AN: I went over this TWICE, correcting spelling errors. God, I hope I got all of them. Oh, and would it kill you people to R&R?
The First Generation
They finally had official rankings, now that there were nearly twenty of them and more on the way. Isley looked at the listings:
Isley looked down the rest of the chart for Alexander and Andre. Alexander was number nine. Andre, disconcertingly, was number twenty one. There were only twenty two warriors of the organization.
"Congratulations," Andre said, showing up. "On being number one, I mean."
"Yeah, and I see that you're..."
"Yeah," Andre said. "I'm the worst."
"Hey, now, there's someone worse than you," Isley said.
"A blind shaker. I should bloody well hope that I'm better than her," Andre said. The derisiveness with which he said it reminded Isley that he had never known Arthur. No one who knew Arthur could ever had been derisive of him. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I've got the best ability to sense yoma energy of us all--hell, I run circles around everybody in that department, but I just don't have the speed or strength to act on it."
"Don't worry, if you train, learn to predict your enemies' movements, you'll do better," Isley said encouragingly.
"Learn to predict my enemies movements? You don't understand how good my ability to sense yoma is--by reading yoma energy, I literally know how my opponent is going to move before he even initiates it, often before he knows what he is doing himself!" Andre said. "I lose anyway, because I am not fast enough to act on it. Isley...I wish I was more like you."
What do you say, when someone says something like that? Isley didn't consider himself a role model--surely, he was too young for people to be looking up to. He wasn't a hero, or something... Not a hero? You kill yoma for a living! Have you got any idea how crazy that is? You take things for granted, and sometimes you realize that it's completely crazy, and it's a breathtaking moment. This isn't the time to be distracted. Think of something to say! "Andre, you're not me. You're you, and you have your own personal strengths and weaknesses, which are different than mine, and so you can't be me, and shouldn't try. You should try to be the best you that you can be. You can overcome weaknesses, or even turn them into strengths. Until recently, the strongest fighter in the Organization was a blind woman. Andre, I..."
"Isley, you've got a mission," Rubel said, showing up out of nowhere. "Find Rigald and report to my office."
Isley jumped. "How do you do that?"
"It's called skill," Rubel said. "Now, go find Rigald, and report to my office."
"Yes, sir," Isley said. "Remember what I said, Andre," and he walked away. To find Rigald, Isley simply looked for the most powerful yoma signature aside from himself. It lead him outside of the compound, and into Sutafu proper. Isley followed a twisting maze of buildings, until he found Rigald, talking to a very pregnant human woman. "Hey, Rigald: Rubel has a mission for us."
"What are you doing here?" Rigald demanded.
"Uh, looking for you. Like I said, Rubel has a mission for us," Isley said.
"Friend of yours?" the woman asked Rigald.
"If you want to call it that. This is Isley," Rigald said.
"Oh, so you're the number one fighter in the Organization," the woman said (much to Rigald's annoyance). She stuck out her hand. "I'm Annabel. Pleased to meet you."
Isley took her hand and shook it awkwardly. "...Likewise," he said.
She kissed Rigald's cheek. "Well, I shouldn't keep you. I'll see you around, my Silver-Eyed Lion King," she said.
Isley grinned evilly. "'Silver-Eyed Lion King? Oh, I am going to get sooo much mileage out of this one!"
Rigald glared at Isley. "You do, and you die."
Isley laughed. "Whatever you say...Silver-Eyed Lion King." And then seriously, "Would this be the reason you looked so concerned when you heard about Venus' and Alexander's baby?"
Rigald sighed. "Yeah. The baby she is carrying is mine. I have heard rumors, about the babies that are born to us being stillborn or dying shortly after birth, and I'm...concerned."
Isley squeezed Rigald's shoulder affectionately. "Come on. Lets not keep Rubel waiting." And so they returned to the Organization, and went to Rubel's office. "You wanted to see us, sir?"
"Yes," Rubel said. "Over the past month, there have been a rash of disappearances in Sutafu and the surrounding area. Small children have been disappearing in the dead of night from their homes, usually to turn up dead and disemboweled weeks later."
"Do you think it's a yoma?" Rigald asked.
Rubel shook his head. "Not really, and for several reasons. Yoma don't usually go after children unless they're starving--there's simply not enough meat on their bones. The fact that there were usually adults in the houses with the children, and that they were untouched, emphasizes the point. Secondly, yoma tend to kill and eat their victims on the spot. Abducting their victims and returning their corpses later is simply not their style. Thirdly the bodies seemed to have been cut up with some sort of edged weapon, and the innards, while moved around and chopped up, seem to all be there. The wounds are sometimes stitched up, or show some signs of healing. Besides, I've asked the best sensors, and none of them have sensed anything out of the ordinary."
"Sounds like a human psychopath," Isley said. "Why are we getting involved?"
"Because people think that it's a yoma," Rubel said. "There are a couple of eyewitness accounts, which speak of a cloaked figure who has superhuman speed and strength. I don't want people thinking that Sutafu could ever be infested with a yoma, so find this killer, and kill him. You're dismissed."
Isley and Rigald left the office. "So, you got any ideas about how we go about this?"
"Why don't you decide, oh glorious Number One?"
Isley sighed. "Rigald..."
"We find out who has been hit last, and we stake out their house. If the killer returns the body, we've got him," Rigald said.
Isley shrugged. "That's as good a plan as any," he said.
Isley and Rigald sat hidden in an otherwise empty house across the street from the latest victims with all the lights turned off. Night had fallen several hours ago, and they were bored. "You know, if it is a yoma that's doing this, as soon as it senses us, it'll run," Isley said.
"I doubt it. Even if it realizes that we're warriors of the Organization and not yoma, creatures which wouldn't give a shit what it was doing, it's not exactly anomalous for us silver-eyed folk to shack up with the locals around here," Rigald pointed out.
"Hm," Isley conceded. "So, you and this Annibel person...you serious?"
"Yeah," Rigald said. "We're actually engaged. The wedding will be in September."
"Oh? This is the first I've heard of this," said Isley.
"That's because this is the first I've actually told anyone of this," Rigald said. "I just don't know how to go about asking Rimuto for some time off." Rigald was slightly embarrassed as he said this.
"Why don't you ask Rubel, Silver-Eyed Lion King?" Isley asked.
"Stop calling me that, already," Rigald said. "Rubel's not much better than Rimuto, now that Emily's dead and Arthur's...what would you call it?"
"I believe the term we're going with is 'Awakened Being,'" Isley said.
Rigald frowned. "I don't like that. It makes it sound like a good thing, like it's positive. You know, 'my eyes were clouded, yet now I see,'" he said.
"You have a point there," said Isley, though that had never crossed his mind. "So, where are you getting married?"
"The Temple of Rabona," Rigald said.
"Why not the Temple of Teresa and Clare?" Isley asked.
"Worship of them has really gone out of favor, you know," Rigald said.
"What? Really?" asked Isley, surprised. "Why?"
"I don't know why, but yeah. Really," Rigald said.
"My parents were always adherents of them," Isley said.
"Maybe they'll come back into favor," Rigald reassured him. "Who knows? The masses are fickle, with regard to their gods."
"It's just...amazing," Isley said. "I remember hearing tales of their numerous adventures, exploits, and lovers throughout my childhood."
"That might explain why you were so permissive of Emily sleeping around on you."
"That's so funny, I forgot to laugh," Isley said dryly.
"So, what about you?" Rigald asked. "Are you seeing anybody?" Isley shook his head. "Still too soon?" Rigald asked.
"No, it's not even that," Isley said. "It's just that..." he sighed, thinking of a way to explain it. "Well, as you might imagine, my entire family were killed by a yoma. Part of the reason I wanted to be with Emily was because she was the strongest warrior in the organization--she wasn't going to die on me." In a dark way, it was kind of funny.
"Wow," Rigald said, in a you're boned tone of voice. "So, basically, any woman who is going to be with you has to be the most powerful creature in the whole world?"
"Pretty much," Isley said self-deprecatingly.
"Wow," Rigald said again. Then grinned. "Too bad the only Awakened Being in existence is the wrong sex."
Isley punched him lightly. "Oh, ha, ha." Then: "You sense that?"
"Yeah," Rigald said. "A powerful yoma signature--and it seems to be coming this way." The signature seemed familiar, but Isley couldn't quite place it. A cloked figure appeared out of nowhere, dropped the corpse of a small child on the house's doorstep, and dissappeared. "Holly crap, it's one of us!" said Rigald. They unsheathed their swords, jumped though the open window, and chased after the killer, who ran off into the wilderness. The killer entered a cave, and the two warriors followed after him, though they could hear crying and whimpering children from outside.
"Isley. Rigald. Welcome to my humble laboratory," said the killer.
"What the hell are you doing, Van?" Isley demanded, for of course it was he.
"As you predicted, they never did let me watch how they turned humans into Silver-Eyed Warlocks, Isley," Van said. "They don't want the information in too many hands, and besides, I'm on Rubel's permanent shit list. So, I thought I'd try to find out on my own. None of my test subjects have survived long, though." He pointed to a child who was on the floor on his back, moaning in pain. The complicated wound on his stomach looked infected. "That one has lasted the longest, and he doesn't have that much longer to live, i don't think."
"Why would you do this?" Rigald demanded.
"They took my child away," Van said. "There's this girl I was seeing." (What girl would be crazy enough to date you? Isley wondered.) "She birthed my daughter. I went away on a mission, and when I returned, the baby was gone. She claimed that it had died suddenly, but it had been perfectly healthy when I had seen it last, and besides, I can tell when she lies to me. And so...I got the truth from her," Van grinned. "A man in black with a shawl hiding his face took it, and told my woman to tell me she had died. Tell me, you know anyone matching that description?" He was of course referring to Ermita. "Likely, this is the truth behind all of the alleged miscarriages and sudden infant deaths that plague our children. And there is no mystery as to why they would do this, either; we're better than humans, so why wouldn't we replace them, if given the opportunity? Think about it: a world filled with our silver-eyed children, a new race, better than the old...a 'master race,' if you will. And, if I manage to create half-breeds who are outside of the Organization's control, there will be nothing stopping the new race."
Isley thought of a world of silver-eyed, blond-haired immortals. "And this is how you justify what you're doing to these children?" he demanded. He and Rigald charged him, but Van was fast, and jumped over them, heading towards the entrance. They chased after him, slashing at him with their claymores, but the criminal parried, running backwards. Van's greatest strength had always been his speed. Isley remembered that even on their first mission, Van had moved faster than the eye could see when he pulled that bandit's guts from his body. He was running backwards as fast as either of them were running forwards, and both of them were higher ranks than he was. Isley grazed his stomach with the tip of his sword once. It was deep enough to have been fatal to a human, but shallow enough not to be fatal to a warrior of the Organization. Isley had been trying to cut him in two. The look on Van's face revealed that he knew that, though he was faster than either of them, he knew that he was severely outclassed. He had never beaten either one of them even once in the tournament to decide the ranks, and now they were aiming to kill. Van got serious. He turned and fled at full speed, dropping his sword, even though such an object wouldn't slow down a warrior of the Organization overmuch. Isley and Rigald gave chase, but knew that they were not going to catch him. He lost them, but they didn't make it easy for him, chasing him until he fell completely off their radar at around dawn.
"That's the second time we've let a super-powerful bad guy escape into the wilderness," Rigald said, panting. "Do you know what this means?"
"Yeah," Isley said. "We totally suck."
Rubel listened to their story. "I will of course tell the other members of the Organization, but you must say nothing of this to anyone," he said. "We'll tell your fellow warriors that Van has Awakened, just like Arthur, and we'll tell the people of Sutafu that it was a yoma, and that we killed it. No charge, though, because we live here."
"Is what he said true?" Rigald asked. "About you people abducting our offspring?"
Rubel looked at him. "No. Why would you believe anything Van says?"
Isley and Rigald exchanged glances. Neither of them believed him. "What should we do about those kids still in the cave?"
"From what you said, it doesn't sound like they've got long to live. You might as well put them out of their misery," Rubel said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a meeting to get to."
Isley and Rigald left. "So...you think Rubel lied to us?" Isley asked.
"Yeah," said Rigald.
"So, then, what are we going to do about it?" asked Isley.
"What do you mean, 'we'?" Rigald asked.
"I assume you don't want your child to be killed," Isley said.
"Like I said: What do you mean, 'we'?" repeated Rigald.
"Well, I haven't actually told anyone about Annabel's pregnancy. I'm thinking that maybe, if I tell her to leave, I can pretend that we broke up, or something," Rigald said.
"Are you sure that you can stand never seeing your child, and never seeing your fiance again?
"If that's what it take for them to live," Rigald said. "It's really up to her, though. Whether she wants to stay, get married, and have a life without children, or run and protect our child. I don't want to force her into anything."
"Good man," Isley said. They left for Annabel's house.
"You mind? This is personal," Rigald said.
"Right, I'll hang back," said Isley. This was almost right at Annabel's door, though, so Isley was well within earshot while they were talking. Rigald knocked on the door, and she came out.
"What's the matter, my Silver-Eyed Lion King? Pre-wedding jitters?" She smiled sweetly as she said this.
"I wish it were that simple," Rigald said. "You see, I have reason to believe that the Organization have...done away with children of my kind, and will continue to do so. Including our child."
"Why?" Annabel asked.
"According to my source, they're afraid that if we're allowed to breed, we're eventually going to wipe out and replace humanity," Rigald said.
"Do you trust your source?" Annabel asked.
"In general, not as far as I can throw him. Which is actually pretty damn far. But on this...I think he's telling the truth," Rigald said. "Besides, I wouldn't put it past them. It seems like something they'd do."
Annabel sighed. "The truth is, I've heard...rumors. No one says it very loud, or in the open, but some say that something like that happens." She looked at Rigald pleadingly. "What do we do?"
"I don't think anyone at the Organization knows that you're pregnant with my baby, yet, aside from Isley there. If youskip town, go into hiding...our child might make it. But it would mean that we'd never see each other again," Rigald said. "Or...we could go with the other option. You could stay. We could go about our plans like we were planning on, get married in September...and forget about having children."
"My god," Annabel said, tears running down her cheeks. "Do you have any idea the choice you're asking me to make? So, I can have my child, or my man, but not both?"
"I'm sorry, Annabel. I never wanted to do this to you," Rigald said. "Know, though, that whatever you decide, I won't love you any less."
Rubel sat at a table with his compatriots and recited what Rigald and Isley had told him.
"What did you tell them of Van's accusations?"
"I claimed that they were false."
"Did they believe you?"
"Maybe. I don't think so."
"Will they tell anyone of their suspicions?"
"Maybe. I don't think so. If they tell anyone, it'll be Alexander and Venus, and Venus is our creature."
"It will be unfortunate if the warriors learn of this."
"It was a stopgap measure to begin with, not a true solution to our problem."
"How extensive is our problem?"
"The females don't seem to be having too many children, and, obviously, we'd know about the ones they do have. Besides which, it's harder for them to find sex partners amongst the humans than it is for the males. The males, however, have it easy in that department, and have been having bastard children, some of them in droves."
"Yes, it seems that it is the male warriors where the real problem lays. We can order the females to have abortions, worst case scenario; tell them that childbearing is dangerous for half-breeds, or something. But we have to do something about the male warriors."
"Castrate them when we make them, perhaps? Tell them it's a part of the transformation process."
"No, that may have adverse effect on their physical development. It seems that the best way to solve the problem of the male warriors is to not have male warriors at all."
"Before we do anything drastic, what are the numbers we're talking about here?"
"Of the seven pre-batch warriors, five are male; of the five first batch warriors, four are male; of the ten second batch warriors, seven are male; we also have three batches of warriors-in-training, of which seven are male, five are male, and six are male, respectively, bringing us to a total of thirty four males out of a total population of fifty two."
"You expect to get rid of thirty four people? Not to mention, anyone who objects to this?"
"Do you really want to face the consequences if we don't?"
"I want more detail on the problem at hand before we make a decision."
"There have been a total of thirty six children born to men of the Organization over the past two decades, and we found that an overwhelming majority of those children have been female. As a matter of fact, it appears that while some of the men can sire male or female children, others can only sire females."
"Interesting. Say, what sex were the yoma put into each kind?"
"We do not keep track of that kind of thing, and besides, a yoma's sex is not very obvious."
"Is it true that some of them have normal, human offspring?"
"Yes. Apparently human, at any rate, such as Van's recent offspring. The men who sire these appear to be a different 'type' than the 'type' that sire only daughters and the 'type' that sire either sex, and much, much rarer. In fact, Van is only the second of his kind to sire the apparently human offspring."
"Who was the first?"
"Ouch. Apparently, temperament plays no part in this."
"What of female warriors?"
"There have been only been five pregnancies carried to term, which is not nearly enough for any accuracy. Still, there have been nearly as many apparently-human children born to the females as the males, which would indicate that this 'type' is much more prevalent amongst females than males. Also, a few of them seem to be sterile."
"Can you be sure that they weren't just chaste?"
"With some of them, no, but with others, yes. Emily was never pregnant, and she had more sexual partners than some of the men."
"Okay, it is abundantly clear which sex would be the better one to keep, even without that thorough. The question is, how do we get rid of thirty four warriors and potential warriors? Especially without destroying our reputation, cutting our legs out from under us, or demoralizing the survivors?"
"Before we go into detail, we should vote on whether or not we should go about this rather extreme course of action. All in favor, say yea, all opposed, say nae." They voted. "Four in favor, two against. The motion passes. Now then, is the matter of how we are to accomplish this..."