: Page 101-conclusion.
It took everyone a few minutes to regroup, battered and weary. Cortland, having ended up in an empty room by himself (not a blatant ploy by the author to go ahead and finish this up, oh no nope nope nope) had simply walked out until he'd found the others.
He looked at them critically. "Anyone seen Mayhem, Tdot, Net or K-Dawg?"
Komiyan shook his head as he helped CJ to stand. They'd removed the arrows from her legs and arm, but it was still quite difficult for her to walk. "No. Do you have communication back to the base yet?"
"Let me check." Cortland spoke into his crystal, and after a moment he nodded. "Ok, it looks like K-Dawg's been hurt bad, but he's back at base with a prisoner. Mayhem's vital signs are completely extinguished, so we're going to have to assume the worst. Net's are weak but steady, and Tdot's are fluctuating but he's alive." He paused for a moment. "And somewhere close, apparently."
A voice chuckled, "Oh, he's close alright. He's right here." RA stepped into the room, Tdot's bleeding body slung over her shoulder. His clothing had been completely stripped away, and small cuts and bite marks covered his body from head to toe. RA was dragging his sword with her free hand, and she unceremoniously dumped Tdot's unconscious form on the ground.
Cortland drew his swords and stepped in front of his wounded comrades, TLH moving to stand beside him. "I warn you, creature…"
RA waved her hand idly. "Relax, fool. I don't care at all about you Stalkers. He's alive, and he'll live to see another day." She grinned maliciously, blood-stained teeth winking from her mouth as she adjusted her own clothing. "I've had my fun. And if you head that way," she motioned down a massive hallway to their north, "you'll probably find your lizard friend. I'd suggest you leave after you get him, though."
Cortland raised his eyebrow. "Erm, alright then." Warily, he approached Tdot and picked up the naked man, sheathing his swords only reluctantly.
RA chuckled at his expression. "Here, take this too. I don't want it." She slid Tdot's sword over to TLH and stepped back into the darkness, her claws clicking off into the distance as she walked away.
TLH picked up the massive sword with a grunt and shook his head. "That was… weird."
Cortland shook his head. "Whatever, I just want to get the hell out of this place." He motioned to the hallway. "Let's go get Net and get the out of here."
* * *
CJ gaped at the destruction in the large cavern. "What in the hell?!?"
The cavern of Sihodael had nearly collapsed from what appeared to have been a massive battle. Melted bits of plastic were everywhere, fused with the rock below them and scorched by intense heat. Rubble and debris were scattered across the room, and the entire northwest corner had collapsed into itself. Against the far wall, the outline of the demon Sihodael was hauntingly frozen against the stone, his body apparently incinerated by a massive burst of heat and energy.
In the center of the room, surrounded by melted plastic, Net was lying prone on the floor, unconscious. He was breathing, though it was shallow and labored. A pool of blood had dripped slowly out of his many wounds, and it was obvious that there couldn't be much blood left in the creature.
Wordlessly, TLH handed Tdot's sword to CJ to hold as he approached Net. The turtle peered around cautiously as he approached, but though the plastic rubble shifted slightly as he neared, nothing attacked him and he grimly started to drag Net's limp body back to the others.
Komiyan touched the crystal at his neck. "War, you there?"
War's voice was garbled as Sprite continued trying to finish breaking the encryption. "Yeah, what… got?"
"It looks like Sihodael's been destroyed. We didn't reach objective two due to a trap, but the first has definitely been completed."
"Good jo…. getting back… portal now."
Komiyan blinked as a portal opened directly in front of them. He smirked. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm not waiting for this to close back up."
Cortland nodded. "Go on through. We'll be right behind you."
* * *
The portal winked close soundlessly, and RA stepped back into the room with a smile. She toed one of the nearest groups of plastic, and with a shifting of blocks a very miniscule Lego formed and shook his head.
Lego looked up at RA and shook his head again. "I underestimated the spellcasting of that naga. I won't do so again." He clambored up into her hand and looked around. "Huh. Destroyed Sihodael too, it looks like." He sat down and frowned. "Do you know about the others?"
RA nodded. "Yep. I found Laurel's body back there a ways, looking for her head. She's reattaching herself right now. Grim's busy reanimating one of the Stalkers that fell, though there's nothing he can do for Orangenius."
Lego snorted. "Lovely. How about Claude?"
RA shrugged. "Captured, I think. He's nowhere around."
Lego looked back at the outline of Sihodael's body. "Well, we need to find another dimension to live in, and quick. Since the Stalkers found us here, we need to go somewhere else to regroup. Get me back to my lab; I need to rebuild my body before I can get to work on that."
* * *
Mayhem opened his eyes reluctantly and looked around. "Where…"
Grim smirked, blackness still rolling off of his hands and into Mayhem's broken body. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Stalker."
"What…" Mayhem tried to move, but he found himself restrained. "What happened…"
"They left you to die, Mayhem." Grim's bony visage peered through Mayhem. "They used you as bait in a trap, and then left you to die. But we are not without pity, my friend, and I've returned you to life as one of us."
"One of… left to die… " As comprehension worked its way into the lion's mind, Mayhem growled. "They will pay… "
* * *
A few weeks passed, and the healing machines went into overtime to restore everyone to full health. The prisoner, who'd only identify himself as Claude, had healed on his own somehow; War kept him locked up nice and tight for observation while the others healed. With the threat of attack diminished, War and Net decided that it was high time some of the Stalkers returned to their home dimensions.
Komiyan and Tdot were the first to return to their dimensions. Both took only the crystal that would be used to contact the Stalkers again if they ever had need of them and vice versa. Cortland followed soon afterward, taking the electronic creature Sprite with him; he'd have a good home in the electronic world Cortland could offer.
CJ gave Net a hug. "You call me if you ever need anything, ok? And don't be afraid to visit." She smiled. "Trust me, between the gods and whatnot that live with and around me, you'll fit right in."
Net nodded and smiled, returning the hug. "I will."
CJ stepped through the portal, and Net turned back to K-Dawg and TLH. "Go ahead and return to your quarters, you two. War and I will be in a meeting for a few hours, so we'll be unavailable for a time."
* * *
"Well?" The voice was quiet, intense; not even the dimensional gate managed to diminish that.
"It's done as command, sir." War cracked his neck idly. "Both groups performed well under all scenarios."
"Net, your report?"
Net smirked. "The creature Lego gave me quite a fight. He'll definitely be very useful during the war, as long as we can get past the animosity. His team did well too, even managing to kill one of our own."
"Yes. They killed Mayhem, the lion from dimension 475.42d."
Sihodael chuckled from within his own dimension. "They did indeed kill one of the Stalkers, commander. However, I still have eyes and ears within that dimension, and they have reanimated the one known as Mayhem into demon form."
"Good. Is he the one that could not learn any further magic defenses?" When Net nodded, the voice sounded satisfied. "Good. He'll be of greater use to us as a demon than his prior form. Were there any other casualties?"
Sihodael said, "Just one from my team, a man by the name of Orangenius. He is the one I spoke to you about, the one that witnessed my transmission to you."
"And he's been eliminated, correct? No chance of revival?"
Net chuckled. "You can count on that, sir. He's definitely dead."
War shook his head. "What are our orders now?"
"For the moment, relax. I do not show any signs of further enemy activity; the training can stand down for the moment. If and when they return, we shall have to call upon them once more."
"Just the Stalkers, or both teams?"
"If they attack, gods help us all, we will likely require the efforts of everyone, good and evil. I don't have to remind you what the consequences of losing are."
A long pause stretched until the voice finished with, "Dismissed."