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.

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress Part 2

As the “Puma” roared through the tunnel, a brightly lit sign announced that they were now entering the City… last bastion of humanity. This was followed by another sign advertising enlistment into the Titans. The pilot knew the Titan pictured on the advertisement and looked towards Elsibeth.
“When are they going to replace that stupid sign?”

“I don’t know.” Elsibeth said, her voice cracking slightly, head downcast. She turned her head away from the pilot and looked down at the road as it went rushing beneath them. The end of the tunnel opened up before them and the City came into view. It was after noonday in the City, and this portion was cast in shadow as the Traveler sat silently above them. During the day, the Traveler cast a shadow over the City at any given point. At night, it cast a faint glow like moonlight over the entirety of the City. It wasn’t like the reflection of the sun that a normal moon has. The light from the Traveler seemed to come from within, like a reassuring night light. Children often found comfort from monsters by relaxing in the glow of the Traveler. Adults often complained that the light was too bright, and ruined any night vision that they had been trying to develop.

The City sprawled out before them as the pilot maneuvered the vehicle towards its center. What started out as low lying buildings grew to become tall skyscrapers, some taller than the wall itself. On these skyscrapers were rows upon rows of windows, each either reflecting an image of the Traveler, or the Wall. The closer you got to City center, the buildings retained fewer and fewer windows, their sides a smooth facade of dull grey, similar to the Wall itself. That was the major way you could tell which part of the City was built first, because the materials were the same.

As they approached their delivery location, the buildings stopped, and a large courtyard was present, with trees and a grand fountain commemorating the first Titans. The fountain had a statue at its center depicting three figures. The figures were Titans in old patchwork armor, not a single piece matching. The figure at the center was standing with his weapon pointed high in the air. In his other hand, a small globe representing either the Traveler or the planet Earth, depending on your point of view. On the right, was a Titan in female armor facing forward in the kneeling position, with one elbow on her left knee, her weapon drawn, looking down the barrel. On the left was a Titan in teenage armor, standing with his back toward the left hand side of the Titan in the center, his head turned to the right. He carried two weapons, one weapon was a pistol which the Titan held, barrel pointing to his right, arm extended. The other weapon was a sword, raised above the Titans head, ready to strike down an invisible foe. All three Titans carried makeshift shields on their backs, protecting them from enemies that would attack the trio from behind.

A short distance away from the fountain, the beginning construction of another statue could be seen. This one proposed that all three guardians, the Hunter, the Titan, and the Warlock, worked together to protect the City. A painting that was displayed next to the statue had the Titan at the center, weapon at the ready. The Hunter was crouched, with two pistols drawn, ready to strike, the Warlock standing a slight distance away. A glowing ball was in his right hand raised high above his head, and a book in his left, held close to his chest. Proponents of equality had proposed that the Titan to be a Human, the Hunter an Exos, and the Warlock an Awoken. These three figures representing the three races that lived within the City walls. However, no matter which way you looked at it, the painting seemed to be comprised of three humans instead.

The “Puma” approached the largest building in the City, it’s top the closest to the Traveler. This building had a flat roof with cargo elevators ascending into the Travelers’ depths. The building had a fifty step staircase, at the top of it was the entrance to the building, it’s doorway approximately five hundred meters high. At the foot of the staircase was a tall statue, the same hight as the doorway. A Warlock was depicted here, covered in a cloak and cowl. The cloak was drawn back slightly, revealing a pistol in a holster on the left hip. The Warlocks’ left hand was outstretched forward, the appearance of lightning extending from his fingertips. In his right hand a book, opened and held out in front as if the Warlock was reading from it and casting a spell. These three things, “magic” represented by the lightning, “Technology” represented by the pistol, and “Knowledge” represented by the book. All were things that the Warlock was attuned to and represented. These things worked together in balance, to enable the Warlock to accomplish what they needed to do.

The pilot drove the vehicle to the back of the building, where the rest of the artifacts that the Warlocks collected were delivered. Several flat-bed vehicles stood positioned near each dock, ready to be dispatched to various parts of the Earth, collecting artifacts for study. The pilot parked the “Puma” near the lowest loading dock, which was reserved for vehicles that were not as tall as the rest. The pilot and Elsibeth exited the “Puma”, walked towards the back, and lowered the tailgate.

A slight female initiate in dirty coveralls exited the door and approached the vehicle. The initiate had abandoned her birth name long ago. She was of slight build and, like all initiates, had a shaven head. The girl looked to be about fifteen years old, and had probably been an initiate for about five years. Most individuals entered the Warlock order shortly after their tenth birthday. There were children younger than the girl, who were either orphans with high “magical” affinity, or were left at the doorstep of a Warlock monastery by parents who could no longer take care of them. Vary rarely were children conscripted into the Warlock way of life, but it did happen.

“Did you bring more wonders Hunter?” The female initiate asked as she reached the vehicle, her eyes wide with anticipation.

“No Pluck.” The pilot said to the initiate as he started up the anti-grav lift. “Just something for Darmata.”

“Oh.” Said the initiate, whom the pilot had nicknamed “Pluck”, due to her attitude when he dropped off a delivery. “Is it something very special, only for her? Do you need me to call her down for you?”

“I am already here child.” A soft voice from the shadows said. “Please bring the item inside Hunter.”

The cryo-tube was lifted from the truck and floated on the anti-grav lift towards the door. As the four people walked through the door and into the next room, it opened up to reveal an opulent room, with vaulted cathedral like ceilings, and statues of important Warlocks throughout history. Each statue depicted a different Warlock. There was the Warlock who had first entered the Traveler, the Warlock who had first displayed the Travelers’ wonders to the populace. There was even a statue of the first Warlock to ever relieve himself within the Traveler, the pilot had to shake his head at that one, and at this the initiate snickered.

Darmata turned to the initiate at the sound of her snickering. “That will be enough child.” She said with a slight sound of annoyance in her voice. “You may leave us.”

“Yes Mistress.” The initiate said, her eyes downcast in embarrassment. The initiate bowed slightly and left, returning to the shadows.

“Must you always embarrass me Hunter?” Darmata said as they continued to an elevator. “I do not see what is so funny about it.”

“Because darlin’, I just think that it’s rather obscure that with all of the seriousness within the Warlock Order, you would have something that reminds you of that.” The Hunter said. “Besides, there was a time when even you found it funny.”

Darmata bristled at the remark. “That was in the past Hunter, things are… different for me now.” The trio approached an elevator, one that led to only the sub-basements below. When they arrived, Darmata pressed a series of hidden buttons and the elevator doors opened. The inside of the elevator was not much brighter than the room they had just left, but it was bright enough that you could make out more of Darmata’s shape.

Darmata was a statuesque woman, and maintained a desirable figure, even though you could barely tell beneath her cloak. When the elevator closed, she pulled back her cowl to reveal long flowing brown hair which beautifully framed her face. She had high cheek bones and a long face. Her nose came to a sharp point, and if she would ever leave the order, she could easily be mistaken for royalty. In her younger days, she had an almost flawless olive complexion, but living within the dark conclave had caused the skin to slowly loose its color.

Years ago, Darmata had been a precocious teenager with wonderment in her eyes and a sunny disposition. Upon the loss of her master however, Darmata had changed. The pilot had known Darmata when she was younger, as they had grown up together. The pilot, an orphan, was raised within the walls of a Warlock monastery. They would often play together, but when Darmata had been assigned to her master, the play had stopped. The Warlock leadership had discovered that Darmata had a great “magic” affinity, and it was decided that she would be entered into the order on her tenth birthday. The first person that Darmata wanted to tell was her best friend since primary school.

“Hey, they want me to be a Warlock!” An excited Darmata had almost run into him as she bounced up and down on the balls of her feet.

“Wow, that’s soo cool Mata!” Her friend said as he took her hands. “I sure wish I could be one, that way we could go together.”

“I know, but the last time you were tested they said that your “magic” affinity was too low to measure.” Darmata said to him. “But hey, we still have about eight years until you have to leave. We’ll get to visit bunches of time before then.”

“Mata, you remember what happened to all of the others.” He said. “Everyone who becomes an initiate is never seen again.”

“Yes but I will be different.” She said. “I won’t let that happen, and my new master is one of the few in the order who has a family. He knows that you’re the closest thing that I have to family, so I’m sure I’ll get to visit lots.”

“That may be, but I’ll still miss you lots.” He said as he released her hands. “Hey Mata, I have a going away present for you. But you have to close your eyes.”

“Okay.” Mata said, closing her eyes and holding out her hand.

“Don’t open them.” Her friend said as he waved a hand in front of her face to be sure that her eyes were closed. Her friend stepped closer, leaned out, and quickly kissed her on the lips.

Mata stepped back startled and opened her eyes. “What was that? It felt funny.”

“It’s something I saw two adults do at one of the space ports. It happened just before the man stepped on the lift.” He said. “It’s something called a kiss, and it is something two people do when they say goodbye… I think.”

“I liked it.” Mata said. “Can we do it again?” She leaned closer, her eyes closed. But just before their second kiss, a voice from the shadows called out.

“Initiate it is time to go.” A deep voice called out.

“On my way.” Mata replied. “Sorry, I have to go but I’ll see you again real, real soon.” Mata waved goodbye to her friend and trotted towards her new master, her steps a lot lighter than they were a minuet ago. That was the last time the pilot had seen her as a child. Five years later he met her again.

“Hey.” Mata said as she skipped towards her friend. “Notice anything different about me?” As she reached him, she spun around like a ballerina on top of an old music box.

“Your boobs finally started to grow in?” Her friend said as he rose and dusted the dirt off of his coveralls. Her friend had been working in the cloister, making sure the garden was well maintained. He beamed her a large smile.

“Five years and that’s the first thing you notice?” Mata said as she lightly punched him on the shoulder. “I meant my armor!”

“Oh yeah.” Her friend said, looking her up and down as she spun around again. “It looks good, what kind of weapons does it have in it?”

“It doesn’t have any weapons.” Mata said. “I get to carry a pistol at all times and sometimes a rifle, but mostly I just use my “Magics”.”

Her friend looked her up and down again, this time with a little more scrutiny. She wore heavy leather boots and metal spats. The boots stopped mid-calf, with no additional armor above them. She wore heavy cloth trousers and a thick leather belt. The holster was also leather and housed her pistol. The pistol was an antique black-powder semi-automatic. If he remembered correctly it was called the 1911 or something like that. Her tunic was also cloth, but was mostly obscured by her body armor. The body armor was of the female design obviously. The front plate was a single piece of metal, that covered her upper body from her waist to her neck. There was a neck protector, but she let that hang loose off to the side of her neck.

The back plate was also a single piece of metal, but had attachments for a cryogenic re-breather. The tank for the re-breather had an oval shape and sat flush against her armor. Two tubes stretched out from the top of the tank and over her shoulders. The hoses connected to two ports on the sides of her helmet at the cheek. The helmet was a visor-less model, and was just as simple as the rest of her armor. The two halves of her body armor was connected by carbon fiber nano-tube straps that held the two pieces together. There was no armor on her arms, save for a pair of heavy leather gauntlets that came to only her wrists. The gauntlets were fingerless, so that she could generate her “Magics”.

No one knew just how the Warlocks used their “Magics”. It had been theorized that Warlocks were secretly genetically engineered humans, created by the Titans to enable them to interface with the Traveler. This was later debunked by the release of a research paper, describing subtle changes within the human genome which was influenced by the Traveler. Several people left the safety of the Traveler and the Titans because of this revelation. Most of them had set up colonies in the depths of the solar system and were believed to have become the first Hunters. The others were never heard from again, and some believe that they had transformed themselves into the Exos.

His examination over, Mata’s friend stood back. “You look fantastic in it.” He said, nodding his approval.

Mata blushed slightly, and then lowered her head in embarrassment. “Th-thank you.” Mata stuttered. She then shook her head slightly, her short brown hair bouncing from side to side. “I-I have to get back now. Have you given any thought to where you are going to go after you leave? You only have a few short years left here you know.”

“I know.” Her friend said. “I had been thinking about joining the Titans or perhaps the Hunters.”

Mata looked her friend up and down. “I think you’d look good as a Titan. Maybe we could be paired up together on a mission sometime.”

“That’d be cool.” He said, a smile growing on his lips. “After all you would need someone to watch your back since you don’t have eyes in the back of your head.”

Mata punched him again in the shoulder. “Hah! I’ve been trained on how to expand my presence so I know what’s going on in all directions.” She stood there, her head down, fidgeting with her helmet. “So uh, this would be goodbye then.”

“Yes, it would.” Her friend said. “What. Do you want another kiss?” Mata’s face grew a deep shade of red and she nodded. “Well close your eyes.” Her friend leaned closer and placed a hooked finger underneath her chin. Lifting her head up, he turned his head slightly. Her lips trembled as his lips brushed against hers. She placed her arms around him and drew him in closer, their lips pressed firmly together. Mata dropped her helmet and it clattered to the floor. She released him and held him at arms length.

“I felt something else too.” She said with a big grin on her face.

“I-I’m sorry.” Her friend said as his face grew bright red. Now it was his turn to be extremely embarrassed. “I-I have to go.” He turned to leave and walked quickly away. When he reached the entrance to the monastery, she called out to him.

“I love you, you know!” Mata called as he hurried away. She put a hand to her mouth and giggled as her friend stumbled over the stoop of the doorways’ entrance. Mata placed her helmet on her head, reconnected the re-breathers’ hoses, and walked out of the monastery.

The elevator reached the bottom of the shaft and the Warlock Darmata raised her hood. “Come.” She said as the doors parted. “The others are waiting.” The trio walked down a dimly lit hallway, with low light torches on either side. In a different time there would be a series of burning torches lining the hall, their lights flickering as the people would walk past. When they reached the end of the hall, the doors slid back to reveal a brightly lit room. If not for the light filters in their helmets, the two Hunters would have been blinded by it.

Darmata blinked, but this was an subconscious response, her eyes had been replaced with bionics after an “incident” long ago. Most times she just kept her eyes closed, using her “Magics” to determine where she was. However, because she was dealing with him she kept her eyes open. It was always difficult to read her old friend, and it was something that had even boggled the leadership of the Warlock Order from the time he was a child. The room was bright and cool. It was cool partially because of how deep underground it was, and partially because of the cooling system that had been put in place.

Rows upon rows of computer banks lined the room, their lights blinking, some in succession, and some randomized as the trio past their locations. Not too many in the outside world got to see this part of the Warlock Order, but the Hunter and his partner were special cases. Due to his past friendship with Darmata and his fellowship with the Warlock Order, the pilot was allowed to see places where the Warlock Order had kept its many secrets. Within the computer banks were all of the Warlocks’ secrets. Everything they had learned from the Traveler was stored within. At the end of the room stood a guard in full Warlock heavy armor. This armor was similar to the armor worn by the Titans, but had the distinction of being developed and equipped by select members of the Warlock Order. These members were so powerful, and had such skill with their “Magics” that they were a threat to the outside world. These “Heavy Combat” Warlocks often had their “Magics” sealed by cybernetic implants and were “released” when the Warlock Order had need of them.

The guard stood a little straighter as the trio approached. He acknowledged Darmata with a salute which wasn’t returned. “I didn’t think there was a council meeting today ma’am.” The guard said in a thick accent. “What are these two Hunters doing here?” A slight tone of disgust in his voice.

“These Hunters are guests of the council.” Darmata said, her voice stern. “This one will stay with you,” She pointed to Elsibeth. “and this one will accompany me further.” She pointed to the pilot.

“What’s in the cryo-tube ma’am.” The guard said, pointing his weapon at it. “I can’t let unknown items in the chamber.”

“That is none of your-“ She began, but was cut off.

“Oh come on Mata.” The pilot stated. “It’s not like he’s going to tell anybody. He’s stuck down here for the rest of his life remember.” The pilot placed a hand on his hip and cocked his head to one side.

Darmata, visibly frustrated with the candor that the pilot was showing in front of one of her subordinates, sighed with frustration. “Fine, but remember-“ She was cut of again.

“Commere bub,” The pilot beckoned. “this’ll knock your socks off for sure.” The guard moved closer to the cryo-tube and the pilot wiped away some of the frost to reveal what was inside. The guard recoiled in fear, the grip on his weapon tightened.

“You-you can’t bring that in here!” The guard exclaimed. “Those things are killers without a soul!”

“It’s okay bub.” The pilot said, tapping a finger on the cryo-tube. “He’s on ice and dead to the world… or at least I think he is. Its been a long trip and this is an old tube.”

“It is alright.” Darmata said, holding up a hand to steady the guards nerves. “We have taken every precaution and you have been made aware of the nature of the item.”

“Yes, but I never thought it would be one of them.” The guard stood back and resumed his place at the door. “You, and your escort may proceed but I’ll need to confiscate his weapons.” The pilot looked as if he was ready to aggressively protest, but Darmatas’ hand on his forearm stopped him.

“It is okay, I am here.” She said through sub-vocalization. “I know that your guns and the kukri blade are not your only weapons,” The pilot relinquished his weapons to the guard and handed him the kukri blade hilt first as was the proper way.

“You got this Kid?” The pilot asked his partner.

“Just get going.” Elsibeth said, angry that she wasn’t allowed to proceed. “I’ll be here when you get back.” Darmata and the pilot proceeded through the door, the cryo-tube between them. As they entered the doorway it was black, the light seemingly swallowed up by the darkness. Even the pilots low-light filters had a difficult time compensating within the extreme darkness of it all. Within other portions of the building, he could see bright as day, but in this place, he could barely make out the shape of Darmata who was only seven feet in front of him.

As they reached what could only be the center of the room, the lights began to fade in. There were several figures surrounding them, all facing toward them in a small circle. The pilots bravado waned a short while. He had grow up hearing stories about the Council of Elders, but he never really believed it until he had met them years ago after a certain “incident”. The individuals within the room pulled back their hoods, revealing their faces to him. When he had met them before, they kept their hoods up, as a means of displaying anonymity. This time however, they pulled their hoods back, both as a sign of respect for their leader, and as a means of acceptance to the man who had done what no other in the history of the Warlock Order had ever done.

There were twelve within the Council of Elders, four of each race that occupied the City. There was always twelve, and when one died, another was chosen. The method of choosing a successor to the council was something that was a mystery to most, but many within the Warlock Order say that it is not by democracy that the person is chosen, but by the Traveler. In addition to the even number from each race, there was also an even number of males and females. The leader of the council was decided by a democratic vote however, and Darmata had won by a “landslide”.

The council members raised their hands and spoke in unison. “Knowledge is truth, through truth we gain enlightenment. Technology is a gift, through gifts we gain humility. “Magic” is grace, through grace we gain acceptance.” This was the mantra of the Warlock Order, and everyone who was within the order received instruction in this mantra from the day they entered. Even the orphans who were raised in the monasteries knew the mantra. They were expected to say it upon awaking each day, prior to each meal, and before bed each night.

The pilot had begun to hate saying the mantra after he discovered that he wouldn’t become a Warlock, but he murmured this mantra out of an old habit. One of the council members noticed this and stepped forward. “How do you know of our mantra outsider?” The member asked, she was a young Awoken female and had obviously not been briefed on just who would be accompanying Darmata to the council chambers.

One of the older council members, an Exo spoke up, his electronically enhanced voice echoing in the room. “This hunter is a friend to the council, and has worked with us many times in the past. He is the one who has done that which we cannot. He is also a personal friend of Elder Darmata, a rarity in times such as this.” The pilot raised his hands up, palms outward.

“Hey I’m just a normal guy.” He said modestly. “There’s no need to make a fuss out of me.” The other members of the council nodded silently.

“Oh I would not say that.” A voice said from the top of the circle in front of them. “We all heard about it from Elder Darmata.” The figure moved from the shadows towards the pilot. The figures’ name was Sal-Drega, a human from the outside colonies whose parents had been visited by a Warlock when he was young and had been talked into letting their son join the Order. He was an imposing figure, standing six-five and well muscled. If you met him on the street, you may have thought that he was a member of the Titans.

Sal-Dregas’ shoulder length red hair was slicked back, his pale sharp features practically glowing ethereally in the low light. His sharp, piercing grey eyes, looked the pilot over with obvious disdain. “We know of your greatness sir Hunter.” He said, faux reverence emanating from his voice. “How you had done a great thing, but upon being asked to repeat what you have done you refused and stormed out.” Now standing next to Darmata, he slipped a hand around her waist. “Why even Elder Darmata here often speaks of you in private chambers.”

For some reason the pilot did not like the idea of this scum-bag touching his childhood friend, and liked it even less that he knew about what she did in private. “Well if there is nothing else I’ll be going.” The pilot said as he turned to leave.

A small young male Exo stepped forward. “How dare turn your back to Elder Sal-Drega without permission you common Hunter.” He said angrily. “He is a member of this council and he is betrothed to-“ but before he could finish the sentence he was cut off, a knife at his throat.

“Look kid.” The pilot said as he withdrew the blade “I’ve done things that would make the milk curdle in your Cheerio’s. I don’t need snot-nosed young punks like you giving me any lip. This could have gone real easy if you had just kept your mouth shut. I bow to no man. That’s part of the reason why I’m even allowed in here.”

“That is alright sir Hunter.” Sal-Drega said, placing a hand on the pilots shoulder. “Elder Mon-Krega is young and looks up to the rest of us. He takes offense when he feels that we are not being treated with proper reverence.” Sal-Drega steered the pilot back the way he and Darmata had come in. When they had left the circle and were in shadow, Sal-Drega dug the fingers of his hand deeper into the pilots shoulder. “Remember Hunter, at a word, I can have everything you love cut down and ground to dust.” Sal-Drega dug harder into the pilots shoulder as he hissed. “With my power I could make you writhe in pain and pray to the Traveler that you had been left as a stain on your fathers’ sheets.”

The pilot shook off Sal-Dregas’ hand easily as he moved through the doorway. When he returned to the guard he angrily took back his weapons.

“That’s an awesome knife you carry.” The guard said as he handed back the knife in the same way that he had received it. “Your partner said that he’d be waiting up top. Nice guy.”

“Thank you.” The pilot said as he sheathed the knife. “You take care. Oh, and what’s your name?”

“I don’t have one.” The guard said. “It hurts too much to try and remember, so I stopped.”

“Hmm, shame to hear that. I guess ‘Magic’ ability isn’t all that the Warlocks try to repress with those implants.” The pilot said as he turned to leave. “See you around ‘no name’.” With that, the pilot began walking toward the elevator.

Within the council chambers, the other members had left through entrances only they themselves knew of. The only two who remained were Sal-Drega and the Exo, Mon-Krega. Mon-Krega was still rubbing his neck where the knife had been only moments before. “How did he move so fast?” Mon-Krega asked, dumbfounded. “And what in the name of the Traveler are Cheerio’s?”

“The Traveler has many mysteries young one.” Sal-Drega said as he approached the cryo-tube. “Needless to say that man is not to be taken lightly.” He placed a hand upon the tube and stroked it gently. “Soon however, many mysteries will open up before us. With this gift we will learn more about the Traveler than we currently know.”

“But how will we deal with what we know about Elder Darmata and that man?” The Exo asked, standing next to Sal-Drega.

“In time, young one.” Sal-Drega said as he removed his hand from the tube and placed it on the young Elders’ shoulder. “Come, we have much to prepare for.”

As they walked to their doorway, the Exo spoke softly. “Yes, my Master.”

Destiny Story: A Work in Progress

I only know of a handful of people that are my friends elsewhere, who are patiently waiting for this post. I want to provide a bit for those of you who are new. In September the game Destiny will be released. It is a game that many are looking forward to ever since they produced their “last” game, Halo: Reach. This new game takes place on Earth in the far future and is a mix of science fiction and fantasy, or speculative fiction. As some of you may know it is my hope that I will be able to realize my dream of becoming a narrative designer and craft experiences like the ones in many of our popular games. I also enjoy creating a back-story to any character I play in role-playing games. This is often not shown in the games themselves, but is made known through some of the players’ conversations. This is essentially the back-story to my character. I have no idea on how many pages it will be when I finish, but I am planning for three hundred plus. It may only make it to two-fifty or less, but that’s okay. When it is completed it will be packaged off and sent to Bungie with my thanks and as a gift for the stories that they have crafted over the years.

Since I am new to speculative fiction, the story is in its roughest form. Since I am not a Bungie employee, and I cannot speculate on what scenery will be in the game, I have left overt descriptions of places and things that may be within the game out of the story. Since I am a fan of many things, there will be references to pop culture items within the story. I was once a member of a Halo community that treated me well until conflict arose, and there’s a reference to them. As for my current community, don’t worry, you’ll get in there. Since I don’t really know how to separate the story into chapters, I will release the story in snippets or sections where chapter separation could be. When I have released all that I have completed I will release sections as they have been completed. At the end I will edit my story and place it in a section all it’s own so that a reader can read it in the way it was written and not the way in which it was posted.

A word of caution, I am a man of faith, and that particular faith is Christianity. There will be some elements to the story that have Christian elements and even some things that may offend. So if you are sensitive than please turn away. The elements don’t happen until near the end of the story. When I have sent the story and its “elements” off to Bungie, it effectively belongs to them. Should I receive a “cease and desist” notice from Bungie, which I will ask for if required. I will remove the story from this site, but by then maybe I’ll have a job with them, or an offer to turn the story into a novel from Activision, which would be really cool. Well that’s enough ranting, on with the story…

 

As the long-range fighter Zephyr’s Shadow approached the blue-green planet Earth, a sliver of sunlight could be seen dancing along its edge, a silent sentinel in the depths of space. The moon that had been mostly destroyed in the past hung silent, slowly rotating, most of its surface a field of debris resting along its orbit. As the long-range fighter continued, a whitish-silver ball was seen hanging silently along the Earths surface. This ball, known only as the Traveler, had been present for many years, and had been considered by many, the salvation of the peoples of Earth.

After so many centuries, many still didn’t know where the Traveler had come from. They only knew that it had always been there, and would be there long after Earthlings had perished. There were those however, who studied the Traveler and had adopted some of its technology. These Warlocks, as some had begun calling them, spent the majority of their time within the Traveler. Those that ventured forth however, had become dependable allies to humanity. As the fighter descended into Earth’s atmosphere, it shook slightly, the inertial dampeners screaming in protest to the turbulent forces.

The co-pilot couldn’t help but wince as the nose of the fighter glowed red throughout the descent, while the pilot sat in their seat, arms folded, almost looking as if they were asleep. As the fighter approached the Traveler and the City beneath it, the co-pilot kicked the pilots’ seat back violently.

“Hey.” The co-pilot said. “It’s time to wake up, we’re on long final to the City. Why is it that you always sleep on these long trips while I stay awake?”

The pilot rubbed his eyes and looked casually at the forward view screen, sleep draining from his body as he sat upright in his chair, his feet falling from the forward control console. “Well.” He said. “Maybe it’s because these long trips bore me.”

“Well, we could spring for a larger transport with trans-warp capabilities, but you always spend our credits on Old-Earth fiction books and Holovids.” The co-pilot said in disgust. “Besides this ship always feels like it’s falling apart whenever we enter atmosphere, the least you could do is spring for better inertial dampeners instead of weapons we never use, or shields so outdated, that if we come even this close to a miniscule asteroid, the klaxon goes off as if we were going to crash into a moon.” The co-pilot spread her arms wide to emphasize her point.

“Hey, you know you don’t have to stay with me, you could always go off and join the Titans.” The pilot stated as he placed an earpiece in his ear and positioned its small lip-mic. “City control this is long-range fighter Zephyr’s Shadow on long final requesting entry into your air-space for landing and long-term parking over.”

The radio cracked to life as the air traffic controller responded. “Roger Zephyr’s Shadow, we have you on long range air-space surveillance at bearing zero-one niner, you are cleared to enter City air-space, please advise when you are on short final and we will send you over to ground for docking and refuel. Please stay in your fighter while we refuel and then we’ll send you over to long-term parking. How copy, over.”

“That’s a good copy City control, will advise when on short final, Zephyr’s Shadow out. Well that was easy.” The pilot said. “Let me know when we’re on short final, I’m going to check on our cargo.” The pilot captains’ chair swiveled around so that the pilot could exit his seat and have access to the modest crew quarters and smaller cargo bay. Looking at his co-pilot as he moved past her, her eyes downcast, he placed a reassuring hand on her slender shoulder and squeezed it slightly. “I didn’t mean the Titan remark, I know how you feel about them.” The pilot moved past the bunk beds, the galley, and moved towards the small cargo area of the ship where their cargo lay safe and snug in one of the fighters’ two long-term cryo-tubes.

The cryo-tubes were a necessary item in older models of long-range fighters. This enabled the crew to rest “in ship” as they were transported “lamprey style” to their destination on any number of carriers. Within this tube however, was the reason that the crew of Zephyr’s Shadow had made this rare trip to Earth. The crew members of the Zephyr’s Shadow were both Hunters, and while to the general populace they were regarded as scoundrels and mercenary, bounty hunter scum, to those in charge however, they were a necessary evil.

Most Hunters were either individuals who had left modest beginnings for fame and fortune, were from one of the outlying colonies that had developed a warrior culture, or were former Titans who had become disenfranchised with the Titan philosophy. “You know,” The co-pilot called back. “I would never even think about joining those self-important jerks even if they knew my history, got on their knees and begged me to join.”

“I know,” The pilot responded as he made his way back to the pilots chair. “I just know that it irritates you when I mention them. Besides I promised your father I’d take care of you.” As the pilot sat down and swiveled his chair back into flight position, he rested his hands on the control panel and entered in a series of commands. “City control this is Zephyr’s Shadow on short final. Requesting docking instructions over.” The pilot spoke into his lip-mic, the City looming even closer to the fighter as it approached.

Zephyr’s Shadow this is City control,” The radio crackled. “You are cleared to dock at refueling point two-one-bravo. Suggest you contact ground immediately for further instructions.”

“Roger, City control. Will contact ground immediately. Zephyr’s Shadow out.” The pilot switched frequencies to ground and a gruff voice came over the earpiece.

“Don’t even bother Zephyr’s Shadow,” The voice said. “Just proceed on in, we’ll refuel you and then send you over to long-term parking.”

“Thanks ground, we’re on our way.” The pilot said as he maneuvered the fighter into docking position. The fighter had a sleek and black low profile, which was better to camouflage it against the blackness of space. The fighter’s appearance of course, belayed its age. The newer long-range fighters only required one pilot and had a cryo-tube integrated into the cockpit, the Zephyr’s Shadow however, was an Eagle model and therefore required two pilots. The second pilot filled more of a weapons control and flight engineer position, only piloting the fighter in emergency conditions and during long, non-cryo missions.

In the standard Eagle model fighter the cryo-tubes were right behind the pilots and only held enough room for them to get into and out of the tubes. The Zephyr’s Shadow however, had been modified to house a small crew quarters, with enough space to move relatively comfortably. There were two beds, situated one over the other and a small galley, which consisted of a fold out table and basic food preparation equipment. The food was stored in a dehydrated state, and was packaged in such a way as to be placed in boiling water to rehydrate.

All water, even waste-water, was recycled through scrubbers to be reused, and was able to last several months before needing to be filled with fresh water. The newer models used an advanced hydrogen and oxygen collection system that only required the pilots or a limited A.I. to skirt the atmosphere of a planet or star to extract the necessary elements. Since Hydrogen and oxygen were easily renewable resources on a variety of planets, the newer models of fighters used these elements in their drive cores to propel them.

The Zephyr’s Shadow however, utilized a large Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster, which was an applied-field thruster that utilized hydrogen as a fuel source, even though lithium had been proven to be much more efficient. There were several, smaller MPD arc-jet thrusters in the fore and aft of the fighter, with more on the wings for any attitude adjustment that was required within the vastness of space. Within atmosphere, the Zephyr’s Shadow was relegated to good-old-fashioned winged flight, with antiquated hydrogen powered rocket engines situated just below the fuselage located underneath the joining portions of each wing.

It was these engines that were receiving fuel now, an electromagnetic anti-grav unit positioned below the fighter was used to keep it aloft during the process. With the refueling complete, the pilot shut off the anti-grav unit and the fighter dropped like a stone. A lump rose in his stomach before he reengaged the engines and moved the fighter towards the long-term parking location that they had been given by the ground controller. The pilot disengaged the engines and glided over a wall until he reached his assigned spot. He then engaged the anti-grav unit, lowering the power until the fighter had touched the ground, it’s tripod landing gear cushioning the fighter as it settled.

“Well, time to deliver the package.” The pilot said as he entered in the commands to lower the cryo-tube from the fighter. “Remember, buckets on until we reach the safe-house.”

“I know, I know.” The co-pilot said as she swiveled her own chair to face the rear of the fighter. The co-pilot rose from her seat and stretched, her slender frame elongating until her hands touched the ceiling. She walked back to her bunk and picked up her helmet. Placing her helmet upon her head and sealing its neck seal, she approached the cryo-tube and sat upon its lid. “You coming boss?” She said as the pilot touched a series of buttons, his own helmet already upon his head, the neck seal hanging down like the collar of a jacket that had been left open.

“On my way.” The pilot said through their linked and secured interpersonal frequency. He stood next to his co-pilot, his boot resting on the lip of the cryo-tube. The cargo compartment lowered and the light from outside spilled through. The sun was high in the air and if not for their filters, the duo would smell the slight ozone scent that permeated every inch of the land that was beneath the Traveler. The outer edge of the Traveler loomed ahead as the two uncoupled the cryo-tube. To say that the Traveler had an edge was a misnomer because everyone knew that the Traveler was a sphere, but to think of it this way made it easier to understand from an outside point of view.

The two Hunters unstowed from the bottom of their fighter a small anti-grav lift. The lift was placed underneath the cryo-tube and the two Hunters started out towards the edge of the parking area. As the Hunters walked towards the end of the parking area they took stock of their equipment. The pilot wore heavy boots that were made of a flexible metal material interwoven with carbon fiber nano-tubes that provided both flexibility and strength. The boots ended just above his ankles and he wore carbon fiber nano-tube laced cloth trousers. The trousers had protective plates over the thighs and shins and were attached to the trousers with high tensile strength mirco-connectors. In the past these plates would be attached with nylon or leather straps and would persistently shift, making constant readjustment necessary.

A leather belt held the trousers up, and over it the pilot wore a leather pistol belt which held an old leather holster for his sidearm which he lovingly named “Betsy”. He wore a standard button up tunic that he tucked into his trousers, to provide better protection from the elements. Over the tunic he wore an old piece of armor, it wasn’t as shiny as the ones that were worn now, but the pilot had it for a really long time and it had never failed him. Sure it had several dents and scratches, but it covered all of the important bits. He also wore gauntlets over his forearms, when other hunters preferred just gloves. His left forearm gauntlet housed a port for his PDA, which helped him to not only keep tabs on whatever he was doing, but also provided a wireless, secure link to his helmets’ functions. Hidden within the underside of both forearm gauntlets were retractable, ten-inch hidden vibroblades that were released by a flick of the wrist. The leather gloves he wore were fingerless to allow for greater dexterity.

Most Hunters of the day wore the most up to date helmets. With these newer helmets, all of the functions were determined by blinks or clicks of the tongue. The even more expensive ones followed voice commands, or had a direct neural lattice embedded within the helmet liner to translate thought into whatever the individual wanted to do with the helmets’ various electronic suites. The pilot used whatever worked best, even if it was antiquated. The pilots helmet was a simple, long domed design, which had a “T” shaped visor, and came to just below his chin. While other, newer helmets did away with the long domed design and visors altogether, he did not because to him they always felt claustrophobic. It was for this same reason that he often left his neck seal open, even though the helmets A/C unit wouldn’t work without it sealed. Altogether the armor was a dull silver color with sand-gold highlights. The cloth portions were black and unlike most Hunters, who only have a cloth cowl covering their heads and a long scarf to cover their faces to break up the outlines of their helmets, the pilot preferred to wear a leather duster in addition to the cowl. In his mind the scarf and duster looked pretty cool when the wind picked up and blew it out from behind or billowed out when the wind blew from the front, the coat tails and scarf legs blowing in the wind.

The leather duster and cowl/scarf combination were both brown, unlike most Hunters who wore colors indicative to the groups or families they were associated with. In reality he was probably the only Hunter who wore a duster. Usually the cowl was up over his helmet to assist in breaking up the outline of his head, but because he was in the City he didn’t feel the need so he kept it down behind his head. In his arms, in the at-the-ready position, but with the butt in the pocket of his shoulder sat his rifle Hunters’ Intent. It was an old, but reliable rifle that he had carried with him for as long as he had been a Hunter.

Hunters’ Intent had a different name when he acquired it, but he changed it when he decided to become a Hunter. The weapon had what seemed like an infinite number of customizable options, but the pilot decided to keep it simple. The rifle came standard with single shot and automatic fire. The pilot, an expert weapon smith, decided to adjust it to single and three-round burst. This way he can maintain control of the amount of ammunition the weapon used during sustained fire. The rifle also tended to be more accurate under a lower rate of fire. He updated the scope as new ones came out, but for the most part, the rest was standard equipment. Newer rifles came with an integrated plasma launcher below the rifle, but the pilot had changed this out with an antique shotgun load grenade launcher.

The standard ammunition varied according to the power supply of the rifle, but the pilot had modified his rifle to house up to thirty rounds of seven millimeter metal pellets. Other weapons had interchangeable power supplies that governed which ammunition was fired, Hunters’ Intent only required a refill of the ammunition, without changing the power supply. The pellets were accelerated by a magnetic coil to almost five thousand feet per second. The pilot had tuned it down to just two thousand because of the psychological effects that the rounds had in hitting their targets. Sure, energy was cool and all, but it didn’t have the effect that metal ammunition did. With a plasma charge you would just get a burn at the impact site or maybe a neat little hole, but plasma just didn’t have the effect of a missing limb or the, “holy crap Johnny’s missing his head and blood is spurting out from the stump” effect that metal ammunition does.

“Betsy” was just a simple pulse pistol that fired a bolt of super heated plasma at a target and had to go through a “cool down” period after every twenty pulls of the trigger. The number of pulls of the trigger was halved if you fired it any faster than once every second. Newer pistols had just as many customizable options as the other weapons, but the pilot liked simpler-yet-just as effective weaponry. Behind his back the pilot kept an old wooden handled kukri knife that had always served him well. On his off hand hip he kept an old plasma sword just for “decorative” purposes.

His partner on the other hand was a different story altogether. While the pilot had tried to inspire a minimalistic approach to personal armor, which he used as a means to blend in with the local populace; his partner chose to have full on body armor. Her feet were clad in a heavier version of the boots that he himself wore and came to just under her knees. From just above her knees to her waist, she wore a set of flex-metal greaves, that surrounded her entire lower body. She wore knee pads to cover the space between the greaves and boots. She wore no holsters, because her greaves had an integrated mag-lock connection system which held her weapons in place on her thighs. The upper portion of her armor encompassed her entire upper body as well. Usually armor for females was anatomically correct, in her case however, she had chosen to wear male upper body armor. Even thought the pilot knew the reason why she had chosen male upper body armor, it still didn’t stop him from teasing her about it from time to time.

The armor on her arms, was the one place the pilot felt that she had listened to him. Most of her armor consisted of one or two pieces. The armor on her arms however, was comprised of individual pieces of armor covering the outer portion of her upper arms, no elbow pads, and gauntlets that, while integrated into her gloves, were also segmented, so that her wrists and fingers moved about freely. The co-pilot wasn’t into bladed weapons, but she did carry a small dagger in her right boot. This dagger had a small motor in the hilt that rotated the blade three-hundred and sixty degrees and a constant speed of six-hundred RPM, acting as an auger whenever it was used.

Unlike the pilot who preferred trousers and a tunic, the copilot wore a complete carbon fiber nano-tube body suit. The suit had a small cooling system interwoven throughout it, and a high collar that sealed directly to her helmet. Her helmet was a visor-less model that carried a variety of various electronic suites within, which assisted in system task management, and afforded the wearer a full three-hundred and sixty degree view of their surroundings. These views were accessible through voice command.

Her weapons status was carried to the helmet through tactile connections within her gauntlets and unlike the pilot, who had to either look at counter displays on his weapon, or connect a cable from the weapon to a port on his helmet, she didn’t have to. A medical suite was also integrated within her helmet to make emergency medical decisions on the fly. Her armor was a brighter shade of silver than the pilot’s, with subdued sand-gold accents. She wore a brown cloak and cowl which covered her head, and could be closed with snaps to cover her entire frame. Her cowl remained over her head and the cloak was opened up and held behind her weapons.

The copilot only carried three weapons in addition to the knife at all times. A shotgun, named Hammer of Regret lay across her back, connected to her armor with the muzzle facing up so she could reach it underneath her cloak. The Hammer of Regret was a standard shotgun which fired a high concussion plasma charge and ejected the spent casings from the bottom of the breach. The charge could be dialed in to either release a single shot, or a spread of multiple shots, and was linked to her helmet so she could select which to use through voice commands. The spread was usually used for breaching doors and for causing the most damage on a close range target. The Hammer of Regret had limited customization options which mostly affected range and rate of fire. Things like different lengths of barrels and electromagnetic compression coils. She kept a short barrel because she only really used the Hammer of Regret when she was close in to a target to have the greatest damage effect.

Her two sidearms, Titans’ Lament: Peace and Titans’ Lament: Justice,were placed grip forward on her left and right thighs respectively. “The Twins”, as she lovingly called them, were two carbines of the same make and model. They were both about eighteen inches long and were modified to use the same ammunition as Hunters’ Intent so that the two Hunters could share ammunition. “The Twins” had inertial accelerators installed just before the barrel so that they could fire at two thousand feet per second. The co-pilot held a “spray and pray” mentality, so she had extended the magazines to carry ninety rounds of seven millimeter pellets. Without the accelerators, the weapons only fired at a mere eight-hundred feet per second, so this addition more than made up for the shortcomings of the weapons.

She carried the weapons grip forward because in her mind, “it looked cool” to pull the weapons out from across her body, as opposed to pulling them out “gunslinger style”. As the two Hunters approached the end of the parking area, the pilot tapped on his PDA, and a familiar rumbling sound could be heard in the distance, as their ground transportation approached them.

“Here’s another thing I don’t get.” The co-pilot said as she tapped the toe of her boot on the ground. “Why do we still use that old rust bucket when the newer models are so much cooler and run quieter?”

“Because it still works.” The pilot replied. “Why throw away something that can still work?”

“But it breaks down more often than it runs.” The co-pilot responded. “I mean like, you’ve sunk enough into it that we could buy about twenty new ones.”

“I could say the same thing about you.” The pilot said with an internal smirk. The co-pilot crossed her arms and turned her head up and to the right, away from him in a huff. “Here she comes.” The rumbling grew closer as the vehicle rolled into view. The vehicle was an old Titan “Puma” model. The “Puma” was a four wheeled transport that the Hunter had acquired early on in his career. In this day and age, most vehicles had antigrav units that propelled them, but the “Puma” model had a hydrogen powered, nitrogen cooled engine. It was capable of 960 foot-pounds of torque, that enabled the “Puma” to reach a top speed of roughly 125 KPH.

The “Puma”, which the pilot did not rename, had multiple spots of rust, which gave it’s forest green paint job a dirty appearance around its wheels and hinges. The vehicle had a cable winch on the front, not for hauling others out mind you, but to tow it behind another vehicle when it broke down, which happened a lot. As the “Puma” rolled to a stop, the two Hunters loaded the cryo-tube into the back, and entered the vehicle. As the pilot took control of the wheel the vehicle sputtered and died.

“Want me to get out and push?” The co-pilot asked, a sarcastic tone in her voice.

“No, that’s alright” The pilot said as he exited the vehicle and lifted the hood. “It… just… needs… a little… finesse” He said as he repeatedly hammered on the engine with his rifle. As the engine sputtered to life once again the pilot reentered the drivers seat and the vehicle sped off down the road. As the two traveled down the road, the Wall moved closer into view.

The Wall was built by the first Titans, who sought a way to protect the new City that had been developed after the war. The Wall reached high into the sky and continued to be improved upon as time went by. The Wall started out as a small project, and was only really tall enough to prevent someone from climbing it, but as the City grew and more humans came to live under the Traveler, the Wall grew in height. Now, reaching thousands of meters, the Wall was the first line of defense for the City.

The dull grey color of the Wall had faded with time, and there were plenty of places where sheets of metal had fallen off, but it still stood, daunting in its scope. At several strategic points there were positioned towers, where the Titans were stationed. Within these towers was an entire living space for multiple shifts of the Titan guard. The Titans practically lived in the towers and rarely saw any place else in the City. There were rumors that Titans had been born in those towers, outfitted with armor, given a weapon and told to stand and watch.

The towers had ports where the Titans within could watch the outside. The ports gave them a view that was from the ten o’clock position to the two o’clock position. In fact the towers were positioned in such a way as to afford this viewpoint to anyone who was within the tower on guard. This also afforded them interlocking sectors of fire, so that the guards could best protect the City within. There were those who would say that various ports would open within the tower so that massive cannons could stick out and fire on approaching enemies.

In the space between the towers, massive anti-aircraft guns rested, so as best to discourage attacks from the air. The fire that was produced from these guns lit up the night sky and was tested every week, often disturbing the populace as they slept with their thrumming. Only those within the Titans ranks knew how many secrets the Wall held, while the rest of the population could only guess. As the two Hunters drove towards the security checkpoint, a single Titan stepped out from the guard shack to meet them.

The pilot applied the brakes, but his vehicle refused to slow down. He pumped the breaks several times with no effect as the Titan grew closer. The Titan began waving his arms in a panic as the “Puma” barreled down on him, the pilot continuing to pump the brakes. The Titan dove out of the way as the vehicle’s wheels began to squeal, the brakes finally catching. The “Puma” slid past the Titan and just barely stopped before the emergency plasma lattice cut the vehicle and it’s occupants to shreds.

“Sorry about that” The pilot said as the Titan rose and dusted himself off. New appointees to the checkpoint always had a few colorful words to say to the pilot when they first experienced the late breaking of the “Puma” but this particular Titan had come across it many times before.

“You almost got sliced.” The Titan said as he approached the drivers’ side of the vehicle. “When are you going to break down, get a new vehicle, and stop scaring the new guys?” The Titan nodded his head to the other Titan at the checkpoint who had his rifle pointed in their direction.

“That’s what I keep on telling him.” The co-pilot said to the Titan from the passengers’ side. “How are you today Jonn?”

“Can’t complain too much Elsibeth. Same boring stuff as always. The only highlight is when you two show up.” Jonn the Titan said. “You two got a delivery?”

“These aren’t the Hunters you are looking for.” The pilot said as he waved a hand across the front of his helmet. When Jonn cocked his head to the side, the pilot just shook his head. “Yep, only this one is special, not the usual one”

“I can tell.” Jonn said, looking towards the back of the vehicle. “You know, I don’t know why you say the same thing every time I see you here, I never get the joke. You two try to be more careful, a lot of people won’t take too kindly being almost run over by an antique driven by one.” Jonn walked around the back of the “Puma” and towards the guard shack. He drew his hand in a slicing motion across his neck and the Titan in the shack turned off the lattice. When he reached the guard shack, he turned back towards the vehicle. “Move along.” He said, making a sweeping motion with his left hand across his body. “Move along.”

“See, you do get the joke!” The pilot exclaimed as he drove off into the tunnel that led to the City.

The other Titan watched them leave and then turned to face Jonn. “Who was that sir?” He said.

“Just and old friend.” Jonn replied. “One of the best of us.”

“You don’t mean…” The young Titan said, his voice trailing off.

“Yep.” Jonn responded. “The one and only.”

Storytelling final project.

This was the final project for storytelling. I had to do a storyboard with this assignment but because I’m a terrible sketch artist I have omitted the storyboard element. This assignment fleshes out a little bit of the narrative and gives more insight into the world that the characters live in. I hope you enjoy this and I look forward to any constructive criticism and questions.

Children of The Piper (working title)

By Jarrod Herrington

Summary:

In an alternate future, where the Cold War had erupted into WWIII, the world is now governed by a corporate culture. This culture, in which major corporations rule the planet, only a handful of cities survive, and are currently run by one major corporation per city. What had started out as a utopia had devolved into a dystopian society, where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. The poor live in the lower levels of the cities, while the rich live in the upper levels. The leaders of these corporations play a dangerous game, a game where the children of these leaders are kidnaped and used as pawns in bids for ultimate power. To kidnap these children a new drug, using sound, has surfaced and has become the most prevalent drug of the age.

In the past, the Pied Piper of Hamelin led its children away with a tune from his pipe. In many accounts there was only one child left behind. In others, there were two, a blind child and a lame child. In most accounts the children are rumored to be the ancestors of the people who lived in Transylvania, which is now known as the central region of Romania. But what if they weren’t the ancestors? What if they lived on under the ground, growing and advancing? What if their aging was retarded?

 The game focuses on the blind child, and the lame child, who have grown up and now run a business that finds these missing children. The business does very well, even though their main office is in the lower portions of the primary European city of London. A woman from their past contacts them and hires them for a job. This job, takes them all over the planet, putting together pieces of a puzzle that lead them back to their roots and to a man they had thought they would never come into contact with again, the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

 Setting:

               As stated earlier the world the characters live in is a dystopian society. There are only a few cities left, and most of the world’s population has been centralized to those cities. The world outside of the cities has mostly returned to nature, with small areas that are populated by an agrarian society. The major costal cities of every nation have been wiped out and those who have no desire to subscribe to the “utopia” that the corporations have promised populate most of them.

               The major cities, which are now corporate city-states, or Cor-sci, are located in places that each corporation has roots in, is an easily defensible location, or has the historical relevance to influence that areas population. In Europe, where the story both begins and ends there is the Cor-sci of Avalon, formerly London, and Felső világ, which was formerly Vienna. London, because of it’s historical significance, and Vienna, because of it’s centrality. In Asia the entire Taklimakan desert in China has been turned into the Cor-sci of Shangri-La. In Japan, almost ninety percent of the country is the Cor-sci of Amaterasu.

               Within North America the cities of New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, Dallas, Austin, Denver, and Las Vegas no linger exist and are areas of high radioactivity. Florida and California are gaping craters flooded with seawater. The face of North America is a vastly different place. The new seat of power within North America resides in the Cor-sci of Freedom, which is located in the place of Des Moines Iowa. Tupã, the Cor-sci of South America encompasses the entire Mato Grosso region of Brazil.

Story Synopsis:

               The story begins in the Cor-sci of Avalon, where the two main characters, Hans and Franz, are on a mission to rescue the daughter of one of the minor corporations that exist. Another minor corporation attempted to affect a “hostile takeover” of the other to increase their standing in the Cor-sci hierarchy by kidnapping the daughter or that corporation’s leader. Not only are we introduced to Hans and Franz but we are also introduced to the sonic drug “Elysium.” After rescuing the girl, our heroes return to their offices to find the door open. Within the main room is a woman who identifies herself as Fullō. Fullō tells Hans and Franz that she is aware of their secret and that she won’t reveal it to the corporations unless they help her on a little job.

                Their first lead takes them to Felső világ, and to a man named Beowulf, who is in charge of the corporation that governs Felső világ. While there, they come in contact with Beowulf’s assistant Wiglaf who attacks them in a mechanized suit of armor called Seax. After their confrontation with Wiglaf, they meet Beowulf and discover that his name is in fact Aldo, one of the children who were taken by the Pied Piper. After killing Beowulf we discover that Hans and Franz are in fact two children who were left behind when they could not follow the piper. We also discover that a side effect of the pipers tune caused the children who heard it to age at a slower rate, and to be almost immortal.

                The next lead takes them to the Cor-sci of Tupã in South America to meet Rupave and Sypave. Rupave and Sypave attack Hans and Franz in a large bipedal mech that requires two people to pilot it. After defeating them Hans and Franz discover that Rupave and Sypave are in fact Odo and Oda, twin brother and sister who were also taken by the Piper. After a giant earthquake levels the building that Odo and Oda were in, Hans and Franz learn that the sonic drug “Elysium” causes death in adults because of a change in their hormones that occur when they reach adulthood. Only those who have heard the original tune are immune to it.

                Next they go to the Cor-sci of Freedom to compile what they know so far and to engage in some R&R and resupply. While there, the head of the Cor-sci approaches them to deal with a rebel faction. In dealing with the rebels they discover that the leader is not only the former head of the Cor-sci but also Dietrich, another of the children that was taken by the Piper. He almost didn’t make it because of his obesity, which hasn’t improved with age. Hans and Franz do not deal with Dietrich like they had done with the others because when they were children they were close friends. Instead they lead an assault on the Cor-sci to reinstall Dietrich as head.

                 They then head to the Cor-sci of Amaterasu to meet with Susanoo. Susanoo, attacks the two in a suit of armor that resembles armor worn by Samurai. The armor has a second stage that resembles a Ninja. After defeating Susanoo, Hans and Franz discover that Susanoo is not a human being at all but a cyborg created from the remains of Ingrid, one of the oldest children taken by the Piper. They also learn that the Piper is still alive and living in the Cor-sci of Shangri-La.

                 Upon reaching Shangri-La, Hans and Franz are immediately attacked by the Piper’s forces. After escaping, Hans and Franz make their way to the floating fortress where the Piper supposedly resides. After reaching the piper they are confronted by cybernetic copies of the people they fought in the previous Cor-sci’s, including Dietrich, who is not as big as he was when they met him in Freedom. Upon reaching the Piper, Hans and Franz discover that not only is the Piper just a shadow of his former self, and suffering from severe psychosis, but that it was never the Piper who controlled the children but the pipe itself that caused the children to follow him. Originally, when air was blown through the pipe, a chemical reaction between the air and the material that the pipe was made of produced a spore that when ingested, caused euphoria and made the mind highly suggestible. Because of a child’s under-developed mind, this caused no ill effects and even produced a limited immortality. The Piper originally discovered this when he first played the pipe over five thousand years ago as a child. Over time the level of technology had become so advanced that the pipe wasn’t required to be played anymore. Instead it was discovered that the sound itself, while not producing the suggestibility, still produced euphoria.

                 At about this time Fullō is revealed to be Emma who, with her husband Edwald, had sought to control the remaining population, first through the Cor-sci’s and then through “Elysium”, to realize the utopian society that was promised by the Piper when they were younger through their organization, Muspilli. A final battle is held and Hans and Franz leave Shangri-La, as the Piper’s floating fortress burns in the background. In the epilogue Hans and Franz discuss the dangers of sonic drugs, how private enterprise should be limited in their scope, and the benefits of entrepreneurship. Also in the epilogue we find that Emma and Edwald are still alive.

Area Summary:

There are six main areas that the characters can explore. There is much to do in these areas like mini-games and discovering items or clues that can lead the characters to the ones they combat in the final “stage” of each area. The characters need to interact with the local population in order to discover clues as to who is in charge and how to stop the spread of the drug “Elysium”. All areas are essentially the same with the exception of the area Shangri-La that sees the characters enter random skirmishes with security forces that are actively searching for them.

When interacting with NPC’s the characters have the option of a negative, positive or neutral dialogue options that effect the “reputation” of the characters. If the responses are too positive then the NPC’s will lie to the characters, believing them to be too gullible. If the responses are too negative then the NPC’s will lie to the characters, fearing for their lives. If the responses are too neutral then the NPC’s will think that the characters just don’t care and they will give a randomized response, which could either be the truth or a lie. If the characters are too “dark” or too “light” then the NPC’s will always lie.

Just before moving on to the next area the player will be given the option of “uploading” what they have learned to a community board for other players to access. This can help other players to complete the game and obtain the “true” ending. This especially is needed for attempts to play the game at higher difficulties. The player will also be able to “upload” information through the pause menu as needed and be able to check what others have “uploaded”.

There is almost always a “boss” battle with a minor antagonist that can either have one of the characters face a near death situation. In the event of a near death situation the other character must pull that character to cover so that the character can be restored. The whole story cannot be achieved without either A, accessing the community board or B, switching between the main characters in single player mode.

Characters:

Hans:

Hans is the more stoic of the duo. Blind since birth, he has had his eyes replaced with bionics that give him the abilities of enhanced vision to include x-ray, thermal, and night vision. His bionic eyes also grant him the ability of enhanced targeting. Hans’s primary job during combat is to provide security to Franz while Franz is either in a hand-to-hand situation or accessing a buildings security system.

Hans is taller than Franz and carries himself with an almost soldier like quality due to spending time in the military long before the story takes place. Hans is solidly built and tends to communicate more through actions than words. Hans does like to have intelligent conversation and finds those who whine and complain intolerable. The only one he tolerates in their whining is Franz. Hans is vehemently anti-homosexual, but is wise enough not to let it hinder his outlook.

Franz:

            Franz is openly homosexual, a little bit more high-strung, and often reacts emotionally. An accident when he was younger cost him the use of his leg, and he often needed to be carried around by a friend. His leg was replaced by cybernetics, which grants him advanced code breaking and reprogramming skills utilizing the computers located with in his leg. Franz can open any electronic lock and break into any computer system.

            Franz provides intelligence for the duo by the use of a gauntlet that is linked to his leg wirelessly. This gauntlet has a retractable vibrating blade that is approximately ten inches long and can cut through any substance or can disable any electronic device, including the human nervous system.

            Franz is thinner than Hans and about a foot shorter. Because of his previous disability, Franz takes a more direct approach when dealing with people. He also tends to assume the worst when it comes to interpersonal interaction and often tries to goad Hans into performing what he likes to call “aggressive negotiations”. Franz is a bit quicker tempered than his larger counterpart and it shows in his fighting style.

 

Storytelling Assignment

This was an assignment from my storytelling course that has us writing a “proposal” for a game that we would submit to an employer. This assignment was our first experience in plotting out the narrative of a game. Since it is my hope that I will be able to become an narrative designer in my gaming career, I took this assignment rather seriously. The assignment received decent feedback from my instructor and he had even informed me that he couldn’t wait to play this game. The narrative is a work in process and I have done no tweaking to this assignment. Another post will be the one where I share the final assignment. Thank you for reading and tell your friends.

This story takes place after the tale of the pied piper. There was an unknown side effect of the pipers’ tune when heard by humans. The tune retarded the aging process and gave limited immortality to the children who heard it. Two children are left behind, Hans, who was blind and Franz, who was lame, had aged slowly. What would take years for someone to grow to adulthood took them centuries. After a number of years they had established a business that finds and often rescues missing children. The world around them is a dystopian society in which big money makes the rules and a corporate society has been established. Children are used as pawns in bids for power and control. The characters are approached by a person from their past and embark on an mission of revenge. The web of intrigue grows thicker; their circle of friends smaller, and the duo confronts an enemy from the past only to discover that all is not what they thought it was.

In the climax it is discovered that not only has the piper been imprisoned all of these years, but the magic that led the children away came not from the piper, but from the pipe. When a certain series of notes are played from the pipe it can cause a state of euphoria. However, in many cases, bleeding in the brain always kills the subject. After this discovery Hans and Franz are even more shocked to learn that the other children who left with the piper years ago are behind the pipers imprisonment, are the designers, and distributers of the sonic drug that is created by the pipe. The organization that they created is called Muspilli and they seek to bring about the end of the current world and establish a utopia where children can be free of adult influence. After the final battle, one of the characters is missing and presumed dead. The remaining character returns home and vows to put an end to Muspilli and their plans. In the epilogue a brief discussion is had between the characters involving the dangers of sonic drugs, how private enterprise should be limited in their scope, and the benefits of entrepreneurship.

Gameplay will be third person with an emphasis on exploration and combat. Hans’s eyes give him enhanced targeting and a variety of visual modes. His weapon is a multipurpose weapon that has a variety of firing modes and configurations. Franz has a cybernetic leg, which holds advanced code breaking and electronic suites, enabling him to hack any computer system and take control of it. Franz can defend himself with a vibrating ten-inch blade that is housed in his gauntlet. The gauntlet is the interface that the player will use to access door locks and intelligence reports. While the game can be played in single player, the true game only becomes playable when playing with a friend as either Hans or Franz. Hans and Franz truly compliment each other and the game really is more enjoyable when playing in co-op.

The narrative is developed through player interaction with their environment, interaction with NPC’s, and in interacting with other players through Internet message boards. An example of interaction with the environment is in searching objects and hacking anything electronic. For the NPC interaction, the player is given three optional responses, a negative, a positive and a neutral. Whichever response the player gives will affect not only the ending but also the way that the player is perceived by the NPC’s. For example, if ten negative responses are given to ten different NPC’s, then on the eleventh conversation the NPC will be untruthful to the player and the player will miss an important plot point or piece of information. The same can be said if the player gives too many positive or neutral/indifferent responses. In regards to the internet message board it will be an internal board where groups of other players can assist each other in unlocking more and more of the narrative. You cannot get the whole story just by playing the game solo or with a friend in co-op. You have to be involved with the Internet message board as well. If you find a piece of information, you can upload it to the Internet message board and share it with others just by pressing a button. You can access the message board at any time through the pause menu or at save checkpoints which look like coffee houses. In this way I hope to give the players a sense of community.

Remember when I said that co-op was important? Here is where I elaborate. If playing solo, an A.I. governs the other player. While not in control of, let’s say Hans, the player will control Franz. Hans will run interference and attract the attention of the enemy. Hans will also set up over-watch/sniping positions to eliminate enemies in the path of Franz. The morale of the enemy A.I. is reduced if playing as Franz and the accuracy of the enemy A.I. is reduced if playing as Hans. If playing as Hans, the player controls where Franz can go by highlighting a door, a piece of cover, an enemy, or a computer and give Franz a command to either “attack”, “hide”, or “access,” depending on the enemy presence. The compatibility between the characters is limited to fifty percent during single player play, which, if the right conditions are met through player interaction, can lead to the “normal” ending. If playing co-op with another player in control of either Hans or Franz, that compatibility is raised to one hundred percent and if the right conditions are met, can lead to the “ultimate” ending.

In conclusion, I believe that the third person perspective is the best perspective because it allows for the easiest lines of sight to the objects that can be found through exploration of the games levels and can be beneficial to the action. For example, Hans and Franz are sprinting towards a closed door. Flanking the door are two guards and in position throughout the room are other guards firing their weapons at the duo…

“Status.” Franz calls out to Hans as he sprints towards the door, sidestepping a round as it nearly misses his head, still other rounds pinging off of his personal electromagnetic shield.

Hans’s eyes focus and turn white, “Three on the inside, two by the door and one behind some kind of transparent barrier. The girl is seated on the floor in front of the third.” His eyes flash red as he activates his thermal imaging. “All three are packing standard SMG’s.” Two puffs of smoke erupt from Hans’s weapon as two guards drop to the ground, small holes between their eyes.

“Well that’s just perfect.” Franz replied. “It makes it easier to get the girl.” Just then a guard steps in Franz’s way. Too late to sidestep, Franz leaps into the air and grabs the guard by the head. When Franz is directly over the guard he rotates his body one hundred and eighty degrees, snapping the guard’s neck. Franz lands on his feet behind the guard and drags him a few feet, using the body as a shield. Franz drops the body and resumes his sprint towards the door.

“A few more feet.” Hans says, as five more guards drop from rounds fired from his weapon. Even at a full sprint, Hans’s shots are right on the money due to the advanced targeting system within his eyes. As they sprint towards the final two guards Franz slides through a human sized hole created in the heavy wood reception desk during the course of the firefight. With a flick of Franz’s wrist a blade snaps out from his gauntlet.

The guard barely has enough time to scream as his legs were severed just below the knee before a round from Hans’s weapon pierces his skull. The other guard was dead before Franz slams against the door, arresting his slide. “Give me two.” Franz says as he pulls a cable from his leg. The advanced code-breaking suite within his leg was already warmed up and ready to go as he plugs the cable into a receptacle beneath the keypad by the door.

“Too easy.” Hans replied. “It’s pretty dead out here already.” They had come through a long corridor before entering the atrium and a lot of guards were dead along the way. For both men being over two hundred years old they looked none the worse for going through what they had just been through. “You almost through yet?” Hans asked.

“Just a little bit longer.” Franz replied. “ I got a little surprise for the two on the other side of this door.” Franz looked at his gauntlet and noted the pathway for the fire suppression system installed in the building. A pop up note appeared on the screen. Franz pushed “yes” and the door hissed open, a cloud of smoke billowing out from the door as the Halon Fire Suppression System vented. The system suffocated the guards inside and when Hans entered, weapon at the ready, he was surprised to find more guards laying dead on the floor with their stealth suits crackling. Inside was a transparent barrier that was separating the room and on the other side was the one they had come to rescue…

This is just a sample of the action that the player will be able to see during the game. The player can perform all actions above, hopefully giving them a feeling of being a part of said action. The player could just as easily have sprinted towards the door, but by taking part in the action, it can make for a more exciting experience. The benefits of conversation options were already stated earlier. What I hope gamers take away from this vision is a more interactive experience. The example above is usually reserved for cut scenes and is almost never experienced by the player. By having the player take part in the action it is my hope that they will better enjoy the game experience by getting to do the “fun” things that only the computer usually gets to do.

 

On a side note as a little bit of fun here is what I see as a kind of “trailer” for the game…

“In a world where big money rules and children are treated as pawns for wealth and power, two men stand against countless enemies, all to protect the innocent. When a ghost from their past returns, these two men will be thrown into a world they never thought they’d be a part of again.”