『FΟUR - Μιssιοη』
The underground base was being rifled through by underlings. Tomes, artefacts and other alchemical apparatus getting checked over. The rooms and corridors were sculpted out of brown cave rock. It was one of many, many bases being used by the higher echelons of Denzemati's crime syndicate. This one was about to be intentionally destroyed – they didn't have time to clear out everything, but the underlings were searching for anything that looked to be of higher value, just in case.
A blonde boy of nineteen with a harsh stare stood in the middle of a room with his arms crossed. By the walls workers were pawing through cluttered junk and they did so hurriedly – they were on a schedule. A girl of the same age drifted away from the boy, combing lank hair behind her ears as she approached a wizardy globe-shaped contraption on a shelf.
"Look at this, Luke. Formulas, test tubes, a crystal ball. All of this valuable stuff is gonna be disintegrated…"
The belligerent boy's eyes flicked to the aperture as a man in a coat approached the pair.
"Luke and Riley." He stopped to greet them. The girl stepped back and the busy workers gave up on their searching, moving quickly to leave the room and evacuate. "We're just about ready for you to destroy this place."
"Mr Emory, you said a fifty metre radius right?" Luke's voice was harsh and blunt.
"Yes, that will be enough to wipe out every room, all research and evidence."
"Mr Emory…" Riley began hesitantly "The value of everything here seems quite substantial."
"I'm afraid we don't have a choice. Every now and again the enforcers track down one of Denzemati's bases. It's necessary for us to destroy everything without leaving a trace. Otherwise they'll be here within hours. Luckily we have connections in all levels of the enforcer departments, even in the democratic council of Haphaestus itself."
"Denzemati's basically running this planet…" the girl murmured.
"We've remained one step ahead of the law, and the elemental for now. And with the help of two members of Anjelo elite clans such as yourselves, getting rid of evidence is never a problem." He scratched his wiry beard while assessing the girl "Especially a Rohael like you, Riley. Typically your clan is too benevolent by nature to be persuaded by money or anything. You can heal, power others up, and phase through solid objects so you can't even be captured and experimented on. As a sorcerer Denzemati has a curious mind for powers. You are the only Rohael we have, it's a good thing you decided to follow and protect Luke here."
The girl remained silent while her companion glowered.
"If Denzemati wants my assistance he knows to leave Riley alone. I'm aware that you could capture her if you took her by surprise and knocked her out first."
"The co-operation of a Rohael is rarer and more valuable than studying her would be." Mr Emory assured them. "And although you're not quite as rare, someone from the Chamran clan is valuable too."
"Well if we're done with the chatter I'd rather just get on with it." Luke snapped.
"Yes of course, but first things first…" reaching into his coat the man removed a brown folder and held it out for him. "Denzemati himself has requested a mission for you, and if successful you will be paid most handsomely."
Luke and Riley stared between each other before the boy took the folder. He opened it up and saw photos, the profiles of three targets. The first one was a younger boy with white pupils.
"He wants me to capture this Peter… an Archelion?"
"They were spotted nearby. Time is of the essence, and as of now the two of you are the best to be assigned. Capture him quickly. Ridian may also be on their trail… but he's always been difficult to control…"
Luke stared into the photo of his next assignment.
Riley whispered "A young Archelion just wandering free out there… No wonder Denzemati's so desperate…"
Mr Emory turned away from them, his coat fluttering as he made his exit "Best of luck to you both. Make sure you wipe out this facility and leave no traces, Luke."
While not being one of the noble elite clans like the Archelion and the Rohael, Luke's clan was still counted among the nine elites. The Chamran weren't benevolent by nature, and while typically neutral they weren't all above the temptations of money and power. The Chamran were known as the clan of exploding stars for a reason…
Later on Luke was staring at a strapless watch in his hand, the second hand ticked past midday. It was time.
"You ready?" he eyed Riley. "Let's go."
The girl nodded nervously, her form rippling with light as she became semi-transparent and ghostly. Once he knew she was safe Luke began to release the energy he'd been bottling inside. His muscles tensed as a gold glow bathed his body. He shone brighter and brighter, a high-pitched frequency causing the air in the room to vibrate. The rock walls groaning and dust sprinkling down.
From a distance, a huge earthbound sun exploded outward. The bright sphere tore through the land, disintegrating everything within its perimeter. When the energy finally died down the quaking stopped. Deep cracks were riddled from its edge, a column of smoke rising from the crater. In the destruction's centre Luke was crouched on one knee, motionless while his ghostly companion floated above him. Once it was safe Riley drifted down and became solid again. Luke raised his head. There was work to be done.
"Another research base completely wiped out before the enforcers could raid it." The paperwork was dropped in front of Zac while the elemental sat by his friend's desk and rubbed his temples.
Koiran was a middle-aged man with grey in his dark beard. He stepped to the window of his office and sighed, hands in the pockets of his white uniform. Zac considered him the most trusted member of the democratic council. The elemental's staff stood up straight beside him as Zac quickly flicked through the papers. The big yellow opal that topped it reflected the evening light.
"Slynn is working for Denzemati, I'm sure of it. But he may not be the only corrupt councilman… For the moment I believe we can still trust judge Vindo." He went back to rubbing his temples. "When I decided to have my half of Haphaestus ruled by a democracy I had no idea how corrupt it'd become…"
"Indeed. We need more evidence of what Denzemati's planning before we can push the council to take greater action."
"How many people do you have in your grasp…?" Zac wondered up at the roof. With a sigh he lowered his head "My crusher Peter running off complicates things. If he does get abducted that would be a nightmare."
"Your old pal Slynn would have a field day with that discussion," Koiran smirked.
"We need all available enforcers to be tracking Peter down before we lose him." Zac stated. "If Denzemati does get a hold of him I'll track them down myself!" he looked over his shoulder "I'm sure I can trust you and the others to vote against any shady movements Slynn will try to make in my absence."
The last thing Zac wanted was for them to push him into becoming a fugitive on his own planet. He stood up "I'm not finished here just yet, but I think I know where Peter's going."
The sun had set and the three teens were on the outskirts of the next settlement, finding refuge in a barn. Samson was exhausted from the day's fighting, curled up and sleeping amongst the haystacks. His snoring was light and peaceful. When Peter noticed that Drew wasn't inside he later found her sitting atop the roof and watching the stars. Curious about their new ally he climbed up the slats from out the open window. The black-haired girl turned her face to him as he went to sit beside her. Rubbing his palms together to warm them in the cold night.
"That Ridian guy sure was trouble. I hope that's the last we'll be seeing of him…" he began conversationally.
"He did take a tumble off that bridge and into the ravine, but you can never be too sure." She agreed.
Drew faced away to the woodland's edge. Peter stopped studying the crop fields and the distant farmhouse, his eyes went to the spooky skull-sword strapped to Drew's side. Its eyes were blood red, the black rapier blade with its shredding points, little centipede legs by the handle wriggling ever-so-slightly.
"Hm?" she looked back at him.
"We've only known you for a day, and you seem like a really chill person. You're really helping us out and we appreciate it but like, I'm still curious about why?"
Drew looked forward and sighed. A moment passed before she answered "I ran away from home when I was very young. I was twelve. Me and some other kids lived as thieves."
"And now you're a vigilante? You fight for justice? That's pretty cool." Peter eyed her creepy weapon again, it was so opposite in character to the casual and unbothered girl they'd been getting to know.
"I don't do it out of a sense of heroism…" Drew admitted. She looked back at him then "I hope you won't think badly of me Peter… but the truth is, I stole my demon sword, Oniken from someone who'd purchased it from the sorceress Sieli. It's a cursed weapon and it's bonded to me, I can never get rid of it…"
Peter's eyes widened as she continued "The sword hungers for… blood. If I don't feed it, it gets restless. So I have to fight. That's why I choose to be a vigilante and fight bad guys. The reason why I'm travelling with the two of you is because I was sure you'd be hunted for being an Archelion. If I just followed you I wouldn't have to track down criminals to kill, they'd come to me…"
"Woah." He blinked. "So you have to kill people… to feed that freaky sword?"
"Unfortunately yes…" her eyes were forward again.
There was a long pause between them before Peter patted her on the shoulder "Well I'm still glad you're helping us. And don't worry, I don't think any less of you."
"Thanks." She gave a wry smile.
"That would probably freak out Samson though…"
"I understand. So what about you two?"
"Well I'm a first generation crusher, I was created by the elemental Zac. I've actually only been alive for a month."
"Wow, what's that like?"
Peter shrugged "I don't know. Samson isn't like me though. He was born and lives in a Rohael monastery with a bunch of cousins and other clan members, or he did before some goons working for Denzemati burned it down. Now they just live in a farm. I visited the monastery while it was still there with Zac when I was only a week old. I met Samson and the two of us got along really well. I'm lucky he agreed to come with me. Without the two of you I'd probably have gotten captured by now."
"Yeah…" the girl nodded before looking back up at the stars. "Well we're an interesting band of misfits aren't we? A cursed Wuban thief, a coveted Rohael, and a legendary Archelion on an adventure by ourselves."
"Yeah, though I honestly didn't think it'd be this dangerous." Peter confessed and huddled forward. "Word spread so quickly. I better keep my face hidden until I get some sunglasses to cover my eyes. I just want to reach Natathias from the next province, he's an Archelion like me but a fully-grown adult and powerful enough to take care of himself. Afterwards I'll go back with Zac, he's probably gonna be real pissed off with me…"
The Hapha-lillies by the edge of the crops were a dusty blue, as dark as faded indigo under the stars. They sat with their thoughts in silence before Peter's drooping eyes persuaded him to leave his new friend, climb back down into the barn and get some sleep.