The Starborn Knight: Part II

Shekaree, Chevalier

Four years ago — June 2012

It didn’t take long on the alien’s world for us to encounter the first sign of resistance. Thankfully the aliens were no match for us, their technology still relying on primitive chemical payload to propel metallic projectiles.

Master Iren and I however remained largely away from the worst of the engagements, although lords were formidable opponents, our duty was to oversee the operation on the regional scale and ensure the different corps were working together.

On the third day, we were on our way to meet with an assault division within one of the aliens’ cities when I heard a loud buzzing coming from around us.

What’s that sound?” I asked.

Drones. We should take cover before it sees us. There might be more.” Master Iren said.

Immediately one of the warriors following us opened the entrance of one of the nearby buildings and we took cover. It was some kind of mess hall, with tables all over and a large counter on one end.

Although the others remained on guard, curiosity got the better of me and I explored the area. In a corner I found a stack of plastified sheets which were covered in scribbles I didn’t know how to decypher along with pictures of meals. I continued my look around and stepped into another room at the back, this one holding equipment which I assumed served to prepare meals. I examined everything, some items were alien in designs but others similar enough to what we used on Resh. My search however was interrupted by a loud yell.

“Alien Scum!”

I turned around and saw one of the aliens, screaming at me as he held a weapon. I hadn’t seen him and somehow he’d sneaked up on me, seeing one so closely for the first time, I froze and he levelled the weapon at me and he was about to fire when Master Iren came to the rescue, slicing the alien’s arm off with his photonic saber before stabbing it in the chest.

Shekaree are you alright?

Yes Master.

He let out a breath of relief and put his gloved hand on my head.

“You had me worried there. Stay close to me and get your weapon out, there might be more.”

I nodded and took out my plasma handgun. I looked at the ground where the dead alien lied and once more curiosity got the better of me. I picked up his weapon and examined it. It was a simple design; when the trigger was pressed a pin would activate the cartridge.

Master?

What is it?

This weapon only holds one cartridge… He had to have heard there were many of us, why did he attack, he couldn’t have possibly won…

Maybe it was scared, it didn’t think straight.

I nodded and took the words in. I looked around and noticed a door that hadn’t been open when I’d first come in, leading to a large metal box, which now hung partially open. I notified one of the warriors and we investigated quickly.

A cry alerted us and at once both the warrior and I raised our weapons at the potential danger. But that wasn’t what we found. There in the box was one of the aliens, a female by the looks of it, clutching one of their juvenile in its arms which it tried to keep silent. Red splotches on its outfit betrayed the presence of a wound. Unlike us Tzaries, the aliens bleed red… Had the alien attacked us to protect its family?

Lower your weapons, they’re non-combatants.” Master Iren ordered, coming up behind us.

The warrior and I obeyed my the order and Master Iren walked closer to the aliens, which caused the adult one to try to crawl away, even if it was in a dead end but it couldn’t, letting out an injured cry.

Healer!” He snapped and one of the warriors with us came forward. “Give me your nano spray.” The healer didn’t protest and handed over the spray which we used to seal wounds.

Master Iren approached the aliens but once more it try to move away, fear clear in its expression. But he slowly raised his hands, trying to appear non-threatening to the alien. Once it calmed down ever so slightly, he motioned to the blood, then to his ribs, then to the alien and then to the spray.

The alien seemed to understand as it didn’t react when he came a little closer. It even raised the side of its stained outfit and revealed the hole within her flesh which was covered with soaked bandages. I could tell it hadn’t been done by one of our weapons but rather by the aliens’ own primitive projectiles, victims of friendly fire… Master Iren applied the nano spray to the alien’s side, which likely helped her, although nothing was certain; the spray wasn’t made for aliens, but should have sealed the wound and sterilized it regardless.

We should go.” Master Iren said, solemnly once his operation was done.

What about the aliens?

We’ll leave them be.

I didn’t question his orders and left the kitchen of the alien building. A few minutes later we were given the all clear and left, resuming our route to meet with the 764th assault company.

Once our business concluded, Master Iren opted to camp with the 764th for the night, taking refuge in one of the buildings the 76th had secured for their operations. Although I tried to sleep, the event of the day kept playing through my mind on repeat… And how I’d failed given my first chance at real combat…

Master Iren, are you still awake?

What is it Shekaree?” He replied a moment later. I apparently wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find sleep…

I got up and went to his side, sitting down by his sleeping cot.

I’m sorry I froze earlier…” I said, looking down at the ground in shame.

It’s alright, these things happen.

But…

Shekaree you are the youngest apprentice on the battlefield, you’ve only had a few months of training before you were thrown into the Svren’s den. Many in your position would have panicked, ran away or disobeyed orders, but you haven’t.”

“You’ve done exceptionally well, I couldn’t have asked for a better apprentice.” He said, gently running his claws through my hair before bringing me closer against him. “Now we better catch some rest. We have to move at first light.” He extended his blanket over the two of us and closed his eyes. 

I laid against him, my head resting against the protective mesh of his under armor garment. I could feel his plates through the fabric. His body was warm and moved softly to the rhythm of his breathing. And I caught myself thinking of thoughts that weren’t appropriate… Of things improper for an apprentice to want of their master…

***

I was awoken by the crashing sound of thunder, my brain snapped awake and just outside the building we’d taken shelter in I saw an explosion of lights soon followed by screams. I shook my master awake, but he was already on alert. We hopped to our feet and began arming ourselves.

My master was only halfway armored up when the doors of our shelter exploded open. One of the aliens stepped through, dressed in a strange white and gold costume and wreathed in lightning. It was one of the aliens’ powered being.

Shekaree. Stay behind me.” Master Iren snarled, clutching his weapon.

My heart started beating faster than ever and what then happened did so simultaneous mind bogglingly fast and yet horrifyingly slow… The Alien charged at us, only to be intercepted by my master, using his blade to keep it at bay. But that didn’t work as lightning erupted from the alien’s fingers and struck the blade, which exploded in Master Iren’s hand. He didn’t have time to recover that the alien punched him, sending him flying away to crash against the wall.

“Master!” I screamed rushing to his side.

But I didn’t reach him before another streak of lightning hit him. Soon followed by the smell of burning flesh… Around him the ground had been blackened only to be then stained by the green tint of his blood… When I reached him only a second later, he wasn’t moving and I couldn’t hear his breath either…

“Master…”

A shadow formed over me and I looked up, seeing the thunder-alien standing above me with its towering height. I didn’t think. I took out my knife and aimed at his guts, only for the blade to harmlessly slide over it. It answered with a backhanded strike which sent me down on my back. It readied another charge of its lightning and I closed my eyes, muttering a prayer to the ancestors. I knew I was about to die and that there was nothing I could do about it…

The lightning bolt never hit me although the thundering clap of it did. I opened my eye only to see another of the aliens, standing between the thunder-alien and I, a shimmering barrier between the two of us.

“Mais putain Thunder, C’est juste un enfant!” The alien who’d saved me said in its language.

“I don’t fucking speak French, mate.” The thunder-powered alien answered.

I didn’t know what they were saying. I knew I had to do something, but I couldn’t think of anything, as my body just froze once more… beside had I done anything, I’d have been fried by the thunder-alien…

Another alien came toward me, this one in an indigo colored suit. She raised a hand toward me. I tried to resist but found my body numb.

“I’m sorry, child. You shouldn’t have been involved in this…” It said. “But for now, just sleep.”

My eyes felt heavy and I couldn’t keep them open. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for everything to go blank in my mind.

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Wayward: Part II

The Wayward Son

Part II: A New Leaf

As I’d predicted the company didn’t discipline me for my actions. If anything, they spun what I’d done as a new partnership between the Met and them for a safer metropolis that had been kept secret. It was a total lie, but people seemed to buy it. And giving away a few suits in the future was worth the PR.

The rest of the month passed by quickly and I managed to fix our modular system in time for the big demo. In front of hundreds of the world’s top military officers and private security magnate our pilot demonstrated the suit’s capability to change and and adapt to any situation, claiming to herald the end of the need for specialized units. It was pure bollocks, but they seemed impressed regardless. The demonstration over, I retreated to our prep area and began running a check up on the systems.

“Jay, my boy.” Mr. Samuel Wentworth said as he approached me, even though I’d told him a thousand time that my sisters only Sana and Vani could call me Jay. He wrapped an arm around me, trying to do the fatherly routine. I wasn’t fond of physical contact and I repressed the urge to shake him off. “Brilliant work on the Nandaka, you wowed the audience.”

“That’s good, because I quit.”

“What?” Was all he answered.

“I’m done. I checked, the suit fill all of the parameters my contract required it to. Consider this my two week notice.”

“Please Jay, I’m sure we can negotiate something. You know how much I value your help.”

I paused.

“I want a suit for my own personal use, freedom to use it as I please and my own lab in a location of my choosing.”

“I…”

“Think about it. It’s win-win. You get to keep me on board, I improve your weapons and you get valuable real-world data on its performance. Plus you can spin what I do however you please.”

“Is this because of what happened with your sister? I know, your father told me.”

“Doesn’t matter. You heard my terms, take them or leave them.”

“I’ll have to ask the board. I can’t make that kind of decision all by myself.”

“Call me when they say yes.”

I finished the diagnosis and went home in a cab. Home was a good hour and a half away so that left me plenty of time to think. Once I came in, I found Sana was waiting for me, babysitting little Vani by herself. My sisters and I were only half siblings in reality. Although we shared the same dad, I’d been the result of an adventure between my dad and one of his childhood friend whom had passed only a few months after my birth.

“How did it go?” She asked, keeping her eyes on our three years old sister as she ate. The moment she would look away, Vani would throw the plate away and make a mess.

“It went well… I’m thinking of quitting.”

“Wait, for real?” She turned my way and stopped paying attention for a second.

So Vani put her plate on as a hat, sending spaghetti everywhere. Vani thought it was the funniest thing ever and started giggling her lungs out. Sana on the other hand let out the most primordial howl of frustration ever heard in history.

I helped her clean it all up before setting Vani in the tub, which made her happy. She probably made messes all the time just so we’d have to give her a bath. Toddlers are devious like that, cute but devious.

“You’re seriously leaving? Like you’re not going to do what dad wants for once?”

“Yeah, I think it’s time for something new.”

“What are you going to do, go back to college?”

“I was thinking of something more physical.”

As I said that, my phone vibrated and I took it out; it was Mr. Wentworth.

> They said yes. Don’t fuck up.

I couldn’t help but smile. Only one was thing left to take care of.

***

The London office of the Legion wasn’t as impressive as its american counterpart but it was still impressive; A massive statue of it’s founding members stood in front of the buildings. Technically they shared it with the Parahuman Initiative of the Metropolis or the PIM, but nobody cared about that.

I walked into the large lobby, three floor in height of glass, steel and marble. People were walking about from one side to the other and there were even a few parahuman officers on duty; one of them easily recognizable by her glowing orange skin.

“Can I help you?” The receptionist asked.

“Uh, yeah.” I fumbled around my pocket and found the card the Captain had given me. “Captain Thunder told me to give you this.”

“You must be Sanjay.” She said picking up her phone.

“How do you know my name?”

“Captain Thunder has told us to you might come by some time ago.”

That didn’t really answer the question, I hadn’t told him my name. But then again the Legion wouldn’t have been as good as it was if it wasn’t able to find my name from SecuriTech’s employee database.

“Here’s your visitor badge. Please head to the waiting room ahead. The Captain is currently busy but should be available soon.”

I took the badge and she pointed me to the security gate. I let it scan my badge and it let me through.

The center of the lobby was like a miniature park with trees, bushes and flowers. Benches were scattered around and a few kiosk sold food to people. I got a falafel sandwich and sat down to wait for my rendezvous.

After about an hour, Captain Thunder came to meet me, although he was less spectacular this time, coming down the lift like anyone else would. Still, he had the stature of a Greek god and wore  his trademark costume; a black set of tights with a golden lightning emblem and a pristine white cape flowing over his shoulders. Capes didn’t look all that great, they’re big and awkward and really don’t look good on most people. But the Captain could pull it off.

“So you came.” He said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I did.”

“I expected you earlier.”

“I had things to finish.”

“And have they been taken care of?”

“They have. You said when I had decided to do something better with my life, to come and see you here. What for?”

“We’re always on the lookout for people with the right spirit. You qualify. And from what you did, you have the talent to back that up.”

“What did you have in mind?”

He walked over to an information booth and picked a pamphlet, handing it to me.

I read it; Ravenhold Academy, 2016.

“The superhero school?”

“I’ve got a voucher I haven’t used. It’s yours. Any questions?”

“When do I begin?”

“Three weeks from now. We’ll arrange transportation. But I have to ask; what about your suit, isn’t that going to be a problem?”

“I got that taken care of already.”

“Efficient. I like that. I’ll call you when it’s time.”

He walked me to the exit and left the building before flying away. I walked further down the street before I took my phone out. It rang a few times before I got an answer from the secretary who redirected me.

“Mr. Wentworth?” I asked.

“Yes, Jay. What can I do for you?”

“I’ve decided where I want my lab.”

“And where is that?”

“Priest Island, Maine. Make it a portable one. I’ll need it by early September.”

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Wayward: Part I

The Wayward Son

Part I: Emergency

Nine straight hours of work. Three fourths of the way through my daily routine. Everyday was the same; I came to the company and labored from sunup to sunset on my father’s magnum opus; the Nandaka armor. My father was a genius weapon designer, I’d followed his footsteps. Except I was even better.

“What’s up?” Someone asked from behind me.

I jumped a little. I turned up and saw my little half-sister Sana standing behind me. She was only two years younger than I was although we weren’t all that similar. She was slender and tall, with coppery skin and light brown hair. Although we shared similar skin tones, my hair was darker and my build the opposite; short but sturdy, I’d always been the odd one out of the children, although I was Tamil like them, I didn’t look all that similar which came from being from a different mother, the result of an affair by my father.

“Cheesh, Sana. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Didn’t sneak up, you were just so focused you didn’t hear me.”

“Right.”

“I brought you lunch. Mostly so the guards would let me in.” She gave me a paper bag, which I put down on my desk.

“Thanks.”

I got up and hugged her.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Good, but you’d know that if you were home more often.”

“Sorry, work’s been making me busy.” I examined her and noticed that she wore a short cocktail dress and had her makeup done.

“Going somewhere?”

“It’s Ashleigh’s birthday. We’re going to 618. And you’re coming with us.” She said, putting her index against my chest. 618 was one of the most popular club these days; really high end. At fifteen Sana wasn’t old enough to drink but I knew she could pass for an adult, plus with her richer than rich ceo-daughter BFF that didn’t matter a whole lot.

“I can’t.”

“Oh come on, you’ve been wrapped up in your work all week end, you can at least come and party with us.” She said. “Can’t you do something other than work for one night? That’s all you ever do…”

“Sorry, not tonight.”

“Fine, have a good night.”

She walked away and I was left to ponder her words. She was right; it was all I ever did. I wasn’t sure what else to do either. Graduating high school at ten and breezing through college in a few years hadn’t left me with any idea on what to do with my time. I sat back down and went back to work. I always liked to have some noise in the background when working, there was something about silence that made me uncomfortable so I turned the TV up.

The modular equipment was the thing giving me the most trouble. Just adding a slot where you could bolt or unbolt other pieces wasn’t hard, but making it dynamic and able to remove or replace equipment on the field unassisted without it being a structural weakness proved to be a challenge. After two hours I gave up. I wasn’t making any progress and my stomach was protesting any more work.

I reached for the paper bag Sana had left and opened it before looking at the content. There was a four compartment tupperware containing curd rice, tamarind rice, sambar, and vegetable curry.  A little taste of home just for me, all home cooked. It meant one thing; she had known I wouldn’t have come or she wouldn’t have worked so hard on it…

I took it to the employee kitchen downstairs and put it in the microwave. A crowd had gathered around the TV with worried whispers and it took me a moment to understand why…

Hostage crisis at 618

My heart sunk.

I didn’t think.

I ran upstairs.

The prototype we had was encased behind a glass case. I hit the release button and an alarm blared through the room. Security was warned that someone was accessing it. I didn’t have time to hesitate; I entered the override and booted the assembly sequence; scanners scanned me from all directions and soon after the mechanical arms built the armor around me, sealing it. The HUD booted just as corporate security stormed the room.

So I ran past them, the armor’s servos making it feel light. I passed the corridor and made my way to the stairs; going up rather than down. I kicked the door to the roof open, sending it off it’s hinges, and then ran toward the edge.

“Stop!” One of the security guard yelled.

“I can’t.” I answered in a whisper but the suit’s voice modulator amplified it.

I ran to the edge, jumped and prayed.

The ionic thrusters came to life and I glided through the air. It wasn’t a long way from SecuriTech to the 618, but it felt like it was.  From the air, I could see the police had surrounded the place, the Met’s firearm unit stood at the ready, awaiting their orders.  

I on the other hand couldn’t wait. I dove into the club, shattering the sky light.

My entry had resulted in a moment of confusion and I took the seconds it afforded me to case the place. Six men in cheap animal masks and guns stood in the club, hostages sat on the ground in the sides.

The first one to recover raised his gun at me and fired a few panicked shots, the bullets hitting my armor but harmlessly being stopped by the kinetic field. I didn’t let the others react before dealing with them. The smart targeting system let me hit him right in the shoulder of his gun-arm without any effort; my gauntlet-integrated weapons shooting him with a pulsed particle beam. 

He went down clutching his shoulder and screaming. The others unleashed a barrage at me. I resisted the urge to try to dodge; if they didn’t hit me, they risked hitting the hostages.

The kinetic shields thankfully handled the stress and I activated one of the armor’s secondary weapon. A pulse of kinetic force filled the club, sending them down. It wasn’t strong enough to knock them out but it let me deal with them. I ran to the closest one and punched him in the stomach hard enough for him to fold up like a clam and exhale all of the air in his lungs. A second got up and I shot him in the knee and then the arms.

The last three didn’t fare much better; they weren’t professionals so they panicked and didn’t think.

“Sana?!” I yelled, once the last one of them hit the ground.

“Jay?” She answered, getting up from the mass of frozen people still sat on the ground.

“You’re alright?”

“I am…” She answered breathlessly.

I didn’t have time to say anything else that the police stormed in the building. A half dozen officers surrounded us and aimed their firearms at us. I stepped up in front of them and shielded Sana.

“On the ground!” One of them shouted.

“I’m not a—”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence as Captain Thunder descended from the sky, coming through the same skylight I’d come out of, he was wrapped in lightning and eyes glowing with power. Despite being indoor, his pristine white and gold cape flowed through the air as if battered by wind.

“Calm down gentlemen.” He said in his naturally thunderous voice. “I’ll take this from here. Get the girl and the others to safety.”

The MET team scattered and returned to their duties. The MET and the Legion had a strange relationship; they sort of let each other handle their relevant business so long as the police got to handle any criminals that were caught.

“Walk with me.” The Captain said. It wasn’t a request. We walked through the building to a place without cameras or anyone watching.

“Do you have a name?”

“That wasn’t really one of my priorities.” I answered.

“It wasn’t? Normally wannabe capes can’t resist telling me the snazzy name they picked for themselves.”

“I’m not a wannabe.”

“Sure you aren’t. You just accidentally but in a hostage crisis.”

“My sister was in the crowd… I had to do something.”

“And you just happened to have a high tech suit of armor?”

“I was working on it at SecuriTech.”

“You work there?”

“Yes.”

“So is that what you want to do with your life? Design weapons for Direct Action or whoever else can afford it?”

“What? No I…” I shut up for a moment. “I don’t know what I want to do.” I admitted. “This is just what my father’s been pushing me to do.”

“And you’re happy with that?”

I didn’t have an answer for him.

He grabbed his cape, pulled it closer and put two fingers inside, revealing a hidden pocket. He took out a card which he chucked at me. It was Black with a white and gold insignia. His official Legion member card.

“When you’ve decided you want to do something better with your life, swing by our London office. Give them this.”

With that he left me alone. Apparently I wasn’t under arrest even though I’d just interfered in police business. Then again they could arrest me at my workplace when I wouldn’t be wearing armor. It wasn’t like my employer was going to be happy about what I’d done.

I flew back to the company and came in the same way I left. I couldn’t be with Sana like this and I needed to be there to remove the armor. I found my father talking to some corporate people in our lab.

“Could you leave us alone?” My father asked the others once he saw me. His voice barely containing his rage.

There was a moment of hesitation but the oldest of the corporate suit acquiesced to the request. They passed by me and I entered the suit assembler.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” He screamed at me when I came out.

“I saved Sana.” Was all I answered.

“You stole our secret prototype! Do you have any idea what the company is going to do to you?”

“Nothing. There’s only twenty nine days until our demo, if I don’t work their stock will take a hit because we won’t have delivered what we promised.”

My father stormed out, cursing under his breath in hindi; a language he’d never bothered to teach me or my sisters.

I got up and felt the business card in my pants. It was as if it had suddenly gained several pounds of weight…

When you’ve decided you want to do something better with your life, swing by our London office.

The words echoed through my mind.

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