2448. The world, in the aftermath of World Wars III, IV, and V, has been ravaged to the extreme, leaving precious few stable ecosystems in the 7 continents. Governments rose and fell, Europe was unstable, and the Asian powers had been virtually dissolved, while America was in the middle of a second Civil War, the New England Federation versus the reborn Confederate States of America. The capital of the Federation is New London, located on the borders of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. It was the largest and most populous city of the time period, formed in the wake of the Fourth World War.
Technology was taking tremendous leaps forward; strength-enhancing EXO-Suits, laser weapons, "smart" A.I., Aerovehicles, repulsor-lift technology, hardlight and others. Humans had also begun to colonize other worlds, starting with the terraforming of Mars. But in this age of enlightenment and leaps in technology, a danger lurked on the horizon, pitting one teenager into a string of events that could mean the end of humanity...

"Get back here, kid!"

17-year-old Darien "Dare" Halstead turned a corner into one of New London's numerous alleyways, pursued by Federation Security Officers. Dare was tall for his age, already 6 feet tall. He wore a silver hoodie that had blue hardlight lines going down his shoulders to the opening in the bottom in the shape of a double-lined Y, and two lines on the hood that he kept over his eyes at all times. He also wore jeans and armored vambraces with sharp ends jutting from the elbows, gauntlets on his forearm, black fingerless gloves, and metal lightboots that enhanced his speed and agility.

The SOs' uniforms were navy blue with brass and silver trimmings, black helmets with glowing sky blue triangular visors, navy pants with double brass stripes running down the sides. They were armed with Heckler & Koch P-35 Tactical Pistols, stun batons capable of sending crippling volts of electricity from a distance, and stun grenades. They were no-nonsense in nature and weren't afraid to teach would-be delinquents a lesson.

Dare jumped up 10 feet to grab onto an acrylic porch jutting out from one of the buildings, thanks to his repulsor-boots. The SOs unclipped their batons and fired, electrical pulses whizzing by Dare as he scrambled up onto the porch. He scanned the side of the building; there were ladder-like notches about 5 feet apart from each other, allowing windows to look out from inside. It was his best shot at escape.

He crouched down, then used all the strength in his legs along with his boots added power to leap to the highest notch he could reach, grasping the structure with a steel grip. The SOs ran out of the alleyway, but they would be back with an Aerobike squad. Dare had to move fast or get caught, so he hauled himself up onto the outcropping and jumped again onto the next one. He repeated the action continuously, not even breaking a sweat from the exertion of scaling a building. Dare knew he was exceptionally strong; he gave credit to his being strong straight from birth.

Finally, after 10 minutes of climbing, he reached up and felt the top of the building. He vaulted up onto the roof, and looked down; he had scaled 50 stories, which meant for every minute, he had cleared 5 stories each. And he also concluded that he was just naturally smart, too.

The sound of sirens got Dare's attention, and he whipped around to see the approaching Aerobikes. One of the first inventions that utilized repulsor-lift technology, they looked like sleeker versions of 21st Century jet skis, and were propelled through the sky with FlyR Tech Mach III plasma engines, capable of going from 0 to 200 MPH in a minute. They were moderately expensive, but a great way to get around, and were replacing cars as the common mode of transportation along with AeroBuses and repulsor trains because of their ecological safe propulsion.

The Aerobikes that were rocketing at Dare were the Enforcer models, their prominent feature being the two gun barrels mounted on the front of the craft. Dare dashed to the other side of the roof, but three more Aerobikes raised up in front of him. The approaching squad merged with the one blocking Dare's path and surrounded him.

The hood-wearing teen smiled and raised his arms, "All right, boys," He said, "You got me!"

An hour later, Dare was sitting in the New London Security Force's Headquarters, outside of the Captain's office. The door opened, and Captain Johanne Philips stepped out. He was tall, dark-skinned, and a retired soldier, having served the Federation for 5 years of his 32 years of life. He wore square-rimmed glasses in front of his chocolate brown eyes. He kept his hair buzzed short with waves in it, and was dressed in the SO uniform. Johanne was also Dare's legal guardian, which many people would find strange; an African-American man raising a Caucasian teen.

Dare had activated his holoscreen, a glowing blue sheet of hardlight that could be expanded or shrunk, depending on what its user wanted to do with it. Right now he was using it to look up information on programming Utility AI. Johanne sighed and sat down next to Dare, taking off his glasses and cleaning them with a fold from his uniform.

"This is the fifth trespassing violation and tenth public disturbance this month, Dare," He said, flicking a glance at his charge, then returning to his glasses,

"Look, I know you want to find out what happened to your dad, but you gotta stop breaking into government property looking for answers; the mayor's chewing my ears off about you."

Dare's jaw clenched at the mention of his father, Marcus Halstead; he knew little to nothing at all about him except that he was a major figure in technology, and had worked in a laboratory in southern New London, and that he had been good friends with Johanne, entrusting his friend with his son. Dare had made it his mission to find out what happened to his father and why he never came back, often to the expense of an official.

The teen shrunk his holoscreen to the size of a postage stamp, and inserted it into a small opening in his vambrace armor that stored the screens. He stood up and turned to Johannne, "You're right; I'm not doing myself any good if I just keep getting into trouble. I'll keep my nose clean from now on."

With that, Dare began walking to the elevator, a small grin appearing on his lips when his back was turned to the Captain. Johanne shook his head; Dare was the only teen he knew that didn't act... well, like a teen to an adult's face, yet turns around and completely does the opposite of what he was told. He figured he would be hearing from an officer again, soon.

Dare took a repulsor train to the southern part of New London, the outskirts of which was completely deserted. Repulsor trains were probably the fastest public transportation vehicles in use, getting passengers to their destinations within minutes or even seconds. They went along an invisible energy rail that was held together by Y-shaped towers on top of or jutting out from buildings, allowing the trains to go to many more places than the ones of old.

He exited the train into the bustling S.N.L. Train Station, weaving through the crowd of people waiting to get a ride. His destination was only a short walk away, so he didn't need to rent an Aerobike. The walk was lonely, with the occasional homeless person sleeping in a doorway to a home that was no longer occupied. None of them were. After a plasma bombing in the area, the residents living on the southern outskirts abandoned their homes and traveled further inside the city.

The teen headed for a medium-sized building that was close to the city limits, a building that looked like a normal skyscraper, yet what had gone on in it made it anything but normal. On one of the floors the old lab that had belonged to his father was there, where he had conducted his experiments and built various machines. Dare had visited it a few times before when he was little; the memories were hazy and unfocused, but at least he remembered which floor it was on.

The lobby inside was a cluttered mess of various debris and signs of animals living in the building. Some hardlight screens still functioned, indicating where corridors and elevators were located, and although the elevators undoubtedly still worked, Dare did not want to take his chances with one and have it break down halfway up, so he chose the stairs. Even with all of humanity's great technological achievements in getting from one place to another, the stairs were still a large part of life. It was a good thing that Dare was athletic; he had to go up 60 flights to get to the lab.

By the time Dare reached floor 60, he was exhausted and sweating, but still had enough energy to explore. The entrance to the lab was a thick metal door with a mechanized lock system, but Dare had learned how to crack these bad boys open from Johanne. He tapped a section on the bottom of his vambrace, which slid open and a tiny object fell into his hand; a plasma cutter. Dare flicked the cutter on and pointed it at the lock's interface. A thin blue beam of energy appeared and began turning the device to slag. When enough of it had been melted away, he switched the cutter off and reached into the mess of wires that were now revealed, tearing a green wire from the rest.

A thunderous clang indicated that it had done the trick, and Dare returned the cutter to its place before grabbing hold of the door: with the system shut down, he had to manually pry the 500 pound door open. His face contorted with the effort as he dragged the slab of metal out of its frame, creating a large enough opening for him to squeeze through.

The sight that greeted him was chaotic; equipment and parts were strewn across the floor, abandoned by their creators who had left in a hurry. Some shapes of the machines were familiar, but others bordered on the bizarre. One that Dare guessed was supposed to be a humanoid maintenance droid looked like someone had tried to put a face on it, but they must have failed, and in a rage torn the droid apart.

He walked along the rows of tables with machines cluttering them, studying each for anything that might have been worked on by his father. Suddenly he tripped on something small and fell on a bunch of parts.

"Ah, damn, that hurt!" Dare complained, rubbing his sore chest. He kicked at the pile of parts in irritation, when a blue light glowed behind him.

"...Who are you?" A feminine voice asked, and Dare turned, surprised that someone else was there. Then he found out that that "someone" was actually a 12-inch hologram projection of a female A.I., coming from the small device he had tripped on. All A.I. came equipped with a projector that would display any image the A.I. wanted to be seen as. In this one's case, she had knee-length silver hair with two bangs coming down the side of her face, while another shorter one hung over nose and curled a little to the left, along with crystalline eyes that regarded him wearily. She had a nice body, which was covered by a white jumpsuit that had a network of blue hardlight lines all over it. She had an accent that sounded a mixture of British, Japanese, and Bostonian.

Dare picked her chip up and held it so that she was eye-level to him, even though she couldn't really see his eyes, "Huh, you're one of those smart A.I., aren't you? Able to hold multiple functions and an infinite amount of data."

The A.I. crossed her arms before replying with a load of sarcasm, "Thanks; I completely forgot what I was built for."

"A snarky one, eh?" Dare remarked, "Why don't you tell me your name, sweetheart?"

"It's CLEO, and don't call me 'sweetheart'." CLEO said, pointing her finger at him. This made Dare chuckle, "All right, whatever you say. My name's Darien, but you can call me Dare."

He brought them to the center of the room, "Now, I need your help. Ya see, I'm trying to find out what happened to my dad, he used to work here as a scientist. His name was Marcus Halstead."

CLEO's eyes got a spark of recognition in them, "Yes, Dr. Halstead, I remember him! So you're his boy, huh? Why're you hiding your face?"

"That's my own business; why don't you tell me what you know about my dad?"

Before CLEO could start speaking, the sound of glass crashing stopped her. Men in black uniforms and berets were rappelling from the roof and smashing through the glass windows, armed with military-grade weapons. As soon as they touched down on the floor, they aimed at Dare and fired, green laser bolts rocketing at them. Dare dropped down and flipped a table on its side, taking cover behind it as their mysterious attackers pelted the steel furniture with crossfire.

"Maybe we should talk about that later," CLEO said, and Dare nodded, "Yeah, I'm with you one that one, and who are these guys?!"

"I don't know, but there's an Omni-tool upgrade to your vambraces on that table over there; hurry, before you get us both killed!"

Dare looked to where CLEO pointed at; a metallic chest on the other side of the room. He inserted her chip onto the A.I. cradle in his right vambrace before dashing forward, knocking over tables to deflect the oncoming fire. He reached out and grabbed hold of the chest, just as a laser bolt missed his arm by inches. Spooked, Dare pulled the crate behind cover and pried the lid open.

Just what he thought; military grade, and obviously the upgrade chips had gotten a ton of stuff added to them just by their difference in design compared to standard issue. Dare scooped them up and inserted them into his vambraces, watching as the forearm armor reconfigured to support what the chips brought with them.

"Vambraces fully upgraded," CLEO's cool voice drifted from her chip, "Bloody hell, you've got enough in your arsenal to take on a full-scale army!"

"Then it'll be just fine taking out a squad," Dare said, then activated the Omni-blades. Blue hologram-like energized hardlight appeared, some covering his forearms, a circular hardlight object connecting the gauntlets to the vambraces. A two-foot long blade sprang from the bottom half of the circles, while a 6-inch blade came from the top halves. Dare felt the heat that came from the blades, and remembered the training Johanne had given him on Omni-blades. When your guardian's a part of the Security Force, you learn how to protect yourself.

One of the men stepped over a table and aimed his weapon at Dare. It was a X-100 laser rifle, 2 foot long, dual-mode, clip-fed gun that was a staple of foot soldiers in the Confederate and Federation armies. Dare saw him and whipped around, slashing upwards. The super-heated blade sliced through the vest that he wore, cutting right through his skin. The blow wasn't fatal, but it was enough to knock the man backwards. His head hit the floor with a thud, knocking him out.

Dare switched off his left Omni-blade and grabbed his gun, standing up and putting a couple rounds into two more of them, making that 5 more to go. Another tried sneaking up on him, but Dare backhanded him in the face, sending him flying into a window, which gave away to his weight and sent him screaming to the ground below.

The teen switched his other Omni-blade to an Omni-shield, which appeared as a long octagonal shape. He used it to deflect laser fire, then returned with his own. 3 fell to his gun, the last trying to take cover behind a stasis tube. Dare approached slowly, when quickly his enemy squeezed off a shot. He caught it with his shield, and the bolt raced back to the one who released it, getting him right between the eyes. The man fell in a heap, eyes glazed over in death.

Dare deactivated the shield and went over to kneal beside one of the bodies. He scanned it thoroughly, then noticed the symbol stitched onto the soldier of his uniform. It was a black crown outlined by silver, with two swords crossing behind it. In silver lettering underneath it read, "Black Crown".

"Well, that was exciting," CLEO quipped, her hologram reappearing on Dares' arm, "These boys must have been after the Project."

Dare scratched his chin as he looked at her in confusion, "Project? What Project?"

"Project CENTURION, the one your father was working," CLEO scratched the top of her head in thought, "I don't have the entire thing on my database, but it should be on the main computer."

As Dare moved towards the bulky device in one corner of the room, a small sound got his attention. He heard it again, a faint beep, and followed the noise to one of the bodies. His chest armor had a light that was blinking, picking up speed every time it sounded. Dare's eyes widened in alarm, his heart leaping into his throat.

"BOMB!" He yelled, scrambling away and towards the nearest window. CLEO could be heard yelling, "Oh no, don't you do that, you bloody idiot!"

The teen burst through the glass, and time seemed to slow; glass shards spun slowly in midair, as Dare began to fall. No sooner had they gone out, the bomb detonated, the explosion and fire shattering what windows remained and destroyed everything in the lab.

Dare activated the thrusters built into his light boots, which weren't strong enough to take them up in the air, but at least would keep them from splattering on the sidewalk. Two jets of blue flame shot forward, creating a cushion of hot air that immediately began to slow his descent.

"I'm going to kill you," CLEO said, not amused. Dare replied, "Well, it was this or get cooked up there: take your pick."

"Whatever. Agh, all the information on CENTURION was in that computer! And now it's gone."

They touched down, and Dare heard the distant alarms of approaching SO Aerobikes, "That sounds like trouble. Let's go back to my place, and we can discuss what we do next there."

Well, there's my first chapter of Project CENTURION ^^. If you like it, fav and follow, and don't be shy about writing a review; they're much appreciated. Stay tuned for the next chapter!