(Pop Quiz--how did I get the name for Liodalas Island? Hint: It's an agricultural island--their main product is vegetables.)
The sequel to Identity Crisis
Victor Blackheart stared expressionlessly at the thriving village displayed on his viewscreen. His partners in crime, Randy Hanson and "Big Fat Bob" shuddered at the sight—the monitor glare gave an unholy light to Victor’s already hellish demeanor.
"Resistance?" Victor asked to no one in particular.
It was Randy who responded. "Uh, nothing worth worrying about, Vic. They have a small police force, but no weapons stronger than a shotgun."
Victor grinned sadistically. "It seems an island such as this would not be worth the trouble of a pirate raid. No ruins per se, no ‘legendary treasure’ buried underneath. Just a small village and lots of farmland."
Bob laughed his ‘starting-a-car-on-a-dead-battery’ laugh. "Guess they never figured on hungry pirates!’
Victor didn’t share his amusement, and responded with his typical heartless monotone. "Yes. That’s the problem with you, Bob. You’re too damn fat. If you don’t stop eating less I’m going to have to kill you."
Bob stopped short. "Hey...uh…Vic! Take it easy, man! I’m just a hungry guy! Besides I make a valuable addition to the team, right?"
Vic leaned over and calmly punched Bob in the jaw several times. Then, with equal calmness replied "Shut up, idiot. There’ll be no team if you keep eating all our food stores. We wouldn’t be in this mess if you didn’t have so many midnight-banquets."
Bob only whimpered, clutching his bloody face, and trying to keep from staining his clothes. Randy wisely kept his comments to himself.
"Well, Vic? Shall we begin?"
"No Randy, not yet. Are there any schools nearby?"
"Um, no. Not on an island this small—not enough children. Everyone’s home schooled! But the ‘mayor’, if you’d call him that for a town this small, does have a daughter we could use. I took the liberty of plotting out her daily routine, and I already plotted the intercept courses into the navcomp."
Vic smiled for the first time in days, although compared to that smile, a snarling pit-bull would have seemed cozy and cuddly. "Excellent work. If only Bob wasn’t such a fat idiot and did the same kind of work you did, maybe we’d be more successful."
Without warning, Vic leaped from his seat and began thundering several left-right hooks into Bob’s ample gut, sending him to the floor gasping and sobbing. He slammed his boot into Bob’s side, stomped on his groin, then kicked his face again.
Bob rolled around slowly, bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth, in too much pain to even moan. Vic smiled cheerfully and walked out of the cockpit.
Vic’s voice came trailing back to them from a lower deck, "Bob, if you don’t stop being such a screw-up, I’m going to beat you to death one of these days. What a moron…"
Grapple’s custom flier, the Dark Sun, skimmed just barely above the tops of the clouds. He never realized it before, but he genuinely enjoyed flying!
"I guess there’s more to life than managing a junk store, after all!" he muttered to himself.
He tapped a button on the food dispenser, and was mildly surprised when the expected nutri-bar didn’t drop out. Setting the controls to autopilot, he banged on the side of the module a few times, hoping it was just stuck.
"Oh, God, I’m an idiot," he scolded himself as he finally thought to check the supply. Empty. "And Kattelox is still two hours away!"
He tapped a few keys on his navcomp, searching for a nearby island. Cross-referencing his current location with the agricultural database, he decided on Liodalas Island. Judging by the number of farms there, he’d be able to buy a decent supply of raw materials for his food dispenser to process! And he’d probably get a much better deal than from grocery stores on Kattelox!
"Damn, Grapple. You’re good—turned a potential screw-up into a brilliant financial success!" Then he remembered the junk store he had tried—and failed—to run before becoming a digger.
Shrugging, he disengaged the autopilot and adjusted his course to land on Liodalas Island. He just hoped he could land this thing as easily as he could fly it—it was his first flight, after all.
"Vic! Trouble!" Randy shouted into the intercom.
"What?" Vic’s voice replied a few moments later.
"Unidentified craft approaching rapidly from the south! Radar optics cannot positively identify, but from this distance it appears to be a fighter jet! It’ll intercept us in less than 5 minutes!"
"Damn it," Vic spat. "I’m on my way."
Seconds later, Vic stormed into the cockpit, shoved Bob out of his way, and assumed his command chair.
"Onscreen," he ordered.
Randy complied, and a fuzzy image of a sleek black fighter jet appeared on screen.
"Is it coming for us?" Vic asked.
"I don’t think so. Its angle of descent and deceleration indicate it’s going to land on Liodalas."
"This complicates matters," Vic grumbled. Blow this guy out of the sky and the panic would send the populace into hiding. They’d never get their hostage, and would then be vulnerable to a guerilla counterattack. Victor experienced his first and only defeat that way, and vowed to never repeat the mistake. However, if the craft landed, they may well have some serious opposition. Still…
"…we have no way of knowing what kind of person is on board. Maybe we can enlist his assistance, or steal his craft," Victor finished aloud.
"Hold our position and maintain cover in the clouds. Keep an eye on this guy—I want to know what he’s up to," Victor commanded, then turned to leave the cockpit.
"Where ya goin?" Bob asked.
Victor whipped around and snapped a front-kick into Bob’s crotch. He let out a squeal and dropped into a fetal position, his eyes rolling back into his head. Victor then left without a word.
Grapple was in an excellent mood. His home-built craft landed exactly the way it should have. He had set down in a clearing near the village. He was certain the villagers had seen him land, and he intended it that way. He figured the farmers would consider him a threat if he tried to land covertly.
Grapple crawled into the back, quickly donning his set of custom-built bionic armor, and as a precaution, attached his namesake grapple arm, and slung his Flare Buster across his back. Popping the rear exit hatch, he hopped out and proceeded towards the town on foot.
The village was a small one—maybe twelve or thirteen buildings total. But he quickly identified the sheriff’s office and proceeded inside.
He was greeted by a low rumbling snore emanating, he realized, from the balding middle-aged sheriff with his feet propped on his desk.
Grapple cleared his throat.
"Hm? OH! Oh, my! Yes, I’m here! Um…" the sheriff quickly composed himself, then glared at Grapple with a wary look in his eye. "Can I…help you?"
"Maybe. Just set down outside of town for a bit. I was hoping that maybe I could buy some food supplies before I left," Grapple replied.
"Oh, I see," the sheriff said, not quite believing him. "Well, I’ll tell you what. Honestly, it’s your appearance. That dark armor, the facts I can’t see your face and that you have a nasty-looking weapon strapped to your back don’t exactly make me comfortable. Not sure if I can trust you…"
Grapple nearly replied, then realized the sheriff was merely thinking aloud.
"But you did come straight here to clear things up with me, and you did mention buying things from us…so…" the sheriff suddenly beamed, and thrust his hand out.
"Put ‘er there! Name’s Edwin! Welcome to Liodalas Island!"
Grapple smiled behind his visor and shook the sheriff’s hand. "Thanks."
Before either of them had time to blink, a young woman burst into the office in a hysterical panic!
"Eddie! Eddie! It’s my brothers! They’re trapped!"
Grapple turned, and was immediately glad his helmet completely concealed his face. He didn’t want his slack-jawed drooling to be apparent—he was staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen!
Slightly shorter than he, she was everything he had ever wanted—long strawberry-blond hair, blue eyes that reminded him of refreshing pools, and a smooth, lightly tanned complexion. Of course he noticed what was below the neck as well, but forced himself to look away lest he drown in his own drool.
"Excuse me," the sheriff said, then turned to the girl, trying to calm her. "Now there-there, Lydia. Tell me what happened."
"The ruins! Tim and Tom—I tried to stop them! Th-they went into the ruins and the e-elevator’s stuck! They’re screaming for help and I think there’s reav-reaverbots down there!!" the girl, Lydia, cried.
"Reaverbots!! We’re not equipped to deal with them! We’re farmers, not diggers!" the sheriff said sadly. "What would ever compel them to…"
Edwin and Lydia stopped short as a metallic clank resounded through the office. They glanced over at Grapple, who had just finished attaching the Flare Buster to his arm.
"What—"the sheriff began.
"I’ll be back in a minute, Edwin," Grapple explained, then bolted out the door.
"Vic, we’ve got a problem," Randy said into the intercom.
"That guy from the jet—he’s one of those hero types."
"How do you know?"
"Some kids got stuck in the ruins, and he just dashed off to get them out."
"So he’s going underground?" Vic asked, his excitement nearly showing.
"Uh, yeah Vic."
"Excellent. Our luck is holding. Bomb the entrance after he’s in. If he’s sealed underground, he can’t interfere," Vic ordered, then cut the transmission.
Randy nodded approvingly. "Smart guy, that Vic…."
Grapple ran up to the ruins’ entrance and opened the door. Inside was the standard entry lift, but it was stuck at the bottom. He proceeded to the edge and peered in; the drop was only about 30 feet—his cord was long enough. Attaching it to the edge of the hole, he jumped down and lowered himself slowly to the floor.
"Hey, who’s that?!" a child’s voice came from below.
"I dunno! He doesn’t look familiar."
Grapple landed, then retracted his grapple arm. "The name’s Grapple. I’m here to get you boys out—ready?"
"YAAAAYY!! Thanks, mister!" One boy cheered.
"Hey, what’s that noise?!" The other shouted.
Grapple cocked his head and listened. Jet engines?
"MOVE!!!" he shouted, snatching one boy under each arm and bolting through the first door of the ruins!
A split second after it shut, an earth-shattering explosion rocked the room behind them! The doors, despite being super-reinforced ancient technology, buckled into a perfect convex dome from the force, and fine-crushed shrapnel of rock and dust zipped through the cracks, pinging off Grapple’s armor.
Their ears ringing, Grapple and the boys rose to their feet and stared at the wreckage.
"What was that?!" one boy asked.
"Looks like someone tried to do us in," Grapple said grimly. "Do you know if there’s another way out of these ruins?"
"No, just this one," the other boy said. "Are we stuck? Are we gonna die?"
"Well for now, yes and no, in that order. But don’t worry, I’ll find a way out for us. Just follow these rules and you won’t get hurt—stay behind me, if you see a reaverbot, retreat into the room we came from and stay there until I come get you!
"Got it!" the boys said in unison.
"Alright, let’s go." Grapple said, disengaging the safety on the Flare Buster.
"Oh boy, a real dig with a real digger!" one boy whispered.
"Target eliminated." Bob reported.
"Excellent job, Bob. It seems you’re not a total screw-up after all," Vic said, now in the command chair. "Now that he’s out of our way, we don’t have to hang back any longer! Randy, has that girl gone anywhere?" "Nope."
"Good—that was the mayor’s daughter. Bob, take us down, rapid descent. Randy, leap out when we’re at a safe height and grab the girl. You’ve got fifteen seconds—we’ll swoop around and pick you up on the return dive. Let’s do this right, men!" Vic ordered.
"ROGER!" Bob and Randy shouted.
"What’s that noise?" Edwin asked to himself. He strolled out of his office, one hand on his sidearm—just to be safe.
He nearly had a heart attack when he saw the fully-armed warship swooping out of the sky straight for him!!
He pulled out his gun and shakily pointed the weapon at the warship (much to the amusement of Victor, I might add) and was caught off guard by the tiny but agile man leaping out of a hatch on the fuselage. He hit the ground in a roll, coming up in a martial-arts combat stance.
"EDWIN!" Lydia cried, standing in the doorway with a horrified expression on her face.
"Out of the way, old man. This doesn’t concern you!"
"W-w-what was that explosion?" the sheriff had the courage to ask.
"Your digger friend becoming fertilizer, that’s what! Now get OUT OF THE WAY!"
Edwin fired his weapon at the skinny man, but he actually dodged the bullet!
"My name’s Randy, ain’t that dandy? Now I’ll turn you into worm candy!" the man sang in an off-key voice, brought up a submachine gun, and unloaded dozens of rounds into poor Edwin’s body.
The sheriff jerked and flopped spasmodically as round after round tore into his chest, abdomen, and arms. Lydia shrieked in horror and despair as the sheriff’s bloody, bullet-riddled body crumpled to the ground, dead long before he ever hit the dirt.
"EDDIE, NOOOOOO!!!" Lydia dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her face. "Noooo…"
Randy walked up to her, grinned, then delivered a roundhouse kick to her head with enough force that she bounced off the wall behind her before collapsing into an unconscious heap. He grabbed her and roughly slung her over his shoulders. His ship was already on its return dive—he broke off into a run, parallel with the path his ship was taking. With a perfectly timed leap, he was back inside the craft, skidding across the deck from the difference in velocities. When he came to a stop, he noticed Vic standing there staring at him.
He looked at the girl and grinned. "Strap her on."
Grapple motioned for the children to run back to the previous room, then squared off against the eight Reaverbots that had him surrounded. He held his position until he heard the children leave, then commenced his attack!
The Reaverbots he faced were all similar, and were divided into two groups. One group was a set of bipedal robots with large feet, and the other looked identical, except they were just a torso sitting on the ground. The four with legs immediately trotted towards him, attempting to get a clear line of sight so they could fire without hitting a companion.
Grapple had no such reservations.
He opened fire with the Flare Buster, pelting the first Reaverbot he could see with a healthy dose of plasma flares! The thing staggered backward, then retaliated with a ball of fire. Grapple hopped sideways, evading the projectile, and returned fire. The Reaverbot sparked and sputtered as its systems took damage, but continued its assault. Grapple prepared to leap sideways again but was struck from behind as one of the Reaverbots simply ran into him!
"Damn it!" Grapple grimaced through clenched teeth. It stung, but his bionic armor protected him. Regaining his balance, he pumped off a dozen or so more rounds into the damaged Reaverbot, finally destroying the thing.
Two fireballs came careening towards his head, and he dropped to one knee to avoid them. Firing his grapple arm at one of the Reaverbots, he latched onto its leg, sending it tumbling to the floor with a well-timed tug. He immediately jumped up in the air, leaving the grapple attached to the downed Reaverbot, causing another to trip over the raised cord. With two Reaverbots struggling to get to their feet, Grapple began strafing them with multiple rapid-fire shots. He stood his ground and accepted a hit by a fireball launched from the third, continuing his onslaught until one of the downed Reaverbots erupted in a ball of flames! Running backwards, he dragged the Reaverbot his grapple was attached to across the ground, then he turned a sharp left, sending the Reaverbot sailing from centrifugal force. It slammed into one of the torso-like robots, and they both exploded in a shower of refractor shards and twisted metal.
The remaining Reaverbot stopped moving.
Grapple retracted his cord, then slowly walked a circle around the motionless robot. As a test, he reached out and gave it a shove, laughing as it fell on its face!
The Reaverbot climbed to its feet and again stood motionless.
"Remote controlled!" he marveled, realizing the torso-like Reaverbots were like brains for the bipedal ones!
Saving his ammunition, he launched his grapple-arm repeatedly against the comatose Reaverbot, as well as the torso-like ones that apparently had no form of defense. Collecting his refractor shards, he went and got the two kids from the previous room.
"Wow, he killed ‘em all!"
"Told ya he was good!"
What an ego trip, Grapple thought to himself!
"Oh my God, Edwin…," Daniel Taylor, the Mayor of Liodalas Island, said sadly as he knelt down before the sheriff’s body. "Who would do such a thing?"
"That’s not all, sir," a townsperson mentioned. "They took your daughter." "Oh no, Lydia…. Where are Tim and Tom?"
"L-lost in the ruins sir," a woman said.
Daniel hung his head and wept. "My life…my family….why?"
"A-a digger arrived shortly before this happened, and went to look for your boys, so they might be fine," a third person offered.
"But the pirates destroyed the entrance awhile ago—there’s no way out," a fourth countered.
"So much death….so much loss. What do they want? Why are they doing this to us?" the Mayor greived.
He was answered by the sound of giant robotic footsteps approaching.
"Why don’t you ask us yourself, Mayor," a voice called from it.
"Who are you?! What have we done to you?!" He cried.
"Nothing. But we need food, and have come here to take it. Just stay where you are and nobody gets hurt," the man in the mech replied.
"Food? You killed our friend, buried my boys and an innocent stranger, and kidnapped my only daughter for food?!"
"Don’t raise your voice at me, Mayor, or your daughter pays the price."
The mech pulled a large shield off its back…with Lydia strapped to the front.
"This shield weighs nearly a ton. If I drop it like this," the mech held the shield inches from the ground, Lydia on the bottom side, "and let go, your daughter will be crushed!"
Daniel the Mayor could do nothing but clench his fists and grit his teeth.
"Resist us in any way, and I hold the shield like this", the mech held the shield at battle-ready position, "You’d hit your daughter with your own weapons! You have no choice but to stand still and let us do what we came to do."
"YOU BASTARDS!" Daniel screamed. "LEAVE US ALONE!"
The mech tapped on the shield sharply with its free hand, crushing poor Lydia’s legs.
She screamed. And screamed.
The mech twisted its finger around, grinding her bones to powder.
She sobbed, in too much agony to scream any longer. All she could do was moan.
"LYDIA!! NO!!…No, I’m so sorry…"
"That’s what you get for talking back to us. I just broke her legs. Who knows? With proper medical treatment, she may even be able to use them again someday. But she won’t get the chance if you don’t cooperate!"
"O…okay...just…please, don’t hurt Lydia anymore."
"Well, since you asked so nicely," the mech shook the shield violently, aggravating the tortured girl’s wound beyond the limits of her endurance, and she fell unconscious. "Now you realize that I JUST DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT YOU OR YOUR DAUGHTER! NOW SHUT UP AND BE STILL!!"
The mayor could do nothing but weep.
Grapple again motioned for the children to leave the room, and stared at the giant Reaverbot in front of him. This wasn’t going to be easy—this was obviously this ruin’s guardian robot. Guardian of what, he thought to himself wryly. This ruin was a waste of time—just a big loop underground. He steeled himself for combat.
Then heard the kids behind him.
"Grapple, the door’s stuck!" "It’s locked! It won’t open!"
"DAMN IT!" Grapple shouted, hoping he didn’t set a bad language example for the kids. "Alright, just stay out of the way! Run back to back, one look where you’re going, one look where the Reaverbot is. Stay away from it and keep down, I don’t want you to get hit by a ricochet!"
The Reaverbot looked like a giant fat man. A spikey fat man. With long snakelike arms that ended in enormous mallets. And it had a kick-your-ass fetish.
Grapple swallowed, and reminded himself that he was an idiot for choosing digging over running a store. Would it really have been that hard to get a loan? I mean come on…bankers or Reaverbots intent on stomping your guts out? Tough call, but nooooooooo….
Grapple jumped backwards as the mallet-arms slammed into the ground, sending the now-familiar shockwave rippling beneath him. He raised his Flare Buster and pumped off a couple dozen rounds while the Reaverbot was recovering its balance. Grapple’s heart sank when he realized his blows were hardly scuffing the paint job! At this rate he’d run out of ammo and Hyper Cartridges long before he did a bit of damage! He rolled to the side, taking refuge behind a pillar as the Reaverbot swung a massive arm.
"AGH!!" he choked off a scream as the enormous fist blasted through the stone pillar, sending him careening into another with enough force to topple that one as well! Fortunately his bionic armor was able to protect him, but a quick glance at his energy meter told him he couldn’t withstand many more of those.
"Hey, it’s got a purple butt!" one of the boys exclaimed.
Huh? A purple butt? Wait, it’s gotta be some kind of sensor! Or maybe an exhaust port—either way, that has to be the thing’s weak spot! Hope renewed, he dropped to his belly and fired his grapple right between the Reaverbot’s legs! It latched onto a pillar opposite him, and he zipped forward across the ground. Releasing the grapple before he slammed into the pillar, Grapple leaped to his feet and immediately began pumping rounds into the purple spike on what appeared to be the Reaverbot’s butt! It reached back as if in pain, and staggered. Grapple continued to empty Flare Buster rounds into the spike, shattering it in mere seconds! It was apparently some sort of power regulator that had to be kept outside the robot so it could cool off. Without the regulator, the Reaverbot went critical, toppled over with a crash, and erupted into numerous small explosions!
"Yeah!!" Grapple shouted, raising his hands in victory! He greedily scooped up the energy cubes, channeling their power into his bionic armor, effectively neutralizing the damage he’d sustained during the fight. Snatching up the refractor shards as well, he barely noticed the two children calling his name.
"Grapple! Grapple! Over here!"
"Yeah, over here! While you were kicking butt, we found a shaft to the surface!"
Grapple smiled and approached the kids. "You know, when you get a little older, you could make great diggers."
Beaming with insane joy that their hero was praising them, the boys happily lead they way out of the ruins.
Grapple was the last one out of the tunnel, and immediately took cover behind…wait…a well? "Hm…interesting…an old dried up well is the secret entrance," he commented to himself.
He had seen the large mech plodding through the fields, followed by a truck driven by some big fat guy. The kids saw this and immediately ran off to hide.
"Looking for someone?"
Grapple turned around and received a blinding flash of pain for his effort! He landed on the ground several feet away, then hopped to his feet.
"Thought we’d finished you off when we bombed the ruins, but it looks like you’re a tough nut to crack!" Grapple was facing down some skinny guy armed with a beam saber—that had to be what he’d been struck with. He was glad he was wearing bionic armor—any ordinary metal would have protected him from a beam saber about as well as a wall of butter could stop a flame-thrower.
"Who are you?" Grapple asked.
"The name’s Randy! Ain’t that dandy! Now I’ll turn you int-"
"Shut the hell up, I don’t wanna hear it!" Grapple replied, pummeling the skinny man with a quick burst of the Flare Buster.
"GYAHH!! You hit me! You…actually…hit me!! You’ll die for that!!" The man raised a submachine gun in his other hand and emptied his clip at Grapple!
Grapple bobbed and weaved as best he could, but most of the rounds struck him. Again, his armor protected him. Grapple fired a spray of buster rounds at Randy, but he skipped and hopped over them all. Damn, this guy was quick! Suddenly, Randy leapt out of sight! Grapple looked around, but couldn’t see him—then was laid out flat as the beam saber slashed against his back! Grapple climbed to his feet, ignoring the searing pain that wracked his body, and squared off against the skinny man. He fired off some more rounds at him, but again the guy was far too quick.
"Man, you suck!" Randy exclaimed, then again leaped out of sight.
"Suck this," Grapple growled, firing the grapple arm over his shoulder, catching Randy right in the face!
"GRMF" he said intelligently.
Grapple glared at him, staring into Randy’s terrified eyes as he unloaded his Flare Buster into Randy’s exposed gut. The stench of burning flesh rolled over him as the life slowly faded from Randy’s eyes.
Throwing the corpse to the ground, Grapple ran towards the mech, not exactly sure what to do.
"Uh, Vic…on the left," Bob began.
"Shut up, you fat idiot."
"But boss! That digger is running right towards you!"
The mech turned and Vic, sitting in the cockpit, couldn’t believe his eyes. In the distance lie Randy’s smoking corpse, and barreling towards him was the digger that had not only survived a compact neutron bomb, a tunnel collapse, but had also escaped a ruin with only one entrance.
"WHO THE HELL IS THAT GUY?!"
"HELP ME!!" Lydia managed to scream through her tears.
Grapple stopped short.
"Ahh yes, help her! Help her by leaving! You see, if you resist, I’ll drop the shield, killing her! If you fight, I’ll block your shots with her body, and you will be the murderer!"
Grapple raised his Flare Buster, taking aim.
Vic couldn’t believe it—didn’t this guy care?!
"What do you think you’re doing?! You’ll kill her!"
The mech turned and took aim with its machine-gun arm.
Grapple unleashed a burst from his Flare Buster, blowing the weapon off the hand. The mech swung the shield back to protect itself, but Grapple ceased fire in time.
"Got no weapon. Watcha gonna do now?" Grapple said.
"THIS!"the mech hurled the enormous shield at Grapple. Grapple backed away, timing the spinning, bleeding, sobbing shield, then simply raised an arm.
The reinforced grapple arm was more than strong enough to support the shield, and the careful calculations that could have come only from a master engineer enabled him to catch it, perfectly balanced, on one hand. Grapple gently lowered the shield to the ground.
"NO! I don’t believe it! How?!"
Grapple tore off his helmet, allowing the pirates to see the rage in his eyes. "I’ve just got one thing to say to you." He raised his Flare Buster. "DIIIIEEEEE!!!!!!"
Grapple pumped round after round into the mech, not even allowing it the chance to get its balance! Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the truck back up, but let it go—the fat guy wasn’t doing anything wrong, really.
Out of ammo! He quick popped in another clip, but was too slow! Looking up, he saw a missile launcher aiming straight at his unprotected head! DAMN!
Out of nowhere, a pained "I HATE YOUUUUUU!!", and the truck driven by the fat man slammed into the mech full speed, sending it hurtling into the air! The barrel of the launcher was bent at a clean ninety-degree angle, and the missile exploded in the chamber, tearing off the entire arm!
"Damn you! Damn you both!" the mech stormed off into the woods, and was gone.
Grapple raised his Flare Buster at the fat man, crawling from the wreckage of his truck.
"Don’t shoot, man!" he said.
"Look, I know I’m a pirate, but I didn’t want to be. Vic—he always…well…look at me!" and he pointed at his bloody face.
"Eew…"Grapple couldn’t help but comment.
"Look…I helped you…because I want a chance to start over…I…really don’t like hurting people."
Grapple looked at him warily, his finger on the trigger inside of the weapon.
"G—grapple…. Please…. Enough pain…. Let…let him go…." Lydia moaned from the ground.
"Oh god! I’m so sorry!" The fat man started sobbing. He ran over.
Grappel ran to her side as well, stroking her head. "Are you alright?"
Lydia smiled at them. "Yes. Thanks to you. But my legs…."
The fat man perked up a little. "I was in medical school before I became a pirate! Maybe I can help!"
Grapple smiled. "Let’s hope so."
Grapple ended up spending an entire month on the island. Bob turned out to be a fantastic doctor, and Lydia seemed to be making a decent—if not full -- recovery. She and Grapple had been spending a lot of time together, lately, and their constant walks together had to be a major factor in her speedy recovery.
"Grapple, "Lydia asked one day. "What’s your name?"
He chuckled. "You just said it!"
She smiled sweetly. "No, I mean your real name. You call yourself Grapple because you use one, but who are you?"
"I am….my name is Jackson. My friends called me Jack." She stroked his cheek softly. "What happened? That made you become Grapple, I mean?"
"I lost everything, and figured it’d be easier to start over than fix it. Not very heroic, I know. Running away from problems instead of standing and taking it like a man."
"You are a hero, Jack! You not only destroyed a dangerous robot underground, you rescued my brothers, saved the town, drove off a vicious pirate band…and saved me!"
"It’s no big thing, really, I mean-"
"And here’s another reason I know you’re a hero. The hero always gets the girl, right?"
"Heh heh! Well, I guess so, but I don’t think I MMPH"
Grapple was cut off by a powerful kiss that caught him off guard more than a dozen Reaverbots ever could!
"Ya know, I could get to like this hero bit!" he said afterward.
Lydia smiled. "So….what now?" "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you’re a digger. I know you won’t stay—I wouldn’t ask you to anyway. But where are you going?"
"Well, I was going to Kattelox Island, just to see what’s what there. HEY! I bet those doctors could do wonders for your leg! They could get it patched up perfectly!"
Lydia beamed. "So I can go with you?!"
"You mean you want to leave?"
Her expression darkened. "They gunned down Eddie, poor sweet Eddie, in front of me. They tried to kill me. They tried to destroy everything I’ve ever loved—even you, although I didn’t know you at the time. I won’t rest until we find whoever was in that mech, and bring him to justice."
Grapple smiled, hugging Lydia. "It just so happens….I have an extra seat."