I know this is getting repetitive, but we are once again switching back to that scene with Thanatos sitting in his chair again (don't worry, this is the last one of these). A Red Wolf officer burst through the door. "Hey, watch what you're doing!" Thanatos shouted.
"Sir, I have news."
"What kind of news?"
"The Mana Knight's white dragon was spotted flying over Pular. He then landed to the north."
Thanatos put his hand to his chin. "So that's what he's been up to."
"Nothing. Did you go after him?"
"Yes, but he had already left by the time we got there. He was at a palace of some sort."
The Red Wolf was about to say something else when another officer entered the room. "Mr. Thanatos, I just heard of something terribly bad."
Thanatos' face fell (just a note: I haven't been describing Thanatos because you're not supposed to know what he looks like yet). "What?"
He took a deep breath. "The party we sent to question the Deprethans is dead."
"The townspeople rebelled and killed them."
Thanatos pounded his fist on the arm of his chair. "That's what I get for sending only three of them."
"Excuse me," interrupted the original officer. "I was about to say something."
"It better not be more bad news," said Thanatos.
"Oh, quite the opposite. It's about 'the project'."
Thanatos folded his hands together and made a devilish grin. "Tell Captain Ardese that I'm on my way - it's time we taught those Deprethans what happens to people who resist my power."
Meanwhile, our four heroes were camped out in the forest near the Tree Orb Palace. Tony was checking on Flammie, but the others were sitting together talking to each-other. Well, actually only Justin and Joseph were talking - Ashley was sitting by herself thinking. "I never thought I'd see the day," said Joseph.
"What?" Justin asked.
"Someone is finally going to take on Thanatos face to face, and maybe even win! No one's even dared to take on his soldiers before!" Justin was listening, but not looking at him. "You're not nervous at all, are you?"
Justin finally looked at him. "Of course I am - just not as much as you might expect. I'm nervous, but not scared. I don't fear Thanatos, but you can't ignore his power. I respect him - no, I respect his power. Thanatos is an evil monster."
The two of them sat in silence for a moment. Then Joseph stood up and turned around. He saw Ashley was sitting farther off in the woods. "Hey Justin."
"Is she your girlfriend?"
Justin laughed a little. "Nah."
"Don't feel like you put your foot in your mouth - just about everybody thinks we're together. As a matter of fact, I'll bet even Tony thinks we are."
Joseph was quite surprised. "You mean she's available?"
Justin kind of smiled. "Why do you ask?"
"You like her, don't you."
"Don't bother. Ashley thinks love is a sick joke."
"What do you mean?"
"There was one guy that she loved with all her heart. He was a soldier named Dyluck. One day he went off to fight a witch named Elinee. He was put under a spell and sent to Thanatos, who led us on a wild goose chase around the world. In the end, Thanatos tried to take over his body. Dyluck somehow managed to resist him, but died in the process. The point is, Ashley truly loved him, and did whatever it took to try and save him, and what does she have to show for it? Nothing."
"Of course, if you still want to make a pass at her, I don't care. Just wait until after the battle."
Joseph nodded. "Hey," Justin said, "wanna spar?"
Some time later, Ashley rejoined the two fighters, who were practicing some moves on each-other. Justin grabbed Joseph and threw him to the ground in front of him. Now lying on his back, Joseph brought his legs up and grabbed Justin's head with them, flipping him onto his back. "Nice one," chuckled Justin. "You know, you've got some incredible moves there."
Suddenly Tony appeared. "Guys, be really quiet. Do you hear a rumbling sound?"
The others became completely silent. "I don't hear anything," Justin eventually said.
"I do," said Joseph. "It's like a mechanical hum." Soon the sound became much louder. It kept on getting louder until the sound was almost unbearable, at which point an enormous black dragon zoomed overhead, and quickly disappeared.
"Holy cow!" cried Ashley.
"What the heck was that?" Justin said.
"Oh no," Joseph said. "Don't tell me they finished it already."
"Finished what?!" Justin shouted.
"Thanatos' personal attack vehicle. I heard some soldiers talking about it one day, but I had no idea it was so big!"
"Big?!" Justin said. "That thing is beyond big. I mean, it's gotta be like five times the size of the Mana Beast! There's no way we can beat something like that!"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Tony said in a happy voice. "Justin, you've just given me an idea that I can't believe I never thought of before. Joseph, how did the Mana Dagger come into your possession?"
"I found it lying in some ancient ruins or something."
"Show me where."
"Now, exactly what is it that we're looking for?" asked Justin.
"You'll see," Tony answered.
"There, land there!" Joseph cried, pointing.
Flammie landed in a large field of grass. They were on a continent far to the northeast, and they could see the ocean in the distance. Out in the water was an enormous rock. It was truly a beautiful sight, but not what they were expecting. "Joseph," Tony said, "I thought you said you found the Mana Dagger in some ruins."
"Then what are we doing here?!"
Joseph laughed. "You didn't actually think that the ruins were going to be sitting out in the open, did you?" Tony looked embarrassed. "They're inside that rock over there," Joseph said, pointing at the stone which jutted out of the ocean like a grand palace.
"In there?" Ashley said. "How the heck are we supposed to get in there?"
"I'll show you." Joseph led the others to a small group of trees which were located between them and the ocean. They headed to the very center of the tiny "forest", where Joseph stopped.
"There's nothing here," said an angry Tony.
"To the untrained eye, there isn't. Justin, you might know what I mean," Joseph said, showing them their surroundings.
Justin noticed that there was a spot in the middle of the trees where there was no grass. He smiled. "So this is where you learned that." He walked over and brushed some of the dirt off the "bald" spot on the ground. Eventually he found something he could grab hold of. He wrapped his fingers around it and pulled with all his might. After several tugs a round piece of earth popped out of the ground, revealing a tunnel. "I had a feeling you hadn't figured out that technique on your own."
Joseph was both surprised and angered. "What, you don't think I'm smart enough?"
"No, of course not! Somehow I just knew."
"Well, you were right. Okay, everybody into the hole!"
The four of them traveled the through the long underground tunnel and resurfaced inside the giant rock they had seen out in the water. It was quite a long trip, and nothing happened along the way, which made it very boring. But when they got there, Tony's spirits quickly rose. They were in your basic "lost civilization" setting, with makeshift wooden shelters and ancient stone temples and statues, all of which were badly damaged. The young sprite stared in awe. "For almost a year I've been searching for this place."
"What, exactly, is this place?" said Justin.
"It's the village of the ancient sprites."
"The what?" said a confused Ashley.
"Long ago, all sprites lived here in the Underworld. And as Joseph can tell you, living in place where Thanatos is in power is not easy."
Joseph laughed. "You've got that right!"
"Anyway, in order to protect themselves, the sprites built this hidden village, as well as several means of defense, like the Element Orbs."
"So why are we here?" Justin asked.
"In a giant temple somewhere in this village, the ancient sprites left the blueprints for a device that - when joined with the Mana Sword and Dagger - could control the awesome power of the Mana Beast."
"And we can use the Mana Beast against Thanatos' machine!" Justin cried. "Tony, you're brilliant."
"Well, there are a lot of temples here," Ashley said, "which one is it in?"
"Whichever one is the biggest," said Tony.
Joseph pointed to a large one on the other side of town. "That would be that one."
They went inside and found themselves right in the main room. "Aw, I wanted some booby traps to get by," Joseph said, disappointed. He folded his arms and made a grumpy face.
"Isn't there one behind you?" Justin said, smiling. Joseph turned around, but only saw Ashley, who was staring at Justin with one of those "what did I do" looks on her face.
"That's not funny," said Tony.
Suddenly Joseph realized what Justin was referring to. "Oh," he chuckled. Now Ashley was giving Justin a "how dare you" look (if you still haven't figured this out, ask me, `cause I sure ain't gonna explain it here).
"I know I'm probably going to sound like someone's parents," Tony said, "but that was really uncalled for, Justin."
"Okay, I'm sorry! I just can't resist obnoxious jokes like that."
Obviously, Ashley was uncomfortable with the whole thing. "Can we get going?!"
In the center of the room was a large, shallow pit. Well, it was shallow compared to its size. If a person were to stand in it, the top of it would be just above his or her head. The four of them approached it and looked inside. The pit's floor was covered with sand, and at first there didn't seem to be anything in it. "There!" Tony said, pointing. Half-buried in the sand was a small stone tablet.
Justin and Joseph jumped into the pit and ran over to it. Joseph bent over and tried to pick it up. It didn't even budge. "Whoa," he said, "this thing is heavy."
"Let me try it." Now Justin was trying to lift the ancient artifact. It moved, but barely. "Wow, that thing is really in there."
"Let's try it together."
"Okay." As Ashley and Tony watched, the two of them put their hands on the tablet and pulled as hard as they could. They pulled and pulled for several minutes, until the large stone slab suddenly popped out. But just like when you're playing tug-of-war and the other person lets go, Justin and Joseph flew backward and landed on their backs. The tablet landed behind them. Then they both looked at each-other and laughed. "Come on, let's get out of here," Justin said, getting up.
"All right," Joseph said, "but don't you think that was a little too easy?"
Suddenly they heard a click. "I was afraid you might say that," said a worried Justin. They weren't quite sure how, but the pit was beginning to fill up with water. In a few seconds it was already sloshing around their ankles. "Come on," cried Justin, "let's get this thing out of here!"
Joseph tried to pick the stone tablet up again, but for some strange reason, the water was holding it down. "It's stuck again."
"Keep trying!" Justin yelled. Justin made his way out of the pit and watched as Joseph continued to pull at the large rock slab, getting no results. After a minute or so, when the water was somewhat higher, Joseph had to dive underwater to get to it.
But even after almost a minute, Joseph still hadn't resurfaced. "I'm going back in," Justin said, and dove into the water. He found Joseph with his hand pinned under the tablet. Justin knew that if he didn't get some air soon he could die, so he grabbed the tablet with both hands and pulled with all his might. Eventually he was able to lift it a little bit, allowing Joseph to swim to the surface.
Justin joined him. "Get out of here - I'll handle this."
"No way!" protested Joseph. "There's no way you can lift that thing by yourself."
"Just go!" Reluctantly, Joseph left the pit - which had actually become a pool - and joined Tony and Ashley, who were watching the whole thing. Justin dove back under the water.
Suddenly Joseph gasped and pointed at the ceiling. Part of it was being lowered down onto the pool, which would leave Justin trapped. "Justin, hurry!" he cried, but Justin was under the water's surface and could not hear him.
Meanwhile, Justin was still trying to lift the tablet, but pretty soon he had to come up for air. When he did, he heard the others yelling and pointing at the ceiling. Once he realized what was happening, he dropped everything and swam toward his friends as fast as he could. But just as he was about to reach the edge of the pool, the piece of the ceiling finished its downward movement, leaving him trapped.
"No, Justin!" Ashley cried.
Tony couldn't believe it. "No way. He's gone."
Joseph was close to tears. Justin was the only true friend he had ever had, and now he was dead. "So much for beating Thanatos," Ashley said. Joseph hung his head in sadness.
Suddenly they heard a rumbling sound. They all looked up. The noise seemed to become from the enclosed pool. As they listened the sound became louder and louder. And as it got louder, the entire room started shaking. When the intensity of the noise and vibrations reached its apex, the part of the ceiling that had covered the pool exploded in a giant eruption of water. And standing in the middle of it, yelling like an enraged dragon, was Justin. The water that used to be in the pit was flying around him in a giant blue column of liquid. The others couldn't believe their eyes. Finally the water flew off in all directions, getting them a little wet. Justin quieted down and approached them. He had something in his hand. "Happy now, Tony?" he said, holding up the stone tablet. His friends could only stare and shake their heads in disbelief.
Following the tablet's instructions, Tony was soon able to construct the device. The parts needed were really only average, everyday items, and going through them would just be a waste of time. Anyway, the device was now finished. In appearance it looked like a small metallic cylinder. "So how does this thing work?" asked Justin.
"I'll show you," said Tony. A bright green energy beam suddenly extended out from one end of the mechanism. The only way I can describe it is that it looked a lot like Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from Return of the Jedi.
"Cool," Justin said. "What is it?"
"It's a solid beam of energy. It works like a sword."
Joseph was puzzled by something. "How did you turn it on like that - you didn't even push any buttons or anything?!"
"I don't have to - it's brain wave-activated. All I have to do is think and it does whatever I want it to."
"I wish my sword could do that," said Justin.
"Well," Joseph said, "let's go catch up with Thanatos!"
The four of them were back on Flammie again and were on their way to face off with Thanatos. "I think he was headed in this direction," said Ashley.
"You know," said Joseph, "if we're lucky we might get rid of Thanatos when that thing blows up."
"True," said Justin, "but that's pretty unlikely, and besides, we don't know what that thing can do. We might not be able to beat it."
Suddenly Tony saw something. "Hey, what's that?"
The others looked down and saw a lot of burning structures. "Wait a minute," cried Justin. "Isn't that Depretha?"
Joseph looked at him and then back at the ground. "Oh my God, it is!"
They quickly landed Flammie and Joseph took off running. The others jumped off the great dragon and ran after him. When they saw him up ahead, they stopped. He was staring at what was left of Depretha. The entire town was in ruins. Almost everything had been completely demolished, and anything that was still standing was on fire. And the bodies - they were everywhere. It was easy to see that all of Depretha's citizens had been killed. Many of their bodies had been burned beyond recognition. Joseph couldn't believe the power and ruthlessness of Thanatos' new machine. He just stared with his mouth hanging open for several seconds. When he was almost forced to tears, he raised his head to the sky and cried out with all his anger. "CURSE YOU, THANATOS!" Then he fell to the ground and started crying like there was no tomorrow.
After he had cried for about a minute, Justin, Ashley, and Tony approached him. Ashley put a consoling hand on his shoulder. "It's all right," she said. "Let it out."
Joseph spoke as he cried. "I had been living in Depretha for months... because I was cut off from the Cannon Travel Center. It was as close as I ever came to having a home. So Thanatos had to go and destroy it! And all those innocent people, too - the monster!"
"I know," said Justin. "Thanatos can be terrible. But don't worry - we'll get him. We'll get him for you, Joe."
"Well, what do you know," said the helmsman of Thanatos' new machine, who was a typical Red Wolf officer.
"What is it?" Thanatos asked, sitting in chair just behind him, with his two bodyguards beside him.
"Seems we missed a few," said the soldier. "I'm picking up life signs just outside Depretha."
"What kind of life signs?"
"Three humans, one sprite, and..." he stopped, "a dragon?"
Thanatos smiled. "Turn us around. We've just hooked a big one."
"What's that?" Ashley said, looking up. She saw something off in the distance.
Justin and Tony's heads jerked up to look, and Joseph slowly lifted his head. When he saw it a chill ran up his spine. It looked like a giant black dragon up in the sky. "He's coming back!" he said with a hint of fear in his voice. "It's Thanatos."
"He must know we're here," said Tony.
"He probably destroyed Depretha to get our attention, and now he's come back to finish us off!" Ashley cried.
"Well he's not going to get away with it," Justin said. He turned to his saddened companion. "What do you say, Joe?"
Joseph just stood there for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. He took out the Mana Dagger. "Let's do it."
Justin brandished his sword, and Tony activated his... whatever you call it. "May the three weapons be as one," said Tony. He threw his weapon into the air. As the others watched, the handle of the "energy sword" (I guess), moved to the center of the green beam, making it a handle with a half-sized beam coming out of each end. The handle then split into three equal pieces. The center piece stayed where it was, but the two outside ones continued moving outward until they were at the ends of the beam. As the sword fell toward to the ground, it suddenly stopped directly in front of Justin and held a horizontal position in midair. The Mana Sword and Dagger flew up out of Justin and Joseph's hands. The Mana Sword came to rest with its handle on the center piece of the handle of Tony's sword, pointing forward like the arrow of a crossbow. The Mana Dagger came to rest in the same position, but on top of the Mana Sword. Justin reached out and wrapped his hands around the two end handles of the strange contraption.
Surprisingly, the device did not tip over - it seemed to be hovering in the air in front of him. Tony raised a hand in the air. "Mana Beast... come forth!"
Suddenly, the four of them were whisked off the ground by an unseen force. They soon found themselves riding on the back of the great Mana Beast. "Too cool!" shouted Joseph.
Using the strange contraption in his hands as a steering wheel, Justin was now able to control the actions of this giant dragon, which had once been his enemy. His gaze was fixed on the black form up ahead. It was similar to the Mana Beast in shape, but about ten times as big. It floated toward them ominously. Justin's mouth suddenly twisted into a wide smirk. He tightened his grip on the collection of weapons and called out to his adversary. "Hey Thanatos! Here's one for Dyluck!" The Mana Beast released a raging stream of fire from its mouth, piercing the night sky with the explosion that resulted upon its impact with Thanatos' ship.
"We've been hit!" cried the pilot.
"I can see that!" Thanatos shouted. "Return their fire!" Thanatos sat back in his chair. "That kid is a fool. This machine is several times the size of the Mana Beast - he doesn't stand a chance."
The black dragon-like machine opened its mouth and began spewing dozens of searing fireballs at the Mana Beast. Justin was a good pilot, though, and he was somehow able to veer right and avoid the barrage of fire. He then quickly flew forward, right past the hull of the enormous vehicle. As they flew by, they could hardly comprehend the immense size of the thing. Imagine if they had taken it on with just Flammie! "Let's see how he likes this one!" Justin cried. The Mana Beast's head tilted upward and unleashed yet another spray of flames, this time at the machine's belly. Even though they connected several times, it seemed as though they hadn't damaged the machine a single bit.
"What the heck?!" said Ashley. "There isn't even a scratch on that thing!"
"The underbelly must be fireproof," said Tony.
At that moment they went into to an upward climb. They were out from under the "dragon". The two dragons turned to face each-other. "Well then perhaps it's better not to fight fire with fire!" Justin shouted. The Mana Beast let out a fearsome roar. Giant white beams appeared out of nowhere and fired at Thanatos' machine. They hit it directly in the face, causing sparks to fly everywhere.
"Yes!" Joseph shouted.
"Good old Lucent Beam never fails," Justin said.
Thanatos and his men lurched forward from the hit. "They're killing us - this can't be!" cried the helmsman.
Thanatos was now madder than ever. "Enough toying around - switch to combat mode!"
"Look, he's running away!" Ashley shouted. Sure enough, Thanatos' machine had turned around and was flying away from the Mana Beast. The four heroes cheered in triumph. However, the celebration didn't last long. The machine turned to face them again. Suddenly its parts began to move and turn. The dragon's claws disappeared and humanoid hands appeared instead. The machine continued to change until it didn't look like a dragon at all. Now it looked like one of those giant robots from a Power Rangers show.
"We've got trouble," said Joseph. The machine raised one of its arms and pointed it at them. A hole opened in the wrist and two missiles shot out.
"Holy cow!" Justin cried. He tightened his grip on the steering device and the Mana Beast flew upward. He thought he had dodged the missiles, but when he looked back he saw that the two of them had changed course and were still after him. "I can't shake those things!"
"Use a Wall spell!" said Tony. The Mana Beast turned and roared at the missiles and a green energy field materialized. Unfortunately, the missiles were able to pass through the shield. They struck the Mana Beast with incredible force.
Justin shook it off. "All right, my turn." The Mana Beast turned and fired a burning stream of fire from its mouth. But when the fire collided with the machine that was its target, there didn't seem to be any affect. "Oh yeah, the stomach's fireproof," said Justin. He commanded the Mana Beast to use the Lucent Beam spell. Again the white beams appeared and fired at the machine. However, this attack was repelled as one of the machine's hands, which were protected by what seemed to be Wall spells. The beams bounced back and collided with the Mana Beast. "How the heck am I supposed to hit this thing?!" Justin cried.
"The back isn't fireproof," said Tony. "If we can get around behind it, we might be able to stop it for good."
"It's worth a try," said Ashley. Justin took their advice, and began to fly around the machine. However, before he was even half way around, a hatch opened out of the machine's stomach. Dozens of skids came flying out. Then both the skids and Thanatos' vehicle began firing tons of lasers at them. Justin got lucky and was able to dodge them, but lost his chance to get behind Thanatos in the process.
"It's those stupid shields!" Justin shouted. "If it wasn't for them I could use the Lucent Beam and this guy would be toast in no time."
"Hey!" Joseph said, an idea popping into his head. "If I can get inside that thing, I might be able to switch off the force fields."
"No way," Justin said, torching skids as he talked. "It's too dangerous."
"Don't worry, I can handle it."
While the Mana Beast kept the skids at bay as best it could, Joseph and the others devised a plan. Now it was time to set it in motion. Joseph stood facing to the left of the Mana Beast, waiting for the right moment. One of the skids came very close to him, and he knew this was his chance. Summoning all the courage he had, he leapt from the Mana Beast's back. He had timed his jump perfectly, landing directly on top of the skid's driver. He grabbed the surprised soldier by the neck and hurled him from the craft. "All right," he said, "let's make this look good." He turned the small machine around and began to fire laser blasts at the Mana Beast. Of course, he deliberately missed the target by a large distance. He then flew directly above his friends in the direction of Thanatos. "Now!" he shouted.
With the skid in front of him, Justin now had to execute the trickiest part of Joseph's plan. On his command, the Mana Beast fired a well-placed Lucent Beam at the skid. It connected with the skid's steering mechanism, rendering it useless. Now out of control, it was heading straight for Thanatos' attack vehicle. Just as it was about to collide with the shoulder, Joseph threw himself onto the top of the shoulder. A split second later, the skid struck the giant arm and exploded. Justin gave a sigh of relief. "It's all up to him, now."
Joseph had found an entrance on the side of the machine's neck, and was now deep within its superstructure. The whole place was a maze of steaming pipes, which groaned and hissed every time the enormous vehicle moved. He had climbed down a maintenance ladder and was walking along a catwalk when two Red Wolves spotted him. "What's he doing here?" said one, pointing with his spear.
"I don't know, but we'd better get rid of him." Joseph took out his dagger as they approached. They raised their spears and charged. Joseph charged as well. As the opposing sides were about to clash, Joseph leapt high into the air and straddled his legs. As the two soldiers ran beneath him, he managed to grab hold of their heads and bash them together. They fell to the ground, massaging their scalps. Seeing that they were temporarily dazed, Joseph took off, determined to find the power source for the shields. One of the Red Wolves picked up his communicator. "Sir," he said, "we have an intruder in sector D2."
"Then go after him," came the voice of Thanatos. "Don't let him out of your sight."
Reaching the end of the catwalk, Joseph saw what looked like a hallway with several metal doors on each side and one at the far end. Suddenly a voice boomed over a speaker nearby. "Attention - intruder spotted in sector D2 heading for main reactor! Attempt to intercept!"
"Great," sighed Joseph. One good thing did come out of that message; Joseph now knew he was heading in the right direction. He ran to the end of the hall and proceeded through the door there. He couldn't believe his eyes. He was in the reactor chamber! The size of the reactor was beyond comprehension. It was in a giant shaft that stretched from the machine's waist all the way to the neck, above which was the cockpit. The reactor itself was constructed of two huge columns, one coming up from the waist, the other reaching down from above. They narrowed and met at a single point in the center of the shaft, and the light coming from this spot was so bright that if you were to stare into it for more than one second you would probably go blind.
Joseph examined the room, looking for some kind of switch. Suddenly a group of Red Wolves appeared on the other side of the room. "There he is!" shouted one. Just as he was finished talking, Joseph spotted a switch on the wall. However, one of the Red Wolves hit a switch on the other side of the room that enclosed the switch Joseph saw within the wall. Then the soldiers attacked. The first one charged blindly toward him with his spear raised, and all Joseph had to do was duck and extend his leg so that his attacker would trip. Two more ran up to him while a third took aim with his spear and fired shots. Joseph defeated the two soldiers rather easily with simple blows to the head, then turned his attention to the one trying to shoot at him. Moving quickly, he was able to disarm and render the unsuspecting Red Wolf unconscious before he even got a shot off. Now holding the spear in his hand, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It looked like a small device hanging from one side of the reactor. As the last Red Wolf began to charge, Joseph lifted the spear and hurled it at the smaller mechanism. He was able to catch a glimpse of it exploding in a cascade of sparks just before the soldier crashed into him.
Outside, Justin was having a terrible time. He was barely able to avoid the constant bombardment of missiles and lasers, and he didn't know how much longer he could keep it up. "Try the Lucent Beam now," suggested Tony. "Maybe Joseph's done now."
"Only one way to find out..." Justin replied. Praying to God that Joseph had succeeded, Justin had the Mana Beast use Lucent Beam. As before, the machine raised its hands as the brilliant beams neared it, but this time they struck the hands and actually blew one of them off. The trio on the Mana Beast let out a triumphant cheer. "Way to go, Joe!" hollered Justin. "Now let's finish this."
Thanatos couldn't believe what had just happened. He stared blankly at where the hand of his most prized possession used to be. Now he was really angry. "How is it possible?" cried the helmsman. "I thought the hands were protected?!"
"That creep in the engine must have taken out the shield generator! Get us out of here!" At this point the helmsman pushed some buttons. The enormous vehicle leapt into the air and transformed into its dragon-like form.
Joseph was still grappling with the soldier that knocked him down, when the entire room suddenly tilted to one side. Joseph grabbed onto a handrail as his opponent fell onto the back wall. By holding the handrail Joseph slowly inched his way up the "floor" toward the door on the opposite side of the room. As he was just about to reach it, the room tilted again, and the surprised vigilante fell forward, landing on the door. The Red Wolf also fell, but grabbed onto the handrail as Joseph had done. Now he was hanging perilously over the reactor core. Foolishly, Joseph opened the door he was resting on, suddenly finding himself free falling down the hallway. However, if his sense of direction was working, this would mean he was heading for the docking bay where the skids were.
Ashley screamed as a giant fireball narrowly missed the Mana Beast. The Mana Beast counterattacked with some fire of its own, hitting the machine's already damaged arm. "This could go on forever!" cried Tony.
"I told you once and I'll tell you again," Justin yelled, "I'm not taking that thing out with Joseph in it!"
Suddenly the "dragon's" head bent down and started firing lasers at what seemed like nothing. Looking more closely, Justin noticed a tiny dot flying around beneath the gigantic craft. "That must be Joseph riding a skid!" Justin cried.
"He's history if we don't do something soon!" added Ashley.
"Justin, take it out, now!" Tony ordered.
"But Joe's still close to it. If I destroy it now he might go with it!"
"If you don't destroy it he's done for anyway; it's now or never!"
Justin looked on as Thanatos' machine fired at Joseph like a mad gangster. He took a deep breath and exhaled. "Let's do it."
"Shoot him down, already!" yelled an enraged Thanatos.
"I'm trying - he's too quick!"
Suddenly Thanatos looked up. If his face was not hidden by a shadow, we would see that his face had quickly grown pale. "Captain," he said, "let me congratulate you on a job well done."
"Well, thank you sir," said the surprised officer, turning to face his master. But Thanatos and his bodyguards had disappeared. He turned forward again just in time to see the Mana Beast fire two Lucent Beams directly toward him.
Justin looked on as the beams pierced the machine's head, which exploded. With no one left to steer it, the bulky piece of metal crashed to the ground. "We did it," he said quietly.
"I knew you could do it, Justin," said a voice.
The sprite looked confused. "Thanks for what?"
"Look up here!" the voice shouted again. Justin and the others looked up as a skid carrying Joseph appeared before them. "I knew you could bring it down."
"Well, we couldn't have done it without you," Justin replied.
Do you remember the Red Wolf Joseph left hanging from the handrail in the reactor room? He was still hanging there, but was beginning to lose his grip. Eventually his sweaty palms got the best of him, and he fell, screaming the entire way, until he landed in the very center of the core. Having obstructed the reactor, a chain reaction began, and several seconds later Thanatos' shiny new vehicle was destroyed in a massive explosion.