Though Michelle is my aunt, I actually think of her more as a big sister. We get along great too…
"Aaron!" she screamed at the top of her lungs as she banged on my door. "Your principal just called! What's this about you downloading porn off the school's computers!?"
"Oh c'mon! It's not like I showed it to anyone!" I tried to sweet-talk my way out of this. "Besides, you won't buy me the magazines anyways! How else am I gonna have reference materials?" Well, I could have been patient and just waited two more years, then I could buy them without legal issues, but patience has never been my strong point.
"That's because a boy your age shouldn't be CONCERNED with stuff like that!" my aunt snarled as she ceased her barrage. I gave a sigh of relief as the pounding stopped, thinking that she had given up.
I nearly pissed my pants as my bedroom door collapsed with a mighty thrust from Michelle ramming it down with her shoulder.
This is what you have to deal with when your legal guardian works at the high-tech military base near your city. The look she wore upon her face at that moment never stopped being as scary to me then as it was when I was a kid. I swear by whatever the fuck keeps this universe together that her originally navy blue eyes were solid red right then!
"Shit!" I tried to run around her and make a break for it, somehow hoping that if I could get out of our little home and stay hidden at the mall long enough, she would eventually cool off a bit; but with cat-like reflexes she grabbed my shoulder with a firm death-grip. Before I realized what she had done, she had swung my entire body against the ground and held my hand behind my back in a position that was, to say the least, unnatural.
"Now then," my aunt hissed. "How many times have you done this?"
"J-Just once!" I lied.
"Liar!" she growled as my bones started to dislocate slightly in my elbow. This wasn't exactly child-abuse. Nothing she did was debilitating permanently. Her skills in non-lethal combat allowed her to give her opponents (more like victims!) incredible pain without severing nerves, tearing muscles, or breaking bones.
"Okay! Okay! I lost count months ago!"
"FUCK!" I cried in sheer pain as my fingers were then twisted and bent in the wrong way.
"Alright then, a better question: how long?"
"Th-Three months! I swear! Honest! Just stop, Michelle!"
"Not until you tell me something useful, squirt!" She bent her head close to mine and whispered maliciously, "Like…What hand do you use when you're doing that?"
She had me in a terrible bind. My aunt was the only person I had ever feared at that point in my life, and I knew that since she was a military officer in charge of interrogations, there was nothing I could do to weasel my way out of this situation. If I lied, she'd screw up the hand that was for everything except 'private time'. If I told the truth, I'd lose my ability to relieve myself sexually for a good period of time.
The latter seemed to be the lesser hell.
"Left!" I cried.
"You sure?" she purred villainously.
"Yeah! Let's just get this over with!"
"Okay," she said in a tone someone gives as if to say 'Don't blame me, it wasn't my idea.' I felt her reach for my other hand, then squeezed it in a fierce crunch as my hand dislocated and popped back into place in excruciating pain.
"YAAAAAHHH!" I screamed as she let go of me and left me on the floor curled in a fetal position, cradling my sore masturbation-hand.
"Now," she asked as she looked around my room. "Where are they?"
"Where's what?" I huffed in between sharp breaths.
"Your hardcopies of your reference materials," Michelle said curtly.
I didn't answer.
"Tell me, or I'll do the same thing to the other hand, Aaron," my guardian walked over and grabbed my other limb threateningly.
"Ok!" I panicked. "Third drawer in my desk…" I slumped. I had lost once again…
"Good boy," she said in a babying tone as she patted my head. That's Michelle for you. I swear she must be bipolar or schizoid or something…I looked in horror as my aunt took out the twelve or so flash disks and then walked out. I winced as I heard the sounds of the trash compactor in the kitchen decimate my personal collection of erotica.
"Damn it…Why couldn't I just have one of those annoying aunts that still thinks you're two and wants to pinch your cheeks…?" I grumbled as I went to the kitchen to grab an ice-pack for my hand. There by the fridge was my Aunt Michelle holding what I needed in her hands, her face now disappointed and sorrowful.
"Here, squirt," she sighed as she wrapped me in her arms. "Aaron," she began. Great, another matronly tangent explaining how she hurts and humiliates me because she loves me. "I know you're a guy and in your mid-teens, but trust me, there are better things to be spending your time thinking about…" Yup, told ya.
"Michelle, can we skip the speech? I get it, you're right and I'm wrong…" I sighed.
"No, because you don't get it, squirt," she pulled back and stared down at me. Despite my age and being a pseudo-male, she was a good six or so inches taller than I was, so I still felt small compared to her. "You seem to have a penchant for doing what I tell you not to do, then I end up having to punish you like so, and then you go and disobey me again later. What do you want? Am I not giving you enough attention?"
"No! Jesus…" I groaned. "Look, I understand I'm all you have, but you think maybe you could let me have a little more room to do things on my own and be my own man?"
"No. Like it or not, squirt, you're still a kid. At your age, it's so easy to screw up your life from making the wrong decisions. Look, I'm being this way because I don't want you turning out messed up. I know we don't see each other much these days with me being busy at the base and such, but I want to still be able to trust you to make good decisions when I'm not around."
"I make plenty of good decisions when you aren't around," I huffed.
"Liar. You like doing what's not allowed more than even I did at your age. All I ever wanted was to let you become a good person, ok?"
"And how is masturbating not being a good person?"
"Idiot," Michelle thumped my nose. "Take it from me, a former girl: chicks are grossed out by guys that are obsessed with sex, especially at your age."
"What do you care? You won't even let me date a girl anyways!" I retorted.
"Well, let me ask you this, if I did, could I really trust you not to go off and get drunk with your girlfriend and have sex?" she raised her eyebrow at me.
"Uh…Sure," I smiled weakly. Damn it. Michelle knew about my drinking. I had a friend whose cousin was in his mid-twenties, and so I could always pay for individual cans through him. I never bought more than maybe a drink a week, and always on the weekend. Disposing of the evidence wasn't hard, but somehow she knew. Man, she's good.
-WHACK!- my aunt smacked the back of my head.
"Liar. Now, unless you want me to confiscate all your belongings that give you the tiniest bit of entertainment indefinitely, I'd suggest you tell me who your booze peddler is."
"Fine…" I gave a heavy sigh. "Blake's cousin George…"
"Well then, I'd suggest you look for a new friend soon. George is gonna be reported by the end of tonight."
"Can't you loosen up with this over-protectiveness?" I fumed. "You're not my mother!"
"No, I'm not," Michelle grabbed my shirt collar and stared at me with eyes of anger. "But I swore to my sister while they lowered her casket, with you in my arms, that I was going to do the best damn job I could at making you turn out right."
"This again…" I looked away.
"Look at me!" she directed my face to look back at hers. "If you don't like my rules for living here, then tough. Remember, I'm the only one that was willing to raise you. Mom and Dad wanted you shipped off to a fucking orphanage when you were still a goddamn newborn! I may be harsh, I may be strict, but that doesn't mean I don't love you like my own child." She gave an exasperated sigh as she put me down.
"Michelle…Look, I'm sorry…"
"No, I'm the one that should be sorry, Aaron…" she stroked my short blonde hair. "Maybe I do need to be around the house more. This damn military project they've got us doing is keeping me away from you."
"Look, I don't mind being alone most of the time," I tried to make her feel better.
"But I do!" she yelled. "Blood-related or not, you're still family, and I have an obligation to be here for you. I only joined the goddamned army unit of Sheol because it meant I could keep you provided for, and all it's done is give me a way to hurt you…"
"Well, I suppose that can't be avoided with me being a jerk and all…" I coughed.
"You're not a jerk, squirt," Michelle smiled. "Deep down, I know you're a really nice guy. You just need something to keep all that energy in you channeled for something useful, that's all."
"You're saying I need a job?" I snickered.
"Heh, I don't think any place would want someone as wild as you," she laughed. "Still…" she gave me a scrutinizing face.
"What?" I leered back as I took a step away from her.
"We gotta do something about this wild side of yours…" she thought hard. "I mean, it's not like you don't have friends to hang out with. But I'd say you've got more energy to spare than needed," my aunt scratched her long, dark coffee-colored hair. As if a proverbial light bulb illuminated above her head, she gave me a devious smile.
"Ok, I know that's not a good look…" I took another step back.
"But you haven't heard what I was going to ask, squirt," she continued to grin. "Aaron, ever thought about being a hero?"
"You know, like one of those guys that go out and fight evil?"
"Depends…" I raised my eyebrow at her. "Do I have to wear a stupid leotard and cape?"
"Nooooo," she giggled to herself. "But it would still be just as challenging to be the hero without it."
"Ok, Michelle, you are officially creeping me out. Just what exactly are you talking about?"
"Oh, nothing, squirt," my aunt turned away innocently, then looked from the corner of her eye while her back was still facing me. "I'm going to call you in sick tomorrow for school. You're coming to the base with me."
"Say what?" I gawked. "Wait, you aren't shipping me to military academy, are you?"
"Oh, heavens no, my dear," she turned around and pinched my cheeks…HARD. "It's just that I think I know of a way to put that energy of yours to good use. I mean, I can't believe I never thought of it before!"
"Eshpraneshun prease?" I said as she still grasped my face.
"Nope," Michelle giggled as she let go of me and gave me the ice pack she placed on the counter. "Here, keep this on your hand for an hour. You won't be able to use your left hand properly for a few days, and any attempt to use it will make the healing of the tendons take even longer."
"Sheesh. I guess I should be thankful you didn't make the injury permanent."
"You really are an idiot, Aaron…" she sighed with a smug grin.
"Do you really think I would go so far as to hurt you in a debilitating way?"
" 'Well' what?" my raven-haired guardian scowled.
"Um…Nothing!" I meeped. "Uh, by the way, what are we going to do about my door?"
"Oh, that," she perked up. "I'll have a handyman fix it this week."
"Oh, thanks, Mich-"
"…And I'll pay for it with your allowance you were supposed to get this month," she grinned.
"…Dammit…" I cursed as I headed to the living room to lie down and let the ice pack do its work. "What's on the menu tonight?" I asked to change the subject.
"Well, since I'm in such a good mood about tomorrow, how about my famous eggs in a basket with hamburgers from the freezer?"
"Thanks, Michelle," I said with enthusiasm.
Like I said, we usually get along.
Dinner went by, Michelle's cooking still as great as it was when I was little, and we both eventually hit the hay (though I kind of cringed when I heard her speak on the phone to the police about Blake's cousin a few hours before she went to bed…). No weird dreams preceded the next day or anything like that, which I would have expected with what happened from the following day on. I did get a rude awakening at sunrise, though.
"Rise and shine, Aaron!" My aunt cheered as she tore open my curtains and yanked off my blanket.
"Gah! Why are you waking me up so damn early?" I groaned as I faced away from the window and curled up in a ball.
"Oh, c'mon, squirt," Michelle grabbed my arms and dragged me out of bed, much to my disliking. "I have to get up way earlier on my work days at the base. Be thankful I let you sleep in two hours."
"Let go of me!" I squirmed as I stood up and tried to get back in bed. "Just where are you taking me at this hour?"
"Idiot…" she grumbled as she got me in a head-lock. "I told you, we're going to the base I work at. It's just to have you tested for something."
"Tested? For what?"
"I'll explain later. If we don't find anything special, I'll take you to wherever you want to eat at, my treat."
"And if there's something weird about me?"
"Well," she giggled. "I suppose you'll be getting a brand new lifestyle."
"Never mind," Michelle chirped as she pushed me into the bathroom and shut the door. "Shower up quickly, and wear something comfortable, okay?"
"Whatever…" I sighed as I cleaned myself up and then went to my room with the towel wrapped around my lower body. I wore a short-sleeve shirt and some baggy jeans along with my converse sneakers, and found Michelle in her black and maroon military officer's uniform waiting at the door with an impatient look on her face.
"Took you long enough," she said sarcastically.
"Oh, bite me," I chuckled as we headed to the carport and got in our little family's sedan. It was a five-year-old car with relatively low mileage on it when we bought it last year, and ran on a fairly-up-to-date CRF motor. With a rev of the ignition pedal, we zoomed out of our neighborhood and out of town.
I had never been too far from our city before, and never even so much as seen Michelle's base that she worked at. To be honest, she never told me much about her job at Sheol. Hell, I never knew her rank or anything, but it must have been pretty high since she didn't have to stay at the base 24/7. The two of us jammed to some old rock and roll from the early twenty-first century (our favorite type of music), screaming to the death-metal lyrics and laughing while the head-banging tunes pumped us up. I know I usually disobey Michelle, but I still do love her. She's my only family and she's always been there for me, so I guess going to her base and being tested for who-knows-what wouldn't be a bad thing to do for her.
The Sheol base was like nothing I had ever expected a military base to look like. Sheol was actually a private corporation that was an extension of the guys in NexGen Military Technologies. But back to what I was saying, the fencing wasn't some chain-link fence with barbed wire. Instead, the base was surrounded by a four-story wall that was several feet thick, and seemed to encompass an enclosure dozens of miles in area. At the seemingly only entrance of the base were two watchtowers and a retractable cement door with the words 'Authorized Personnel Only' stenciled on it.
As we drove up, there was a computer terminal of some sort that required Michelle to leave the car for a moment. The biometrics for this place were tight. First Michelle had to place her whole hand on a pad that scanned it, then she had to do a retinal scan, and then she had to do a voice-verification in some strange language. As if that wasn't all enough, she had to swipe her ID badge as well. After thirty seconds of processing, a green light flashed at the terminal. My aunt got back in the car and drove inside once the barricade door lowered to let us in.
I stared in awe at the sheer size of the base and its buildings. Instead of the light prairie fields that were on the outside of the base, the inside was covered in a lush and bright green grass with runways and training ground. Fifty-foot mech suits practiced firing their rail-guns at targets in the far distance while infantrymen and women did sit-ups and the like elsewhere. In the far back was a completely arid and desolate region with a rather large hangar bay, as if there was a slice of our country's southwest desert with rock formations and such placed there.
"That's where we'll be at for today, Aaron," Michelle told me as we drove another fifteen minutes all the way down to the said area.
"Colonel Wilson!" several soldiers saluted as we exited our parked car. The air around us was hot and dry, just like the environment it mimicked.
"At ease, soldiers," Michelle saluted back. "Tell me, has Dr. Jovanovich arrived here yet?" she asked a male soldier.
"Yes, ma'am," he nodded.
"Good. This is my nephew Aaron. He's going to be tested today," she explained. I straightened up to try and look professional around these military folk.
"Understood, ma'am." And with that, the two of us headed to the large metal bunker-building. The air inside was crisp and almost chilling, a great wall separating the facility in half. All around the area I was in were mech-sized guns and shields as well as other random equipment for combat. "Aaron, come this way," my aunt directed my attention back to her as I jogged over to a terminal she was heading to. At the computer systems there was a woman no older than Michelle with short white hair, typing away.
"Ah, Colonel," the lab coat-clad woman spoke with a heavy Russian accent. "I see you finally decided to bring him after all," she said all this without glancing away from her monitor as she typed in a blinding speed.
"Yes, Alexia," my guardian responded. "I really think he has potential, so it can only benefit us if we have him tested."
"Or so you say," Dr. Jovanovich grinned as she finished her typing and looked at me. "Hm, qvite handsome for a pseudo-male," she walked around me, inspecting me like a predator does with its prey. "Still, he seems lacking in muscle mass, even for a member of his gender…"
"Well, he's not a big eater," Michelle laughed.
"Um, Miss…Er, Doctor?" I asked as Alexia held onto my chin and examined my face closely.
"What exactly am I being tested for?"
"Sorry, need to know basis, young man," she finished her examining and turned to my aunt. "Alright, get him suited up and into the chamber. We'll proceed like usual."
"Yes, Doctor," Michelle saluted as she led me to the other side of the hangar. "Here, there's a changing room over in the corner. Take everything off and put this on, Aaron," she instructed me.
"Hm?" I looked at the clothing she handed me. It looked like a metallic spandex leotard with different tubes and even circuitry in areas of it. "What is this?"
"Your testing suit. It's for monitoring your body's responses to the tests."
"Tests, tests, test…" I grumbled as I took the jump suit and changed in the small room. To be honest the outfit wasn't all too uncomfortable. Yeah, I was completely naked underneath the skin-tight materials, but there was a codpiece to give me some room as well as protection. As I exited, I expected Michelle to make a wise-crack about how ridiculous I looked, but instead she greeted me with a stern expression as she led me to an off-white room with an observation window outside.
"We'll instruct you from the intercom system linked to the outside," she ordered. "Follow our directions to the best of your abilities, Aaron."
"Um…Ok…" I blinked as I entered the room, only to have an air-tight door box me in. The room itself seemed like one of those strange dimensional rooms from a scifi movie or something. Everything was all white, and it was hard to make out just how large the inside really was.
(Alright, subject is locked inside,) Dr. Jovanovich spoke through the comm. link to the chamber. (Proceeding vith CRF saturation process.)
"CRF what?" I asked. Before I knew it, the air around me seemed thick. Not as in humid, but in that it was like I was breathing a semi-liquid form of air, and, my body movements seemed pressurized like they would be in a swimming pool. Movements my arms and legs made were slow and required much force to do as well.
(Alright, Aaron,) my aunt stated calmly. (I want you to focus for us on something.)
"Sure…" I tried to speak as normally as I could.
(Bring your palms close together, an inch apart or so. Concentrate on the space between them.)
I paused with a curious look.
"You're joking, right?"
(This is no joke, young man,) the doctor answered curtly. (Bring your palms an inch apart from one another and focus on the space between them.)
"Um, okay…" I leered as I put my hands in the necessary position. "Hrm…" I tensed, my mind concentrating on the space between my hands. I could feel…something. I could feel a heat growing, pulsing. It seemed to make the air blurrier at the space, the heat growing, rising. It was becoming hard to keep my hands as close as they were. More and more, the space this concentration needed to stay in grew larger and larger, until a faint crimson light shone at its core.
With a flash of scarlet, my eyes were blinded briefly and I was propelled back at a wall, my hands feeling numb and my body aching from the impact.
"What the hell was that!" I demanded.
All I received was an applause.
(Very good, Aaron!) Michelle cheered for me. (You passed with flying colors…and then some!)
(He definitely has far more potential that the past subjects did.) Alexia even sounded chipper. (Alright, young man. Your testing is complete.) The air around me dissipated to its thinner atmosphere and the door to the room reopened, my aunt coming up to me and hugging me tightly.
"I'm so proud of you, Aaron! And to think I've been so harsh for you having so much spunk!" She almost sounded too excited by whatever the fuck just happened.
"Explanation, please?" I asked.
"Should we tell him, Doctor?" my russet-haired matron turned to the other woman.
"Of course. He's officially a member now." The white haired Russian gave a smirk as she went back outside to probably check my data or something.
"Well, Aaron," Michelle began as she led me out of the room and to the back of the hangar marked 'Authorized Personnel Only', activating a finger-print scan to open the door. "We at Sheol are a private military funded by the UN as a special global defense organization for this brave new world of ours."
"So, I'm part of some sort of justice league or something?" I blinked. I didn't have the faintest clue what was going on!
"In a way, yes," she giggled. "Our troops and support units are just that: support. You and five more candidates will be our main troops for combat, dealing with armed forces here and there, but mostly for certain tasks that lie ahead. You, Aaron, are going to be the proud soldier of a new era of history. A real life super man with an armor to make you more powerful than any weapon humanity has to offer otherwise."
"And that armor's some sort of super-suit?"
"No, my dear. It's an extension of your talent that you displayed to us just now."
The room we were in was dark, poorly lit by low-powered ceiling lights. My aunt led me down the immense facility to a row of six mammoth steel containers. Each was marked with a different name that must have been Greek or something. Pyra, Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Lux , and Sonitum. Those were the names before me.
"And that test?" I said with much impatience.
"Was to see how well you could manipulate CRF, if at all. And you passed, Aaron." Michelle then took out a switch in her pocket, clicking a button that initiated a loud mechanical rumbling as all six containers opened. What I saw next could only be summed up in one word:
To be continued…