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  1. #11
    Chapter 10:
    We Are VR, Part 1


    Later that night, Ryan and Kaitlin entered the base of Professor Hart's laboratory. Horatio procured the gold pendants required to harness the power of the armor suits shown in the display case.

    "Professor, are the Virtualizers ready to go?" Kaitlin asked.

    "I've managed to conduct a test run on each of them. Now all we need to do is have you three here to undergo the activation process," Horatio explained to them.

    "Grimlord has my mother. She's being held captive and I'm afraid to wonder what motive he has in mind," Ryan went on a tirade.

    "Oh no," the professor muttered.

    "This is the same creature that was responsible for taking my father's life. It's bad enough he is gone and I don't want to see my mother fall under the same fate," said Ryan struggling to maintain his humility.

    "I understand what you've been going through. Grimlord would've destroyed me back in the forest if it weren't for you guys. Right now the important thing is to coordinate a game plan which should allow us to rescue the police chief," Horatio advised. Ryan turned his focus on Kaitlin remembering the pep talk they had at the cabin.

    "There isn't much time. As far as we know, Grimlord and the rest of his crew are somewhere lurking inside the remains of Steele Labs. Like what Ryan said, we don't know what they plan on doing with her," Kaitlin addressed.

    "Before we can proceed, we'll need to undergo an MRI hand scanning process. This will determine the Virtualizer you will be using during battle, as well as the suit that goes along with it," he explained in detail. Just in the nick of time, J.B arrived inside the lab while approaching the gang.

    "Hey guys, what important stuff have I missed?" He asked.

    "Other than figuring out a way to rescue the chief, we're just getting ready for the metamorphosis" Kaitlin explained.

    "What is going on here?" The Professor wondered seemingly suspicious to J.B's sudden tardiness.

    "Sorry Professor I just had to clean up a spill from your house," J.B apologized.

    "The main thing that matters is you're here," Horatio affirmed. Before they could move forth with the procedure, Kaitlin recapped the instructions for J.B to absorb as provided by the professor.

    "The thought of conducting DNA testing with our fingerprints can't get any more science than this," J.B reacted.

    "I won't thrust you in a situation that will make you feel uncomfortable," said Horatio. "The choice is all yours that comes down to."

    In this negotiation, the trio's outcome hangs in the air. From the time they went above and beyond to defend a middle aged professor from danger to their investigation on the circumstances surrounding a scientist's tragedy, every life threatening event that they've witnessed and endured since the expo culminates into this very decision.

    "You guys ready to do this?" Ryan asked aware of the repercussion coming out of this.

    "Blood related or not, I don't want to lose any more folks close to us," Kaitlin volunteered on that regard.

    "It's not even a question," J.B stepped forth in this offer.

    As they aligned themselves, Professor Hart directed the trio towards a high tech hand scanning unit while getting underway with the instructions.

    "The procedure should be self explanatory. Simply place your hand on the palm scanner screen displayed towards you. I should warn you that our sensory detector may cause a minor shock to your hand," Horatio clarified on the matter.

    "I could care less what kind of armor we'll be fighting in. All it matters is getting inside my dad's lab and rescue my mother," Ryan mumbled. From there, he extended out his hand onto the palm scanner. By the time the process was complete, a silhouette projected on the screen which displays a sapphire gemstone attached to a gold pendent.

    "Based from the visual alone, you will now be able to use this Virtualizer to fully operate the Blue Hawk android suit. This was the first armor your father and I designed after our prototype was destroyed," the professor informed him. A rush of blue electricity surged throughout his body enduring the effects of his connection to his newly acquired VR powers. Eventually, the Virtualizer surfaced around the collar of Ryan's neck.

    "How are you feeling Ryan?" Kaitlin wondered.

    "I feel energized than ever. It's like a shot of adrenaline just went straight through my body," Ryan provided with a straight answer.

    "When the suit is in use, you will be able to approach your enemies with the ability to detect immediate danger. The elevation of your hang time will significantly increase allowing for you to leap and take flight off steep heights," Horatio added.

    As Ryan returned to the sidelines, J.B approached the device to continue along with the enhancement process.

    "Wish me look guys," he said. Taking a deep breath, the African-American male proceeded along with the procedure as ordered. A jolt of purple electricity flourished throughout J.B's body. As displayed on the monitor, the same gold pendent in which contained the diamond gemstone circled around J.B's neck.

    "With its incredible swiftness, the power of the Silver Samurai now rest in your hands," Horatio informed him.

    J.B grasped onto his Virtualizer taking a glimpse at the gold pendent now in his possession.

    "To think all of this stuff was just part of a video game to pass the time. But I will do my part to make sure Grimlord and his minions don't cause harm to our world," J.B confessed.

    With the two men obtaining their Virtualizers, it came down to Kaitlin as the remaining member to receive hers.

    "These past couple of weeks has been a pain in our asses. At this point, I don't see why I should find out what suit I'm wearing," she said closing her eyes with full awareness of the predicament she was getting into. Placing her hand on the detection pad, a surge of red energy channeled throughout her body. Shortly after, the pendant containing a gemstone ruby soon enveloped around the shirt collar of Kaitlin's neck.

    "By commanding the role of the Red Sheriff, this will enable for you to utilize stealth coverage and enhance eye coordination when targeting an enemy," Horatio continued. He proceeded to key in data which lays out a visual detail behind their arsenal. "Your suits are equipped with Laser Blasters which will serve as a standardized weapon stored in your arsenal inventory. I will guide you through a tracking device that I've implanted inside the circuit from your VR helmets. They will definitely come in handy not just for this mission alone but to ensure the safety of your well being."

    Everyone nodded in agreement knowing of the potential dangers that lies ahead. By obtaining their new found powers, there was no turning back. They have now engaged in a heated warfare against a vile faction of the most destructive robots imaginable.

    In learning to adapt with their newfound powers, J.B did not hesitate than to speak up.

    "Now that we have the devices, what kind of ritual or enchantment is there for us to activate the suits?" He asked.

    "In order to initiate the suits, you must shout out the phrase that can be summarized into two words: Trooper Transform. Your physical state will then meld with the armor suits you see from the display case," the professor said.

    "After that stunt Strickland pulled off, referring to ourselves as Metal Fighters would be a disservice after all the time and energy you and Tyler poured into," Kaitlin commented. "I think it's about time we come up with our intellectual property," Ryan insinuated.

    "What do you think we should call ourselves?" J.B asked.

    "In the middle of our development of Project Psycon, we had been experimenting with a group of folks with previous military combat experience. Let's say as a veteran I've served my country as a trooper willing to protect my comrades in battle," Horatio explained simplifying with a callback from his youth. "The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance. You three represent virtual reality as an elite group of troopers recruited in the fight against the forces of darkness. From this point onward, you will become a team from what I like to refer to as the VR Troopers."

    The three friends stood side by side posturing with a display of determination and responsibility now resting in the fate of their shoulders.

    "I'm going to get Mom out of that dump and make sure Grimlord and his cronies don't put any more people under that predicament," Ryan stated with an oath he pledges to keep.

    "We're with you," Kaitlin concurred as did J.B.

    "Good luck Troopers. I will keep tabs by monitoring your activity by the surveillance screen," Horatio assured.

    "Let's get to work," said Ryan. The trio raised their Virtualizer pendants in unison as they prepare to harness the powers of their devices.

    Trooper Transform!

    Following the enchantment, their gemstones brightened with an immense glow. A versatile of red, blue, and purple energy began to envelop throughout their bodies.

    HENSHIN SEQUENCE

    When the camera zooms in on Ryan's Virtualizer, he is taken inside the circuitry of his VR helmet. A series of blue gridlines circled around in the background. His civilian clothing would be replaced with a silver rubber suit with blue and red accents plated on the torso. Ryan's feet are tucked together with his arms spreading out evenly. The armor would gradually form from the bottom to the top of his body in a 360 degree motion angle. Fully clad in his Blue Hawk armor, the camera projects a close up of Ryan's face as the helmet is clipped to his head.

    When the camera zooms in on J.B's Virtualizer, he is taken inside the circuitry of his VR helmet. A series of purple gridlines circled around in the background. His civilian clothing would be replaced with a silver rubber suit with red and black accents plated on the torso. J.B's feet are tucked together with his arms spreading out evenly. Gradually, the armor would form from the bottom to the top of his body in a 360 degree motion angle. Fully clad in his Silver Samurai armor, the camera projects a close up of J.B's face as the helmet is clipped to his head.

    When the camera zooms in on Kaitlin's Virtualizer, she is taken inside the circuitry of her VR helmet. A series of red gridlines circled around in the background. Her civilian clothing would be replaced with a white rubber suit with red and yellow accents plated on the torso. Kaitlin's feet are tucked together with her arms spreading out evenly. Gradually, the armor would gradually envelop from the bottom to the top of her body in a 360 degree motion angle. Fully clad in her Red Sheriff armor, the camera projects a close up of Kaitlin's face as the helmet is clipped to her head.

    Upon completion of their transformation, the trio appeared in their respective armor suits that concealed their human form. With the helmets to conceal their identities, it was that instant in which they have embraced their new set of powers. Unlike the past, this was more than just friends simulating a video game.

    "Troopers, I have pinpointed the radar on the location of Steele Labs. You will be transported to your destination momentarily," the professor informed them.

    "Let's do this," Ryan spoke with enthusiasm.

    ***

    Police agents of the CCPD navigated their way inside the ruins of the building. Shots of laser beams and gun shots fired all throughout the building. Between the police and the Skug army, a waging conflict of two factions ensued in this collision course. Their mission of rescuing Rebecca Steele from the clutches of the Mutant Empire hangs in the balance.

    As the agents remained preoccupied with their respective adversaries, along came a showdown between Ballistix and Lieutenant Combs. With its rocket missiles, Ballistix took a moment to lock aim before launching one towards him. While on the defensive side, Combs managed to dodge out of the way before seeking cover. The lieutenant hid behind the tilted porch coordinating a plausible strategy. Although the pressure was on his shoulders, somewhere in his subconscious, he couldn't screw this up.

    The lieutenant pulled the trigger from their hand gun. Despite every ounce of effort to thwart off the formidable creature, not even the CCPD's top agent was a match against the bulky robot. A series of caliber bullets barely left a scratch. Intimidated by the invincibility of Ballistix, the lieutenant crawled back in fear of its overwhelming strength.

    "You have absolutely no idea what kind of being I am. Allow me to show what happens when they assault a machine gone mad." Utilizing its visual detection, Ballistix fired back yet another set of missiles at the bunker that the lieutenant hid behind. Combs leaped forward as sparks ignited from the explosive impact that followed.

    "You can run and hide human. But it won't make a difference when I get through with you!" He exclaimed.

    The instant that Ballistix could get its hand on their targeted foe, it was not for long when a laser beam fired right towards him. When the smokes were cleared, the VR Troopers made their presence known to the creature.

    "You couldn't have come at a better time. How is it you three decide to leave the virtual world and crash my party?" Ballistix spoke furiously over what transpired.

    "The fun and games are over. Where the hell is Grimlord and where can we find him?" Ryan asked.

    "You've put yourselves in a terrible predicament. Even if I knew where he was, you're going to have to go through me before I can tell you," the robot refused to provide with a clear answer. In the midst of their confrontation, Lieutenant Combs stood in the background in astonishment from what he seen.

    "It's no secret that your crew is responsible for the destruction done in this very building. Where is Grimlord hiding the chief?" Kaitlin demanded. Yet despite the pressure, Ballistix insisted to laugh it off.

    "You think a creature that is programmed to destroy all living things would rather spill the beans into telling the truth? As far as I'm concerned, not a chance in this lifetime," the robot commented much to the Troopers' chagrin.

    "If he's not going to confess, it looks like we'll have to beat some sense into him," J.B insisted to his team.

    "It's going to take more than verbal abuse to surrender to the likes of you party crashers," Ballistix told them.

    "This party your ruler threw out was over a long time ago. As much as I hate using puns, it's going to be game over when we're finished with you," Kaitlin said.

    "Grimlord has informed me about these so-called Metal Fighters. But even with your courage, I won't be intimidated by your words of wisdom," the maniacal robot refused to back down from this confrontation underway.

    "We'll see about that," J.B assured. Without a shadow of a doubt, the trio barged in with a specific task to save a close ally of theirs. They fought off against the ruthless Ballistix with some hand-to-hand combating to wear out the intended foe. Utilizing this opportunity, the lieutenant crouched behind the barricade find cover while recovering from his wounds.

    Kaitlin struck with a high knee to the robot's chest. J.B capitalized using a stiff kick to its head. Despite taking the blow, Ballistix shrugged it off with minimal damage. The couple continued to strike on offense. No matter how much energy they spent wearing him down, it became clear their bravery and robustness would not be enough. The creature fought back afterward going out his way into shoving down the two Troopers using a matter of excessive force.

    "Hey big shot," Out of nowhere, Ryan tackled Ballistix from behind. As they got back up from their feet, Ryan let him at it utilizing an exchange of lefts and right elbows to his advantage. Ballistix swung with a stiff right but Ryan ducked at every corner, eventually making his way over towards an elevated platform. As Ballistix turned around, Ryan leaped off the platform capping it off using a flying Karate chop to the head.

    "Kaitlin, stun the robot with your Blaster. Ryan and I will finish him off using a little taste of our teamwork," J.B said. Needless to say, Kaitlin complied with the order pulling the trigger from her weapon directing the blast towards Ballistix. As he wobbled around, this momentum gave J.B and Ryan an opportunity to strike with a double team jump kick that knocked their opponent against the pier. However, it was not enough to knock out Ballistix.

    "Nice try but they call me Ballistix for a reason, and that's more fortitude than you can ever afford," Following a self-proclaimed statement, the robot fired its missiles towards the gang. Once more sparks ignited knocking the trio to the ground.

    As they struggled in their bout with Ballistix, it was from there in which they resorted to using their Laser Blasters. Pulling the trigger in unison, they fired their weapons allowing the beams to blast right at the bulky robot.

    "Alright that should faze him," said J.B. Despite their cohesive attack, it was the same song and dance. Resisting the blasts, Ballistix had once again sustained minimal damage.

    "You honestly believed your weapons have any effect on me? It's going to take a lot more than that to destroy a well oiled machine like yours truly," the robot bantered. Ballistix continued with the assault by firing more missiles at the Troopers in which pyro erupted from their suits.

    "I cannot stress this enough. You are absolutely no match against my power," Ballistix taunted with the intent of getting under their skin.

    "This creature surely packs a punch. Not a great first impression so far," said J.B.

    "I'll say," Kaitlin concurred. They crawled back to their feet following a series of endured blows by Ballistix.

    "Troopers, can you hear me?" Overhearing incoming transmission, Professor Hart attempted to contact the trio from his lab.

    "Professor, this robot has been tossing us around like a Javelin. Not even our weapons could faze him," Ryan said.

    "I'm detecting another disturbance nearby your designation. We have a number of officers getting manhandled by the Skugs on the upper floor," the professor communicated with them through the speaker. As Ballistix walked on by, the pressure was on for our heroes.

    "Great, as if things can go from bad to worse," Kaitlin mumbled.

    "I think there's a way," Ryan assured. "J.B, Kaitlin go ahead and help them out while you're at. I'll take care of this tin head to make sure he doesn't hurt anymore people."

    Ballistix responded with a cackle.

    "I'll be sure to annihilate you three and send you to the scrap pile from which you came from," he stated.

    "I hate to say. At the rate we're in, he's going to leave us toast before we can get to your mother," J.B said much to a foregone conclusion.

    "J.B has a point. This may be risky Ryan but I trust you. We'll be back before you know it," Kaitlin accepted.

    "When a distraction comes in handy," Ballistix reacted. "I can guarantee you'll be destroyed before they return."

    "I'll keep him occupied. You two do what you need to do and ensure the agents are safe," Ryan concluded.

    "Kick his ass Ryan," Kaitlin told him. To that end, she and J.B hurried over towards a flight of stairs in which an ongoing battle ensued between two opposing factions.

    Ryan and Ballistix circled around the battlefield with their eyes locked against from one another.

    "You may be a mean green fighting machine. But for someone to align with a heartless creature as Grimlord, I'm not surprised by the comparison," Ryan stated.

    "You don't realize how much power he possesses. I am more than honored to be representing his army of mutants that will change the landscape of reality as you know it," Ballistix told him.

    "Ryan, from your arsenal contains the power of the Lightning Saber. Call out its name and the weapon should appear within your grasp," the professor instructed.

    "All of that sheer manhandling you've done to me is about to change. Activate Lightning Saber Command, now!"

    Following the enchantment, the saber magically formed within the grasp of the Blue Hawk Trooper.

    "Summon whatever weapon you want. There is no chance that saber of yours will cease me!" Ballistix shouted with overconfidence. He extended out his hands to unravel a pair of laser firearms.

    With the robot firing multiple shots, Ryan spent the duration blocking each blast with his saber. This allowed for him to charge head on. Using this to his advantage, he swung his weapon towards Ballistix that weakened him in the process.

    "What on Earth. How is this possible?" The missile based robot wondered wincing in pain from the assault.

    "Confidence is good but overconfidence will take you a trip someplace where you won't hurt others," Ryan told him.

    In an effort to turn the tide, Ballistix continued to fire back at the Trooper. No matter which direction he went, Ryan repeatedly evaded each attack. Another strike from his saber left a stiff blow that had Ballistix kneeling to the ground.

    "Had enough?" With the bantering sweet and simple, Ryan leaped over towards his opponent performing a front flip with his saber intact. Just when the momentum was in his favor, it would be a matter of time before the status quo was restored.

    "I wouldn't count on that!" Ballistix shouted. In a desperate situation, he fired a rocket grenade at Ryan blasting the torso of his armor. Such a dirty tactic resulted in Ryan landing hard on a piece of pillar.

    "You may have put up a better fight with that Lightning Saber. But at the end of the day, I'm just that superior," Ballistix bragged much to the disdain of the already wounded Trooper.

    Lying motionless, Ryan crawled towards the saber that fell from his hands. Just when he came close to retrieving it, the maniacal robot laid its foot on the saber kicking away the object from his reach. Ballistix grabbed the fallen Trooper by the throat even lifting him from the ground he laid on.

    "I'm enjoying the smell of iron coming out from your armor. I could care less behind who is operating this suit. But let this be a warning to your fellow teammates not to underestimate with us mutants!" He bantered. Ballistix persisted in exhorting pressure on Ryan causing significant damage to his suit. As he screamed in agony, the display of strength from Ballistix proved to be a difficulty that the Trooper was unable to get out of.

    "Dear lord," the professor muttered taking a glimpse at the declining health bar displayed on the screen. Horatio keyed in data on the dashboard doing everything he could to help sustain the power of Ryan's blue armor suit. "Just hang in there."

    With the tides turn in the creature's favor, Ryan could feel his consciousness fade into a matter of oblivion.

    "What do you say? I can destroy you right now or I can let you go as long as we have a hold of your Virtualizer?" Ballistix offered.

    The more pain Ryan had to undergo, the less measure he took to free himself. This was a far cry from a friendly competition. The fate of his mother's well being remains at stake. More so the real world has yet to take notice of the potential horror that may impact their society long term. For Ryan though, he couldn't afford to let that happen. But just when hope seemed bleak sparked a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel.

    In an unexpected turn, Lieutenant Combs fired a shot from his handgun. This move caused for a distraction in which Ballistix turned around, setting its eyes on its prey.

    "Fire that gun all you want. It has no effect on me whatsoever," the robot remarked freeing Ryan from his clutches on short notice. Marching towards Combs, the lieutenant took a few steps backwards. His face clenched in fear of what he was getting himself into. Despite Ballistix's warning, Combs shot bullet after bullet but to no avail. This very confrontation came with a risk that would determine his uncertain fate.

    Ryan extended out his hand reaching over for his Blaster. Despite being crippled at the hands of Ballistix, there was still enough life left for the Trooper. As he fought on with fortitude, he managed to grab hold of the intended weapon, pulling the trigger enough for the beam to shoot directly at the creature's chest. This created a distraction that allowed for Combs to find someplace safe from the battlefield.

    With an exchange of laser beams and firearms blasting back and forth, it was a showdown in which both combatants fought to the death.

    In an attempt to recover from the severe blows, it would get to a point in which Ryan aimed for a more defensive side to his playbook. As Ballistix persisted on the madness, the blue armored Trooper hid behind the barricades. With his Blaster intact, he took a bit of a breather while figuring out a way to thwart off the robot. Ballistix held his fire in search of his foe's whereabouts.

    "This is doing you no good. Hiding is not going to help your chances of stopping me," the robot retorted. He scouted the area in search for Ryan Steele. A creaking sound of footsteps echoed throughout the building. Ryan remained in his position holding his breath to ensure Ballistix's inability in detecting his presence.

    "Come out wherever you are. Accept your defeat right this instant," he taunted. As his footsteps grew immense, Ryan pulled the trigger from his blaster firing shots repeatedly at the robot. Stunned by the aftereffects from the blast, this gave Ryan the opportunity to strike back. Placing the weapon back to his holster, he rolled over to retrieve the saber he had dropped.

    "You may have done enough damage as it is. But just because you claim to have all the strength, that doesn't mean they don't come with flaws," Ryan bantered.

    "We'll see about that," Ballistix said insisting for him to utilize the power coming from his opponent's arsenal. Ryan went full steam ahead evading every last one of the creature's missiles. Putting the saber to effective use, he leaped towards Ballistix plunging his weapon directly at the sweet spot – his rocket tubes. The robot moaned in sheer pain.

    "Ah, what have you done to me?!" He exclaimed.

    "Confidence can be your best friend or your own worst enemy. I'm sure you've learned that the hard way. Lightning Saber Command, now!" Channeling the neon energy from his armor, Ryan leaped towards Ballistix as the stroke of his saber connected towards its opponent. Sparks imploded throughout the creature's body.

    With its last breath, the robot collapsed to the ground as it imploded in flames. Coming off the heels of an intense fight, he collapsed to his knees with exhaustion from the blows he had endured.

    "All of that energy really took a lot out from you," said Lieutenant Combs.

    "I should be alright," Ryan assured. "You better call back your team. These mutants aren't like any sort of criminals you've hunted down before."

    Lieutenant Combs insisted in aiding the wounded Trooper but Ryan politely refused.

    "Don't worry about me. The rest of my teammates can take over from here," he continued. To that end, the lieutenant paged his team of agents from his earpiece.

    Lieutenant Combs here, prepare to retreat ASAP; Report to me outside of the lab, stat.

    Arriving from the stairwell, J.B and Kaitlin arrived on the upper tier floor of the laboratory. With their Laser Blasters intact, they navigated their way through the dim lit hallway to spot some police agents on the receiving end of blows courtesy of the Skugs.

    "Hey," a shout out by J.B caught the foot soldiers by surprise. This was followed up with a double team laser shot that sent the foot soldiers flying to the ground.

    "Are you alright?" Kaitlin asked approaching the wounded officers involved during the assault. While approaching towards the police, she and J.B arrived on the scene to further lend a helping hand.

    "Some minor injuries but we should be fine," spoke an officer clutching onto the back of their neck. Suddenly, more Skugs arrived to avenge their fallen comrades.

    "Celebrated too soon," said Kaitlin. "We'll take care of these annoying goons from here."

    "Our lieutenant just paged. Let's get going," the police official commanded to his partner. After thanking the Troopers for their assistance, they marched out of their way into the stairwell as they report to the lieutenant.

    On cue J.B and Kaitlin went out their way to fend off the next horde. Back and forth action ensues with the duo putting their Martial Arts skills to the test. A roundhouse kick by J.B sent one foot soldier crashing through the rigid wall. On the other hand, Kaitlin went on the defensive end dodging the Skug's every attack. As the soldier prepared to deliver a thrust chop, Kaitlin blocked the technique before counteracting it with a stiff kick to the chest. With the Skug now fatigued, she delivered the finishing combo by shooting it with her Laser Blaster.

    "Kaitlin, we better help out more of these agents," said J.B. With one set of Skugs removed from the equation, they continued to navigate the entire floor of the building. The duo would encounter yet another group of foot soldiers that stood in their path. Once again using their blasters, they fired their weapons at the intended target knocking them hard on the concrete floor. While resuming progress, they overhear some gunfire approaching from their direction.

    "I smell trouble fuming nearby," Kaitlin pointed out.

    "Wherever that's coming from, let's not waste any time," J.B insisted. By the time they made a sharp right turn to another corridor, an unexpected encounter saw a police agent flying through a door and back first onto a wall. While Kaitlin monitored their condition, J.B entered the room to find another agent being manhandled by the Skugs.

    "Hey" J.B shouted firing a shot from his blaster that sent one of the foot soldiers flying through the cubical.

    "Are you alright?" He asked upon walking towards him.

    "Who in the world are you?" The police agent wondered.

    "Let's say we're just a group of people trying to help," J.B answered. Before he could provide with the assist, the Skugs ambushed the Silver Samurai from behind. The agent attempted to fire their handgun but would soon realize that a lack of ammo remained. Leaving no option, they choked out one of the soldiers while applying as much needed pressure to faze him. Yet despite good intentions, such a submission hold proved ineffective. The Skug powered out from his grasp lashing back at the agent with its stun gun that weakened him afterward.

    J.B continued to pull through this heated battle. One by one they persisted on provoking the Trooper. To them it came down to their strength in numbers mentality to slow him down. J.B proceeded to summon back his blaster. However, luck would not be on his side when his weapon would be swiped away from his hands. In unison the Skugs managed to weaken him with their stun gun causing the Trooper to collapse onto the ground.

    "J.B," Kaitlin shouted taking notice of the situation from a distance. She went in on the assault going pound for pound against the faction. The Red Sheriff would attempt to annihilate each one with her blaster. However, she would be caught off guard when another pair of Skugs tipped over a bookshelf that knocked that rendered her defenseless.

    "Kaitlin," J.B cried witnessing his teammate on the brink of distress. Eager to save her, the beating he sustained could only do so much to turn the complexion in his favor.

    With the Silver Samurai at his most vulnerable state, the Skugs persisted on attacking J.B. A series of blows to the chest served as a strategy to downplay his momentum. Beneath his helmet, J.B struggled to maintain his focus seemingly exhausted from the damage that had been done.

    "J.B," Kaitlin shouted extending out her arm in a desperate call for help. But when a situation seemed dire, one thing he hoped would turn out to be a miracle.

    "J.B, do you copy?" Professor Hart communicated from the Trooper's helmet.

    "I read you Professor. I could barely move though," he replied wincing in pain from the assault just moments ago.

    "I'm beginning to recharge your suit's stamina to full strength. But in doing so, I have implemented the Laser Lance into your inventory. As soon as your power is restored, summon out the blade and it should arrive safely in your hands," the professor instructed to him. Following his remark, the recharging process began as the meter is displayed on the screen from J.B's visor. While waiting for the meter to reach 100%, the Samurai took every beating sustained from the numbers game that piled up on him. Patience was the key in changing the complexion of the bout. By the time the meter reached its full capacity, J.B managed to power out from the Skug soldiers that surrounded him.

    "This couldn't have come at a better time than this," J.B mumbled, "Laser Lance Command, now!"

    Subsequently, a surge of blue energy formed from his hands to unveil the said weapon in his possession.

    "I've had enough with you tin heads." By combining a pair of twin bladed swords, J.B plunged his Laser Lance at the Skugs impaling its chest. He would then cap it off with another stroke that signified their demise.

    With the foot soldiers out of the equation, J.B lifted the bookshelf back in its place. This allowed for Kaitlin to pull herself up from the ground.

    "Thanks J.B," she said clutching from the back of her armor suit. They regrouped along with the wounded police agents they had rescued.

    "We can't thank you guys enough. We would've been toast if it hadn't been for you two," one of the officers spoke out.

    "At this rate, there's no telling how many more of these creatures are roaming around," Kaitlin commented. "Do you know where they could be holding the chief?"

    "We've been conducting a search party throughout the lab. Since our team had to be divided into groups, we were intending to navigate the location until these creatures intervened," they explained.

    "We should get you guys out of here for safety. I understand it's your job but whoever is holding the chief is no ordinary con artist," J.B advised to the police agents.

    "What is this all about?" The officer questioned.

    "Trust us this fiend is no human, and we're not exaggerating when I say that," said Kaitlin observing her radar to detect potential enemies nearby. "The coast should be clear. Let's get you guys somewhere safe."

    With the chit chat aside, the Troopers escorted the remaining police agents out from the area they were in.

    Back downstairs, Ryan leaned back against the reception desk wear and tear from the heels of an intense bout. Upon celebrating defeat against one of Grimlord's cronies, he received an incoming transmission from the professor.

    Ryan, how are you doing?

    "I couldn't be more relieved after the crap I've been put through," Ryan responded. "Have you contacted Kaitlin and J.B to hear if they need me?"

    I've been making an attempt to reach them but I've had a hard time getting any sort of contact. With Steele Labs in the rough shape that it's been, the weak signal isn't making matters much better.

    All of a sudden, J.B and Kaitlin regrouped with Ryan to update their friend on his mother's lead.

    "Ryan, thank goodness," said Kaitlin as she was relieved to find him alive and well.

    "That robot really brought out a lot in me. I wasn't sure if I'd make it out alive but here I am," Ryan commented before collapsing to his knees.

    I'm very relieved to see you three safe and sound.

    "The lieutenant and I managed to take out one of Grimlord's mutants. To be fair, I couldn't have done it if he hadn't distracted that robot," Ryan said giving credit where credit is due.

    "I wish we could celebrate. But we still have no idea where he could be hiding the chief," J.B replied.

    Listen I have tapped into a PDF file that displays the interior layout of Steele Labs. The map should be accessible when the download has been completed.

    "We appreciate it Professor," said Ryan maintaining onto his own two feet. "Was that all of the police agents that you guys rescued?"

    "That was all of them alright," Kaitlin replied. When the percentage bar reached 100%, they viewed the map that was presented in front of them.

    "As far as we know, we've checked the entire second floor, and not a single trace of the chief's whereabouts," J.B observed.

    "At this rate, it's going to take some time scouring the building before we have a chance to find where they detained my mother," Ryan spoken as he sighed.

    "Guys scroll to the bottom floor menu. I think there may be a chance we're looking at someplace we haven't explored yet," Kaitlin explained to them. "The basement contains an archive room and a VR Lab Room. We could use the elevator to get down there quick but without any electricity to generate, we're going to have to travel down the staircase by foot."

    There is a headlight indicator that is displayed within your VR suit. Go to your inventory and hit 'settings'. Activate the feature that is displayed on the icon and it should trigger.

    By following his instructions, the trio scrolled through their settings to initiate their VR head lights. This feature triggered an intense shimmer illuminating from the visor of their helmets.

    "This is incredible," J.B reacted.

    You could also adjust the lights into a thermostat to detect any unusual activity close by. These features should help guide you in your search for the commissioner's whereabouts. I will do my best to keep tabs behind the screen. In case our communication goes static, all I want to say is good luck Troopers.

    "Thanks Horatio. I can guarantee you we'll get out of this alive in one peace," said Ryan laying out all the marbles in this dire situation.

    Very well then

    The professor reassured in his final words. From this point onward, the recently rechristened VR Troopers resumed their mission in search of the police chief; or in this case Ryan's mother.

    ***

    Inside the VR waiting room, Grimlord along with Decimator observed as Rebecca continued to undergo the brainwashing procedure suffered from the Immersion Helmet. As the meter bar came close to completion, it was only a matter of time before any trace of pure heartedness would be extracted from her soul.

    "Ah the moment of truth is just moments away. All of her memories she's preserved over the years will become nonexistent. No sense of empathy or compassion towards other. Just a stone cold machine that will listen and carry out our every command," Grimlord cackled.

    "All of that success would not have been possible if it weren't for everyone's contribution, me included," Decimator mentioned.

    "If, no WHEN this experiment is a success, we shall acquire more test subjects in our ongoing procedure. Soon Mother Nature as they know it will cease to exist. Only then will the mutant race thrive as the dominant species in the world. I can smell the taste of victory from a mile away," Grimlord stated.

    "Sir I've picked up a signal just now. It appears our special guests have managed to discover our hideout," Colonel Icebot communicated as he made contact from the footage displayed on the surveillance screen.

    "Decimator, go out there and give the trio another sample of your medicine. Make sure they don't get anywhere near this very room."

    "As you so wish my lord," Decimator bowed his head abiding his commander's order.

    ***

    Back outside the Troopers prepared to work their way down a flight of stairs that would lead them to the basement floor. Eventually, they encountered some pillars barricading their path.

    "Great, talk about a dead end. With the elevators not operating, this was our only other route," Kaitlin remarked.

    "Wait a second," Ryan spoke otherwise. By taking a moment to analyze the depths of the wreckage, this alone sparked an idea he had in mind. "If you look closely, there is a little gap that leads us to through. If we can channel enough energy with the power of our suit, we can lift these pillars out of the way. That should create a gap big enough for us to go through."

    J.B nodded. "That's a good idea Ryan. Let's grab a hold onto the pillars first. On a count of three, we'll carefully lift them aside until we can clear off the path."

    Without a sense of hesitation, Ryan and Kaitlin abided to the game plan. The Troopers worked together using all of their might to move aside the countless debris as a result of the damage leftover during the breach. As soon as that had been taken care of, this cleared out another flight of staircases that would lead them further down.

    "Yes that did it," Kaitlin said with relief.

    "They may have found a way to hide their trail. Now that's taken care of, Grimlord is going to be stoked when he finally sees us," J.B commented.

    "Let's go find where he's at and rescue my mother," Ryan said. Resuming their objective, they marched down the steps that led into the basement floor. The beaming lights penetrating from their visors would illuminate the narrow passage they trailed on.

    "I can't believe I'm saying this but walking down these dark halls certainly screams déjà vu," Kaitlin said alluding back to their VR simulation from the Expo.

    "No offense but it's always déjà vu to you," J.B commented in response to her remark.

    "Well there's that archive room to our right," Ryan said continuing to observe the map displayed on his screen. "If I'm reading this right, the VR Waiting Room should be down at the very end of this......hallway."

    All of a sudden, the trio encountered yet another blockade which prevented them from reaching their destination.

    "This isn't a good sign," Kaitlin said.

    "Let's check the archive room. You never know if there's another route around this basement," J.B advised to his teammates.

    "Good idea," Ryan concurred. By entering the room, they explored the area in search for a potential detour.

    "This is a lot bigger than the archives section from my work site. Your dad was going to give me a tour of the place had all of this not happened," Kaitlin told Ryan.

    "Have you guys found anything yet?" J.B asked.

    "Nothing so far," Ryan said stumbling into a crate wheeler sitting by the corner of the room. On the crate contained a box compiled with file folders categorized in alphabetical order.

    "Damn that hurt," he muttered. While clutching to his leg, Kaitlin dug through the files to investigate in learning more about the research Tyler and his team worked on.

    "What are you doing? This is no time for playing Nancy Drew," Ryan commented.

    "Well considering you're speaking to a journalist, I find it to be a compliment," said Kaitlin. Eventually she came across a photo of Tyler along with Professor Hart and Karl Ziktor standing outside the entrance of Steele Labs. "I didn't think we would see an image of all three of them taking a photo together."

    Ryan took a glance at the photo previously held by his friend.

    "Judging by the date on the back, this must have been taken not long after the lab first opened up. If only this floor hadn't been blocked off, the police could have conducted more investigation on this place. This may be our ticket to gather more leads that may explain why Grimlord was after my father's work," he further stated.

    In the midst of rearranging the files, J.B looked up from the shelf to notice some boxes tipping over from the shelf.

    "Guys watch out!" He exclaimed throwing his body over Ryan and Kaitlin's as a shield for the benefit of their safety.

    "What in the world was that?" Kaitlin wondered. The Troopers looked around to detect any disturbance lurking from their surroundings.

    "Well we meet again Fighters." From a distance, Decimator showed up from behind startling the trio. "I'm impressed to see you guys have made it this far. Wiping out the Skugs along with Ballistix may seem like a warm up bout. But this right here is where the road stops."

    J.B spoke up. "For some reason, we can't seem to get through the day without having to deal with a foul mouth swordsman."

    Decimator cackled. "Last time we fought, I singled handedly annihilated you like a bunch of rookies learning how to fight. This is where I put an end to you three once and for all."

    "Not in this lifetime pal," Kaitlin said.

    "As far as the Mutant Empire is concerned, you won't be alive to witness our vision of your beloved world come to fruition," the Japanese swordsman said pulling out a sword from his holster.

    "Bring it on," said Ryan summoning his Lightning Saber. J.B and Kaitlin soon followed equipping their Laser Lance and Laser Blaster respectively.

    Ryan started out the battle on offense. With the stroke of their respective weapons, the saber along with Decimator's sword counteracted in an exchange of back and forth competition. While Ryan showed no sign of slowing down, Decimator would receive the upper hand plunging his sword to his opponent.

    Meanwhile, Kaitlin stepped forth firing the beams from her blaster that sent sparks igniting from the swordsman. Despite a series of direct hits, the damage proved ineffective. Decimator wielded his sword deflecting each shot that was directed at him. Kaitlin pulled out every basic technique she learned from the dojo. Despite her fortitude, he fought back using a combination of knee strikes to the torso of her armor; this would be followed up with another sword swing that knocked Kaitlin to the ground.

    J.B chimed in on the action utilizing his Laser Lance against Decimator's sword. Back and forth the two combatants went all out in what appears to be an even bout. J.B attempted to outsmart the swordsman striking his opponent by the right limb of his leg. He delivered a spinning roundhouse kick to the chest causing the creature to stagger around on his own feet. The instant that Decimator drew closer towards the shelves, he dodged out of the corner, allowing J.B to miss his target.

    Decimator resumed on the offensive side of the bout. With his sword still intact, he struck the weapon on J.B causing for him to flinch. The Silver Samurai clutched onto his torso enduring the vicious blows from his opponent. Decimator capped it off using his sword to club J.B by the back of his metal coated suit.

    Vowing to avenge his friends, Ryan stepped in to take on the wielded swordsman. The Blue Hawk Trooper utilized his Lightning Saber pulling out all the stops during combat. While the two competitors quarreled throughout the archival room, Decimator resorted to throwing a variety of objects close by - This includes a step stool, a lamp shade, and a floor sweeper. None of these factors hindered Ryan's momentum in his chance to thwart off Decimator.

    "Don't think I plan on throwing in the towel," Ryan bantered. Realizing what's at stake, he leaped on a table setting up for a front flip Saber attack that left Decimator paralyzed. Globs of purple blood spewed from his mouth.

    "This is exactly what I wanted to see from you. Now I know what I need to do," the fiendish swordsman said refusing to surrender. Decimator rebounded by countering every move from Ryan's saber. The creature plunged his sword onto the Blue Hawk's chest igniting sparks that erupted from his armor. Sealing the combo, a successful jump kick sent Ryan flying against the crate wheeler.

    Over the course of their encounters, they have fought throughout different places, their first being in the midst of a VR simulation. As the battle ensued, it would come down to the wire between the Troopers and the wielding swordsman.

    "This is your last chance. You can either admit defeat or I will end your life right at this instant," Decimator belittled the now defenseless VR Troopers.

    "I came all this way for one reason and one reason only. You goons took away my father, and I'm not going to let you do the same with my mother," Ryan said insisting in fighting off the pain suffered from the hands of the wielding swordsman. J.B and Kaitlin pulled themselves up from their feet standing by their fellow comrade in support.

    "Do you guys have any ideas how to shut this guy up?" Kaitlin wondered.

    "If our signature weapons won't work, we better come up with something fast," J.B took into consideration.

    "You're delaying the inevitable now. Have any last words?" Decimator spoke with impatience.

    Backing themselves into a corner, the trio managed to receive another incoming transmission from Professor Hart.

    Troopers, your Laser Blasters possess a special ability that will significantly increase attacking power. Align yourselves in a triangular position and fire your blasters at the same time.

    "Let's hope this game plan works," J.B whispered. The Troopers stood apart from one another forming a triangular séance. With their Laser Blasters equipped, they pointed their weapons towards the ceiling as they prepared to pull the trigger.

    "Enjoy your life on the other side of this world." As Decimator charged towards the three, the Troopers fired their Blasters creating a geometric triangle that formed with its red glow of energy. The shape would then descend on each of their wrists, signifying an increase in power.

    "What in the world is this?" Decimator wondered having been caught off guard by the trio's new found ability from their arsenal. Despite his initial concern, the swordsman shrugged it off with a laugh. "Brag about it all you want. No matter what new power you have, I'm always one step ahead from my adversaries."

    In demonstrating their ability, Ryan along with J.B and Kaitlin went full steam ahead. While the creature continued to utilize his sword, the Troopers bounced back on the defensive side dodging every swing he made. J.B and Kaitlin did their part to outmaneuver the swordsman as a way for him to use up all of his endurance. This allowed for an opportunity to open when Ryan delivered a spinning Karate Chop to the back of their opponent. While Decimator staggered backward by a rigid wall, the trio regrouped in preparation for the final blow.

    "Alright guys. On a count of three, we're going to fire our blasters directly at him. Let's give it all we got until we knock this jackass off his feet," Ryan instructed. Aiming their weapons towards Decimator, he signified the count before launching a beam of lasers that sent the swordsman flying through a wall. This created a large gap in which unraveled another area they were unable to access earlier.

    "I know we were willing to put him in his place and all. But it seems like he's given us a detour to where we need to be," J.B remarked. The Troopers glanced at the fallen swordsman as he lied unconscious on the ground.

    "For a creature that brags about honor and superiority, he should've seen that blast coming," said Kaitlin.

    "We better get moving and fast. Grimlord is going to have a hell of a time putting up with us," Ryan spoke with enthusiasm. After overcoming a series of obstacles, the time has arrived. The Troopers set out their sight on Grimlord's hideout as well as rescuing Rebecca Steele, the Crossworld City Police Chief from his clutches.

  2. #12
    Chapter 11:
    We Are VR, Part 2


    Grimlord observed the latest activity coming from the lab's surveillance cameras. Shocked and awe to notice Decimator lying out cold, he came to the realization that the Troopers are just moments away from an inevitable confrontation.

    "Grimlord, what seems to be the matter?" Strickland wondered.

    "This is not good. Apparently, we had some uninvited guests annihilate one of our finest lieutenants. Check on Decimator's condition. Make sure you two leave the facility before I set off the detonation sequence," Grimlord advised to his comrade.

    "Will do," Strickland said taking a glance at the police chief strapped to the machine. "How is she so far? Has the cleansing process been completed yet?"

    "It appears we are getting close to one-hundred percent completion," Grimlord replied taking a glance at the green meter bar displayed on the screen. "As of this moment, we are only at the ninety-five percent mark. When the meter bar is filled, the Rebecca Steele that everyone has known and beloved by everyone will be nonexistent. Crossworld City will no longer have a hero to depend upon. This will be the first of many signs to come when mutant supremacy reigns over the Real World."

    "What will you do when you confront the Metal Fighters?" Strickland spoke out of curiosity.

    "Let's just say I have a special game plan in mind, one that doesn't involve me in action," Grimlord told him.

    "Grimlord sire how is the chief doing?" Colonel Icebot communicated with Grimlord through his earpiece.

    "The good news is that the brainwashing is coming along great for Rebecca Steele. But where there is good news also comes with a price," Grimlord responded.

    "I don't understand," Icebot wondered much to a lack of clarification.

    "The Metal Fighters have somehow managed to undermine Decimator and laid him out in their battle," he told him. "The trio may have come this far into the lab. But I reassure you that the worst is yet to come for what I plan on demonstrating."

    "What did you suppose that is?" the Colonel wondered.

    "Let me say for the record, it's one that requires undergoing yet another VR simulation. Those Metal Fighters are going to enjoy what's coming to them," Grimlord addressed on behalf of the ruler's intentions.

    "Wait what about Decimator?" Strickland made mention in regards to the swordsman's condition.

    "Colonel Icebot, see if you can detect Decimator by the archives room. Make sure to key in the code to transport us into the Virtual Dungeon. I'll be sure to communicate with the Metal Fighters even if it means being the coward that I am to not meet them in person," Grimlord commanded.

    "Locking in right now," Icebot said abiding his orders.

    "There is one other thing. Contact Zelton for me. I have a special favor for him to do," the Wizard of Darkness added.

    "As you wish," the Colonel abided once again.

    "The fun is just getting started Fighters. By the time this place blows up, you won't be the ones standing tall in glory." With a confident expression, the mutant ruler raised his fist in assuring a landslide victory over his arch enemies.

    ***

    Outside the VR Troopers continued to make progress through the passageway in which their arch enemy Grimlord awaits. By navigating deep into the basement floor, they observed the lab's interior map as displayed from their visors.

    "According to our map, the door up ahead indicates that this room will lead us right to where we need to be," Kaitlin said.

    "We've already taken care of his goons. Right now Grimlord won't have any excuse to be running from us," J.B added.

    I'd suggest have your weapons equipped at all times. You never know what kind of tactics he will resort to when he confronts with you three," Professor Hart advised.

    "Thanks Professor. After that beat down, Decimator could have had us for dinner right there," J.B complimented. By the time they arrived at the end of the corridor, they stumbled across a set of double doors ahead of them.

    "Well, here we are. The moment of truth," Kaitlin said.

    "I can't wait to get my hands filthy on Grimlord," Ryan spoke with anticipation. Before they could proceed, J.B provided his teammates with caution.

    "Guys let's be careful. The instant we barge right through those doors, there is no turning back. This isn't like a video game where you have infinite continues. If we screw up and Grimlord has us numbered, we're done for," he warned them.

    "J.B is right. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. Either we get your mother out alive or he leaves us lying like skeletons. It's now or never," Kaitlin concurred.

    "If it weren't for you guys, we wouldn't even be standing here right now," said Ryan. "Grimlord may be one tough son of a gun. That's not going to stop us from getting her out of there."

    The Troopers gave each other a nod. Every single action they make will determine their fate when they enter through the double doors.

    "We should utilize the thermostat feature to detect any more unusual activity. After that surprise attack Decimator gave us, we better be on our guard," J.B encouraged. Ryan and Kaitlin responded with a nod before proceeding with their mission.

    "No matter what happens, we're all in this together," Kaitlin provided with an uplifting remark.

    "Let's give it everything we got," Ryan said finishing up with their prayers. Equipped with their Laser Blasters, the trio prepared to infiltrate the waiting room in which trouble awaits them.

    Channeling all of their might, they plowed through the double doors that brought them inside the lab's testing site. Inside contained nothing but console boards along with high tech equipment that made up the confines of the layer. Much to their surprise, they began to notice electricity running from inside the VR Room.

    "Guys is it me but since when was there power here in the laboratory?" Kaitlin wondered circling around the area while continuing to position her weapon.

    "They must have had someone with tech knowledge to help refuel the generator," J.B took an educated guess. The Troopers went out their way to switch off the lights from their visors. While surveying the room, they soon discovered her being restrained to a VR machine.

    "Mom," Ryan shouted approaching the police chief in attempt to release her from the cuffs.

    "I wouldn't do that if I were you." From the footage displayed on the monitor, a projected image of Grimlord appeared on screen.

    "It's just as we suspected. How about you get your ass out here and face us like the mutant you are?" J.B demanded.

    "You would actually think I even dare to confront you three in person? As far as I'm concerned, you imbeciles are no match against the power that I possess," Grimlord told them.

    "What are you planning to do with the chief?" Ryan questioned.

    "I'm afraid I have something else in mind. As far as I'm concerned, Rebecca Steele is undergoing an experiment that will alter the course of her behavior," said Grimlord.

    "This is serious Grimlord. Think about how her son must be feeling to lose the important people he loved taken away like that?" Kaitlin tried to reason.

    "That's the kind of feeling I've witnessed from you pesky humans. It's a sign of weakness to feel nothing but sympathy for folks that have lost their loved ones," the creature responded.

    "The fact that a creature took away a well regarded scientist who devoted his time working alongside his coworkers is sickening," Ryan said prolonging the conflict. "Not only that but you're talking about a man who cherished his wife and son like the loving father they remembered. I won't let goons like you take away more people just like what happened to Tyler."

    Grimlord cackled. "I had my reasons for doing what I did. It's the ultimate sin for those who tend to keep secrets from me. But that will change. I plan to resolve that issue to eliminate the one aspect that makes humans human, even if it means extracting the essence of his courageous wife. You're talking about a species of highly advanced robots that will soon inhabit your world. This will be the first step to lure all humans into established empire."

    "You've crossed the line this time. If you were a true ruler of two worlds, you would be standing here facing us head on," Ryan declared.

    "I have my reasons for my seclusion," Grimlord told him vaguely. "I'll tell you what. There are some areas inside the cortex of her brain that contain memories of her life that have not been fully erased. If you can get inside and free her from her coma, Rebecca will regain her consciousness and the brainwashing procedure will be suspended. There is an extra seat next to her that you can lie on in order to undergo with the procedure."

    "How would I know if this is some kind of parlor trick?" Ryan insinuated continuing to get under the creature's skin.

    "It's just the response I expected from you. But I can assure you that if this were a sham, I wouldn't have provided you with the option to save Ryan Steele's mother," Grimlord tries to reason. "I'm giving you this once in a lifetime opportunity to fall into the world of virtual reality by releasing the chief from her imprisonment. Would you do anything in your power to ensure the safety of your friends and family members?"

    Ryan clenched his fist with anger.

    "We'll do everything in our power to make sure your plan doesn't succeed," J.B retorted to the vile creature.

    "If only I was in full health, I would more than gladly accept your challenge. For the time being, I'm given you this one chance to save her," said Grimlord reiterating his offer.

    "As much as we're willing to save her, a mind battle is the last thing I expected," Kaitlin mumbled.

    "Though I would love to see all of you participate, there is a catch. Due to a mechanic error in the machine, the hardware can only be compatible for two people only, the chief currently being one of them," Grimlord went on for the record.

    For a moment, the VR Troopers congregated to decide on a volunteer.

    "Are you sure you're willing to do this?" J.B asked Ryan.

    "I came here to rescue my mother and I don't want to afford losing another family member," he said. "I hate to say this but as much as he's made it personal, Grimlord has a point. As long as he and his crew are around, the world is going to need the both of you to help fend them off. There is too much at stake going on."

    Kaitlin spoke up with concern over the potential peril of not only her teammate but as a lifelong friend.

    "Ryan, I'd hate for you to take that risk. At the same time I can't force you to. If I were in your shoes and had to rescue the people I care about, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Promise me you're going to come back from this alive," she pledged.

    Upon making a decision, Grimlord chimed in for an update.

    "What is it going to be? Who will be our volunteer this evening?" He wondered.

    "Count me in Grimlord. When it's all said and done, I'm going to get the police chief out of her coma and ensure you don't mess with another family's life," Ryan declared.

    "Once you've entered virtual reality, there is no turning back. If you fail to rescue Rebecca, your mind will remain trapped in eternal damnation rendering your body useless," Grimlord warned him.

    "Be careful Ryan. We'll be here for you every step of the way," J.B concluded having come down to a clear verdict.

    "I promise to make it back here in one peace. Wish me the best guys," said Ryan. In securing an empty seat, he slid his body inside the yellow lit background of the VR machine with the helmet strapped to his head. J.B and Kaitlin wrapped each others' hands showcasing strength of unity in hopes that their friend makes it out of this simulation alive.

    Ryan closed his eyes undergoing a brief period of relaxation in which his conscious is transferred inside his mother's mind. Soon after he awakens to finds himself shrouded by a gulf of flames burning up inside his father's laboratory. The instant he overheard the sound of her voice, it became clear he was experiencing through the headset lenses in her point of view. He witnessed her running past the rubble with the chief's handgun intact. Taken each step, she coughed out the smokes that plagued the building. She continued to shout Tyler's name in a desperate cry of concern over his well being. By navigating towards the lab's headquarters, they would encounter an evil force lurking behind the firewall. Rebecca realized that the anonymous figure turn out to be a familiar mutant that has haunted her since.

    "Grimlord," Ryan murmured. With the intention of using physicality, the scene would cutaway to another photographic memory of hers sometime following the incident.

    No longer projected in a first person perspective, Ryan finds himself inside of his parents' bedroom. Standing by the background, he observed her watching a recorded footage of the wedding ceremony with her and Tyler standing on the altar. An instant wave of nostalgia uplifted her spirit to a degree. To hear the innocence of her husband's voice felt surreal and empowering.

    I take thee, 'Rebecca,' to be my lawfully wedded wife. You are the sunshine in my life and the beat that pumps my heart. I promise to stay by your side, in sickness and in health, in joy and sorrow, for the good times and bad. I will grow in mind and spirit, laugh and cry, and to bring an uplifting sense of optimism that will preserve our unity. I promise to be the husband you cherish until death does us apart. On this day, I give you my heart.

    Rebecca placed her hand over her mouth as her eyes dampened. Ryan drew closer towards her only to realize his presence in the room was nonexistent. As the officiant addressed his final words, Tyler and Rebecca gazed into each others' eyes while continuing to hold hands.

    From this point forward, I pronounce Tyler and Rebecca husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.

    While the audience cheered on with joy, the wedded couple followed up on the celebration with a genuine yet passionate kiss. This monumental event signified the vows they committed ever since. Rebecca closed the case from her laptop as footage of their ceremony faded to black. She grabbed a portrait of her recently deceased husband taking a glimpse at the man she vowed to spend her life with. She began to melt down on the floor. Teardrops streamed like a river that would go on endlessly. It pained Ryan to witness her in the mental state she had been in. All he liked to do is to comfort her in some way or form. But this was just a glimpse regarding the kind of ordeal she had to endure.

    "I wish there was something I can do," Ryan mumbled clearly frustrated.

    All of a sudden, the lights began to flicker. Rebecca got up from the floor seemingly haunted from the superstition that transpired. While approaching the mirror, she came across a reflection of Grimlord standing directly behind her. The moment she turned around, he grabbed the chief around the throat choking her out of misery. Rebecca extended her arm trying to reach hold of her handgun on the makeup table.

    "Leave her alone," Ryan attempted to lay his fist on Grimlord. However, his arm drove straight through his body nullifying the attack that had been executed. The Blue Hawk Trooper wondered why the mutant didn't take notice. He began to remind himself that all of these events were a figment from her psyche.

    Eventually, with the use of her fingertips, Rebecca managed to reach her gun firing a shot at Grimlord's forehead. The mutant released the police chief from his grasp. Upon exiting, Rebecca grabbed her mobile phone from the drawer. This allowed for an opportunity to make her escape.

    Ryan proceeded to follow her out of the house and towards the car parked along the driveway. Just when he could make his approach, Grimlord magically appeared in front of her vehicle.

    There is no way of escaping me Chief. Now it's time to end this.

    Rebecca prepared to fire her gun but he swiped it away from her hands. Utilizing her Martial Arts skills, she fought him off with every technique from her playbook. Despite her fortitude, it would not be enough.

    "Nice try but you got to do better than that." With his kinetic powers, Grimlord sent Rebecca flying against the garage door. "I admire your guts. But just like Tyler Steele, you're about as weak as that measly scientist!"

    Ryan could barely watch. To witness his mother at her most vulnerable was disparaging enough. Deep inside, he felt the need to take matters into his own hands.

    "That's it," As he attempted to tackle Grimlord, a flash of light illuminated from the visor of his helmet. Ryan would land inside of an office operated by the CCPD. With no acknowledgment of his presence, Rebecca was in the midst of processing information containing a list of criminal profiles displayed on her computer. The amount of pressure as a result of excessive workload had taken toll over her body; traces of sweat dripped from her forehead. Bloodshot eyes indicated some signs of her uncharacteristic mannerism. By the doorway Ryan stood, he turned around to spot Lieutenant Combs providing some coffee for the chief. A pep talk ensues between the two. While taking appreciation of advice, the chief would be left with a number of options: Take a leave of absence to cool off her mind or to continue conducting police work.

    While Rebecca remained on the fence, a police officer interrupted to inform them about the press's interest in interviewing the chief. Rebecca did not take this news lightly. It further incensed her. The lieutenant escorted her from her office looking to navigate their way out of the building. Ryan followed suit thereafter. A crowd of photographers and reporters surrounded the area much to her chagrin. Rebecca closed her eyes resisting the endless amount of flashing beams coming from their cameras.

    Before Ryan could catch up with her, he came across an anonymous figure in a black cloak standing within the audience. As their eyes gazed across from Ryan's, the figure walked off from the gathering. Despite a lack of reasoning, Ryan followed along with their command.

    Taking notice of this, Ryan purged through the crowd tracking down the figure's whereabouts. As he spotted the person entering the amphitheater, Ryan went through the entrance to find himself inside the foyer of his parents' home.

    "Not again," he said. Suddenly, he overheard the sound of a door creak open from the location he stood from. Rebecca and Tyler arrived through the main door engaging in a lip lock that displayed their affection towards one another. For him to witness his father up close since his untimely death felt surreal. Part of Ryan wanted to break down and weep from the joy that sparkled from his parents' face.

    "They're quite a couple wouldn't you say?" Sneaking up behind Ryan's back, the same figure in a cloak made their presence known.

    "Who are you and what do you want from me?" He asked.

    I don't want anything in particular. I detected some disturbance wired throughout Rebecca's brain when I discovered someone may be tapping into her subconscious.

    Ryan took a glance at Rebecca and Tyler before turning his focus back on the figment figure. "If you must know, my mother is on the brink of being brainwashed by a fickle creature. I can't let any of that happen to her."

    "I understand which is why I am here to call you." The figure removed the hood from their robe to unveil a familiar blonde haired woman.

    "Mom," Ryan muttered nearly exposing his identity. Rebecca did not take notice of his verbal reaction.

    "I am the monitor that operates the cerebral cortex that emphasizes on her psychological thought process. I have traveled across all the lobes in her brain yet I am unable to maintain control of her motor functioning for much longer," she explained.

    "Rebecca, you must know that Grimlord has been utilizing a machine that has a detrimental effect on your memory bank. My friends and I are at your husband's lab to save you and stop a mutant named Grimlord from exploiting his agenda," Ryan told her.

    "As Police Chief, there is so much need to be done. I'm afraid that won't happen," said Rebecca.

    "Grimlord is using you as a test subject to determine if he could phase out a being's cognitive emotions," Ryan argued. "He's using this VR machine as a demonstration to see if he can brainwash humans and converting them into his mutants. Who knows how much impact it will have on society if he ends up spreading his influence throughout the world?"

    Rebecca sighed. "The police chief has devoted her time of duty to ensure that the people of Crossworld City remain safe from any harm that's thrown in their way. To spend over a decade and a half working in the police force, she has suffered through broken bones in life threatening situations that nearly cost her life. But all of those traumatic events occurred in her physical state. This is different. I'm afraid she won't make this one out alive."

    Ryan couldn't put up with his mother's figment counterpart. It was there in which he began to understand the emotional pain aching his mother's heart.

    "Please reconsider. You've already lost an important family member in your husband Tyler. But it's not just you who's lost a loved one. How will Ryan feel knowing the current state you're in, and how devastated he will be when he finds out that his adoring mother is no longer with him in spirit? Think about how he would feel," he convinced her.

    "Ryan is a strong independent gentleman. My husband and I raised him with all the love a parent could give. No one can take that away. I believe he can pull out of this rut no matter the situation that lurks on the horizon," said Rebecca.

    "He still needs you Chief. There are other creatures in Grimlord's army that will do everything in their power to inflict chaos throughout not only Virtual Reality, but the real world as well. Could you imagine people having to lose their love ones not by murder but as a means of brainwashing them into forgetting about who they were?" Ryan continued to persuade the police chef to remember her purpose in life. "As a VR Trooper, I can't allow Grimlord to fulfill his long term goal and take away more innocent lives. I have faith in you Chief."

    Rebecca took this moment to let this sink in. She glossed over at her past self along with Tyler making out on the furniture. She couldn't help but shed a tear of joy at the smile that enlightened her. It was that strong odor of nostalgia that reminded her of a non stressful time in her life; a time she wished she could relive and savor each moment not knowing the fate that lied ahead.

    "Tyler was a man I could count on even during the hard times. I would give anything to have him here with me," Rebecca confessed maintaining control of her sanity. She pulled out an object from her robe to unveil a high tech remote device. By configuring the buttons, the remote triggered of a portal in place of the house's main door.

    "Follow me. If you like to save Rebecca Steele, her fate lies behind this very wormhole," she offered to him. Eager to finish what he set out to accomplish, Ryan went through the portal that led him inside a cavern. Across from his sightings, he discovered Rebecca being handcuffed to a chain link rope. Scorches of burn marks scattered across her face. The strands from her blonde hair were all puffy from the excessive bruises she sustained.

    "Chief," He shouted. While making his approach, Ryan extended out his hand channeling an aura of blue energy engulfed around his suit. "Stand back this may be devastating. Lightning Hand Command now!"

    With a gleam of energy, Ryan utilized his special technique to successfully destroy the cuffs restraining her.

    "There you go. Now we just need to get ourselves out of here," he stated.

    "Easy for you to say, sweetie," With an evil smirk lurking from her face, Rebecca's eyes began to flare red. This intensity allowed for her to utilize heat vision, firing a set of laser beams that sent Ryan flying to a wall. Collapsing to the ground, he moaned in pain from the enduring blow.

    "I should have told you this beforehand the instant you arrived. But I'm afraid you've crossed the line," she spoke with evil intentions. Ryan was left perplexed by what had transpired. It turns out that an impersonator had been disguised as his mother all along.

    By revealing his true tendencies, Zelton proceeded to revert back into his mutant form.

    "Grimlord notified me knowing you'd do whatever it took to save your mother and avenge the death of your father. I must admit you really did well handling some of our allies. You're going to have to go through me before you can set your mother free."

    "What do you mean?" Ryan wondered.

    "Feast your eyes," Zelton directed the Trooper over to an unconscious Rebecca wrapped in a spider cocoon. "It's a rather shame but she had it coming. As long as she is in this state, there would be no chance she can regain control once the brainwashing is complete."

    Ryan crawled up from the ground while clutching onto the wound from the torso of his metal coated suit.

    "The chief hasn't done jack squat to you tin head. Let her out of that cocoon!" He demanded.

    "Not a chance," Zelton declined selfishly. "However, there is a catch. If only you can defeat me in battle, I will gladly relieve your mother out of this forsaken cave. If you fail to do so, Grimlord and I will be glad to have the two of you in the latest recruitment to our Mutant Empire."

    In times where desperate measures must be taken, Ryan stuck up for himself. "There's no chance I'm going to sell my soul to you. You may talk tough, but it'll take a lot more than verbal abuse to wear me down."

    Zelton cackled aiming his machine gun towards the intended foe. "Show me what you're made of."

    The immiscible creature sent shots firing as Ryan dodged each blast that loomed him. Sparks ignited throughout the area in which both combatants squared off. The Blue Hawk Trooper remained on the defensive end holding his own as opposed to Zelton's offensive firing mechanisms. Despite evading each blast, Ryan was caught off guard when the mutant fired his signature handgun at the ceiling, causing piles of rocks to land on top of the Trooper.

    "What's wrong? I figured you had the guts facing off against us mutants," Zelton belittled his opponent.

    Slowly, Ryan crawled out underneath from the rocks layered on him.

    "This bastard just lived up to his hype," he muttered beneath his helmet in frustration.

    "You just don't seem to quit, do you?" said Zelton.

    The battle raged on. Ryan switched his alignment to offense utilizing his Karate techniques to weaken his opponent. He resorted to a variety of kicks and thrust chops to his advantage. Unfortunately for him, this method proved ineffective. Zelton counteracted by blocking out all of his opponent's moves. Zelton flipped him over landing his body flat on the ground. Before Ryan could return to his feet, the mutant continued to pound away using stiff rights on the torso of his suit. He would then finish off the combination with an excessive throw sending Ryan back first onto the wall cavern.

    "You've made a fool of yourself challenging me. By the time your mind is trapped inside this machine, your friends will be devastated when I'm through with you," Zelton said pointing the gun at his opponent.

    "Ugh this isn't good," Ryan winced in pain. His eyes withered as a result of the damage he had sustained from the fight. As the stakes remain high, every tactic he made could determine his outcome. Not only is his mother's life hanging in the balance; the presence of Grimlord in the real world would leave a significant effect on the landscape as a whole.

    Just when he was about to pass out, images of his peers and parents began to flash in an instant. He was reminded of the people that have looked out for him even through some rough patches in his life. No matter how difficult it felt to lose someone close to him, deep within he realized the impact they had on Ryan contains a bond that can't be destroyed. This would turn out to be a wakeup call he needed to turn the tide in his favor.

    "I can't let Grimlord or his goons get the better of me. There's no way," he cried out. Slowly, Ryan pulled himself up from the ground looking to resume combat against the shape shifting mutant. A disperse of blue energy enveloped around him.

    "This is insane. How on Earth are you still fighting?" The robot wondered much to his disbelief. Zelton proceeded to fire shots at the blue armored fighter doing everything he could to annihilate him. Every attack he pulled off, Ryan resisted. A display of fighting spirit unraveled in front of the creature's eyes.

    "You may be one-hundred percent now but I refuse to be intimidated," Zelton bantered. Despite his confidence, part of him felt queasy by the aura surging throughout Ryan's suit.

    The Trooper grunted. Both combatants fought to the bitter end each giving every amount of effort in their body. Zelton went in on for a stiff right but Ryan blocked the swing before retaliating with a series of lefts and rights to the mutant's chest. Zelton staggered but he managed to maintain his balance. He counteracted with the reliance of his machine gun. However, with each blast would be deflected by the torso of Ryan's armor.

    "What is the meaning of this?" Zelton wondered.

    "You may have fooled me trying to disguise yourself as the chief. But let this be a reminder that there is no one who will replace my mother, not even a doppelganger," Ryan stated. While charging towards Zelton, he leaps on top of the mutant stomping away on his chest that resembles a Liu Kang style technique. Descending to the ground, the Blue Hawk Trooper followed it up with more jabs to his opponent's face. The numerous amounts of enduring blows further intensified the pain Zelton had to undergo.

    "Imbecile, how dare you try and undermine me like that!" He exclaimed fuming with frustration.

    As the battle began to wind down, Ryan summoned his trademark specialty with the intention of sealing the mutant's fate.

    Lightning Saber Command now!

    With the saber in his grasp, Ryan swung his weapon at Zelton slashing every strike limb to limb. The black armored mutant screamed in anguish from the repeated blows to his body. As Ryan turned away, the creature collapsed to his knees witnessing his body digitize before his eyes.

    "This is why you don't want to mess with the Steele Family," he said. With Zelton out of sight, he hurried over towards the cocoon in which his mother remained in suspended animation. He shredded off the cobwebs around her setting her aside by the corner.

    "Chief wake up," he insisted for her to awaken. Rebecca opened her eyes to notice the Trooper in front of her. "You're going to be alright."

    "Where am I?" She asked.

    "It's a long story. You're safe now," Ryan reassured.

    "Grimlord has done enough damage to me and my family. The police will be ready when we're finished with him," Rebecca winced.

    "You should better head back. Your son is likely worried about you," the Trooper ordered.

    "Ryan, that's right," she complimented still dazed after remaining inactive for a long period of time. Whoever you are, thanks for your help."

    "That's what we do best," he responded. Upon completing the objective, Ryan and Rebecca would wound up returning to reality. Their eyes were wide open to find themselves back inside Steele Labs.

    "Oh thank goodness," Kaitlin spoke with sheer joy of relief. She and J.B approached the two as they slowly rose from the machine.

    "You guys must be a bit dazed undergoing that mind adaptation," J.B said providing them with assistance.

    "Chief, are you feeling alright?" Ryan asked.

    "It felt like a part of me was ready to be extracted from this world," Rebecca offered him with a compliment. "I should be doing fine. Thank you guys for everything."

    Kaitlin took notice of an abandoned cell phone left on the console board.

    "Somebody must have left their phone behind," she remarked retrieving the device of a white cased smart phone.

    "That's my husband's," Rebecca said as she obtained the phone from the Red Sheriff Trooper. "I didn't think Grimlord was dumb enough to leave without it."

    Suddenly, some static ensues from the viewing screen before projecting a clear visual of the aforementioned creature.

    "Rebecca Steele, welcome back. It's a damn shame my brainwashing process didn't go as I planned. But I tell you what. I've got a much better gift to make it up, and that so happens to be sort of a goodbye present of sorts. I wanted to share it with you but when it became clear my plans weren't working out, I had to retreat," Grimlord said.

    "You have some nerve doing what you did to me back there!" Rebecca exclaimed.

    "It's just like how I expected for you to react," he replied much to her disdain towards the vile creature.

    "It's over for you Grimlord. After all the crap you've put us through, the VR Troopers are here and ready to take you on," Ryan said.

    "Severing ties from Strickland's creation I see. I've grown accustomed to coining you three as Metal Fighters. But based on your actions, I realized you are so much more than what he envisions you so-called Troopers," Grimlord replied. "Needless to say, it's about time Tyler's work is fully laid to rest. Colonel Icebot, do the honors."

    "As you command," the Colonel said initiating the detonator with the countdown timer set to 90 seconds. The entire building began to tremble whereas evidence can be traced by the cracks on the floor. Piers that bolstered the ceiling managed to collapse on top of one another.

    "This isn't good," Kaitlin remarked.

    "Let's head out and back track our steps from there," J.B advised to his teammates. Attempting to escape, the double doors would be blocked off by debris leaving no open gaps. As the building started to crumble, it was a matter of life or death for everyone inside.

    "Damn it, that was our ticket out of here," Ryan cursed. As tensions ran high, a sudden transmission was received by Professor Hart.

    Troopers, do you read me?

    "Professor, we've managed to have the Chief with us. But we're about to get caved in if we don't get ourselves out of here," J.B said.

    I have locked in the coordinates from your current location inside of the lab. Teleportation sequence should be activated momentarily.

    The gang remained at their positions while waiting for him to trigger the process.

    "Let's cross our fingers," Ryan muttered with his heart pounding in anticipation. Before they knew it, the Troopers along with Rebecca were engulfed in a neon light as they transported out of the laboratory. The four would find themselves just outside of the building. When the timer reached zero, the entire laboratory crumbled in front of their very eyes. The gang couldn't believe what they had witnessed.

    "Everything that my husband worked so hard for, it's gone just like that," Rebecca said traumatized by the destruction of the workplace that Tyler had founded has now become nothing more than a memory.

    "The most important thing is we're safe," Ryan assured. Suddenly, they would soon encounter some officers approaching them on site.

    "We should probably get moving. I don't think we're ready to make our presence known to the public," Kaitlin advised.

    "Thank you guys for the assist. I don't know how I can repay you all," Rebecca complimented the trio for pulling off a heroic deed.

    "When it comes to being a Trooper, let's say we do what we can to make a difference," said Ryan. "You should let your son know about what's happened. He could use you at a time like this."

    Rebecca responded with sincere gratitude. "I'll be sure to get in touch with him. Take care of yourselves while you're at it."

    "Will do Chief," Kaitlin remarked. After concluding their conversation, the trio managed to teleport out of the area. Police officials approached the chief to provide an update on her condition.

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