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Found 60 results

  1. BigPuppyStuart

    Classes and Background

    Backgrounds: Classes and backgrounds play into each other but it is not necessary that they match. Backgrounds will give bonuses to certain actions or interactions. Someone who comes from a law enforcement background does not need to be in law enforcement or security when they join the colonial efforts, Fresh starts are what the Efforts are all about. Backgrounds have 2 components to them. Social and Professional. An example of this with humanity is comparing 2 people from Law enforcement backgrounds. One is a Cop from earth who has just woken from Stasis and another is a security officer on a space station. They share the same profession but not the same social background. The space station security officer will have much more idea what is going on in the current culture than the cop fresh from stasis. the Social component is mostly for role-playing purposes, while professional gives bonuses. Social backgrounds: Human Confederate state citizen: This is a broad category spanning all the space cities and chunks of the Hecuba system that are considered a State. These states are rather Small and can be politically diverse. Hecuba Dweller: This is a human who has lived on Hecuba in one of the various domed or cave cities. They are not part of the Human confederate states and tend to have different mixtures of attitudes than people from earth are used to. People from Hecuba are pretty pro-gun but very socially accepting of most things. This lead to confusion when dealing with people from earth, especially the US as well as some of the Confederate States. They also tend to really support the sciences since they depend on them so much living on a planet that is a little harsh for human life. Earth refugee: This background covers anyone who was rescued from earth During the cataclysm. Most have been in stasis while preparations for finding a new home world for humanity are enacted. This can be drawn from any corner of the planet and choosing this background will mean that people are more forgiving of your ignorance of certain features of life. Classes: Classes fall into 3 types, Combat, Science and Engineering. Many classes have overlaps where one class will have skills in both such as "Combat engineer" will have have both combat skills and Engineering skills, or "combat medic" whole will have both medical sciences and combat skills. Each type has a specialty so most disciplines are not covered by one field. Sciences: Medical: The medical specialty is concerned with Life saving and treating injuries. Physics: This specialty is all about figuring the universe out and using that knowledge Biologist: The life sciences and wildlife are the domain of the biologist. Further specialization will be take through feats or perks such as plant knowledge or Animal knowledge. Hunter/tracker: This is the sciences version of the sniper but with a greater focus on non-lethal weapons and animal knowledge. This is one of the Science disciplines that comes with weapon proficiencies. Hunters come with Long-rifle and pistol, and stunner proficiency. Engineering:All engineers have access to the Tinkering perk that lets them modify weapons and equipment more easily. All engineers start off with the Repair skill. Combat engineer: Combat engineers are all about fixing things under pressure, usually gunfire. Industrial engineer: This is a catch all term for builders and Heavy industrial manufacturing professions. They know best how to build and repair factories. Combat: All fighting related disciplines. Assault: This is the heavy weapons and high damage output discipline. This is a well rounded combat discipline when it comes to fighting but they have next to no training in other fields and must try harder to pick up cross discipline skills. Assault troopers often are tasked with doing as much damage as possible on their own, this is not to say they can work with teams but they sometimes focus more on what they are doing and thus earn more Bonuses when they are on their own or doing there own thing. With training this lone wolf tendency can be overcome by taking the Support perk. Security/Law enforcement: This discipline is focused more on peace keeping and defense. They also need some degree of interpersonal skills as deescalation is highly valued in this field, people of this discipline will sometimes be tasked with settling minor disputes among the colonists when they are not operating in the field. Has light and medium weapon proficiency such as Pistols and rifles. Solider: The most general combat role. Has very broad set of combat skills but less heavy weapons training than the assault class and has bonuses when working with a team. All soldiers have teamwork and support perks Soldiers start off being able to use light, medium and light-assault weapons such as rifles/carbines, pistols and Light machine guns. Sniper: This is the long range precision specialty. While not helpless at close range they don't shine like they do at long range. They also have skills in spotting and hiding.
  2. BigPuppyStuart

    Colonial Arms Manual

    This is a list of Weapons used in the Farsky Colonial Alliance setting. Stats and mechanics will come later, right now this is just type and descriptions. Images will be added later. Damage Types: Ballistic: Fires physical projectiles. Advantageous against energy absorbent or reflective armor. Explosive: Boom. Grenade, rockets and explosive tipped rounds. Energy/thermal: Advantageous against non-thermal reflective armor. Also useful for cutting through rock and metal. Some Energy weapons can double as tools. Examples include particle and Plasma weapons. Customization: Most weapons have some degree of customization Options. Most have rails to attach equipment such as lights, scanners, range finders and other devices to improve the weapon or fit a role. Most people in hazardous area exploration roles will affix a scanner or a light and a camera so they can take readings in dangerous conditions without having to stow their weapon or carry more bulky dedicated survey equipment. Weapon mounted units are not as powerful or precise but they are better than nothing. Some weapons have larger mounts that allow you to fit on a sub weapon like a underslung grenade/ Flare launcher or a grappling hook launcher. BZR .22 hypermag Caseless Carbine: Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: Ballistic Affiliation: Civilian, widely Available. The .22 hypermag Caseless Carbine is a small caliber carbine that is Popular as Personal Defense Weapons for explorers and civilian spacefarers. Its compact size combined with its decent damage make it popular among planetary explorers and spacefarers. It is light and compact but can dish out damage to almost anything that poses a threat. While the round is small the weapon has a high rate of fire that makes the BZR ( Nicknamed 'the Buzzer' ) a formidable weapon. The BZR has select fire settings of single fire, 5 round burst, and full auto. This weapon is made with explorers and survival in mind as it has a built in flashlight. Another Special feature is the highly thermal resistant alloy lining the barrel, meaning that continuous fire or use of incendiary and tracer rounds do little to no damage to the barrel, making the weapon low maintenance for the volume of fire they can produce. Magazine types are 60 round box mags, 100 round box mags and 300 and 500 drum magazines. Can be modified to be belt fed. CR-3 .223 caseless assault rifle/ Carbine. ( Comes in both Carbine and full rifle ) Manufacturer: Colstead Defense systems. Damage type: Ballistic Affiliation: Military, Militia, security, and some civilian. The CR-3 is the preferred weapon of the Military, militias and civilians alike. It is a decent all around combat fire arm. This is one of the weapons used by the human confederate militias. When states engage in skirmishes both sides will be using this weapon. Has Select fire single shot, 3 round burst and full auto. Has Standard 50 round box magazines and 100 round box magazines. Drum magazines are available but they are usually after market or home made. Has lower rate of fire than the BZR but makes up for it in slightly higher damage per round. Has a rail for an optic and Additional aftermarket rails and Accessory points can be added but are not Standard. CR-5 .308 caliber caseless Battle rifle/ Carbine. ( Comes in both Carbine and full rifle ) Manufacturer: Colstead Defense systems. Damage type: Ballistic Affiliation: Military, Militia, security, and some civilian. The CR-5 is the more powerful military rifle option. It is more of a battle Rifle than an assault rifle. This is what you use if you need more punch than a CR-3. Usually more careful aim is used with this weapon, user tend to favor marksmanship when engaging human sized targets. The additional power of this rifle means that it is often issued to troops dealing with tougher enemies like hostile aliens with tough exoskeletons. This Rifle has also been adopted by colonial explorers and thus is the most common Battle Rifle used in human Colonization efforts. Has a rail for an optic and Additional aftermarket rails and Accessory points can be added but are not Standard. Longhammer singleshot caseless long-gun. Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: Ballistic, explosive. Affiliation: Civilian, widely Available. The Longhammer is a single shot caseless firearm. It is simple of design and very durable. Needs little to no maintenance and is sturdy enough to bludgeon someone with it and have it function perfectly. Sometimes called a " Space Musket" for it resemblance to the muzzle loaders used in earth's past it is an invaluable tool for explorers and anyone who wants to make something very tough very dead from a long way off. Usually mounted with a long range optic this is a what you would get if you mixed a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher as it is capable of firing explosive shells. This weapon has gained a near religious reverence among the insectile race know chiffin. A small scout ship crash landed on the chiffin home-world. The only survivor of that crash used a Longhammer to defend Chiffin hives from a predatory species akin to a 18 foot long walking wasp after the scout realized the Chiffin were an intelligent species. She was stranded on the chiffin homeworld for 8 months and had 1 round out of a box of 100 left when she was rescued. She was dubbed " the Gaurdian from afar" by the Chiffin and opened the way to friendly relations with the Chiffin. Has only an optic mount and a Bayonet lug. Particle Emmitting Explorers Pistol/ Modular Exploration particle Thrower. Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: energy Affiliation: Farsky Project colonization efforts. Often just called " the Colonial Explorer pistol" because no one finds calling it the PEEP or MEPT very cool. This is a multi role modular weapon system that is supposed to be able to fill any role needed. It fires a stream of Particles at near light speed. It is humanity's first attempt at particle weaponry and it is a worthy effort. While not being the most powerful know particle weapon it is versatile. It come with attachment points for a vast array of add-ons. Under the Barrel a stunner unit can be attached for non lethal combat as the weapon itself has no stun setting. Also under the Barrel can be fitted a light or a scanner. It has a mount for various optics and with a steady hand and an attachable butt stock it can be used for sniping just as well as it can be used for close and mid range combat. It has multiple power settings 1-5 and this determines how long the power cell will last as the higher the setting the more charge it consumes. Aside from power settings it has a setting for either pulse or continuous beams. Pulses are more powerful, expelling the charges immediately while beam does so over a longer period of time but is useful for when you are cutting through something or heating an object. This weapon was made possible through multi-specie cooperation. While not huge this is not a very concealable weapon as it is meant to be openly carried in the field, also it is not a loud weapon but it is in no way stealthy as it fires a particle beam that emits visible light. Personal Energy Weapon/ PEW-2 Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: Energy Affiliation: Farsky Project colonization efforts. The same joker that Named the PEEP had his hand in the PEW-2. The PEW-2 is often called a "Laser Luger" because it resembles the fire arm that debuted on earth in 1898. This is a far less versatile weapon than the Explorer pistol, it is smaller and more concealable but has fewer attachment options, has only 3 power settings and can't be made to emit a continuous beam. This is a simple weapon for making things dead while not breaching the hull of your ship with a bullet. It is still a bad idea to fire one of these inside a ship though. Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions, Designed by Hecubites Damage type: Energy/ Thermal Affiliation: Farsky Project colonization efforts. The unimaginatively named Plasma shotgun is a powerful but Dangerous weapon that is being supplied to the farsky Project. Special training is needed to use this weapon safely and effectively. The Plasma shotgun turn shotgun shell like fuel rods into burst of super heated gas. Can be set to fire in an adjustable cone or into cohesive bolts or balls that dissipate over distance and are still effected by gravity. This weapon is only meant for close to medium range and becomes useless passed certain distances. One Glaring disadvantage of this powerful weapon is over heating when fired too rapidly. The weapon will stop firing when over heat is reached and begin cool down procedures instead of exploding like older plasma weapons made by humans. Rapid cooling units can be installed that have 3 one time use canisters of coolant gas to prevent shutdown from heavy use but it takes an equipment mount slot. Putting 2 off the cooling units on is common for those that use these as a Squad assault weapon, relying on other people to have scanners or range finders. HotShot PPW Personal plasma weapon Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions, Designed by Humans but needs Hecubite manufactured parts. Damage type: Energy/ Thermal Affiliation: Farsky Project colonization efforts. The " Plasma 6 gun" is a personal plasma weapon that resembles a magnum revolver and even has a 3 position switch that resembles a hammer. The 3 positions are "safe" "fire" and "special fire". Special Fire is a secondary fire mode that is determined by a chip that fits into a slot in the weapon's Handle. Currently there is only one module slot. the Avalible modules are "powershot" Which fires a more powerful single shot but consume 3 slugs, "Burst shot" which fires 3 slugs in quick succession and "Splash shot" Which also uses 3 slugs to fire a larger ball of looser plasma that splashes out on impact creating an area of effect cloud of heated gas. The weapon has a cylinder with 6 chambers, and each cartridge hold 3 slugs. On normal fire 1 slug is fired giving you 18 shots. The secondary fire modules use ammo more quickly so to prevent running dry in the heat of the moment each time Special fire is used the switch returns to the second position which is single fire. Given the more controlled nature of this weapon, there are fewer restrictions on who can obtain these. Any Colonist who can afford one or convince someone that they should be issued one can get them after taking a training course. No Aftermarket modifications exist for these at the present so any extra features will have to be designed and made by an engineer. There is always a risk that modifying one of these can cause it to blow up so many people leave them as is until customization skills improve. BT-3 "Heater" Personal Pocket Plasma Pistol Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: Energy/ Thermal Affiliation: Civilian, military, Widely available This is the most Ubiquitous if least powerful plasma weapon and is the result of Human efforts to make their own Plasma weapon without Hecubite help. While not very powerful it is concealable and reliable. Most Lifeforms on Hecuba are weakest to thermal damage so these are popular among humans living on Hecuba. They are also slightly less lethal when it comes to fighting human as hits cauterize wounds meaning that death by blood loss is not a factor. Not powerful enough on their own to be an explorer's main weapon these make suitable back weapons. Have 40 round magazines so what they lack in power they make up in capacity. Still can be lethal to unarmored targets and can start fires so caution should be used when deploying them. Or not, cause who doesn't love seeing their enemy's clothing burst into flames. Farstriker Caseless Sniper rifle. Manufacturer: Colstead Defense systems. Damage type: Ballistic Affiliation: Military, Militia, security, and some civilian. This is a long range precision Rifle. It uses the same .308 caseless rounds as the CR-5. It is a good weapon but lacks the sheer power and reputation of the Frontier Arms Longhammer. It is the go to weapon when you want to end someone from far away but don't need them blown to pieces. Has Better follow up shot rate as it is magazine fed and has less kick then the Longhammer. DP-1 Caseless Sidearm Manufacturer: Colstead Defense systems. Damage type: Ballistic Affiliation: Military, Militia, security, and some civilian and Farsky project. This is the Standard Sidearm for most Security and military personal. It also has wide popularity on the civilian market. It has an integral laser sight and flashlight. It is an all around reliable pistol so it has made it into the Farsky Program as the standard issue ballistic pistol. They are lightweight and very durable while remaining easy to manufacture so they can be produced on site on distant worlds after small Factories are activated. Standard 25 Round magazine. MC-8 "Mule" and "Defender" Magnum Pistol Manufacturer: Frontier Munitions Damage type: Ballistic, explosive. Affiliation: Civilian, widely Available. Farsky Program This is the harder hitting option for side arms. It got is name when one of the designers said it "Kicks like a mule." Most consumers don't know what a mule is but the Name was immortalized when the phrase was used in the marketing campaign for it. It comes with only a 10 round capacity but the power in the round makes up for the lack of capacity. Because of the recoil of this weapon it is near useless when fired rapidly due to muzzle climb so precision is more this weapon's domain. Since the slugs of the rounds are larger more specialized rounds exist for these such as Cryo, incendiary, Shredder and low explosive rounds are available. This weapon has a sub type called the "Defender" and is most popular on Hecuba. The Differences between a "Mule" and a "Defender" are minor and one can easily be made into the other. The Defender has a longer more sturdy heat resistant barrel and is often loaded with Incendiary rounds. Since life forms on Hecuba are more vulnerable to fire than to ballistic damage, these are used to protect cities from the Nastier lifeforms that live on Hecuba's surface. Most People who have lived on Hecuba's surface will be familiar with the Defender. Chem sprayer pistol. Manufacturer: BioSystems-tech or Alien manufacture Damage type: Chemical Affiliation: Civilian, Sciences and miners. Farsky Program This really isn't a weapon but people use it as one. This is a pistol shaped chemical sprayer that uses pressurized gas to spray mixtures of chemicals onto large surfaces. It was Developed for Agricultural use but quickly found its way into the hands of Miners and wild life researchers. Each profession used it for different things. Miners filled it with solvents to melt through rock and quickly sort through ore for the more corrosive resistant elements they were after, biologists filled it with irritants and used it to repel predators without killing them or with DSMO and a tranquiler to incapacitate subjects. It was also not longer before some yahoo filled it with fuel and taped an igniter to it and made a flamethrower. While technically tools these are easily turned into weapons so a colonial farmer can, with the switch of a tank, go from spraying liquid fertilizer to spraying acid. All chemical vials are clearly marked with their contents so no one accidentally sprays the table they are trying to disinfect with tertiary-butyllithium.
  3. Welcome to post Stasis Orientation file 1. This document will help familiarize yourself with the New world you find yourself in after your rescue from earth. The Cataclysm: The Cataclysm is the name given to the event that led to the fall of our old home earth. The Cause of the Cataclysm is still a mystery During Stasis procedures, rough scans of your mind were taken and recorded in an attempt to piece together the events that occurred before our current host race, The Hecubites, came to our rescue. Brief Account from Retired Marine Coronel Daniel Mathers, Post revival Testimony: "A strange Black fog was moving through the Streets. I was visiting my Grandkids in New York and the, whatever it was creeping through the streets, it was alive somehow, it changed direction to envelop people. We never saw what it did to them but they would scream like they were being slaughtered, torn to shreds is what it sounded like. This wasn't some chemical weapon, it was alive and it was evil. My family and I ran down the street away from it, we had no plan just survive. Before we knew it, this large opening in space appeared and as we ran we didn't stop in time, we ended up in the ugliest place I have ever seen, the air was acrid and hurt to breathe, it smelled bad and there were these, things all around. They were twisted things from a horror movie, claws and contorted flesh and half-formed mouths covered their bodies, we thought they were going to slaughter us. They Shrieked at all us interlopers until they saw what was happening through the rip behind us. Then they started moving us away from it and pouring through, instead of attacking the people on the other side they formed a wall with their bodies between the rest of the fleeing people and the creeping mist. They like jumped over people to get between the mist and the crowd. The ugly fuckers were trying to protect us, they attacked the mist with their bare hands while people ran. They..... they didn't last long. I was looking back and saw what the mist did to them.... I wish it didn't. They were being ripped apart while being melted, they screamed but kept fighting. The mist slowed to deal with them. The things died for us. Soon more other things showed up and they had weapons of some sort, they pulled everyone away from the opening and went through, they started shooting at the mist and that seemed to drive it back a little. My son in law, an NYPD officer drew his duty weapon and joined in the firing line and a bunch of other people with guns followed suit. Bullets didn't do anything, we tried shooting at it before, but the... the things, seemed to appreciate the help. Around this time people started coughing and passing out, the air here was pretty bad. Some sort of vehicles came and the occupants started passing out some sort of breathing masks with air tanks and moving. They took us to some kind of hospital. Later I found out from a bunch of new arrivals that the, whatever they are were sending in troops of some sort to evacuate people. The guy I was talking to about this said that they had sent some kind of ships and were loading up people by the millions while they fought back the mist that seemed to be appearing all over the world. He said he was picked up in London and he swears the mist formed tentacles or some sort and attacked the rescue ships the Ailen things had sent. He said the Crews got out and kept the mist occupied with ground assaults. Some people stayed to help them instead of being evacuated. He then started crying that his wife had stayed behind to fight and I couldn't get anything more from him. I left him alone. An hour later I started coughing up blood and passed out. I guess someone stuck me in one of the fuckin gel coffins you just pulled me out of. Where the fuck are my pants anyway?" Stasis: Stasis should be a familiar concept from science fiction. But if not it is Medically induced near death in which biological activity is brought to a minimum. The Specific process used by our host species, the Hecubites, repairs cellular damage and Corrects many organ deficiencies and nerve damage so you may find that you feel different than you did before rescue. The rate of Aging with Hecubite stasis modules is nearly undetectable, so your physical state is no indication of how long you have been in Stasis. If you want to know how long you have been in stasis, ask your attendant. Different Stasis technology exists so be sure to research what method is being used should you decide to return to stasis for whatever reason. Currently, the majority of the human population rescued from earth is in Stasis awaiting improved living conditions or new worlds to settle. Hecubites: Hecubites are the name given to the inhabitants of the Planet we have Dubbed Hecuba. Hecubites are a monosex polymorphic Apex predator with the ability to mimic other life forms. They all have the natural ability to analyze and copy genetic material from any biological source they encounter. This means that they borrow traits from any organism that will benefit them. The can consume or assimilate entire organisms but do not need to and often choose not to because it leads to the death of the other organism which they often consider unnecessary. Despite evolving these traits to be Apex predators, their diet is omnivorous. Since Hecubites are not in the habit of Assimilating whole sapient organisms to perfectly mimic them and instead extrapolate, you may encounter people that are physically strange or have flaws such as Strange Eye or skin color, or vein clusters in strange places, these are likely Hecubites attempting to blend in or make you less nervous around them. Please attempt to be polite, they are not entirely familiar with the subtitles of the Uncanny valley and may not understand why you are put off by them. * In a side note in red* ( Seriously they are creepy as hell but don't be rude to them about it. ) Interbreeding of Hecubites with other species is possible due to the adaptive nature of the Hecubite genome. From What we have been able to gather the Hecubites are an Ancient technological power in this part of space who have only recently come out of long hibernation. Their Ancient reputation has kept many hostile elements from coming into the system and interfering with Humanity. Hecubites are telepathic in some manner and can link minds fully when they physically meld. Hecubites Never communicated verbally beyond basic cries and calls before humans came along so sometimes they speak in odd manners like producing words without closing their mouths. Their Grammar and phrasing can be off as well and will sometimes just not know words for certain concepts. There are also concepts that they have that are not normally part of human language and thus have no word for them. Example: When multiple individuals decide they want a change of perspective and meld before shuffling memories and experiences between them to make new personalities. Hecuba: The name that was given to the planet that humanity is now sheltered on. The Surface is not very suitable for human life as the air contains a small concentration of toxic gasses. Vast cities with self-contained filtration systems and life support systems have been built to house the human population. The Hecubite population does not mind humans living on their world at all so territorial disputes are pretty much not existent. Hecuba is slightly larger than earth and has more Gravity but not enough to adversely affect human health. 1 unit of Hecubite Gravity, called a HoGU ( Homeworld Gravity unit ), is about 1.07 G. You may notice you are slightly heavier but you will get sued to it should you decide to stay on Hecuba. There are 7 self-contained megacities dedicated to human habitation on Hecuba's surface and several sites within the Solar system. Hecuba has 1 moon that always remains and one moon that trades orbit with the nearby planet every 200 years. This is not a natural Phenomenon and seems to be a relic of early planetary engineering. Political Entities: Hecubite Government: The workings of the Hecubite government are strange and happen out of human view. This is not out of malice, most debate and important decisions are made when they physically link together to quickly share thoughts. Every Member of Hecubite society participates in this process making it akin to a Direct democracy. Human societies on Hecuba are allowed extensive autonomy but a few Laws that apply to the entire system are put in place that affect humans. No Genocide, bodily autonomy must be respected, and slavery is forbidden. Local mega city government: Each megacity has different structure and goverment. Research before moving to one. Human Confederate states: Several space habitats in the Hecuba system have formed local states and joined in a loose confederacy. Each State has its own Militia and can have vastly different ideologies from each other. The constant political infighting that sometimes erupts into skirmishes show that the Confederacy is far from unified and is often ineffective as a political body when it comes to making big decisions. Be sure to research one before you select to join a state. Scavengers: A group of rebels and Salvagers that span multiple of the Confederate territories. They are hated in the more totalitarian regions for disseminating prohibited speech and knowledge. They Salvage lost equipment and supplies and often rescue people adrift. Sometimes considered pirates for the practice of salvaging derelicts, they never keep people hostage and will negotiate remuneration should the person they rescued be able to afford it. They never go very high in their negotiations and will not leave almost never leave anyone stranded if they don't pay. If The people they Rescue have nothing they just drop them off at a safe port. Even in territories, they are hated there is a code of honor that eases conflicts if the circumstances are met. Should the Scavengers come across helpless enemy soldiers, the soldiers will allow themselves to be rescued without resistance and will not attack while being taken to safety. Several bases and outposts are under scavenger control, the most legendary of them is called "FreeHome" and it is the most elusive settlement known. Scavengers are rumored to have their own Arms manfacture workshops. Pirates: People who engage in piracy. Sometimes approved of secretly by political states to damage the economy of competitors. Has declined sharply due to organized Scavenger activities. Pirates that engage in slavery are one of the most hated groups in the system. Such groups were almost entirely wiped out by scavenger offensive that stormed and liberated the habitat used as the hub of the slave trade. This Secret base became the legendary "FreeHome" Local Corporate powers and Employment Opportunities: Colstead Defense systems: Manufactures all military arms and equipment. Also sells some small arms for security and civilian use. The Standard issue Confederate Militia Combat riffle if manufactured by Colstead. Colstead operates in ever inhabited Area. Colstead is not picky about who they sell to meaning the minor skirmishes fought between the states profit them greatly. They also sell some of their munitions to the civilian market but often sell weaker or modified versions, though the full powered military grade is available in some civilian markets. Frontier Munitions: Frontier munitions is an Arms manufacturer that focuses exclusively on the civilian market. More than half of Civilian small arms on the market are made by Frontier munitions. From small caliber defense pistols, to combat assault rifles Frontier arms makes it all. Despite being on Par with Military weaponry, Frontier arms takes no contracts for formal Militia or military forces. Informal Militias may purchase these arms but their main market is civilians and science/exploration expeditionary forces. The .22 hypermag Caseless Carbine is one of the most popular weapons for exploration use as it is compact and powerful enough to deal with most hostile life forms. They have also Pledge their support for the growing colony efforts meant to find a new homeworld for humanity. New Colonial equipment and weaponry designs are being developed. User testing is in high demand. Frontier Drive systems: A subsidiary of Frontier Munitions, Frontier drive systems build both space and ground vehicles for Colonial efforts. They are a new company and have very little presence in the business landscape. Designers and Engineers are needed. RTM: Rough Terrain motors is a construction and engineering vehicle manufacturer. They are the big name in industrial equipment. They have also taken contracts for the Farsky colonial project and are partnering and sharing patterns with Frontier drive Systems so all Vehicles used in the colonial effort have compatible parts for ease of field maintenance. FarSky Project: The Colonial and exploration effort meant to find humanity a new home as well as jumpstart an era of interspecies exploration and cooperation. Several member Species have signed on with this. The Farsky project has spurred on innovation and industrial growth. The Hecudbites have even begun reactivation and renovating outpost and factories that have been dormant for thousands of years to support this project. If you choose to resettle on another world these will be the people that will get you there, Scouts, security, mechanics, and infrastructure workers of all levels are needed, consider joining today.
  4. Stripes Waterkat

    Animus Defense Force (PC & Android)

    Version 1.0.0

    1 download

    The planet Animus is under attack by an alien invasion army determined to destroy the world. They have sent ships all across the planet and it is up to you as Commander Marx Silverclaw to defend the people. You will be in command of the Tigermax Force, manning the Talon Canons positioned in all the major cities and charged with blasting the aliens out of the sky before they can annihilate your world. A fast paced game where you tap the screen (or click) to fire the canons at the ships and their plasma bombs to keep them from destroying your buildings and canons. Twenty-one levels of non-stop, ground to air action. Gain power up from special ships to increase the abilities of your canons. Bonus points awarded for accuracy of fire as well as buildings and canons remaining. There are options at the start of the game to increase the difficulty and speed of the game to suit you particular gaming style. As well as checkpoints at levels 5, 10 and 15. Now go blast those alien SOBs. (Note: if the game asks anything about using the camera, ect, ignore it. The game does not utilize any android functions.) These files are free for everyone to enjoy. You'll be getting both the APK for android and the EXE for PC. If you wish to throw a few pennies my way for it, you can send it to the Paypal acct of ruovte@claws-and-paws.com with my thank you.

    Free

  5. Alacardkane

    Starfinder mechanic

  6. Alacardkane

    SF solandroid

  7. Alacardkane

    Freedom in Rust Negative

  8. Alacardkane

    Freedom in Rust

  9. Alacardkane

    Whispers from my Ghost

  10. Alacardkane

    alita cat

    From the album: D&D, Starfinder, Cyberpunk, other OC.

    airbrush
  11. Alacardkane

    Unplugged

    From the album: D&D, Starfinder, Cyberpunk, other OC.

    Airbrush
  12. Alex Wright

    Mechaltair

    From the album: Alex Wright's Album

    I figured you can't go wrong with SciFi, and wanted a robotic version of Altair...soooo, here it be! Art by the amazing ZerosPanda!

    © Alex Wright

  13. WindTide

    Military Applications (Tybalt)

    From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    ============= Military Interim Report ============== >   Test Subject : Tybalt Matchlock             Approved Clearance : YES >   Test Resources: Class V and Class VII supplies     Approved Clearance : YES >   Objective : Prototype Weapon and Battle Armor System for In-Field Use >   Training Commence : BEGIN ###Initiate QF Protocols### >   [AMMUNITION] : Stocking ... Stocking ... 100% Complete >   [COMMUNICATION] : Ping sent out ... Ping received! Delay 20 ms >   [SCANNING SYSTEMS] : Diagnostics confirm 100% capacity. ###Initiate Cameras 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6### ###Recording Observations : Science Officer 1### /// The Test Subject has no problem adapting to the QF battle armor, one of many reasons the test subject in particular was selected. We hope to demonstrate that a trained fighter will have the necessary prerequisites to use the QF Battle System. The Test Subject is able to utilize their multiple limbs to handle ammunition and maintain the prototype cannon. For testing purposes we have decided on making use of a portable 17-PDF Cannon that was modified for the test subject's handling. ###Recording Observations : Science Officer 2### /// We had the test subject demonstrate the capacity of the battle suit in close quarters combat. Without the use of weapons on hand, the test subject was able to break through concrete walls and able to display dexterous feats of acrobatics to avoid the defense system employed. The test subject was able to confirm the biometric readings for our systems, as well as the suit's capacity to give live footage of the training from the QR Battle Suit's POV. ###Recording Observations : Science Officer 3### /// As expected in months of advanced research in targeting systems the QF Battle Armor had assisted the test subject on pinpoint accuracy of firearms. Test Subject was able to hit all 50 targets within a time frame of 2 minutes. We asked to demonstrate the firearm aim correction interface, as the armor made the appropriate calculations and guided the test subject to fire at the correct height and posture. ###Recording Observations : Science Officer 4### /// Initiating the Cannon tests were filled with high prospects of success. The test subject was able to lift the cannon up with his main arms and steadily aim at the long distance targets. The test subject had an innate advantage of uploading ammunition with his spare limbs to quickly load the cannon for the next shot. Maximum damage output was maintained, the recoil from the blasts having no impact on the test subject's well being. ###Deactivate Cameras### ###Close Log### ============= End of Interim Report ============= ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Brachiaraidos piece as done by Stagor55 lead me to look up on the artist's Sentai themed commissions that he did many years ago. Of course I have modified the story and circumstances around it, but I had a lot of fun making a mock-military report. It has given me ideas as to how I can develop Tybalt's story in his backstory, but for now I hope you can enjoy this piece as much as I do! Disclaimer - This image may or may not have been posted before on other art galleries. To clear any confusion, the previous owner has bequeath the rights of his character and will be in the process of migrating older images into the current gallery portfolio. Please contact myself or the previous owner if you have any questions. Thank you! Current Owner of Tybalt Matchlock © Wind Tide Previous owner of Tybalt Matchlock Brachiaraidos Art © Stagor55 Find Donryu's other works in these following websites!  Stagor55's Twitter ↔   Stagor55's Tumblr

    © Stagor55

  14. Cy-Fox

    Prologue

    Prologue cyborg (noun) - a hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal limitations by mechanical elements built into the body OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017 Patterns repeat, this is a fact, perhaps the prime fact within the universe. Twenty-three years ago, Field Marshal Amadeus Prower had been pacing down a hospital corridor. Back then it was at the Central Command Medical Center in Mobotropolis. He remembered the day very well, a cold October that made his face and especially his empty eye socket ache. In contrast here, it was still October but hot for the brief time he moved from his staff car to the reception area of Zenith Defense. Zenith Defense occupied a former United States biodefense facility in the Nevada desert and ostensibly housed what remained of the 1970s period equipment that was left over when the lab, Wildfire, had shut its doors due to belt tightening and reprioritization in the Reagan years. Its functions had largely been taken over by both the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta but also through several military biodefense organizations, chiefly the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick. Briefly Wildfire was reactivated in the early 2000s after bioterrorism fears stemming from anthrax being sent through the mail but when the crisis passed, the giant that Dr. Jeremy Stone had created was put back to sleep again. It would be well over eighty years before the facility had gotten a buyer. A Keplerian fox, Dr. Moddex Everest had made the purchase through his corporation. Amadeus had little reason to be suspicious of the other fox, though perhaps if he gave the whole idea more scrutiny, he might have had some small questions to concern himself with. Overseeing the Keplerian Republic’s military since its foundation in 2085 after he personally overthrew King Frederick Acorn, he could have scrutinized a native Keplerian defense contractor popping up out of the woodwork five years later and starting full-scale production a mere two years later. A native Keplerian, a young one who was born likely in the last few decades of King Frederick’s reign having both the acumen and the credentials to amass all of this. But he didn’t scrutinize Everest, especially now. For here within the medical section, two levels beneath the ground were where their sole patient was resting. Or at least that was what his physician insisted he would be doing. Prower had met her once before, though she was much younger the last time. There was intensity to her glare when he had first made his way onto the floor. At first, Amadeus was confused about the hostility that she had shown. But then he caught a glimpse of the identification badge clipped to her labjacket; Dr. Maria J. Robotnik, M.D. Maria, Gerry Robotnik’s granddaughter. “I am Field Marshal Amadeus Prower-“ he had started saying. The blonde-haired woman raised her eyes up to meet his and he suddenly felt the October cold and ache from long ago return. “I know very well who you are, Fältmarskalk,” Robotnik grimaced in her Swede accented English, keeping her eyes dead center on him. She lowered the tablet she was holding down and then slipped it into the left pocket of her coat. “I’m here to see my son, Doctor.” Prower’s ears rose as he brought the tone of his voice to the matter-of-fact style he reserved for the press. “Lieutenant Prower is shut down,” Robotnik placed her hands on her hips and straightened her back. “He has a very important set of surgeries coming up. The lieutenant's mind has already had a rough night as it was since arriving planetside. I don’t want to tax him any more than what he’s taken already. Fältmarskalk or father be damned, if there is even the latter.” A low rumbling growl rose from the fox’s throat as he took a step closer. He was tempted to raise his voice if it wasn’t for both Vice Admiral Seetan and Admiral Bolton moving up to each side of him. Seetan, a black furred wolf-like Keplerian regarded her with his heterochromatic red and green eyes. “Please Maria; I of all people know what Miles has been through up there. But if he is in fact facing more surgery, especially the kind you and Everest described to me earlier, he should see his father.” The wolf explained. “He can’t even say it without a mouthpiece.” Maria countered. “Now that’s hardly fair Doctor, you haven’t even given him a moment-“ Bolton, a grey cat-like Keplerian started to protest but Amadeus raised his right hand up and waved it with a soft growl of surrender. “I can defend my character without assistance, Admiral. Thank you.” Amadeus sighed quietly and lowered his eye to the floor. “I can assure you, Maria. I want to see my son, I need to. Especially in the wake of what has happened now. Dr. Everest said there is about a seventy-plus percent chance of success, but I have already lost one half of my family before. I don’t want to risk the other half, especially not without seeing him first.” The trauma surgeon continued to smolder at him with her gaze but then started to nod. “Fine, but only you and you will take precautions before going into the intensive care bay.” “That’s fine.” Amadeus raised his head up. “Thank you, Maria.” Precautions had consisted of washing hands, securing his boots with nonconductive sterile covers, putting on a blue disposable gown, gloves, a face mask and shield. Whether it was all necessary, he wasn’t certain, but Maria had only gloved and gowned. She of course had the covers on her shoes already, likely from being the more sterile of the two. The elderly fox made his way along with her through a set of sliding double doors and slowly approached the single bed with a light on overhead. Several monitor rigs sat on stands all around Miles Prower’s body. Some were standard medical equipment but there was also computer equipment and even a red tool cart one would expect in a machine shop. The gold and white furred fox’s eyes were closed and had protective patches over them. Two things stood out, the fox’s arms were completely robotic and there was a flat trace running on the ECG monitor. Wasn’t that typical for someone clinically dead? “Why has his heart stopped? When did that happen?” Amadeus asked. Maria looked up at the monitor and shook her head. “It hasn’t stopped. He has no heart, and what you see on the exterior is cloned. He is robotic in almost all respects, even in mind. Until we perform this transfer of course.” “How did this happen?” The fox asked. “I would expect you to have more answers on what brought about the attack more than I. But as far as Miles’ injuries to put it short, he tried to protect me from one of those robots.” Maria explained. Amadeus lowered himself onto a nearby stool and sighed quietly. He looked at Miles and then lowered his eyes. “In a way, this is my fault.” He lamented. “Pressuring him into national service like that. Putting him on this path, into harm’s way to get injured like this. If his mother was still alive, she wouldn’t speak to me, I’m sure.” “Grandfather had to talk you into letting him stay with us.” Maria said, crossing her arms. “Actually no, it didn’t take very much for me to agree.” Amadeus countered, looking up at her. “If you would like, I can tell you everything unless that keeps you from doing what’s needed.” “My place is at his side.” Maria replied, moving around the bed to take another stool, sitting down beside him. “Besides, I’ve had questions for some time.” “Very well then,” Amadeus looked at the human. “But I will start a few years back, before he was born, so that you get the full story.”
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 05

    Part 5: Resolutions I don't remember anything about the run itself, but when I stopped I was in the school gym. I was too busy fretting over what I was going to do about killing a man to wonder why I'd come here, I mean I'd just damned myself to Hell, how was I going to get out of *that*? "Are you ok Jayson?" I stopped my pacing to look up at Coach Warner standing across the room. My first thought was to run out, but he was blocking the door. "Jayson, what's wrong?" He started walking toward me and I backed up until I was against a weight rack. He wasn't blocking the door anymore. I could run past him and flee, but my legs weren't listening to me. I couldn't stay here, I couldn't let him find out what I'd done and damn him by association. He placed his hands on my shoulders. "Whatever it is Jayson, you can talk to me." His touch was gentle and I could see the worry and caring in his eyes. For a moment I wanted to tell him everything, I even opened my mouth before I regained my senses and pushed him away hard. He backpedalled and by the time he'd regain his balance he was almost back in the door way. "Damn it Jayson, I'm trying to help." "You can't help! I'm damned and there's nothing anybody can do about it!" "You're not damned Jayson. Trust me; I know a thing or two about these things." He took a step in my direction and I screamed. I grabbed a weight plate off the rack and threw it in his direction to force him to stay away. Only after it left my hand did I realize it was a twenty-five pound weight, that I'd thrown it with all my strength and that I'd aimed it directly at him. Time seemed to stretch into infinity as I realized I was about to kill another man. Coach Warner caught the weight in one hand and placed it on the floor. "You need to calm down Jayson." He crossed to room again. The shock of what he'd done kept me frozen in place. He'd caught the plate. That thing should have gone through him and then two or three walls after that with all the strength I'd put in the throw. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. "Tell me what's got you so scared." The way he was holding me against him felt so good, warm and safe. "I killed someone," I said softly. He didn't tense up at the news, he just kept holding me. I started crying. He let me cry for a few minutes. "How did it happen?" I told him everything; the attacks, Maggie and Marvin protecting me and what I did to the man I'd killed. I didn't stop crying while I talked. At some point he let go of me. I don't how long I'd been crying, but the front of his shirt was soaking wet. "I need to go take care of something," he said looking me in the eyes, "I want you to promise me you'll stay here until I get back." I nodded and he left. I kept standing there for a while, unsure of what to do. There were all those weight machines I could use to keep myself busy, but I didn't feel like using them, I was too tired. I sat down in a corner, brought my knees against me, folded my arms over them and rested my head. I was woken up by voices in the corridor, Coach Warner speaking with someone else. "You're the one who got me into this so you're going to help out," the coach said. "I was not given a choice," the other replied in a deep and vibrant voice, "he requested you personally." "You could have said no." "Not quite, I owed him this favor." "I'm not saying you should have said no, I'm actually liking it here, but he needs your help. You know I'm more of a sword and shield kind of guy, that's not what he needs." They entered the room and the coach's friend surprised me, from the voice I'd expected someone tall and broad shouldered like him; instead he was shorter than I was and didn't look muscular at all in dress pants and baggy shirt. "Jayson," Coach Warner said as I stood, "I'd like you to meet Al, he's," there was a moment of hesitation, "a friend of mine." "Thor has told me some of what happened to you," Al said standing straight and commanding. I gulped. "What I need to know from you is why it came to this." I tried to answer, but I found myself staring at the floor instead. "Thor, would you leave us alone please?" "Sure thing, I have to make a few calls anyway. I'll be in my office if you need me." "Jayson, please look at me," Al said a few moments later. I did and found myself gazing into his eyes. They were grey like storm clouds and I could have sworn that just like clouds the colors were shifting. "Now, tell me why someone who has the training to fight let it come to the point where you lost control." "I don't know how to fight," I said weakly. "Thor has told me that you are a trained martial artist." "It's not the same thing. In class it's controlled, my opponent knows the moves I'll make and what to do against them. In the tournaments I do worry about hurting someone, that's why I don't fight as hard as I could, but at least I know that we're all trained. Out there, I don't know what to expect." "So killing that man was an accident?" "No," I said with shame, "I got angry that he hurt Maggie, but once I started punching him my anger became about being pushed around and not able to do anything about it as well as all the other things I can't do so I won't stand out." "That can't, or won't do?" "Same difference; unless you haven't noticed this town isn't exactly tolerant of anyone who's different." "I have just arrived. I have not had the time to observe." "Trust me, in this place if you don't fit within a mold they consider normal you're shit out of luck." Al gave me a small smile and then looked around. His gaze stopped on each machines in the room and I could see him judging them and not being impressed. Finally he went to the Lat workout machine. "Thor has also mentioned that you believe you are damned." "Well yeah. I killed a guy. That's a straight line to Hell." "I was under the impression that your god was a forgiving one." "I can't ask him to forgive that," I said looking at my blood covered hands, "What I did is just too horrible." It hit me that I hadn't even thought about how I was going to face my parents. "Before the thoughts you are currently having depress you so much you cannot do anything productive come help me." Al's commanding tone snapped me out of it and I joined him by the machine. He was crouched down placing the pin in one of the lower plate in the weight stack; he pointed at the bar above my head. "Please grab it and pull." I did and at least three hundred pounds of weight went up. "Pull it until it is as high as it will go." I followed his instructions, and then he kicked me in the stomach. The kick had more strength then someone his size should have and I lost my balance, falling back over the bench and letting go of the bar. I hit my head on the floor and the ringing mixed with the clang of the plates reaching bottom. "What was that for?" The ringing quickly subsided as I stood and the pain was a dull throb. I completely forgot about it when I saw that Al's hand was under the fallen plates. "What did you do?" He pulled his hand out and wriggled his fingers. "I have demonstrated that I am not easily hurt." I looked at his moving fingers and the strength of the kick came back to me. "You're a parahuman." I stated. He seemed to think about it for a moment and then had a knowing smile. "If that term helps understand the situation, then yes, I am one." Something else occurred to me. "Coach Warner is one too!" Al didn't say anything he just looked at me with that smile. "But what does it mean?" "It means that if you let me I am capable of helping you." "How?" "The training you need is in dealing with the unexpected. You are aware of this, but have not looked for help in this regard, presumably because you fear what the people you ask would think due to the mind set in this locale." "So?" "So, I am not from here, nor do I share the local attitude. I have seen to the training of many warriors and I can help you overcome this weakness so that you will not have to fear needlessly hurting someone else again." I looked at him dubiously. "Ok, but why are you even offering to help?" "Because Thor asked me to." "Except he's only here because you sent him." He leveled his gaze on me. "You overheard our discussion." "I have pretty sharp ears," I said with a smile, enjoying the feeling of having put one over him. "An old acquaintance asked for a favor to repay a favor and I agreed, sending Thor here to look over you." "But why?"Al didn't answer me. "The attacks." He nodded. "The coach was supposed to protect me? But he never did anything?" "If Thor had felt you needed more protection than you already had he would have intervened." "Do you know who's behind it?" "No, I was not provided with that information." "Then how about why?" He was silent for a moment, studying me. "I do not know, but I am starting to have suspicions." "Are you going to tell me?" he shook his head. "Arrrg! Why won't anyone tell me anything?" this was infuriating. "Because you are a child and we are the adults." I spun on my heels and glared at him hand closing into fists. I wasn't just some kid he could speak down to, I was sixteen. "You wish to strike me," he stated as if he'd read my mind, "what is stopping you? Why are you not doing it? Do you believe I cannot take it?" The sneer in his tone is what made me lose control, my fist flew at him and he caught it in a hand. Then I was flying over him to land on my back with my arm outstretch and his knee on my throat. "Consider this your first lesson in the unexpected; not everyone you will try to strike will be unable to avoid the blow." He let me go as Coach Warner knocked on the door frame. "Can you guys be disturbed? Jayson's friends are here to see him." "That is quite alright, I am done with Jayson for the moment." "Good." He left and moments later Maggie and Marvin ran in. "Maggie, your arm?" the sling over it was the first thing I saw, then I noticed the cuts and bruises on her face. She looked down at it. "Oh, it's nothing, you know me I was just climbing a building and fell." Climbing a building? Falling? "Hi," she said looking at Al, "I don't know who you are, but do you mind leaving us alone?" "Not at all," he answered, "Jayson, talk with Thor when you are done with your friends, he will let you know when to come see me. Please follow me Thor." Coach Warner rolled his eyes before following Al. Marvin checked that they were out of earshot. "Why did you run off like that?" I looked at my feet. "I couldn't stay there after what I did." "Because you fought him?" Maggie asked. "No, because I killed him." "No you didn't," she said "Of course I did. I beat him to a pulp; no one could have survived that." "They took him out in an ambulance," Marvin said, "I'm pretty sure they don't bother doing that when they're dead." I stared at them. He wasn't dead. I hadn't killed him. I heart flew in relief, and my knees failed. The next think I knew Marvin was keeping me standing. "Don't pass out on us, wouldn't look good for the hero to faint." I hadn't killed him. It took a few moments for my legs to be steady under me. I hadn't killed him. "What happened after I left?" I was eventually able to ask. "I carried Maggie to my car and went to the closest phone booth. I called 911 and waited out of sight to see what the cops were going to do." "What they did," Maggie continued, "was look the scene over, call the Ambulance and then everybody left." "How did you know I was here?" "The coach called me, he said he'd found you here shaken up and bloody. He said that you'd been in a fight and that we should come quickly. Who was that?" Maggie asked. "That's Al, he's a friend of the coach. He said he can help me defend myself." Marvin looked at me. "You don't need any help defending yourself, did you see the number you did on that guy? I don't even understand why Maggie wants us to look out for you." The memory of the fight made my stomach churn and I forced myself to remember that he wasn't dead. "I don't want to ever do that again." "But why? You're a natural at this." I felt like hitting him, but he wouldn't survive it; or maybe he would with that Norse thing of his, but I really didn't want to fight him. "Maggie, why don't you explain things to him? I have to go talk with Coach Warner and then head home. I've missed dinner and my folks are going to worry." The door to the coach's office was open and he was sitting behind his desk. "Where's Al?" I asked after looking around the office and closing the door. "He went home." I sat down in one of the chairs facing him "Why didn't you tell Maggie and Marvin that you know about them?" "Because it isn't something they need to know. Being a hero here requires anonymity, if they realize I know it'll just add one worry over everything they have to think about." "Did you know about them before I told you?" Coach Warner shook his head. "I knew someone was looking out for you, but that was it. It never occurred to me that Margaret would be one to take to the fight." "Marvin?" "The vibs I got off him made me suspect he was a parahuman, but he didn't seem the type to do anything with it." I shrugged; I hadn't known him before he got forced into the part of hero. "Al said you'd know when I should train with him." "He was thinking that you could train with him instead of going to your Karate class." * * * * * "Jayson Mortimer," mom said in a stern tone the moment I opened the door, "where have you been? Dinner was two hours ago." "Sorry mom," I said as meekly as possible, "I met one of Coach Warner's friends and then I found out Maggie got hurt." "Maggie's hurt? What happened? Will she be ok?" "Yeah she'll be fine, she broke her arm," I smiled a little at having diverted her anger. "That's good, I'll keep her in my prayer tonight, but that's no excuse not call us to tell us you'll miss dinner." "I know, I'm sorry mom," I smiled mischievously. "Maybe if I had a cell phone it would be easier for me to let you know that stuff." She looked at me. "I don't think so; you're far too young to get one of those." "Plenty of guys at school have them." "And plenty of *young* people at your school smoke; it doesn't mean I'll let you do that too. Now come on, I'll reheat your dinner and then you can go to your room, you have school tomorrow." I nodded, I hadn't expected her to agree to it, to be honest I wasn't even interested in one but it was something else for my mom to focus on instead of my lateness. "Mom, what would you think if I stopped going to Karate class?" "Stop? Why do you want to stop going? I thought you liked it." "I do, but the coach's friend I met, he knows martial art too, and he could teach me, but I don't really have time to do both, and he wouldn't charge anything." Mom looked at me dubiously. "He's willing to do it for free? Are you sure he doesn't have some ulterior motive?" "Come on mom, he's the coach's friend. Coach Warner would never let him do anything bad." "Maybe, but I think I'll want to meet him before I agree." "Sure mom." I introduced them a few days later and she liked him, on the way home she said that he had an old style charm to him, whatever that meant. Al's training method was weird. Him and me would fight and at random times Coach Warner would throw a box at me. In the box could pretty much anything, a vase, a five pound dumbbell, a beach ball or even eggs. The only way I had to know what was in it was to read the description on the box as it was flying at me while Al was trying to beat the crap out of me. He didn't pull his punches and he was much better than I had imagined. He said it would teach me to pay attention to my surrounding while not losing my focus. I don't know if it did that, all I know is that I broke a lot of their dishes during that first month of training. On the twenty third of February my birthday came and went without too much fanfare; I turned seventeen. Maggie, Eddy, and yes, even Marvin were the only ones I invited. As much as I tried to hate the guy Marvin was very likable, he was funny, pretty intelligent, and good looking; his trenchcoat hid how muscular he was. Most of his jokes were at the expense of the Norse gods and that caused the one moment of discomfort during my birthday. I had to explain to my mom that he wasn't trying to convert anyone; his jokes were just that, jokes. She didn't get entirely comfortable about it, but Marvin did manage to get her to laugh. My parent's gift was a driving course. * * * * * "Hey guys," Maggie said as she sat down next to us, "have you heard?" Me and Marvin looked at her. "About what?" I asked. We didn't see Eddy that often during lunch time anymore. He was spending more and more time with his girlfriend. He'd introduced her to us and for a while she ate with us. She was pretty nice, but definitely from a different social circle. He still did his best t hang out with us, but travelling in the higher class took up a lot of his time, and with March break coming up they were busy planning their trip to Aspen. "There's a lawyer in Denver that's trying to get the Good Samaritan law over turned?" "What's that?" Marvin asked. We both stared at him. "Man," I said in a lowered voice, "if you're going to be in the super hero biz you really should know about that law." "So explain it to me." "The law was setup back in the sixties to prevent villains from suing heroes over damages they received." Maggie explained. "Now it's been extended to also protect the heroes from lawsuit for collateral damages caused from fighting a villain." "So a hero can do anything when fighting a villain and not worry about it?" "Well, not anything, Excessive force can still override the Samaritan law; that would be based on the perceived danger to civilians, but the hero would have to prove his case in court." "What about civilians who get hurt in the fight?" "Unless they can prove negligence on the part of the hero they'll have to rely on their insurance." "So how is that lawyer trying to overturn it?" "He claims that it's unconstitutional; that Mister Terror is entitled for full compensation for not being able to work his normal job because Thunderclap put him in the hospital for 2 month while stopping him from robbing a bank." Marvin looked at me for help, but I shrugged, there was no way I was able to keep all those parahumans straight even if I wanted to. I knew Mister Terror was some sort of second string villain who could make people afraid, but I had no idea who Thunderclap was. "Anyway, I'd be surprised if it'll even make it to court, no judge in their right mind would ever even consider it." Maggie was right; two days later the case was thrown out. March break was marked with Fist and Viking stopping an attempt on Blue Jay's life by Bloodhound. Being a parahuman signer she was Maggie's favorite and the three of us had gone to her concert in Houston; Marvin even let me practice my driving on the way. The concert was uneventful until after the intermission. In the middle of her first song this guy dressed in a leather dog costume jumped down from the rafter and started tearing up the stage. Blue Jay wasn't a hero, she could only create a nimbus of blue light around herself and objects, still she did all she could to keep his attention on her while the musicians ran off the stage. When Bloodhound did manage to get his hand on her he shook her about and then threw her at one of the supports for the lighting gear, only to be caught by Viking. Marvin and Maggie had pulled a quick disappearing act as soon as bloodhound appeared. The fight was quick compared to those you see in the movies, but compared to real parahuman fights it dragged on for ten minutes. In the end Maggie had to throw a grenade and Viking had to amplify the effect with magic just to stun bloodhound; that gave Maggie time to shove a rag soaked in Ether, finally rendering him unconscious. Blue Jay tried to get them to stay on stage while she finished her show, but they declined and disappeared backstage. What surprised me the most through all that was how calm the crowd had been. The people in the first rows moved back, but no one panicked. They were worried and fearful; they knew enough to realize this wasn't part of the show, but even those who left did so calmly. I thought about helping out, but I didn't have any way to hide my identity. Maggie and Marvin missed the two songs Blue Jay performed after they were able to get the stage to working order. They had had a hard time finding a place to change out of their costume since a lot of people used the time as second intermission. I distracted them through most of the third song by apologizing over and over for not helping out. In the motel room where we spent the night Maggie couldn't stop talking about how she'd gotten to meet Blue Jay, even on the drive back the next morning she was still beaming. When we got home we learned that the fight had been recorded and every news show was showing it. One of the news anchor called Viking and the Fist 'misfits' and within a week everyone had adopted it, making it, much to Marvin's concerns, their team's name. A lot of stations tried to track them down for an interview, but they managed to avoid them while continuing their occasional patrol. And while a few reporters hung around longer trying to find them. The news stations moved on to someone else within a few days. * * * * * The mood at school changed after spring break, this was the last stretch before summer vacation; everyone studied a little more and partied a little less. No one wanted to fail their year, even Billy was now leaving me mostly alone since he didn't want to be held back another year. Maggie spent most of her school days studying so she'd have her weekends free to patrol. Marvin didn't seem to be worried about studying at all. I wasn't worries about my grades either; I knew I was going to pass all my exams without having to cram and I didn't have a need to be the best like a lot of the others at the school did. Coach Warner did convince me to practice my running; he challenged me to place second or even first without giving away I was a parahuman. That made me very nervous, I'd spent my time making sure I didn't attract attention, and now I'd be putting myself extremely close to the spotlight, and even in it. I thought about saying no, but he'd been there for me and I didn't want to let him down. I was on the track every afternoon before my training with Al and every other chance I got. I needed to get perfect control over my speed, if I was going to be noticed I couldn't afford any accidental bursts. I placed third in the trials we had in mid April. I was aiming for second place, but I lost my nerves just as I caught up to Melanie. I'd never been faster than her before; wouldn't people start wondering how I'd done it. Maybe there would be a drug test; could parahuman abilities be detected that way? Next thing I knew the race was over. Coach Warner didn't show any signs he was disappointed I hadn't beaten her, but I felt like I'd let him down anyway. So now I was training even harder; that's why I didn't notice I had an audience until I finished my five minute mile. Randall Mitchell was leaning against the doorframe, watching me intently. I ignored him while I cooled down, it wasn't the first time he's been watching me; it was creepy, but he never did anything. He blocked my way when I headed to the lockers. "Good to see you finally pushing yourself Mortimer." "I didn't know you were a fan of Track, Mitchell. Now if you don't mind I need to change and go home," I said as I tried to pass him. "Oh, I do mind," he replied pushing me back. "Didn't Bill warn you about bugging me?" "That bully's an idiot. The only reason I hung around him was because I thought his bullying would be what made you accept what you are." He swung at me. "And what's that?" I asked as I dodged it, "the low man on the totem pole?" I punched him in the stomach. It felt good to finally hit someone back. "Is that all you got," he said wheezing for a few breath. He straightened and took a deep breath. "Ok, lets see what you've got." He rushed me. He swung, I blocked, he swung again and I dodged. He wasn't a good fighter, but he had strength behind his blows. When I saw my opening I struck him in the shoulder. He staggered back and smiled at me. "Is that it?" That blow should have sent him back much farther. We exchanged more blows before I was able to kick him in the face. "That's more like it," he said shaking his head. He gave me a vicious smile as he wiped the blood of his cheek. The cut I'd inflicted closed itself as I watched. Another parahuman? Was this school some sort of parahuman training ground? I started hitting him harder with each strike, but he barely felt them. In contrast his punches had more and more strength behind them. None of them connected, but I could feel it each time I blocked. I gave it everything I had and he barely reacted to it. "What's it like being just like everyone else?" Mitchell asked as he grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as it connected with the brick and more pain as I crumpled to the ground. I sat up to watch Mitchell walk toward me with a satisfied expression on his face. He looked down on me and lifted his fist. "Time to end this; it's been great knowing you loser." Before he could bring it down a hand wrapped around his wrist and held it in place. Mitchell turned to look at Coach Warner as he tried to pull out of the grip. "What do you think you're doing Randall?" "Whatever I want," he answered. He lifted the coach over himself and threw him to the track. Coach Warner landed, rolled and was back on his feet in a crouch. Mitchell took a step toward him but stopped and looked at me. "Don't go anywhere," he said before heading back to the coach. I tried standing while they fought, but the moment I started putting my legs under me my head started spinning. When I gave up Coach Warner walking toward me, dragging Mitchell by a leg; he dropped him a few feet away. "How are you feeling?" "It hurts, al lot." "You have a nasty gash on your forehead." "It hasn't healed yet?" I asked touching it and wincing in pain. "I think Randall's some sort of leech. He stole your parahuman abilities." I thought about it for a moment. "He's going to wake up soon if he heals as fast as I normally do." Coach Warner nodded and went inside, coming back with a roll of duck tape. He taped Mitchell's arms together behind his back and then wrapped them in tape from the wrist to the above the elbow. He also taped his ankles together before calling the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital amidst the police cursing about having another parahuman in town. I ended up with a sling to hold my arm still, stitches for the cut on my forehead and some pain killers. It meant I couldn't run in the next race at school, I couldn't even run just for the fun of it since every time my foot hit the ground my shoulder hurt. Al did decide it was the perfect time to work on avoiding hits. Much to the doctor's surprise my shoulder was fully healed in only two weeks, but it wasn't until mid May that I felt I was back to full strength. Being as close to 'normal' as I could get made me realize that I did cherish my abilities; I hadn't really thought about where they'd come from, no one really knew although they were hundreds of theories out there. Now I realized that they were a God given gift, and I couldn't spend my life ignoring or hiding them. I didn't want to attract attention, but Maggie and Marvin were both heroes and still managed to have a normal life. Still, I needed to get someone's permission before I started on a hero career. "Mom, can I talk to you?" I asked as she walked by my room with the laundry basket. "Of course Honey, is everything alright?" She put the basket on the floor and sat next to me on my bed. "Yes, I just have to tell you something." "Ok, what is it?" "It's about me, and it's pretty big." I had to pause to figure out how to say it. "It's probably going to change how you and dad think about me, but I want you to know that it's still me, I'm still your son and I hope you're still going to love me." She hugged me and kissed my head. "Oh Honey, I already know and I still love you." "You do? How?" "Jayson, I'm your mother," she said with a smile, "mother's have a sense about these things." I just looked at her, she knew? "It doesn't matter to me that you prefer guys over girls, love is love and will always be proud of you for loving someone." Wait, what? "How could you have picked up on that? I've always been careful not to let it show." She chuckles and waved at my room. "You need to work on your subtlety." I looked at the posters of athletes and martial artists I had on my walls. "I don't get it." "Where are the women? The pinup girls that every teenage boy is putting up on their bedroom walls, and then there's Maggie." "What about Maggie? I haven't done anything to her." "Exactly, she's turning until a beautiful young woman and yet you're happy just being her friend. That meant you were either blind, or gay, and I know you're not blind." I had no idea what to think, I was so sure I'd hidden that secret from them. "Does dad know?" "I think he suspects, but he hasn't said anything." "Do you think I should tell him?" "Whenever you're ready to tell him, he'll be ready to listen." I nodded. She moved in front of me and held me by the shoulders. "You don't have to be afraid, you'll always be our son; we will never stop loving you. That it be about the boyfriend you'll eventually find or anything else you decide to do in your life, we will support and encourage you. You are the most precious thing in our life." As she said that I could see tears falling down her cheeks. I hugged her tightly. "Thanks mom." She dried her eyes and picked up the basket, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I had just come out to my mom, and she was ok with it. I had never even though about telling her I was gay, I knew it was something that would come up one day, but I'd figured it was still years away. I smiled as I realized a weight I hadn't noticed until now was lifted off my chest. She was ok with me being gay. And in a roundabout way she'd given me permission to become a hero. * * * * * The school year ended without any other major surprise, I told dad I was gay a few days before graduation and it shocked him, He tried hard not to let it affect how he saw me, but it took him time to come to terms with it. It was no surprise that Maggie graduated at the top of her classes, me and Marvin were somewhere in the middle, and Mitchell didn't. After he attacked me he was transferred to a center for dangerous parahumans. The one small surprise was Bill, somehow he managed to graduate. After the graduation ceremony Marvin, Maggie and me went to the mall to celebrate; we're already worked it out with our parents, this was just for us. We had just left the restaurant when we heard the disturbance at the other end of the hall. "You've got to be kidding," Marvin said, "someone's trashing the place on graduation day?" "Maybe they figure the Misfits are too busy partying to intervene," I said. "Whoever they are, they're about to find out we're never too busy to kick some butts," Maggie said looking around for a place to change. "Are you joining in?" she asked me. I shook my head. "I still don't have a costume, remember?" I'd been trying to find an identity since the talk with mom. Marvin's suggestions had been to put on any old mask, but I wanted something that felt right. "You two go have fun, soon enough I'll be able to help out." With a nod they headed toward the noise while I stayed where I was. The crowd around me split into two, those heading toward the commotion and those heading away from it. At this rate it wouldn't take long for me to end up alone. Something caught my eye over the crowd. It was in the display window of a store. I waded through the crowd until I was close enough to see it was a half mask resting on a shelf; it was a cat's mask, with ears and even whiskers. The holes for the eyes were covered up with holographic lenses of cat's eyes. I walked in what turned out to be a novelty store and put it on; it was made of cheap leather with an elastic to hold it on my head and the visibility was quite good. I looked at myself in a mirror and I couldn't stop myself from smiling; it was definitely a cheap mask, but it looked right on me I added a black wig and I looked like . . . well, not like me that was for sure. I put the two price tags with thirty dollars behind the counter and made my way to the fight. "Stop moving so I can turn you into dog food," someone growled ahead. The crowd got thicker and I had to elbow my way through it. Once people got a look at me they gave me room. I made it to the railing to see the fight was on the level below; Viking and Fist were fighting Bloodhound. I paused for a moment as Bloodhound caught Viking's sword and flicked it away. Viking raised his shield just in time to take the blow that came next, but still went down to one knee. I jumped over the railing, landing in a crouch and catching everyone's attention. I looked at Bloodhound without getting up "here doggy doggy," I said softly before springing toward him. This was going to be fun. * * * * * EPILOQUE The older man entered the younger one's office closing the door behind him. "You wanted to see me sir?" "Yes Albert, I need you to inform the Combine that I won't need their services anymore." "Yes sir, I'll inform them we are terminating the contract." "No, we are severing all ties to them." "They will not be pleased with that." "That's not my problem. Point out to them that after ten month the target's still alive." "Multiple parahumans have been running interferences." "Why should I care? I paid them to take care of the problem, not to make excuses. I'll take care of this problem myself." "Very well sir, anything else?" "No, that's all." Once he was alone the younger man took a folder from a drawer and read through it. In it were the names of many men, and a few women as well as a list of their accomplishments. He took one out before putting the folder away. "I need you to get me in contact with Adrian Price," he said in his intercom. "Sir," the woman on the other end replied after a moment, "Mr. Price is currently in Atlanta." "And?" "In prison, awaiting trial." He took a deep breath to avoid snapping at her. "And that's a problem how?" Five minute later his phone rang. "Adrian, how long until you've solved your current predicament?" "A day or two, sir. Everyone's in place now. As soon as Whip is adequately distracted we'll be done." "Good. Once you're out I need to you locate and retrieve a new employee." "Yes, sir. What is his name?" "Joshua Hunter, you can start your search in Africa."
  16. Kindar

    Chapter 04

    Part 4: The breaking point After the attack all Maggie would talk about was Marvin, on the way to and back from school, during Karate classes, he was even sitting with us in the cafeteria. Did I know Marvin's family was originally from Norway? Did I know his ancestors were Vikings? Did I know Marvin's sword could now slice through metal? Did I know Marvin could do magic? It was Marvin this, Marvin that. It was driving me nuts. The guy was stealing my best friend without even trying. I did what I could to avoid him but it wasn't easy. Maggie enlisted him into protecting me. I let him know in no uncertain terms I didn't need his protection, it didn't stop him. Thanksgiving was the first break I got from Marvin. We drove to Dallas to celebrate it with my father's parents. It was the one time of the year Dad got to see his whole family. Grammy loved having us over, it gave her an excuse to cook. Every year it was a turkey, the stuffing changed each time as she experimented with different herbs. She made her own cranberry sauce as well as the pumpkin and apple pies. The only store bought things Grammy allowed for her thanksgiving dinner was the pop for the kids and wine for the adults. We left an hour early because traffic was always heavy on thanksgiving. We still got there late; Reverb and Boombox had torn down an overpass in another one of their fights so we had to detour through the city. Both had sound based powers, Reverb could generate sounds while Boombox could turn sound he heard into concussive blasts. They had been fighting for years now. She'd beat him into submission and he would escape from whatever prison she put him in then come right back after her. People described it as the rivalry of sounds. Me, I just thought they should get a room and work off the sexual tension there. That way the rest of us could go on with our lives. Because we were late the poker game was already under way. Grammy's tradition was cooking, Grampa's was poker. Grammy hugged and kissed me, she was a plump woman a little shorter than I was. Every time I saw her she was jovial. When I was younger I thought that her super power was to chase the bad things away, as I grew up I realized that bad stuff did affect her, she simply didn't let any of her grandkids see it. After the greeting my folks joined the game. They sat opposite Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty; dad's other sibling, Greg, was seated next to mom. Betty's husband DB, I never got anyone to tell me what the initials stood for, was next to Greg's wife Judith. Grampa and Grammy were seated at each end of the oval table. The fact that Bert's wife Elizabeth and his kids weren't here told me something was up more than the lack of wine glasses on the table. It was a poorly kept secret within the family that Bert had a drinking problem. Uncle Greg told me Bert was in the process of getting divorced and had joined AA in the hopes of getting some custody rights to his kids. The kids had a game going to, but I just watched them play, poker wasn't a game I cared for; I couldn't win at it. "Did you ever find out why you were attacked?" Lizzy asked me. She was fourteen and her name was Elizabeth, but there was already one in the family so everyone called her Lizzy. "No," I answered after remembering everyone knew about the first attack. I didn't feel I was lying, someone kept sending parahuman to kill me, but I didn't know why. "It must have been so cool being saved by a super hero," Benny said. He was eight and Lizzy's brother. His full name was Bernard, but he hated it and got us to call him Benny instead. "Yeah, is was," I lied as I ruffled his ginger hair. At his age he didn't need to be burdened with the reality of the fear and pain associated with the attack. "The Great Fireman came to our school last year," Marc said. Sam, his twin, nodded in agreement. "This year they are saying we're going to have Techknight give the year end speech." "Techknight? From the Justicars?" I asked incredulous. These two might go to an expensive school in Oklahoma City, but I somehow doubted the Justicars would send someone all the way from LA just to speak at a school. "Yes Sarah," Aunt Betty said to my mom, "why don't you tell us what came of it? I'm afraid it didn't make the Dallas news." "Nothing's come of it. The police are still looking for the parahuman who saved Jayson." "Why are they still looking?" she asked, looking at her cards before putting chips in the pot, "Didn't he give his statement?" "He murdered the men who were assaulting my son, so no, he didn't give a statement." Mom still had trouble resolving the gratitude she felt toward the parahuman who had saved me and the atrociousness of the way he had killed them. "That is simply horrible," Betty said, "how ever did Jayson cope?" "Jayson's tough," mom replied. She didn't know about my fear of a patch of sidewalk or how it took Maggie to force me to get over it. "Hopefully the media helped him get over it." "No reporters talked to my son," mom stated. They had waited a few days before knocking at the door and she had unceremoniously slammed it in their face. When one of them sneaked into the backyard and cornered me dad chewed her out so badly that none of them showed up near the house again. He also made sure the school knew about them so no reporters were allowed on the property. That just left them while I ran to school and back to try to interrogate me, but I didn't give them the chance. Even without pushing myself I could leave them in my dust. Once they realized this story was going to take more work than they thought they dropped it. "How could you let such an opportunity pass?" Betty asked, aghast, "Do you realize how much work I have to put into getting Elizabeth to appear on television?" Lizzy rolled her eyes. Ever since she was five years old Betty had her participate in all sort of pageants. She had loved them at first, but now she was doing it just to keep her mom happy. Lizzy had decided to become a scientist Betty didn't care for that idea. She felt there was no future for a woman scientist and gave my mom as an example. Fortunately Lizzy had a better head on her shoulder then her mother and didn't believe her. If Betty bothered asking me I would have told her my mom was a more successful woman than a has been beauty queen like her. The oven beeped and announced the game was over. Everyone went about setting things up and soon we were eating. The rest of the evening was, thankfully, without any discussions of what had happened to me. * * * * * After Randall attacked me in the hall he really started giving me the creeps. It got to the point where I'd even seek out Marvin if I couldn't find another one of my friends. Of course I couldn't always find someone. When he managed to corner me on my own he wouldn't actually hurt me; oh he'd shove in against a locker or a wall, but he wouldn't hit me, he'd just give that same warning. There was a hunger in his eyes when he said that and it freaked me out. A few days after thanksgiving Randall had me cornered again. It was early morning I'd just arrived for my workout and I was putting my bag in a locker when he grabbed my shirt's collar and pulled me back hard. I backpedaled until I tripped on a bench and hit my head on the lockers. "It's just a matter of time now," he said looming over me, "you better prepare yourself." Sometime I wished he'd just get it over with and gave me the beating he so obviously wanted to. "What the hell are you doing here?" Billy said from the doorway. And here I thought my day just couldn't get any worse. "I was just talking with him," Randall said. "Yeah, right," Billy said pulling him away from me, "that's why he's on the floor." I used the opportunity to get up. "I told you before. No one touches the matchstick but me." To make his point Billy punched me in the stomach. "You try to rough him up again and I'm going to pound you to a pulp, you got that?" "Sure Billy, whatever you say," Randall replied. "Good, now come on we got to get going." What do you know, I thought once they'd left, Billy has a special place in his heart for me. The chuckle at my own lame joke didn't last long, it made my stomach hurt. I decided to forget about training and headed directly to the classroom. * * * * * It was the middle of the last period before lunch on that same day when the loudspeaker squawked "May I have your attention please," Principal Pullox's voice came, "Due to . . . unforeseen circumstances classes are ending now for today. Students who normally take busses home are asked to go to the cafeteria, arrangements are being made. Everyone else, please go home to be with your families." We all looked at each other to see if someone knew what was going on, Mister Pullox's tone had been so somber, but it was clear no one did. "All right," Miss Tatia said to get our attention, "you heard what the principal said, classes are over, but that doesn't mean you get to leave here without homework, I want you to read chapter twelve and thirteen, covering the civil war. We'll be discussing it next time." With that most students ran out the class like this was the start of the holiday vacations. "Do you have any idea why we're being sent home?" Maggie asked as I reached my locker, she been was waiting there for me; Marvin, the magical wonder, was with her of course. "No," I answered as I put my books in it, "I don't know any more than you do." I made sure the books I needed for my assignments were in my pack. "How about you? Heard anything from up on high?" I asked Marvin without looking at him. "It doesn't work that way. He only talks to me to tell me what to do. And the less he talks the happier I am." When I turned to leave I had no choice but look at Marvin and I saw some more of the momentary glimmers I'd been noticing on his black trench coat recently. I really wanted to ask him about them, but I had to remind myself I didn't like him. I just tolerated him. "Do you need a ride home?" Marvin asked us as we made our way through the crowd. It didn't look like anyone had listened to principal Pullox, everyone was in the hallways. "No," Maggie answered, "we live just a few miles from here." "Ok, then I'll see you two tomorrow." I was surprised that she refused the offer. I would have expected her to use any excuses to spend more time with her new best friend. I almost asked, but figured it was better if I kept my mouth shut, I might have lost the best friend status, but I didn't want to lose her as a friend completely. The walk home was eerie, everyone was going home and it wasn't even lunch time yet. People were driving like maniac to get there. Some were white as sheets while others were panicked. It didn't tell us anything about what was going on, other than it wasn't just the school that was affected. Dad was home too. The only sound was the television in the living room. "The object," a woman said, "is now passing by Grove Beach, as you can see it has caused the highway to come to a complete stand still as some people are abandoning their cars to either flee or move as close to the water as they can to get a better look." I peeked in the room, my mom and dad were riveted by the image of a crowd of people standing on a beach looking at some sort of disk in the air. "What's going on?" I asked dropping my pack. He didn't say anything, he just pointed to the television. "For those who have just joined us," the announcer said, "Early this morning a saucer shaped object was seen off the coast of Pirate Bay. Words from a fisherman is that it came out of the ocean about 20 miles off the coast. It's been moving south along the coast since then at about thirty miles an hour. "Parahumans have been coming and examining the flying saucer, but none of them have been able to determine the nature of the object." The camera roomed on the disk like object and half a dozen parahumans were flying around it. The only one I recognized was Techno, in his white and silver power suit. The only notable one was someone with a bird like fire around him. The others weren't even in any kind of costume; two guys and two girls. I sat next to mom and she hugged me tightly. I didn't really get why everyone was making such a big deal of it. It was probably going to turn out to be something a parahuman inventor made. Parahumans came and went, the one with the bird like fire aura eventually landed and a reporter asked him for an update. The name Phoenix appeared at the bottom of the screen as he explained that Techno was trying to find a frequency that would let him talk to whoever was inside. He didn't look any older than I was and he was rubbing shoulders with heroes like Techno. I felt a momentary pang of envy but then I reminded myself that I wasn't a hero like they were. One of the woman in civilian clothing said that she was here to try and figure out how the craft flew. She declined to give her name when asked and simply said that she worked for NASA. An hour later the crowd became excited as wall of water became visible in the distance following the shore. The camera zoomed and I could see that the wall of water was the wake from someone flying just over the surface. I could only make out that he or she wore red, but it wasn't long before I saw there was a white maple leaf on the man's chest. "This can't be good," dad said. "Is that?" the reporter said over the image of the man slowing down. The camera zoomed out and we saw Techno flying in his direction. "Yes, it's just been confirmed. It's Maple Leaf, the Leader of the Canadian super team. Ron, do you know what he's doing here? Has the Canadian government made any statement?" I understood my dad's worry. Canadians were nice and friendly, but their army was scary. It had the largest concentration of Parahumans in a military force in the world and while they didn't make a habit of using them, when they did they didn't hold back. There had been that thing with the province of Quebec back in the seventies. They'd tried to split off; there had been bombing and kidnappings. The Canadian army was sent in and the stomped on them so hard the world noticed and it was still part of *our* history books. They never attacked anyone else after that. They promised the world that they would only act as peace keepers, and only go where they were invited. Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan where three countries I remembered who had asked them for help. They were at peace now, but the Canadians had been ruthless in bringing it about. They completely wiped out the opposing forces. The UN tried to restrain them, but it didn't work. The Canadians hadn't committed any kind of war crimes; they had just fought those wars extremely efficiently. With an army like that willing to come in and help a country fight off invaders you'd think there wouldn't be any wars anymore, but it wasn't so. Countries still fought each other and most of the time neither one of them called in help. We were lucky that our war with Iraq was so short; no one had time to call them in. Maple Leaf's uniform was the colors of the Canadian flag; a white maple leaf on his chest and the rest red. He was standing in mid air talking with Techno, by the expression on his face he was more likely shouting. Techno's face was hidden behind his helmet's silver visor so I couldn't tell what he was feeling but he looked relaxed, his jet boots keeping him level with the Canadian parahuman. The camera focused on the reporter. "I've just received word from the studio that Canada is claiming the craft belongs to them. That it's part of an experiment they ran in the eighties and that Maple Leaf is simply there to ensure it is returned unarmed. "Do we have any way to hear what they're saying?" She wasn't talking in her microphone but to the people around her. Someone pointed to an older man sitting on the sand wearing large earphones. He was pointing a parabolic antenna toward the parahumans. "Excuse me, sir" the reporter asked tapping him on the shoulder, "are you able to hear what they are saying?" The man looked at her and blinked before removing one of the earphones. She repeated her question. "Yeah, I can. The guy in red identified himself as Maple Leaf, he said that the saucer's his and he's taking it back to Canada. Techno said it was in US airspace so it was going to remain here until they were done with it. They've been exchanging threats. Oh My. Techno just said that he wasn't getting it without a fight. Maple Leaf said 'gladly'" "The Leaf's strength and invulnerability against Techno's armor," dad said, "it isn't going to be pretty." I nodded. Maple Leaf was suppose to have been the inspiration for the superman character in the comics. The camera turned and caught Maple Leaf just as he threw something behind him. There was a flash of light and five people were standing on a silver disk floating a little higher than the Canadian Parahuman. I didn't recognize any of them, I'd have to ask Maggie later. One of them looked like an Eskimo, with winter gear and everything, one looked like a large bear. There was a thin woman who glowed slightly and one who seemed to be absorbing the light around her. The last one was crouched with his hand spread on the disk. The Parahumans who had been studying the craft flew to join Techno, although two of the civilian ones seemed reluctant to do so. Phoenix's flames burned brighter and larger. The crowd gasped and the camera looked around trying to find what had caused the reaction and eventually zoomed on the craft. There was a small black rectangle on the underside, it hadn't been there the last time the camera had show it to us. As I watched someone jumped out of the rectangle. The camera zoomed close enough I could tell it was woman, she had short dark hair with almost white bangs around her face. She fell of a seconds and then sparks lit up around her. My mom gasped and stood. The sparks became a field of electricity around her and she wasn't falling anymore, she was flying. "It's Electrika," mom said a moment before the reporter, "She's back." Electrika flew next to Techno, and a moment later he and the others left as fast as they could fly, leaving her alone with the Canadian team. Maple Leaf seemed amused. "What are they saying?" the reporter asked off camera. "Dunno," the old man answered, "all I hear now is static." Maple Leaf lost his amusement to rage. Electrika just shrugged and there was a bright flash of light followed by static. "What happened?" dad asked. I had no idea. Had Electrika caused that? I couldn't remember any news story where she did anything like that. The static was replaced by colored bars and 'please standby'. A moment later we were looking at a news room where the news anchor was running toward his desk. "It seems that Lisa is experiencing some technical difficulties. To recap, this morning, around seven pacific time a saucer shaped craft was spotted off the coast of Pirate Cove . . ." I tuned him out and answered the phone. "Did you see?" Maggie almost screamed in my ear, "Electrika's back. I knew she'd get back." "Yeah, I saw." I couldn't quite work up her level of enthusiasm. "Can you believe it, she's back. I hope Claw's back too. Do you think he's in the flying saucer?" "Take a breath Magster." She paused. "don't you find it amazing at all?" "I guess," I said after a moment of hesitation. "You guess? Come on, this is Electrika we're talking about. She's been missing for months now." "Was there ever any doubt she'd be back?" I asked. Maggie was silent. "You said it, she's Electrika, leader of the Justicars. Of course she was going to come back. And of course Claw's with her, probably in the flying saucer." "You could sound a little happier about it." "I know, I'm sorry," I said. I looked in the living room to make sure my parents weren't paying attention to me and lowered my voice. "It's just that after being attacked by parahumans myself the whole thing starts losing some of its appeal. You're having fun playing hero, but I'm just the victim here, over and over." "You don't have to be the victim," Maggie said after a moment, "you can be a hero too." She was right, of course, but. . . "No, I'm not going to fight, ever, I told you before, I don't care what happens, I'm never going to fight. I'm leaving that to you." Mom walked by and I covered the receiver. "What's going on?" I asked her. "Electrika fried all the electronics on the beach when she stunned the Canadian parahumans. The reporter was able to call in the station. Electrika and the flying saucer are heading to Los Angeles, to the Justicars headquarters. They'll be there in a few hours and they'll give a conference. I'm going to make lunch while we wait." "Ok, I'll be there to help you in a minute." "There's no need honey, you keep talking with Margaret." So I did for a while. After that we ate. Around two the flying saucer arrived to LA. And as it flew between the taller buildings I get a better sense of its size. If you took a Boeing 747 and spun it around the middle point you'd have a disk that was pretty much like the one I was watching. The Justicars building was twelve stories tall, just outside the financial district. It looked like nothing more than an office building; no big neon sign, no spotlight on the rooftop, but as the saucer came to a stop a few feet over the roof it seemed to acquire something special I couldn't place. I couldn't help feeling that even after the saucer was gone no one would ever look at the building like it was ordinary. A podium had been setup and hundreds of reporters were seated and standing looking in silent awe as the saucer stopped moving. The underside that was facing the reporters opened up, Electrika, Claw and someone else stepped out. Their companion was tall, almost seven feet tall and very thin, almost gaunt. His bald head was proportional, but looked larger because his features were smaller than usual. A group of people welcomed them with hugs, most, but not all, were parahumans. After that Electrika took to the podium. "Before we start," she said, bending down to the microphone, "I'd like to say that it's very good to be back." "Mirian Bromont, from MSNBC. Where exactly have you been?" "It's more of a when, rather than a where. We don't know how, but while we were sailing on the Pacific we found ourselves in the mid eighteen hundreds." "George Snip, CNN. What did you do while you were there?" "We were taken prisoner by pirates," Electrika said with a chuckle, "we escaped, we lived in the town that used to be where Pirate Cove is now. We investigated ghost stories, which turned out to be an alien, fought it and met Alistair in the process." "Did she say alien?" I asked chocked. "Who's Alistair?" George asked quickly. Electika indicated the tall being who had exited the flying saucer with the. "This is Alistair. It's not his real name, but we never managed to pronounce it so we gave him that one." "Can we talk with him?" an Asian woman asked standing up, "Chen Lee, LA Kanton news." "Do you mind talking with them?" Electrika asked him. He moved to the podium and bent down to the microphone. "Is the space ship yours? And where are you from?" Alistair pointed to the ship, nodded and then indicated he sky. The reporters gasped. "What's going on?" dad asked. "Maybe there's problem with the microphones," mom volunteered. A short man with bleached blond hair stood. "Could you repeat that? seems my studio didn't get it." Alistair nodded and bent down closer to the microphone. The man put a finger on his earpiece. "No, they still can't hear you." Claw moved to the podium. "You're gonna have to 'scuse us. We been working with Alistair for a year, we forgot about that." Claw was around six feet tall. He only wore some tattered pants. He was muscular enough to rival Coach Warner and he was covered twith light brown fur from muzzled head to toe. "What did you forget?" the man asked. "Alistair's race is telepathic. It's the only way they talk. No vocal cords. I'm gonna translate for everyone at home. "The ship's not technically his, it belongs to the exploration guild, of which he's a member." Claw turned to the alien. "You sure 'bout that? You never know, might still be around. "That he was a member of," he said to the reporters, "he doesn't think they're still around anymore. Which I guess means the ships yours now." There were a few chuckles. "As for where he's from, he hasn't been able to figure that out yet, the computer was damaged when it crashed here and his maps were scrap, but he's been able to work out that the trip took 'bout five million years." My jaw dropped. An alien, a real live alien. * * * * * School opened up as usually the day after, but none of the teachers could get anything done. The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was the alien. I wasn't any different. Eddy Maggie, me and even Marvin spent the day trading theories as to where he was from and what he was doing here. Billy even forgot to bully me because of Alistair. The Sunday church service was interesting. The two priests got into an argument over if Alistair was from God or the devil. It might have been funny if the answer hadn't been so obvious. He looked like us, so he had to have been made in God's image. It made me realize just how much of an impact on the Church his arrival had. It hadn't occurred to me to question God because of him. I mean God was everywhere, not just on earth but in the entire universe, so of course it made sense that He had other creations. Ok, if Alistair had had hooves and horns maybe it would have been tougher for me to think that, but the guy pretty much looked human. The Church didn't agree. Within a week there were a dozen groups that splintered off, the most extremist of them declaring that Alistair had to die because he was an affront to God. Didn't we already have enough extremist bigots using God's name to justify their hate? We had a serious discussion about if we were going to Christmas Mass. Dad ended up calling our priest and letting him know in no uncertain terms that if there was any discussions of aliens we would be walking out. Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not some species from far off in the galaxy. We picked up Grandma Doris, my Mom's mom before Mass like we do every year. The congregation that year was smaller than usual. After Mass we headed home to celebrate. It wasn't the party it had been when I was a kid. I was old enough not to need to have gifts anymore, although I was always happy with the pencils Grandma gave me. Just the four of us around the table was special enough. I knew it meant everything to Grandma. We were the only ones spending the holidays with her. Her two other daughters lived out of state and never visited. I hadn't even met them. The reason given every year was that it was too far, but what I'd been able to piece together led me to think that it had to do with a lot of money being lost in the eighties. After the Christmas dinner we went to drive grandma home, only to find a foot of snow on the ground. I couldn't believe it. I had never seen real snow before. Even mom and dad were overcome with wonder. Grandma sat on the porch wrapped in multiple blankets while he had a snow ball fight. The next day she took care of us as we came down with colds. I was the first one to get over it so I helped her. The snow only lasted the day here, but in Dallas it fell for three days, they had six feet of it by the time it was over. The city was completely shutdown, and they had to deal with flash floods when it melted over the next day. My dad's folks were ok. The flood cause some damage to their house, but nothing Grandpa couldn't fix himself. The freak storm sparked a debate about Climate Change. Debate might be the wrong term here, shouting match would be more accurate. Everyone agreed the weather was changing, but no one could agree what was the cause. Scientist pointed their fingers at the carbon emitted by the various industries. Corporations pointed their fingers at weather controlling parahumans. Except for one, parahumans stayed out of the argument. Green Peace hacked the conference's video system to give the Terrorist's opinion on the matter. Science showed Oil using corporation were to blame and since they didn't want to work toward fixing the problem he was going to do it for them. The next day he destroyed an entire oilfield in Iran by petrifying the oil in the wells. * * * * By the middle of January you couldn't really tell anything had happened. The water damage had been repaired, Alistair's ship was parked at the government's parahuman research center in Area fifty-one, the church had put out most of the fires caused by the splinter groups and Billy was bulling me again. Like the previous ones the next attack came out of the blue, I'd almost started to believe they were done and over with. It was the weekend and I was hanging out with Maggie and Marvin. She'd invited him along of course, and he drove us to the old textile factory on the outskirt of town. We were there for two hours chatting about everything and nothing when the guy dropped in front of us. We looked at him mouth opened as he dusted himself off. He'd landed on his feet, cracking the pavement. He was wide shouldered, heavily muscled and chomping a cigar. "I got to go take care of my car," Marvin said, the first of us to find his voice, before running off. "I'll help you," Maggie said as she ran after him. "Nice friends you got there kid," the man said in his gruff voice. It matched the rest of him; ripped jeans, dirty wife beater, unshaven chin and messy black hair. I knew why they had left, I knew that they were going to change and come right back, but I couldn't help feeling abandoned anyway. I pushed that feeling aside and tried to calm myself. All I needed to do was stall him long enough for them to come back. "What are you called?" It sounded like a stupid thing to ask, but that was all I could think of. "Don't have a name yet," he said as he took the cigar out of his mouth, "media hasn't heard of me yet. He spat before putting back in. "But after I'm done with you they're gonna call me the ass raper." I stared at him and he just smiled around his cigar. For once my legs obeyed me; I turned and ran. "That's it, run. 'Just gets my blood going. Don't expect anyone to come to your help this time. I checked the place out and it's just the two of us." Right then I didn't care about help. All I wanted to do was get as far away from him as possible. I wished I'd paid attention while we were walking around because then I might have known how to get out of here. The place wasn't one large building, it was a dozen of smaller ones, although smaller was a relative turn, placed in what felt like random. That created a bunch of maze like path that often became dead ends. It forced me to keep my speed much lower than I'd liked. I was back tracking away from another dead end when he stepped in front of me. I didn't have time to stop so I sped up. I didn't gain that much speed, but I figured it would be enough to shove him aside. Running into him was like running into a wall. I bounced off him and into the brick wall. I then ended up face first on the dirt. "Well that was fun," he said as he pulled me up by the neck and shoved my face against the brick, "just the thing to get me worked up." I saw starts for a moment and then I felt the pain flare up as he scraped my face against the wall. I ignored it. He was pulling my belt off. Please God don't let him rape me, I prayed as I grabbed his arm and tried to get him to let go. Instead he pressed himself against me. "Keep fighting me," he whispered, "you have no idea how much of a turn on that is." He wasn't lying; I could feel how hard he was. I fought harder to get him to let go. "Release him mortal!" boomed behind us. My attacker tensed. "How the fuck did you find us?" I managed to crane my neck just enough to catch a glimpse of the parahuman who had spoken. The media called him the modern day Viking with his winged metal helmet, chainmail shirt, fur lined cape and boots, sword and shield. I was familiar with how he looked, after all Maggie as enlisted me to help Marvin design his costume. "Why the hell do they keep showing up? You their pet or something?" "Unhand him immediately or feel my steel." I winced internally, Marvin had to work on his one liners. My assailant shoved me to the ground. "Don't move. I'm going to take care of the anachronism and be right back." The Viking stood still as the man stomped in his direction. He raised his shield to take the punch and the symbols on it lit up. The man struck it again hard enough that Marvin reeled back even if the magic on the shield was suppose to absorb the impact. Marvin swung his sword over head and the man caught it with one hand. I couldn't understand how he'd done that, I'd seen that sword slice through steel. The man's smirk lasted only until the blue flame erupted from the blade and engulfed his arm. "How do you like the feel of Hearthfire?" Viking said as he watched to other man try to put it out. I winced again. When this was over I was going to tell Marvin not to talk when he was Viking. He sounded way too corny and fake. With a yell the man slammed a fist on Viking's shield and he went down to a knee. "Hey Vicking, scram," the Fist said as he stepped out from between two buildings. The man looked at the new arrival while Viking did what he was told. When the man looked back Viking was several feet away and running. The Fist lobbed two balls at the man's feet. It took me a moment to realize what they were. I covered my ears and looked away just before they exploded. I was going to have to ask Maggie where she'd gotten grenades. The man stood back up. His clothing were in tatters and pieces of shrapnel were imbedded in his skin. He locked eyes on the Fist and ran toward him yelling in rage. When he was close enough the man swung wildly and the Fist dodged. Viking joined in the fight, but he was swatted aside quickly. Seeing Marvin fly back before crashing down shocked me. It finally dawned on me just how dangerous the man was. He'd shrugged off fire and grenades, he'd swatted Marvin without even thinking about it. What was going to happen to Maggie when he finally connected a fist? Thinking about it made it happen. I didn't see the impact, but I heard Maggie's grunt before she flew into the wall. I heard something crack and then she was on the ground, immobile. I looked from her, to Marvin who was trying to get back on his feet, to the man who was smiling with satisfaction and I saw red. I ran at him screaming. He swung at me, but I caught his arm, twisted it hard and punched his shoulder, dislocating it. He was still yelling in pain when I tripped him back and kneeled over him, knees on his shoulders. Then I started punching him in the face, over and over and over again. It felt good to finally hit someone back, to hear bones breaking under my fists. After all the bullying I had taken, after all the times I had held myself back to avoid drawing attention to myself this was one time when someone was going to feel what it was like to be on the receiving end. "Jayson!" My name finally registered and I looked up a Viking. I had the feeling he had been calling it for some time now. He pulled his helmet off and it shimmered, turning into the hood of the shirt he wore under his trench coat. With it off the rest of his costume shimmered back to his normal clothing. "Man, I wish you'd told me you were able to take care of yourself like that." I looked down at where he was indicating and didn't immediately understand what I was looking at. It looked like a rumpled bag in shades of red and pink with a black carpet on top of it. Why did I have a bag between my legs? I looked behind me and for a moment saw only a buck of town clothing before the image readjusted itself into a body. I looked back at the 'bag' and this time I knew it was a face. There were no recognizable features. Where the eyes, cheeks or nose should have been there was only a bloody mess. I jumped off the body and got to all four before throwing up. "Are you ok?" Marvin asked putting a hand on my shoulder. "Don't touch me," I yelled, shoving him back harder than I'd meant to. I ran off, but I couldn't shake the bloody image from my head. I'd killed him. I had killed someone. But worst than that. I had enjoyed it.
  17. Kindar

    Chapter 03

    Part 3: Revelations and Complications The office was large and well furnished. The occupant was obviously wealthy, but his wealth wasn't displayed in gold or silver, it was displayed in age. The desk was over two hundred years old and if the stories were to be believed had been Abraham Lincoln's presidential desk. It was massive and made of mahogany wood; polished to a shine by the care of many previous owners. He had acquired it from the museum where it had been on display for years. The two chairs before the desk had been obtained from Buckingham Palace and were supposed to have been built by Leonardo daVinci. The fabric had been replaced multiple times, but the wood was original. The chairs had been so well built that there wasn't even a crack in them. The settee by the window was from Louis the sixteenth's castle and had to have been liberated from a museum in Paris. The book case taking the entire wall behind the desk was the man's most prized piece in his collection. It had been built in the fifteenth century in a Monastery in Ireland. It had been the most difficult piece to acquire as the monks had been quite reluctant to let go of it. In the end he had had to pay the mercenaries extra because of the trouble the monks had caused them, but it had been worth it. The man was sitting in his only concession to modern time, the presidential chair of Eisenhower. For all his time spent behind his desk he was a well built man. He made sure to go to the gym every day and the gray suit he wore enhanced his form. His black hair was cropped short and it flowed on the side of his square face directly in his beard. "Come in," he said in his deep voice when someone knocked at the door. He was reading a risk to cost assessment on a lumber project in the Amazon. Attached to it was a report on the big cat population in the area. The man who entered was rail thin and much older, with only a crown of gray hair left on his head. "The second attack failed," he reported as he closed the door behind him. "Do we know what happened this time?" He set the report aside and leaned back in his chair. "Sanguine was left tied up, but alive," the man said. He didn't move away from the door. "The Combine liberated him from the police and forwarded us his report. According to it a parahuman intervened and prevented him from terminating the target; some unknown martial artist." "How reliable is Sanguine?" the younger man asked after a moment of silence, "can he have made up the parahuman to cover up his failure?" "That's unlikely, sir. While he's very much at the bottom of the ladder among the Combine's assassins, he has no history of lying with previous failure." "How likely is it for two attacks to be interrupted by two different parahuman?" "Rather unlikely, sir, but still possible." The younger man rubbed his chin for a moment. "How about the people we have studying him, have they reported anything?" "Nothing out of the ordinary; as far as they can tell he's a perfectly normal boy. He's bullied, he's among the better runners the school has and has a small circle of friends, none of whom also seem to be anything special." "Thank you Albert, please remind the Combine that they will not be paid until the boy is dead, and that I will take it very poorly if they decide to renege on the deal. Also, call my wife to confirm she still wants me to pick up the children from school." "Very well, sir." The man waited until his secretary had left before taking an envelope out of the desk. It was yellow, but it wasn't because of age or coloring. His scientists had told him that the paper was made from untreated wood pulp, but they hadn't been able to identify the type of tree it came from. He was surprised that there was a tree left his scientists hadn't catalogued, but the world was large and still kept many secrets from him. From the envelope he took out a Polaroid of a skinny boy. On the back was a name, an address as well as the name of a school. With the picture was a letter written on the same type of paper. The writing was very precise, the mark of someone who had to take great care with his writing. The ink was made from squid ink, but it didn't contain any of the impurities now common in it. "The picture," it read, "is that of a man who will cause you great problems if he is allowed to come of age. You must take every step possible to destroy him regardless of the cost." The letter had arrived over the summer, it had showed up in his personal mail without postage and no one in the mail room could recall seeing it before. Unlike what the letter advised he didn't rush to have to boy killed. He hadn't become a successful businessman by blindly jumping at every warning he was given, but he also wasn't going to ignore something that had seemingly magically appeared in his office. He'd had one of his researchers compile a file on the boy and nothing unusual came up. Still he had contacted the Combine and hired them to remove him, but not at all cost. He wasn't going to put his plans at risk for some unnamed potential ally. "Who are you," he asked the letter, "and what do you have to gain by this boy's death." He folded the letter, put it and the picture back in the envelope. He probably wouldn't find that out, but it didn't matter. With the Combine executing the work the boy would die, it was just a question of time. * * * * * As I'd predicted, after a week of Maggie meeting me after each one of my classes, people started talking. It took me that long to convince her that she didn't have to follow me around in school. No one was going to attack me here, not with a school's worth of witnesses. Of course, by then I had already been branded as the uncaring boyfriend since she was obviously head over heel in love with me and I didn't treat her as anything more than a friend. Those who knew us a little figured it was about time that we got together; we'd been best friend for so long it was the natural next step. Eddy was the only one who knew us well enough to believe us when we said we weren't together. He did question why she was following me everywhere if that was the case. I could tell she wanted to tell him the truth, but instead she told him it was a social experiment. After that she'd meet up with me at my doorstep and then as we left school. She also forced me to get over my aversion of that spot of sidewalk in front of the Pater's house. It was about a week later, we were heading back home. As I started to turn to go to the other side of the road she grabbed my arm and stopped me. We were at the corner of the block. "Okay, this has gone on long enough," she said as she started pulling me along, "you have to deal with this." I dug my feet in and we stopped moving. She was a little shorter than I was but about the same weight so I only had to put a little of my strength in it to keep us where we were. "You can't make me," I stated. "You can't ignore this for your entire life." "I figure that once I've moved out to go to college I won't have to think about it anymore," I replied trying to make light of the situation. She sighed and let go of me. "This isn't healthy. If you don't deal with this it's going to come back to haunt you." "Look, I don't want to deal with this," I said, "not now." Or ever, a voice added in the back of my head. "Well you can't just avoid this like you're trying to avoid fighting. You need to learn to deal with stuff." "What do you want me to do," I said angrily, "just pick a fight with someone and hope I don't break their necks?" "Of course not," she said with a touch of exasperation in her voice. "Obviously fighting isn't something you can just jump in and work on, but this is." She pointed down the length of the sidewalk and I looked in that direction. Like every time before I saw the blood and the body parts. "I can't," I said weakly. "What are you so afraid of? They aren't going to come back." She eyed me for a moment. "Or do you think you should have saved them?" "Of course not," I said forcefully. Don't you? the voice asked, 'thy shall not kill' is one of God's commandment. Shouldn't you have stopped him from killing them? "Then what's the problem?" "I don't know, I just can't." "Let's just try okay? We'll walk together." I looked at her and the earnestness in her eyes made me nod. I looked down at my feet and took a step forward. The second one was shaky. On the third one I happen to look up to see how far I was from the spot and the sight of all that blood froze me. "I can't," I was barely able to say. I wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction, but I couldn't get my body to do anything but stare ahead. "It's okay," Maggie said, "breathe." Only when she said that did I realize I'd been holding my breath. "Close your eyes." I did as she instructed. The inside of my eyelids was blood red. "I want you to imagine that you're jogging on the track at school. You told me once that when you jog you feel like you can leave all your worries behind you so that's what I want you to do now." I did that and the red was replaced by the blacktop of the track. I forced myself to hear the sound of my shoes hitting the ground rhythmically and I felt my breathing calm down. I had to keep my breathing calm when running to maximize the oxygen going to my lungs. "Are you ready?" she asked. I felt her place hand in mine. I nodded as I closed it over hers. "Good, were going to take one step now." There was a flash of red but I focused on the blacktop again. "Another." My breathing sped up. I forced myself to slow it down. I couldn't afford to hyperventilate while running. "Another. "Another. "Another. I froze as a cut up body appeared on the track. The blood pooling around it was vivid red. "Are you okay?" she asked when I didn't move. "Just a minute." There was no body on the track. Coach Timberson was adamant about the track always being clear. There also was no blood. In fact there was nothing red anywhere near the field. The closest to that was the brown brick the school was made out of. The body and blood disappeared from the track and I started jogging again. I took a step, and then another and another. When Maggie had me stop and open my eyes we were on the other corner. I was panting and shaking. I felt as if I had been running around the track instead of imagining it, but I had made it across. "How about we don't do this ever again?" I asked fighting the impulse to look behind me. "How about we do it again tomorrow instead?" Maggie replied with a smile. It took me over a month to be able to walk this block with my eyes open, but it wasn't until after Halloween that I was able to do it without Maggie holding my hand. During that time the Terrorist destroyed an oil refinery in Fort Worth. It made the news because it was the first time he destroyed something in Texas. In the last five years he had destroyed over thirty factories over the world, all of them big polluters. Each time he gave a warning a week ahead of time that he was going to do it. That if the plant was completely shut down by then it would be spared. No one ever did it, even after all this time. Three of the Dallas/Fort Worth parahumans; Smack Down, Whiplash and Reverb, tried to stop him, but by the time the fight was over they were left unconscious and the refinery had been turned to dust. There hadn't been any casualties. He always gave everyone inside his targets time to leave, sometime going as far as throwing them out himself. How he destroyed his targets was something of a mystery. There weren't any explosions or radiations afterward, only a large pile of dust. Some scientists claimed that he had found a way to break the bound between atoms, but even they didn't know exactly how he did that. Some argues that he was obviously a scientific genius; his power armor was ample proof of that, so it had to be a device, while others thought the suit was just to confuse them and it was a parahuman ability that allowed him to do it. Green Peace released another of the Terrorist's message after the destruction stating that until mankind started taking steps by itself to stop polluting the environment he was going to continue protecting it his way. The mayor of New York City went on TV claiming that he was the perfect example of why parahumans needed to be registered. The President also went on TV to say that the United States wouldn't give into terrorism. That if the Terrorist really wanted to protect the environment he should turn himself in and use his obvious intellect to help them come up with a less disruptive solution. Personally I thought the guy had to be plain nuts. * * * * * "What are you guys dressing up as for the Halloween party?" Eddy asked. It was free period and we were sitting in the cafeteria just wasting time. "I haven't decided yet," I said with a shrug, "a ghost maybe." "That's creative," Maggie said, "Maybe you should go as Claw. He's big, strong and can really lay the smack down on the bad guys. You know, what you don't do." The look I gave her told Eddy there was some subtext he was missing, but he didn't comment. "What about you Maggie?" he asked instead. "I'm going as Madam Curie." We both stared at her. "What?" "How come you aren't dressing up as a parahuman again this year?" "Not everything I do has to revolve around parahumans you know," she answered with a distinct lack of conviction. I reached in her bag and pulled out a random note book. On it were half a dozen stickers of Justicar Members. Electrika, Claw, Black Jack, Goliath, Plasma and Phoenix. With a smirk she took the book out of my hand and shoved it back in her bag. "You should dress up as Electrika," I said, "it maybe Reverb." "How about Whip?" Eddy offered. Maggie guffawed. "No way, even if I dared wearing as little as she does I don't have the figure to pull it off." Whip was the most popular parahuman out of Atlanta. All she wore were leather high heel shoes, leather panties, leather bra and a leather mask. I wasn't surprise Eddy had suggested her. She was the subject of a lot of teenager's fantasies. "What are you going as?" she asked him. "I'm going as a Na'vi." "Well you certainly have the height and thinness for it," I commented. "Are they even going to let you in wearing that little?" Maggie asked. "Good luck getting a date being that much of a geek." I said. "I already have a date. Eliza is going with me, also as a Na'vi." "Eliza Munroe?" Maggie asked and Eddy nodded. We both looked at him. Eliza was among the best looking girls in our year, I mean even *I* had noticed how much of a looker she's become. "Err, are you sure she isn't pulling a prank on you?" I asked. "I am, we been going out for a few months now." Now I outright stared at him. "How come this is the first we've heard of it?" Maggie asked. "Because my private life is private," Eddie stated. We were both surprised at that comment. Eddie used to be someone who shared everything about his life with us, even stuff we'd rather not know about at times. "And we won't be the only Na'vi there. There's going to be about a dozen of us. Even Chris Landon is doing it." "Chris Landon?" I asked, "Small and pudgy Chris?" Eddy nodded and I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it just as fast before I said something even I would think was stupid. "I will not judge, I will not judge," I repeated softly to myself instead. "How about we change the subject," Eddie said, "have you decided what to write about for the history essay?" "Yeah," I said, "I'm going to write about how the Church mishandled things during the Second World War." "Aren't you Catholic?" Eddie asked. "Yeah, so?" "That doesn't sound like a very Catholic thing to do, speaking against the Church like that." "We're not blind followers," I said with a shrug, "anyone who bothers reading history books can see that the Church made mistakes at times. What are you going to write about?" "The destruction of the Twin Towers." "Does nineteen-ninety-eight really qualifies has being history?" I asked. "It might not have been that long ago, but there never was destruction on that scale due to parahumans fighting before. That's what launched mayor Guiliani on his quest to get parahumans registered." "There isn't any proof that parahumans were responsible for that," Maggie stated. "What else could it have been, and how about the record the news crew made? The explosions, light and other weird stuff that was visible." "That could have been special effects," Maggie replied, "Tell me this, if it was a fight between two groups of parahumans that brought the Twin Towers down, how come not even one of them has ever been identified?" "That's Guiliani's point," Eddie countered, "If they had been registered he would have known they were in New York and it he would have been able to prevent it from happening." I don't think either one of them noticed when I left the table. I didn't want to be caught in the middle of that argument. Eddie was very much a proof and scientific method kind of guy, and Maggie couldn't tolerate having parahumans painted as bad people as a group. So I sought the quiet of a table on the other side of the cafeteria. I took out my sketchbook and flipped through it until I came to the drawing I'd done of the Fist. I'd drawn my first savior so it seemed appropriate I draw my second one. Since saving me the Fist had made it on the news shows twice. The first time because he saved a woman from a robber, the image was grainy, from a security building on an adjacent building. The woman had been interviewed and described the Fist as being quick, efficient and polite. A few days later the robber was on the same news show going on and on about how the Fist had broken his arm and leg. In that report the robber was treated as an innocent victim of a ruthless parahuman attack. That report got at least twice the airtime of the previous one. Maggie had been pissed about it, but I reminded her that this was Tyberon, reports like that were about the best she could expect. It took her a few days to calm down and put it out of her mind. I flipped to the drawing of my first savior. I still looked at it once in a while to see if I would remember anything else to add. Nothing had come in a few weeks but I still did it. "That's pretty good," someone said behind me. "Thanks," I said as I looked over my shoulder at Coach Warner holding a tray. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked pointing to the seat in front of me. "No Coach." I wasn't going to complain about having him sit in front of me, I didn't often get to look at a well built guy without looking suspicious doing it. "Please, call me Thor," he said as he sat down. He put his tray down on the table. "Can I see it?" he asked as he pushed the tray aside. I handed him my sketchbook, "I'm not really used to calling one of my teacher by anything but their last name." "That's ok, you'll get used to it." He flipped through a few of the other pages but came back to the top one. "You're quite good. That's a very accurate drawing of him." "Thanks," I said blushing slightly. It wasn't often that an adult other than my parents or art teacher complimented me on my drawings. "Wait a minute. You said it's accurate. You've seen him before?" "Yeah," he said with a small chuckle, "I used to hang out with him a long time ago." I looked at him for a moment. It was strange hearing someone who couldn't be more than thirty talk about 'a long time ago.' He must have known him when they were kids. "Can you tell me his name?" "Sure, it's Kindar." "Do you know why he saved me?" "At a guess I'm going to have to say that someone paid him to do it. He's never been keen on the whole hero thing. He didn't mind saving people, but usually there had to be some coins attached to it." His eyes became distant for a moment. And then he was silent. It gave me the time to work up the courage to ask my next question. "Do you know why he killed them?" I asked softly. "He probably thought it was the best way to protect you," he answered as he gave me back my sketchbook. "Did he happen to say if he'd be looking after you for a while?" he asked with a tone of hope. I shook my head. "He said he wasn't coming back." "I guess I shouldn't be surprised," he said with a sad smile. "It's been a while since you saw him?" I asked. "Feels like many lifetimes ago." "I'm sure you'll get to see him again." "I know I will," he replied with a smile, "so long as certain people keep their promises. I saw you met the new parahuman." He pointed at my sketchbook. "Yeah, he stopped someone else from killing me," I said. Coach Warner, I just couldn't get myself to call him Thor, or even Eric, raised an eyebrow. "He said, Kindar I mean, that others would try to kill me." I wasn't sure why I told him that, other than we both knew him I guess. "What are you going to do?" he asked after studying me for a moment. "I don't really know." "Well, if you need any help you know where to find me." I looked at him as he started on his lunch; the cafeteria meatloaf, a coffee and slice of apple pie. He didn't react the way I expected an adult to react. He didn't tell me what do to, who to call and all that. It felt strange having an adult let me do what I thought was best in this situation. I was tempted to ask him about it, but the bell rang. * * * * * "The Magster wants to see you in the science lab," Eddy told me when he walked by me on his way home. I was standing by the school doors waiting for Maggie to arrive. "Why?" "She didn't say, but I'm guessing it's got to do with lifting some heavy equipment." That explained why I was still waiting for her. Normally she would be the one waiting for me. I went back inside the school. It had been a long time since I'd been in the school after hours. I'd forgotten how quiet it got; just going up one flight of stairs and the noise of the few people still leaving completely vanished. I slowed down my running to enjoy it. I never heard him coming. One moment I was listening to the silence, the next my face was being grinded against a locker. My mind went black with fear. One of them was in my school. "You think you can hide it," he whispered in my ear, "but I know what you are. Soon there's going to be a reckoning." He pushed my face against the locker again before letting me go. I spun around, this time I was going to defend myself, and watched Randall Mitchell walk away. I sighed with relief and leaned back into the locker. Randall wasn't out to kill me, he was just one of Billy's cronies. What he said confused me, what did he know, and how had he found out? Did it mean Billy knew too? And why had Randall harassed me on his own, Billy usually didn't let anyone else bully me. I looked around while I caught my breath and noticed that I was alone. With Randall gone there was no witness if someone decided to attack me. I ran all the way to the science lab. I heard Maggie exerting herself in the back of the room. "What are you doing?" I asked. She was bent over a slab of metal. "Good, you're here. Put that in there." She indicated one of the two square buckets against the wall. "Sure." The slab looked to be about a foot by a foot and a half and a few inches thick. It had been cast with handholds on each side. I grabbed one and lifted it, and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket instead. "Fuck, what is this thing made out of?" "Tungsten," she answered as she went to the storage room. "How much does it weigh?" I bent down and grabbed both sides this time. "About four hundred pounds." I believed her. I carefully put it in the bucket. It looked to be homemade. "What are you doing with it?" "I want to see how strong you are." She came out of the closet pushing a cart with more slabs on it as well as a disassembled bench press. "You're kidding, right?" "Nope, completely serious. You're afraid of your own strength. First step to overcoming fear is getting to know it. So we're going to figure out how strong you are and go from there." "Look, I'm not afraid of my strength, I just don't want to fight." "Fine," she said rolling her eyes, "then just think of it as indulging my curiosity. You're the only Parahuman I know. I want to see what you can do." "Okay, but you try to get me to fight and this friendship is over." "Sure," she didn't believe the threat any more than I did. "Now help me assemble this and we can get started." Once it was assembled she put the bar on the top notch. "I don't think so," I told her, placing it on the lowest one. "But I need to know how much you can support." "Doing it that way the moment there's more weight than I can lift the bar falls, breaks my neck and your parahuman best friend is dead." "Oh." "Yeah, oh," I echoed, "this way if I can't lift it, then I just can't lift it and you'll know. Also we're going to put something under those bucket so there's no weight on the bar when it's resting." We built a stand for them out of the notebooks and I put the buckets on them before adding a slab in the empty one. "Are you sure the buckets are going to hold up? There's going to be a lot of weight in them." "Yeah, I had them made by a guy I know who has shop classes." "I hope you're right," I said as I lied down on the bench and grabbed the bar. "Okay, we're starting with four hundred pounds on each side." She hooked the bucket and moved away. I easily lifted the bar a dozen times before putting it back. "That easy?" she asked. "Pretty much." I put another slab in each bucket. "We now have eight hundred pounds in each." Again I did twelve reps, but this time I felt the last three. I added one slab each. "twelve hundred pounds," Maggie said with trepidation. I didn't feel her excitement; in fact I was a little worried. I wished we had smaller weights. I lied down and gripped the bar. I focused my breathing for a moment and then forced it up. And I do mean forced. It took every ounce of strength I had to lift it. I lowered it and went for a second one. I was halfway there when I knew I shouldn't have tried it. Before I could lower it my arms gave out. The buckets slammed on the books and sighed in relief. It didn't last long. The stack of books on my left leaned out, I hadn't worried about it because it seemed solid enough, but now with the weight bouncing off it it moved a little more and then fell apart. I only had time to move the bar over my chest before I felt the full weight. At least I'd saved myself from a broken neck, but I had trouble breathing. Maggie ran off and I heard her break open a cabinet. I grabbed the bar and tried to lift but I couldn't get any leverage. I could barely take some of the weight off my chest so I could breathe. I swung an arm and hit the buckets, but it didn't move. Maggie came back with a large jar and a Bunsen burner. She emptied the jar around the inside of the bucket and then lit the content with the burner. The stuff burned so bright I had to look away for a moment. When I looked again there was a glowing line through the metal around the bucket; then the metal stretched and ripped. As soon as the bottom half fell off I threw the bar off me. To the sound of the slates tumbling out of the bucket I sat and held my chest. "How painful is it?" Maggie asked. "Pretty painful," I answered weakly; breathing was difficult. "Take off your T-shirt, I want to see how bad it is." I tried not to make faces as I took it off, but moving my arms caused the pain to flare up. "That looks pretty bad," she commented. "I know," was all I could say. The line made by the bar was red and the skin had broken in places. The Magster took out her camera. "Do you mind if I take pictures, I want to document how fast you heal." I tried to sigh, but the pain wouldn't let me. "Go ahead." She took her pictures and then we cleaned up. She poured sand on the fire that was still burning and melting more metal. I have no idea why there was sand in the science lab. She didn't want me to help, but I was the only one who could pick up the slates, although I had to be careful doing it. When everything was back in the storage closet the only evidence left were the vicious burn marks on the floor around where the bucket had landed. Maggie was going to have to do some creative thinking to explain that. * * * * * Maggie had to spend the next two weeks helping out her science teacher clean up the lab after school to pay off the damage to the floor and the material we'd used. She didn't mention my involvement, she told him that she had been testing the reactivity of burning magnesium to tungsten, whatever that meant, and that it had gone out of control. I offered to help out, but she wouldn't let me. I still waited for her. Partially to keep her company but mainly because Randall's attack had reminded me I was in danger and I didn't want to take a chance by walking home alone. On the up side, my reputation as a boyfriend got better for it. Mom approved of my making sure Maggie didn't walk home alone. She said it made me a gentlemen. Dad thought it was sweet how I paid attention to her now that she was becoming a woman. I just rolled my eyes; dad had started hinting that I should find a special lady friend since the school year had started. I'd told him I wasn't interested in getting a girlfriend, but I don't think he really heard me. It was Friday when I was attacked again. It was suppose to be Maggie's last day of punishment, but her teacher let her go instead because she'd been so good about doing her sentence. To celebrate we were heading to the mall for a few hours before our Karate class. We were walking through the park when I saw the man come toward us. He was of average height and build he wore jeans and a white t-shirt. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him, but my body froze anyway. "What's wrong?" Maggie asked. She'd taken a few more steps before realizing I'd stopped. I didn't answer, I was too busy looking around for people. If I could find someone who could act as a witness I could convince myself I was panicking for nothing, but there was no one. We were in one of the small clearings that dotted the park and normally there would be people picnicking or just lounging, so where were they? When I looked at the man again he's covered half the distance separating us. He was looking straight at me with determination. I forced my body to take a step back. Maggie looked at the man coming toward us. "Oh shit," she said. I wanted to echo her, but I couldn't get my mouth to work. She looked around quickly. "I'm, I'm going to go get help," she said before running into the woods. I knew what she was going to really do, but I couldn't help feeling like she was abandoning me. "The pretty girl is smart to run," the man said. "Sharp doesn't like hurting pretty girls." He was now within striking distance. I told my hands to close into fist and hit him, but they wouldn't obey. He swung at me and at the last moment I was able to move out of the way. I dodged the next swing and took a few steps back. I closed my hands into fists and felt relief wash over me. I'd be able to fight back this time. Maggie was right. I couldn't spend my life being afraid. I'd take it easy with him at first and hit harder as needed. The pain of his fist hitting my jaw broke my chain of thoughts. Next there was a fist to my stomach and another to the jaw. Then I was on the ground. "Sharp waits for you to get up," he said. "Sharp is patient." Sharp didn't sound like he was the sharpest tool in the shed. "Hey," someone yelled, "get away from him." The Fist had arrived, I thought, but then realized the voice had been wrong. I looked up to some someone in black holding a sword running toward us. "You don't move," Sharp told me, "Sharp fights the black man and comes back to you." Sharp turned and walked toward the new guy. "Get out of here while I keep him busy," the man in the black said just before swinging at Sharp. I wanted to obey him, but again my body wouldn't obey me. He looked vaguely familiar with his black trench coat. What was it with trench coat, did everyone who saved me had to wear one? Even his shoes were black. "You have a sharp thing," Sharp said, "Sharp has sharp things too." His fingers elongated until they were thin, two foot long, skin colored blades. He used them to block the next swing and then swung at the swordsman. The man brought it up to block and the finger blades sliced through it. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," the man said as he looked at the three inches of blade still attached to the hilt. "I just finished making it today!" "Then you shouldn't have attacked Sharp," he said before swinging back and forth at his opponent. The man in black could only back up each time. Maggie came out running of the woods wearing her mask and trench coat. When she was just a few feet behind Sharp she jumped and kicked him. The man in black moved aside as Sharp toppled to the ground. "Get up Sharp," she said in her deepened 'Fist' voice, "I want to show you what happens to parahumans who come to my city causing trouble." "How do you know Sharp's name?" he asked as he stood. "You're joking, right?" Fist answered, "You're saying it every time you open your mouth." Sharp looked at Fist doubtfully before rushing. Fist easily moved out of the way of the swings and threw in a few strikes in the process. Sharp swung wildly to force Fist to move away. I could see the anger in Sharp's eyes now, and so could Fist. He reached inside his trench coat, and when Sharp rushed him again he threw what he was holding at him. Sharp stopped as the cloud of fine dust spread around his face. I closed my eyes as Fist brought the lighter out and even through my eyelids I saw the flash of light as the magnesium dust ignited. When I opened them The Fist was putting his foot back on the ground after kicking Sharp in the face. Sharp spun and stumbled around trying to keep his footing. The flash had pretty much blinded him, I'd been there the first time Maggie had experimented with the magnesium dust; I hadn't seen anything for a good two minutes, so he didn't see the man in black flip his hilt and hit him across the jaw with the pommel, hard enough that the hilt went flying out of his hand afterward. Sharp dropped like a rock. It was over. I couldn't believe I had been attacked again. It had been so long I'd begun thinking I was safe now. And I couldn't believe that someone else had been drawn into this. This hadn't been just a thug sent to hurt me; this had been a real parahuman. Maggie could have been really hurt, or worse. "What the fuck is wrong with you," I yelled at them, "you could have gotten killed!" "You have to excuse him," The Fist said as he handcuffed Sharp, "He gets like that when he's scared. He still doesn't get that this is what us heroes do." "Oh no," the guy in black said backing away, "I'm no hero, this was just a one time . . ." he froze in mid step. Maggie took off her mask as we exchanged a look. The unexpectedness of it chased my anger away. She stepped to him and waved her hand before his eyes. "Marvin, you okay?" she asked. Marvin didn't reply or even move. I couldn't even tell if he was breathing. "You know him?" "Yeah, he made the buckets we used to test your strength." He was in shop class. That's why he seemed familiar, I'd seen him at school. "You okay?" she asked me. "I'm fine, I'm more worried about what could have happened to you. This guy was an actual parahuman, not just a hitman in costume." "It was bound to happen eventually. Even if whoever wants you dead didn't escalate I'm considered a parahuman crime fighter. Someone was going to take a shot at me eventually. That's why I've been working on those gadgets to help me. All I need now is some form of protection and I'll be good." "No! You one eyed son of a bitch! That wasn't part of the deal!" Marvin said fist shaking at the sky. "All I was supposed to do was make a sword. You were supposed to leave me alone after that. I don't fucking care what the fringe benefits are going to be, I am NOT playing your game." Maggie waited a moment after Marvin was quiet. "Marvin, what's going on?" "It's Odin," Marvin replied with a groan still looking at the sky. "The bastard won't leave me alone." He paused and looked at Maggie. "Hey Maggie, when did you get here?" "I've, err, been here for a while." Marvin looked at her, his eyes going to the mask she was holding. "You're kidding. You're the Fist?" "Yeah, I am," she said, "you don't seem too surprised." "It's tough to be surprised anymore when you have an ancestral God meddling in your life. And it explains the experiment you had me helping with. Who's your friend?" "Marvin, this is Jay, Jay this is Marvin." "Pleasure to meet you," I said as I shook his hand, "not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here?" "Odin told me to come here." "You mean here, here?" I asked. "Wait. Are you talking about the Norse God Odin?" "Yes, and yes." He took out a GPS unit. "The coordinates he gave me are just behind the tree line." I kept my mouth shut, the guy was obviously deranged. "Did he tell you to come here to help me?" Maggie asked him. "No, I was here to bless my sword." He looked at the pieces on the ground. "Aww man, now he's going to tell me to make another one." He reached for the hilt and as soon as he touched it, it started glowing. The other pieces glowed as well and then slid on the ground until they were all together. The glow intensified and then disappeared where the pieces touched. When the glow dissipated the sword was in one piece. "Okay," Marvin said with awe, "that is cool." He picked it up and swung it a few times. "How did you do that?" Maggie asked. I would have asked the same thing, but I was too stunned at finding out there was another parahuman in my school. "I don't know," Marvin answered. He was still looking at the sword in awe. "I take it that's one of the fringe benefits to whatever Odin wants you to do." "I guess so." "What does he want you to do?" "He wants me to become a hero." "Cool," Maggie said, "you wanna join my team?"
  18. Kindar

    Chapter 02

    Part 2: The unwanted Bodyguard The clearing was a hundred feet across and lined with trees so wide that thirty men holding hand couldn't wrap around them. Each one had scars to mark the years, decades and centuries they had lived through. They were tall, proud and old; older than any now alive except the being standing in the middle of them. He, for there was no denying that he was male, stood over ten feet tall. He was human in general shape, except that his head had a wide muzzle and triangular ears on top. His arms and legs were thick with muscles that bulged with every movement he made. His entire body was covered with short onyx fur and a thin tail with a tuff of slightly longer fur at the end danced behind him. To anyone who didn't know this being, and there were only a handful left who did know him, the movements he was going through would look like a dance, the fluidity of the motions, the gracefulness of the acrobatics he went through. But they belied the power behind them. When he stuck one of the trees with a closed fist the bark and several inches beneath it exploded due to the force of the impact. If he struck it with an open hand the vicious claws at the end of his fingers would rip out bark and wood out as if it was soft cotton. The being stopped and bared his teeth as he sniffed the air. They were sharp and many of them, more than should fit in a normal mouth. He turned swiftly and roared at the man standing at the edge of the clearing. "He was attacked my Lord," the man said without reacting. He was dressed in a simple robe made from the woven fiber of a local plant, it was very pale green and had a pleasant scent to it. The language the man was speaking wouldn't have been recognized by anyone alive today, or by anyone who had lived in the last four thousand years. It wasn't a language that had ever become commonly used among humans even when more of them might have heard it spoken. Now only a hand full of being still spoke it, and none of them humans. "How did it happen," the large being roared as he slammed a fist in a tree hard enough to make it shake all the way to the top. "No one was supposed to know where he was." "I do not know my Lord. The message simply stated that he had been attacked, but that he was all right." "Good, I have no desire to go through what was required to bring him about a second time. The man who brought you the message, what of him?" "He would not stay, even when I ordered him to. He left through the same portal he arrived in." "Take care with what you say rat," The being said piercing the man with his gaze, "you have no authority over any who are linked to me." "Of, of course my Lord," the man whimpered, "I merely thought that you would want to talk to him." "Yes, you do like to try to do my thinking for me," the being said with a snort before turning and therefore not seeing the hateful looked thrown at him. "It matters not. He would not have stayed even if I had been the one to order so. Considering what I represent to him it was a wonder I was able to make him honor his debt to me." "There will be other attacks on him now that they have found him, my Lord" "I know," the being said studying the damage he'd done to a tree rather than to look at the man. "How can my Lord be so calm about this? Didn't he send the child to the Americas for his protection?" The being's laugh was loud and powerful. "Protection? There is only one place where I could keep him safe, and that is within me. I sent him there so he could learn the way of these new humans. If those who are mine are to survive they will need him." "Surely my Lord is mistaken. You are the most powerful being I have ever known. Those humans are nothing compared to you." The being turned and studied the man carefully. "Even the mother to us all has given up trying to contain them. Within the next hundred of those human's years there will be nothing left of my domain. I may rage against them all I desire, but I will not be able to stop them. They will eventually defeat me, even without your help." The man gasped. "What is my Lord suggesting? I would never?" "Would you not?" the being replied with a sad smile. "Never, I am your loyal servant." "You only serve me because you have not found a way to steal my power. Keep to your schemes, in the end they and you are irrelevant. Now leave me, I have to make arrangements." The man left as instructed, but he was fuming. "Irrelevant?" he grumbled to himself, "I'll show that oaf who is irrelevant." * * * * * The day after the attack I didn't get out of bed. Mom and dad tried to convince me to at least get up, but I wouldn't move. My bed was the only place I felt safe, the only place where no one could get to me. Mom brought me breakfast, which I didn't touch. It was all I could do to look at it and not throw up. My body felt exhausted, but my mind was in over speed. The questions came back as soon as I woke up. When I closed my eyes and tried to chase them away my mind threw me the memory of those two dead men. The man who had saved me had dispatched them efficiently. He had been calm and precise in his strikes. Each time he swung his sword a body part fell. With a groan I pushed the memory away and questions fell in the empty space. What was I going to do when I was attacked again? Would I freeze again? Maybe I could run away this time. At noon she asked me if I wanted to eat something and I just shook my head. My stomach was growling in protest, but I couldn't imagine eating anything. Exhaustion took me again at some point and I woke up to the phone ringing; my dad answered it. I looked at the clock, almost six. I caught the smell of steak, carrot and potatoes and my stomach growled at me. This time it wasn't going to be ignored. Still wearing my PJs I slowly made my way down the stairs. My hands were shaking and I could feel my legs wobbling under me. I felt like I had after running as fast as I could for half an hour. I'd gone to Mam Johansson's field just outside of town to test just how fast I could go. I'd barely been able to make it back home. "Jay," my dad exclaimed as hung up the phone, "I'm happy you decided to get out of bed." Mom looked up from the pot she was stirring. "If I didn't make it down now, my stomach was going to come by itself." I tried to give them a smile, but it didn't come out quite convincingly. Dad pulled out my chair and waited for me. "That was Kenneth on the phone. He wanted to know how you were doing." "How did he know?" I asked as I sat. "Margaret called him." That made sense. Before his dad had been transferred to Houston, me, Maggie and Kenneth had been an inseparable trio. Maggie was the brains of our group, Kenneth was the rogue and I was . . . I have no idea what I was. "She called after school," my mom said as she brought me a bowl of stew, "she wants to come over tonight to see you." I shook my head. "I'll see her at school tomorrow." "Oh, I'm so proud of you," mom said as she hugged me. "Now be careful, don't eat too fast. You don't want to make yourself sick." "I'm proud of you too," my dad said. He reached over and squeezed my shoulder. "It takes courage to go back out after what happened to you." "I don't know about that. I just don't want to fall behind this early in the year." We said Grace and I started on my first bowl. The stew was wonderful; I had to force myself to eat slowly when all I wanted to do was wolf it down. The second one went down just as easily. I would have had a third, but mom wouldn't let me. She was afraid I'd make myself sick if I ate too much. I slept very well that night. * * * * * The next morning I was running down the stairs and eating a hearty breakfast like nothing had happened. I had decided that it was in the past. I was done with it. I wasn't a baby anymore; if I was going to be a man I couldn't let something like that continue to affect me. That's what I told myself, and I think I even managed to believe it a little. I kissed mom on the cheek and waved to my dad before running out the door. My speed didn't falter until I got close to the Patter's house. I slowed and then I stopped. I was standing in front of where I had been beaten. I don't know how long I stood there watching the spot. Someone had cleaned the sidewalk, my eyes couldn't see any of the stains, but my memory showed me where they all were. I could see where each limbs had been, where the pools of blood were. Eventually my stomach turned and I had to look away. I crossed to the other side of the road before continuing to school. When I got there it was too late for me to go to the gym so I dropped my bag in my locker and went to the cafeteria. The place was a hub of activities with at least half the school in it. I couldn't see the Magster, but finding her was easy. All I had to do was look for Eddy, tall and lanky Edward. Eddy was a nerd, plain and simply. Like me he was skinny, but he was taller, over six feet tall, and he had the glasses. He always wore a button up shirt and pleated pants. Throw a lab coat on him and pocket protector and you'd have a stereotypical scientist. His shaggy blond hair was my beacon and a few seconds later I was sitting next to them. "Jay, you're back," Maggie exclaimed, "how are you feeling?" "What are you doing here?" Eddy added, "shouldn't you be at the gym?" "I didn't feel like going this morning," I lied to him and ignored the look he exchanged with Maggie. "I'm good," I told her, "what did I miss yesterday?" "Are you sure?" She asked instead of answering me. "Yeah yeah, I'm perfectly fine." "I mean after what happened to you I'd be a wreck." "I said I'm fine!" They jumped in surprise. I didn't mean to be that harsh. "Sorry, but I really am fine." The look she gave me said she didn't believe me, but Eddy prevented her from saying anything by handing me a stack of paper. "Here, those are my notes from chemistry, you can transcribe them. The Magster here got the notes from history and grabbed yesterday's assignments from your math teacher." She wasn't happy at having been interrupted but she pulled out a sheet. "I was going to bring it to you last night, but things got crazy at home." I looked it over; it was the chapters I needed to read as well as the exercise I needed to hand in at the start of tomorrow's class. The bell rang as I finished reading it and we went to our separate classed. The day was eerie. As it progressed more and more people asked me how I was doing. At first it was mainly people I knew, but by the end of my second class strangers were asking me. Principal Pullox sought me just before lunch to ask me that same questions. The only point of normality in the day was Billy and his cronies. They ran into me in the afternoon. I knew they were coming even if they were behind me, I could smell Billy's horrible aftershave. I never understood why he put on so much of it. The shove came and I flew forward in the lockers. The only thing I did was raise my arms in front of my face to protect it. "I guess you think you're special now," Billy growled. "Can't say that I had," I mumbled to myself as I turned. He grabbed me by my shirt and pushed me back against the lockers. Everyone was giving us a wide berth, but hardly anyone stopped to see what was going on. Billy bullying me was just part of the regular day at this school. "What did you say?" He said pushing his face against mine. The guy needed to use some mouthwash pretty bad. "I said that I don't," I replied looking down. "You got that right Mortimer," he said as he let me go, "You're not special, you're not anything. You're just scum for me to pick on. So don't let the way these idiots treat you go to your head. I'm going to continue beating you up and making your life miserable is that understood? Hell if you could afford to have money for lunch I'd steal that too." He turned and walked away. Well at least he hadn't punched me this time. His newest follower kept watching me for a few moments longer. I didn't like the look he was giving me, it was speculative. He was wondering if Billy would let him get away with what he was thinking of doing to me. He then turned and caught up to his leader and I breathed a sigh of relief. * * * * * "Are you sure you're ok?" Maggie asked me. We were walking home and it was the first time she did since the morning so I controlled my desire to snap at her. Every time we'd run into each other during the day I could tell she could barely stop herself. "Yes, I'm fine. I really wish everyone would stop asking." "We're just worried about you, that's all." "I know, but it gets tiresome when the same person asks me over and over, like she didn't believe the answer I gave her." "Fair enough," she said with a small smile. "Esteban said that you didn't fight back, you just let them beat you up." I wasn't surprise Esteban had said that. He was the son of one of the cops at the stations so he'd have heard about it and he was a really bad gossip. "What did you expect me to do?" I said flatly as I crossed to the other side of the street before reaching the Patter's house. "It was two adults who surprised me and one of them had a gun." I saw the look she gave me as she followed me across the road. "Sensei Ilsy has taught us ways to react to surprise attacks." "It's not the same. In class and even in competitions it's all controlled out here it isn't. I just, I just froze." I looked away. I wished it had been the other reason why I hadn't dared fight back, but I hadn't lied, when the attack at started, my mind had gone completely blank. "Then we need to ask Sensei to give you more training so you won't freeze up next time." "No! Look I appreciate that you're just looking out for me, but I'm not learning Karate to kick other people's b. . . . to beat someone up, ok." "You can't depend on a passing Hero to come and rescue you. This wasn't Billy just pushing you around. You could have gotten seriously hurt. You need to learn how to defend yourself "It's done and over with ok, just leave it alone. I'll deal with the next attack when it happens." I almost stumbled when I realized what I'd let slip. "What do you mean 'next attack'?" "Just leave it alone please." "Like Hell I will," she said getting in front of me and forcing me to stop, "Now tell me exactly what you mean by 'the next attack'." I stopped in my track. She knew I'd be utterly shocked by her use of the 'h' word. I tried to out stare her, but I lost. "The guy who saved me said there was going to be other attacks like that one," I said softly in one breath. "This is insane, why?" She looked around quickly. "I don't know. He didn't tell me that." "Then do you have a death wish or something? You know you're going to be attacked again but you don't want to make sure you can defend yourself?" "Of course I want to, but I'm going to do it on my own." I looked her in the eyes. "I mean it Maggie I don't want you to tell anyone about this, not our teachers, not your dad, or my folks, is that understood?" Maggie hesitated before nodding. "Promise me you won't say anything," I told her firmly. "I swear," she said through grating teeth, "I won't tell anyone that you're a stupid idiot for not wanting any help with this." * * * * * Starting the next day everyone went back to their normal behavior. I was back to being just another guy in the school. I got a curious look here and there but that was it. At first I was relieved at being left alone, but then I realized that without the constant annoyance to keep my mind busy it started thinking again. Were those looks just of curiosity I found myself wondering. After all the creep who had attacked me had spend the day watching me. I didn't know most of those doing it now, maybe my next attacker was hiding among them. It got so bad that by lunch time I was jumping every time someone bumped into, even when Eddy grabbed my arm to pull me out of sight of Billy I pretty much wrenched it out of his hand and backed right into the bully. I got out of that with only a punch to the stomach and my books littering the floor. He must have been busy with something important to just leave it at that. When I told Eddy I was fine after that he didn't believe me. The next day was much the same, I jumped at every noise and worried about the motive of everyone watching me. The only bright note in it was that coach Timberson wasn't on the field when I showed up. Mister Milton was there instead and informed us that the coach had been in a car accident and he'd coach us until the school had found a better replacement. Rumors about the accident ran rampant over the next week. Some said he'd been drunk, that he'd killed a kid, that he'd run off the road to avoid driving over a kitten even that he'd done it to kill himself. * * * * * By the end of the next week I'd managed to convince myself that no one was out to get me, for the moment at least. I still jumped once in a while at loud noises, but I wasn't as obvious about it as before. I found that if I sketched something it made it easier to ignore those feeling so I started drawing in my note books and even in a few of the text books. Most of the sketches revolved around my rescuer so I set about doing a proper drawing of him. The replacement coach arrived in time for my last PE class of the week, and man was he a looker. He was tall and buff. He was wearing track pants and a white t-shirt. It was tight enough that I could make out ever muscles under it. He had dirty blond hair that went down to his shoulders and just a bit of fuzz over his square jaw. "All right everyone, my name's Eric Warner, but you guys can call me Thor," he said casually in his low voice. "I'm going to be your track and field coach for this year. I'm replacing Coach Timberson who was in a car accident." "Man I hope I can get him to use his hammer on me," whispered one of the older girls in the class to her neighbor who nodded in appreciation. I knew what they meant, I wasn't *that* sheltered, I had access to the internet. I didn't want that, but I both hoped for and dreaded that he would shower with the rest of us after class since this was the last class of the day. "Cranford, Mortimer, Jurgen and Kelvin; According to Timberson's notes you four are our best runners. I want you to do a slow mile around the track. Don't push yourself this is just a warm up, a jog will work fine." "What about the rest of us?" someone asked as I headed to the track "Who likes to run?" the coach asked and a few hands came up. "Ok, you can go for a run too." He checked his clipboard. "from what I've read of Timberson's method he expects each of you to excel at everything. That's not the way I do things. We're going to find what you are good at and that's what you will focus on." He kept talking, but I was now to far from him to listen by that point. * * * * * With the start of the next week my paranoia had changed. I wasn't jumping anymore, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched. Multiple times a day I had to fight the desire to look around me to catch whoever it was, but I couldn't stop a few furtive glance here and there, without much success. I wasn't surprise I couldn't find someone spying on me, it was just my mind playing tricks. That lasted the whole week while I was in school. On that Friday I decided to walk to the old mall and back instead of going home for lunch to get a change of air. The mall had been closed for the last few years but security still drove around to prevent bums from taking over. The feeling of being watched followed me there. I had hoped coming here would have given me some peace. I sat on the concrete flower box near the locked up entrance and ate the sandwich mom made me. I was berating myself over having become so paranoid when I was shoved forward. I was so surprised to find myself lying on the pavement that I didn't move. "Come on Kid," a guy said behind me, "get up and show me what you can do." I slowly stood and turned. The first thing that hit me was that he guy was red. He was wearing a one piece jumpsuit that was blood red. His muscled body filled the suit out pretty well. He rushed me and before I could do anything he punched me three times in the chest. I backed up and bent over but managed to remain standing. The guy took a step toward me and I swung at him. I didn't think I just closed my fist and swung, and missed. He punched me in the face and I fell to the ground again. While I was there I had the time to think it was a good thing my fist hadn't connected. I would have hated to see what would have happened to him if it had. "Got to say I expected more out of you," the man said, "they said you killed the guy they sent before me, but I guess he was just a wimp." I looked in the distance and I forced myself on all four. I had to run. If I could get going I'd easily leave him behind. I dug a foot in the ground and tensed. "Oh no you don't." He kicked me in the stomach and I was back on the ground, curled up in a ball. "I got to say this was fun," he said as he knelt next to me, "probably the easiest fifty grand I've ever made." He grabbed my head in his hands. "Just so you don't go to the great beyond wondering, the name of the guy killed you is Sanguine." He turned my head to the left; I could feel him tense his arms. I started to say a prayer, asking for God to look after my parents once I was gone, but the man released me with a curse. I looked up to see him backpedal fast and then someone in a gray trench coat run by. By the time I could sit up they were a dozen feet away from me exchanging blows. The guy's trench coat obscured most of the fight as it flew around him, but what I could see showed that Sanguine knew how to fight but relied mostly on brute force. The other guy's strikes were quick and precise. He hit and moved out of the way before the other guy could strike back. The few times he did get hit he rolled with it and quickly got back on his feet. I saw that he was wearing a black ski mask which left only his eyes exposed. His fighting style felt familiar, but I was too mesmerized to think about it. Trench coat guy did a spin kick to Sanguine's head and he went down one final time. That kick had been more than familiar; I'd seen it practiced three times a week at the dojo. "Are you ok?" he asked as he walked by me to pick up a backpack lying on the ground. 'His' voice was deep, but it sounded forced and the curves I saw didn't belong on a man. I didn't answer, I was too stunned by the realization. She took a rope out of the pack as she went back to Sanguine. I was finally able to get myself to stand and followed her. She knelt and tied the man's legs and arms before pinning a card to his jumpsuit. It was white with the picture of a fist on it. While she was admiring her work I grabbed her mask and pulled it off. "Holy shit," she exclaimed as she stood and faced me. Yeah, now it sounded like her. "What's the big idea? You don't pull off a hero's mask." "What are you doing here Maggie?" I growled. I was angry at her for being here. "What does it look like? I'm saving your sorry ass." "I didn't need your help!" I knew I was lying. "Oh yeah, 'cause you were doing so great when I got here." Het tone went up a notch "I was fine." "So you do have a death wish," she said harshly. "Of course not!" She opened her mouth to say something, but instead grabbed my arm. "We don't want to be here when security drives by," she said as she pulled me along. Once we were far enough under the multi level parking lot she let me go. "What was the big idea not going home for lunch as usual? I was lucky someone saw you head here or I wouldn't have been here in time." "Since when did I have to start checking in with you before doing anything?" See eyed me for several seconds and I started getting nervous under her stare. "Ok, I want to know what the fuck is going on with you," she said in an unusually calm voice. "Nothing's going on," I replied defensively. "Bullshit, you defending yourself." "I told you why, I just froze." "But you don't want to get over that? This isn't like school Jay. There Billy gets bored of pushing you around and moves on to something else. That guy was about to snap your neck. If I'd missed his head with that rock you'd be dead right now. Why do you bother coming to the Dojo if you're not going to use what you learn to defend yourself?" "I don't go there to learn how to fight." "Then why?" "I'm doing it to learn better control." "Control over what? Damn it Jay, You're not making any sense. I'm not saying you have to be some crazed fighter and pick a fight with everyone you meet, but you're good enough that you should be able to take down someone who attacks you." "No," I stated, "I'm not going to fight." "Why?" she pleaded. "Because out here it isn't like at the dojo, things aren't controlled here. If I fight here I don't have the time to think about what I'm doing I'll just react and I might hurt someone." "So WHAT! If someone attacks you, planning on killing you why should it matter if you break a bone of his or two while you're defending yourself." "Arrrg," I grabbed my hair and turned. She didn't understand. I couldn't tell if she didn't want to understand or if this was just beyond her. I looked at the concrete post a few feet from me and I felt my anger rise. She was going to force me to show her what the danger was. With a scream I took the few steps to the post and slammed my fist in it, sending a six inch deep chunk of concrete flying off its corner. I looked at my fist with bits of bloody concrete embedded in the knuckles. I had expected it to hurt more. It had been years since I'd hit anything with all my strength and the pain had been so strong that I hadn't been able to open my hand for an hour. I opened my fist and the bits fell to the ground. The damage to my hand had been worst too. Now she knew I wasn't ordinary. "Oh my god. You're a parahuman." She hugged me. "This is wonderful." "No it isn't." She forced me to turn. "Of course it is, my best friend is a parahuman what could be bad about that?" "Wake up Maggie, ok?" I said with a sigh, "this isn't LA. This is Tyberon, Texas. About the only place more intolerant to Parahuman is New York City." "This place isn't that bad, we have the Shroud after all." "And how much good press has he been getting? The cops are after him, the paper says he's just as bad as the criminals he stops even 'tho he's the only reason we have such a low crime rate." "So? I don't care. I still think it's wonderful that you're a parahuman." I rolled my eyes. "You idolize anyone who's a parahuman. I guess you even Idolize the Terrorist," I said with a teasing smile. "Fuck no. no criminal, parahuman or not, should ever be idolized." "All right," I said raising my hands in surrender, "I'll never bring it up again, and it's wonderful that I'm a parahuman." I lowered my arms and looked at her seriously. "Please don't mention this to anyone. I mean it. This has to remain our secret." "Of course it is," she said as she wrapped her arms around my neck. "Where did you get the trench coat?" I asked once she let go of me. "From the attic, it was my granddad's from when he was in the war. "And what was the card about?" "That was my calling card, every hero needs one." "You're kidding, right?" "No." "You can't play at being a hero Maggie, you don't have any powers." "So, the Shroud doesn't have any powers either." "Of course he does. He can create darkness." "That's just a rumor; it's never been shown that he does that. He just uses his black costume to take advantage of it. That's why he's only active at night. How strong are you?" "I don't know," I said shrugging and happy for the change of subject. It would give me time to think of a way to discourage her to play hero. "I put six hundred pounds on a bar last year, that's all it would take and I was able to lift that a few times without too much trouble." "Anything else I should know?" "I'm pretty fast." "Like SS?" I shook my head. "No, I'm nowhere near as fast as her, I think my maximum speed is about forty miles an hour, and unlike the Scarlet Speedster I accelerate normally." "What else?" "I heal faster, not instantaneous or anything, but by tomorrow night all the bruises from the beating I just got will probably be gone." "And?" "That's it as far as I know." "So strength, speed and healing; not an unusual combination, add to that you know how to fight and you could be a decent hero." "I've already said I'm not fighting. And neither should you, you could get really hurt." "Well, you're not going to stop me. The only way you can keep me safe is to become my side kick." "That's not funny." "Sorry. And just so you know. Until you decide to start defending yourself I'm your personal bodyguard. That means you don't go anywhere without me." "You're joking." "No. I don't plan on losing my best friend just because he's being a scardycat." "You realize that the school is going to notice and start talking, right?" "You realize that a guy your age is expected to have a girlfriend, right?" Only the fact that I knew she wasn't serious stopped me from feeling sick at that thought. Maggie knew how I felt about the subject. "Speaking of school, we should head back before lunch is over. Any chance you can help me redesign my card? I had to make that one from a photo I found on the net." "I'll think about it."
  19. Kindar

    Chapter 01

    Part 1:The day my Childhood ended I was sixteen; it was my first full day as a Junior. It was six AM and I was already running down the stairs. "How many times do I have to tell you not to run in the house Jayson?" my mom said. "Sorry," I replied weakly. I couldn't help it, I ran everywhere I went. I've loved running ever since I could walk; used to drive my parents crazy. I forced myself to walk to the counter and grabbed an apple out of the basket before turning around and heading for the door. "Where do you think you are going young man?" My mom looked up from the stove and pierced me with her steel blue eyes. She was wearing the light green flannel gown dad had given her last Christmas. "To the gym, I want to get some weight lifting in before class." "Not on an empty stomach you're not." "I've got an apple mom." "That's a snack not breakfast." She waved at the table with her spatula. "Now sit down, breakfast's almost ready." I looked at my dad for support. He was reading the newspaper like he did every morning. "Do what your mother says Jay," he said without looking up, "you can spare ten minutes to put some food in you before you exercise." I dropped my backpack by the door and sat down. They were right, but I'd been itching to really workout for the last two weeks, ever since my subscription at the local gym ran out. They only had monthly subscriptions. It took me two weeks to get the money from my job at the fast food joint down the block to pay for one, and it was going to be a waste of money to get a month's worth and only use it for the two weeks left before school. I filled my glass with orange juice from the jug that was already on the table and waited for mom to put the customary scrambled eggs and bacon on our plate. I liked mine sunny side up, but mom and dad liked theirs scrambled, so unless I made them myself scrambled it was. Dad folded his paper and set it aside as mom was sat down. I put my hands together and bowed my head. "We thank you lord," my father said in his deep voice, "for this meal before us, and ask for your blessing as we go through our day. Amen." "Amen," my mom and I repeated. I finished my plate under two minutes. It was rinsed and in the dishwasher before the third was over. I had kissed my mom on the cheek, grabbed my bag, waved to dad and was running out the door in the middle of the fourth. It took me just under ten minutes to run to the school. I could have done it faster, but that would have made me stand out. Before six thirty I was changed in my gym shorts and an old t-shirt and at the bench press. I was the only one there so I threw on a couple hundred pounds of weight and started doing repetitions. I was going for endurance rather than strength so the weights were low. I did three sets of one hundred repetitions. By the time I was done two other guys had arrived, Jud and Billy. They were two years older than I was, but they were Juniors too because of all they grades they had failed. They were bullies and had been picking on me ever since they first noticed me. They noticed me and snorted in my direction. "You'd think he'd have given up by now," Billy whispered to Jud. He said that because even after lifting weights for almost eight years I still looked like a rake. I was five nine and weighted a hundred-thirty pounds on a good day. No matter what I did I just couldn't build muscle, so I'd stopped trying. The two of them have pushed me around and thrown verbal jab at me so much now that I've grown used to them. They were part of what I considered a normal day. Sometime I envied how they looked. Lets face it, they were jocks, plain and simple; bodies built like Hercules and Atlas and the following to prove it. Girls were always following them. The rumours were that by the time school ended last year they had slept with every girl in their grades, including some of the teachers. Maybe that was how they finally managed to graduate because they certainly didn't have much brain upstairs. I went through the machines doing my best to ignore them. They purposely bumped into me twice, making me drop a weight on the second time. More than once I've been tempted to show them how much weight I can actually lift, just to shut them up, maybe scare them into leaving me alone. But that would attract attention so I just did my best to ignore them. I'd gone through all the machines and was going chin ups when Maggie yelled across the room. "Jay! If you don't hurry up you're going to be late for class." I didn't respond to her call and she didn't wait for me. She knew that the reminder was all I needed. Maggie, or Magster as her close friends were allowed to call her, was my best friend. I'd known her for as long as I could remember. She lived across the street and had been sneaking in my house since should could crawl. She was a year younger than I was, but she'd skip ninth grade because she was so smart. Sometime I thought that she was holding herself back just so she could continue looking out for me. She loved science and science fiction. Her bedroom walls were covered with pictures of robots from Japanese cartoon as well as posters of the Justicar team, in its many incarnations. Her favourite of them was Techno, although recently she had started collecting posters of Techknight too. I finished my sets and headed to the locker room. The gym was almost full now and the lockers a frenzy of activity. I quickly showered, and was almost out when someone shouldered me aside. "Fag," he whispered. I looked at him walk away frozen in surprise. I didn't know him, so why had he said that? I watched as he high fived Billy. They had found someone to help them torment me. * * * * * My first class was Biology, it was the only class I had with the Magster. The teacher laid out what he was going to cover over the year. I could already feel the dread forming in my stomach and he hadn't even given us an exam yet. Bio wasn't my thing. Maggie assured me she would help me with it, I could only hope it was going to be enough. "I'll see you at class after school." She said before disappearing in the crowd on her way to her history class. I was heading to the field for Track and Field. Our after school class was Karate, she dragged me to it when she was ten, she'd heard that the Shroud was a master martial artist and decided she was going to become one too. I liked it. It gave me a way to work on my control. Now we both participated in a few tournaments every year. She's won a few trophies while I rarely place higher than fourth. Track and field was run by coach Timberson. He also coached the football team, basketball team, baseball and any other sport taught at the school. The only thing he didn't touch was figure skating, which he left to Mister Milton, the dance teacher. He firmly believed that if you weren't trying to get first place you shouldn't even bother trying. "Not bad Mister Mortimer," he said as I was running in place after the two mile run, "with a time like this you might have a chance at first place, if Miss Cranford and Jurgen were to break their legs." He stared at me with disdain. "You might be happy with third place, but I'm not. I'm not teaching you so you can lose." I sighed with relief when he turned to the rest of the class. "I'm teaching all of you to win. I know the majority of you will never win, and if it was just up to me I wouldn't even bother, but the school says that I have to teach all of you so that's what I'm going to do." Everyone was silent as he looked everyone over. "Now give me two laps around the course." Being talked to like that really made me want to run faster than everyone in class. Place first and shut mister Timberson up. But that would make me stand out. After track and field I had art. On my way there I walked by this creepy older guy. He looked too old for be a student. Maybe he was a new teacher, but the way he kept looking at me made me nervous. I worried that he might follow me, but he just stood there, watching. Only when I turned a corner did I relax. I hoped I wasn't in any of his classes. I wasn't bad at drawing. I wasn't great either, but at least I enjoyed it. There was something about putting lines on paper and transforming them into an image that made sense that felt spiritual, like God was guiding my hand. After that was lunch period. The nice thing about living just over two miles from the school is that I can run home and enjoy a freshly cooked meal instead of whatever passed for food at the cafeteria. "Hi mom, I'm home." "You're just in time sweetie," she replied from the kitchen, "they found it." "What did they find?" I asked as I joined her in the kitchen. "Listen," she said nodding toward the small television set on the counter. She was stirring what smelled like her famous cream of mushroom soup. "Earlier today Randall Salvage pulled into the Pirate Cove marina pulling the Wandering Rose, the boat of the newlywed superhero couple Electrika and Claw. They left on it for their honeymoon a month ago and were expected back two weeks ago." The reporter was silent as the camera panned over the boat. The light was provided by powerful spotlights since the sun wasn't up. "What do you think happened to them?" I asked my mom. "I don't know," she said, studying the screen, "but look at the coral on that hull. It would have taken years for that to build, not one month." My mom might be a house wife, but she wasn't dumb. She mentioned before that she had been considering becoming a scientist before I came along, but that she never regretted her decision to take care of me instead of pursuing her studies. Now she listened and watched science shows throughout the day as she took care of the house. "Tony Randall," the reporter started again when the camera was on him, "an associate of Electrika from the early days of the Justicars has been combing the sea looking for them since they went missing. While Mister Randall declined to comment on his find PCTV was able to contact John Doe, also known as Shape and the only original member of the Justicar still active with the team and he had this to say." The image switched to a picture of a man with brown curly hair. "Patricia and Mark are two of the most capable people I know. Whatever happened to them while they were out at sea I know that they will contact us as soon as they find a way to do so." I studied the photograph as he spoke, trying to see why his image felt so familiar. I'd never seen it up close before. Sure I'd seen him on the news before, but I wasn't the Hero worshiper that the Magster was so I'd never really paid attention before. In the end I couldn't place him and I decided that it was like Maggie had told me before. Shape had build his face from everyone he'd met once his shape shifting ability had stabilized so everyone felt like they knew him. "Where ever they are we send our wished to Electrika and Claw and hope they will return to us safely," the reporter said. Mom turned the television off at that point and served me a bowl of soup with two slice of fresh made bread. My mom's a great cook. I ran back to school as soon as I was done eating. I was hoping to catch Maggie in the cafeteria so I could tell her about the Wandering Rose, it wasn't often I beat her on super hero news. I could hear the banging of metal against metal as I got close to the room where shop class was held. I'd just passed the door when the curse rang. "Holy fucking Gods!" I stopped in my tracks just as I heard something heavy hit the floor. My family had strict rules about swearing. We didn't do it. We didn't speak God's name in vain. But that wasn't why I'd stopped. I'd felt 'something' when I heard it. I took the steps back to the door. It was open and on the far side was a guy with his thumb in his mouth who looked to be my age. He had black hair, was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt. His shoes were also black, as well as the trench coat that was thrown on the back of the chair next to him. He didn't look like a Goth, he didn't have pale skin, makeup or anything, but he certainly looked dark. "Are you ok?" I asked. On the floor was a fairly large sledge hammer and next to him, on the shop's anvil was something long and shiny. "Do I fucking look ok to you?" he snarled before putting his thumb back in his mouth. It looked swelled. "I sorry, I mean . . ." I shut my mouth I was going to ask another stupid question. "I mean is there anything I can do to help?" He glared at me for a moment and then closed his eyes. "No, I'm ok," he said opening his eyes. The anger was gone from them. "It's my own stupid fault for not being careful." He glared at the hammer on the floor. "Where's the teacher?" I looked around among the tools and workbenches. "He isn't here yet. I'm getting an early start on my project." I looked at the guy in black. First day and he already had a project that required him hammering metal? What were they teaching in Shop this year? "You sure you'll be ok?" I asked him. "Yeah yeah, I'll be fine." "Ok then, bye." I headed to the cafeteria to share my news with the Magster. Of course she'd beaten me to it. She'd downloaded they news report on her cell phone. Sometime she's such a techy. I had math after lunch and ran by the creepy guy from the morning again. His hair was brown and cut short, like he was in the army. He was wearing a blue sport jacket with a logo I didn't take the time to look at. He had pleated pants the same color as his jacket and was wearing running shoes. Except for the fact that he made my skin crawl he looked completely normal. Math went well. And then it was history. I was ok at both. I didn't have a third afternoon class to I headed home to start on my studying before karate class. I couldn't believe that on the first day of class they gave us homework. The year was going to suck. I was running by the Patters property when I saw the creepy guy again. He was walking in my direction and I stayed close to the cement wall to give him as much space as possible. I kept my gaze forward, but his eyes never left me as the distance between us closed. I was next to him when his fist came up and hit me in the face. My feet flew out from under me and I was on my back, head ringing louder than the pain in my face. "What a wuss," the man said as I turned on my stomach and tried to stand. His foot connected hard enough that I flew back against the wall. "Enough!" someone else said as I sat up, holding my stomach. I looked up to see who had saved me from this nightmare. Through the tears in my eyes I saw the man had grey hair and wore a beige business suit. The creepy looking one wrenched his arms from the older man's grip and took a step back. "I'm sorry about that," the gray haired man said to me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and when I looked at him again he was pointing a gun at me. "The contract didn't include causing you pain." * * * * * If this had been a comic book I would have pushed the gun away, kicked the guy in the shin, I would have done something. Instead I just stared down the barrel of the gun. I didn't even Pray, I just waited to die. The next thing I knew there was a flash of light in front of me, I was splashed with something and there were screams of pain. When the silence came back there was a man crouching in front of me. "You ok kid?" he asked. I tried to answer him, but my mouth wouldn't work. I was still trying to figure out what had just happen. "You in there?" He snapped his fingers in front of my eyes a few times. "What happened?" I finally said. It wasn't what I wanted to say, but it was the only thing that would come out. My voice was flat, and I couldn't get myself to move. "They tried to kill you, I stopped them." "Why?" I was finally able to move my head so I could look at him. He was wearing a sandy coloured cowboy hat and his hair fell down around his shoulders; it was light copper with darker shades in place. He had deep green eyes. His beard was trimmed short and the colour matched his hair. I wasn't trying to memorize what he looked like but the details were burning themselves in my memory "I owed someone a favor," He replied before getting up. He was wearing a light brown trench coat over a white button up shirt, there was something round and dark under it in the middle of his chest, but I couldn't tell what it was. He had blue jeans on and cowboy boots. I watched him pull a sword out of the creepy man's chest. I also noticed several body parts littering the sidewalk, the hand that was still holding the gun, a leg and a head. I turned away and threw up. Then I started shaking. "Good, you're ok, I was starting to get worried." He wiped the blood off the sword on the beige suit. "What happens now?" I asked, barely able to even hear myself over the sound of my heart beat. "Now you wait for the cops to get here," he cocked his head, "shouldn't be too long now. Tell them what happened don't bother covering anything up, I don't care if they know about me. I'm not going to be back here anytime soon." "You're leaving?" "Yep, my part of the bargain's fulfilled." As he put the sword to his hip the air behind him started shimmering blue. "What if more of them show up?" I couldn't stop myself from looking around. "Oh, more will come for you, but not today. These two worked alone." "What am I suppose to do?" "Not my problem," he said as he stepped through the shimmer and disappeared. I brought my knees to my chest and held them tightly as I heard the police siren in the distance. * * * * * "Jayson?" my mom asked as she pushed police men aside to run to me. "What happened to you?" She hugged me and I held on to her as tears started running down my face. "Your son was attacked and according to the story he told us some cowboy showed up and rescued him." "It isn't a story," I said softly in my mother's shoulders, "he was dressed like a cowboy but he had a sword instead of a gun. Then he vanished in a blue light." "Listen here son, that's pretty unlikely, no one around here can do that." My mom glared at the officer and he took a step back. "My son does *NOT* lie." "Great," the man said after a moment of silence, "another parahuman dumping bodies on the street, just what he need. Like the Shroud wasn't enough." "Can I go home?" I asked my mom. She looked at the officer. "We have his statement and contact information, if we need anything else we'll contact you. The paramedics looked at him and couldn't find anything more than a few bruises, but they'd like him to get checked out at the hospital." "I just want to go home." "Then we'll go home. I called your father and he should be there by then." * * * * * After assuring my dad I was ok I went straight to my bed and curled up under the cover. Why did someone want me dead? I was just a kid. I hadn't done anything to get someone that mad at me. I Prayed to get some sort of answer, but nothing came. At some point I heard my dad talking with Maggie. She wanted to see me, to make sure I was ok, but he wouldn't let her in. he told her that I needed to rest after what I had been through. I didn't think he was right, I didn't think I could rest. The questions wouldn't stop. But eventually I did fall asleep. Thankfully it was a dark sleep without dreams.
  20. BigPuppyStuart

    How they all came together

    It was the first commercial space launch in years, but the purpose was purely scientific. No one on board was going to make 'Colewalder and Phip Propulsion', 'Pentadyne industries' or any of the companies involved in this any money. On board were 3 scientists and 3 civilians how where going to orbit the planet for 6 months and test the living accommodations aboard the new exploratory vessels that where being produced in the new rush toward the stars. They were basically comfort testing the vessel while ground crews monitored them and the equipment remotely. These 3 civilian volunteers had been hard to come by, society at large was still skeptical about going back into space after the failed efforts 25 years ago left a batch of 10 prospective colonists to die of system failures on their nearest planet. it had taken a month to get there and a month for a rescue vessel to reach them but by then it was too late and the world had watched. So while many people wanted to try again it had been hard to find people who were willing to drop everything and give it a go. But they had found 3 and each had their reasons. There was a former accountant who had just quit his job and decided he wanted to go to space. There was an unemployed photographer who had walked in with all the cash he had and signed up, and there was a young woman who decided that furthering space colonization was more important than marrying and settling down. Those are all the details they gave out to the reporters anyway. The Truth was that there was more to them than they let on. They all secretly thought about how they came to be here as the engines rumbled to life and they were pressed against their seats. Renard Flemoux had been standing outside of his highrise office building. He was looking down and felt he had no choice but to jump. He had somehow lost track of millions of dollars and spent months tracking it down. Now that he found it he knew how hopeless it was. The money had been taken by the Coo who happened to be the Ceo's son. The thief had done it in such as fashion as to have plausible deniability and lined up some scapegoats. One of whom was Renard Flemoux his reputation would be ruined and he would most likely go to jail. So now he was standing outside of his office building looking down. He was still frozen but felt like down was the only way out. He had brought his briefcase for some reason. He didn't know why. He was standing there still feeling the wind on his fur and wondering if it would hurt. He heard a window off to his left open he looked over to see a bear in a business suit, rolls of fat poking over his suit collar. He had no idea who that was he thought it was probably someone who worked at the business that they shared the floor with. " Just stay right there, you don't need to make any rash decisions, i am going to come over just stay right there for a minute." The bear said in a comforting tone then popped back into his own window. Renard looked down and thought about jumping before the bear got there. His heard pounded in his ears and he could hear the wind whipping in his ears as if he had already jumped. The it all stopped, his heart beat, the wind, the sound of traffic far bellow. All these things cut off as if by a knife and filling that sudden void was the gentle notes of a flute. He turned around to see a 20 something raccoon in a well worn hoody standing behind him and gently playing a sweet melody on what looked to be a homemade flute. Instead of a tinny whistle the notes were clear and and sweet and were piercing Renard's heart like a dagger, all the heart pounding fear and despair was pushed aside by the tender notes. He had a sudden urge to look down but when he did he didn't see a place to end his life he saw little smears of color that were people going about vivid and interesting lives, his eyes darted around and he took the city in with a sudden new wonder. His eyes suddenly caught the far off forests and the trees so distantly swaying. He vividly began imagining all the birds flitting between the trees and singing with no care in the world. His eyes wandered up the hills and mountains till he caught sight of the mountain top space port that had been refurbished for the rumored second go at space flight. His eyes kept going up and he stared into the blue sky. The melody of the flute filling him and making him feel like he was being carried upward toward the stars hidden by the blue veil of the sky. He knew that his future lay not plummeting toward the ground but hurtling toward the sky. The music suddenly stopped. He turned to thank the flute player and compliment him on his beautiful playing but he was gone. There was no sign of the young raccoon. Just a blank ledge. Actually there wouldn't have been room for another persona anyway. he was taking up the whole ledge. He was standing just outside his open window. The flute player would have had to be in his office but he remembered him being on the ledge behind him. No matter. It was time for a new plan. He turned back and waited for the wind to pick up then he opened his briefcase. All the papers and the documents flew out into the wind, some of them were sensitive but Renard no longer cared. The door to his office burst open and the bear, huffing with effort, Renard looked back still shaking his briefcase out. " Oh sorry if my dramatic resignation gave you the wrong impression, the only suicide i am committing is career suicide." He stepped off the ledge and started filling his briefcase with the things on his desk he wanted. " Wait, what?" the bear huffed. He was well dressed and was probably high up at the company next door. " Oh my boss's rich brat of a son stole some money from the company and was setting up some of us little people to take the fall, so fuck em' i am quitting and sending out all the evidence to... well pretty much everyone." He said all of this while tapping commands into his palm top, sending the relevant info to everyone in the company and even a few news stations. He cheerfully removes his tie and offers the panting bear his chair. " Have a seat, don't worry about breaking the chair, i am done with it. I would toss it out the window if it weren't a hazard to any below." Renard said casually. The bear sat and the chair made for Renard's slender fox frame creaked as the large bear sat down. He was starring wide eyed at Renard as he detailed a brief account of how the skimming had been done. " Anyway sorry for scarring you, you seem a decent sort, not everyone would even lift a finger to stop a suicide they would have just watched." Renard explained as he shut the briefcase around all the things he wanted. " Well now i am going to tell my boss to go fuck himself then i am going to space, tata." He walked out the door leaving the bear in the nice suit starring goggle eyed at him as he caught his breath. The bear raised his hand and waved and said " Uh, good luck and have a nice day." in a confused voice. Renard had run into his boss in a hallway and explained The boss's son had been embezzling and that he was a fuckwit, the boss was a fuckwit and that he hoped to never hear from them again. He didn't wait to let the astonishment slip from his boss's face he just strode to the elevator and made his way down. There he called a cab and had it take him to the train station where he caught a train up into the mountains and into the space center where he volunteered. After 8 months of training he was strapped into a launch vehicle. He was grinning with pure simple joy the whole time the extra Gs slamed him back into his seat as he hurtled toward the sky. He wasn't on a grand tour of the universe or anything but he felt like he was on his way to contributing to something larger than some CEO's pocket book. He hoped whatever happened, what ever part he played he would contribute to society as a whole. Next to him the almost awkwardly tall and gangling figure of a cheetah sat pressed back into his own chair. He was also thinking of how he had come here. Pauly Canmendy had been out of work for nearly a year. He was backed up with debt and only had a hundred buck to his name which were all in his pocket as he tracked down a man who would end it all for him. He had read on some forums about services for clients with exotic tastes. He read on and found one of the providers was near by. He had arranged to meet that provider. He sat in his tiny apartment bedroom and waited for that service provider to come up. He was hoping that the provider could "accidentally" arrange so he didn't come back from the experience. He Had sent out some vaguely worded emails who's meaning would be clear afterward. " I am taking a trip and if all goes well i won't be coming back" It read. When he turned up missing he hoped no one came looking. He had paid off his rent, his loans and everything and was left with the hundred bucks in his poket. He had closed most of his bank accounts but left one open because by that time he had run out of energy to tie up loose ends. He thought about doing it now just to have it done with but he couldn't summon up the energy. The Buzzer rang announcing he had a visitor. He checked the time and saw it was right on time for the service provider. He Hit the door control and let the provider in and minutes later he heard a knock at the door to his tiny apartment. He opened the door to let his end enter. Inside came a Tanuki, maybe 6 feet tall decently muscled but with a belly that hung out below his plain white shirt he wore under a leather vest. Unlike the picture he wasn't decked out in a bondage harness, chaps and a leather collar but his outfit was much the same in tightly fitting bluejeans and white shirt that was stretched with his girth. He supposed some people would have found his type wildly attractive but Pauly felt nothing at all. He came in wearing a cocky grin that was vaguely predatory but as soon as he entered and looked Pauly up and down it melted off his face. At first Pauly was wondering if he was disappointing in his prey but the look that replaced it was of gentle pity and compassion. He clearly felt sorry for Pauly who now that he thought about it wasn't hiding his dejected expression. " Ok, so i want you to do your thing, but i don't want to come back from it, here is a hundred..." he began explaining in a dead voice but was cut off when he felt strong arms grasp him and pull him against the big belly. He thought it was about to happen and he couldn't wait for the darkness to take him away from his troubles. Then he noticed the Service provider's hands weren't griping or pulling him toward his doom. The strong arms were wrapped around him in a hug. Pauly felt the tanuki place his chin on top of Pauly's head. He thought about Objecting, to struggling to demanding he do his job and end it all. But it had been so long since anyone had given his a hug. He just sat there and let it happen while his eyes misted. The Big tanuki began rocking him gently and Pauly's eyes began to blur and close. He knew he wasn't falling asleep but seemed to go straight into a dream. He saw his Apartment building receding as he slowly pulled back into the sky. He saw the whole continent lush and green, then farther he saw the whole world covered in oceans the most vibrant blue he had ever seen, white clouds dotted the planet he pulled back farther and passed the moon then the small objects that drifted around it. Then he seemed to pick up speed and was rushing passed stars and for the barest moment he saw all the planets and moons in them he felt himself hurtling passed vast distances of space until suddenly he felt his feet touch the ground. He was starring up at an alien sky, no atmosphere clouded the view of the luminous clouds of gas and dust that hung in the sky like dancing clouds of fire and ice. Stars shown in the small clear patches of the sky and they glimmered like piles of diamonds dumped on a jeweler's black velvet cloth. The Planets sun was up and slightly behind him and he watched his shadow creeping as time flew passed seeming to slither over the rocks that were red and blue-green with Iron and copper oxides. The far off hills were all dotted in stunning patterns of these oxides and seemed to mirror the colors in the sky. Time seemed to jump and he saw buildings spring up, first simple prefabs, then buildings made of native rock, then a small town with people walking about in suits. Those people weren't like any species pauly had seen back home. He realized he was seeing a colony spring up. He could almost smell the collective excitement. The Hope and the years of struggle to get there. He liked it. He wanted it. He Needed it. He remembered the rumors of his own world's push into the stars and knew he needed to be part of it. He awoke, or at least came back to himself, he was laying on his bed and wondered if it was all a dream but he saw the fat tanuki sitting next to his bed counting out money. He saw he was peeling of hundreds as he counted, it wasn't Pauly's money. The fat tanuki placed the wad of cash down above of pauly's phone which was displaying directions that must have been programed in by the Tanuki. Under the phone was an application form for civilian service in the science division of the multinational space agency. The Tanuki set the bundle of cash on top of the form. " Application fees." The tanuki said not turning to look but feeling Pauly's eyes on him. " You can only take a small bag, i suggest the Ferickson pro 5 and any lenses for it. It is most versatile but has good quiality for it's size." " Uh i know, i am a photographer." Pauly says. He got the impression that the big Tanuki guy was mother henning him. "Right, well take pictures that are out of this world." The Tanuki returns then gets up. " Hey man, can i get your name?" Pauly asks. he was sure he had seen the guys name when he had contacted him to end it all but that felt like it had been so long ago. " Uh, its Stopher." " Well thanks Stopher, for the shift in perspective." pauly says and hold out his hand. Stopher takes it and shakes it. " Think nothing of it. You might want to ask some of your friends to watch the stuff you don't take." The Tanuki says then just Vanishes with a 'Shwaa' sound. Pauly immeadiatly takes this moment to make a few phone calls. After a few minutes and saying " I'm going to space!" more times then he can count he packs a small bag and his Ferickson and heads out the door With the forms in hand. He runs into some people in the hallways on his way to the stairs and anyone who asks where he is off to he answers with. " I'm going to space!" A bus ride and a train up into the mountains he is in the application center with only a few other people. He Fills out his forms and idly chats to some of the examiners as he does so. He is just so glad to be cheerful he lets anything spill out of his mouth. He talks about the things he saw in his dream, he with ought knowing how rattles off coordinates, and features. He is so busy with the forms he doesn't notice one of the doctors frowning as he listens. This doctor slips out of the room and doesn't come back until Pauly's is finished filling out the forms and forks over the application fees. He is just sitting in the waiting room and and tweeting out selfies of himself with things in the waiting room. He hadn't felt like being stupidly excited in a long time and wanted to bask in it. He was so absorbed in this he didn't notice the doctor comeback in and emphatically point toward him and whisper into someone else's ear. " he knew they were there and we hadn't even finished decoding the data, it took 13 minutes after i asked about it and he was right, there is an extraterrestrial colony at the coordinates he was babbling about. I want him in the program any program. just keep him around." When told he had been accepted he grabbed the doctor in a hug and took a selfie the pic showed his grinning face and the startled looking doctor, written with all caps. " I AM GOING TO FUCKING SPACE!" Pauly Now sat grimacing but still extacik as he was squished into his flight chair. He was thinking about all the things he wanted to photograph. Hell he would take pictures of a toothbrush as long as it was in space and he was about to be somewhere where everything was in space. Namely space. "sssssppaaaaccceee" he muttered out against the extra Gs. The Female Shiba inu in the seat next to him gave him a quick glance as she expressionlessly sat and absentmindedly calculated their distance of the ground by dividing the stated velocity from the pre-flight briefing against the time she counted. She was as excited as the other two but kept that excitement in the back of her mind. She was Former military so had an air of professionalism that the other two civilian testers lacked. She admitted their wide eye wonder was amusing and endearing. She was also glad to be off the ground. She concentrates on the mission and does not let herself be distracted by her past. She simply counted. The Shutter felt didn't take her by surprise. The Launch assist stage Separated and made its way back down. It would land at the dessert complex one continent over from where they launched. After a small pause she felt the engines of the Main Vehicle start up. A flash of something made her look over. A monitor had turned on and it was showing a veiw from one of the external cameras. What she saw on the monitor shattered all the discipline she had. There on the monitor lay the planet curving away beneath them. She had a moment of of speechless awe. She had come up here to escape but now she was looking at the wide expanse of the world and she felt that her reasons for coming here had been misguided. She should have been thinking about this. The tall cheetah who she always thought was a bit of an Idealistic idiot always going on about space and how cool it was had realized something she hadn't. Namely that this was amazing and worth it for its own sake. She Felt a shortlived moment of shame but then dismissed it because she was changing her mind with new information. She was learning and there was no shame in that. She forgot to track the stages of their mission and just looked over at the monitor. She was so Absorbed that the voice over the com telling them they could unbuckle and move about the cabin Startled her slightly. Everyone took advantage of this, the fox accountant tentitvally at first and the cheetah photographer with enough enthusiasm to send him self bouncing of the bulkhead. He seemed unphased by it and soon made his way toward the monitor that stood in for a window. They were in a passenger compartment that could hold 6 but the other 3 seats had been removed for this test, instead being replaced by 3 crates secured to the deck. The Scientists and crew where in the cockpit. Instead the company had put 3 crates of micro satellites that were also being tested. They were self deploying so theoretically you could just shove the crate out an airlock with the lid off and they would sort themselves out. Half way through their test stay the crew would test these by deploying a crate in different manners. The passengers were most likely just going to watch. Right now the crates were providing an anchor for the Fox accountant to hold onto as he got used to the micro gravity. The Accommodations they would be staying in had variable gravity provided by plates of some kind of new material that could provide up to 1.5 G of gravity. There was only enough of the stuff to put in the living quarters. The Door to the cockpit opened and out came one of the pilots to check on everyone. He was in the latested generation spacesuit which had been adapted from a Military design of full body armor so it looked a little intimidating despite being painted blue and white. The Helmet was molded to follow the muzzle of the wearer and made of high impact ballistic plastics and fiber molds. Thankfully the eyes had been left visible through a clear visor, unlike the base it was modeled after. The Orignal Red Knight Arms M7A2 hazardous environmental combat suit was an intimidating monstrosity and some effort had been made to make the non combat pressure suit model look less arch. It had only been partially successful. The Pilot peered at them all. " Everyone doing alright? No Chunder blunders to scrape off the walls?" he asked cheerfully. " Who can vomit at a time like this?" the cheetah asks gleefully as he floats slowly in a pinwheel fashion. " Oh lots of people actually. It is one reason we asked you to leave your helmets off for the ascent." The pilot says. " Why is your suit different from ours?" Renard asked as he gently let go of crate he was hold onto to float gently in place. " Oh, yours are newer, they were made from scratch to look more friendly, this stuff is retooled combat gear, one of the Partners in of "Colewalter and Phip" has an arms company so this is their first attempt at space suits. Yours are their 3rd. Cheaper, more comfortable and most importantly doesn't make you look like a storm trooper." " Cheaper?" the Fox asks, the cheetah is too busy playing in the micro gravity to pay attention. " Well a lot of the cost of these come from the armor plating which is kinda overkill for most of what we do. Your suits have the amount of protection needed for non combat stuff." ( To be continued )
  21. Kindar

    Chapter 57

    Jeremy looked around the meeting room, as he was being wheeled in, and started worrying. Were they going to try to take away his ship again? He frowned, no, that wasn't right. This room was too big, there were too many people, it wasn't a meeting room on Kelser. Was this when he had been accused of murdering those two taournians? No, that couldn't be right, he'd been seated to the front, not an elevated balcony, like he was now. He stopped moving, and a female moved in front of him. "Are you certain you want to be up here, grandfather? You should be down there, you were part of it." He snorted, which probably looked silly on a male his age. "I just helped a little," his voice was weak, and trembling. "It's their time, I don't want to intrude." The female took a blanket out of her bag, and spread it over his legs. "There, you won't get cold now." "Thank you Tamirik, that's very nice of you." Her smile dropped, just a little, and Jeremy cursed internally. "I got it wrong, didn't I?" "I'm Shimilion," she told him, "I'm Asheter's daughter." Asheter, that named sounded really familiar, where had he heard it before, then it came back to him. "That's Alix's son." She smiled at him. "That makes you Alix's grand daughter." He patted her hand. "That's good. You should probably sit down now, they're about to start." He could tell, because a holographic projection of the table, and its occupant had just appeared in the air, at their level, much larger than normal. She sat next to him, and he noticed that there were many other kelsirian on either side of him. For a moment he worried that he was in the wrong section, but before the panic could set in, he remembered they were his family. The people around the table started talking, and their voices were projected so he could hear them, not that he was paying attention to what they were saying, this was just ceremony, the important event had happened an hour before, behind closed door. That's when Paradise had become the only human settled planet to become a full member of the Federation. This show was for the vids. They never liked the simple signings, they wanted something bigger than life. So every current members were now giving speeches, probably about how an asset the new member was going to be. What he wanted to hear, was the taournians. He really wanted to find out what they were going to say, considering they had allied themselves with the humans, and had tried to ruin Paradise. Oh, the humans had been livid when they found out that the Leafers weren't just surviving, they were thriving, building trade with the kelsirians, and anyone else willing to do business with them. Paradise had turned out to have very fertile soil, and the area near the black storm proved particularly good to grow coffee. They hadn't been able to say anything when they found out they had been conned into believing the planet was mostly inhospitable, since they had turned around and spun a story about how the planet was rough, but habitable. And now, with Paradise being inducted, more human colonies were breaking away from their government, in the hopes of joining the Federation. Jeremy yawned and looked around. Why was everyone looking at that projection? He wondered. He thought about asking the male to his right, but he was watching intently, so he decided not to bother him. He just settled in his chair comfortably, and watched, maybe he'd figure out what it was about. * * * * * "It's time to leave, Jeremy," someone whispered in his ear. He opened his eyes, not having realized he'd fallen asleep, and before him was a hand, covered in chocolate brown fur. He took it, was pulled up, and found himself gazing into deep amber eyes. He sighed, it had been so long since he'd been able to lose himself in those eyes. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be on the bridge?" Gral tilted his head at him. That wasn't right, Jeremy realized. Tamirik was captain now, she'd taken over when he'd retired, and he'd become the captain when Gral . . . Jeremy pulled away slightly, and looked at his Heart's face. He looked younger than he remembered, younger than the first time he'd met him even. Jeremy turned, and looked at where he had been sitting. In the hover chair, his body looked like he was sleeping. He raised a hand, it looked young, no wrinkles, no blemishes. Gral wrapped his arms around him. "You really lived up to being my little warrior," he said. "Tutecamongartin tried to bring you home three times, and you fought him each time." Jeremy could hear the pride in Gral's voice. He tried to recall the last time he'd been sick, didn't he remember a male standing there, completely black? Yes, he thought he did, and he also thought he remembered feeling angry, and a little bit afraid of him. "Why are you here?" "Tutecamongartin didn't want to have to deal with another fight with you. He though you might be more receptive if I was the one asking you to come home." Jeremy turned to face Gral again. "Home?" Gral nodded. "The Gods honored you." Jeremy's eyes grew wide. "You didn't think they wouldn't, did you?" Jeremy wanted to tell his Heart that he hadn't, but it had been one of his deepest worry, that he'd never be honored by Them, and therefor kept away from his Heart. "There wasn't even any argument, not that I was going to let any one of Them refuse you. So, my Heart, a you ready to come home?" Jeremy looked at him, eyes wet, but looked behind him, at the projection, where Patrick was now standing and talking. His gaze dropped to the kelsirians seated on either side of his body. "What about them?" he asked. "They are going to go on living, until the Gods honor them." "Will I see them again?" "Possibly, that'll depend on what they decide to do." "Do?" Gral nodded. "The life after the Gods have honored us is what ever we want it to be." "And what is our life going to be?" Gral smiled, and stepped to the side. Behind him, there was an open doorway, hanging there, in the middle of the lane. In the doorway, he could see the Viper's Bane's bridge. "It's going to be space, hunting down pirates, being in the way of the taournians, and the humans." The male in the pilot's seat turned, and smiled. Jeremy's heart swelled. "Toom's there." "Of course he's there. He's been waiting for you to come home as much as I have. Most of the crew's there." Gral stepped through the doorway and extended a hand to him. Jeremy took it. "How long will this last?" "As long as we want it." "What happens afterward." "Once we're tired of the hunt, we come back." Jeremy looked at him, worry in his eyes. "Don't worry, we'll come back together. We will never be apart again. I exacted that promise from Them." Jeremy nodded, and stepped through the doorway, which then disappeared. * * * * * As the ceremony ended, and everyone stood and applauded to welcome the new Federation member, Shimilion noticed that grandfather didn't stir. She touched his cheek, when he didn't move she placed a finger against his neck. Not feeling a pulse, she shed a tear and kissed his head. "Goodbye grandfather, Good hunting."
  22. Kindar

    Chapter 56

    Jeremy walked through the ship, alone. He was the only on in it. The repair crews had left, now that they were done. On top of repairs, upgrades had been done. The two generators had been replaced with the newest models, more powerful, more efficient. He could already hear Alix cursing. One of the cargo bay had been modified to house twelve fighter ships. He'd need to find pilots for them. They were turning his ship into a full military vessel, not just a patrol ship. Probably the most galling thing they had done, was to put a captain's chair on the bridge. He wasn't *that old. When he could no longer stand on his own two legs, he'd pass the captainship on to Tamirik. As soon as his crew was back on board, he'd get Sayane to remove it. The walk through confirmed what he'd suspected. The ship didn't feel the same. It wasn't just the modifications, he no longer felt Gral walking the halls with him. He step into their room, currently empty. He hoped that when their things were back in, he'd feel Gral again, at least here, because, as far as he could tell, the ship's Heart was gone. * * * * * "You don't have to do that, Pa," Tamirik said, standing in the doorway. Jeremy looked up at her, while continuing to pack the few things on the desk. Gods, she looked amazing, she was tall, proud, a captain. "I don't mind going back to being communication chief, until you're ready to hand over command to me." "And demote Rasilin? I don't think so, he worked hard to get there. It wouldn't be fair to him." "This isn't fair to you either, this is your ship." Jeremy shook his head, and paused. "To tell you the truth, the ship hasn't felt like mine since the repairs. Those last six years have been, difficult." He ran a hand through his hair, which was now more gray than not. "I'm happy to hand it to you." "What will you do now? Retire groundside?" Jeremy laughed. "Groundside? Me? Can you really imagine me just lying in the sun days in days out. No, I belong in space. Anyway, unless you're kicking Toom off the ship, I'm staying with him." "Gods no, I'm not kicking my near father off. He's still the best pilot I've ever seen." "Good. And I can be useful, I can watch over your cubs, I can't believe you managed to raise three of them, and still left the Academy with the highest honors. I can't remember getting much sleep when you were that young." "Rostol helped, as did Xenial, before the ship was ready." "Xenial helped with cubs?" Jeremy asked, surprised. The male had never mentioned that. "He was quite good with them. He would have been near father to them, if he'd been willing to stay groundside with us." Jeremy sighed, and missed his friend. "The Gods honored him," he said. "Only until he made off with their possessions," She added, with a wry smile. "He is going to make their lives interesting." Jeremy smiles wistfully. "No, your father is going to keep him in check." He forced himself to back to the present. "I can also help with dealing with the humans on Paradise, if you're planing on keeping the patrol route I had." He'd been offered, and had accepted, a new patrol route, which included Paradise. It allowed him to be back there every year, and he saw their settlement grow and prosper. The patrol had become vital when the Human government realized that not only were the leafers on Paradise surviving, they were thriving. Building an economy and trading with the federation. The humans had complained that they had been tricked, but that didn't last long, since they would have to reveal their own trickery to explain it. They settled on discreetly trying to disrupt trade, which had lead to putting more ships to patrol the trade routes. Jeremy had smiled when he learned that Patrick had been made leader of the settlement, much to the male's bafflement. Jack had outright refused. He was done with politics. He spent what time wasn't taken up with his mate advising Patrick, but that was the extend of his involvement. "I'm keeping it. I don't trust the humans not to do something stupid." "At least they aren't part of the Federation." "Yet. The Federation council is still seeing them allowing the exodus as a good gesture. Talks, to restart the process, are on again." "Gods," Jeremy sighed. "Nothing good will come of that." "I agree. That's why I'm keeping the patrol route. The Leafers are about the only good thing to come from the humans, they need to be protected." Jeremy agreed. * * * * * Jeremy settled quietly into retirement. As he'd promised, he looked after Tamirik's cubs, when needed, as well as anyone's cubs. He still took the bridge, when she needed him to, and he found himself regretting having the chair removed. As he aged, remaining standing became more of task than it had been. Over the years, his title went from captain, to grandfather, and he found he enjoyed it. He and Toom became the ones to take care of the cubs, entertaining them with stories of their lives, bringing Gral back to life for them. The humans eventually left the crew, to settle on Paradise, first the unattached ones, and eventually even those who had built relationships with kelsirians. Alix's Heart was the last one to leave, when one morning, Alix didn't wake up. Jeremy didn't hold it against any of them. The crew had never been their family, like it was his. Even with the change in personnel, he could never leave them, and they wouldn't want him to. One day, Toom fell sick, and none of the wonders they possessed made him better. Jeremy almost lost his will to live then, but the crew rallied around him, and he remembered that he wasn't alone. He was even more surprised when Roumalger joined the crew. Jeremy still wouldn't be his mate, but that didn't stop the male from moving in with him. Jeremy found another reason to live when he learned that the Federation was considering making Paradise a member colony. He found that he needed to be there to see that happen, no matter how long it took.
  23. Kindar

    Chapter 55

    Jeremy leaned on the railing, looking at his ship. From where he was, he could see the three aft decks that had been destroyed, two sections deep and twenty long, six guns. Fortunately, the casualties had been minimal, but that didn't make him feel any better. He hadn't wanted to look at the damage while being on Paradise, he knew it would have ruined his stay there, and he had dearly needed a respite. The two months there, helping the settlers buildup their infrastructure had been a balm on his aches. He had been tempted to stay there longer, just so he wouldn't have to see this sight, but he had a duty to his crew, who had taken that time to make as many repairs as they could. Still the two months trip back to Kelser took them eight. And now his ship was at dock, to be repaired and refitted. No one knew just how long that would take, so he was grounded until then. If he still had his ship by then. He could just imagine how those who wanted to take it away from him would use this incident to justify it. "You don't have to be so gloom," Toom said, as he stopped next to him. Toom was the only one of the crew left on the station, as far as Jeremy knew. Korfas had been the first to request permission to leave, which Jeremy had granted. There were no reasons to keep anyone on the ship once docked. "We only retrieved twenty of the twenty-eight dead," Jeremy said. "The families understand." "I know, but how can they be properly mourned, if they aren't burned? Are the Gods going to honor them, if their bodies are floating in space, somewhere?" "Of course, the Gods are going to honor them," Toom said with a chuckle, "you'll see." "Will I?" Jeremy let out a long sigh. "Will the Gods honor me?" "Why wouldn't they?" "Look at me Toom, I'm human. I hate it, but I am human." Toom did look at him. "You're not human. You body might be, but you have Gralgiranselhelrarvnir's Heart, that makes you kelsirian, and that is what the Gods will see." He put an arms around Jeremy's shoulders, and pulled him close. "I think we should head out, staying here is making you morose, and they should be arriving to get us soon. Jeremy let Toom lead him away, and he did start to feel better, once he could no longer see the sorry state of his ship. As soon as they got to the shuttle docks, someone yelled his name. Jeremy looked in the direction the yell had come from, and Toom stepped away from him just in time for Roumalger to hug Jeremy and spin him around. "I'm so glad you're back," He whispered, while nuzzling him. "I'm glad to see you too," Jeremy replied, as he was put down. "Are you finally mated?" "Ah! No, I'm not." "When are you going to finally settle down?" "As soon as you agree to be my mate." Jeremy's smile cracked a little. "You do know that's never going to happen, right? I like you, but I can't be your mate." "You're just being stubborn," Roumalger said, going to hug Toom. "It's good to see you too." He nibbles his neck. "Do me a favor and talk some sense into that mate of yours." "Why are you so damn interested in me anyway?" Jeremy asked, before Toom could say anything. "Because you're exotic, and a the most fantastic lover I've ever had." "He does have a point," Toom said. "You don't get to say that," Jeremy said, pointing at his mate. "You've had sex with Xenial, so you know I'm not the best out there." He put an arm around each of them. "You know Roumalger, if it's exotic you like, you should take a trip to Paradise, there are a lot of humans there." "Really? Maybe I will, that way I'll be able to find out if it's humans who are such great lovers, or just you." Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Let's go join our parents, I see them, and I'm pretty sure they are getting impatient." "No, they just didn't want to follow me and be witness to all the embarrassment I put you through." "At least they are considerate," Toom commented. Parkiler and Marsef hugged and nuzzled both of them. "Welcome home," Marsef said, ushering them inside the shuttle. "I'm sorry it was under such circumstances, but we're happy to have you over. Do you know how long you'll be staying?" "No," Jeremy replied, "but we won't be spending all our time with you, we'll be visiting Toom's family also." "That's good," Parkiler said. "I don't remember seeing them at the cremation." "My father couldn't make it. He couldn't afford to close his shop, and my brothers didn't come, they don't agree with me becoming a spacer, they believe I should have stayed and help father with the shop, just like they did." "But you're father is fine with you being in space?" "Yes, he's happy for me. He knows I couldn't stay limited by the atmosphere." "Where is your family from?" she asked, turning to look at them, in the back. "Roumalger! What have I told you about having sex in the shuttle?" Roumalger had been nuzzling Jeremy, with hands roaming all over his body, and he had turned toward him so he could grind against him. Roumalger let out a sigh, and seated himself properly, but he didn't do anything to hide the tent in his pants. "Don't you have any self control?" she asked him "Not around Jeremy, I don't." "I'm sorry," Jeremy said. "Don't be," Marsef replied. "It's isn't your fault. It's that son of mine. He has sex with anyone willing. Although in you case I can understand his lack of restraint." Jeremy raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were interested." "Who wouldn't be?" he replied with a chuckle. "Why haven't you initiated anything then?" "I'm forty years older than you. I couldn't see you being interested." Jeremy smiled. "You won't know unless you try it." Parkiler slapped her mate's lap. "See, I told you he wouldn't mind." "Mom, Dad. If you want me to keep my mind off sex, could you not talk about dad getting it on with Jeremy, that isn't helping." "What's in the crate?" Toom asked, to change the subject. "Oh, that's just something Marsef picked up while we were waiting for you," Parkiler said. "Yeah," Roumalger added, "I think it was delivered by someone from your crew." "My crew?" Jeremy asked, and then realized something. "Okay, no one say anything about the crate. As a captain, I'm required to report any contraband." "Except," Toom said, "that technically, you aren't currently a captain, you sort of need a working ship for that." Jeremy thought it over. "You know, you're right. So, Marsef. You finally got your hands on some coffee plants?" "Yes, the contact you gave me all those years ago finally came through. There's a one year old plant, six seedling, seeds, and also some coffee grains. He said I could use those to bribe your silence." * * * * * Jeremy was standing before the council table. He and the four members seated behind it were waiting for the fifth person to arrive. He wondered if she was doing this on purpose, making him wait. At least, they had had the courtesy to tell him a month ahead of time when the meeting would be. He didn't have to stress every day, wondering when he was going to be called. It also gave Toom time to look into who would be there. He knew the two on the right, Turkamilrir and Snifurnolkah. The general and politician who had been present at the last meeting. Both were looking to take the ship away from him. The two on the left were new. An admiral Tirak, just that. He had the shortest name Jeremy had ever come across among kelsirians, And a general Lancasgirakil. Toom couldn't find any indications that they had any sort of agendas toward the ship. So it was two against him, and two who might see reason, plus her. This wasn't going to go well, but if she was expecting him to just give up the fight, she had another thing coming. He was going to fight her as hard as he could. The door at the back finally opened, and admiral Oturslgirnal entered, to Jeremy, Turkamilri and Snifurnolkah's surprise. "Please forgive my tardiness, there was a last minute change. I came as quickly as I could." He put his datapad on the table and sat in the center seat. "This meeting is to go over Captain Jeremy's initial two year, well, almost three now, as captain of the Viper's Bane, to find out if he will remain captain. Who wants to start?" "Why don't we just retire the ship?" Snifurnolkah asked. "Why would we do that?" Tirak countered. "Have you seen the list of repairs it needs? It might be best to just give him a new ship." Jeremy kept his mouth shut, but the moment he was allowed to speak he was going to argue against that. He wasn't going to captain a different ship, this was his last tie to Gral, he wasn't going to lose it. "Really? I don't remember you saying that when the Revenge came in for repairs. I remember you there, you were awake, weren't you?" "Of course I was." "It's damage was more extensive, and you let it be repaired. The Bane is about the same age, a little younger actually," he corrected after checking his pad, "Is there something I don't know about it that makes it unsuitable for repairs?" "I'm just not sure continuing to spend money on repairs is wise, that's all." "That's what the military budget is for," Lancasgirakil said. "Maybe you need to stop trying to tell us how to manage our fleet. And focus on keeping your promises, that station is still waiting for you to approve those expansions you promised them." Snifurnolkah didn't reply. "I don't particularly care about the state of the ship," Turkamilri said. "I'm more concerned about the deaths." "Really?" Lancasgirakil asked. "Why?" "Twenty eight deaths, of which . . ." Turkamilri checked his pad. "Twenty seven hunters and one crew," Jeremy provided. "Ahh, yes, and I see there was a human death." "That was the crew member. He was a structure tech, and chose to continue the repairs he was doing, instead of evacuating, as ordered." "You had a human as part of the crew?" "I have forty six." "That is unacceptable, we can't have humans getting access to our technology. What's to stop them from sending the information back to Earth?" "Those are my humans, not part of the passengers we carried to Paradise." He didn't mention Alix's Heart, that was none of their businesses. "I don't care. You don't have the authority to make a decision like that. You should have contacted us." "Jeremy did contact the council," Oturslgirnal said. "He spoke with," he glanced at his pad, "Councilor Querikdarfingalse, who approved his decision." "How can he have approved such a thing?" "You'll have to take that up with him. All that matters right now, is that Jeremy proceeded as expected." "Fine. There's still the matter of the deaths. "I don't get what you problem is with that," Tirak said. "They are hunters." "We die, so our people live," Jeremy said, by reflex. Tirak looked at him. "I didn't know anyone still knew the creed." Jeremy just nodded. "So?" Turkamilri asked. "It isn't because they are hunters that their lives should be thrown away." "Thrown away?" Tirak eyed Turkamilri. "Exactly how do you define throwing away a life? Captain, how did your people die?" Jeremy took a deep breath. "Nineteen gunners died when we took fire during the pursuit, after the ambush. Eight hunters died in the aft breach." "Where the gunners needed?" "Yes, we were firing on the pursuing ships, trying to disable them enough to make it to kelsirian space alive." "The hunters?" "The hunters were keeping fires under control. Those fires occurred when a missile breached a section, early in the pursuit. The electrical system overloaded, and the fire suppression system didn't respond. If I hadn't sent them there, fire would have spread along the power conduits, without any way to know how extensive the damage would have been." "And you said the tech had been ordered to leave." "Yes." Tirak looked at Turkamilri again. "You call that throwing lives away?" "You find twenty-eight deaths acceptable?" "Are you serious? Are you telling me you didn't have any deaths during your career? Never mind. I don't want to know how you went up in ranks. Lancasgirakil, you read the report about the ambush, and pursuit. How many deaths would normally be expected in such a situation?" "Considering the opposing force the Bane was up against, and the sabotage they had been subjected to," he paused for a moment, "at the very least, I would have expected a third of everyone one on board to have died, and if I was running this as an evaluation scenario, up to half would still be acceptable." "So, how would you judge twenty-eight deaths, all crew, no civilians." Lancasgirakil chuckled dryly. "We don't have enough medals to show just how amazing that was. And to address general Turkamilri, no, that does not constitute throwing away lives. That is exactly the opposite. Now shut up, you're making the rest of us look bad." Turkamilri glared at Lancasgirakil, who ignored him. "What does concern me," Lancasgirakil continued, "is this human hunter squad you formed. Twenty-two humans, who were trained in our hunting ways. I understand they are trusted, but they aren't kelsirians, would they really do our ways proud?" "The squad was formed for the purpose of infiltrating the passengers. By that time it was obvious we were the subject of sabotage, but we couldn't get those humans to trust us, they would only open up to other humans. They didn't get full training, and I made them hunters so they would receive the protection accorded to us, should things escalate. I didn't want them to be abandoned, if it came down to that. "Before you bring them up, six of them were cubs. We chose them, because they were old enough to be responsible, but looked young enough for other humans to feel protective of them, humans have a tendency to open up more to cubs than to adults. The cubs volunteered, and their parents gave their permission. Also, everyone was under strict orders to keep them away from the worse of the dangers. The use of the human hunter squad led to the capture of four of the six saboteurs." "What happened to the other two?" "They chose suicide over capture." "And the squad?" "I disbanded it once the mission was accomplished." Lancasgirakil nodded. "I still question the use of cubs, but none of them were hurt, and only six of the human hunters were hurt. They can't be considered civilians at the time of the mission." "Do we know that Jeremy didn't force them to join the squad?" Snifurnolkah asked. Lancasgirakil sighed. "Did you actually bother to read the reports? Or are you too busy repeating what you're handlers tell you?" Snifurnolkah opened and closed his mouth, trying to say somethign, but failing. "Each human on the squad wrote a report describing what happened. While the translation makes for something of a funny read, there is no indication they were under duress at any time." He looked at Jeremy. "Thank you for answering my questions. I'm satisfied you showed good judgment in your decision." There was a moment of silents. "Does anyone have anything to add?" Oturslgirnal asked. Lancasgirakil and Tirak shook their heads. Snifurnolkah and Turkamilri remained silent. "Then, I'm happy to say that they ship is yours, Captain. As soon as it's fit to fly, you're free to go back where you belong." "Thank you admiral." He nodded to each of them, in turn, left, and almost walked into someone as the door closed behind him. "Kosfas, I wasn't expecting you here." "I wanted to make sure things went well." "It did, your mother wasn't there." "Good." "I take it you had something to do with that?" "I told her to stop meddling in my life. She not the Gods, so she doesn't have the right to do so. I'm happy she listened." "Thanks." "No, I'm the one who needs to thank you. Until you took me in, I had no idea that I wanted this. I was just doing what mother told me. I'm actually terrified to think what would have happened if she had succeeded in getting me a captainship." He surprised Jeremy by giving him a tight hug. In all the time he'd trained him, they had never hugged. "I won't be returning to the ship. I've been accepted the to Command Academy. So this is goodbye." "Congratulation. I'm certain you'll excel." "Thank you." Korfas turned and left. Before Jeremy could also leave, the door opened and admiral Oturslgirnal stepped out. "Captain, I'm glad I caught you before you left." "Korfas was just informing me he was accepted in the Academy." "Yes, I saw his application, and pushed it through. I also saw that your daughter applied. Do you want me to push hers through?" Jeremy shook his head. "No. I appreciate the thought, but she will be accepted by her own merits." "Very well. What will you be doing while your ship is being repaired?" "I have no idea. I've never been groundside this long. At this point I'm counting on Toom to keep me from going stir crazy." Oturslgirnal put a hand on his shoulder. "If you get too bored, you can always consider spending some time at the academy, teaching." Jeremy looked at him in horror.
  24. Kindar

    Chapter 54

    The door buzzed. "Come in," Jeremy said, finishing reading the report before looking up. Repairs were coming along. The ship wouldn't be back to how it was before the ambush, but at least it would run better. At least the atmospherics were back online. "Erik," Jeremy said, surprise to see the human. He worked in Engineer, Alix was teaching him. "What can I do for you?" Erik looked from Jeremy to Korfas, "Can, can we speak in private?" Before Jeremy could say anything Korfas shutdown his screens and grabbed his pad. "I need to go talk with procurement." He stood. "They're suppose to have done checks on the vegetation on the planet, to see if we can eat any of it." He left the room. "Have a seat," Jeremy offered. Erik sat down, looked at the floor for a moment. "I think It's going to be best if I leave the crew, and settle on the planet." "That's entirely your right, you know they'll be happy to take you in, and I already said anyone who wants to stay, can. You didn't need to come see me for that." Erik stood and started pacing. "It's Alix, I don't know what to do about him." "Is he being unreasonable in what he expects you to do?" "No, no. It's just . . . He keeps looking at me. Sometime he gets this, I don't know, hungry look on him." He sat down. "He makes you uncomfortable." Erik nodded. "Have you told him to stop?" Erik looked at him, eyes wide. "No! I don't want him to stop! That's the problem." He put his head in his hands. "God, I think I'm falling in love with him." "That's good." "Good? How can that be good? He has a wife and a kid. I don't want to be a home wrecker." He took a deep breath. "That's why I need to leave." Jeremy had to work very hard at keeping his face still. He couldn't believe that some humans were still stuck in such a narrow mindset after being on his ship for a few years. Granted, these last month, over crowed with humans from earth probably had something to do with his humans regressing. Once he know he could open his mouth without laughing, he punched the com. "Alix. My office. Now!" With the order given, he stood and opened the cabinet in the corner of the room. He poured a finger of the drink in the black bottle, and handed Erik the glass. "What is it?" he asked. "A ridoshi drink. The closest thing to scotch I've been able to fine. You look like you need to calm your nerves" Erik down it, and then gasped. "My god, that stuff's horrible." "It's an acquired taste," Jeremy confirmed, sitting. Alix might be a while, he and the other repair crews were the only ones on the ship. Everyone else was enjoying their time groundside. Jeremy would get back there himself, once he was done with his work. The door opened and Alix stood in the doorway, panting. "Reporting, captain. What's the problem?" He looked at the human. "Erik, what are you doing here?" He looked at Jeremy, "Captain, if he's done anything wrong, I can take care of it. He's a good engineer, he's just still learning." His ears folded back, then forward, sideways. Jeremy had never seen Alix be that nervous. Jeremy canted his head to the side. "Tell me, Alix, when did you become so timid?" Alix stared at him. "What?" "Erik's been telling me how you look at him, sometime hungrily." Alix's ears turned red. "How come you haven't made any advances on him?" Erik stared at Jeremy. "He's human, I. I didn't want to make him uncomfortable." "You screwed up. You've been making him uncomfortable enough that he wants to leave the crew." "What?" Alix went to Erik. "You can't do that. Please, you've got to stay. I've been looking for you for too long, you can't leave now." Erik leaned back away form Alix, and looked at Jeremy. "What doed he mean, he's been looking for me?" Jeremy just nodded toward Alix, who was now on his knees. "I'm sorry I've made you uncomfortable, it really wasn't my intention." He took Erik's hand in his. "I've been hun . . . looking for my Heart since I've been a cub. I went to space still looking. You're him, Erik. You are my Heart. Please don't leave. I love you." Erik stared at him. "You can't love me! You have a wife!" Alix looked at Jeremy, confusion on his face. "Your mate." Alix nodded and looked back to Erik. "I can still love you." "No you can't! You're committed to her! I'm not going to have you leave her for me!" Erik tried to stand, but Alix forced him back down. "No. Erik, I am not letting you go that easily. I'm not human. I don't follow your rules. I am not limited to loving just one person. Please look at me." He said, and slowly Erik looked at him. "This is why I didn't do anything. I was trying to find a way to make sure you understood that we did things differently. I remember how Jeremy was those first few years. It took him time to come to terms with our customs. I'm not going to ask you to move in with us, all I ask is that you stay. Please stay, give me time to show you we can make this work." Erik looked at Jeremy. "What should I do?" "What do you want to do? Not what you think you should, what do you want?" Erik looked at Alix again. "I want to stay," he whispered. Alix hugged him tightly, which made Erik tense. He pulled away. "I'm sorry, too fast, I know. I'll keep my distances. I'll see you back at work." Now, Jeremy couldn't hide the smile, as Alix rushed out. "What's funny," Erik said, still stunned. "Sorry, I've never seen Alix act like a cub in love for the first time before." Erik was silent for a moment. "Am I making a mistake?" "If you're referring to breaking them up. It won't happen. As I've explained before, we don't limit ourselves to loving just one person. Don't force yourself into something you aren't comfortable with, Alix won't force you to either. Just follow your Heart, it will lead you true.
  25. Kindar

    Chapter 53

    The Viper's Bane limped in at Paradise two month late. Jeremy couldn't wait to get his passengers off the ship, and at this point, they probably couldn't wait to be off. He wiped his brow, the temperature on the bridge was just this side of suffocating. Except for the living decks, atmospherics through out th ship were just barely working. Half the engines had been damaged beyond repairs, which didn't matter much, since their main generator had been pushed past its limit. They were on the backup, and it hadn't be designed to power the entire ship by itself. Everyone on the ship was cranky, the brig couldn't hold anyone, it was just to hot down there, so trouble makers had been locked in their quarters. It was bad enough that a few of his crew were also under arrest. The screen showed the planet, a ball of blues, greens, browns whites, and something black, and nasty, in one area. It also showed that there were eleven other ships parked in orbit, in a loose group. "Viper's Bane," came a voice over the com, "Hargral Glory here. Whose army did you take on?" "Very funny, Glory. The Human government decided they didn't want to let my passengers go, after all. How is the disembarking going?" "It . . . isn't." There was a silence. "Seems the humans can't decide who should be first to set foot on their new planet." "Gods, tell me you are joking." "I wish I could. We've been here three weeks. The Ridoshi ship twice that long, although they don't seem to mind." Jeremy looked at Korfas, whose fur was matted to his skin, like everyone one else. "Right now, that chair of yours sound like a great idea." He looked to Tamirik. "Get me in contact with all the captains." "Yes, sir." It took her a few minutes, during which Jeremy had to wipe sweat off his face constantly. "They're all listening." "This is Jeremy, of the Viper's Bane. Please give me all ship, I need to talk with your passengers." Over the next minutes he got eleven confirmations. He took a breath, he didn't want to make this decision for everyone else, but he wasn't staying in space any longer than he absolutly had too. "My name is Jeremy. This won't mean anything to most of you, but two of you know me. We met at a bar in the San Francisco space port, a long time ago. Please find a com, I need to talk to you, both." It took a few minutes, then someone said "Jeremy? It's good to hear your voice." "What's your name?" There was a moment of hesitation. "I'm Louis." Jeremy had remembered his name, but he wanted to make sure he had the right person, ultimately who had the honor didn't matter, but he felt wrong to have someone he hadn't met usurp it. "Please tell me your mate traveled with you. You two were apart long enough that you shouldn't have to come here on different ships." "I'm here," said someone else. "I'm glad to hear that, Patrick. Which ship are you on?" He heard them asking about for the name. "They are aboard my ship," cut in a voice, in very proper kelsirian, with clicks between the words, a ridoshi. "It is called." What followed was unintelligible. "Thank you in helping with the exodus," Jeremy said. "Louis, Patrick, you have the honor of being the first humans to set foot on Paradise, find a shuttle and get moving." "What? Why us?" "Because you guys have had weeks to work this out, and haven't. The atmospherics on my ship are barely working, so I want fresh air." "You should be the first one, you're the one who set things in motion." "I didn't do anything more than follow my Heart. And I'm not human. The honor belong to humans, not me. Now get going, because if I have to board your ship to get you down there myself, I am going to do it." * * * * * Jeremy relaxed the moment the shuttle doors open, the fresh air entered like it had been blasted in. He'd piloted it, he wasn't going to stay on the ship a moment longer, he also wasn't going to steal a spot from one of the humans. Once they were all out he left the cockpit, patting the other pilot on the shoulder. "go up for the next group. I'll relieve you when you get back." "Yes sir." Jeremy stepped out, and raised his head to the sun. He closed his eyes, and soaked in the heat. A lot of other people were doing the same. It had to have been because of the atmospherics on the ship. He never had this kind of reaction to going groundside before. After enjoying the heat for a time he opened his eyes and looked around. They were in a plain, with ankle high grass that was a little more yellow than it was on Earth, or Kelser. There we a few trees, here and there, one of which seem to have a fruit of some type. Parents already had to keep children form climbing them. In the distance were mountains. He couldn't tell how high they were, but seemed to touch the sky. "Jeremy!" someone yelled. He turned to see two males coming toward him. He didn't recognize them, but there's only two people they could be. "Patrick, Louis," he said, ignoring the offered hands, and hugging them, much to their consternations. "Which is which?" "I'm Louis," the shorter, bald one, said. "And I'm Patrick," his hair was black, heavily peppered with gray. "This place really is paradise." "Except for that black zone, what was that?" "As best as the explorer who found this planet could tell, it's a zone with a permanent storm. The government was led to believe that most of the planet is like that. And spun it to the federation as this place being rough, but livable. Since the federation was insisting they had to stop persecuting the homos, the government said they would relocate us here." "Well, no matter if this planet is rough, or not. You'll be winning from not being under their thumb anymore. You're free to be who you are, and be with who you want." "That's going to take some getting use to, as you can probably tell." Jeremy nodded. Looking around, almost no one was holding hand, or even standing too close to one another. "Yeah, I can tell it might be an adjustment. I was lucky I guess. When I found Gral, I found myself in an environment where everyone touched, so I didn't have to be afraid. Some habit did take a while to lose." "Like what?" "Well, having sex with someone other than my mate." Louis and Patrick looked at him, horrified. "They forced you to do that?" Jeremy laughed. "No, it wasn't forced. It's the way we are. For us sex as nothing to do with love. It just took me a while to realize it. Now, I can't imagine another way of being." Jeremy laughed again at the look they gave him. "Hey, this is your planet. We're not going to tell you how to live. You find what works for you guys." Patrick put a hand on his shoulder. "This is your planet too, you're one of us." Jeremy shook his head. "No, it isn't. I already have a home, on Kelser. Like I said earlier, I'm a kelsirian." "Are you sure? It can't be easy, being different from everyone else." "I'm not different." "How can you say that? You're . . ." "Furless?" "Yeah." "They don't see that. I mean, sure when someone meets me for the first time, they are surprised, but that doesn't last. Even people I've never met back on Kelser know who I am. Look, don't worry about me. I'm happy. I'm not making due, I'm actually happy. I have cubs, a mate, friends and family. I really wouldn't change any of it. You guys focus on your lives. Build a society that you will be happy with. If you see some things from other people you think will work, look into it, but don't force it on yourself just because it seems to work for them." Louis looked at him. "Are you sure I can't convince you to take charge of this place? You have the perfect outlook for it." "Gods no. I have enough with my ship, but feel free to steal those mindset, if you think they'll work." The shuttles returned with more people. Jeremy bid them goodbye and went to replace his pilot. Over the rest of the day the humans, and most of the crews, as well as equipment made it to the planet. Three ships were still unaccounted for, and Jeremy worried they had fallen into similar traps. As night fell, enough buildings had been erected so everyone could sleep indoors, not that anyone did. The evening temperature barely cooled, and once the sun set, the sky lit up with stars. Toom found him, and they had sex under them. * * * * * The next day a new ship arrived, but it wasn't one of the missing ones. No one had any idea what it was doing here, so everyone was tensed. Jeremy had a few of his hunters stand close to where the shuttle landed, ready for trouble. The door opened, and a lone human male walked out. He was in his mid forties, dressed in a black suit, hair slicked back. He looked around and waved. Jeremy could smell the political stink coming off him. Obviously he wasn't the only one, because others started jeering at him. When a rock almost hit the male, Jeremy had his hunters interpose themselves. There was more anger here than he had expected. "What the fuck are you doing here?" someone yelled. "You have no rights to be here!" someone else. "Haven't you hurt us enough already?" yet someone else. "Enough!" Jeremy yelled. He had no idea what this was about, but he wasn't going to have a war on the second day here. "You must be Jeremy," the male said, extending his hand to him. Jeremy whirled in his direct. "Don't think this means I like you. I don't like any politicians. So don't move until we've sorted this out." "Jack!" someone yelled. Jeremy looked over his shoulder to see a male running toward them. He shoved Jeremy aside and jumped in the other male's arms. "Brian, baby. I've missed you so much," Jack said, kissing him, tears falling down his face. The display seemed to baffle the humans watching. Jeremy didn't understand their reaction. Patrick made his way toward them. "Mister Kirby," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Patrick Monroe." Jack stopped kissing Brian, and, keeping an arms around him, he shook Patrick's hand. "I'm sorry," he said, studying him. "Are we suppose to have met before?" "No, but I'm one of the few people who knows what you did for us." Patrick turned to the crowd. "Senator Jack Kirby is one of us," he stated. Which got him booed and cursed. "Listen to me! If not for this man, none of you would be here right now." "You got that right!" someone yelled. "He's the guy who pushed for mandatory testing." "Do you know why he did that?" Patrick yelled. "Do you have any idea why this man stayed away from the man he loved for twenty years? Why he made sure we all hated him? It was so that when the time came for the government to decide what to do with us, they would have a reason to listen to his suggestion. If not for him, we would have been rounded up and killed." That quieted the crowd. Jack put a hand on Patrick's shoulder. "I don't expect you to like me," he said. "I knew what i was getting into when I set myself on this course of action. All I ask is that you let me and Brian live in peace. We'll stay away, as much as we can, if that's what you want, all we want, is our chance to be happy.
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