Ky's desk was harnessed by a fresh piece of paper when he entered his office. At the sight of it, he thought, Oh, God, what now? But he couldn't avoid it. It called his name—for justice.
With some hesitation, he walked towards it. He kept his eyes on the paper on his clean desk before he picked it up. The paper was crisp and official, sent by the United Nations. It was clearly typed and was stamped with a seal at the right top.
Dear Ky Kiske, this letter requires your attention immediately. As a part of the Holy Order and the IPF, we feel you are best qualified to receive this letter. Without ado, I will get straight to the point and state that there has been reports of a Gear in a forest near a village in England called Rolling Hills. We are pleased to announce no one has been killed, but the village presses concern. There is a prize reward for it at five hundred thousand World Dollars if it is caught and killed. We are sending this letter to you first because of your qualifications. We hope you take this bounty and respond to us afterwards. When you do, the bounty money will be yours. Good luck.
The letter was unsigned by a name but had the title of the UN below instead.
Ky frowned as he lowered it and let it float down onto his desk again.
Another Gear? He hadn't heard from a Gear in a while now, and with them dying off these days, he was curious. His last kill had a dead look in its eyes, not raging or blood-thirsty.
He missed the old Gears he knew in a strange way. They killed man-kind, they made them suffer and live in fear; they were soldiers of war. And so was he. Life was simpler then—in a sense. Today, he was expected to keep reports in order, keep in contact with other countries with different matters, and make decisions of who was innocent or not. A few years ago, he knew who the enemy was. He was also beginning to think he was becoming domesticated now that the war was over.
No, that wasn't going to happen.
He straightened the paper on his desk and looked at the words. Fine, he would do it. And his journey would start today. The sooner the better. He thought by late afternoon he would arrive to his destination. He didn't want to waste must time, not with a Gear report.
* * *
Ky never liked the lag from airships, but he forced himself to pull himself together quickly. His investigation would start here at the airport and end by facing the reported Gear. He had no interest in the offered money, only finding truth about this Gear.
The pleasant country of Rolling Hills led up to its name. The landscape was blanketed by brilliant grasses where it rolled with soft hills and forests in the distance. It was warm and the sun shined down on his body as he walked the dirt path to the village. It was a quiet and peaceful place. The people greeted him silently with their eyes. They did not approach or speak to the stranger, although, so he had to open up instead. Were these the behaviors of a startled community?
He looked around past the ancient houses and light traffic of people to the edge of a dark forest, perhaps where the Gear could be hiding.
He walked further down the village's streets, closer to the forest. There he paused, staring into it, and as he did, a man stopped and looked him over. He noted his uniform and sword. When they noticed each other, Ky pointed to the forest.
"I heard there was a Gear around here," he said. "Where?"
"Yeah, there's a Gear here," the man said. "It's secluded deep in the forest called the Grove. But no one goes in there. I wouldn't go in there either, if I were you."
"Don't worry," Ky said. "I have experience with Gears. Has this Gear come into the village before?"
"Once," he said. "About a year ago."
"And you hadn't seen it since?"
"No, but it's still in there. Everyone knows it."
Ky frowned and looked at the forest again. "The Grove," the man said, then looked at the man. "I'm going to see what 's going on."
"I don't know—"
Ky raised his sword so the man noticed it and that he had the serious determination to kill the creature if it came to it. The man took a step back and waved his hands. "Okay, your funeral."
Ky glowered at him. "It will be the Gear's if it attacks me." He then turned and entered the forest, overstepping a few logs and piles of dead leaves. He felt eyes on his back as he went down a faint path left by failed fighters but he ignored them. He would put the village at ease when he returned.
* * *
The ground became stonier as he continued through the forest. Nothing had followed him, there had been no movement at his side or anything that turned him on edge.
Had the Gear been a rumor or maybe someone else had gotten to it before him? No, it had to be real. The UN wouldn't contact him like this if there wasn't a Gear out here.
No one said this was going to be easy.
He began to see stone markings sticking out of the ground. He squinted and veered his coarse slightly. Some were random carved stones and others were gravemarkers.
Ky bit his lower lip. Yes, there was something here, and as he went further down, he saw a dark figure across from him. He was standing in front of the opening of what could be the grove.
At first look, the figure had a human form, dressed in black with a short cropped top and a side-opened skirt. His hair was long and black. He was armed with a great scythe. He had red eyes that stared him down eerily. Ky sensed he was no man but a Gear, a rare humanoid Gear.
Ky frowned as he stood across from him. "Are you the Gear?"
The humanoid Gear took a defensive stance. "Stay away, officer. This is no place for you."
"Then this is it," Ky said. "This is where the Gear is being hidden. Let me see this Gear. Please, step aside. It is my duty as a police officer to—"
"Never! You are also a Gear killer!" the Gear snapped.
Ky spoke calmly. "Only if this Gear is a threat to others."
"You see yourself as just, don't you? You think killing Gears is the only way to solve humanity's problems."
"No, I was corrected by that years ago. And I want to be proven that Gears are no longer a threat again. Not without Justice."
"What do you think you'll do when you do see her?" The Gear glanced at his sword and frowned.
Her? Since when did Gears have genders? He supposed now she was like him.
"I have a feeling things will be different this time. If I go inside, I will come back out and tell the villagers she is no threat."
The Gear shook his head. "I will not risk it. Even past that badge, you are just like every other human. Now go back!" He raised his scythe and swung it. It nearly took Ky by surprise but the quick-footed Frenchman lifted his blade in time to block the strike. The two blades made sang a sharp note as they married together.
"I will not back down now," he said and gave a swing of his own blade. They struck together again, chiming. The Gear swung again and again, and upon each strike, Ky held his sword up to block him.
He drew back and held his sword high over his head with the tip pointing to the sky. He jolted it down with sparks flying as if lightning hit it. He then took a stance in front of his opponent while the white of his blade ran with electricity. The Gear jumped lightly but didn't draw back from his display.
"That won't stop me from protecting her," the Gear said and charged. As he came closer, Ky's head flooded with attacks he could inflict on the Gear so he could pass, but he didn't want to push it. He only needed to put his guard down long enough so he could find this Gear.
He quickly dipped to the ground and threw his foot out. He tripped him. He slashed his sword as he went down.
Ky stood, and so did the Gear, slowly. When he did, Ky thrust his sword across the air, releasing a charge of electricity. His opponent saw it coming and ran from its path. It struck a tree instead.
The Gear growled, then called, "Axe Beast!" Behind him, a strange creature that looked like it was made out of teeth came out of the ground and rushed at him.. Ky danced backwards at the sight of it and tripped as he did. He fell and hit the back of his head on the ground.
He laid there a few seconds, dazed, before he got to his feet again.
"If you want to live, leave," the Gear said.
"I said no!" Ky took a breath and locked his eyes on the Gear. "You leave me no choice. As an officer of the law, I order you to step aside. This is my last warning."
"Your stubbornness will be your downfall, human!" the Gear said. He began to raise a hand.
Ky gripped the handle of his sword tighter. "And the same!" He ducked down and arched his sword forward with a ball of electricity engulfing him. The Gear stood half blinded by the light as he flew at him, and struck him hard.
Ky slid to a stop. He looked down on the fallen Gear who laid on the ground, stunned. "I'm sorry," he said and dashed further into the forest.