"One year ago, the delxians invaded our planet. They brought with them devastation on a scale that humanity had never seen before and slaughtered billions of innocent people. The consequences were - and still are - catastrophic. Families have been killed and ripped apart, friends lost and lovers separated.
"But we have endured, and we will continue to endure, because we will not be broken! We are humanity, and we clawed our way to the top on this planet and we will do it again. We've lost most of our cities and can't contact the other continents, but things will get better. We will come back, we will not back down. Already, we are repairing the damage the delxians have done with their help.
"I ask you not to resent the delxians. They were under the orders of a tyrant who is now gone, defeated by our own forces on the delxians' flagship. Accept their assistance with the grace they deserve.
Humanity has been dealt a great blow, but we have survived. Now is the time for rebirth, and we shall emerge far greater than before! Let us honor those who fought for us and prevented further tragedy, let us honor them by continuing to live!"
The Overseer finished with a flourish that left the crowd cheering.
"This is bull," Will muttered, watching from the shadows. The stadium - it had barely survived the delxians' assault, but the people assembled didn't seem to care about the ominous creaking coming from the structural supports - was packed full of people desperate for some kind of motivation, something that would justify the hard work and labor they had been doing for the past several months.
"Yeah," Jill agreed, nursing a drink that had been handed out to those who came to the stadium. The entire event had been designed to boost morale, and the Overseer had been the finale. Meanwhile, the PRIDE teams camped in the shadows, trying not to show their irritation. "He didn't even mention - "
She stopped herself, letting out a deep sigh. "Dammit. I still can't say his name without feeling my heart skip a beat."
"You two really had it going," Will said, a forced light tone in his voice. Jill rolled her eyes and smiled, but the entire exchange had a sad aura about it.
"Man, you two are depressing to look at."
"Hey, Jacob," Will responded, turning to face the leader of the Hoods. "How're the Hoods doing?"
Jacob grinned, his face lined with weariness and noticeable bags under his eyes. "I'm sure you can guess. Our tech has been invaluable to you lot."
"Only 'cause ours was targeted."
"Mine was too."
"Not as much.'
"Was too! Hell, I lost one of my bases!"
"We lost our too!"
"Don't argue about this, guys," Jill sighed, putting her hand to her forehead. "You look ridiculous."
"Shut up!" Jacob and Will snapped petulantly. Their actions only made Jill sigh again and shake her head in exasperation at their antics.
"I can see that you are not pleased with my words," the Overseer commented as he walked towards the group, having taken his leave of the main stage. For once, he was without his helmet, and his bright green eyes appeared to be lined with a fatigue and weariness that Jacob could barely begin to comprehend.
"You never mentioned Kevin," Will grumbled. He added, after an awkward pause, "sir."
The Overseer sighed. "You can dispense with the formalities. Just call me Michael."
Jacob, Will, and Jill exchanged a look. They had never heard the Overseer's real name before; it had been a jealously guarded PRIDE secret.
"After all, I'm planning on taking a break," the Overseer continued. "Shannon has offered to take over, and I trust her now. The past events have made her far more level headed than she had been before them."
"You're stepping down after this?" Jacob queried, tilting his head to one side. "Why?"
Michael looked at him for a few seconds before understanding dawned on Jacob. The leader of the Hoods looked away, his jaw clenching. "I see."
"I lost a son," Michael said, his voice quiet. "Only an hour after he realized that I was his father. And while I know I am capable of dealing with the loss, I fear that my attachments would interfere with my ability to lead PRIDE effectively in this sector."
"Are you planning on coming back?" Will asked, his expression indicating that he hadn't missed how the Overseer had studiously avoided answering his earlier question about Kevin.
"I'm not sure. There are too many reasons to stay and not to stay for me to give you a good answer."
"Well then," Jill said, stepping forward to back up Will, "you can answer Will's earlier question. Why didn't you mention Kevin? He's the one that beat Thomas. Without Kevin, the delxians would still be attacking us."
"She's got a point," Jacob commented. "We came into that ship with limited armaments. Had Kevin not broken the chain of command, we would've found ourselves in a rather difficult situation."
"I thought you excelled at difficult situations," the Overseer replied.
"Stop avoiding the question," Jacob growled, losing his relaxed air and crossing his arms. "For all intents and purposes, Kevin's - "
He cut himself off, pausing to take a deep breath as he gripped his own arms, practically hugging himself. After a moment, Jacob continued, his voice considerably quieter. "For all intents and purposes, Kevin's dead. He isn't coming back from there, not again. He told me how hard it was the first time; as weakened as he is, it's going to be impossible."
"You can't just give up on him!" Jill protested. Jacob rounded on her, his eyes flashing.
"I'm not giving up on him! I'm being damn realistic! Kevin's not coming back!"
The silence after Jacob's words stretched to its breaking point.
"Let's all just calm down," the Overseer suggested, a pained expression on his face. "I didn't mention Kevin because I couldn't. Telling all those people what my son did, what he sacrificed - " His voice broke and faded away to nothing.
"Still, he at least deserved to be put on the damn monument! You can't build a statue of the people we lost and not include him!" Will's voice was filled with frustration on his teammate's behalf. "Sure, he was an asshole, but he did more than any of us!"
"You brought down a delxian warship," the Overseer reminded Will, his tone gentle. "There's no need to be so hard on yourself."
"Shut up," Will snapped. "Sir." Sarcasm was heavy in his tone. He seemed to reach a decision, and his gaze met that of the Overseer. "I'm done. I'm quitting PRIDE."
More pain flickered across the Overseer's face.
"Will, don't be rash," Jill cautioned, putting a hand on Will's shoulder. Will knocked it off, his eyes hard.
"Be quiet, Jill. Does nobody care that Kevin's gone? You won't even honor his goddamn memory for reasons that are completely stupid!"
A metal object flashed in the low lighting and made a resounding crack against Will's skull. The boy crumpled to the ground, clutching his skull and groaning in pain. Jacob stood above him, carefully slinging his bow back across his back.
"Watch your mouth," Jacob snarled. "And don't speak about things you don't fully understand. We all cared about Kevin, asshole. You and Jill are latecomers to the party, so don't presume to know a damn thing about what Michael and I are fucking going through!"
Jacob radiated an aura of command and when Will looked up at his eyes he saw a fury tinged with grief that far outweighed his own. He looked back at the ground, cowed.
"Sorry," he muttered.
Jacob stared at him for a moment longer before nodding and backing off, flexing his fingers over and over again as he appeared to calm himself down.
"Let's all take a deep breath," the Overseer suggested mildly. "Will, do you take back your earlier words about quitting PRIDE?"
"Yes," he muttered, glancing at Jill. "But I'd still like indefinite leave."
"Granted," the Overseer said. He smiled thinly. "Consider it my last act as Overseer."
"Now you just sound melodramatic," Will groaned, accepting Jill's offered hand to pull him to his feet.
The group slowly found safer topics to discuss, and as the sun began to set in the sky, they finally broke apart.
Far in the stands of the stadium, a boy with black hair and hard eyes stood still. A metal arm hung from his left shoulder, decorated with countless markings. A scar slashed across the boy's face, silvery like lightning. Madness danced in his vision, held back only by a thin shield of sanity.
He grinned, the only indication that he was even alive, and disappeared in the encroaching shadows, leaving nothing but swirling black energy in his wake.
Oh, damn. I think I just set myself up for a sequel. It may or may not happen, but you never know.
FtDLulz: Man, I give you credit for sticking with me for so long. I'm pretty sure the others forgot this story even existed. Kudos to you, sir. Kudos to you.
It's been fun. Maybe I'll see you all again sometime.
P.S. I plan on going back and doing edits, starting from the very beginning. It'll be a long project, but I know that I'm capable of doing it. I'll update my profile when I upload an improved chapter.
Thank you, and good bye.