“Leave the dark avenger alive, my daughter; kill the rest.”
I have underestimated my father, and my hubris may cost us our lives; and the universe it’s freedom.
Galactica smiled, beautiful despite her malice; the raw power of the cosmos smoking from her eyes.
“I think the metal man first?” She said.
But destroyer was walking away already.
“As you wish.”
“What’s the plan here, Night?” Roger braced himself.
There is always a plan.
“Watch out for the sword.”
“No. Take it.”
With blinding speed she slammed her petite frame into the hulking metal coil of Ironside, the impact sending shock waves and throwing Dash and I clear. The boy was stunned when he got up; the shudder of Galactica pummeling Roger thwanging through the stale air.
“Night… what can-”
“Speed; throw things, dazzle; just keep her off balance; don’t stop running.” I sprang to my feet.
“But she’s as fast-”
“Just do it.”
It was technically true; she was as fast as Dash, but Galactica could really only achieve light speed in the vacuum of space, and the time dilation effect for her deteriorated at a rapid rate; much more rapid than Dash’s. I sent a swing line through the air and soared to the upper levels where my father and… brother were switching the young Kenix Kil for the older version Destroyer had broken.
“Ahh, Nightflight.” Destroyer stopped his work. “Finish this task Kenneth; a father must discipline his child.”
He raised his hand and sent a ripple of destruction shimmering towards me, exploding the ground I was on only a second before. Moving fast, I sent a flock of nightblades slicing through the air towards him, buying a few seconds to check on Roger.
He was in classic Ironside spirits, the unflagging effort of absolute confidence, and he was landing some good hits besides; but the Solarian had not yet summoned her blade.
Landing, I ducked to avoid the mailed fist of Destroyer soaring over me, and detonated sticky smoke in his face. He reeled back for the cloud, and when he was clear I sailed through it feet first hammering into his chest.
Keep him off balance.
“Roger,” I said into the radio, “when I say so, turn human for 1 second exactly, you understand?”
I rolled away from Destroyer and swept under Kenneth the younger who fell from the controls he was working on, but it took longer than I anticipated, and the shock of Destroyers fist sent me sprawling.
Early, my armor is still stable. Got to move fast.
I used the momentum from the blow to put some distance between myself and my opponent. Coming up to a crouch, I sent a line towards his head but it arced wide when he moved out of its way.
“A miss? Is it fear, perhaps? The sudden knowledge that for all your cunning, you have failed in your grand scheme?” Destroyer was walking towards me in long, slow strides. “Why are we even fighting, son? This could be our victory! Your allegiance to the pleb’s shackles you in a prison of your own making.”
“I didn’t miss.”
The line had hooked to a bundle of cabling, and I fired the other end across the steel canyon, the bolo exploding halfway across. Not a moment before it hit, the plated skin Ironside wore shrank away, leaving flesh behind, and the spinning knot ensnared him. I thumbed the switch.
The motor wheeled, and Galactica arched her deadly fists through the air and Roger was pulled at break neck speeds through the room.
One second, on the dot, Ironside was back.
Destroyer braced himself as Roger slammed into him at full strength, knocking him prone.
Galactica was faster than all of that, but unlike Dash, she lives in real time. Dash thought faster than her, lived faster; and so she watched the maneuver topple Destroyer helplessly before she was on us again.
She rose with the fury of the sun, and my stomach sank when the black edge of her blade materialized in her hand.
“Neat trick; want to see this one?” SHe said sweetly.
His voice was the voice of a God, and it boomed through us all, ceasing all movement in the room. Even Dash appeared suddenly.
“HmmHmmHmm; very clever; ever the detective.”
“Father, I can-”
“You most certainly cannot,” he chided. “My machine is… delicate, to say the least; and my son knows it. The confined space of this hangar places it in jeopardy if you are at battle so close to its precious core.” He turned to Galactica. “And you, my daughter, while unstoppable in battle are not known for delicacy.”
He turned to face me.
“Very good. But perhaps we should retire to more comfortable climes?”
He waved his metal hands, and the room shuddered and groaned as the ceiling split open. Everyone toppled in the quake, and the platform on which the machine rested began laborious climb out of the earth and into the sky.
“Perhaps it is time for the people saw their betters do battle; a reminder that their God is indeed almighty.”
“What do we do?” Roger chimed the radio.
“Don’t move, just wait.”
If nothing else, Doctor Destroyer was a theatrical stanza; a play that needed watching and perfect timing. Nothing chafed him more than when I, or anyone for that matter would ruin his grandiose spectacle. Sometimes that was an advantage; his rage was always his weakness. Sometimes it was a detriment; a premature attack before favorable conditions. Sometimes, like now, it was simply a pause in the action to step back and assess ones situation.
We’re in trouble.
We rode the disk of metal skyward, suspended between the bundle of towers that made up Kenneth Light’s seat of power. Soon we passed the ground level, and as the hard doors groaned open to let us through, the rain lashed down upon us with fresh furry.
We stood there, all of us motionless, trapped by the vision of the machine climbing high, waiting for the spell to be broken and battle to resume. All but the Destroyer.
His hands aloft, the Doctor of Hate embraced the black skies that snaked with lightning and roared a chaos of thunder as rain fell off him in sheets.
“Yes. Yes. My triumph is at hand!”
Roger broke the peace with a fist like an anvil to Galactica’s face, catapulting her off the platform.
“Dash!” I tossed a bandolier through the air.
“HmHmHmm; let the God’s of men wage war for their mortal realm!” Destroyer bellowed, the platform reaching the summit of the towers in the black light of a stormy dawn.
Dash was at the machine in a microsecond, but Destroyer knew his mind; in the brief span of time where he was placing the charges to blow open the hatch, Destroyer sent up a wild field of electricity, and the boy convulsed before collapsing to the ground.
“Icarus; his wax wings wilted and frail,” he said, catching Dash in a massive fist of metal and turning to face me with rage filled eyes. “This one has flown too close to the SUN”
With a small effort, he hurled the master of speed from the platform into the empty air a hundred floors above the ground.
”NOOOOO!” I flew from the summit, fists filled with cable and tracked his rapid decent. Spinning in the wet air, I fired a bola line downwards, ensnaring Dash, and a spiked grapple upwards, imbedding it deep in the hard cobosteel.
The grapple clean, I let go and with a charge extended the glider in my cape, soaring under the disk and around the other side. A final grapple brought me swinging under and over, and I perched like a bird of prey on the massive machine controls.
“HmHmHm and then there were two.” Said Destroyer.
Galactica and Roger were still at war; the open air giving the edge to the Solarian who blasted him with heat and slammed into his metal frame with incredible speed. But as predicted, Ironside refused to give even an inch.
Soak it up.
And he did.
I hooked my gaze back on Destroyer and is adoptive son. The man turned machine stood protectively, like stone before the hatch that housed his broken and molded Kenix; while young William, whom I had brought, was unconscious, and his head lay beneath Destroyers heavy boot.
“So lord Icarus lingers on, eh?” he said derisively. “Well, not little Chronos, I think.”
It was too late; my body wouldn’t even let me start the move; a waste of energy and a smear of shame for the Doctor to use. The small movement, the sounds of his head cracking and bursting bellow the weight of the armor was lost in the torrential downpour.
“What now of your precious plan, my son?”
I was already in the air, slamming into his chest with both fists, I landed high and he fell backwards. He was up before I was and I ducked and weaved past blow after blow; the sudden furry of the man who until now had only lingered. His armor was near flawless; but near is not perfect, and there were still some places where my blows landed with precision and shook the fragile few organs he had left. We spared, lighting lancing across the sky and wind billowing our cloaks, until the flat of his hand suddenly altered course and took me down.
“Why do you fight, son? It is over now; your plan lies in a ruin of blood and brain at the foot of the very cradle he was to be born into.”
“It’s not over; not now. Not yet.” But I was tired, and my armor was torn where his blows had landed. Subjectively, I had been awake for days and it was started to show.
I had teamed up with my father years ago; pretended to fall back into his grace to thwart of of his many schemes. It was the only reason I didn’t succumb this time, I just didn’t know; would he truly believe me? Or was this all apart of the play; his forgiving hand that I am not allowed to accept that he might weep over my broken body? I had been his obsession growing up, and he had been mine as a man; I had devoted my life to the craft of detection to uncover his true identity, but to no avail. Had I come this far only to fail?
Behind my… Father, Roger too was straining; bits of metal had lanced of and turned to twisted pools of flesh and blood. Bellow us, Dash dangled in wait for a victory that may never come.
“The poor man; his champions lost or losing, his own body failing him. And his mind? Pfft. A disgrace to my name.” Destroyer lashed out and snaked his hand around my throat, chocking the life out of me.
“Yield; die in glory. Let the people watch as their God destroys his wicked son; who crawled up from bellow, draped in shadows.”
Something moved inside of the armor, and suddenly every speaker, every piece of glass, every pane of metal in the city was an amplified speaker.
“You see, my chosen? The wicked cannot avail their evil ways. I will cast them from the garden. Cast them into the darkness while I bring my people light. Daughter! Conclude your business with the abomination, and witness my ascent.”
Galactica turned, her hair whipping in the wind and soaked through. Roger made for a weary grab, but she countered and blasted a ray of pure sunlight into him that nearly knocked him off the opposite side of the platform; haggard resolve had him grasp the side just as he rolled over. Gliding gently, she landed next to Kenneth.
Thats when I saw it.
Still was choking me, forcing me to the ground, I struggled in vain.
“Bear witness the the new dawn of humanity; a new age for all life across the cosmos…” awe and wonder shook his voice and it boomed across the city as rainwater danced on every surface. “An age of domination, The Age of Destroyer!”
With his free hand raised, some internal mechanism activated the device; enormous turbines roiled in the machine and the glowing cables lit fire.
“You see, son? My genius! This will send a message across the stars to every Kenix Kil in every time; and infect his computer with my virus; annihilating their own worlds and drawing the timelines together. Then we will watch as the sun rises and they all appear before us to tear each other apart; cementing my reign as the master of time!”
“It’s done.” I whispered.
“It is finished, said the Lord.” Thunder rumbled and lighting arced off the massive spike towers.
“Now,” he bellowed against the storm. “It… ENDS!”
Destroyer raised his hand as if to conjure a spell, but after a few seconds, nothing happened. The rain still fell in heavy sheets, and Roger had climbed back onto the disk; but the machine still roiled, and reality remained very much the same.
“I told you.” I gritted through clenched teeth and Destroyers massive hand. “It’s done; you failed father. This is our triumph.”
He wheeled a heavy look on me, and the fire of damnation lit his eyes.
“Why? Because you deem yourself flawless? But what of you’re adopted son?” I choked on rivers of rain flowing down Destroyers arms.
He turned to his son.
“What does he mean?”
Kenneth was presiding over the controls of the device and shrugged.
“Do not listen to him, father; he’s trying to trick you. The signal went out as planned.”
Destroyer slammed me into the wet ground and roared towards Kenneth.
“Then where is my army? Where is my champion of time? “WHERE?” He screamed the words like thunder.
“I’m looking.” Calm permeated his movements, but worry was growing in Kenneth’s eyes. Galactica was staring across the rainy span at Roger who waiting cooly and impossibly strong; the two had wounded each other, but the respite had drawn in them fresh strength, and they waited only for the grand verdict of Destroyer’s schemes to begin the battle anew.
I gritted my teeth and winced with pain, rising; my movements heavy with exhaustion.
“Perhaps he is with his mother on Cypress?”
“Quiet, mortal.” Destroyer said casually.
But Kenneth stopped typing, and the color drained from his face.
“Wh-what. What did you say.?”
“Hmmm? What meaning does a Homeric poem hold?” Destroyer asked fitfully, aware of the strain between his broken spawn.
“The Hymn of Aphrodite; it was a favorite of yours was it not?”
Destroyer turned slowly to regard me once more.
“It has it’s merit I suppose. Why?”
“No.” Said Kenneth the elder.
“What? What is he talking about.”
”You” I spat. “I only stayed with you a short while as a child, but I remember your penchant for the poetry of antiquity; the Hymn of Aphrodite in particular; the story of the savage mortal who begged the goddess to mend his broken heart.”
Kenneth looked at me with fear frozen into his eyes.
“You read it so often,” I continued, “that in my childlike way I honestly thought that perhaps it was about you; that perhaps Aphrodite Cyprian was my mother.”
“It’s impossible!” My counter screamed.
“And so for many of my passwords; passwords that were merely formalities after retinal scans, DNA and voice recognition; I would laugh to to myself when typing it; just as he must have laughed when typing it into you vast, linked network that spans your civilization. An inside joke I held with my mind alone. Until now.”
Slowly, with the reverence of time, Destroyer turned to his adoptive son.
“How could I know it happened in both times?” He cried, frantic.
“You fool.” Destroyer took long, laborious strides through curtains of rain towards him. “You mongrel, you impostor!”
He took hold of Kenneth with am awesome swoop of his fist and lifted his progeny into the sky.
“You are not my son! You have failed me, failed our entire plan!”
“Please how could I know? It is impossible!” Kenneth writhed.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” I quoted.
“The boy is right.” Destroyer said with a sudden calm and control that was disarming. “You have failed; but for trusting you, the fault rests with me. Perhaps the pain of growing up so alone is what made my son who he truly is. We will not know; not now.”
A flash erupted from my fathers hand, a discharge from one of his deton beams that incinerated Kenneth in a red mist of powdered blood.
“No matter,” he said, turning back to the controls. “We can rectify this-“
“No! NOOOOOO!” Galactica screamed.
I hadn’t noticed until she landed a moment ago; her movements, her hand on his. To him, she was a prize, and to my father a trophy. But to Galactica Solarian; it was love.
“Calm yourself, daughter he was not worthy of you.” But it was too late.
She shot across the platform at impossible speed; the sonic boom shattering rain and air alike; nearly toppling the advanced armor.
“Roger; help her!” I said, racing towards the machine controls.
Roger looked to the melee and started to make his way towards it.
“I don’t know; I think she can get this don’t you think?”
Ironically; for all the complexity of my fathers plan, for all the intrigue and the mind games that we parried back and forth with; this moment was my true fear. The fact was the AI program that he… Than I had written was too complex for me to decipher in a few months, let alone hours; but what I had done was delete the original message that infected the virus and added one of my own. Now, it was up to some other Kenix Kil in some other time; we had done what we came for. The problem would be surviving to tell the story, and I was not yet sure that was an option.
I activated the console and found that indeed the machine had worked, but it was stalling; something was happening that was beyond the reach of modern science to keep us in limbo.
Meanwhile, Galactica pummeled Destroyer, rage snaking down her face in white hot tears that smoked in the rain. Roger and she fell into their old timing that they had never known here; she throwing and him slamming into the hard ground; tag teaming the self proclaimed God like a rag doll.
It lasted nearly a minute before it ended.
”ENOUGH!” came the cry booming across the city, and a shimmering hand ignited the air around the Solarian. Galactica screamed and threw her head back in agony. “This impudence ends now!” My father rose, smoking and mangled; but still very much alive.
Neural flare. Kenneth Light… I had many counters to Galactica back at home, in my city. Hot spots for grid wide stun shock, the jet and the car; I had even developed a oil like sludge that feasted on sunlight and was marginally effective and draining her powers at night. But they were all just that; stun and shock, biding time until someone like Roger could show up. Still, everyone had a weakness, and science was not needed for Galactica, not truly. When she was younger, Galactica’s mind had been imprisoned by a psychic on her home world. Not like the subtle guidance of my father, it was a full invasion of her psyche, and it left deep scars that even time could not heal. It was her one soft target; the spirit, and my father knew it as well as I did. I had… experimented with a wavelength of radiation designed to flood her neural transmitters past the Solarian blood brain barrier. It wasn’t a kill, but it unfocused her and made her thoughts and moods erratic. I could never make it work. My father clearly had.
“This treachery ends now!”
He made his way towards her, to finish her, and I was about to call out Rogers name, but the warrior was already in motion. He slammed into Destroyer and with a fury of earth shattering blows knocked him farther and farther back. Here was the true test of our mission; for all my intelligence, all my tech, it came down to this; powerful blows in the dark.
My stomach curdled at the thought. I donned the mask of the night that I might save those my father and the criminality that he created would wrong; I did want to help people, I did want to make a difference. Still, my father disliked the common practice of the melee; and often I could not contend with the foe toe to toe. But I knew the game, and I knew people who could survive his furry.
Deep inside, at least some part of my darkness, my shadows and my secrets dwelled with that fact that when it really came down to it, I was playing game; a cosmic game of chess with my father, and we were sacrificing lives to win it.
I broke from my thoughts with the grey light of dawn managing to filter through shreds of cloud; behind me Galactica muttered and wailed to herself, and before, Destroyer had Roger in his grasp. He fought and struggled, but even the damaged tech of the Doctor was outmatched for the strongest man alive.
“Inquisitor; you are retired.”
But before he could hurl my friend from the precipice, a nightblade soared through the air and exploded near him.
I had thrown it, apparently. Stupid, it did nothing.
“Coward.” I heard myself say as thunder rumbled farther off.
Destroyer wheeled a hatful look on me.
“You.” He said, dropping Roger.
I wanted to block, I wanted, needed to be faster. But I wasn’t.
He sailed across the wet mettle at amazing speed, and his clenched fist hammered into my face with the force of long fired hate. He went low and I was too slow. The side of my mask exploded, tearing off and exposing half my face with a garden of purple bruises flowering.
“Where is your plan now, Nightflight? Where is your champion, traitor?! Answer me!”
The blows kept coming; Galactica wept, and roger struggled to rise. The training told me what to do. Gas, flash, swingline; all viable options. But I was spent. For me, the game was over. Perhaps I had mated my father and sacrificed my Queen. Perhaps I had only taken his rook. No matter; the play was done.
My shoulder broke and my spine dislocated.
I waited to die.
“ANSWER ME! Before I kill you, tell me your grand scheme now? How could you ever hope to defeat me, eh? Come now Kenneth. Kenneth Light; soon to die, traitor and fool; Let the world see me break you; let the peasants have their pageantry!”
My armor was nearly spent, the ground hammering and dented bellow me.
“What the…?” It was Roger.
I noticed just as the blows ceased. The rain had stopped; not stopped fully, but literally stopped moving. All was quiet with the world; serene and peaceful and for a moment I thought I truly was dead.
But then, with infinite pain, I rolled over to see my father turn, and behind him, he stood tall.
“Well well. The champion.” My father said sardonically.
“Doctor.” He replied; his stance easy, his quarter staph held low; a black space on his chest where the AI once was.
“Kenix you; have to…” I struggled to rise.
“Are you okay?” He asked simply.
“And you, Roger?”
“I’m fine..” The massive coil of organic steel was already climbing to his feet.
“So. You got my son’s message.” Destroyer acted casual, but fear trembled through the worlds like cold wind. “What was it, I wonder? What lie did my son feed you?”
“It wasn’t from him.” He said, turning. “It was from you.” Kenix smiled.
“Me?” Roger pursed his forehead.
“Yes. That’s why I knew it to be true. You told me what he had done; what he was doing. I have spent… spirits, I have spent a mellenia hunting down and killing my copies all over time.” A sadness smoked through the steady rain. “But it is over now; I have corrected the Doctor’s work.”
“All that remains is…” but my father never finished. With speed; instant, impossible speed that comes only through the precise control of time, Destroyers massive armor; his home and his tomb that slept him through the ages exploded and mangled; fell into ruin and rusted as an age passed over it like water. Kenix followed through with several quick blows; well placed and minimally struck. A sharp cry and then the groan of pain followed; and it was done.
Kenix let a long, slow sigh escape his lungs, and then a smile opened across his shallow face.
“It is done.” He breathed. “That message, you must have sent it only a few moments ago?”
I nodded grimly.
“Such a small step. When I received it, I lapsed into solitude; away from my family, my wife. Oh yes, I had a wife. A son. I spent months in meditation and reading, wondering what to do, who to trust.”
Roger was plucking Dash from the swingline that dangled him bellow, and the boy was waking up. Galactica was crumpled to the ground.
“What made you trust me? I mean, what did I even ask?” The former inquisitor wondered.
Kenix turned to me, andI saw my broken face in the dark rim of his glasses.
Roger had been difficult to persuade. I needed him to ask Kenix to murder his duplicates around time, because in my estimation he was always supposed to be the only one. He hadn’t wanted to at first, had resisted the idea, ever hopeful of a better plan. But when I found the link between my father and Gravatar’s destruction of the X-Mansion, and the death of so many of his students, he capitulated.
Subjectively that was less than a week ago. I had then used a slew of drugs and stimulants to get the young Kenix to flash through time until we landed here.
“You asked me,” he answered, still looking at me, “To fix the mess that I had made. That destroyer would make. I confess, if Nightflight had done it I would not have responded immediately. You are your fathers son, Kenneth, and you both play people for pieces in a game; however noble your intentions.” He swung his gaze back to Roger. “But you, old friend; you have never made a choice without knowing it is the right one. Your affirmation is as strong as you yourself. If you would ask me to do this thing, then I must think on it carefully and with reverence.”
Beneath him, Destroyer groaned.
“And now we come to it at last; what shall I do with him?”
No one spoke. After a few moments, I heard myself speaking “I would ask that you don’t kill him. That you take him far, far away where he can trouble no one.”
My father looked at me through hate filled eyes as I spoke; human eyes beneath cold sheets of iron.
Keneix only smiled.
“Then you have not wholly lost your way. But before I go, there are a few things you must know. I cannot-”
“Send us back. I know.” I said grimly.
“Wha?” Dash said, suddenly awake.
“I am sorry. The moment my abilities manifested itself in your timeline, that was when Destroyer found me; one his his great machines registering the surge of power. When I killed that boy before he returned to that dank bar a subjective few moments later, it halted the Doctors search; that is where your timeline has restarted, and there is now another Kenneth Light, another Roger Armstrong. Even young Dash is there; his power not yet known. How your lives will fare now I cannot say, as my interference will now be lacking, for as Nightflight surly knows I too cannot return to that time, lest I risk Destroyer finding me one more.”
“So we’re stuck here?” Dash said, standing.
“I’m sorry.” I scowled.
But the boy only shrugged.
“Honestly I didn’t think we were coming back anyway. Oh well.”
“Then I must leave you.” Kenexi said, moving to Roger. “Goodbye, old friend.” The two shook hands, Roger’s face a little more than a little confused.
“Er, yeah. Bye.”
Slowly, Galactica stirred.
“Be careful,” I said, crouching low, “She’s-”
“She is fine; I accelerated her metabolism to counter the Doctors device.”
He knelt to her, and stroked a hand across her brow as her eyes squinted open.
“Do, do I know you?” She whispered.
“You will have, once.” He said, rising.
He then stood before me.
“Nightflight. I cannot thank you sincerely; for all my meditation, for all my supposed transcendence above the human condition, I am still a man, and my anger at the situation falls to you for exposing the wound.”
“I know.” I gritted out.
“But. Someday, when I have had time to be at peace; when the blood of my brethren is not so fresh on my hands, and when I have lived civilly for a while and not like the monstrous beast that I have been these past thousand years; I will be truly thankful for you.” He extended his hand.
“What are… friends for?” I said, shaking his.
With a smile, he walked away from me and knelt before my father, picking his up by his purple lapels.
“Goodbye, friends. It is my hope we do not meet again; and that we are all of us safe.”
But the Destroyer, mustering the last of his failing strength turned a rusty finger towards his son.
“Kenneth;” He said, a man once more. “I will return for you.”
And with that, they were gone, and the rain fell once more, but the storm had lessened and thunder rumbled far, far away. My mask was a ruin, and I tore it away, feeling the last of the downpour on my face.
“Man.” Said Dash in the vacuum of conversation.
“What will you do now?” Galactica asked, standing. Roger tensed.
“She’s safe.” I said, raising my hand. “My fathers manipulation is powerful, but once broken the effects fade quickly.”
“I’m sorry.” She said shyly to Roger, who only shrugged.
“Eh. I could have taken you.” The two smiled.
“Sooo what uh, what she said; what are we going to do now?”
“What we always do.” I heard myself suddenly saying. “Protect the world. Their leader is gone, their government in ruins; this world will need us now more than ever. Without my fathers interference, there will be no AI to bind them. No technology to subjugate them, and perhaps even the latent mutations in the few will manifest. This is our world now, and we will fight for it.”
“Will it be enough?” Galactica asked. “After all, it isn’t really your world.”
“Neither is it your’s,” I said. “But will you stay?”
A sad smile crossed her face. “Yes. I will.”
“Speaking of,” said Roger, “Why did you attack Destroyer?”
“Love.” I said. “My father does not understand the concept outside of using it to manipulate people.” I turned and locked eyes with Galactica. “But she was in love.”
“Was?” she corrected me.
Shame hit me, and I stepped backwards and let the deep shadows created by the machine swallow me, bringing sorrow to her face.
“Oh don’t worry, that’s the closest thing he gives to a smile.” Dash said coolly. The others looked at him. “Im not even joking here…”
“So; where do we start?” Roger crossed his arms.
“Light Towers; the heart of the Empire.” I said. “It will take us some time to understand it all fully, but it will be worth it.”
“Why?” Roger asked.
“Because,” I said, stepping into the gathering light of day. “Somewhere, some other Kenneth Light is donning a cape a cowl for the first time, or perhaps leaving that darkness behind forever. Somewhere Roger Armstrong is at school, not yet aware of the awesome power that grows inside. Somewhere, our world is safer, happier; that has to be enough.”
“But Kenix is still alive.” Said Roger harshly. “Immortality, infinite power; we can’t know that it will no corrupt him.”
“You’re right; we can’t. But we don know that if it does; if he or anyone else apears with such power, that that future will at least be our to win or lose; ours to hold, not the mad dream of the man who wanted to be a god.”
“Fair enough.” Said Roger, hopeful.
“And us? What do we fight for now?” Dash stepped next to me.
“Justice.” Said Roger, nodding.
“Vengeance.” I scowled.
“Hope.” Said Galactica, smiling at me.
“Oh my god that was actually the lamest thing I have ever heard.” Dash let his head fall into his hands.
“What do you fight foe then?” asked Roger.
“Well, look at us; you, me, nights and the babe; we got the band back together!” he said, smiling.
My gaze fell over the vast city, and the sun dragged itself into the open sky, breaking the clouds like a fleeing army, and bathing the world in the soft orange glow of dawn.
In the high mountain passes bellow Iiboshi, space twisted one last time. Kenix walked to the tree and disrobed his synthetic clothing and advanced weapons, doning the clothing he had left there months ago. He felt a equalibrium inside of him he had never felt; never in any time. Taking away his sunglasses, he prepared to bind his eyes under a heavy cloth, as he often did to protect others from his power, but found not blue glare in the lenses in his hands.
Finally, it seemed, he had found peace.
The boat had born him into the deep waters, and there he had let his heaver weapons and staff fall to the bottom of the sea. Now, a bright fire blazed into the night and erased any presence of the future from the pristine landscape.
With the coming dawn, he traveled across the mountains and to the small village bellow the pine laden peaks. Snow was gathering in soft, white splendor for the coming winder, and smoke rose from the mess of raised wooden houses.
He wandered through the town, taking it all in as if for the first time. The smell of horseflesh, and the hot steam that blew across the streets from the springs. The cool autumn breeze bore him past Hirogi’s hut; the steel clamor of the blacksmiths hammer never ceasing.
And there, on the edge of town, bellow an ancient cherry tree was his home.
She waited there, on his porch as he knew she always did when he went out campaigning. Subjectively, he had been gone only a few months.
Papa! His son cried, surprising him from behind; his wife looking up from her needlework at the shout.
He knelt down and scooped up his boy, removing his blades and placing them on the wooden hutch.
Ah ha, how is my boy? Being helpful to mommy?
Always. He smiled.
His wife came to him with a kiss, reserved and proper as society dictates; but the love and logging was there in her eyes for any to see.
Husband; you are back. I- I had almost given up hope.
There is always hope. He said gently, and kissed her again.
You will be back for the winter? She asked, helping him inside.
No; I am back for good. I have settled my… debts where they need be settled. I won’t be going away anymore, Katsumi.
She beamed as they stepped onto the porch
You are sure?
I promise. My story, dear wife, is done.
They stepped into the house, and the cold mountain air blew through the town, out past the fragrant fields and down the valley floor to the waiting sea bellow.
“Okay okay thats the bell everyone sit – Tommy, stop playing with your gum our its detention. Thanks everybody lets try to make it through Monday, okay?”
The noisy class settled down and Mrs. Miller sat at her desk.
“Okay everyone were learning about medieval Japan today; can anyone tell me what years that – Mr. Armstrong, so good of you to join us.”
Roger turned while as the class turned their eyes on him.
“I ugh.. I was…”
“Please sit down, Mr. Armstrong.”
Roger did as he was bade and sank onto his desk. A few moments later, he felt Derek poke him with a pen.
“So what?” he whispered, Mrs. Miller writing dates and names on the chalkboard.
“So this weekend! Are you going?”
“I don’t know, De.”
“C’mon man; Ryan is going, she digs you, you dig her; when are you two just going to get it over with?”
“I’m in class here, De”
“So? I’m in class too; doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the spoils, right?”
Roger sighed and lifted his head from the desk, carful to make sure Mrs. Miller wasn’t watching.
“Look… I, er. Saw Kelly the other day. At the party last night…”
Derek’s eyes were wide as saucers.
“Wait wait wait; when you say you saw her you mean seven minutes in…” he said, hardly whispering.
Roger sunk lower until his head pounded the desk.
“You’re serious? Kelly Price?”
Derek clenched his eyes and his fists, opening and closing his mouth but producing no sound. Roger didn’t look up.
“Are you ready to say it?”
“Yes, and I want to remember this.”
Roger sat up and turned in his seat to face his friend.
“Okay.” Derek took in a deep breath. “Go.”
“You were right.”
Silence hung between the two, only Mrs. Millers seemingly far away voice and the clatter of chalk on the board could be heard.
“And,” Roger sighed, “I’ll never do it again.”
Derek opened a broad smile. “Yeah, right.”