Chapter 1: Hidden Within a Dream
Its pitch black. A young man wanders about in the dark. His breaths are desperate and hurried. For not only is the cave dark, but a atmosphere of evil weighs heavily on the air within. On top of that, he is completley naked without any weapons or armor to protect him from whatever might be lurking in the darkness. He rushes about the cave in search of some solace whether it comes in the form of making an exit into the sunlight or finding someone, anyone to acknowledge his existance again. Turning a corner, he is abruptly greeted by a giant door. With no other options, he pushes it open. With some effort, he gets it open. He tiptoes in, taking a few cautious steps. And is greeted with a horrible sound. A growl that seems to shake not only the earth, but his very existance. Frozen in his tracks, this young man can do nothing but raise his arms over his face in hopes of staving off any potential attack.
Glancing behind him, to his surprise and complete dismay, he does not see the door. He is trapped, in a dark place, a void of evil. The man is about to cry out for help! But it is in this desperate moment that a figure steps beside him and then past him. He cannot see her face well enough to recognize who she is, but even as she slips past him he recognizes the form of a girl, maybe about his age stepping confidently from the shadows to face whatever was lurking in the darkness. She carries a short sword and is wearing a protective chestplate. She carries herself boldly and confidently giving off an aura of someone who has fought her way through her fair share of difficult battles. And won them all.
She steps past him without even acknowledging him. He reaches out his arm as if to gain her attention, but she has her sights fixed on something else. Just before he touches her arm, another cry from the darkness pulls his attention away, this time in the direction the girl is headed. She stops and braces herself for combat. And before their very eyes, IT appears.
Horrifying in both appearance and presence, the leers at the girl with a toothy scowl. Perhaps most disturbing about the creature is its warped humanoid features. The monster seems to be almost one with the darkness as instead of legs, it bases itself into the ground, in its' own shadow. Broad shouldered and teaming with dark energy, the creature glares at the man and his mysterious companion through glowing red, demonic eyes. It is in this moment that the creature strikes.
A fist larger than any human being swings toward the girl, seeking to drive her into dust. The girl closed her eyes.
The man can do nothing but gasp in terror.
In a a matter of mere moments, she leaps out of the way, striking at the demon creatures hand at the same time. The monster cries out in a fit of rage, pulling back its wounded limb. Darkness seems to be leaking from the tear she created in its hand. The girl is in a combat stance now, sword prepared for another strike. Completley naked and without a weapon, the man is helpless to do anything but watch as she fights for her life against such a great evil!
Red eyes glowing and another deep growl, the creature is going to strike again! But this time, the creature does not strike with its fist. Instead, it opens its mouth. Some sort of energy begins to glow from within. The girl gasps, not prepared for what happens next.
The crimson eyes light up even brighter! In an instant, bolts of energy strike the ground, crackling upon the earth and lighting up this dark place, too bright for the human eye to see. The man shades his eyes, praying he is not struck by this devastating attack. And to his ultimate relief, as he opens his eyes, he is somehow completley unscathed.
But wait… No! The girl has been struck by the attack. She lays faceup on the ground, wincing in pain as she leans forward to get back on her feet. Blood leaks from a corner of her mouth, and as well and some scrapes have appeared on her face. The young man wants to move in to help her, but he finds he cant move! Is he paralyzed? He is sweating profusely now, a combination of anger in nerves welling up inside of him.
The creature has only wounded her, however and not her determination. She is on her feet again, panting as the attack had left her temporarily breathless. Once again she braces herself for combat, her sword in the ready position. The creatures eyes glow once more. The evil thing opens its mouth once again too, prepairing to launch that same devistating attack.
This time, she wont wait for it to happen. In what almost seems like slow motion, she charges forward. The air becomes bright again. The creature has almost prepared its energy attack. She closes in, ready to strike. But if she is hit by that attack again…
"STOP DON'T!" Rolf shouted, suddenly snapping awake. Realizing he is no longer in that same place he gazed around between ragged breaths in a panic. Even though it was dark, his eyes had adjusted as well as they could and he was able to identify a few things right away. A small room with light blue, metallic, and undecorated walls. A warm breeze was causing the curtains above the window to sway gently outward. His clock and glass of water were right where they were supposed to be: on the nightstand beside him.
He was laying in bed in his room in the capital city of Paseo on a planet of the Algol star system, Motavia. A place that was better known to him as "home".
"That dream again…" he mumbled to himself, rubbing his forehead as if to purge the memory from his mind. His forehead was moist with sweat as it all too familliarily was. The dream he kept having was always so intense, he woke up with the feeling that he had actually been there. Instincively, he reached for a glass of water he had kept waiting in anticipation of having this violent dream and took a big gulp. It was lukewarm, but still pretty satisfying.
After finishing, Rolf rubbed blindly at the surface of his clock until he found the button that caused it to glow. He could make out the numbers "4:47", causing him to laugh in disbelief. "The same time as yesterday. What are the chances?" he asked nobody. This dream seemed to haunt his mind at the same moment every night and it made him feel almost insane. He wondered for a moment whether or not those numbers represented any sort of devil hour, but dismissed it quickly, not being the supersticious type.
What Rolf hated most was that with the hour being nearly 5 already, and having such bizzare images etched in his memory, he couldn't imagine going back to sleep with any success given that he needed to be at work at 7. Who was that girl? What kind of demonic creature was that? Why was I naked? Without answers to questions like these, no sane person could expect to get any rest at all.
He sprawled back out onto the bed, stuffing his face into the pillow. Why now? he thought to himself in self-pitty. Today was supposed to be an important day for him according to Linda, the secretary of the agency. He was to meet with the Commander himself for a special assignment of some sort. It had been a long time since he had seen the Commander, even though he had been placed in his care at a young age, only a few years after he had been orphaned at age 10. Sometimes, he took for granted that he was practically raised by the man who oversaw political matters of the entire planet. So naturally, this was something pretty important, or so he figured. This marked just his 3rd mission after years of training which began in his childhood. Maybe some hunters were up to no good, or the Scoundrels were at it again and he needed to investigate. Something that could whet his blade's appetite. Either way, this was going to suck without a good amount of sleep.
He rolled over onto his side and thought about sleeping again. For a moment, he thought about Nei, but he knew she was alright . She had grown accustomed to sleeping on her bed he had placed for her in the living area and really rarely woke up in the middle of the night, well at least to the best of his knowldge. Hell, she was having a much easier time of sleeping than he had lately. 7 o clock would probably be a little early for her and he didn't like waking her when he didn't have to, so he worried for a moment that he wouldn't have a chance to say goodbye, but remembered that she was mature enough to realize what was going on when he was gone in the mornings. Rolf had begun to consider the fact that the divine had or whatever had made her had probably written some super-sleep ability to sleep into her genetic code or something.
Not to mention the rate at which she was maturing.
She's growing up too fast, Rolf thought to himself, reliving the moments in which he found her as a child, which seemed like it had just barely happened days ago to him. I wonder if this is how a brother feels? He thought. He had never had a sister after all, and his feelings for her were warm and unlike those feelings he had for the Commander, that was for sure. Thinking about her helped to calm his mind, helping him to eventually doze off again.
Through compound eyes, the mosquito homed in on its target. The grotesque creature could almost taste a warm meal of human blood. Only a few feet away now, the creature readied its blood sucking mouthparts and prepared to land on this unprepared prey… the creature might have gotten away with it too!
Only it was over 10 times the size of your average pest.
"HA!"Rolf shouted, with a wild swing of mid-legnth sword. Rolf was greeted with some satisfying slurping sounds as the creatures insides were being sliced apart. The bug was killed imeadiatly. But much to his chagrin, he had not sliced clean through it and its body, nearly half the size of his own was still impaled on the weapon's edge. And now more bio-hazards were approaching fast!
The truth was that Rolf had kept his appointment. But the Commander had some unexpected "business" to attend to. So Rolf was stuck doing this instead.
A pair of armorants crept up on him. These things were known to swarm and communicate in groups, which more than made up for their lack of quickness, as Rolf had come to learn. Green mandables opening and closing greedily, they planned on making Rolf the hives' next meal.
"Dammit, get off!" he shouted in desperation at the dead mosquito which was oozing yellow-green on his weapon. He waved his sword in a frenzy, but the corpse just wouldn't budge. The bug twitched and flapped its wings a few times, but was clearly no longer among the living. Rolf shook the blade with both hands, barely freeing it of part of the bug but the weapon was still weighted down by the creatures guts and would be pretty heavy to swing.
"Great… just my luck," he muttered. The mosquito's dead parts seemed to be staring at him with satisfaction that even in death, it could be a pest!
He was out of time. One of the ants snapped at him, but he was able to jump back in time to avoid it. The creatures could sense his vulnerability, however and were plotting their next moving around in unpredictable patterns, and attempting to close in at different angles. But Rolf still had an ace up his sleeve. "Let's try this!" he said indignantly with an excited grin on his face. He raised his hand and focused the energy within on his enemies.
Rolf could feel the warmth of the fire technique within his entire body before the feeling of his energy draining a bit as it was focused into a decently sized fireball which propelled towards his enemies. Rolf watched confidently… that is until the creatures split up and weaved away causing the attack to miss, scorching the ground between them.
One of Rolf's eyebrows twitched upward in confusion. "What?" he demanded of the universe, in complete disbelief that he could have possibly missed. Rolf had rarely been backed into a corner and was a confident fighter. But he was losing the edge in this one. And he could swear that someone was playing music as he fought for his life. But now wasn't a time to be thinking about that! He had an enemy on his left and an enemy on his right. Something he had been taught during basic training that was a big no-no. A little less confident and now somewhat panicked, he turned to the ant on his right.
This time the attack hit its mark, a glancing blow that ricotched off of the creature's face and into it's side. The creatured sizzled and spun around in a panic, not yet dead, but focused on a sizzling hole in the armored plates on its' side rather than attacking it's prey. Rolf sneered at the thing, but didn't have time to dwell on it now.
The one on his left was right on him now. It lunged at him with its mandables, and even though he tried to dodge its attack once again, the creature lunged at him recklessly, using its size to reach him and knocking him to the ground under the weight of its' body. his body, knocking him to the floor, his sword knocked to the ground several feet and a million miles out of reach.
"Ugh," Rolf grunted as the creature had him pinned to the ground. Excited mandables lurked mere inches from his face. Rolf quickly worked his hand free and tried once more. "C'mon…" he urged himself.
He could feel the energy within him responding to his initiating of the technique, the usual warmth and the glow on his hand. But this time, something was different. The warmth died away quickly and the glow on his hand sizzled into nothing. Completley out of options and a moment away from defeat, Rolf continued shouting through gritted teeth. "C'mon! FOI! FOI!"
But there was no response.
Now, defeat was iminent as the creature had managed to completley imobilize his only free arm, and the only thing left was to sink its mandables into Rolf's neck.
"OK, that's enough! Cut the program!" he said desperatley.
He could feel the sharpness as they began to puncture his flesh. Flashes of red lit up the air around him as he took damage from the creature. It would rip him apart with all it's force now.
"SIMON! CUT IT!"
The program hummed to a halt as the forested images of wildlife that had surrounded Rolf only moments ago faded away revealing the dark grid floor of the training room. The armor ant which had held Rolf's life in his hands faded away too and beyond it he could see the window of the screening room and the technician behind the program, an interesting guy who kind of had a friendly rivalry with Rolf, named Simon.
Rolf let out a deep sigh before jumping briskly to his feet. He brushed thick locks of blue hair from his forhead and rubbed the back of his aching neck. "Nice to see that the pain simulators are still working to perfection," he groaned sarcastically.
The automatic door let out a sigh and slid open as not a monster, but a tall, dark haired man named Simon walked in, an amused expression on his face. He strode toward Rolf and the young agent could feel himself growing annoyed already and knew he was coming to gloat. "Tough luck, hotshot," he said, placing a hand on Rolf's shoulder. "I guess we still have a ways to go before you pass your swordsmanship training, eh?"
Rolf pushed the other guy's hand away, still more than a little troubled by what had happened. The VR room had a tendancy to do that to people because of how real the experiences sometimes felt. His eyes narrowed on the technician in disbelief that he had just lost. "What the hell was that?" he demmanded as if the other man was somehow tinkering with the system just to mess him up. "Why couldn't I get off those last techniques?"
The other man just laughed it off. "You fought off almost an entire horde of monsters and then tried to launch 3 straight Foi techniques. Hardly anyone has that kind of mind energy!"
Rolf sighed. One thing was for sure, the dagger and handgun VR tests had been much easier for him than this one. "Most people, I guess…" Rolf said, his voice trailling off in thought. "But I swear that I…" Mentally he was going back to the days when he first started training with everyone. He had always been ambitiously competitive and had the skills to back up his confidence. Lately he could feel that wavering a little bit as he matured. Nobody is invincible after all.
Much to the surprise of both men, the PA system of the VR room clicked on and they could hear an all-too-familiar voice in an uppitty and rudely demanding tone: "Agent Eusis, the Commander is ready for you now. Report in immeadiatly."
It was his cue to leave. Eusis was a surname arbirtarily given to him by the system because he had no memory of what it had really been before the accident. To Rolf, it was kind of a weird name and he wondered if it at least held some kind of historical meaning, but took solace in the fact that he rarely had to use it, save for administrative purposes. Simon extended an arm towards Rolf. "Well, looks like its time for your big meeting. I wonder what kind of pointless task he's assigned you," he said with a wry smile and a poorly concealed look of dissapointment in his eyes. "Maybe he needs his boots shined, or heck, some of that stuff that brings the color back into your hair!"
Rolf extended his own and shook the taller man's hand, speaking as sincerily as he knew how to. "Don't worry, man. You'll get your chance."
He was about to walk off, but he realized Simon was watching him still. Was he jealous? Well probably a little. It couldn't be helped. He was maybe close to 5 years older than Rolf, and stuck behind a desk performing mostly clerical and technical tasks. Struck by guilt a little, Rolf stopped in his tracks and turned around.
"C'mon now, Sad Simon! Smile!" he urged the guy, offering a smile of his own. "Besides, not all of us have the 'privilage' of being an orphan," he continued, feeling some shame and avoiding eye contact for a moment. "Heck, you have a family at least. Ive been at this since age… 12, remember? Hello? Orphan? Secret Government Agent in training? Not much of a social life going on here!" As he said this, he pointed at himself from head to toe as if Simon might miss him just standing there.
It wasn't compltley true of course. Its true that Rolf had no family, but the traumatic nature of the accident which took from him his parents had left no memory of his past before that. And he had good people in his life. The Governer had given him a good, mostly comfortable upbringing and had trained him in a vast variety of things which spanned, from scholarly pursuits to martial trainings with a variety of weapons. The people from the agency had always been there for him, providing their knowledge and resources for and even friendship for him too. Then there was Nei… to Rolf, that one was special alright.
Simon scratched his head in confusement. Of course he new Rolf was right. He looked for a moment at the young guy. Bright and sincere deep blue eyes, and thick bluck hair. Sure, he was a little conceited sometimes, overcompetetive and a bit of a hothead. But agent Rolf was also the most honest man he had ever met. True to the same values he held, even as a kid.
"Well, you have a point," Simon said, raising his index finger in thought. "But Im telling you, this agency is missing out on pottentially the greatest agent of our time!"
Glad that the guy had lightened up a little, Rolf offered him a thumbs up and a grin. "Only time will tell, my friend. Wish me luck!" he said as he stepped out of the VR room and toward the elevator. And just before the door shut, he remembered a small detail that had bothered him in the fight. "Seriously? Battle music? At least change the track in there, would ya? Its cheezy, hurts my ears, gets stuck in my head when Im trying to focus and sounds like its from ancient times!"
Simon stood perfectly still as if shocked for a brief moment. He even gasped a little in surprise, something that was lost on Rolf as he entered the elevator. "Did he just…? Hey! A lot of people think Ustvestia's stuff is really catchy!" he said defensivley even though his companion was already long gone.
Meanwhile, Rolf was feeling some unexpected pressure building up inside. What exactly would happen when he met with the Commander? He wasn't exactly a guy you could run up to, hug, and call "daddy". Now that Rolf was a man, every encounter they had was strictly business. What a day this is turning out to be… Rolf thought to himself as the machine hummed to a start and he prepared to meet the leader of the entire planet known as Motavia.