September 20th, 2022
Light fog filled the air as the sun rose over the western coastline, it's light spreading across towns from Starlight Shores to Sunset Valley. To most people, the morning would be a time for getting ready to head to work or school on a Thursday, but not to those who stayed behind in Starlight Shores.
A few hours after the sunrise, Annabelle walked around the house watching everyone preparing things in case they had to fall back to it during the approaching battle, which admittedly was a last-resort measure they didn't want to have to take. These measures included putting shutters over windows and reinforcing the door which led to the rec room, their impromptu shelter that Keera, Isobelle, and Deacon were going to stay in during the conflict.
As they did this, Annabelle locked eyes with Tom and worried about him, as he did so about her. However, with the plan they formulated, they weren't too sure if anyone was going to be lost in the battle. A plan in which MIKE was going to enter the graveyard's dome roughly an hour before the eclipse and deploy John's M-0 device, and the family would use that to lure them outside the dome where Kelly, watching the battle from the top of a nearby building, would use the meteor device against them, which would destroy the drones but protect the graves within. After that, they would move in pairs and take care of any stragglers.
They wanted to do this roughly an hour before the eclipse to give the villains inside less time to defend themselves. If all things went accordingly, the battle would be short and precise. Annabelle, however, realized that not all plans made are followed through. Partially, this is what gave her dread. As Annabelle considered all the possibilities, she saw John using a device to scan MIKE, presumably so he could easier blend into his surroundings when disabling the Vazirs' communications. Scarlett stood beside him, shifting her gaze back and forth between the robot and her fiance.
Nearby, Kelly and Mirabelle were hugging each other, and talking about the upcoming conflict while Keera stood with Deacon and Isobelle near the basement entrance. It was hard to tell how it was outside, due to heavy metal sheets covering the windows, but a short glance out the front window showed that it was a bright, clear, sunny day. Annabelle walked out to the door to get some air and clear her head.
As Annie stood outside for a few moments, Tom walked out to meet her. "Hello there lady Belle.", he said, using a nickname he'd been wanting to use for the longest time. "Today's it. This is where all our planning, all our worries, all our headaches and heartaches end. And to think we probably wouldn't have known about this had it not been for Andy back home."
"You miss her." Annabelle replied. "Strangely enough I do too. She seemed like someone who brought out the best in people. I kinda wish she was here, now."
"You didn't have this knowledge before?"
"Then maybe that's what we need now, belief that people we cared about are looking down at us. Maybe that's what makes me sure about everything."
"Are you sure?"
Annabelle looked up at the sky and smiled. "Yeah."
"I'm not sure if I want you to go." John said when their hug broke. "I mean, you're pregnant. What if something was to happen to you, or your unborn child? Or both."
"I assure you nothing's going to happen to me, hon. I want to go. I need to go."
John shook his head worriedly. "It's- it's too dangerous. Even with all the variables between our side and theirs, there is still a chance something could happen! Please don't go."
Scarlett looked away. She contemplated what he said, but for the first time in recent memory, she couldn't listen to him on this case. "No, John. I want to do this. I've been itching to do this. If I don't, I'll get angry. Do you honestly want me to get angry?"
"So Scarlett, Mirabelle, Tom, and I will be going into the dome and taking cover after MIKE sets off the blocking device and Kelly destroys as many as she can using the meteor device when our robot friend leads them outside of the dome." John was standing in the living room going over the plan once more so everyone could hear it clearly. "Once inside, we'll figure out some way to bring down that shield so Annabelle can attack from the sky with her spacecraft."
"When all drones on the surface are destroyed, the group will rendezvous at the mausoleum entrance and go in two-by-two. Tom and Annabelle have both been inside that underground tomb so they'll go in first, then myself and Red, then Mirabelle and Kelly. Jack and Vu will be overwhelmed, and we'll be able to incapacitate them before getting the lamp ourselves."
Annabelle nodded the whole time, then walked up to stand with her brother. "If everything goes to plan, we will have secured the mausoleum by the time the eclipse starts."
Annabelle looked at Collin, addressing his question. "Knowing Jack, he'll have the drones spread out across the graveyard in anticipation of an attack. If we go in fast, disable the drones and get into the mausoleum by the time the eclipse is ready to reach totality, then that will give him less time to put any new plans he has in effect. Admittedly this does hamper us, but in many cases it will hamper him even more."
"Ah, just wondering." Collin said, "It's not like I'm going anyway. No one asked me to, so I'm taking that as a sign that no one wants me to." Collin stood up and walked out of the room, prompting Keera to follow him as he stood in the foyer.
"So you're not going?" Keera asked, "You could help out if you do, like deliver supplies if they need them down there."
"I'm worried I'll just get in the way down there." Collin said, flustered. "I don't have special abilities like you and your family. I'm not special, I'm just that guy that people hate because his carelessness hurt a little girl." With that, Collin walked upstairs. Keera shook her head, and walked back into the living room.
"It's 2:00 PM now." Annabelle said. "The eclipse begins at 2:45 with totality at 3:43. Everyone, get ready. In less than two hours, we're going to battle."
"Today's the big day, isn't it?" Jack said as Vu nervously paced back and forth in front of him. "Around 3:40 PM, that eclipse will occur, and the lock to the genie lamp will be open until the sun comes out again. You're going to get that artifact while I am in here, twiddling my thumbs... Congratulations, you won. I admit defeat."
"Shut up Toomes! I need to send a message to someone, anyone, telling them that I am going to stand down. They can have the damn lamp! It's not worth the trouble anymore. If I could destroy that key stone I would, but I've tried multiple times."
Vu turned towards Jack. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well would you like to feel that again? I know I wouldn't. It looked painful. However, it doesn't matter. You being shocked or not, it wouldn't stop that door from being opened within the next few seconds."
"What the hell are you-" Before Vu could finish his question, the door opened to the cell which Jack triumphantly walked out of. He then walked over to Vu, who had a terrified look on his face. Vu quickly grabbed for the remote which controlled the Vazir units, but was stunned to see that Jack had it in his hands.
"When I came back from my meeting, do you really think I came back alone?" Jack said as he chuckled. Suddenly another jolt of energy shocked Vu, hurting him even more so than the last. He looked around for whatever could have been the cause and saw a small disk on the ground, much like the ones that belonged to the Vazirs.
"No! You can't have-"
"Oh I did." Jack smiled. "But now I'm feeling generous; take your injured henchman and leave this base. Now." Vu glared at him, but realized he was defeated and left, carrying Tobias out of the mausoleum and out of the graveyard. Jack, watching them on camera, laughed before talking to seemingly himself.
"It's not like they'll be alive forever. When I get that lamp, the first thing I'm going to demonstrate my power on will be crushing the both of them on a molecular level. That will get the people to listen."
"Oh yes, the people will listen. Or I will kill every single one of them. Now.... they will be coming to stop me from getting the lamp, and I will be ready for them."
"You're not going as well?" Isobelle said to Deacon, who stood in the upstairs hall looking out to the ocean through a window that had yet to be covered in a shutter. "Good. I said last night you were too bad of shape to fight, and it looks like you took my advice."
"Yes, that's partly it. The rest... When you and I were doing our first recon of the graveyard, and you were injured, I didn't know how to react. I had just met you and, somehow, I was already falling for you. So to see you like that, is something I never wanted to see again."
"Since you told me you were going to go wherever I go last night, I realized I didn't want you to go there to the graveyard, and I didn't want to go without you."
Isobelle didn't know what to say. Deacon then chuckled. "Besides, someone has to stay here, man the fort, and make sure Keera doesn't get into the alcohol cabinet."
"I heard that." Keera said from downstairs.
Isobelle leaned in for a kiss just as, downstairs, Annabelle pressed a button on a wall to pull the final shutters across the windows.
Annabelle stood on the roof wearing her skin-tight membrane suit, the one she wore when she tested out the teleporter for John, having chosen it because it let her move freely with limited constrictions. She was thinking to herself that this was it, the day everything was going to change, the day that they had been looking forward to ever since Andy told Tom to come to Starlight Shores in the first place. Annie didn't want to fight, but there was no one else to do it, and she knew Jack very well. She knew what was at stake: Annabelle and all her friends had to fight, and win, or Jack would use that lamp and it's power within to take over the planet.
In their bedroom, John was finishing helping Scarlett put on her new combat suit. John designed the outfit based on a flight suit, and he wanted to make sure she was perfectly alright wearing it and able to move easily. After this, he himself put on a new outfit that reminded him of medieval armor, in a way. John and Scarlett smiled at each other, then walked out of the bedroom. Joining them in the hall were Tom, Kelly, and Mira, who with the exception of Tom wore new outfits to help them move easily and be protected better in the coming conflict. Annabelle silently walked downstairs and joined them, then they all walked outside, nodding to Isobelle, Keera, and Deacon as a silent gesture that they would do what was needed to finish their mission successfully, and they would see them again.
Annabelle was the first to be ready to leave, jumping into the spaceship Verena gave her in the garage. She wasn't going to actually fight until the dome went down, in part due to the fact that her ship would be near the battlefield and would be a good target for the drones and Jack, and also in part because Jack didn't know she had a ship which would give her the element of surprise.
Annabelle sat inside the vessel for a few moments, trying to get the laser cannons ready to fire properly. As Kelly stated before, no one in the house wanted to compromise the graves there, and they didn't even want to fight on a graveyard but due to the geography of the town and the fact that a dome covered half of it, they didn't really have much of a choice in the matter. As everyone made their way through the city towards a fire station near the graveyard, their base of operations for the time being, Annabelle took her ship to the hill underneath Starlight Shores' city sign, using line-of-sight to keep an eye on the large dome visible in the distance.
In the sky, the moon was visible as it began to move towards the sun while the rest of the family reached the fire station and moved up to the second floor while gathering up their resources. Kelly had her blue backpack with the gravity device within, and John stood near everyone handing out small computer chips to place in the side of their goggles. "These will turn our goggles into communications devices.", he said. "They'll allow us to communicate with one-another with microphones."
"I like these." Mirabelle said while adjusting her goggles, trying to bring a sense of levity to the dreadful situation they were about to face. "I may wear them around the house, granted not with the comm devices on."
Kelly chuckled. "Well, if we both wore them, we could never stop talking to one-another. Ever. I'll take that!"
Everyone chuckled as they put the chips on the goggles. John, having designed them, spoke up. "I didn't have time to test them with the M-0, so hopefully they won't shut down when MIKE turns on the device. If they do, they'll still enhance the vision of those who need it enhanced, and better yet they'll protect our vision from the eclipse itself when it's in it's maximum stage. Now, let's go over the plan ag-"
"Guys, you might want to get over here!" Scarlett said, using the comm device built into the goggles. Everyone ran up the stairs to look out the window. When they saw what Scarlett was gesturing to, most of them nearly fell down.
Tom, who was still getting his goggles to work, was last to climb the stairs, but when he did so his eyes widened beyond belief.
There were what looked to be over a hundred drones between the entrance to the dome and the mausoleum. Tom shook his head in disbelief. "That's... a lot more than any of us expected. How in the hell did they build so many?!"
"Vazir drones are efficient, they can utilize nano-machines to build ten of themselves within a day." MIKE said, "It seems they've had some time to prepare. While this alters the plan some, I would not worry; when I disable their drone-to-drone communications, they will not be able to repair one-another nor connect to the base's teleporter network system. It will give us all a tactical advantage against them."
"Yeah, but there's still more of them than we expected, and who the hell knows how many inside!" Scarlett said. "Kelly, I'm sorry to say, but we'll have to use the meteor device. Maybe MIKE can lure some of them outside... we have no choice now.
Kelly sullenly nodded. Like Annabelle, she did not want to use the meteor device which cause so much pain to so many people back when they were children, but their hand was forced now: If they didn't use it, they would have to fold, and Jack would win the game.
"Okay. Everyone get into position." Kelly said with an upset tone in her voice. She then looked up at the sun, her goggles protecting her eyesight as she saw the darker view of the moon as it moved close to the outer edge. "We have to do it now."
Scarlett, Tom, Mirabelle, and John waited near the bottom of the fire station as MIKE made his way into the dome, the drone looking much like the Vazirs that they had been ready to fight. MIKE blended perfectly with the rest of his robotic kind, and it was only Kelly tracking his movements from the top of the station that she knew which of the dozens of drones was her new friend.
"Come on, MIKE." Kelly said to herself. "Get some of them out of that dome."
MIKE shot more of the drones and led about ten or twenty more of them outside. He then hovered quickly out of the area and vanished behind a few trees as Kelly aimed the meteor device at the ones who chased him out. A massive whirring sound permeated through the air as Kelly looked up and saw three fireballs heading towards the ground right on cue.
Back at the house, Keera felt the earth shake as the meteors impacted. Worried, she looked at Deacon and Isobelle and spoke with a creaked voice. "So it begins..."
Collin sat on top of the house as he heard the explosions going off. The last time he heard a distant explosion like that, his life changed forever, and not in any way that could be classified as "good". This stirred new feelings in Collin, that he needed to do something to make a difference this time, so he stood up and started back into the house and down the stairs to the outside. Keera, who watched him get ready to leave, stopped him shortly.
"I have to do something, anything. I have to redeem myself, in my own eyes." Collin looked up at the sky, noting it's beauty for the first time in a long time. Without any more words, he left, but stopped when he heard his name once more.
Scarlett, Mirabelle, John, and Tom used the smoke and the entrance of the graveyard as cover as they began shooting spells at the drones just outside what was left of the lot's gates. With their communications disabled, the Vazirs had trouble cooperating with one-another, and a few actually fired at each other when they tried to figure out where they were being shot at from. John quickly realized that the drones were relying on line-of-sight as opposed to infrared, which must have been shut down as an unforeseen effect of the M-0 device.
Tom fired a beam of fire that hit one drone and caused it to spin wildly in a circle and fire at more of it's own allies. John ran inside and grabbed the M-0, putting it in his pocket so the drones couldn't find it on the ground and destroy it. He then tried to contact Kelly on the fire station to find out where MIKE ran off to but, as he predicted, the device blocked the goggles' communications. "Dammit!" he said as he ran back towards the entrance.
The Vazir drones started to angle themselves better in an attempt to attack the intruders. Tom narrowly avoided an energy beam that flew past him, and the rest of the family realized they had to get cover soon. John cast a spell at the ground which created a puff of smoke that covered their entrance into the dome, and another to distract the drones while the group moved to the side behind a building.
With the drones distracted, John took the M-0 out of his pocket and put it into a small alcove within the building, then checked his goggles again. "As I predicted, the blocking device is stopping our communications with Kelly and Annie." he whispered, "But it's only within a range that this graveyard reaches."
"So what are we going to do about communications?" Scarlett asked, also whispering.
John looked up at the sky and, with the enhanced goggles, could see the moon's edge touching the sun's. "We can't, unless we want to disable the M-0, and that would be a very bad idea. Look, the eclipse is not far along now. We have to figure out what's keeping this dome up so we can disable it."
"Annabelle's starship will be the biggest advantage we have against the robot army inside the dome so we just need a way to disable the thing without getting shot. Not getting shot would be good."
"Dammit, why can't we ever do things the easy way?" Tom asked as he looked out to the drones, who were for the most part still in the formation they were when MIKE deployed the M-0.
"And what is the easy way in this case?" Mirabelle asked, "there are over a hundred drones with lasers, we have a limited time to get inside, and our communications are down."
Thinking over his options, Tom winked at her. "There's always an easy way." With that he emerged from behind the building and used the magic wand to shoot down a few Vazirs, the remainder of which promptly returned fire. Tom ran back behind the building. "But in this case, that's gonna be a little difficult to find. An oxymoron, I know."
"I got it!" John said. "We should split up! Tom and I will go around the back, using smoke to hide our movements while Scarlett and Mirabelle enter this building and fire from the windows. That will give them more targets." The sudden appearance of drones around the corner prompted them to follow this plan before they could agree to it. Tom shot bolts of fire at them while John created clouds of smoke in front of them, making numerous clouds across the graveyard to throw off the drones.
Mirabelle pointed out the window towards the building in the direct center of the dome. "There! It's that ornate building guarded by those Vazir drones!" Scarlett looked out the window and saw the drones she was talking about, of which there were about two dozen of them in a semicircle around the door.
Scarlett fell back, continuing to fire at the drones, while Mirabelle lost her balance and fell to the ground. Three straggling Vazir drones saw Scarlett and began firing at her, while another one spotted Mirabelle on the ground and hovered over to the same location, it's energy beam charging as it aimed at her.
From across the street, Collin saw the Vazir drone approaching Mirabelle on the field and bolted toward the two. He had labored breaths as he took every step towards Mirabelle, but he didn't falter. He couldn't. Collin knew he had to stop the drone from hurting her, and leaped forward pushing Mirabelle out of the way as the drone began to fire.
The bolt of energy surged through Collin's body as he screamed in agony, and Mirabelle took the few extra seconds she was given and slammed her left hand into the drone's glass eye, smashing it's internal circuits. Afterwards, she looked down at Collin, thinking that he was merely stunned.
"Thanks." Mirabelle said, "I thought I was... oh dear." She crouched down next to Collin who was lying on the ground, his body having taken the brunt of energy from the drone. She tried to lift him to his feet, but he couldn't stand up. "Get up, Collin! Please!"
"Tell Keera... tell her that this was important to me. She'll know what I mean. Tell her that it's fate, and above all, tell her that I'm sorry once more for all I put her through. And tell Jennifer I love her... Peter too... tell them all... I'm proud of them. I'm gonna go to sleep now, I need to rest."
Mirabelle turned her attention to the three Vazir drones who were firing at Scarlett, whose cover behind a large tree was starting to waver as the lasers cut through it. Scarlett jumped out from behind the tree and aimed her weapon, but was shocked to see the three drones shut down by Mirabelle herself, whose face was covered in dust.
"Where are more of these things?!" Mirabelle asked with an angry look on her face.
"Congratulations! When we get out of this I'm sure everyone will be happy to hear about it!"
"Are you alright?" Tom asked as John stood back up. John nodded, aimed his weapon again, and then turned to look at a strange device near the wall. "What is that?" Tom asked.
"It's a generator of some sort. It's giving off a lot of energy." John took out his magic wand and waved it at the device, which promptly exploded. Suddenly, the dome above them shook and faded into nothingness.
"How does someone like Jack Toomes get something like that?!" Tom asked, now able to spot different vantage points he could get to since the dome was down. "I mean I don't think even he has the smarts or the money to make something capable of that."
"I don't know, but I intend to find out."
Kelly tried to reach everyone on her comms device, still somewhat surprised that the dome was just some kind of energy shield disguised as a metal and glass structure. After a few moments of not being able to get a hold of anyone aside from Annabelle, who was well beyond the range of the M-0, Kelly decided to pack up and leave, and join the battle with her family.
Just as she turned around, she saw four Vazir units hovering there, their weapons angled towards her.
"Oh dammit." Kelly said, defeated. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the meteor device on the floor and came up with a plan, which she hoped would work. "You know, that device on the ground right there is very powerful, it can destroy entire cities at will. You should take it back to your master, he'd be pleased to get it. Heck, he may even reward you with full bodies of your own so you don't look like floating Magic-8 balls."
The drones looked down at the gravity device on the ground and scanned it. "Kick it over to us." The lead one said.
Kelly bent down subtly and kicked the meteorite device over to the drones that shared the roof with her. "You know what else is awesome about that meteorite device, guys?" Kelly said with a cheerful laugh, "A friend of mine designed it with special addition when he got his hands on it a few days ago, one that can't be scanned by you. I won't tell you what it is, but whatever you do, do NOT figure out a way to hit the big rainbow button on the center. Trust me, you do NOT want to do that."
As if on cue, the lead drone shot a beam that connected with the center button. Suddenly, the device started glowing red, getting more so with each passing moment. Kelly quickly turned around and jumped off the roof onto a lower platform with a fireman's pole, then slid down that to safety just as the gravity device exploded violently, destroying all four of the drones on the roof and a bit of the roof itself.
Kelly chuckled, then turned around to go to the battlefield, only to see more robots behind her...
Off in the distance, Annabelle saw the dome vanish and took that as a cue to walk towards her ship. She took off towards the battle as, in the sky, the moon edged ever closer to the center of the sun...
TO BE CONTINUED