He glides along the edge of Inner Space, skimming the very rim of existence as a surfer rides the cresting waves. Heart fluttering like a caged songbird, straining against rusty chains.
Darkness envelops his soul, black veins thudding against his flesh with each shaking step, each ragged, prolonged heartbeat.
He is a machine built for fighting.
Memories flash by in the blue light of his consciousness, a panorama of dull colors.
His mother holding him, a warm afterglow of summer sunlight highlighting her features. Making them softer, somehow. The humidity, the air had been dense and warm, a few late insects swarming lazily around the green bushes.
His parents standing together in the shade of a tree lit from behind by a gentle orange sunset. Beckoning. Come home, Isa, our child.
Ice cream dripped from his fingers, reduced to pink sludge in the afternoon heat. His shirt a mess, covered with grass stains and the warm pink liquid that also coated his right hand.
His father laughed as he scooped Isa up into his arms.
"You're a real mess, Isa. Let's get you cleaned up."
Nobody will clean the blood from his hands.
He is drifting, losing purpose, losing himself to the void above.
An inhuman shriek tears itself from Isa's chest as his body convulses violently. Thick rivulets of red streaming out between clenched fingers. Ravaged. Damaged.
Convulsive sparks of pain rip through a hopelessly twisted mess of blood and muscle that used to be a leg.
Breathe in, breathe out. The pain is growing, a raw visceral pink. Breathe in. Fingers are wet, sticky. Breathe out. Three shots to the chest, each one a burning, writhing worm, seems to burrow deeper into my body, destroying something precious.
Dumb. Just dumb. Why am I lying here, helpless and in pain?
His gun is on the ground, a few feet away. Isa reaches for it, bloody fingers shaking uncontrollably, his good leg straining, slipping in blood from the other leg as it is dragged along behind him, moving in unnatural, stuttering jerks like a piece of failing machinery.
He is screaming, tears stinging his eyes, streaming down his face, tasting bile in his mouth. His teeth are clenched in an almost feral snarl, fighting the pain, fighting everything.
Crawling sideways, muscles pulling, protesting. The pain spikes up into a wailing, maddening pitch before crashing down on his body, crushing the air from his lungs. Chest on fire, three entries, no exit wounds. Burning, burning, burning.
Cold. Blood losing heat. Losing blood. A thin film of sweat coats his skin. Cold to the touch. Numb fingertips close clumsily around the barrel of the gun, smooth and cool.
The agony rises, a counterpoint to the cruel chill starting to spread through his hands, his entire body.
He holds on to it with as much strength as he can muster. The cannon sword feels like some imitation of a feeble lifeline, designed to protect, to kill everything that stands in the wielder's way.
He turns his head and vomits on the ground.
Three shots from a stupid soldier, soldiers he'd killed by the dozen, heard their screams as they were shot down. Was this how they had felt, as the blazing projectiles pierced their armor, their skin? Just enough time to scream, to suffer.
Isa smiles bitterly, edges of bloodless lips twitching up into a painful rictus. Whatever. For him, remorse feels as distant as the stars itself.
Towers of black obsidian rise, shadowed by a titan, a monstrosity the size of several buildings, put together into a tangled mass of polygonal structures, controlled by animal instinct alone. A Ruffian's cry tears through the forest of gutted buildings, ready to collapse in upon themselves.
New York City burns with a strange fire, a fire of terror, feeding on millions of lives...
Saki was hunted down, by the will of the Creators. He had been powerful enough to rule, to destroy a planet. The name of his first sin: Rebellion. The name of his second sin: Possessing power that no human being should be allowed to witness, let alone use. His punishment: To lose himself entirely, to murder thousands of soldiers, millions of innocent lives. To leave his son alone in the world, in the hands of a ruthless intergalactic military organization...
And that was also his sin.
"...found the kid in the city..."
"...he has potential..."
"That's it. I won't cry anymore."
Isa wiped the tears from his cheek with the back of his hand, smearing the salty trails all over his face in the process. The skin around his eyes was red and puffy, and the eyes itself were in shadow. A look of a kid who'd just had his entire childhood stolen from him.
The man's eyes never left Isa's face. His black eyes
were fixed, contemplating, carefully considering. Or maybe he was just bored. Isa couldn't tell, with those eyes.
After a moment, the man turned to leave. "Good boy. Your parents would be proud."
That was all he had said.
"Will they? Will they be proud of me?"
The first of his many days at HQ.
Soldiers spill out onto the roof of the building, their footsteps echoing, harsh light from their helmets blinding Isa momentarily. Machine guns click as they step into formation.
Isa chokes, coughs, trying to remember how to breathe.
He struggles inwardly, lips forming silent words that he can't comprehend, consciousness blurring, vision fading fast.
He wants to see her, he misses her voice, her face, her smile, her warm hands.
It is not a name, it is more of a plea.
Back arching, he screams, face a pale mask of warped terror and contorted fury.
Bullets tear through his torso, his legs, arms. His entire body like a string puppet in the hands of some mad puppeteer. His world turns red.
"The Creators, the gods...what a joke."
There is a moment of total silence, a calm before the storm. Energy seems to rush into Isa's body, like water into a center of a whirlpool. Absorbing the energy, expands, contracts, grows. A heartbeat starting, rolling over the lines of soldiers like a path of a seismic wave traveling through the earth. It is low, thrumming, a symbol of power.
Guns fire, glowing bullets and scorching lasers sweeping the entire screen.
A single swipe, a tap on the remote, is all it takes to annihilate the first row of soldiers. The ships go down next, trailing smoke from torn wings, burning engines. A cascade of fire. His soul spirals endlessly into the void.
The screen fills with explosions.
Isa, alone in the ruins of a city, surrounded by debris and mutilated bodies, burning wreckage of a one-sided battle. The standing buildings seem to stretch towards the red sky, illuminated by the harsh light of the fires. Flickering, moving, and finally dwindling as day turns into night.
Floating, cannon out, ready to shoot anything that stands in his way. His heart beats an empty rhythm like the deep basses of a funeral march,
Floating, in a dead city, surrounded by ghosts.
"A god of war..."
"When I grow up, am I gonna be a monster like daddy?"
The screen fades to black as Isa screams into the night sky.
The stars glitter.