Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 12 (Final Release Before Rewrite)

When Ver’verd exited the bathroom, the room was dark, and dimly lit by the light from the room that he was just in. He shut off the light to the bathroom and the room was bathed in the dim light from the traveler. The light cast a slight glow near the window, and faded as it reached the stairs. Ver’verd was wearing his bedclothes, which were a light tunic and trousers. Usually he would sleep in his full armor on away trips, while Elsibeth would always stay in her bodysuit and boots, mostly to mess with him.

He looked over at her as she slept and just shook his head. She was always a mess when they came to the safe house. She never picked up after herself and was always walking around half dressed. She had said that it was because it was more comfortable that way, but he knew the real answer. He walked over to her bed and went to pull the beds covers over her and got a good look at her. She was still wearing the robe, with a pair of his underclothes on. She said that they were more comfortable than her PJ’s and Ver’verd said nothing as long as she put on a shirt.

She was lying on her back, with her robe untied, and open just enough to make him uncomfortable. Her mouth was wide open, and she was snoring softly. Her left arm was still holding the tub of iced cream, which had melted and leaked out over the bed. Her right arm was raised over her head, her fingers slightly curled. Her left leg was bent at a ninety-degree angle and her right was straight. She had not put her clothes away, as she had said that she would, but kind of pushed them off haphazardly and slept on top of what remained.

Ver’verd looked over to the edge of the bed and picked up and item. He looked at the item, a small, stuffed sheep and gave it a slight squeeze. The sheep squeaked slightly and he put it next to her. Ver’verd was surprised that she still had the thing. It was something that she thought was cute and just had to have it when she saw it. The small stuffed animal was the first thing he had bought her when they stopped at the first colony after leaving Earth.

With a slight moan, Elsibeth rolled onto her side and the tub of melted iced cream began to leak out onto her stomach. She grabbed the stuffed toy and cuddled with it. Ver’verd was reminded that even though she was twenty-six, she was still very much the little girl that wouldn’t let go of his hand when they got off of the transport after leaving Earth. He bent down and was about to give her a gentle kiss on the cheek when she moaned seductively.

“Ver’verd st-ah-p.” She moaned; her mouth curled up into a smile. “That tickles.” Elsibeth giggled and then let out a gasp. “Mmmmm, that feels good.” Elsibeth moaned as she began to wiggle her hips forward and back. Disgusted, Ver’verd sighed and dropped the covers. He then went over to his bed and sat on it, looking out the window. Running his fingers through his hair, he shook his head and looked over his shoulder at Elsibeth. She had rolled back onto her back and was snoring again, this time loudly.

Ver’verd almost threw a pillow at her but then thought better of it. In her current state the last thing he wanted was for her to wake up and bother him. He looked out of the window to where he saw the lights on earlier; he assumed that the two agents who were watching him had bedded down for the night due to the darkness of the room. Ver’verd then lay down on his bed and reached under the pillow. He grasped the handle of the kukri blade, closed his eyes and slept.

 

Deep in the bowels of the Warlock Conclave, below the hall that the Council of Elders met in, was a brightly lit room with several computer banks and various types of lab equipment. In the center of the room stood a tank filled with a liquid that could suspend a figure within. There was a figure in this tank now…

 

This is all I have for now. I realized after playing both the Alpha and Beta, that this story needed a major rewrite and I will be working on that after I finish the narrative to the game so that I can tie it all in together. Thank you for reading, and I hope that you can leave me some comments so I can know how this is being received.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 11

As Darmata entered her chambers she looked around the room and sighed. For as much as the Warlock Order praised the simple life, their leadership lived in somewhat luxurious surroundings. The room was large and had high, vaulted ceilings. It was lit by candle light during the night, so there were shadows in a few places. There were large windows on the far side, which overlooked the City. The light from the Traveler shown through dimly, lighting the shadows with an ethereal light. The bed was next to the windows so as to allow the sunlight to shine on it. The room was the highest room in the building and therefore the highest in the City, so the need for curtains was unnecessary. It was believed by many, that bathing in the light of the Traveler would restore a weary Warlocks power, and since the position of leader of the Warlock Order was a worrisome position, the lack of curtains was seen as a blessing. The bed was a “four-post” bed with draperies that were tied on all four corners. The draperies could be loosened to enclose the entire bed for privacy’s sake. The bedposts had ornate carvings on them that covered the entire post.

The windows were covered with the same carvings as the bed. On the walls to either side of the bed, were large ornate bookcases filled with books on the history of the Warlock Order. Many of the things that were discovered by research into the Traveler were there, as well as many Old Earth books. Her favorite book, one that she had read many times, was an Old Earth tale involving knights and witches who fought for control over a small island nation. She liked the simplicity of the story, good versus evil, a damsel in distress. As much as the world had changed, and the place that women held in it, every girl still dreams of her knight in shining armor, a person who is willing to fight for her honor and save her from evil.

When she was a girl she and Ver’verd, who was known by a different name at the time, would play like these knights of old. He would save her from great imaginary dragons, and she would save him from evil witches who wanted him for their own. Every once in a while she would pretend that she was a world weary female warrior, with Ver’verd as her traveling companion, a strong warrior who would fight by her side as she used her talents to slay the Evil and bring peace to the world.

When she had first learned of her posting as the leader of the Council of Elders she was shown this room. At first she seemed as if she would be swallowed by the sheer magnitude of the room, but when she found the book, she squealed with delight and jumped on the bed, rolling around like a small child on a gigantic bed. As she’d read the book, she would imagine herself as the heroine with Ver’verd as just about every male character in the book.

She picked this book up now and thumbed through its worn pages. She put the book down and turned towards her writing desk, which was on the far side of the room. She picked up a quill, dipped it in the ink and wrote on the parchment. She began to craft a story in which a strong warrior would swoop in on a mighty steed and save the damsel from a life of obligation that she didn’t want. Of course she knew that this only happened in stories, and if anybody wanted to change their circumstances they had to do it themselves… but it was nice to think about.

Darmata sighed as her attendants walked in to prepare her bath and lay out her nightgown. Having attendants was the one thing that she wasn’t quite used to, as a person who was in her position should be. Often she wished that they would just leave her alone and do things on her own. In the beginning it was difficult having someone watching over her as she bathed, but eventually she got used to it, and then allowed her attendants to bathe her.

She walked to her bathroom, which was to the right of the entrance. She entered the room, which was half the size of her bedroom, and walked towards the waiting bath. She stopped in front of the large in-floor tub, and stood with her arms outstretched. She stepped out of her boots, and stood on the floor barefooted. An attendant stepped behind her and removed her robe, placing it in a basket to be taken for cleaning. Another attendant stepped in front of her, loosened her tunic and the drawstring of her trousers.

The attendant that was behind her had returned and removed her tunic from her shoulders. The trousers fell to the floor and she stepped gingerly into the bath. The warm water felt good against her skin as her attendants began to wash her. When they were finished, they took their leave and gave her a bit of privacy to soak in the bath. When she rose from the bath, the attendants were there to dry her with a towel and place a robe over her shoulders.

Darmata placed her arms through the sleeves of the robe, and dismissed her attendants. She turned around, walked over to the large mirror, and looked at herself in it. She stepped closer and removed the brown contact lenses from her eyes. She looked into the bare bionics and watched as the pupils whirred open to take in more light. When she leaned away from the mirror, the pupils of the bionic eyes whirred smaller to take in less. She scrutinized the scar tissue that surrounded her eyes and sighed. She never liked the way that her eyes looked, even with the contacts.

The Exo craftsmen had done an excellent job at making her eyes function as any normal eyes would. They even produced tears, which the craftsman had told her was only for the purpose of keeping the tissue around the eye moist. She always had to keep a moist towel in her pocket to wipe the area of her eyes in dry weather. She was reminded of how sad Ver’verd looked when he looked into her eyes. She tried as hard as she could to find organic replacements, but organic body parts were illegal, and if found out, there were stiff penalties.

She dropped the robe and stood there nude, checking every area that she didn’t like. Her feet were too big, her hands were calloused, one leg was slightly shorter than the other, her hips were too wide, her shoulders were too broad, her nose was crooked, her boobs were lopsided, and her stupid eyes were too far apart. She felt her legs, her stupid muscular legs. She touched her hips and grabbed at the flab that had developed above her waistline. She looked at the wrinkles in her neck and tilted her head down to see the skin collecting into folds. She remarked at how when she did this, she looked like she had a double, or even a triple chin.

Darmata was so disgusted by what she saw, that she picked up her robe and hurriedly put it back on, wrapping herself up in it tightly. While holding the robe against herself, she touched her stomach and instantly remembered what she was going to tell Ver’verd. She let the robe slip open and gently stroked her belly. She smiled softly and then turned to the side. Holding up her breasts, she tried to stick her belly out as much as she possibly could, trying to imagine herself pregnant. As she looked at the possibility of having a big ole prego belly, and who the father was, Darmata broke out into a large toothy grin, she slouched down, placing her head as far down as she could and, trying to hold up her belly with her other arm, she broke out into a fit of the giggles. She let her arms drop and retied the robe. She was definitely going to tell him the next time they were alone together. Still beaming, she placed her contact lenses back in and straightened out her hair. Regaining her composure, she went into the bedroom area where her attendants were waiting.

One of the attendants removed her robe as another grabbed two step stools. The two attendants stood on the stepstools with Darmatas’ nightgown above their heads. Darmata raised her arms and the attendants began lowering the nightgown over her. When they were finished, an attendant took the dirty clothes, placed them in a basket and dismissed herself. Of the remaining attendants, one began turning down the bed, while the other began to brush her hair.

“Sal-Drega is such a regal individual.” The attendant brushing Darmata’s hair said. “You must be so fortunate to be betrothed to such an amazing man.” Darmata’s nose crinkled and she shook her head. “You don’t think that he is amazing my lady? He is so refined and he commands such respect.”

“He is not all he is cracked up to be.” Darmata said, wincing as the attendant worked through a tangle. “To tell the truth, I am only doing it because it is my duty. In reality he disgusts me.”

“Really my lady.” The attendant said as she worked through another tangle. “I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe after the union you’ll be able to see his good qualities.”

The attendant that was turning down the bed spoke up. “Drega is scum wrapped in more scum. This one time he told an initiate to wipe his feet after the initiate accidentally spilled a small amount of water on Dregas’ boots. And you don’t want to know what he makes his own female attendants do.”

“I don’t really think that’s the way that Elder Sal-Drega really is.” The attendant who was brushing Darmata’s hair said. “There is a rumor that he is from humble beginnings. I bet he only acts that way because he misses his family.”

“Family?” The attendant who was turning down the bed said. “I don’t believe that he has any family. At least none to speak of.”

“Well, than all the more reason to be sympathetic to him.” The one brushing the hair said. “He’s probably lonely.”

The attendant who was turning down the bed had finished, walked toward the two, and crossed her arms across her chest. “I don’t know why you’re defending him. Remember what he did to…” A raised hand from Darmata cut her off.

“I do not want to talk about Sal-Drega anymore tonight.” Darmata said. “I just want to drop it.”

“Yes my lady.” The attendant by the bed said. “What I want to know is, just who was that Hunter that you were clinging onto when the elevator’s doors opened today?”

Darmata bristled slightly at hearing this comment. She had thought that no one had noticed. “I do not know of whom you speak of.”

“Oh you know the one.” The attendant by the bed said. “Tall, wears a leather duster with the long faced helmet and the “T” shaped visor.” The attendant raised her hands up to the side of her face and clasped them together. “Oh help me Mister Hunter! Help me!”

The attendant brushing Darmata’s hair stopped. She rounded on her partner. “How dare you speak to milady in such a way! You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking such a thing! Milady would never, ever associate herself with a common Hunter when she has the great Elder Sal-Drega!”

The attendant by the bed scoffed. “Drega demands respect. I could tell that Hunter commands it.”

“That is enough the two of you, stop it!” Darmata commanded, her voice loud in anger. “Amanda you may leave. Anna please stay behind so that we may discuss an appropriate punishment.” Darmata stood and escorted Amanda from the room. Anna stood there looking at her feet, her hands clasped in front of her. When Darmata had closed the door and was sure that Amanda had gone; she turned to Anna. “Alright what do you know?” Darmata asked Anna.

“No-nothing my lady.” Anna said, not looking up. “I just saw the two of you in the elevator when the door opened. It was only for a brief moment, so I could have been mistaken. I’m sorry that I lost my sense of decorum with you my lady. I assure you that it won’t happen again.”

Darmata rolled her eyes. “Oh stuff it. That Dregaphile is gone now so you don’t have to hide behind all of that decorum crap. Just tell me what you know?”

“I’m sorry my lady.” Anna said as she shuffled her feet. “I don’t know anything.”

Darmata rolled her eyes again. “Traveler, why do I have to be around such week willed idiots.” She tried a softer approach. “Anna.” She said gently. “You do not have to be afraid. I will not be angry.”

Anna’s mouth opened and then closed, but no sound came out. When Darmata had reached her she flinched as Darmata laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Anna looked up and saw that Darmata really meant her no harm. “Honestly my lady?” She said. “All of the staff are talking about that Hunter. Some say that you were afraid of him and he tried to force himself upon you. When the doors opened, that was your chance to get away.”

Darmata smiled. “You are right you know. I was clinging onto him. Not out of a romantic moment mind you, but because I was startled by the amount of people that were falling through the doorway.” Darmata walked to the window. “The truth is…” Her voice trailed off as she began to wrap her arms around herself. “He is the most amazing man I have ever known.”

Anna’s eyes grew wide as realization dawned on her. “I knew it!” She exclaimed, and pointed a finger at Darmata while covering her mouth. “You are having an illicit affair with that Hunter!” She rushed towards Darmata and grabbed her hand. “Don’t worry milady your secrets safe with me.” She began to pull Darmata away from the window.

Darmata gave a little resistance. “That isn’t what I…” But she was cut off.

“Oh it must have been grand milady.” Anna continued, as she led Darmata to her chair. “It must have been a secret rendezvous, a mysterious stranger and the strength he possessed. He must have swept you off of your feet, or saved you from thugs, or maybe you were childhood friends, or…”

Darmata smiled as she took a seat. “Finally.” She thought. “I don’t have to hide, and this place feels a little more comfortable now.” Darmata looked at Anna and could see her pacing, lips moving, silently counting off on her fingers all of the possibilities on just how Darmata had met her illicit lover. Darmata spoke. “We knew each other as children. I loved him as much then as I do now.”

“Tell me more milady.” Anna said as she sat on her knees before her and looked up into Darmatas’ face. “Tell me everything.”

“All right, all right, I will.” Darmata said as she regaled Anna with stories of her time with the man now known as Ver’verd. When they were children, and when they had met again. She told her what she knew of that happened on Enceladus. She told her of what she heard from outside the door to the Council of Elders chamber. She told her of the working relationship that they had developed together, and she told her of the time in the elevator and what had caused the panic in the building. After she finished Anna’s mouth dropped open.

“He did what?” Anna said, eyes wide. “The two of you did that?” Anna dizzily stood up, wavered and then sat back down. “Milady he is absolutely amazing! Why is he not here, with you? Oh wait,” she shook her head, “don’t tell me. Are you going to see him again and tell him?”

“Soon.” Darmata said. “But you must not tell anyone. If anyone found out they might try to do something.”

“Oh I won’t milady.” Anna said. “I know how you can be. I remember when I was still an initiate and you tossed Radiance at me when I was cleaning the floors.”

“I remember.” Darmata said. “I felt so bad about it, I made you one of my attendants when you couldn’t become an apprentice. I hope that my temper wasn’t the cause for that.”

“It wasn’t milady. I was on my way out of the Order when that happened.” Anna said, as she rose to stand. “Well milady I’ll be on my way.”

“Oh Anna.” Darmata said as she rose and moved towards her bed. “Your punishment will be to assist me by yourself for thirty days.” Darmata reached her bed and climbed in.

“Yes milady.” Anna said as she exited the room. “Sleep well.” With that the door closed and Darmata drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 10

Elsibeth tilted her head and sighed as she watched Ver’verd clean his weapon. She had traveled with him for years now, and it was only six short years ago when she realized that she had fallen in love with him. What had started out as a simple childhood crush had become idol worship and then blossomed into love. Elsibeth truly loved this man, and she would do anything to support him. When she had met Darmata and had seen the way that he acted around her, Elsibeth’s resolve didn’t falter. Her mind and heart had been set. Even if he never chose her, she was bound and determined to stay by his side.

It frustrated her to no end that when she had confessed to him, he had brushed it off as simple infatuation. He had said that he really didn’t see her that way. That she was too young for him, but he was honored. It didn’t stop her from loving him anyway. She did get to find out that he was extremely embarrassed around sexually assertive women. One day she had “mistakenly” forgotten to put on her robe as she exited the bathroom. Ver’verd saw her, his face turned beet red and he turned away from her quickly. Elsibeth just laughed and went back into the bathroom to change into a light tunic and medium weight cloth trousers.

It was then that she started messing with him. A seductive look here, a simple touch there. She never snuggled up to him in his sleep, that would be crossing a line, but she was tempted. She had made it painfully obvious that she was messing with him, but it was still fun to see his reaction. She watched him as he continued to disassemble and wipe down the individual pieces of his weapon. The attention to detail and care was not lost on her.

She smiled to herself; she knew that she had to do what must be done. She tossed her towel on her bed and climbed onto his. She knew that when Ver’verd was cleaning his weapon he was “in the zone” and could not be disturbed. She moved towards him and stood on her knees on the bed. She moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around him, her breasts pressing up against his back.

“You know I am twenty-six now.” Elsibeth said as she slid down his back, her knees around his waist. “And all woman.” She pressed against him harder as she slid up and down his well muscled and scarred back.

Ver’verd stopped, looked up and put down the piece of his weapon. He turned his head slightly to the left and peered at her over his shoulder. “Elsie stop that would you. Get your pajamas on, clean your armor and weapons. I’m almost done.”

Elsibeth sighed in frustration and released him. She moved to his side and turned around. Lying down on the bed so her head was off of the edge by Ver’verd’s knee. Her robe loosened further, the only thing holding it closed was the cotton strap. “You must really love that Darmata chick to deny a willing bonafide woman who practically throws herself at you.” When Ver’verd said nothing and picked up another piece of his weapon to clean she said. “You know I wouldn’t mind if you went the harem route and chose both of us.” Elsibeth rolled to her side and put her head in the palm of her hand, her robe opening up further.

Ver’verd placed the piece down and began reassembling his weapon. “Not going to happen kid.” Elsibeth placed her other hand on his thigh and squeezed. She gave him her best wanton look.

“Seriously, women like me don’t come around very often. Are you sure I can’t tempt you?” Ver’verd finished reassembling his weapon, did a quick functions check, and then placed the weapon on his other side. He looked down at Elsibeth, and his mouth opened slightly as he looked a little too far. Ver’verd’s mouth snapped closed as he regained his composure. He reached for his kukri blade and waved it at her.

“Seriously, stop.” He began to wipe down the blade and move it along a whetstone, sharpening it. “It’s late and I’m too tired right now.”

Elsibeth rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She said in a huff. “A girl won’t wait forever you know.” She rolled off of the bed, stood up, and retied her robe, which had come completely undone. “I’m going to go grab myself something to eat. I was serious about the harem route thing though.” She moved towards the stairs that led down to the kitchen and living area. She stopped just shy of the stairs and looked over her shoulder. “But maybe you’re right and I should stop. Hey, maybe that Sev-Dax guy would be interested?” She analyzed him for any sign of jealousy.

Ver’verd placed the kukri blade in its sheath and underneath his pillow. He stood up and looked out the window. “You’d want to kill yourself within the first five seconds of being alone with him.” He watched her through the reflection in the window as she turned her head in a huff and stomped down the stairs. When she was gone he sighed and slumped his shoulders. “Almost dodged the bullet with that one Ver’verd old boy.” He said to himself as he shook his head. He moved toward the foot of the bed and neatly stacked his armor on the low table there, his boots he placed underneath earlier. He picked up his bedclothes and moved towards the bathroom to take his own shower. Upon entering, he noticed that there were undergarments everywhere. He stepped out of the room. “What the hell is all of this?” He called down to Elsibeth.

“On that’s just some things I put up to dry the last time we were here. If you could just put them on my bed and I’ll put them away later.” Elsibeth called back. “Be careful with the black silk ones, they’re “special”.

Ver’verd began to take the undergarments from the bathroom and he paused when he found the ones that Elsibeth had called “special”. He held them up, sighed in frustration, and shook his head. “I’ve got to get that girl her own place.” He said as he took the pile of undergarments and dropped them unceremoniously on Elsibeths’ bed. Looking at the pile and the mess that was Elsibeth’s side of the room he shook his head again. “Or at the very least a place with her own room and bathroom.” Ver’verd turned and saw Elsibeth there, a spoon in her mouth and a small tub of iced cream in her hand.

She had a slightly blank expression on her face and then it turned into a toothy grin, her eyes shining mischievously. “You were looking weren’t you?” Elsibeth said, the spoon falling from her mouth and onto the floor with a small clink sound. She began to bounce on the balls of her feet and pointed at him. “You were looking. You were looking. Ver’verd is a per-rv. Ver’verd is a per-rv.”

Ver’verd said nothing and just gave her a blank expression. He then turned and went into the bathroom. He placed a towel on the sink and then started the shower. “Nope, definitely her own place.”

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 9

Elsibeth exited the bathroom and was drying her hair with a towel. She wore a loosely tied cotton robe that ended just above her knees, and continued to rub at her hair as she walked over to her friend. “No”, she thought. “Not her friend, her savior.” Years ago he found her rummaging through garbage cans and living in back alleys. Because of her appearance, strangers enticed her with food and shelter, only to force her to do horrible things in return for their kindness. She did them, as she had nowhere else to go.

Like many Awoken, she was acutely aware of the emotions and feelings of others. So when the men approached her home with news of her fathers’ death, she immediately knew what had happened. When they told her, and offered her a place within the Titans she ran. She ran hard and fast. She didn’t stop running until her legs gave out and she was too tired to breathe. Being the daughter of the greatest Titan of the age afforded her certain things, and being the only child she was given just about anything she could ask for.

What she wanted most was to be just like her daddy. Her daddy was strong and fast. In her eyes he could do anything. When her mother died, her daddy was despondent, he wouldn’t go out for days at a time, and when he did he would be gone for even longer. Elsibeth watched as her daddy threw himself into his work. When he was told that he would be going on a mission to Enceladus he told her that he would be all right, that he was going to be with his partner, and that his partner was better than he ever was, so he would be okay. Elsibeth remembered her daddy’s partner. He was kind and would play with her often. She also thought that he was very handsome.

Elsibeth had a bad feeling about the mission, she didn’t want her father to go, but all she could do was stand and watch as he left again. She was thirteen at the time and had grown accustomed to her father leaving. A Titan detail would always stay with her, and they would teach her how to defend herself and where to hit an opponent. She liked the lessons with her fathers’ partner better. He would hold her in tough holds and even though she knew how to break out of them easily, she never did. He was a lot like her daddy.

A year after her fathers’ death, Elsibeth was living in an abandoned building with others who had become down on their luck. She was sent out to go look for food to bring back, when she saw a figure in the darkness. “Hey mister.” She said. “You got any food or money?” When the figure said nothing, she said. “If you have any money I can show you a good time. I can use my mouth really well.” Still the figure said nothing, as he moved towards her. Elsibeth was confused but she held her ground, she knew how to defend herself. As the figure got closer, she turned to act as if she was running and then acted as if she tripped. She fell to the ground and the figure loomed over her. She attempted to scream but that was only an act.

Her face turned cold as she reached her feet towards the figures neck. She twisted her hips, locking her feet behind the figures head and pulled down sharply. The figure lost his balance and he tumbled. Elsibeth rounded on top of the figure and held a knife to his throat. “All right buster, hand over all of your creds and don’t try anything funny.” A look of shock crossed her face as the figure spoke.

“I thought I taught you that you should always sit on your opponents waist so that they couldn’t move their hips or legs.” The figure then swung his legs up, locked his feet around her head and pulled down. Her head hit the ground hard. Elsibeth was dazed and struggled to her feet. She turned to run, but the figure grabbed her arm and threw her against a wall. The figure grabbed her wrist and pulled upward in a wrist-lock. He placed his head next to her ear as she struggled. “Elsie it’s me, calm down it’s me it’s…” But the figure was cut off as Elsibeth screamed and head-butted him in the head.

“NO!!!!” Elsibeth screamed. “It can’t be, you’re dead!?” You died a year ago! They said that everyone on the mission with my father died!” Elsibeth moved backwards as the figure struggled to regain his composure.

“I assure you Elsibeth.” The figure said, rubbing his nose. “I am very much alive. Your father asked me to look after you if anything ever happened to him.” The figure held out a hand. “Come with me, let’s get you cleaned up and get off world. I’m sorry it took me so long to find you but…” The figure was cut off again.

“WHY!?!” Elsibeth howled, all of the rage that she had kept buried inside of her rose to the surface as she finally recognized that the person she was speaking to was her father’s friend, not her father. “Why!” She screamed again as she ran towards the figure, howling. A mix of rage, pain, and concentrated suffering issued from the depths of her soul as she tacked her father’s friend and they fell to the ground. She sat on the man and began to punch at his face.

“Why!” Elsibeth exclaimed as each punch found its mark on the side of the man’s face and head. “Why are you here and my daddy isn’t?! Why are you alive?! I don’t want you to be alive! It should have been you and not my daddy!” Her punches slowed as the rage subsided, to be replaced by an overwhelming sense of sorrow. She began to pound on the man’s chest with her fists; tears streaming down her face. She continued to scream “why” as she pounded, the man remaining silent as she hit him. With a final slam of her fists she screamed out, her face towards the sky. “I WANT MY DADDY!” With that she fell upon him and sobbed.

The man continued to remain silent and just wrapped his arms around her and held her until the sobbing subsided. A slight rise and fall of the girls’ body had told him that she had calmed down. The man slid the child off of his body and picked her up. He held her at arms length and looked her in the eyes. “Do you feel a little bit better?” The man asked, looking her over. “Elsie I’m sorry that I’m not your dad, he died saving the life of me and a friend. But he told me to find and take care of you if anything ever happened to him, okay?”

Elsibeth nodded, raising a hand to wipe away the tears, smearing the dirt on her face as she did so. “Okay.” The man said as he rubbed her head. “Now, do you have anything you need to take with you? We have to get out of here. People will be looking for me so we have to get off-world.”

Elsibeth shook her head. “I ran away when they told me about daddy so I don’t have anything.” She took the man’s hand and he led her out of the alleyway. They took a transport to an old Warlock Monastery and entered. They stayed there for a couple of days and then went to the spaceport.

The spaceport was the primary way for people to get off world when they didn’t have a personal spacecraft. It was always a busy place, with several people that were there during all hours of the day. The two individuals got off of their transport and walked briskly towards the entryway. The spaceport was a large complex that spanned over one hundred kilometers and was the furthest out from the center of the city. There was always the smell of exhaust surrounding the port due to the many fossil fuel burning vehicles that traveled in and out. Even though clean energy such as hydrogen was widely used, many planets had materials which could be burned that created smog and stink.

Like much of the City, the spaceport was also built with low buildings and not much opulence. There was no one to impress with the spaceports grandeur, so construction was kept to a minimum. There was a tower and several levels for passengers to both depart and arrive. With modern technology there was rarely a need for a tower, but it was still a comfort to passengers that there was a watchful eye which maintained a constant vigil over the skies above the City spaceport.

Elsibeth and her guardian walked towards the departure terminal and towards the gate. There was no need to check in, because once you entered the spaceport, your travel plans were already filed with spaceport security. Elsibeth’s guardian had filed a travel plan under a false name and was sure that the two of them could get off planet easily. Elsibeth didn’t understand just why they had to leave Earth, but she knew her guardian well and trusted him implicitly.

When the two approached their gate, a Titan in blue security armor stopped them. “Excuse me sir but I need you and your child to come with me for a moment.”

“What seems to be the problem officer?” Elsibeth’s guardian asked the guard as they were led towards the security office within the terminal.

“Oh nothing.” The guard responded. “Just a small discrepancy on your travel documents is all. This way please.”

“I don’t see what the problem is. We filed all of the proper forms.” Elsibeth’s guardian said as he squeezed her hand, a silent signal to tell her to get ready to run.

The guard stopped for a moment and placed a hand up to the side of his helmet. “Yes sir.” The guard said. “I have them in custody now and I’ll be escorting them to the security office for holding until someone from the TCSF main office arrives. Sir?” The guard asked the voice in his helmet. “But sir there’s…” The guards voice was cut off and his body stiffened. “Yes sir, right away sir.”

The guard turned and looked at the two individuals who stood before him. “I’m sorry for the confusion sir but you have been cleared for departure on the freighter Gaia’s Hope for transport to the outer colonies.” The guard snapped a salute in Elsibeth’s guardian’s direction. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you sir and just let me say that it is an honor. Do you need transport to the freighter? I can arrange that you have primary boarding.”

“There’s no need officer.” The man said to the Titan. “And there’s no need to salute either, I’m just a simple Hunter on holiday with my daughter.”

The Titan dropped the salute and simply held out his hand, which Elsibeth’s guardian shook. “I’m sorry sir but her being your daughter is implausible.” The guard mentioned as he tapped on his data-pad. “I will adjust the information to show that she is your sister. Have a pleasant trip Mr. Ver’verd, we look forward to your return.”

“Thank you.” Ver’verd said as they turned to leave. When the two of them reached the freighter and boarded it, they relaxed a little bit. When the freighter took off they relaxed even further. When the freighter had left Earth’s atmosphere they knew that they were in the clear.

“Where will we go now?” Elsibeth asked Ver’verd as she looked up at him. “And why did you change your name?”

Ver’verd looked at her. “Well, I changed it because we’re going to start a new life.” He told her. “Where we’re going we’ll need new names and new lives so that no one will recognize us. We talked about this the other night. We’ll move around for a bit and then we’ll go and stay with a friend of mine and work with him.”

“Okay.” Elsibeth said as she straightened in her chair. “One other thing, why are you talking to me in the tone that you use with little kids? I am fourteen now you know.”

Ver’verd laughed and Elsibeths’ heart skipped a beat. He was even more handsome when he smiled, even with the still fresh looking scar. “You’re right kid.” Ver’verd said between laughs. “You’re right.”

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 8

Within the confines of the office of Sal-Drega, which was within the Warlock Order headquarters, two men watched as the scene played out. One was Sal-Drega himself and the other was his adjunct Mon-Krega. Mon-Krega winced as the scene unfolded and for an Exo, this was something that had bothered even him. Sal-Drega however, looked completely composed as the creature he had unleashed went about its task. The creature was outfitted with a camera and a helmet that controlled his movements and thought processes through a neural interface.

“Do we really have to watch this Master?” Mon-Krega asked as the scene continued to unfold before their eyes. “There won’t even be enough time to dispatch a recovery team for the two humans’ souls.”

Sal-Drega sniffed and then spoke into the control panel that also displayed the information as it was transmitted over a secure network to his office. He pushed away from the desk and stood. He then turned to his adjunct and placed a reassuring hand on the young Exo’s shoulder. “Do not worry young one, the Traveler will accept their souls instantly.” Sal-Drega then clasped his hands behind his back and stood in front of the window. “Do you know what all of his means Krega?”

Mon-Krega looked quizzically at his masters back. He thought for a moment and then spoke. “I don’t really know if I follow you Master. Could it be that we can control them?”

“Yes.” Sal-Drega spoke as he turned to his subordinate. “I believe that we can force these creatures into fighting against our enemies for us. They have a rudimentary nervous system and function more like a creature with a hive mind. If we can override their hive mind then we can control them.” Sal-Drega turned to head towards the door. “Come Krega, we have a dinner with Darmata and then we can get back down to the business of defeating our enemies and cementing ourselves as the next heads of the Council of Elders.” As Sal-Drega strode to the door Mon-Krega took one last look at the screen, shuddered and followed his master.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 7

The two members of The Titans’ Hand had just closed the blinds and turned towards each other. “You don’t think he saw us do you?” The senior member, a female, said to her partner.

“I don’t think so.” The other, a male, said. “But who knows? With the amount of black ink on his file and the amount of information missing in the electronic database, it’s completely possible that he saw us.” The two senior members of the intelligence agency had moved from their location on the street and had taken up residence in the building across from the one that their “target” was in. They had both been assigned to watch this particular Hunter as he was an individual placed on The Titans’ Hand person of interest list and had been on it for some time. Usually he and his partner would only be in the City for a couple of days and would leave almost immediately. This time however, the time of departure from the City was listed as “Until further notice” and the decision had been made to assign a two-person team to maintain surveillance of his apartment.

Ver’verd’s apartment was thought to be secret, but The Titans’ Hand was an agency that had always been known to know everything that went on within the City. Every quarter of the City had at least two Titans’ Hand cells living within it to maintain a level of human intelligence that was used to corroborate the constant electronic intelligence that the City was subjected to. The majority of the populace was aware of the electronic surveillance and had become accustomed to it. Very few had realized that there was also a human quotient as well.

Most human intelligence team members were from the areas that they watched over, so the majority of those around them had known them for their entire lives. Unfortunately the Exo quarter is where this differs, because most who go into the quarter never return. There were a few humans, but the Exo rarely bothered, or noticed them. The members of a Titans’ Hand cell were limited to a number of six members. In total there were twelve members of The Titans’ Hand within their respective quarters at any given time. The numbers were kept even as well as the male/female ratio, so that they could maintain operational security and mobility. Often the members of the cells acted as a married couple.

To the Titans’ Hand, ones sexual preference didn’t matter, so it was entirely common to find a male/male pairing or even a female/female pairing. For the most part, two-person teams maintained a professional relationship. If any children were necessary, they were artificially created from the genes of the team pairing, then quickly grown and flash-educated to the desired age and knowledge level. After a mission was completed, the child would then be discarded as easily as it was produced. It took a certain kind of person to be a member of The Titans’ Hand, and most were specifically chosen for a certain variable that was noted during the basic selection test, and is known only to the unofficial member of the Titan Democratic Council who is in charge of the agency.

Most members were quite all right with the way things worked in The Titans’ Hand and performed their missions as they saw fit. The two members of The Titan’s hand who were now watching the apartment of their target were an exception and followed protocol to the letter. It was a surprise to both of them when they would be constantly paired together, and the time that they had spent together served to strengthen their bond. So strong was their bond that they had actually decided to officially wed and become partnered permanently.

Of course this meant that they were not a viable team in the eyes of their leadership, and were often placed on details that had a low priority to the agency. They even went so far as to produce a child naturally, which placed them even lower on the list of viable agents. Their daughter, Emily was with family members who had once been agents, so they knew that she was being well taken care of. The couple turned to the table in the center of the room and went back over the files they had at their disposal.

The files were limited so as to be easily disposable, and most of the information was on their PDA’s. On the table were photos of Ver’verd and his known associates. The only image that they had of his partner was an image of them in full armor; someone had taken great care in covering the actual existence of his real identity. There were no images of the interior to the apartment, save for a standard floor layout that was a part of the welcome packet for new tenants.

Years ago The Titans’ Hand had attempted to place surveillance devices inside the apartment, but both the TCSF and the Warlock Council of Elders had countermanded every attempt. On the one occasion that they were successful, the surveillance team that had installed them had disappeared and most of their data with them. This was a common enough thing to happen within The Titans’ Hand, so it was overlooked and standard surveillance resumed. The reason why this was overlooked is because that the teams and the cells are compartmentalized; so no one team knows what the other is doing, and the cells were primarily there for administrative purposes.

The two agents looked one more time at the photos and then reopened the blinds. They looked across the way at the target room, noticed that their target was sitting there, cleaning his armor and weapon, and didn’t appear to be doing anything else of note. They were about to close the blinds when the lights in the room went dark. The two agents looked at each other and un-holstered their weapons. The male member pointed in the direction of the door and moved to investigate. The female member heard a scream and a shot, and then felt wetness on her face as if she were splashed with something. She moved towards the last sound of her partner and husband.

The female agent stumbled over something and fell to the floor. Her shoulder hit something soft and then she heard a low hiss above her. The last thing she felt was a slight pain as her head was torn from its shoulders.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 6

I wanted to put in a small note here before continuing on. The last couple of months I have had the opportunity to play both the Alpha and the Beta test for the game Destiny. Whether or not the opening to the story of the game is going to change prior to release one thing is clear, I will have to put this story through a major rewrite. I will be posting the remainder of the story in quick succession so if you miss a part, don’t worry it will be in the archive. A the very least, after playing the Beta test I will have an ending for the story. I will know more when Destiny is available to play on consoles September 9th. Now on to part 6.

 

When the elevator reached the desired floor, the two Hunters exited and walked towards their apartment. When they entered the door, they noticed that night had fallen over the City. The apartment was a large two story with a sitting area and kitchen on the first floor, beds and a restroom on the second. It was a relatively open floor layout with a large bookcase against the far right wall. There was a large view screen against the wall to the left of the room as you entered it. It was sparsely decorated with only the necessities. The kitchen area was to the right of the door and was also sparsely decorated.

The blinds closed over the windows as the two Hunters walked further into the apartment. Ver’verd and Elsibeth walked to the upper floor and placed their weapons in a slide out locker that was to the right of the staircase. Ver’verd removed his helmet and sat on the bed closest to the window, facing it. Ver’verd began to remove his armor piece by piece, starting with his shin pieces. All he had to do to remove the pieces on his shins and thighs was to pull sharply. He placed these pieces upon the bed to his right and stood.

Unclasping his holster from his thigh, he loosened his pistol belt and removed it. The holster and belt he placed to his left. He then removed his duster and unwrapped his cowl. He placed these in a pile behind where he was sitting and reached to his sides to unclasp the straps that held his two pieces of upper body armor together. He lifted his upper body armor over his head and placed it next to the pieces he removed from his shins and thighs.

Ver’verd un-tucked his tunic from his trousers, sat back down, and removed his gloves. Keeping his boots on, he removed the right gauntlet and then the left. He removed his PDA and placed it on the nightstand to the right of the bed. He then lay back, and using the earlier pile he had made as a pillow, turned his head and looked towards Elsibeth.

Elsibeth spoke a command and with a slight hiss her armor fell away. Her boots opened from the top and her greaves clattered to the ground into two pieces. She stepped out of her boots and bent down to dislodge her knee-pads. She then stood up, her chest armor falling away, and her back armor clattering to the ground as well. The upper arm segments had also fallen away, as did her gauntlets, but she removed her gloves manually.

Standing bare footed on the carpet, she stretched her arms upward and the chest area of her body suit expanded outward. Her neck seal unseated with a slight hiss and she removed her helmet. Elsibeth shook her head, her dark red hair falling to her shoulders. She looked over at Ver’verd and smiled, her silver eyes shining slightly. Because her mother was an Awoken she was a strikingly beautiful woman. Standing at about five three, and weighing only one hundred and twenty-five pounds without her armor, she carried the eye color and soft features of her mother, with the hair and skin color of her father.

As Ver’verd remembered, Elsibeths’ mother was one of the few Awoken Titans, and had served on both the Wall and at the gate, where he first met her. As a young man he had tried to flirt with her, until her husband returned from a mission outside the Wall and stopped by to pick him up for transfer. This was the last time that he saw her. Shortly after leaving his position at the gate, there was an explosion and Elsibeths’ mother was killed. He met Elsibeth for the first time at the memorial service. Elsibeth was just eleven at the time, so Ver’verd doubted that she remembered meeting him there.

The ceremony was simple for Titan standards; usually a great amount of pomp and circumstance was involved. The members in attendance were gathered in the parade field that newly graduated Titans would tread upon during graduation. They were divided by sections, with one of the captains of the guard standing in front of the rectangular formation that comprised the platoon that Elsibeth’s mother had been a part of. On a podium in front of the formation was the Titan leadership from the Titan Democratic Council and the commander of the guard. To the right of the TDC leadership was Commander Bespada and Elsibeth, tightly clinging to her fathers’ waist and sobbing.

Ver’verd was there, dressed in the black armor that was commonly associated with the members of TF Titan Night, and standing directly behind his commander. Ver’verd was amazed at the number of TF Titan Night members who were there for the memorial service of just one gate guard, just about all of them were in attendance. He stood staring at Commander Bespada’s back for the majority of the ceremony and was amazed at how rigid he stood. The entirety of the gate guard was there with members of the Expeditionary Forces taking their place for the ceremony. The ceremony that they gave to Elsibeth’s mother was one of the most gut wrenching that Ver’verd had ever experienced, and was one that he would not want to experience again.

The Commander of the gate guard detachment stepped down from the platform and stood in front of the captain of the guard. He held a data pad that contained the entire roster of the detachment. He began to list the members one by one, starting from the furthest platoon in formation, and they would respond with a “Here sir!” When each platoon was finished, their respective captains would call out with, “All present and accounted for sir!” He continued to call out the names and the members would respond. When he reached the list of Elsibeth’s mothers’ platoon, he stared the captain of the guard right in the eyes. Slowly the commander began reciting the names, the members responding appropriately, when he reached the name before Elsibeth’s mothers’ name he paused.

From an outside perspective, the weight of the next few words seemed to hit like the thunderous cracks of lightening. The commander uttered Elsibeth’s mothers’ name. There was no response. He called the name again and still, no response. The commander called the name out a final time, a palatable crack in his voice. The captain of the guard saluted, his hand visibly shaking, tears streaming down his face.

“Sir.” The captain said, nearly loosing control of his own voice. “Lieutenant Bespada is no longer with us.” The commander then returned the salute, lowered it and faced the platform. Tears streaming down his own face he saluted the members of the TDC.

“Gentlemen.” The commander said, his voice gruff. “Major Bespada is no longer with us!” The members of the TDC returned the commanders salute. The commander dropped his salute and returned to the platform. It was then that the sky grew dark, the clouds heavy, and the distant sound of thunder grew in the background.

Ver’verd felt wetness on his face and looked towards the sky, there was no rain but his face felt wet all the same. He then noticed the Titans around him. Everyone in the audience was crying, tears streaming down their faces. The hardest men and women in the Titans, individuals who had seen several years of war and destruction, men and women who showed no emotion during most ceremonies were all crying. The men and women in formation on the parade field all raised their heads in the sky and howled. The sound was deafening, a cacophony of sound, as if the very souls were being ripped from the bodies of those in attendance.

Ver’verd looked at his commander and saw him with Elsibeth in his arms, holding her tightly, weeping. The sound from the parade field carried over the City, and several denizens bowed their heads in reverence. When the howling stopped, the captains of the guard regained control of their platoons and all members replaced their helmets and marched off of the parade field. The head of the Titan Democratic Council walked up to commander Bespada and placed a hand on his shoulder.

Commander Bespada nodded, and still holding Elsibeth, followed the members of the TDC off of the platform and towards the black transport that was reserved for the members of the council. The rest of the audience filed out, replacing their helmets as they did, until only Ver’verd was left. Ver’verd wiped the tears from his eyes, placed his own helmet on his head, and headed back towards the barracks.

A voice brought him out of his memory. “I know I’m beautiful.” Elsibeth said, her face upside down as she leaned over him, eyes shining. “But I didn’t think it would actually bring you to tears?” Ver’verd sat up and turned slightly towards her.

“I’m sorry, I was just remembering something.” Ver’verd stood up and faced her properly. “Well, I’m going to head down and grab something to eat.” He started towards the staircase. “Do you want anything?”

Elsibeth unzipped her bodysuit to her navel and her chest expanded further. “No I’m going to grab a shower, being stuck in this thing for months at a time can really do a number on a girls’ skin.” She smiled coyly and began to remove the rest of her bodysuit as she headed towards the restroom that was adjacent to the beds.

“Can’t you wait to do that until I’m down stairs?” Ver’verd said as he turned his head and walked towards the steps.

“Where’s the fun in that? Besides I don’t have anything that you haven’t seen before anyway.” Elsibeth said as she stepped through the restrooms’ doorway, her bodysuit in a heap behind her.

Continuing down the stairs, Ver’verd shook his head. He entered the kitchen area and opened the refrigerator. His nose crinkled as a foul odor sprung from the refrigerator and he turned his head away, gagging. He quickly closed the door and made a mental note to only keep dried, canned, or dehydrated goods in the safe house from now on. Moving to the pantry, he grabbed an old ration and opened it. He placed the main meal in the re-hydration unit and retrieved it a minute later. Grabbing a utensil from the ration package, Ver’verd ate the food, took the drink, and re-hydrated it as well. As he drank from the drink package he walked back upstairs.

Hearing the shower running and the sounds of relief issuing from the bathroom, he picked up Elsibeths’ bodysuit and placed it on her bed. He then moved towards his own bed and picked up his duster and cowl. He hung these up on a hanger next to the window. He looked out of the window and waved at the building next to his, the blinds closing quickly in the room of the building as he did so.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 5

When the transport arrived at its location on the southern edge of the Overwatch District, a chime rang to notify the occupants that they had arrived at their final destination. As the two Hunters exited the transport, they looked up into the darkening sky. The Overwatch District was a district within the City that housed many its denizens. It was the central hub of commerce and had several shops and eateries where many gathered to congregate and team up for missions outside of the City. The official meeting place was over by the “Twilight Gap”, as it was commonly known, and many people gathered there.

Some were pilgrims from the outer colonies that had been able to remain free from Fallen control, and others were people from outside the City, who still lived in the harsh wilderness that the planet Earth had become. You could say that the Overwatch District was a great melting pot of earthen society. There was the Exo quarter, where many of the Exo would live, and was the only place within the City that remained in perpetual shadow. Several Exo could be seen walking into the quarter, and those who were not Exo almost ever returned.

There was also the Awoken quarter, which always seemed to look as if it was bathed in an ethereal light. The structures were mostly regal and had sweeping sky-ways that could be seen from the street and looked as if the Awoken who traveled through them were floating instead of walking. The Awoken had appeared to humanity several years after the great cataclysm, in the early days of the construction of the City. They had no special abilities to speak of, and it had been said that they had always been watching humanity.

The Awoken looked human with the exception of their gray skin and hair. In the right light, an Awoken looked just like the stories of angels long ago with their regal features, and always looked as if they were floating instead of walking. Most Awoken were almost always Warlocks, with a few who had joined the ranks of the Hunters and Titans.

It was commonly thought that if the Exo were the worst that humanity could become, then the Awoken were the best. They were often believed to be the next stage in human evolution, and in the past were subject to secret breeding programs. These programs, which had mostly been forgotten by now, served as the humans attempt at producing a perfect crossbreed of Awoken and human. In the past, many of the Awoken that were products of this secret program, had hair color different from other Awoken and a skin color that was a lighter shade of gray. As the years went by, Awoken and humanity intermingled, and the program was mothballed. Most of the Awoken crossbreeds had died off by now, mainly because forced crossbreeding produced Awoken/human half-breeds that were infertile.

When the program had come to light, the humans were afraid of an Awoken uprising, but the pure-blooded Awoken never rebelled. The Awoken and humans lived in harmony and there were many pairings between them. It was still rare for Awoken and human pairings to produce offspring, but when they did, it was a cause for celebration and not fear. In the past during the breeding program, Awoken/human children were hidden from the ruling Titan autocracy, and many families left Earth for the colonies because they had become largely independent since the great cataclysm.

Now there are more Awoken/human half-breeds then there were in the past, and their numbers have stabilized. About one-in-ten Awoken human pairings produced a child. The Awoken/human children take many of the physical traits of their parents, the most common is in hair color. About eighty percent of these children had the hair color of the human parent; with ten percent retaining the silver hair color of the Awoken parent. Oddly enough, the remaining ten percent retained a mid-point where the hair would be predominately either the color of the human parent with silver streaks, or the color of the Awoken parent with streaks of color from the human parent.

It had been noted that if the human parent was male, then there was a sixty percent chance that the child would retain the dominant genes of the human parent. These genes determined hair and skin color, with most other attributes, such as eye color, left to the genes of the Awoken parent. If the human parent was female, the hair color remained silver, with the eye color determined by the female parent. For example, if the human parent were male, then the child would have the hair and skin color of the male parent. The eye color would always be silver and any other traits would be a sixty-forty split between the two parents. If the human parent were female, than the child would have silver hair and light gray skin color, with eye color determined by the human parent, and a seventy-thirty split between all other traits. In Awoken/human children with multicolored hair, the eye color would be white, with a one hundred percent chance of blindness.

A few short years ago, if you were to see a multicolor haired Awoken/human child, they would always have a blindfold over their eyes. With bionics becoming more widespread, thanks to Exo technology, the eyes in these children have been replaced, and they function as an individual without that particular social shortcoming.

As the two Hunters walked towards the Exo quarter Ver’verd waived to the two plain-clothed TCSF officers who were themselves secretly part of the Titan Democratic Council’s shadow agency, The Titans’ Hand. The group was the internal intelligence branch of the Titan Democratic Council, and is responsible for gathering intelligence on internal threats to the security of the City. The operation of The Titans’ Hand, was similar to the old Earth country known as the United States of Americas’ NSA. They would gather intelligence in a variety of ways, and were not above keeping tabs on citizens of interest. To the uneducated or ill informed, this seemed like an invasion of privacy, but to a few pragmatic individuals, this was just the nature of the organization and a part of maintaining City internal security.

As they walked further into the Exo quarter, the shadows became more apparent. If not for their filters, the Hunters would smell the stench of death that seemed to permeate everything around them. The Exo quarter was a mess of wires and cables, with many buildings coated with rust and grime. As the Hunters passed a heap of such refuse, an insect crawled out from under the heap and scurried into the darkness. Ver’verd mused at the humor of the only creature to widely survive the great cataclysm was one of these insignificant bugs. However, if it weren’t for these bugs, then the birds would have died out as well. It was sad that the majority of the Earth’s creatures had died out during the great cataclysm, save for the bugs and the birds.

The Exo were more of a misunderstood ethnic group of humans then originally believed. There were many who saw the Exo as a sinister group, one that would often be found scavenging the dead for spare parts. In reality the Exo had a great respect for the dead. Within the context of the Exo belief system, the dead held a special place in their society, and a place of honor among its peoples. The Exo didn’t believe in the soul as an integrated entity but that the body was separate from it. The Exo believed that because the body and soul were separate, if the body were deceased, then the soul would be placed in a sort of suspended animation until such time that it was either harvested, or when a burial ritual had been completed.

It was important to the Exo that the soul was harvested as quickly as was able to, so that it could be placed in another body. Because of this, many Exo carried a small canister, which held the organ that was believed to contain “the soul” and flash-froze it, so that it may be preserved on their person. When an Exo, or someone who the Exo had taken a great interest in would die, the Exo would position the body so that it was face up, arms and legs spread out. The Exo believed that this position was best suitable to allow them to view the body and to assess if the soul had been damaged. They would then turn the body over, placing the face in the ground, which was believed by the Exo to make access to the organ that contained the soul easily accessible and to harvest it accordingly.

What made so many people fear an Exo at the presence of death was not in their appearance, but the way in which they “harvested” the organ they were looking for. Once the body was turned over, the Exo would grab the head by its forehead and pull back. They would then take their other hand and place two fingers against the eyes and push. This dislocated and often crushed the eyeballs, making a place for the Exo to gain leverage. With their fingers in the eye sockets of the dead, the Exo would pull sharply, tearing the esophagus.

They would then take a ceremonial knife and slice the skin along the spine, exposing the spinal column. Holding onto the head with their hand, the Exo would smash the bones of the hips near the lower end of the spine, dislodging it from the rest of the pelvis. Placing a hand on the sacrum, the Exo would then pull violently on the head, cracking the cervical vertebrae and ripping the head and spinal column out of the body. They would then carefully remove each vertebra and discard them until just the spinal cord remained attached to the brain.

Using a chemical, the Exo would dissolve the flesh, leaving the skull a dull yellow. With the same ceremonial knife, the Exo would pound on the back of the skull in such a way as to only crack the skull, and not damage the brain. They would then peel away the remains of the skull and discard it, holding the brain and spinal cord in their hands. The Exo would then separate the spinal cord from the medulla oblongata and discard it as well. With the ceremonial portion complete, the Exo would truly begin the harvesting process.

The Exo would remove the cerebellum and then the medulla oblongata. They would then grip the brain between the two parietal lobes and peel it apart gently, exposing the interior of the brain. The Exo would then pull back the corpus callosum to reveal the desired organ. The organ that the Exo collected was not considered a separate organ, but was part of the greater whole of the brain. They would take the thalamus, discarding the rest of the brain and would then open it to retrieve what they were looking for. After the process was completed the Exo would leave the location.

Only in the best of circumstances could this procedure be completed. Most of the time the procedure had to be done quickly, allowing for the quick removal of the head. This often left pieces of lower jaw and even the tongue remaining with the body as the skull was torn away. On a really fresh removal you could see the tongue writhing spasmodically. It was these “fresh” removals that made people the most apprehensive to the presence of an Exo, due to the brutality of the procedure. If one were to come across a properly harvested body, most were shocked and sickened. Body parts strewn about haphazardly tended to do this.

The Exo had been able to successfully merge man and machine through cellular manipulation by the use of nano-machines. These small machines, the process of their creation known only to the Exo, would mimic the cells of a creature and replace damaged ones so that the creature could still function normally. The nano-machines could replicate the effects of living tissue, so that there would be nearly no way to discern the difference. From an internal perspective, an Exo would appear the same as the original body.

However, whether because of a programming mistake or the non-biological nature of the nano-machine, the outward appearance would make the Exo look artificial. Exo had often been confused with androids or other primarily artificial beings. Their skin had a metallic appearance and often their head had more than two eyes. One of the things that separated the Exo from the other races was the fact that an Exo would never require a helmet. There were those who would mistake a non-helmeted Exo for a helmeted one, and vice versa. Some had said that they had seen an Exo without their metal carapace, but these reports had been mostly unfounded.

As the pair passed an Exo sitting on the ground, their head held low, Ver’verd tossed a small canister in their direction. The Exo picked up the canister and turned it in their hands. The Exo immediately stood up and bowed towards Ver’verd. The two Hunters turned a corner and walked into a high-rise building. The building was the tallest in the Exo quarter and when the two Hunters entered they looked towards the front desk where an Exo was dressed in a suit and tie. The interior of the building looked as best as it could for being in the location that it was in. Usually the Exo didn’t care for opulence, preferring a more practical use of space. This building however, was used for those who lived in the Exo quarter from different races, of which there were few.

The appearance of the Exo at the front desk was only for the benefit of others and that’s about as far as it went. There was a small sitting area adjacent from the desk and the two Hunters nodded in the direction of the two Exo Warlocks who sat in silence. The Warlocks bristled slightly, their faces showing slight surprise. As they passed the sitting area they turned left and headed towards the elevators. As they entered the elevator, Ver’verd pressed a short series of buttons and the elevator began to ascend.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 4

The Titans were in charge of security for the City. In addition to the guards at the gate and the guards on the Wall, the Titans were also the policing force. Generally, Hunters did not get along with Titans, and were often the subject of investigation. Some of the old prejudices of the past still remained and when something went wrong in the City, before looking to the Cities minorities, the Exos and the Awoken, the Hunters were often the first place that the Titans looked. As the pilot looked down, he rolled his eyes as one of the Titans began climbing the stairs.

Sev-Dax climbed the stairs to the Warlocks’ conclave and when he saw who was at the top of the staircase, his blood ran cold. As a general rule he treated everyone he came across with equal amounts of respect. This lead to him being a generally well-liked member of the Titan City Security Force, or TCSF, as the populace more commonly called it. The TCSF was the policing arm of the Titan Democratic Council, and was charged with keeping the peace within the City. The TCSF often worked with the Warlock Order in investigating a variety of crimes that happened within the City, and a trip to the conclave was a regular occurrence.

Sev-Dax was the TCSF liaison to the Warlock Order and usually liked coming to the conclave. Coming from modest beginnings, Sev-Dax was the child of a Titan and a Warlock. However, the “Magic” affinity had passed him up and took root in his sister, making him unable to join. By the age of seven he was given, as was tradition, the opportunity to join the Titans and later take his rightful place by his fathers’ side on the Wall. He then entered the “Titan Youth” program. Unfortunately for Sev-Dax, when he had finished the advanced placement course at fifteen, he was tapped to enter into TCSF due to his high marks in forensic science and reading comprehension, among others.

While Sev-Dax was disappointed to enter the TCSF, he had quickly developed a high aptitude in investigative politics, and was the only member of the Titans in the TCSF to ever solve the Soyez Enigma. The Soyez Enigma was named after the founder of the TCSF, the Titan Soyez. Soyez was one of the Titans depicted on the statue in the courtyard. She was a shrewd Titan, who realized that the City needed a policing agent, a group of elite and knowledgeable Titans who could maintain peace within the City. Only those who tested in the ninetieth percentile were selected and put through TCSF training. She also developed an impossible puzzle, which involved saving the entire populace of the City in the event of an attack. No one had ever solved the puzzle until Sev-Dax.

Sev-Dax was fast-tracked to TCSF command, and as part of this, he was tasked to receive specialized training from Task Force Titan Night. While working with TF Titan Night, he had developed a good friendship with the commanders’ protégé. As he continued to ascend the staircase he placed a hand on his sidearm. Even though he was nearly seven feet tall without armor, and weighed more than the Hunter, he had learned a long time ago not to underestimate this man.

As the Titan walked up the stairs, the Hunter remained still. The Titan wore the standard Titan medium armor; colored blue, with red highlights on his shoulder pauldrons, designating his position of commander. It was remarkable on how Titan armor reminded the Hunter of the armor he had seen in Holovids. In the Holovids the armor always seemed to cover the entire body. The Hunter remembered one such vid that was taken from an Old Earth Arthurian legend regarding a legendary sword and the ruler who wielded it. It always amazed him at how they could move in such a heavy contraption and how the heroes had always come out on top. The Hunter preferred his mobility as opposed to strength, so as the Titan lumbered up the stairs the Hunter couldn’t help but smile.

The Hunter well knew however, that Titan armor was deceptively light, and if needed, the Titan could move just as quickly as someone who wore little to no armor at all. As the Titan stepped up the last step, the Hunter quickly checked himself and realized that he had been unsheathing and retracting his hidden blade slightly. Elsibeth turned away as the Titan nodded in her direction. The Hunter remained leaning up against the wall of the conclave as the Titan approached him.

“Why is it that whenever there’s a major problem at the conclave you seem to be the one there?” Sev-Dax said, placing his hands on his hips.

“What no handshake, no ‘Long time no see’?” The Hunter asked as he continued to lean against the wall. “I mean don’t you usually first remove your helmet when you speak with a superior?”

“You’re not my superior Ver’verd.” The Titan replied. “You left the order long ago, and you were never even my superior to begin with.” The Titan then removed his helmet to reveal short cropped dark hair that was graying at the temples, and a lean but strong jawed face. Sev-Dax had a short trimmed beard and two red stripes flash-tattooed down his face covering each eye. The tattoo was a marking that only the top echelon of the Titan hierarchy wore and could be removed when the role they were placed in ended. There were only three stripes that could be worn that signified the role a Titan played in their leadership.

One stripe was for the leader of the Titan Democratic Council and was either worn across the right side of the face, or could be worn down the center. Often the leader would choose the right side of the face, because having the tattoo down the center looked too silly. The second in command had two stripes that could either be worn with one down the center of the face and the other across the eyes in the shape of an Old Earth Christian cross, or down each side of the face covering the eyes like Sev-Dax had chosen. The third leader of the Titan Democratic Council Triumvirate wore three stripes; one over each eye, and the third could either be worn across the lips or over the eyes.

Sev-Dax held his helmet, visor forward, against his left hip so that he could salute junior officers as they entered and left the building. Dropping such salute as a junior TCSF officer left the building. “Are you not going to offer me the same courtesy?” Sev-Dax said as he looked coldly at Ver’verd’s helmeted face. “I assure you that you are safe here.”

“If its all the same to you, I’d rather leave my bucket on.” Ver’verd replied with a shrug. “Half of the Titans idolize me, the other half want me dead, and I’m allergic to both.”

Sev-Dax shrugged. “So what went on here, since I take it that you were inside?” He asked. “Does she know anything?” Sev-Dax nodded towards Elsibeth.

“I don’t know anything.” Elsibeth said; her voice modulated to sound male. “And what makes you think that I’m a female?”

“One.” Sev-Dax said, not looking away from Ver’verd. “You responded when your head was turned. I could easily have been talking about Darmata. Two, Ver’verd’s not the only one to know about you. How else do you think the daughter of our greatest member could have gotten off planet without setting off alarms? Everyone is gene-coded upon first entrance to the City, whether by birth or through customs. The Titans still conscript children who fit a certain genetic profile. Your mixed-blood DNA, and your father, saved us from doing such a thing. Usually, children of Titans are given a choice.”

“Whatever.” Elsibeth turned her voice modulator off. “You-“ But she was cut off by Ver’verd.

“Switch your modulator back on.” Ver’verd cautioned. “We don’t want people looking into why a female is in male armor.” To Sev-Dax he said. “All I know is that the elevator stopped and that’s about it.”

Sev-Dax raised an eyebrow. “Really, well there was also an earthquake, and sensors told us it radiated from this location. Weird thing, since there are no fault lines underneath the City.”

Ver’verd shook his head. “That’s all I know. Darmata was with me; she might be able to shed some more light on it.

“Hmmm.” Sev-Dax said as he placed his helmet back on his head. “I’ll make sure to ask. In the meantime don’t leave the City, and if you do, let me know where you are going.” With that the Titan strode past the two Hunters and entered the conclave.

“He’s still a jerk.” Elsibeth said as the pair walked down the steps. “What about the ‘Hog?”

“It’s a ‘Puma’, and no, we can get it later.” Ver’verd replied as they walked to the nearest public transport station. “I’m sure the TCSF will need to examine it, although I’m also sure they won’t find anything.”

“Hey, when do I get a cool moniker?” Elsibeth asked as they reached the station and entered into a transport. “All I get called is kid. I’m twenty-six now you know.”

“That depends, are you ready to wear female armor, or to have that chest piece modified?” Ver’verd said, as he tapped in the location that they were headed to on a holo-panel in front of him.

The transport began moving. “I don’t know yet.” Elsibeth said, softly. “I don’t know if I’m ready.”

As the transport continued to move through the City Ver’verd said. “Well if you want to you can always choose ‘Bespada’ in honor of your father.” Elsibeth shook her head, and Ver’verd added. “You could say that you admired the man, no one has to know that you are his daughter.”

“I don’t know.” Elsibeth said as she placed her head on Ver’verd’s shoulder. “Where did you get yours?”

Ver’verd stiffened slightly and then relaxed. Ever since Elsibeth turned twenty-two he had a hard time thinking of her as a child. Well your father was a fan of those old books like I am, and he gave me one that had a fictional language which was created in it. Unfortunately the author never finished the narrative, so the language also remained unfinished. In this language the word ver’verd means ‘mercenary’ so when I decided to become a Hunter, I chose that word to go by as my moniker. Several Hunters change their name when they become Hunters because to them it’s like starting a new life and having a new identity to go along with it. Only Darmata remembers my birth name. The others who knew me way back when don’t want to mention it, because to them it’s like a stab in the back. Most Titans never leave the order and those that do are either listed as ‘missing in action’ or are shunned. Only in special cases are former Titans given the honor of being considered ‘Titan for all time’ and most of those that are given that title are all dead.”

As he finished his explanation he noticed that Elsibeth’s chest was rising and lowering slightly, indicating that she was asleep. Ver’verd looked out of the side view screen and watched the City go by in silence.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 3

The pilot heard the footsteps behind him as he walked down the hallway. He didn’t even turn as the figure strode up beside him.

“What in the name of the Traveler was that?!” Darmata growled angrily. She had moved down the corridor in such a hurry, that her cowl had come off of her head, and her cloak had become unsnapped, revealing a lightly colored, light weight tunic and trousers.

“What was what?” The pilot asked, his head unmoving, picking up his pace.

“You know what I mean. That scene in there with Elder Mon-Krega!” She said, matching her pace with his. “Why did you do that? Half the council was afraid and the other half was ready to attack!”

“I don’t know Mata.” The pilot said, his pace slowing slightly. “That Drega guy just got under my skin is all, and when that kid spoke up, I just snapped.” They had reached the elevator and the pilot slapped the control panel. The lights of the elevator blinked in descending order, showing its decent. The pilot released his rifle and it swung there freely, connected to his armor by a carbon fiber nano-tube strap that the pilot had installed, this way he wouldn’t loose his weapon in a sprint. He crossed his arms across his chest and tapped his foot in annoyance.

“Look.” Darmata said, her voice softening. “I know what you’ve been through with the council. I know how hard it is for you every time you come back here, but you have to understand, this is my life now. On the council I can change things. We no longer conscript children. We have dropped the selective breeding program. We continue to test children up until the time they leave the monasteries. That initiate girl that you so lovingly call ‘Pluck’? Her parents are Warlocks and have only just now reached the position of Master. We even allow inter-species couples to join our ranks and do not ask that they separate. So much has changed since then.”

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. The pilot stepped inside and Darmata followed. Once the doors closed she continued. “I am not saying that the Order is perfect, but it is changing.” The pilot turned to face her and looked into her eyes through his visor. Her original eyes had been a dark hazel and would shift depending upon her mood. These eyes were not her original eyes however, and had lost that color changing effect. While the color of the eyes were still hazel they were only replacements. A pang of regret hit the pilot as he remembered that he’d never see those eyes again.

“Not all of the things that we thought were wrong with the Order has changed.” He said, his voice hollow.

What is that supposed to mean?” Darmata asked, her eyes taking on a quizzical look, the scar tissue wrinkling at the corners.

“You said that the council had dropped the selective breeding program, right?” The pilot asked, his arms dropping down to his sides and his hands balling into fists. ”Then what’s the deal with you and ‘Professor Snape’ being betrothed and all that yotz?” Darmatas’ face turned red, not out of embarrassment, but out of the anger that had sprung up into her face.

“Look buster.” Darmata said, anger in her eyes as she stepped closer to his helmeted face. With his boots and helmet, the pilot was a full head taller than she was, without them, her hairline came to his nose, so she didn’t have to look up any farther than normal. “I’m not even going to pretend to know what a ‘Professor Snape’ is, but what business is it of yours who I’m ‘betrothed’ to?!?” She stabbed a finger into his chest. “You…weren’t… there!” Her voice rose with her anger. “I waited, and you weren’t there! When you stood before the council after the ‘incident’, I was there outside with a bandage over my eyes and using crutches to support myself. I thought, finally the council will see what I had always known, finally they would let you in, finally they would let us…” Her voice began to crack and tears welled up in her eyes. She wiped the tears away with the hem of her sleeve. Regaining her composure, she said. “With your power, it would have been you as the leader and not me.”

Often, when they were children, the pilot would make her cry by playing, what she had thought, was a mean spirited prank. Often, it would be the one thing that would make him feel instantly sorry for what he had done, and he would try his best to cheer her up. When she cried because of her masters death, he would hold her and tell her that it would be okay. The pilot almost felt that way now, but when she had said the word “power,” all of the sorrowful feelings washed away, to be replaced with an explosive anger.

The pilot tore off his helmet and his pale green eyes bore into her. The pilot had brown hair that was cut short and greying at the temples. His nose was slightly bent, mostly because of being broken once too often. He had a square jaw, its muscle twitching as he looked at her. His face always seemed to consist of a five o’clock shadow no matter how often he shaved. He was moderately attractive by current standards, and would look even better if it wasn’t for the scar that traveled from his left ear to the bottom of his jaw. The scar wasn’t that deep, and would only become pronounced if he got too much sun. He was only thirty-five but due to his livelihood, looked much older.

“Power!” The pilot said as he lost control of his own anger. “Power!?” He said louder this time, his voice rising. “Is that all you people think about, ‘power’?!” He spat out the words and Darmata shrinked away. “The Council of Elders, all they talked about was ‘my power’ this, and ‘my power’ that! The entire time I was in there, that’s all they whispered! ‘His power is great! With his power he could help us. With his power we could be victorious. He has minimal affinity, how could he hold so much power? Why was he chosen? Quick, find a record of his birth, there must be something in there. We can’t find a birth record anywhere, all we know is that he was found at the monastery in the night. By the Traveler, how can we make use of this? He’s only twenty-two, but the level he’s shown on…’ They never asked about what happened to your master?! They never asked about what happened to the enemy! All they asked about was ‘my power’!” His voice continued to rise and the elevator began to shake, the lights flickering. “Dammit Mata, I didn’t even know if my best friend was still alive!” The pilot spread his arms wide, the elevator stopped and began to shake even more violently, the lights flickering more and more.

Darmata lept back, as the air around her friend began to charge with electricity, the smell of ozone burning her nostrils. His hair had begun to stand on end, and his eyes began to glow yellow. “I thought I’d lost you when you went to be trained by the Warlocks! I thought I’d lost you on Enceladus! I don’t know what happened then, but I knew that I couldn’t loose you again!” Tears began to run down his face. “I can’t loose you again. Mata I just can’t! When you talked about ‘my power’, you sounded just like them! I can’t loose you again Mata!” A bright light filled the elevator, and then all was dark.

The lights flickered on and there was the pilot huddled in a heap, sobbing. He was curled up in the fetal position, just… sobbing. The elevator resumed its normal operation and Darmata rushed to the pilots’ side and held him in her arms, tears streaming down her own face. The two of them laid there for a while, crying. After a moment, she helped the pilot to his feet and they continued to stand there holding each other in silence.

After what seemed like forever, the pilot spoke softly. “I love you Darmata.” Darmata pulled her head from his chest, tears again in her eyes, and placed his forehead against hers.

“I love you too, you big dummy. The last time you said that to me was on Enceladus.” Darmata looked up slightly into his pale green eyes. “The last time we did this was on Enceladus too.” Darmata smiled coquettishly, leaned slightly upward and tilted her head, their lips pressing together in a gentle kiss. The kiss soon escalated, and their hands began to move, trying to find purchase. In the fray her tunic loosened and the pilot kissed the space between the base of her neck and her collarbone. Darmata gripped the pilots’ head tightly and tugged at his hair, her eyes looking towards the ceiling.

The pilots’ hands slipped under her robe and around her waist as he tried to pull her closer to him. The pilots’ hand tightly gripped her left buttock, the combination of the pressure of his hand and the thinness of the fabric caused a shock of electricity and sent shivers up Darmatas’ spine, causing her eyes to close and a sharp gasp to escape her lips. The pilots’ other hand found purchase on her right buttock and he lifted her up, her legs instinctively rising, her feet hooking onto the small of his back. They slammed against the wall of the elevator as the pilot lost his balance. Darmata winced and rubbed the back of her head.

“Sorry.” The pilot said sheepishly. This brought them to their senses long enough to look at the lights that indicated the elevators’ rising. “How long do you think we have?” The pilot asked as he looked into Darmatas’ eyes.

“Not long enough.” Darmata said slyly. She placed her hands on his shoulders to steady herself and her legs slid off of him, so that her feet could feet touch the floor. The pilot squeezed her buttocks, lifting her slightly. She yelped, and then took a hand from his shoulder to cover her mouth and stifle a giggle. The pilot turned her around, moved her long hair to the side and began to nibble on her neck.

“Like I should care.“ The pilot breathed into her ear, sending another shiver up her spine, coupled with a warm feeling as he slid a hand into her tunic.

“Seriously, you’re going to get me in trouble like last time.” She chuckled. Her eyes closed and a slight moan escaped her lips as the pilots’ hand found what it was looking for.

“Some traditions are best left untouched.” The pilot said as he moved away from her. He began to check over his equipment, as Darmata straightened out her robes and tunic. As he picked up his helmet from the corner of the elevator, he watched her for a bit. “You know the loose fitting look is a good look for you.”

“Ha, ha, ha.” She replied flatly, a smile across her lips, belaying her tone. “You know I wish I could. It gets soo hot with these robes on. The building‘s not as drafty as people are lead to believe either.

“Well you could always, well, you know.” The pilot said, tilting his to one side, a smirk crossing his lips. Darmatas’ eyes grew wide.

“Ewww, no!” She exclaimed, drawing her arms across her body. “That’s like, gross. Seriously, you’re gross.” Her voice deadpan, her lips pursed tightly.

“Something else I noticed.” The pilot said as Darmata turned to primp herself in the mirrored surface of the interior of the elevator.

“Oh what’s that?” She asked as she wiped away a black mark with the sleeve of her robe and began messing with her hair.

“Well, you used to always use contractions, but since you joined the Order you never use them. I first noticed it when we were together on Enceladus.” The pilot said as he watched her. “But when you’re really irritated or when we’re alone together like this, you use them. Why is that?”

“Well.” Darmata said, as she fiddled with her hair. “We have to be pretty formal at all times as Warlocks, it’s like tradition or something…” She stopped and sighed in frustration, as her hair refused to cooperate. “When I get angry, I begin to forget that. This one time… ugh this hair… I almost launched Radiance at this poor initiate who was just doing their job. I was so mad at what happened that I completely forgot that I was supposed to be this super-composed Elder. Anyway, when I’m with you I can be more myself and I don’t have to worry about being all formal and such.” She sighed and dropped her arms, giving up straightening out her hair as it drooped around her head, a tangled mess.

The pilot connected his helmet to a mag plate on the lower back of his armor and pulled out a comb from a pocket on his belt. He stepped towards her and gently took hold of her hair. As he began to work out the tangles Darmata winced. “So how long has that girl been your partner?” She asked, wincing as another tangle was worked through. She’s very pretty.”

“Huh, you can tell?” The pilot asked as he gently tried to remove another tangle. “Oh wait, that’s right, you can tell with your magic Warlock powers.” He removed another tangle. “Well it’s been about twelve years. I couldn’t get to her until I was twenty-three, what with all of the interrogations, psych-evals, rehab and all that jazz. After all of that was done, I spent the rest of the time trying to find her. After I had been to all of the Warlock monasteries with no luck, I finally found her in a back alley. Needless to say she tried to proposition me, and when that didn’t work, she tried to rob me. After I subdued her, I told her who I was, and that her had father sent me. Well, being that she was fourteen at the time, and even though she’d had a year that would make any kid a hardened street thug; she balled her eyes out, wrapped her arms around my neck, and almost choked the life out of me. I took her to the nearest spaceport and we hopped a transport off of Earth. After drifting from place to place for about a year we linked up with Sa’Dar, you remember, the hunter who was with us on Enceladus. Well, to make a long story short, we worked with him for a bit and now here we are.”

The pilot finished with the last tangle and began running his fingers through Darmatas’ hair. “You always did have such beautiful hair. How come you don’t braid it any more?” Her eyes had a lazy look in them as the pilot continued to run his finger through her hair. Darmatas’ eyes closed and her mouth dropped open, exposing perfect teeth. She shivered slightly, a slight moan escaping her lips as the pilot tugged slightly.

“Don’t get me started again.” She said, pulling away from him. “I won’t be able to stop this time.” Her back to the pilot, she settled against his chest, placing his hands in front, her hands clasped on top of his, and closed her eyes. She sighed. “I wish we could stay like this forever. Oh, and I don’t need to braid my hair anymore because I don’t wear my armor that often, except for Open Ceremony.” Open Ceremony was when new Warlock apprentices received their permanent armor and became Journeymen. It is then that they were able to go on missions outside of the City with their masters, and be teamed together with Titan’s and Hunters.

“Wait, weren’t you teamed up with me as a Journeyman? The pilot said as he held her. “That would have meant that you were about two years into it right?”

“No.” Darmata said as she lazily opened her eyes. “I was a special case, I passed my initiate phase just a couple of years after I left the monastery with my master for the first time at twelve. My apprenticeship lasted the standard five years so I passed that at seventeen. I received my mastery when I was twenty-five, a few years after Enceladus. So altogether my Journeyman phase was eight years.”

“So what took your Journeyman phase so long then?” The pilot asked as he looked down at the top of her head. His next train of thought stopped as he noticed a light pink butterfly barrette in her hair. “It was because of me wasn’t it.”

“Not entirely” She said, turning to face him. “Remember, back then marriages between Warlock males and females were arranged through the selective breeding program. My name was selected and Sal-Drega’s was as well. We were paired up when I reached my Journeyman phase. We had several times to meet and then a date was decided. What did you call him, ‘Professor Snot’? Well whatever, he was a grease ball back then too, always looking around like he was plotting something. He was reported to be the child of two long standing Masters, so he thought that he was ruler over everybody. Because he had a high affinity like I did, he thought that made him special, above everyone. It’s only gotten worse since he was placed on the council.”

The pilot stopped her. “Wait, I thought that only the Traveler could choose the next successor to the council?”

“Yes, the Traveler does, although confirmation of council status can take along time.” She continued. “We only announce that a new council member was chosen at the time of appointing. The truth is, that once a council member applicant, is chosen by the Traveler, it can take some time for them to mature as Warlocks. This way we don’t have a five-year-old sitting on the council. Before you stop me again, a person is only selected to join the Order as an initiate after their tenth birthday. A month before that, we receive our ‘final’ test for affinity, to decide if we are fit for Warlock training. A lot of us in the monasteries as kids were taught that, ‘before our tenth birthday the Traveler will test us to see if we are worthy’. The reality is that the testing starts as soon as we enter the monastery. Remember those blood tests we had every six months?”

The pilot nodded. “That’s because they were gathering our DNA wasn’t it?”

“Exactly.” Darmata said, moving her arms around the pilot. She held him close, her head resting on his chest. “What a lot of people within the order don’t know is that the test not only determines ‘Magical’ affinity, but also potential. My affinity numbers were the same consistently as I grew older, except for my final one, along with Dregas’. Our numbers were near identical, with mine the dominant ones. It’s part of why we were paired together.”

“That still doesn’t explain how you dodged the bullet with ‘Professor Snape’ for so many years.” The pilot said as he processed what Darmata had already said.

“I’m getting to that.” She said as she gripped him tighter. “Most human females reproductive organs are prepared to reproduce between the ages of nine and fifteen. This is called menarche. In human females, where an average ‘Magic’ affinity is present, this menarche is delayed until our early to mid twenties. In the past, human females matured enough emotionally to have children by their early to mid twenties. This often changed a woman’s outlook on life enough to complete the emotional maturity by the end of their ability to have children, or menopause. It’s part of the reason that women are less emotional when they are older as opposed to when they are younger. There are exceptions to the rule however; it was just a matter of getting to know a person.’

‘With a female who has an average ‘Magic’ affinity, the opposite of what I said about emotional maturity is true. Because our menarche is delayed, our minds compensate for the bodies imbalance of the ‘natural’ order of things. We now reach emotional maturity between the ages of nine to fifteen. In all honesty when we last saw each other in the monastery, I had completed my emotional maturity, and was ready right there and then, it’s that just my body was not.”

“Okay.” The pilot said, still not fully comprehending. “I think I got it so far, you can have children emotionally, and put up with a man’s emotional immaturity when you reach about nine, but physically you can’t have children until your are twenty, which is why the regular Journeyman phase started when it did. However, your emotional maturity decreases as you get older…” The pilot shook his head. “Wait a minuet, you mean that you’re going to get crazier as you get older?!?”

“That’s okay.” Darmata said, looking up at him. “Males still complete their emotional maturity around forty, so while I’m going nutters emotionally, you’ll be able to handle me.” She reached up and kissed him with a smile. “And I’ll love you for it, you’ll be my rock.” She kissed him again. “Anyway in my case, for females with a high ‘Magic’ affinity rating and a low potential rating, like I have, this delays the process even further to about their late twenties to early thirties. This is the reason that my union to Dregas was held off until five years ago. Because of my high affinity and low potential, I couldn’t reproduce offspring until now. Dregas has a fluctuating potential rating, so the breeding program was counting on a balance between our highs and lows. Now is when Dregass’ potential is at its lowest so they are pressuring a union between us. For all of their talk of balance, they seemed to focus only on the balance of the high and not the low.”

“Ah.” The pilot said as revelation dawned upon him. “So that’s why he seemed all lovey-dovey with you. Because of our past history, he wanted to assert his dominance over me.”

“There’s more.” She said, her voice a little softer, as she nuzzled the pilots’ chest. In a small, soft voice she said, “It’s the best part.” She raised her head, smiled at him, and then kissed him again deeply. When she pulled away there were tears in her eyes, and her lower lip was quivering, she hurriedly buried her face in the pilots’ chest. “I mentioned that the test measured the potential as well as affinity right?” The pilot nodded. “Well,” Darmata continued, her right ear against his chest. “When I was a Journeyman I discovered that on the last day I was tested, my affinity scores were through the roof. No one in the history of the Warlocks had a score this high.’

‘But my potential was listed as, ‘Fails to meet minimum standard, not measurable.’ When I brought it to my Masters’ attention, he told me that while it was unique that my potential rating would be so low, it was not uncommon. He said that when they had first discovered that ‘Magic’ potential was testable too; they tested the DNA of some of the first Warlocks. They discovered that their potential rating was not all that great either. He said that, while DNA degradation was a plausible factor in the reduced potential rating, the findings were inconclusive, so it had been decided that the potential rating would not be an overwhelming factor in the decision of viable candidates for Warlock training. However, it would be a factor within the selection of mates under the guidelines of the selective breeding program.’

‘I asked my master who my chosen partner would be, and he told me that because of my unique potential rating, I would need to be paired up with an individual who, not only met the requirements for my unusually high affinity rating, but also my unique potential rating. The only person who fit those requirements was a young Journeyman named Sal-Drega. My master told me that Sal-Drega had a potential rating that fluctuated and that because of my potential rating, it would need to be at the right time. I met Drega, and it only took one meeting to tell that he was a jerk. I continued to meet with him, as part of my obligation, but he just continued to disgust me.”

The pilot tried to look her in the eye but she held her head fast against his chest as she continued. “I had always worn that barrette, it helped hold my braid together. My master found it on me once and asked me where I got it. I told him that it was, from a ‘friend’. He told me that any link to my old life before the Order would only be a hindrance, but when he saw my face, he told me to keep it. He said I reminded him of the way his own daughter looked when he told her to give up a stuffed animal that he had given her, long before she was to become an initiate. Even thought she couldn’t take the animal with her, he had snuck it into her room late one night.’

‘Of course her master had found it immediately the next day, but when he found out that she was the daughter of my master, he decided to let her keep it, and he said that her daddy was his first master too, and pulled out a ring that he kept on a chain that was once his mothers.” Darmata looked at the indicator of the lift and noticed that they were nearing the top. “This sucks, we have to go.” She said sadly, as she pulled away from him. She took the helmet and kissed it on the forehead. “ A little blessing from a hot Warlock. Hey, will you be here long?” She asked, as she handed him his helmet.

“Don’t know, it all depends on by how much I wear out my welcome with a few choice people within the City.” The pilot said as he placed the helmet on his head and shouldered his weapon. Darmata gripped his hand tightly.

“There’s more I wasn’t able to reveal, I would like the time to talk to you about it.”

“Well there’s always my safe house here in the City, or my fighter Zephyr’s Shadow?” Darmata shook her head.

“No, your safe house is monitored by the intelligence sections of the Order and the TDC. The Zephyr’s Shadow just… scares me.” She thought for a minuet. “I know of a place. Do you know where the ‘Rabble’s Hole’ is?” The pilot nodded. “I have a friend from my initiate days who didn’t make apprentice. She’s sympathetic to us. Traveler knows that I talked her ear off about you for five years straight.” She placed the palm of his free hand against her face, and breathed in deep. “Traveler! I love your smell!”

“What, the smell of leather, old man and lubricant?” The pilot said as he cocked his head to the side. She kissed his hand three times.

“No, it’s just the smell of… you! I don’t care what is, if it’s of you I love it.” She dropped his hand and looked at him. “Traveler! Why couldn’t the elevator have stayed broken?”

The pilot looked at her, cocking his helmet to the left side to indicate his confusion. “What do you mean the elevator was broken?”

“Nothing, never mind.” She said as the chime rang. A chime in the elevator would ring to announce to the occupants that they had arrived at the ground floor. The doors slowly groaned open, not because of any damage that they had took, but because when they did finally open, it seemed as if it would be flooded with bodies from the outside.

Darmata yelped, and clung to the left side of the pilot, as several people lost their balance and fell into the elevator. Quickly regaining composure, Darmata flipped her cowl over her head and smoothed out her robes.

“Make way! Make way!” A booming voice came from the rear of the throngs of people. Sal-Drega came through the crowd, pushing people away from him. Several initiates and apprentices recognized Sal-Drega and hurriedly parted ways. A short distance behind him, Mon-Krega was keeping the people from crowding in behind. When Sal-Drega reached the elevator he was taken aback by the way it looked inside.

The once pristine, gleaming surface of the elevators’ interior, was blackened and buckled in several places. Darmatas’ robe had several singe marks along the hems. The pilots armor however, showed no such marks and appeared as if untouched. Darmata stepped forward and raised her hands.

“Do not be troubled.” Darmata said in a loud voice. “I assure you that I am in no harm. An investigation will be done to see what has caused this incident. Please let us through.” The crowd began to disperse, and Darmata stepped out into the room. Sal-Drega took her by the hand and led her away from the crowd. When the crowd fully dispersed, the pilot stepped out of the elevator and headed for the doors. As the pilot exited the building, he saw his partner leaning against the railing, facing him.

“I don’t know what happened in there boss.” Elsibeth said; her arms crossed in front of her. “But it sure caused a lot of commotion.” She nodded down the stairs. The pilot looked and saw that there were several vehicles within the courtyard, red and blue lights flashing on their roofs.