Neo Arcadia Shrine, ???
President Haggard's call had been heard across the ocean, in the mighty fortress city state of Neo Arcadia. Behind the protective barrier of Eden's Dome
, thanks to which every citizen could enjoy carefully processed weather because of its' weather control system, the metropolitan sprawl seemed to go on forever, becoming a sea of glittering lights at night and spires of steel and electricity during the day. The Neo Arcadia Tower dominated the skyline, its' body scraping at the void of space, while the distrustful populace kept a wary gaze outwith their borders and a formidable military force cruised the skies, crawled through the sea, and marched on land.
Some say that the Tower used to be an orbital elevator, used for transporting people and goods to the moon; however, such glory days had long since passed since its' partial destruction. Now it provided access to Area X, the geostationary satellite that governed Neo Arcadia's unmanned space stations. In High Earth Orbit at 36,000 kilometres high, it was also known as the Neo Arcadia Core and Neo Arcadia Headquarters. This was because it was often used as a base of operations by the government's elite generals, the Four Guardians, and the supreme ruler of Neo Arcadia, Master X.
But we will arrive at that in just a moment; 36,000km below, a shadow lurked in the facility simply known as the Neo Arcadia Shrine. The shadow's name was Hidden Phantom, leader of the Cutting Shadow Squadron, the intelligence and special operations branch of the Neo Arcadian military. He had no mission worthy of his importance. Rather, he was simply observing the day to day bustle of Neo Arcadia's existence. A clanking sound signalled the arrival of a Pantheon Hunter◊
, one of countless mass produced cyclopian mechaniloids used as cannon fodder in the army. Turning to face the machine, Phantom noticed that it held a small holographic device in one hand.
I see there is something requiring my attention after all...
he mused, taking the device and waving away the eerily silent machine. Activating it, he saw his master, X, appear. Of course, he knew it was nothing more than a false, empty copy, but he still felt obligated to serve the creature that had seemingly inherited Master X's shell. On the surface, Copy X◊ looked much the same
as his original counterpart; the main difference was that his eyes were clearly the wrong shade, as distorted as they were on the blue tinted display. Similar to the Four Guardians (including Phantom) that shared his ancestry, his jacket had a large "X" emblazoned on the front, though in his case it was lined in red while the "solid" sections were blue. He appeared to be sitting on his throne, one leg bent over the other in his customary manner.
"G-greetings, Phantom..." began the ruler, his voice giving Phantom an uncomfortable feeling despite its' lack of malice, or... well, anything, really, aside from a thick veneer of politeness. For whatever reason, Copy X stuttered a lot, Phantom noticed. He needed to get that repaired. "I-I have a m-mission of the utmost i-importance for you. Meet me in Area X."
"Right away, Master X." Phantom bowed, and the transmission abruptly cut off.
Area X, Neo Arcadia
Hidden Phantom stepped into the sterile environment of Master X's throneroom, ignoring the Earthrise that could be seen through the slots in the back wall that flanked Copy X's grandiose throne. The trip up through Neo Arcadia Tower had been uneventful, and the whole time Phantom had been stewing on what his master had in store for him. Standing beside their lord was Sage Harpuia◊
- master of the air force, Fairy Leviathan◊
- commander of the navy, and Fighting Fefnir◊
, who was in overall charge of the army.
Copy X gazed at the new arrival with eyes the colour of freshly spilt blood, their inner glow contrasting sharply with the light blue pallor cast by the Earth. Phantom resisted the almost primal squirming he felt as his look met Master X's. "S-so you have arrived... good."
"Master X, I am reporting for duty." Phantom snapped into a perfect military salute.
"D-do not worry, Phantom," said the fake
, obviously attempting familiarity with the general. "I-It is nothing serious. I assume you have heard of the President's request?"
"Indeed, Master X," said Phantom, going through the motions.
"And have you heard of our latest military program?" It was a formality, of course. Everyone
knew about that program.
"Yes, Master X." It was becoming easier now, he was settling into a rhythm.
"I would like to request that you pilot one of our first generation bipedal mechanised units." The statement floored Phantom and the other Generals, at least if their looks of barely restrained shock were any indication. "W-we need to s-secure our political p-prestige, and this is a perfect opportunity."
"Pardon my impudence, Master X," began Hidden Phantom. "But why choose me? I am honoured, of course, but would such a task not be better suited to the Army of Ash Flames? Or better still, our highly qualified testing corps."
Fefnir grinned slightly at Phantom's admission, though he said nothing.
"Phantom, our program is of the h-highest security level; I cannot allow just a-anybody
to unveil it to the world. T-there is t-too much risk inherent in that," replied Copy X, his tone becoming steadily more reproachful. "Y-you have always been best placed to a-adapt to such changes, and our v-very first combat ready unit - the Vidar - h-has been tailored to your s-specifications. Regardless, you would not disobey a direct order from m-me, correct?"
"Of course not, Master X," said Phantom, bowing and drawing back slightly.
"E-excellent. We shall dispatch you within the hour."
Washington D.C., USA
A hovercar adorned with a flag proudly displaying Neo Arcadia's symbol◊
drew up near to the White House's gates. A pair of Pantheon Hunters exited the coal black vehicle first and stood to attention in front of one of the doors. One of the pair opened the door and allowed out Hidden Phantom, who seemed rather unimpressed with the pomp and ceremony that had been accorded to him throughout his journey to the White House by his master back in Neo Arcadia. His place was in the shadows, not here!
Marching briskly up to join the others, he rattled off a brisk introduction. "Shadow General Hidden Phantom of the Shadow Cutting Squadron branch of the Neo Arcadian armed forces, reporting."
He snapped off a perfect salute and kept his eyes focused straight ahead. If the others wished to learn about him, they would need to learn in their own time.