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Retaliation, also called Max Wagner Returns From the Depths of Hell Intact to Lead the Charge, is the seventeenth volume of Attack on To'kustar. It is the first volume of Attack on Teviv, the fifth chapter of the series.

Plot

[The camera shows Sprinet, a city east-north-east of Teviv, about a six hour journey away, making it slightly farther from Teviv than Ateria is from Teviv. It is early-morning, on the day after the events of the previous episode. The camera shows a large building; inside, a large horde of Forever Knights awaits assignment amid their individual conversations. Most of the Knights appear to just be normal goons, but one appears to be significant, as he is wearing special armor. That man is Aaron Cross, the head of the Knights in Sprinet.]

[Aaron, relatively loud]: Quiet!

[The chatter among all of the Knights in the room continues as Aaron grunts.]

[Aaron, louder]: Quiet!

[He grunts again as the camera pans to the basement of the base. A man stands at the counter; he appears to be helping another man sitting on the counter. The standing man is Troy Dieter, the Proctor of the Forever Knights for East Via. His hands appear to be working at the other man's left hand, but that man cannot be clearly seen.]

[Troy]: Just give me another second... done. Good as new.

[The camera pans to the side, allowing the man sitting on the counter to come into clear view. It is Maxwell Wagner, the member of the Knights who had his hand cutoff by Nathan Loretta. Troy has just finished connecting a cybernetic hand to Max, who jumps down off the counter.]

[Max]: Your patience is welcomed.

[Troy]: Head back to Teviv, you're needed there.

[Max nods his head silently. The two men look up as they listen to the ruckus above them.]

[Troy]: Looks like I'm needed up there.

[The camera cuts back to the ground level of the building.]

[Aaron, at the top of his lungs]: I SAID QUIET.

[Despite his best efforts, the knights in the base don't seem to pay much attention to Aaron. After a few moments, Troy walks into the room, his mere presence causing all of the Knights to cease their conversations and turn towards him. Max stands behind him, staying behind to watch his orders.]

[Troy]: Move out.

[Troy walks through the gathering of knights and towards the exit of the base. Aaron grunts as Max notices his anger and chuckles. He flexes his new hand in amusement.]

[Max]: Teviv, here I come.

[Theme Song]


[The camera shows Arbrook, a city in the center of the east-region between Wall Sera and Via. It is still early in the morning, again on the day after the events of the previous episode. Just inside the western gate of the city, a large crowd of soldiers sits, each on their own horse, waiting to depart; the soldiers are all members of the Explorer Division, specifically the squad that had been planning to go on the expedition beyond the walls with Tobias Clay, until the plans were changed to leave from Teviv. Richard Turner, captain of the Regional Squad Corps, stands next to his own horse at the front of the squad to address them. He is accompanied by the members of Squad EV11: Krista Renth, Douglas Kay, and Wynne Holst, each standing next to their own horses.]

[Richard, trying to get everyone's attention]: Okay, everyone, listen up. We're about to leave.

[Soldier #1, male]: You're not Captain Clay! We don't have to listen to you.

[Richard]: Captain Clay has ordered me to guide this squad to a city in the south where your expedition will depart from.

[Soldier #2, male]: I thought we were leaving from Arbrook?

[Soldier #3, female]: Yeah, what's the deal? And why isn't Captain Clay here himself?

[Richard]: There's been an unexpected turn of events. Captain Clay was needed in Teviv, the city you'll be heading to. It's the farthest southern city that hasn't been deserted.

[He takes a deep breath.]

[Richard]: The only city south of Teviv, Ateria, was abandoned a little under two weeks ago when the city was overrun with To'kustars. Yes, To'kustars. They're back, or more correctly, they never disappeared, and they've now broken through Wall Via and forced an evacuation of Ateria. For know, they haven't moved farther north, but the military is on high alert at Teviv, which is why Captain Clay is there.

[Soldier #2]: Wait, so we're going to be heading to a city overrun by To'kustars to leave on our expedition, even though we could avoid them by leaving from the western gate of Wall Via?

[Richard]: There's no telling that we would be able to avoid them by leaving from the western gate. It's a trade-off: shorter path with definite encounters versus longer path with probable encounters. Commander Revirik decided it was best to leave from Teviv.

[Krista]: What about the other problem with Teviv?

[Richard]: Yes, the more immediate concern. On the way to Teviv, it's likely we'll encounter some... non-To'kustars problems. Along the route, we have to pass by the city of Sprinet, a town that has for a very long time been under the control of a rebellious para-military syndicate known as the Forever Knights. You may have heard of them before. Knowing the Knights, they'll know we coming, and so they'll likely try to sabotage our mission. That's why Regional Squad 11 is here. Once we leave the city, do not stop, and do not engage the Knights. All you need to do is fire off a yellow flare to alert a squad member of myself. If you do spot a To'kustar, fire a red flare; if it's even more emergent than that, fire a black flare. In summation, stick with your assigned groups; the leader of each group has a map with a unique path for your group. We're going to try and divide and conquer to minimize our losses.

[Krista, interrupting]: And one more thing... If you see a flash of lightning, stay away from it.

[Richard nods his head, knowing that the flashes of lightning correspond to the transformation of humans into To'kustars.]

[Richard]: I will ride out first. Once you see my green flare, you may leave on your individual groups.

[He mounts his horse and turns around to face the western gate of the city. He turns his head around to face the group.]

[Richard]: Hopefully we don't run into any trouble, but if we do, just remember our instructions.... Let's ride.

[As he rides off towards the gate, it starts to open, likely due to police officers within the gate operating it. The camera shows him riding towards the screen, prepared to leave the city. He looks around the outside, and sees no signs of danger in the immediate vicinity. The camera shows the group of soldiers, and a few moments later, a green flare can be seen from over the top of the wall. The soldiers, without speaking or yelling, ride off, led by the members of Squad 11. As soon as they make it out of the wall, the individual groups of 6 soldiers diverge, as they take different paths towards Teviv. The camera cuts again to Richard, who puts the flare gun away as he continues to ride along.]


[The camera shows Teviv a few hours later. Max walks through the streets of the city quietly; it is during the day, so he is trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. He turns the corner and arrives at what used to be the Forever Knights base, but finds it burned to the ground, still warm from the fire the previous night. He balls his real hand into a fist and then simply turns around.]

[Max, to himself]: How is a guy supposed to find his friends if they're not at home?

[He chuckles.]

[Max]: Guess I'll try the back up...

[The camera cuts to him walking through the city in another area, closer to the central market area. He notices that one of the buildings has also burned down; though he is not close to it, he can tell that is has burned down recently.]

[Max, confused]: So what happened last night?

[He walks through the market and arrives at another back street. The camera cuts a bit ahead again to show him turning the corner and arriving at a house in a different back street. He walks up the steps and then knocks on the door. He waits for a few moments, but no one answers.]

[Max, suspicious]: Really?

[He walks down the steps and then walks around the side of the house to the backyard. He checks the back door, but it is locked.]

[Max, worried]: What are they, dead or something?

[He walks over to a door presumably leading to the cellar. This one isn't locked, so he opens it up and then walks down the stairs, closing the cellar door behind him. He makes it to the dark basement of the house and then finds another staircase heading up to the main floor, where the daylight is able to reach and brighten the house. He looks around, but the house is apparently empty. He enters the kitchen area, but still finds no one, so he heads to another staircase heading to the upper floor. He enters one bedroom, finds it empty, and then heads to another, and surely enough, finds Vance Grace, in full armor nonetheless, sleeping on the bed. He picks up Vance by the shoulders, waking him up instantly, spins him around, and slams him against the wall.]

[Max]: You want to explain what the hell is going on?

[Vance]: Oh, you're back.

[Max]: Yeah, I'm back, and you're going to tell me what happened while I was gone. What happened to our base, and does it have anything to do with the tavern being burned down, too? Where are Andrew and Pietro?

[Vance]: Andrew is on his way to Plutonon for... who knows what he can actually achieve... Pietro is off... being Pietro. And you can blame our lack of a base on the Knight of Percival. She destroyed our base in retaliation for blowing up the tavern to expose Nathan as an Esper to the whole team. It seems to have worked.

[Max]: Clever plan, actually. I bet you didn't come up with it.

[Vance]: Does it matter?

[Max]: Even if you were that smart, I'd still take command.

[Vance]: That's exactly what Andrew ordered.

[Max]: If Andrew has abandoned his region without prior approval, then he is dismissed. I am now Proctor of South Via. If you have any complaints, take them up with your father.

[Vance]: None here.

[Max]: Very well...

[The two are silent for a few moments.]

[Vance]: I see you have a new tool.

[Max raises his cybernetic left hand.]

[Max]: The Knights in Sprinet are so wonderful. Actually, they might be on their way here soon. The military is planning on sending a squad here to leave the walls soon, and so Dieter is of course planning on disrupting that plan.

[Vance]: Are we needed?

[Max]: I'd say no, but if we want to prove ourselves, we should start planning for the next stages.

[Vance grins as the camera cuts back to the Explorer Division soldiers on their way to Teviv. A group of six soldiers is riding on the way from Arbrook to Teviv, but they have not yet passed Sprinet. One of the six soldiers rides a bit head of the others, to get a good look at Sprinet as the group approaches it; the city can just barely be seen on the horizon.]

[Soldier #4, the one in front]: Looks like that's Sprinet.

[The camera shows the horse in the back; the woman riding the horse isn't actually a soldier; she is Lauren Haber, the highest ranking member of the Forever Knights stationed in Arbrook.]

[Lauren]: Then that's as far as we go.

[Soldier #4]: What do you mean?

[As the other soliders look at Lauren, she starts to stand up on her horse. She is wearing Skywings underneath her Explorer Division cloak, and she draws swords and she prepares to attack the real soldiers near her. She grins as the camera cuts to black.]


The Forever Knights usually try to keep their identities a secret, mainly to allow them to infiltrate the police or conduct other operations without being recognized.


Members of the Forever Knights who have their identities disclosed are usually expelled from the organization; if the Knights has a high-enough ranking, they may be tortured or killed, though Proctors usually don't keep their identities secret.

[The camera shows Lauren as she lunges at a soldier next to her, knocking him off his horse. He rolls across the ground and falls unconscious. She lunges in the other direction and slashes the reins on another horse then kicks that soldier off; as the soldier falls to the ground, the horse runs off. Lauren flies at the other three soldiers, one of whom prepares a yellow flare. Lauren rushes forward and slices the flare gun straight in half, which also causes it to fall to the ground. Lauren slashes the horses leg of one soldier and then knocks the soldier off the horse as both fall to the ground. To take out the final two, she flies forward, picks up one of the soldiers, and throws it into the other soldier, sending both of them to the ground, as their horses continue on their own.]

[Lauren, annoyed]: Pathetic.

[She loads a flare into her own flare gun and then fires it as she covers her ear. The black smoke rises from the flare as the camera cuts to Krista riding on her horse, away from any of the groups. She turns and notices the black smoke, so she jumps off the horse and flies towards it on her Skywings.]

[Krista]: Black smoke? That can't be good.

[The camera cuts to Richard riding in another part of the area between Arbrook and Sprinet. He notices the black flare and starts to veer slightly towards it. As he starts to ride faster towards it, he notices a group of just two soldiers riding near him. He rides over close to them, wondering what happened to the other four members of their group. Once he can clearly see them, he realizes that they are not soldiers; rather, it is Aaron and Troy, disguised as soldiers. Aaron notices Richard approaching them, so he jumps off his horse and lunges at Richard, who jumps off his horse to avoid the blow. He draws his swords and prepares to fight the two Knights.]

[Aaron]: Come on, after all the planning you put into this, you couldn't event prevent us from infiltrating your squadron. Pathetic.

[Richard, charging at Aaron]: Your whole organization is pathetic. There is no outcome where you win, no endgame. It ends with our victory, not yours.

[Aaron]: HA!

[Aaron draws a single sword to counter a blow from Richard, who then uses his other sword to knock down Aaron's leg. He then kicks him to the ground and turns to Troy, who remains on his horse.]

[Richard]: You're a fool for thinking you can take me on.

[Troy]: You sound arrogant. I didn't think one of the most powerful human soldiers would let his skill overpower his intellect. You really did lose your touch when you found someone who was even smarter and more skilled than you were, didn't you?

[Richard]: I won't let you play mind games.

[Troy]: Troy Dieter's the name, you'll want to remember it.

[Richard]: There's a reason why all Knights are psychopaths; it's because your cause is a false one.

[Troy]: What you said a moment ago... That there's no endgame for us... What's your endgame then? How do you know when you've won?

[Richard]: I don't have time for this.

[Troy]: What's the rush?

[Richard stops conversing with Troy. He loads a black flare into his flare gun and shoots it, not bothering to cover his ears. The camera cuts to Krista flying towards the first black flare and she notices the second.]

[Krista]: What in the hell is going on?

[As she watches the smoke rise from the second flair, she is blindsided by Lauren, and she falls to the ground. Lauren re-draws her swords and stabs down at Krista, but she rolls out of her path just in time to avoid them. She scrambles to her feet and then draws a sword to counter Lauren, who stands up to face Krista.]

[Lauren]: Ambush.

[Krista]: Knights.

[Lauren]: Horses. Black flares. Failure. Death. Go ahead, continue to spew things that are on your mind. Doesn't bother me one bit.

[She rushes at Krista and leads with a left stab, but Krista blocks with a right slash. She counters with a left slash, but Lauren frees her left sword and slashes back at Krista's counterattack. She draws back and then rotates her body and slashes with her right sword, but Krista ducks and then slashes down with both her swords. Lauren jumps back to avoid and then stops.]

[Krista]: You're a waste of my time.

[Lauren]: You seem to be enjoying this exercise. I know I am.

[Krista stands still a few moments to catch her breath before she turns and flies off for the other flare. Lauren waits a few moments but then flies after her.]

[The camera cuts back to Teviv, where Max and Vance are still in the house, which is presumably the back-up base Max mentioned.]

[Vance]: So this squad that's supposed to be leaving the walls... They're coming here first?

[Max]: That's what our sources in Sprinet and Arbrook say. Why?

[Vance]: Maybe we can send in a mole to their squad to sabotage them once they leave.

[Max]: Obvious, but a good backup plan. We don't need to take anymore unnecessary risks. No secret moles. No Esper hunting. No nonsense.

[Vance]: Yeah speaking of Esper hunting.

[Max]: That's where Pietro is?

[Vance]: More than just that. He's looking for Daniel.

[Max]: Fermi? He better find him. That son of a bitch is going to pay for abandoning us.

[Vance]: Pietro doesn't know anything about that. Regardless, the chances of him finding Fermi are very slim. Apparently the last time he actively was a member of the Knights, he just showed up without warning.

[Max]: He does what benefits him, and tries to minimize any benefit to anyone else. But we'll work around it.

[Vance]: So any ideas other than the mole?

[Max]: Actually, your recent shenanigans may be due for a repeat.

[He grins as the camera cuts back to where Richard is. He is again in combat with Aaron as Troy watches from horseback. Richard again quickly defeats Aaron, slashes his armor right in the front and pushing him to the ground. He flies over to Troy, who back flips off the horse as he draws two swords from his Skywings.]

[Troy]: It's too late Captain Turner. It's what you get for agreeing to help the failing branch of the military.

[Richard]: One little skirmish is not the end-all-be-all.

[Troy]: Of course. One side may win the battle, and the other may win the war, but this is not a little skirmish.

[He loads another flare into his flare gun as Krista comes flying in. She slashes at Troy, but he dodges to the side. Richard uses Krista's arrival as an opportunity to attack Troy, too.]

[Richard]: Whatever you do, don't let him fire that flare.

[Krista rushes at Troy, slashing rapidly with both her swords, but Troy counters at every opportunity. Krista is able to knock the flare gun out of his hands, making it land on the ground about 15 feet away from them. Troy jumps and kicks at Krista, who avoids and slashes to counter, but Troy boosts up with his Skywings, lands behind Krista, and slashes at the back of her legs. She is just barely able to jump and spin to counter against Troy, and her slash hits his armor, not doing much damage. Troy jabs at Krista, but then blocks a slash from Richard and quickly regains his balance as both Richard and Krista take their turn slashing at him. While their fight continues, the camera shows Lauren arriving at the area just as Aaron gets up. They watch the fight for a moment, as Krista and Richard continue to slash at Troy.]

[Troy]: The flare gun. Fire the red.

[Both Krista and Richard are distracted by Troy's call to Lauren and Aaron, and he uses their distraction to quickly knock Richard to the ground. Krista quickly turns back to Troy and blocks with her sword. Richard spins around, looking for the flare gun that was knocked on the ground. He spots it and rushes towards it, but Aaron flies in and grabs it just before he can. He lunges at Aaron and tackles him to the ground, sending the flare gun tumbling across the grass again.]

[Richard]: It would really help if Kay and Holst were here.

[Aaron]: Maybe divide and conquer wasn't the best strategy.

[Richard punches Aaron to the ground and then boosts on his Skywings towards the flare gun. This time, Lauren picks it up long before Richard gets to it. She floats up on her Skywings, covers her ears, and then fires off the red flare. Richard watches it fly into the sky, as does Krista, allowing Troy to knock her to the ground. The red flare continues to rise, as all around the field, mostly along the horizon, flashes of red lightning can be seen. Richard stands in anger near Lauren, as Krista lies on the ground near Troy, both clearly angry at their failure to stop the flare from being fired. A few moments later still, some of the To'kustars start to rush towards the red flare, which has just started to dissipate in the sky. Richard grunts at the sight of To'kustars, knowing now the mission is in real jeopardy.]

[Troy]: Not a little skirmish indeed...

[To Be Continued]

Attack on To'kustar
Aterians
Hadria CarterLawrence CarterTeru HikamiArik IversonMichael JamesSven SchmidtLars SchmidtLily ScottTuesday SmithNoelle WilliamsSamuel Wright
Tevivites
Sophia Faraday • Logan Fitzpatrick • Pryor Hade • Prescott Martin • Susan Quell • Rachel Stone • Ryan Thames • Nico Valencia
World Army
Penny BlairTobias Clay • David Crawford • Jack Eastview • Denzel Gregory • Wynne Holst • Douglas Kay • Ray Kirihara • Nathan Loretta • Lucas Miller • Krista Renth • Parran Revirik • Emma Saunders • Richard Turner • Felix Upton • Kathryn Wesley • Maya Wesley • Connor Yan • Ricky Zhang • John Ziegler
Forever Knights
Aaron CrossPietro CzeswinVladimir CzeswinTroy DieterJasper DonovanVance GraceWebster Grace • Lauren Haber • Andrew Knowles • Maxwell Wagner
Espers
Mikhail Einstein • Olivia Faraday • Trevor Faraday • Daniel Fermi • Eric Sullivan
To'kustars
Green To'kustar • Talking To'kustar
Government, Royalty, and Nobility
Darren Mathis • Hector Reiford
Locations
Arbrook • Ateria • Hennington • Plutonon • Sprinet • Teviv
Battles
Battle of Teviv
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