A/N: So, I want this to be a short story...but still full of intrigue, even if cliche intrigue. This is my first writings in awhile...I want to write stories based on some paintings of a very talented person...well, maybe not a 'master', but I like his work. Below are the four main characters in this story, with links to pix of Chris Dien's paintings, the inspiration for these writings.

Characters:
Bryan of the Neil www.chrisdien(DOT)com/paintings/wegmodern.jpg
Freela of the Shim www.chrisdien(DOT)com/paintings/Codex.jpg
Blauthra of the Flame www.chrisdien(DOT)com/paintings/wegfantasy.jpg
Bion of the Bionics (the 'Sacrifice') www.chrisdien(DOT)com/paintings/wegscifi.jpg

Of course, any comments on what is written so far is desired! For those of you who don't know what to say, I have a little rating thing below you can use...everything 1 out of 10! And also a little comment of your own:

Language (word choice, style):
Descriptions:
Plot:
Setting:
Tilt (Just generally...to 'tilt' it one way or another, if you feel you were too generous or stingy with the above):

So...for an example review:

L: 8...sometimes too 'flowery'
D: 6...sometimes a little too many boring descriptions.
P: 4...cliche, doesn't move.
S: 4...not enough descriptions of settings.
T: 7...just want to find out the rest of the story!

Intro:

Some would call it Fate. Others would call it 'Life', that strange, singular process in which all seemingly individual things are in a constant race to create something better than themselves. The Powerful Few were working towards the Next Step for hundreds of years, the hidden Guardians of Life worked just as hard...but their 'Next Step' was far different from what the Few desired. In fact, the only reason why the Guardians did not reach their Next Step before the Few was because of they were always using their resources and time to fight the evil influences of the Few.

But now everything would change. The Few had finally made their Next Step, they had found the energy source for their diabolical Machines of Death...the energy of Life.

Bryan:

Bryan leaped over a pile of debris; throwing his head down he began to roll in mid-air. He hit the ground with his shoulders but quickly corkscrewed back up to his feet, his lead-spewing pistols again aiming with deadly precision at his attackers. Several more Public Monitors fell on the ground, the weak-spots in their Hegemony-issued armor seeping blood. Bryan ducked behind a wood crate, blessing whatever powers decided to save some money by not issuing the regular Monitors more powerful guns.

With a curse, he realized that one of his guns was low on ammunition. He quickly began to reload it, dropping the other pistol. A spray of wooden splinters flew beside his head, causing him to drop a loaded shell. The shell rolled forward, into the line of fire of two Monitors. With a scream, Bryan pulled out one of his smaller throwing knives and jumped on top of the crate. With one quick, trained motion he sliced the evening air with his blade of death, hitting one of the Monitors right in the throat. He jumped out of the way of the remaining Monitor's bullets, landing lightly near his lost bullet. Bending his body like a spring, he swept the bullet up and sprung back behind the crate, the Monitor's blaring gun ghosting his every movement. Bryan pulled the whole clip out of the pistol he had been reloading, then put the bullet he had seemingly risked his life for into the gun.

"You seemed to want it, you wood-splintering Hegemony freak!"

Bryan took quick aim, and sent a quicker death.

Freela:

"Freela, I'm sorry...look, if it wasn't for this war, I'm sure things would've turned out differently."

"Different? There never was anything different from now! War is all we know...all we will ever know! That is who we are!"

"Freela...that isn't entirely true. There is something I should show you before I say good-bye. It's something I should have shown a long time ago...I'm...well, sorry."

Freela watched in silent horror as her now ex-boyfriend slowly raised his hands up to his skull-cap hat, brushing it and the long hair she had loved so much away from his ears.

"They're fake, Freela...see?"

He rubbed a special cream on his elongated ears, dissolving the elvish portion until only his real, normal ears were left.

"I was always attracted to elvish Guardian girls...whether in the legends and stories of my childhood, or in the first elvish Patriot friends I made...but, it was, just a thing, you know? Until I met you..."

"You don't have to leave, you know that, don't you? You don't have to go!"

"Freela, stop! It just isn't working for me. I'm not the fighting kind."

"But you're my kind, you always were!"

"And you are my kind...like I said, it was always just a thing I had...but it wasn't like that with you. We had something real, and the whole Guardian thing was just extra...but now, the whole Guardian thing..."

"Stop, please stop! I'll change...you know I can, for you...for us!"

"Change? What, change?!"

Freela's lover let out a laugh that thrust shreds of ice into her heart.

"Freela, was it not you who just now said that there was, nor will be anything different? Change is impossible! You've tried, and you know...please, you must know, so have I!"

Freela hid her face in her hands, her trembling fingers substituting for ten thirsty handkerchiefs.

"I'm sorry, Freela...you must know that, too."

He moved in to embrace her, his hands running through her long, light-brown hair, but this last time they shied away from those elvish ears they so often before had been drawn to. In spite of herself, Freela pressed herself further into the embrace. She brought her hands behind his head, transforming the passionate embrace into a heart-wrenching kiss. Her hands found their way to his ears, wanting to feel the awful truth...to know.

But she already knew the truth, had suspected it for some time. He never had been like the other Guardians...elvish ears were the only visible difference of many invisible differences present any in the Guardian race. Over a hundred years ago a man already mystified in a cloak of legend, part of the anti-Hegemony Rebellion, had come close to discovering the Next Step. This discovery led to the Guardians, a volunteer clan of people whose life energies are accelerated beyond normal levels. By submitting themselves to the pain of rejection from Hegemony-followers and bodies that mysteriously reject chemical medicines (usually leading to a life-span half of the 130yr norm), Guardians receive powerful, youthful bodies that flare through life in a blaze of activity and accomplishments.

"I love you, Freela...but we have to be mature about this, and...accept reality."

"I would make you my reality...but I agree...and, I love you."

The two stood in silent embrace, the setting sun casting bolts of light into the tears that were made with a force more powerful than any bolts of lightening.

The dark queen looked over the cityscape surrounding her palace's tower, her lip rising to show grimly gritted teeth. Sometimes, she thought, this place just seems too small. She had been driven to this small continent years ago, the Hegemony slowly assimilating parts of her kingdom through 'trade agreements.' Finally, they ceased their aggressive politics, content to force upon her a 'free trade' agreement that further impoverished her desolate lands.

Blauthra:

"My queen, the Emissary of Science has arrived. He is waiting in the Couch Room now."

"Thank you, Adviser."

"My queen..."

"Yes?"

"I think...they've found it."

The queen turned back to the balcony railing, her dark eyeliner closing together. Through her tight lips she asked,

"Well...we shall see."

Bion:

The Head Scientist rubbed his gloved hands together, his long, wispy fingers gliding quickly between each other. Those fingers had done many things that only they dared to 'whisper.' A few of his careless assistants that had dared to whisper had disappeared...a brilliant spark of light extinguished by the only sun this place had room for.

"Bion...I heard you finally have the plans ready. I wanted to come down here and congratulate you personally."

Sure, thought Bion, don't even give me the title of 'Scientist Bion,' let alone 'HEAD!' And as if you came to congratulate...the last time you came to 'congratulate' was when the last Head Scientist had been assassinated for questionable loyalties to the Hegemony. Apparently, this Head Diplomat got his 'congratulations' and 'threatenings' mixed up.

"Thank you, Head Diplomat. Yes, we have arrived at the final stage. Now, all is left is to ascertain the Sacrifice's readiness."

"The Sacrifice is ready, Bion. I made sure of that."

"How?" Bion let the question automatically fly out of his mouth, his scientist's automatic reflex to statements he did not understand. The reason came to mind as soon as he asked, and he wished he had not."

"You may say...I saw her." The Head Emissary patted a pocket hidden by his cloak, a pocket that Bion correctly guessed to contain an empty vial of Psycho-Meds.

Bion had his conscious seared just enough to hide his grimace inside himself. Bion would be--had been--one of the first to end the life of any he thought might be in his way, but he considered himself a man with honor. A hard man, but still with honor. Death was to be dealt quickly and efficiently, not through the slow and agonizing way that the Psych-Meds of the Emissary Police induced. The Meds were a relatively invention by the Hegemony. Bion had himself been instrumental in its creation, though he was not particularly proud of the fact. He much preferred his more 'honorable' weapons, such as the first effective plasma cannon. But the Meds...well, Bion thought, if they weren't...he laughed at the word he came up with...'evil'...then why did the higher-ups order the Meds' secrecy?

Bion thought of the effects of Meds...First, the patient would be placed in a bare room with the Administrator. The Meds would effectively wipe select parts of the brain clean, especially those that affected moral judgment. After the patient's mind passed through an accelerated re-growing up in the ability to think logically, the Administrator would begin to teach the patient his or her new purpose in life. The only problem encountered with the Meds is that they worked for only a short period of time. Strangely, a part of the mind seemed to reject its teaching--this period of acceptance before rejection usually lasted a month for women, only a week for men. This strange gender phenomenon was a running joke with the males working on the project, until it was proven that the longer acceptance by women had nothing to do with 'weakness of mind'. Still, no reason was ever found...they just accepted how things were, and usually used women for their Psych-Med missions.

Bion idly thought over the different missions they had used Psych-Med patients for...assassinations, infiltration...even information gathering. That was how his predecessor's plans of usurpation had been found out. Some how, a random Emissary Police officer had suspected the Head Scientist's loyalty. The Emissary Committee called a meeting, and to insure truthfulness from the Head Scientist, used the Psych-Meds as an interrogation tool. Since then, Psych-Meds had been ceased to use except on expendable patients...its side effects led to death within a year.

Bion smiled...good thing Psych-Meds were too difficult and expensive to produce. Well, the few special Psych-patients, such as the Sacrifice, would have to be the...well, the sacrifice necessary towards the New Step.