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Some recent SFM posters I’ve made with some FUSE models. On the bottom, you can see the evolution of my Alicia Miles model that I’m getting close to finishing. On the top is a poster of a character from a story I’m working on. I had fun making these, especially the expressions one.
2:13 PM The Sentinel
I followed behind The Dark Lord towards an unknown destination, deep inside The Sentinel. I had no doubt that whatever awaited us would be disturbing. It always was. We stopped at a nondescript room with a large panel mounted to the wall. As I stepped inside, the screen lit up showing a camera feed of a open chamber. The Dark Lord walked up next to me and glanced down at his gauntlet. I peered over at the floating holographic as he pushed a button labeled RESUME PLAYBACK. A video started playing on the screen, showing a group of Imperial scientists wearing biohazard suits rolling a chair into the center of the room and locking it to the ground. Nothing happened for a few seconds, then the same scientists returned dragging a man and fastening him into the chair. Judging from the way the prisoner was struggling against the Imperials restraining him, I didn’t get the feeling he was a volunteer. Peering closer, I could see the abject terror in his eyes as the masked scientists went to work. I tried to focus on what the prisoner was saying but the footage yielded no audio. Subtitles appeared from one of the scientists near the camera.
“Here is the original reactant for the synthetic Altered formula. When injected into a subject, it causes irreversible mutations and eventual neural collapse from the DNA being overwritten. Today, we will demonstrate the solution to those side effects.”
The lead scientist produced a vial of a thick blackish material and waved it around. One of the other scientists walked over to the imprisoned man and swabbed his right arm with antiseptic. More subtitles popped up while the scientists scurried around.
“Here is the new substance, which will be combined to the first reactant. It helps to stabilize the chaotic effects of the original reactant.”
The new vial was filled with bright red blood; even though it could be anyone’s, I had a sick feeling it belonged to me. Who else had magical blood like mine? The scientists used a machine to mix both substances together into a dark color. One of the scientists removed the completed mixture and shook it.
“This new combination should produce a controlled mutation in the test subject.”
The lead scientist took the vial and plugged it into a small device that looked like a drill but with a tube instead of a bit. The leader walked over to the prisoner, pressed the needle tip into his arm and injected the mixture straight into his veins. The man’s muscles tensed up and he strained against his bonds as the effects kicked in. I peered closer and saw the prisoner’s pulse beating, even through the screen. He seemed to be resisting against the serum and the scientists were scribbling notes with determination. The man howled from the pain and thrashed around in the chair before collapsing. I bit my lower lip as I watched the prisoner slump over. Had the scientists miscalculated and killed him?
Slowly, the man’s head rose up off his chest and his fingers twitched. Something sparked on his fingertips, so fast I didn’t think it was real. To my surprise, flames engulfed his hands and spread up the prisoners arms, lighting his uniform on fire. I stepped away from the screen instinctively even though I wasn’t in danger. The man began shaking as the inferno consumed his form and scorched the floor around him. With reflections of the blaze in their helmets, the scientists rushed over with fire extinguishers and the video ended.
“What…what did they do to him?” I stammered, turning to The Dark Lord.
“He has been Altered, like us. The stabilizing properties of your unique DNA structure have now made it possible to create Synthetic Altered. No longer do I have to expose test subjects to the Core and put them at risk to its bizarre effects. With your help, we can create an army of superhuman soldiers that will be instrumental in my return.” he explained, typing on his gauntlet. My mind spun with the possibilities of his plans. An army of Imperial Geminas was the first thing that came to mind and that wasn’t a comforting thought.
“Does this have to do with the DNA sequencing in my blood?” I asked, tearing myself away from the screen which had stopped at the final frame of the video.
“Precisely. Many years ago, I was performing experiments here on Earth in search of the stabilizing agent. All my attempts had failed and nothing seemed to be working right. After a while, I stopped wasting resources and resorted to studying the data to look for patterns in the experiments. This all changed when two of my new recruits came to me with an idea. They we’re incredibly eager about submitting their only daughter to my project.” The Dark Lord turned to face me, ignoring the traumatized expression I couldn’t suppress any longer.
“So naturally I was skeptical because nobody had survived the transfusion and all my test subjects had been fully developed adults. You should have seen how they begged. They explained that they had done work on the side, modifying her DNA with experimental drugs so the test would work. Since I was the only donor of the Altered blood, I realized that they never had a chance to test the procedure. If they had miscalculated, their young child would die a slow and agonizing death. I could not ignore this kind of dedication to my cause.”
I covered my mouth, feeling nauseous. My parents hadn’t been forced to operate on me, no, they begged for it. The chance to turn their only daughter into a…a freak, for reasons I still didn’t know! I felt sick in my heart, as their deception became all too clear. How does a person react when they get told that their parents were monsters who drugged their own children?
“So we conducted the test and the results astonished me. Somehow these two nobodies succeeded seemingly out of thin air. It seemed impossible at the time, like it was too good to be true. Their daughter was a perfect match for the Altered blood sample. I praised her parents and instructed them that I would discuss the possibilities of the great gift they had given after a short business trip. The voyage in question unexpectedly ended up taking several years and ended when I was betrayed at the hands of The Lord of Pain. In my unexplained absence, the company went bankrupt and I lost many loyal workers, including your parents. Without their work, none of this would be possible.”
“I assume that I’ll need to provide blood for these Altered soldiers?” I asked, trying to keep myself from bursting into tears. The Dark Lord was either oblivious to my emotional trauma or didn’t care.
“At first, yes but I have my scientists working on replicating that as well. If recreating your blood doesn’t work, creating donor clones is always an option. Just look at Gemina!”
I took several steps backwards in response. What he was suggesting was beyond insane and topped off my threshold for the amount of disturbing content I could withstand.
“Don’t leave just yet, I have more tests to show you. The one you just saw was two weeks ago. My men have made incredible progress in very little time.” The Dark Lord announced, holding a hand out to stop me from leaving. To him, this was just a instinctive reaction. Steeling my nerves, I ignored his hand. I had to make a stand now or fall completely to his diabolical plans.
“If you think you’ve changed me, you are wrong. I will never see you as anything but an inhuman monster and I’m not going to let you stand in my way.” I declared, walking briskly towards the door. I was ready for him to stop me when I felt telekinetic hands on my shoulders. They didn’t hold me in place but caused me to hesitate for a moment.
“Alicia, I know progress can seem scary at first but please understand that this is for the greater good of the galaxy. That’s what you want? Peace?”
“I don’t know if that’s what I want. However, I know that your fake idea of the greater good has cost millions of innocent people their lives.” I stated, pushing through his attempt to slow me down. The invisible grip became solid in an instant and The Dark Lord turned me around to face him.
“You will not dare to turn against me. Not now, when we’ve come so far.” he snarled as his false demeanor fell away. I struggled against the bonds that held me but they were like iron. My mind ran through ways to escape but the only thing that came to me was the golden flames I had unleashed in my dream. Maybe I could use them again if I focused? Concentrating hard on The Dark Lord, I reached out and willed the fire to spring into existence. Nothing happened, no magical flames appeared. I struggled to breathe against the grip as I floated closer and closer to The Dark Lord’s gloved hand. Nothing I tried worked, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate.
“If you are so keen on betraying me, then I have no further use for your sister Gemina. Perhaps her death will quell your rebellious nature.” The Dark Lord hissed through his mask, tightening the grip on me. How dare he threaten Gemina! Anger swelled within me and I felt a new sensation radiate out from the core of my being. Whereas the healing touch had been icy cold, this was scaldingly hot, like I had swallowed boiling water.
I closed my eyes and cleared my mind. When I opened them, a blast of golden fire erupted from my outstretched palm and hit The Dark Lord square in the chest. The force of the blast actually jolted my hand back like the recoil of a gun. The embodiment of my anger clung to him like a writhing serpent. The telekinetic grip vanished and I darted out the door, pulling my pistol from its holster. Ignoring the ache from my leg, I ran without thinking about where I would go.
The ship wasn’t as hard to navigate the second time around. After I slowed down enough to get my bearings, I headed towards the level marked HANGAR BAY. If the ships here were as easy to operate as the one I had almost flown at the stronghold, this would be a piece of cake. The Imperial Soldiers payed me no heed, believing my disguise as I made my way through the ship. I wondered why The Lord of Darkness hadn’t bothered to raise the alarm; the Imperials could have me subdued in seconds.
The hangar bay was smaller then the one at the stronghold but it looked pretty much the same. The ships that were parked in the room were rectangular, boxy vehicles with large engines on the sides. I headed towards the closest one and was about to open the hatch when someone called out to me.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing with that? Do you have clearance?”
I looked to my left and saw an Imperial Soldier rushing over to me. He had removed his helmet to reveal sandy colored hair and a thin mustache. He didn’t seem hostile but that could easily change. I realized the pistol was visible to onlookers and hid it behind my back before he noticed.
“I received an order to inspect this vehicle.” I said, wishing that this guy wouldn’t be interested in the finer details of my made up task. He squinted his eyes and scanned my uniform, probably to see if I was a spy.
“Your identification checks out but since the ship is under high security, I’m going to need to authorize you with my commanding officer.”
He raised his arm-mounted communicator to his mouth and I knew that I had to do something before the order went out. It was imperative that The Dark Lord didn’t know where I had fled to.
“Sorry about this.” I whispered, whipping out the pistol and firing at his leg. The soldier screamed, dropping to the ground and grabbing his thigh. Lucky for him, the bullet had grazed along the inside of his calf and wasn’t a fatal injury. I turned away from him, my hand searching for the button to open the hatch. I had expected the soldier to pass out or something but he wouldn’t stop shouting. The noise was going to create a commotion if it hadn’t already. Shooting him on impulse clearly hadn’t been the right choice. Moving over to him, I pushed aside his bloody hands and placed mine over the bullet wound I had inflicted. When I stepped back, the injury knit together into healthy skin. The hatch of the craft hissed open and I stepped inside, away from the whimpering soldier.
The interior of the ship was cramped and compact but I found my way to the cockpit easily enough. My guess had been correct, this ship used almost the same interface as the ship from the stronghold. Tapping at the controls, I started the engines and flipped a switch labeled AUTOPILOT. The autopilot was set to the last takeoff location, somewhere in the western United States. If my memory was correct, Gemina should be around there. It felt like an eternity since I saw her last.
The rumble of the engines made the ship shake before it rocketed out of the hangar with surprising speed and into the sky. I watched the status panels nervously when the ship wobbled a little but the autopilot corrected itself. Risking a glance back at the hangar bay, I though I saw a group of dark figures standing there. Before I could concentrate on them, the thick clouds closed in and The Sentinel vanished from sight. Leaning back in the chair, I breathed a sigh of relief. Since the autopilot was doing all the flying for me, I could finally rest for the first time in several days.
The Lord of Darkness stood at the edge of the hangar bay and watched Alicia’s ship vanish among the thick cloud cover. Two BlackGuards flanked him on either side accompanied by the Imperial Soldier in charge of guarding the hangar bay.
“How did she get on board and steal that uniform? Our defenses should have picked her up if she was a spy!” The soldier blurted, trying to deflect the blame. The Dark Lord ran a hand over the hilt of his sword, still in its sheath.
“It was a mistake to bring Alicia this far. It’s my fault she infiltrated so deep and escaped. I should never have trusted her. She was lying from the very beginning, even after our chat…” he mused, turning around to face the soldier. “If there’s one thing I hate the most, it’s betrayal.”
The soldier stayed quiet. He knew when a person was brimming with anger, anything could set them off. The Dark Lord sighed and stepped forward towards the soldier. Before the hapless Imperial could react, gloved hands grabbed onto his chest plate and flung him forward with incredible force. He felt the ground disappear under his flailing feet before gravity took over. The Dark Lord looked to the BlackGuards who hadn’t budged throughout the entire encounter.
“Contact the mercenaries. This deception must be cut before it blossoms.”
People have always
thought about what they would say to their future self. I had considered saying
something poetic, perhaps simply question them about our shared future. I dismissed
the question as just another common saying; you couldn’t actually talk to your
future self. At least that’s what I thought before I met Gemina Miles.
My heart was hammering in my chest. The unknown assailant behind me began to move and in response, I pushed outward with telekinesis. The attacker flew backwards and hit the wall with a thud. The knife clattered to the ground and I picked it up. There was only a sliver of moonlight illuminating the room so I applied a burst of electricity to a lamp that was sitting on the table next to me. It flared to life and I looked around the room. The attacker had vanished.
“You certainly took your time to get here. Let’s make it
snappy with the answers, I’m tired of being left in the dark.”
I helped Simon onto the plane’s stairs and followed him up.
The interior of the plane was lavishly furnished with carped floors and a small
conference table situated in the middle. My mysterious benefactor directed me
to a chair and I sat down next to Simon. Our host walked into a side room and
returned with a pitcher of water. He placed it on the table and said
“You two must be exhausted. I want to make sure you’re
comfortable before we begin.”
Simon extended his hand towards him and introduced himself.
“I’m Simon Blake. I found Alicia when her car went off the
road. She’s already saved my life twice and it’s not even dawn yet.”
“Greetings Mr. Blake. My name is Jonathan Knight. I’m what
you might call Alicia’s…benefactor. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I don’t
think you need an introduction Alicia as the entire world is looking for you
5:00 AM Utah
The light of the headlights cast a dim glow on my face as the car drove down the empty road. The sun had not yet risen, so the car lights were the only thing visible in the darkness. If we were on schedule, then we should be entering Utah, at least a day ahead from the Imperial forces. The drive from Pennsylvania to the West Coast was no small feat in itself; it had been made harder due to the Empire. Imperial forces had set up checkpoints on the major highways and well-travelled areas, so we had to take back roads for the majority of the trip. These checkpoints weren’t well stocked with troops, so I assumed that the soldiers I had seen were scouting forces.
When I started feeling drowsy, I pulled the car over onto the side of the road and got out. Opening the back door, I reached out and shook Alicia’s shoulder lightly. When she didn’t wake up I peered closer and saw her mumbling and shaking slightly. Grabbing Alicia’s shoulder, I shook her more firmly. This seemed to do the trick but I could tell something was off. Alicia looked panicked and a thin sheen of sweat covered her face.
“Where are we?!” She gasped, clutching the car seat with white-knuckled fingers. Seeing me caused her to refocus and calm down. “Sorry Gemina, you just woke me up right in the middle of a horrible dream.”
“If we’re on schedule then this should be Utah. When were you going to tell me that you’re having nightmares? I could have picked up some medicine last time we stopped.”
She put a hand to her forehead and sighed. My relationship with Alicia had been strained due to recent events but I wasn’t intentionally trying to be difficult.
“They’ve gotten worse ever since what happened in Pennsylvania. I would have told you earlier but you weren’t listening.”
I stopped talking at the mention of that incident. I wanted to believe that what Alicia said was true…but I couldn’t. My rational brain was convinced that she was hallucinating, suffering from PTSD or depression picked up from the traumatic experience at the Stronghold. If there actually was a teleporting, invisible man trying to help her, he would have to go through me first. It had been an endeavor to calm her down and keep her sane. I was worried for her but eventually I got tired of her stories about the man she had “seen”. Alicia climbed out of the back and took my place in the drivers seat. I lay down across the back two seats and closed my eyes, letting sleep take me.
“Gemina! Gemina get up!”
Alicia’s harsh whispers snapped me awake; my eyes flicked to each window, searching for attackers. There was nothing there, no immediate threat. Alicia had turned around to talk to me, her frightened expression outlined by the glow of the dashboard.
“What is it Alicia?!” I snapped. If this was another one of her hallucinations…
“I saw something in the sky. A plane or some kind of shuttle that I’ve never seen before. When I slowed down to look at it it vanished.”
Well at least it sounded partially real. I remembered the boxy craft we tried to steal back at the Imperial Stronghold. How had they found us?
“Well for our sake, I hope you imagined it. Keep driving, I’ll grab the supplies.”
I reached into the back of the car and grabbed the strap on the top of the backpack. Alicia continued driving forwards, craning her neck to look up at the sky. Unzipping the backpack, I searched around for the heavy object at the bottom of the bag. My fingers brushed against the cool metal grip and I pulled the handgun out of the backpack. I opened another pocket and found a magazine which I loaded into the handgun. Hearing Alicia gasp, I spun around and saw…something above the car. The underside of the craft was a smooth reflective material that shimmered, almost becoming an outline in the night sky. Of course. They’re using a cloaking device. I was an idiot for thinking that they would be visible! The best plan of action here was to abandon the car and find cover to hide from the eyes in the sky. Nearby the road was what looked like a gorge, perhaps there were caves in the rock. I didn’t bother to ready my weapon; there was little I could do against the ship with a pistol.
“Okay, here’s the plan. See that gorge over there? We ditch the car and run. The rocks should keep us out of sight. If or when they decide to search on foot, we can plan an ambush.”
“We’ll be right out in the open! That’s suicide!” Alicia pleaded.
“Either we run and try not to get shot or we stay and hope they can’t hit a stationary target.”
“You better be right about this.”
Alicia took a deep breath and nodded, grabbing the handle of the car door. Gripping the pistol tightly, I threw my door open and leapt outside. The airship was giving off a strange hum as it came out of cloak that made my teeth vibrate. It wasn’t the boxy transport that I predicted; the ship was a short stubby gunship with an aerodynamic design. Large doors on the side had slid open to reveal the interior, packed with shadowy forms. Checking to make sure that Alicia was next to me and not bleeding on the ground, I darted towards the dip in the ground only a few feet away. The fear that one of the soldiers would pop me in the back of the head pushed me to run faster. Instead of gunfire, the ships droning sound intensified as I heard an odd beeping sound and instinctively ducked. Something incredibly fast whipped though the air where I just was and exploded, almost knocking me over with the force of the blast. My eardrums popped and whined as I shouted for Alicia to run. We were so close. My left leg missed the ground as I slipped and fell down the gorge slope. I heard Alicia yell as she fell on the sudden drop off. I was able to stop myself from sliding by digging my fingers into the dirt and spreading my arms out. Alicia rolled into me but I had adapted to the hill’s slope and helped her to her feet. The gunship started rotating towards us realizing where we went to, already charging another blast from its cannon.
Further down the hill, the ground dropped off into a crevasse. I motioned to Alicia and started sprinting downhill. My mind kept repeating run run run as I bolted down the hill. I had to keep my footing here, the loose dirt under my feet could spell disaster if I slipped. The gunship’s cannon reached its crescendo and I hit the dirt as it exploded next to me. The ships drone was replaced with a painful whining sound from my damaged eardrums. I glanced back to see Alicia lying on the ground next to the smoking crater. Cursing the Imperials, I reversed my direction and went back for her. She wasn’t unconscious but the force of the blast had left her scrambled. Heaving her over my shoulder, I sprinted towards the gorge.
Reaching the crevasse, I shone a light in to make sure I wasn’t going to break my neck. It was fairly shallow, with large rocks forming a thin, dried-out riverbed a few feet down. If we hid under the bigger rocks, the gunship wouldn’t have line of sight on us. I rolled Alicia off my back and lifted her up with telekinesis. My concentration was wavering as the dulled sound of the gunship’s drone came closer; I needed to move fast before they fired again. Alicia floated off the ground and down into the gorge while I kept a close eye to make sure she didn’t hit any rocks. As she approached the bottom, I released my grip and placed her on the dirt. The Imperial gunship bore down on me so I clambered down the crevice, using a light clipped to my belt to see. The stone wall wasn’t comfortable on my hands which got scraped and filthy in seconds. The rock under my left foot gave way unexpectedly and I glanced down for another foothold. A sturdy-looking boulder provided as I swung myself over to it. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the ground not too far away and pushed back from the wall. The impact of hitting the ground shook me but I didn’t have time to rest. Grabbing Alicia’s shoulder, I pulled her underneath an overhang of rock and flattened myself against the wall. She seemed to have recollected herself and started to speak until I put a finger to my lips in the symbol for silence.
The awful buzzing of the gunship was incredibly loud as it reverberated off the walls of the crevasse. A spotlight snapped on and bathed the walls in harsh white light. The spotlight swung around the length of the riverbed, searching for the two humans that had escaped it.
“Don’t move.” I whispered to Alicia as she lay trembling against the wall. The light beam moved past us and down the crevasse. Breathing a sigh of relief, I peered out from under the rock. The gunship was hovering above my hiding place and as I watched, ropes dropped down from the middle of the ship. Dark forms began sliding down towards the ground.
“Did they leave?” Alicia asked.
“I think they’re sweeping the area on foot. We need to move now.”
Helping Alicia to her feet, I started moving down the length of the gorge, watching the skies. The rock walls became cramped as I squeezed between two boulders, stopping to help Alicia through. I glanced up to see a glowing red visor attached to the helmet of an Imperial. He took aim and rattled off a spray of bullets that chipped off the surrounding walls and whizzed past my face. I pushed Alicia behind a rock and tried to make myself as difficult to hit as possible while pulling the handgun out of my pocket. My enemy was finding it hard to hit me, he had crouched down to search for a better angle. Gripping the pistol, I leaned out from the rock and fired at the Imperial. My poor position caused me to misjudge the angle and the shot went wide. The Imperial took this as act of desperation and leaned over the gorge further, leaving me with a clear shot. Before he could shoot, my bullets caught him in the neck, sending him toppling down to where I stood. Alicia peered out and saw the armored body at my feet.
He was covered in black armor plates and wore a helmet similar to The Dark Lord, but the design had been altered for a large earpiece on either side of the helmet. The glow from the red visor had dimmed to black. Upon further inspection, I found a symbol on the shoulder pad. It was built into the armor and depicted the Imperial symbol on a shield attached to a black wrist; the word BlackGuard was embossed under the circular symbol. Must be some type of Imperial special ops force I thought while searching the body. Picking up his rifle, I checked the ammunition and handed the pistol to Alicia.
“If you get in trouble, use it. I don’t care if you’re opposed to killing, the number one priority is survival. I’m sure that we’ll be seeing the other BlackGuards soon, so stay low and keep your ears open.”
She picked up the handgun, holding it away from her like a deadly snake. She wasn’t going to use it but it made me feel safer. I checked the roof of the gorge for attackers and continued moving down the rocky crevasse. Up ahead was an outcropping that I could use to climb out.
“Alicia, can you boost me up to that rock?” I whispered, pointing it out to her.
“I think I can lift you up there. We’re not that heavy.”
I looked back to see Alicia grinning but I wasn’t sure why. Was it something I said? The rifle had a strap so I looped it around my head to free up my hands. Approaching the ledge, she crouched down and put her hands together. I stepped onto her entwined hands and reached up to the outcrop. My dirt encrusted hands found cracks in the rock to use as handholds as Alicia struggled to support me. Gripping the rock with my fingertips, I heaved myself up onto the gravel covered ledge. The small rocks scraped into my arms and hurt like hell but fear of being shot by the BlackGuards was a more pressing issue. I shifted into a more comfortable position and reached down to pull Alicia up. When she had joined me on the ledge, I stood up on the rock and looked out of the top of the gorge. The gunship had landed and BlackGuards were fanning out along the length of the crevasse, poking their rifles over the edge. I ducked back down and reported my findings.
“They’re all over the gorge. We need to lure them inside, then run.”
“What are we supposed to do, climb back down and shoot at them?”
“They have the high ground right now. I’m going to see if this gets their attention.”
Picking up a sizable boulder with telekinesis, I tossed it down the crevasse like a bowling ball. The BlackGuards heard it crashing around and gravitated towards the source of my distraction.
They wouldn’t be diverted for long so I stood up and showed Alicia the handholds on the rock. Gripping the stony projections, the material under my hands shifted to dirt and crabgrass as I freed myself from the gorge. Alicia followed and almost slipped until I caught her wrist and pulled her up. We started sprinting up the hill, trying to gain as much distance away from the BlackGuards before they spotted us. I looked over my shoulder and regretted it, glimpsing the bobbing red eyes of the Imperials as they realized they had been deceived.
I yelled back for Alicia to run but to my surprise, she was keeping pace next to me. The car seemed close but the distance was deceiving. Bullets pinged into the dirt around my feet but I was sure that we were too far out of range. A deafening crack split the air but all I heard was Alicia screaming bloody murder. I looked back and saw my twin prone on the dirt, reaching for her leg which was no longer recognizable as a limb. Whatever the BlackGuards shot her with had shredded through her right tibia, leaving her lower leg torn in half and splintered with shattered bone. I took deep breaths, trying to stay calm. Alicia was going to be okay—she could heal herself right up. There was so much blood. I was mumbling to Alicia that she needed to heal, that she would bleed out. Her foot dangled from the mess of her shin by only a few tendons, the other half of the tibia jutting out like a spear. I was going to throw up. Alicia reached her bleeding hands down to the wound and put them over the injury. I waited for something, anything to happen but to my horror I saw that she had passed out. Cursing, I tried tearing my shirt to stem the bleeding. We had tried to use Alicia’s power as a crutch and now it was too late.
I wrapped my arms around her chest and pulled her into my arms. She was my responsibility. I heard the booted footsteps of the BlackGuards behind me, stomping across the dirt. I simply knelt there, holding Alicia as her lifeblood, the blood that started this nightmare, seeped out onto the dirt. No matter what the Imperials did, they couldn’t separate us. I would make sure of it.
12:49 PM The Dark Lord’s Mansion, Rocky Mountains
Pacing about the room would have been my preferred choice but I had to settle on sitting down to think. The painkillers were wearing off and there were no replacements in the bathroom. I had found a window shutter and opened it to watch the snow fall outside. The window was too far up to climb to in my condition so I gave up on finding a way though it. For now I lay on the square bed, deep in thought. The Dark Lord was convinced that I could help him in defeating the traitorous Lord of Pain; even though I could barely hold my own against Darkness. I didn’t know what kind of assistance I could provide in my injured condition. My rational side was determined to believe that his story was false but resistance was faltering. If what he said was true…then I was in way over my head. There was no way I could fight against another Lord, let alone five! If I agreed with The Dark Lord, it would mean siding with a murderer of thousands. But if I refused, The Dark Lord would surely kill me, or worse. Could I really betray the people of Earth, Gemina and myself by allying with their tormenter?
I retraced my steps back to the meeting room accompanied by a BlackGuard to decide my fate. This time, I paid attention to the route through the mansion and found a few suspicious doors to check out. If I could lose the BlackGuard, I would investigate them. Climbing the stairs once more, I walked up to The Dark Lord’s chair.
“I’ll help you but only if you don’t harm Gemina.” I announced, drawing his attention. The Dark Lord clapped his hands and stood up, holding his helmet in one hand.
“I knew you would make the right decision. Let’s go, I’ve already made preparations. As much as I enjoy my mansion, it’s time for a change of scenery.”
He started down the stairs, back into the hallway. I was playing a dangerous gamble in the hopes that by forging a false alliance with The Dark Lord, I could find a way to escape. The BlackGuard fell into step behind us as we moved down the corridor. My leg ached from the strain I was putting it through but I grit my teeth and stayed strong. I couldn’t afford to show weakness now.
Turning a corner, the scenery changed from that of the futuristic mansion to cold gray metal. The Dark Lord approached a large circular door which opened at his presence and continued into a short tunnel. I walked through behind him, grimacing with every step. The tunnel terminated in another tube elevator like the kind used at the Imperial Stronghold. I stepped in accompanied by the BlackGuard and the elevator jumped upwards. The Lord of Darkness put his helmet back on and it sealed with a vacuum sealed hiss. Where could we possibly be going now? The walls of the tube were opaque, so there was little to do except try and avoid nausea from the intense speed.
I staggered off the ride feeling ill and found myself somewhere very different than the mansion. Gone was the fancy architecture and opulence, replaced with harsh lights and metallic surfaces. It felt much like the Stronghold but without all the sterile whiteness. Here was black and gray, like the tyrant standing next to me. The air felt stale, like a fresh breeze had never entered. The Dark Lord took my shoulder and gestured to the new location.
“Welcome aboard The Sentinel, the jewel of the Imperial Navy. It contains twenty thousand soldiers and enough firepower to level a city in minutes.”
I nodded, not sure what to say. He had a starship too?! If this was a flagship, then there must be smaller vessels.
“Down here is the bridge, the ships primary control center.” he said, leading me down the corridor.
The bridge itself was a small room filled with screens and other types of mechanical equipment, operated by gray suited pilots like the ones who flew the plane. The far wall was one huge window through which I could see bright blue sky. I felt a flicker of vertigo with a glimpse of the earth far below. I couldn’t tell where we were from the landscape below, the ship was moving too fast and I was getting ill from watching it.
“Something has come up that requires my presence. Go to the quarters reserved for you and wait there. I’ve contacted a medic to look what we can do about that leg reconstructor.”
The Dark Lord waved his hand and two Imperial Soldiers escorted me to the elevator. I kept watching him barking orders at the pilots when the elevator doors closed.
My quarters were tiny and cramped, barely larger than my bedroom closet back home. The only furniture provided was a metal panel that was supposed to be a bed and a tall locker. Inside the locker I found a crumpled up uniform and a handgun. I changed out of the formal dress and struggled into the Imperial uniform. Before it had seemed large but the outfit conformed to my smaller frame without much difficulty. It appeared to be made of the same material as the dress, elastic but tough and thick. The fabric was colored in a gray camouflage pattern and the suit had armored plates on the shoulders, elbows and knees. I noticed the red Imperial symbol emblazoned into both shoulder pads and shuddered. Memories of the soldiers who had kidnapped me from my apartment flashed through my mind; a true testament to how far I had fallen. Although I had no intentions of actually helping The Dark Lord in his crusade, it still felt wrong to wear the symbol of destruction he represented.
The pistol felt heavy in my slender hands as I inspected it, finding an inscription that read: .10 mm Manufactured on Hadar. It was smaller than the weapons the BlackGuards had been using and the finish had been worn down I slid out the magazine to see that it was loaded and slid the handgun into a holster attached to my belt. The Dark Lord had told me to wait in my room but I wanted to investigate The Sentinel more closely. Ducking under the doorway, I crept out into the hallway.
All it took was a simple change of appearance and suddenly the Imperial Soldiers treated me like an ally rather then the looks of distrust I’d been given earlier. The gray-uniformed soldiers were far more plentiful here than any BlackGuards, I’d only seen one or two of the special forces in the hallways. I moved through the ship undeterred, searching for a map to direct me to the hangar. When I reached what looked like the medical floor, one of the Imperials recognized me.
“Halt! You there, Alicia Miles! Come here!”
I flinched at the mention of my name and turned around to see a uniformed woman walking over to me. My body wanted to run but I needed to blend in. If I fled, the Imperials would be onto me in seconds. She was middle aged, with shoulder-length blonde hair and a icy expression. Her uniform was similar to the one I wore but with more rank patches and a medical cross. The woman pulled out a tablet device and typed something on it as I gave her a puzzled look. I remembered something The Lord of Darkness had said about getting a medic to see me.
“Are you the person I’m supposed to talk to? The Dark Lord said something about a medic so I…uh…came looking.” I had to improvise in case she found me suspicious. The Imperial crouched down and waved the tablet over the reconstructor beneath my uniform.
“I am Captain Tabitha Bell, one of the senior medical officers on The Sentinel. His Lordship ordered me to inspect the reconstructor you’ve been fitted with. Follow me please.”
She stepped through a doorway covered in hanging plastic strips and opened a door into a side room. I limped after her, the smell of antiseptic heavy in the air of the medical bay. The room was outfitted much like the one I’d been in at the Imperial Stronghold but better equipped. Tabitha directed me to lay on the table and propped up the reconstructor after rolling up my pant leg. She scanned it with the tablet and pursed her lips after seeing whatever was on the screen. I felt like a kid at the doctors office, afraid of whatever she was about to tell me.
“Whoever set this up wasn’t thinking about what they were doing. The reconstructor isn’t doing anything; it hasn’t been activated since installation.”
“What?! They told me it was healing properly!”
“Correction, it hasn’t been healing at all. That explains the pain when you walk. You’re trying to move about with a fragmented bone shoddily held together with metal and plastic! Who was responsible for this?”
I thought for a moment to remember the BlackGuard’s name. Had I been purposefully lied to or were the Imperials incompetent?
“Lieutenant Trent from…BlackGuard Five. He was the medic that helped me.”
“I’ll inform His Lordship later. That soldier should have his medical license revoked. I will try everything in my power to fix what he caused. There is still hope that the reconstruction process will complete as planned.”
Captain Bell sighed and wiped her forehead before tugging on a pair of latex gloves to loosen the plastic casing from my leg. Since my nerves were regrowing, I didn’t feel a thing while she tinkered around the reconstructor.
When Captain Bell gave the all clear, I looked down at my leg to see the fruit of her efforts. The reconstructor’s lights blinked more frequently now that it had been activated. The sharp pain was replaced with a constant ache which I was told would fade. The two jagged ends of rebuilt bone had connected and were surrounded by a forest of black metal spindles, nerve endings and blood vessels. It was downright nightmarish to look at but it looked better than before. I couldn’t believe that Lieutenant Trent had forgotten to activate the reconstructor. Or had he forgotten? Maybe The Dark Lord had wanted me crippled so I ended up trapped on The Sentinel. I sat up on the table and swung my legs over onto the floor.
“Thank you Captain.” I said to the Imperial as she washed her hands in the sink.
“I’ll see what I can do about that BlackGuard who put you through that torture. The name Trent does ring a few bells, I’ll run a scan through the soldiers stationed here.” replied Tabitha as she tapped away on the tablet.
With renewed confidence, I left the medical room and ran smack into The Dark Lord. He had been waiting for me outside.
“I see you found your equipment. You’ve already met Captain Bell I assume? She’s one of the best under my command. Come with me, I want to show you something of interest that my researchers discovered.”
I followed The Dark Lord as he strode down the hallway and found that I could keep pace with him. Unfortunately, my escape window had been closed once more.
Bright light was shining in between my eyelids. I blinked and tried moving my hand to shade my eyes. My hand didn’t respond. A fiery pain coursed through my arm and I cried out with the sudden pain. The flashlight moved away and I could see the nighttime stars twinkling above me. I smelled smoke, something was burning nearby. A man stepped into view above my prone body. He was wearing a tan jacket and a worn baseball hat.
“What…happened? Who are you?” I said, although it caused me pain.
“My name’s Simon. I was driving home when I saw your car go off the road. I have medical supplies at my house. You have injuries that need to be treated quickly.”
I began to stand up, but the fiery pain returned and I fell to the ground. Simon knelt down and carefully helped me to my feet. Limping towards his truck parked nearby, I was considering healing myself; but I didn’t fully trust this man. I didn’t want to reveal my true identity just yet. Why had he stopped to help me?