exist.
Captain Galhardo and his opponents stood in opposite positions, but not for long. He flew to the back wall, using an arm to brake. The next pattern, “Total Recall,” started with him summoning many pages of the IF handbook close to himself. Roxie and Leon fled back where they began. From there, they dodged a rapid-fire onslaught of pages in zigzagging diagonal waves.
When it ended, Roxie looked to her left to check on Leon. He seemed to be doing okay, though he still hopped back and forth, not realizing the pattern finished.
Glowing orange orbs materialized from the captain’s hands, commencing ‘Tower Defense for the Diocese.’ He placed two at his sides and three more in front of them. All five began to fire thin orange projectiles at diagonals. Staying between each stream was simple enough, until the angles between them started to close.
Roxie made her way up and through the bottom right orb’s stream, then through the top right’s, positioning herself right next to it. Leon did the same, but kept his place farther back. At this point, all of the projectiles fired in single, straight lines.
The patterns so far hadn’t let her get too close to the captain, but now she could see him clearly. His visor still covered his eyes. She could see a little bit of his simulator glasses from the side, but she felt something amiss. Before she could uncover the secrets of his glasses, the orb on his other side glowed white. So did the one beside her.
Lasers fired up, down, and side to side from each orb, the top ones catching her hair as she fled not a split-second too soon. What lie under the captain’s visor, she may never know, but what she did know was that she’d do things Leon’s way next time around. Though it did fill her with a little pride seeing him look at her with a ‘How did you survive??’ face.
Things progressed in Roxie’s favor after she knew what to expect. By the time the pattern ended, it had become second nature, weaving through the projectiles and lasers.
Captain Galhardo brought two more white orbs into existence for his next pattern, ‘Fall in Line’, putting them roughly in the same position as the ones that nearly obliterated Roxie. Those fired downward, while a horizontal wall cut him off from the others.
Pages were birthed from the middle wall, approaching Roxie and Leon in rows, much like the walls in ‘Racing Pawns.’ The spaces between were much tighter this time, meaning Roxie had to be quicker and more precise about where she stepped. On the bright side, the pages all being the same size meant she could develop a rhythm for it.
Looking over at Leon, he was having just as breezy of an easy time. Almost. His sense of rhythm seemed a little lacking. Still, the patterns so far were straightforward enough that it didn’t matter. Surely, this predictability would be the captain’s downfall!
That’s what she thought until the next pattern began. For ‘Knightly Order,’ Captain Galhardo sent out another white orb. Another laser, Roxie assumed, but its placement made it impossible to tell where it would fire. But it didn’t fire lasers at all.
Instead, pairs of orbs shot out, splitting in opposite ‘L’ paths before stopping at their destination. The next ones did the same, and they kept multiplying until the area was completely filled with them. Even then, the original ones kept sending orbs to the same positions. The pattern looked frightening at first, but upon closer realization, all she really had to do was avoid the incoming ones. Easily a challenge The Great Roxaelia and her unnamed sidekick could overcome.
Then everything started moving. The original orb started moving in a circle, moving all of its offspring with it. Was it predictable? Theoretically, but spinning the entire world around made predicting anything difficult. It was enough to make a girl dizzy!
Both rangers stumbled around for the rest of the attack, with neither rhythm nor rhyme. Roxie felt herself succumbing to mild paranoia. It seemed like every time she looked, a new set of orbs were aimed in her direction. Just as she prepared to sacrifice one of her hits, something somewhere answered her prayers.
All the orbs disappeared, leaving Roxie unharmed. Her friend however, didn’t have the luxury of being spared. With sad, puppy-dog eyes, he held up two fingers. She lifted a fist, urging him to be strong.
Beginning ‘Mandates Make the World Turn,’ the captain formed a box with his hands, creating one large enough to trap Roxie and Leon inside. Lines of IF Handbook pages shot from the walls, curving, then finally disappearing in the center. Enduring the torment of the orbs, she was happy to welcome another shape.
Even as it closed in on them. Still and silent, Captain Galhardo crushed the imaginary box with his hands, drawing the virtual walls closer to his prey. If only Roxie could be half as ominous. It broke her heart to see him delivering such final boss energy, and he didn’t even know what that meant!
A broken heart would have to wait, as this pattern demanded her full attention. She hopped back and forth with unmatched clarity, dodging each spray of pages before she realized what she was doing.
The gift of clarity missed Leon. Roxie caught sight of him struggling out of the corner of her eye. He was on his way backing into the center, where a different group of pages were about to strike.
Roxie pushed her friend away from certain doom. Unfortunately, she took a hit in the process. She didn’t intend for her own sacrifice, but she figured she’d just let him think that. For now, they were even. And for now, mandates didn’t make the world turn, since the pattern ended.
From the captain’s hands sprung a glowing orb larger than any Roxie had ever seen. Its size engulfed half of his body. A small, white, projectile shot from it, harmlessly passing between her and Leon.
Then the orb smacked into the cloths on the left. Had it been physical, they would’ve flown, but Roxie still could’ve sworn they moved somewhat. Thus began ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’
The ‘queen’ continued careening around the room in every straight line she could, horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, sometimes stopping midway to turn. Quick reflexes were Roxie and Leon’s only hope of avoiding her rampage. Even that wasn’t enough, for the queen left behind a trail of light with every dash. Instead of simply disappearing, the trail clumped into more white projectiles, dispersing slowly in every direction. They quickly cluttered the battlefield, making it that much harder to dodge the queen’s wrath.
Roxie fled to the back-right of the room where the queen’s children had yet to congregate. She passed by the captain, conducting the queen’s reign of terror with flicks of his hands. As she did so, she witnessed something shocking. The captain made eye-contact. This revealed a second pair of glasses under his coordination simulators! Was this his secret weapon?
A flash of white engulfed Roxie before she could ponder the answer.
“Roxie!” Leon’s shock overrode the order not to talk.
Captain Galhardo made sure he would pay the price. From the back corner, he sent the queen diagonally in Leon’s direction. Leon evaded her just in time. Just in time to hit one of her many projectiles. In her last breaths, the queen took both down to their last hits.
Next began what Roxie hoped was the captain’s final attack. Having come this far, she and Leon couldn’t afford to lose steam now, or everything they suffered for would go to waste. No! They had to keep on fighting! Though seeing the title of ‘Checkmate’ gave her the feeling this fight wouldn’t be an easy one. She joined Leon on the other side of the room, far away from the next threat.
With his cape billowed at his back, the captain sent three orange orbs above and behind him. They sprayed orange projectiles that peppered the air like danger confetti, while pages from his handbook spiraled around him before being sent out in rapid waves.
Roxie darted through the orange and cyan with enhanced focus. She didn’t have time to check on Leon, trusting he did the same. Her breath hitched with each near miss. She fought against both the projectiles and her own nerves. She attributed the sudden ease of difficulty to her strengthened will, but soon she realized the orange ones stopped coming.
The orbs turned black. A foreboding stillness hung in the air. It lasted only a second before they fired mega lasers. The two on the sides moved in heavy circles, while the topmost one fired down and up. If Emil’s attacks were jump rope, this would be double dutch. Triple dutch, even!
Roxie took shelter under the center laser and beckoned Leon over with her hands. Together, they dodged more waves of pages while the other two lasers circled back around. Heart-pounding tension rose as the center laser lowered on their heads, but soon the area around it cleared, and the two separated to safety.
The orbs returned to orange, firing projectiles yet again. Roxie knew what to do, but creeping panic made it harder to do it. Her moves got sloppier. The pages that she found easy to dodge before now gave her constant frights. Maybe with how close she got to them, she could gain an extra hit point, but it wouldn’t matter if Leon lost.
She was able to take a small breather when the lasers came back, but her nerves subsided only a little. The next round of projectiles became a game of endurance as much as it was a game of reflexes. Roxie didn’t know how much longer she could go on.
Under the cover of the center laser, Roxie and Leon faltered. Both kept bumping into each other, barely parting in time to dodge the next set of pages. It all came to a head when they collided a final time. The center laser brushed against their heads, but if they fled it, they wouldn’t have enough time to make it past the wave of pages. As all was shrouded in darkness, they held a tight grip on each others’ hands.
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