The Sidekick

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Chapter 7 - Enter Blade Boy

Jet lay on the couch with his nose in a book as Quinn worked in the kitchen preparing dinner. Quinn’s main floor was open concept, there was no wall separating the living space from the kitchen. Jet was on a black leather couch which had it’s back directly to the kitchen, and across from him was Quinn’s large television set that flickered with colour. The news was on the television, but Jet was letting the nightly update drown out into noise as he tried to make heads and tails of Shakespeare. However, the news briefly caught his attention and he turned to regard the television to watch.

“City Council today was alarmed to receive yet another threat from the supervillain known as Xanor,” the anchorwoman reported. The feed cut to footage from a city council meeting, where the police force and Guardian agents stood behind the mayor. The mayor then went on to read the note out loud.

“To the weak-willed city council, this is the last warning I will deliver. Submit to my demands, outlaw these superheroes once and for all from Vinton, or I will unleash a wave of Constructs unlike any the world has seen.”

The footage cut back to the anchor who continued to talk about how the logistics of Xanor’s demands couldn’t be met due to the Super Hero Protection Act of 1992, but Jet tuned her out as he sat up on the couch. In his hands was his copy of Macbeth, which pages had been scribbled over by students from past years. Jet was starting to gather the concept of the tragedy, of something terrible happening to good people, or at least people who used to be good. Something about the name Xanor rang a bell to Jet, and it was making him think of that very concept.

“Hey, Uncle Quinn?” Jet asked over his shoulder.

Uncle Quinn continued to work away in the kitchen, asking over his own shoulder,” Yeah?”

“Who’s this Xanor guy? Guy is threatening city council,” Jet asked, his eyes still on the television.

Quinn continued to work for several moments, stirring away at something in his wok bowl. Jet lowered the volume of the television using the remote and then turned to face Quinn. After another moment, Quinn put down the wooden spoon he was working with and turned and grabbed a rag to wipe his hands as he looked at Jet.

“A supervillain who’s been in Vinton for a while, shortly after you went into the bunker so you probably never heard of him,” Quinn stated. “He was pretty effective at reigning in the gangs and kicking out the other super villains, and most of the superheroes.”

Jet stared at his uncle in confusion.

“Why would he be concerned with kicking out the other super villains? Or keeping the gangs ‘in check?’ I thought they pretty much already ran this city,” Jet questioned.

Quinn nodded his head in understanding. As he reached into a pantry and pulled out two bowls, he continued to explain.

“Well, they do really. The Brigand and the Wintu really are the true powers of the city, but under Xanor, they don’t go to war with each other. Speculation on the internet is that he likes them existing in this state of cold war because they don’t try to get more power, and then threaten him,” Quin answered as he continued to set the table. “As for the other super villains, well I guess Xanor likes being top dog. He doesn’t want anyone else to get any bright ideas that they can take him down.”

Jet put a hand to his chin and contemplated it. While it was normal for there to be at least one or two ‘big bads’ in a city, it was strange for there not to be more. And if Xanor came on the scene shortly after Jet went underground, then that meant this had probably been the case for at least five years. That status quo for that long was the most unusual part to Jet.

“So what is Xanor that powerful that no one can take him down? Like, haven’t a team of superheroes or heck a team of supervillains tried?” Jet asked.

Quinn chuckled as he dished up the teriyaki stir fry he had prepared into the bowls on the table.

“I forgot how much you liked talking about this stuff,” Quinn commented.

Jet draped his arms over the couch in dramatic fashion, and with a big smile he responded, “I’m all behind on my current events!”

Quinn smiled, but then the smile diminished ever so slightly. Jet’s big grin subsided a bit as he noticed an emotion he had only seen once before in his uncle nearly overtake him again. But Quinn shook his head, and the fear seemingly passed.

“Well, no. While from what I can understand that yes, Xanor is apparently very powerful and would be a handful for the most capable of superheroes, or teams even, it’s not necessarily him alone that keeps them away,” Quinn responded.

Jet tilted his head to the side.

“What then?”

Quinn stood up straight and looked at his nephew. Undoing his apron, Quinn turned away from Jet and dropped the subject entirely.

“I don’t honestly know. Now let’s eat dinner, Paladin will be here soon to pick you up for your first night,” Quinn said.

The thought of finally hitting the street to be a superhero picked Jet up ever so slightly. But the conversation sat in his mind for several moments. Jet looked back to the television and looked at the news ticker It read ‘Super-Villain Xanor continues to threaten Vinton’ in big bold letters.

Jet narrowed his eyes, thinking his uncle knew more than he let on. There was something, someone out there that was frightening enough to keep away superheroes in Vinton. But Jet wasn’t going to let that stop him. Whatever it was.

Just after finishing dinner, leaving only crumbs and some extra sauce on his plate, Jet heard a knock on the door. Quinn put his fork down and stood up, leaving Jet confused for a moment. As Quinn opened the door and Paladin walked through, it all came rushing back to Jet.

“Well, come on Jet, it’s time to go on your first patrol,” Paladin said with a knowing smile.

Jet leaped out of his chair so fast it went sprawling out across the floor. His feet practically never touched the floor as he rushed upstairs to his room, scrambling to the box he had pushed into his closet the night before. His hands operated faster than his brain could follow, and in his excitement Jet tore the box open with such force that his costume practically exploded outwards. It sprawled out all over his bedroom floor, and Jet froze and stared in wide-eyed amazement. While he wasn’t sure what exactly it was going to look like when on, he could see the blue with hints of brown that covered his costume. The texture seemed to be a mix of leather and spandex, as he put a hand on he could feel lightweight armored padding.

“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Jet whispered to himself.

Once the costume was on, Jet’s feelings changed slightly.

Jet’s costume wore like an all-body motorcycle suit, with tighter spandex pieces around his joints. The base layer was a dark blue, and the armor padding provided a second layer over his elbows, knees, chest, back and his knuckles. He was wearing combat boots that went up past his ankles, which also were primarily blue with the brown highlights. While it felt amazing to have his own costume custom made for him, something about actually being in the costume made Jet feel incredibly silly. He sat on his bed and looked at himself in a mirror for several moments.

In his open palms was a large green bandana, with two eye holes. Jet assumed it was meant to conceal his identity, but Jet’s hair and most of his face would still be visible. He didn’t really see how it was going to hide who he was to anyone who knew him. Jet shrugged, and then put the bandana over his face, tying it behind his head. A bit of the end trailed off backward, and as Jet looked back to himself in the mirror and saw the costume completed he still felt very ridiculous.

It wasn’t how he imagined the moment being for the first time. Jet always thought the first time he’d put the costume, he would feel heroic. Jet had always imagined it as the moment he would have ‘arrived,’ as it were. However, dressed in his costume and sitting on his bed, Jet just felt himself wanting.

Jet let out a low sigh and then stood up. Maybe once he was out in the field, fighting crime, taking names and saving lives, it would feel different, Jet figured. Once he was doing superhero work in his superhero costume, it would all click together. Hopefully, Jet thought to himself.

Much more slowly then he went up the stairs, Jet came back down the stairs. Paladin still stood at the doorway, and Quinn sat on a chair in the living room and was talking to him from there. As Jet walked into view, their conversation stopped as they both took in Jet’s new look.

Paladin’s expression was one of excitement upon seeing Jet in the costume. Jet did his best to put on a smile for Paladin’s sake, seeing how excited he was. A look to Quinn, however, mirrored much more how Jet was feeling about the costume.

“Hey! That turned out even better than I thought!” Paladin stated. He looked to Quinn and pointed to Jet.

“Right?” Paladin asked for confirmation.

Quinn nodded his head and disguised his incredulous expression with one of amazement.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Quinn agreed.

Jet stifled a laugh, not thinking Quinn did a good job of hiding his true intention. Paladin either didn’t notice the poor effort or didn’t care to acknowledge, as he turned back to Jet.

“Well Jet, it’s time for you to officially become my sidekick,” Paladin said. He gestured to Jet to walk over to him.

As the thought of finally having his superhero name sunk in, Jet felt his excitement spike once more. Standing tall, Jet strode over to Paladin, pride swelling in his heart. It was at long last time. Jet could see this as the moment he would finally ‘arrive’ as a superhero. Paladin put one hand on Jet’s shoulder and looked him in the eyes.

“From this moment on, when we are out in the field together, your code name, your superhero name, will be…” Paladin waited for a short pause, creating a dramatic effect.

Jet felt his heart racing with adrenaline. This was the moment. He could feel it.

“...Blade boy.”

It wasn’t the moment. Jet’s face felt a little blue.

“B-blade boy?” Jet asked.

Paladin nodded in confirmation. Jet stared up at Paladin, his smile as forced as could be.

“Awesome,” Jet said with as much conviction as he could muster. “Blade Boy. Super, super awesome.”

Somehow, against all odds, Paladin didn’t seem to notice Jet’s lack of enthusiasm. Jet was doing his best to not ruin this for Paladin, but it was a struggle.

“Yes, Paladin and Blade Boy. Together, it’s up to us now to help save this city,” Paladin said.

He released Jet from his grip and turned back to the door. Jet stood there slightly stunned. Was Paladin monologuing? Jet couldn’t believe his ears. In all the years Jet knew Paladin, he had never figured Paladin to have this, for lack of a better term, dorky side to him. That was the only way Jet could describe him. It was like Paladin had walked out of one of his news articles from the ’60s, or even the ’40s. He was stoic but at the same time, so silly. Was this really how Paladin acted when in full superhero mode?

“Come Blade Boy, it’s time to go dispense justice!” Paladin said as he opened the door.

Yep. This was how he acted.

Jet paused for several moments, unsure of what to think. He turned back to Quinn, who at this point had his hands over his mouth as he was stopping himself from uncontrollably laughing. Jet raised an eyebrow in confusion.

“I’ve waited for this moment for a long time,” Quinn said between high pitched, stifled chuckling.

Jet hung his head for several moments. Clearly, Quinn had experience with this side of Paladin.

“I’ll be home later tonight,” Jet said with a resigned smile.

As Jet closed the door, it took all his effort to not join Quinn’s infectious laughter as it exploded outwards from the house.

Standing on the edge of a roof in downtown Vinton, Paladin posed with his hands on his hips. His cape blew out behind him as he looked down over the city. Paladin was wearing his helmet that night, a rare thing for Jet to see. Jet wasn’t sure what caused it, but in the slits where Paladin’s eyes would be visible, a small yellowish glow emanated instead.

While Paladin’s behavior and stature felt a little out of the era in terms of how superheroes acted, Jet had to admit his mentor looked cool posing in the night like that. He seemed to radiate power and awe. While Jet had maybe thought that of him back when he first met Paladin, it had been a long time since Jet saw Paladin in this way. Like a true superhero.

Jet walked up behind his mentor and examined his pose. Ensuring he was a few steps back from Paladin, Jet then similarly raised his leg up to pose on the edge of the building. He looked apprehensively at his mentor one more time, examining the body language. Then with a bit more confidence Jet put his hands on his hips and jut his chin upwards slightly.

Paladin looked back to his newly minted sidekick for a moment. Jet couldn’t see it, but under the helmet, Paladin had a large grin on his face. He stepped away from the edge of the building and towards Jet, making Jet abandon his pose and looked up at Paladin.

“Alright rule number one of your first night on patrol. I will only address you by your super alter ego while in the field. Understand, Blade Boy?” Paladin asked.

For whatever reason, punctuating that instruction with the actual name was like rubbing salt in the wound for Jet.

“Yep, you got it,” Jet answered.

“Second, if it is a school night like tonight, we don’t push this past ten, eleven p.m. at the latest. Your education is still the most important thing, and you won’t learn anything if you’re asleep in class” Paladin said.

Jet rolled his eyes but nodded, understanding what Paladin meant.

Paladin nodded and then gestured for Jet to look out over the city.

“Second, you are only to patrol with me until I clear you for patrol by yourself. I know in the past you have felt I have restricted your actions too heavily, so I want you to understand I say this not to dangle an impossible to reach carrot before your eyes, but to give you a goal to reach,” Paladin continued.

Jet’s look of confusion said a thousand words, so Paladin continued, “That means that if you follow my instructions well enough, act with discretion, handle yourself in a crowd, and show good moral judgment, then I will allow you to patrol on your own.”

Jet brought up a closed finger and began recounting Paladin’s points with a raised finger for each one.

“Listen to you good, don’t be dumb, don’t get my crap kicked, and be a good person. Did I get it all?”

Paladin’s body language shifted slightly, and Jet could see the disappointment.

“Jet. You need to take this seriously. Do you understand this?” Paladin asked.

Jet looked away for a moment, with a small sigh, Jet nodded.

“Sorry. Yes, I understand,” Jet said.

Paladin’s readjusted himself back to his heroic form. He then walked Jet back over to the edge of the city and knelt down. Jet crouched down beside him.

“Good. So, while you’re doing this with me, there will be a few different things we’ll do. Whatever I choose for us to do on a select night, I never want to hear any complaining, or whining, got it?” Paladin asked.

Jet let out another breath of air. He knew he had just been a little flippant with Paladin, but it was no reason to go back to treating him like a kid.

“Got it,” Jet answered.

“Good. Now on a normal night, we’d patrol and look for trouble. Sometimes we might take more deliberate action depending on if I find something during the day, some supervillain makes a threat to the city or anything else we might have to react to. Tonight we’ll be looking into something I chanced into earlier today. It’ll be a good test for your ability to handle a crowd, and it might help us find some leads on why Constructs are constantly targeting you,” Paladin explained.

Jet blinked twice.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jet said. He rubbed his temple for a moment and waited for Paladin to look his way. “You lost me a little after deliberate action. These guys might have a lead on that giant monster that attacked me in the bunker?”

Paladin nodded.

“What do you know about Xanor?”

Jet thought back to that conversation he had with his Uncle just before dinner.

“That he’s a psycho super-villain who liked to threaten the city with an army of Constructs. Oh, and also he has control issues,” Jet said.

That caught Paladin a little off guard as he laughed out loud.

“Not bad. Xanor has a unique power over Chaos Energy, the substance that we discussed which constitutes Constructs. They are his means of enforcing his rule over the city. I’m not entirely sure how his power works, but from what I’ve deduced he can only create so many Constructs at one time before he needs to rest and make more. So in those cases, he likes to store them in warehouses,” Paladin explained.

Paladin then pointed his finger to the warehouse directly across the road from him.

“A warehouse like that one,” Paladin finished.

Jet leaned forward and examined the nondescript warehouse. White walls on the outside, large enough to cover several city blocks, and an empty parking lot.

“So you think he’s got that army of Constructs he wants to unleash on downtown in there?” Jet asked.

“Maybe not all of that army, but I know there’s a large gathering of Constructs,” Paladin answered. “There’s a large mass of unmoving Chaos Energy my readings picked up earlier today coming from that warehouse. Basically identical to the reading of a typical Construct, just amplified by a lot.”

“Any guesses what we’re going to do?” Paladin then asked of Jet, looking to his sidekick. There was a bit of michiouvness in his voice Jet picked up on, making him smile.

“We going to go in and knock his army down a few pegs?” Jet guessed.

“Exactly. And we’ll see if we can find any evidence to see if it’s Xanor who’s been targeting you for years,” Paladin acknowledged.

Jet nodded and then looked back to the warehouse. He wasn’t sure what they were going to find in there. The anticipation had his stomach in knots, but he couldn’t quell his excitement.

The warehouse’s lights lazily flickered to life. The fluorescents were clearly old, and barely illuminated the concrete floors and moldy wooden beams. Paladin with one foot back in the doorway had flicked the light switch, eyed the area carefully, and then motioned for Jet to follow. Jet pushed his way in as Paladin stepped out of the way. Jet’s nostrils stung from aggressively stale scent he was greeted with.

“Are all super villain hideouts this...smelly?” Jet asked as his eyes watered.

“Only the particularly evil ones,” Paladin responded.

With a shake of his head Jet did his best to clear his mind of what he was smelling, and then examined his surroundings. They were in what must have been a front waiting room that never finished construction. A low roof wooden roof with the lights attached by flimsy-looking wires nestled above. Across from the door, they had entered was a sheet of drywall with a cropped out segment clearly meant for a door, and darkness awaited beyond there.

Nestled to that was a half-constructed closed in reception desk, The wooden frame constructed but no table on top to create a flat surface. Where it looked like the room would have closed off into a small square, was just wooden beams from the floor to the roof. On the other side was a larger empty room where the sheet of drywall in front of Jet extended all the way through to the far wall of the warehouse.

Jet’s eyes were drawn to the darkness beyond the drywall. Something felt ominous back there. He stared intently for a moment, until Paladin put a hand on his shoulder, making Jet jump a little in surprise. He looked up over his shoulder to see Paladin also glaring at the darkroom ahead of them.

“You can sense it too?” Paladin asked.

Jet’s mind raced for several seconds. What did he sense? Evil? Constructs? Xanor? Monsters? What could Paladin sense that he assumed Jet also sene?

“Danger,” Paladin said with confidence.

Oh. Jet’s shoulders slumped slightly.

“Yeah, totally,” Jet said in agreement. He was having a tough time dealing with Paladin’s surprising hokiness.

“Stay close,” Paladin instructed, and then he moved past Jet deeper into the warehouse.

There was the sharp sound of steel as Paladin unsheathed his sword and advanced. Jet steeled himself and followed in behind Paladin, similarly equipping his sword.

Paladin walked deeply into the pitch dark room, just out of Jet’s view. Jet stopped at the entranceway in to the room, watching Paladin walk into the darkness. It seemed like he blinked and Paladin was gone, making Jet hesitant to continue. The warehouse opened up into a large empty room with nothing to be seen. The walls of the warehouse seemed to be the boundaries of the room, and the roof opened up to a presumable second story. He took a quick look around the room, to his right there seemed to an incomplete staircase which must have led up to a second-story office. Then to his left was a convenient light switch.

“Hey Paladin,” Jet commented as he flicked the switch. “I found the lights.”

A dim, hazy light slowly began to illuminate the room. Jet walked with more confidence than before strolling up beside Paladin. Paladin stopped walking, and Jet had assumed Paladin was waiting for him.

“Isn’t this easier?” Jet asked.

Paladin didn’t respond. He looked over his shoulder past Jet, making the teen stop in his tracks for a few moments. He turned and looked past him as the light continued to slowly etch away at more and more of the darkness. Then Paladin looked in the other direction, before finally looking up.

“Easier? Yes,” Paladin said.

With one hand he bade Jet walk closer to him, which Jet slowly did. Paladin’s eyes remained fixed on the ceiling.

“However, you’ll have to keep your cool. You accidentally set the stage for a scene from one of those horror movies you hate.”

Jet truly hated horror movies. The big reason was their generally nihilistic approach to humanity, a far cry from the superheroes he had grown up admiring. He could appreciate the ideas and complex themes of some, but his problem was jump scares. Not jump scares themselves necessarily, but the tension and build-up to a jump scare set him on edge and made them so much worse.

As this thought ran through his head, he followed Paladin’s gaze up to the roof. Once he saw what was up there, he instinctively went back to back with Paladin and lifted his sword into a fighting position. Nestled on the high roof of the warehouse, furled up like bats, were strange brown masses. They began to shake one by one slowly.

Then they began to drop to the floor, surrounding Jet and Paladin. As they hit the floor, they opened to reveal themselves in their full forms, and they began to proceed towards the duo.

“Hey, Paladin?” Jet asked.

“Yes?”

“These are Constructs, right? Not horror movie monsters?”

“Sometimes Jet, it can be hard to tell the difference.”

Jet and Paladin stood back to back as in the Constructs closed in on them. Gripping the hilt tightly of his sword, Jet found fear trickling as the Constructs looked like Tim Burton creations on steroids. Their skin was sickly pale yellow and grey, and they stood at roughly five feet tall in a humanoid shape. But their arms were long, thick blades that dragged along the ground as they slowly walked towards them. What creeped out Jet the most was that where their necks should have been it formed more into a bulbous like head, with no nose or mouth. There were black slits with red glows emanating from them that appeared to be their eyes, and even though there was nothing relatable about them the eyes seemed to stare into Jet’s soul. When Jet looked back into them, he saw nothing in return.

Bumping into Paladin’s back returned Jet to reality, and he shook away the fear. This was what he had spent five years training for. Five long years in a bunker for a moment just like this. Jet let out a long cool breath and readied himself.

“Get ready Jet,” Paladin instructed, almost reading Jet’s mind. “Their Constructs, so typical rules of engagement are different. Go for the kill.”

Jet nodded and looked at the Constructs. They weren’t human. They weren’t even alive. They were like machines, Jet reminded himself. Machines that had long sword arms and scary red eyes, Jet thought to himself. Jet shook the thought from his mind.

It was time.

Paladin charged at the horde of Constructs closing in at him. The sudden movement and erupting sounds of chaos spurred the Constructs in front of Jet to dash in at him. Jet stopped hesitating and ran at the Construct nearest him. The Construct swung down on Jet with one of its arms and Jet blocked the attack by raising his sword up high. Jet continued running and brought his sword down back down and tried to slash at another Construct. The Construct crossed its arms in front of itself and Jet’s sword bounced off. Jet recoiled, not ready for the party, and then leaped backward as two Constructs swung their arms at him.

Jet considered his next strategy when he received a hard smack on the back. It launched Jet forward off his feet and he landed on his stomach. He turned to see it had been a Construct who had hit him with the broad side of its arm. Jet then looked forward and had to quickly roll off to the side to avoid being cut in half. Rolling backward Jet jumped to his feet. He tried to think about what to do next, as the Constructs closed in.

Realizing he was about to be totally boxed in, Jet thought it would be best to try and create some space between him and the Constructs. Without looking, he swung his sword around behind himself, trying to get the Constructs to back away. However, his sword sharply bounced back as it was deflected by a Construct. His momentum thrown off, Jet staggered as the Constructs closed in. Jet turned, spinning on one foot and barely leaned back in time to avoid his head being cut off.

Jet stood back up, and then two swords came in at him. Jet leaped up into the air and split kicked out his legs to avoid them being cut off. Just as he landed, he could feel the sweat rolling down his face. He saw a brief opening where he could run to get back to Paladin’s side, who was cleaving through the Constructs like nothing.

He needed to get back to Paladin. Paladin would know what to do. There was too much happening, too many enemies. He couldn’t process everything he learned and apply it at the same time. It was just too much.

Right as Jet tried to run, a Construct tackled into him and knocked Jet over. Jet landed on his back and looked up to see Constructs closing in all over him. Five blades from five different Constructs all swung in on Jet all at once. Jet panicked and lifted his sword up to block the incoming blades. There was a hard clang of steel as he managed to keep all the blades from splitting him into a five-piece pie.

He strained against the force of five different Constructs. Jet tried to think and remember all the strategies Paladin had taught him. He could sweep the leg of the Constructs, but that would leave him vulnerable to at least two of the blades. If he pushed up and rolled backward, he would just have to quickly flip again to avoid more blades.

Right as the last thought crossed his head, one of the Constructs pushed down hard enough that its blade scratched Jet’s cheek. Jet winced and instinctively pushed back. He pushed back harder than he thought and all the Constructs briefly recoiled up and then slashed back down upon Jet’s blade again. Jet felt their weight come down upon him but he was even more distracted. How was he strong enough to push that many Constructs off him? How strong was he?

As Jet pushed back against the swords, he shut his eyes and let out a long breath. He was overthinking everything. If Paladin had taught him all these things, then he knew how to do them. More importantly, his body knew how to do them. It was time he trusted it.

Jet let out one more long cool breath.

Then with all the strength, he could muster he slashed upwards, sending all five Constructs recoiling. Jet leaped to his feet and slashed in a wide circle, and the five Constructs dissolved to ash as he split them in the middle. The Constructs filled in the newly created gap to attack, but Jet stopped considering what to do next and just started acting. He quickly ran to his right, ducking low underneath one Construct blade and he slashed upwards. A Construct split in the middle crumpled into ash, and Jet then slashed down hard to his right and sent a Construct’s blade coming in towards the ground. Jet then stepped his foot down on that blade and pivoting on that foot he turned to square his body with that Construct. He could feel his muscles ripple as he punched the Construct in the torso, sending it flying backward. It crashed into several other Constructs and knocked them all over.

His hairs pricked up on the back of his neck and Jet hoisted his sword behind his back over his shoulder and deflected in an incoming attack. The Construct blade bounced off, and Jet then spun around and kicked the Construct with a spinning jump kick. It went spinning away, and Jet then lunged forward with his sword leading the way. He impaled it through the spinning Construct and then continued to dash forward, carrying the Construct forward on his blade. He stuck his sword through several more Constructs creating a three Construct kabob. After filling up his sword, Jet swung out wide with a yell, sending the three Constructs out across the room in an arc.

Paladin, who had just dispatched a Construct, leaned back sharply to avoid an airborne Construct as it crashed into the wall behind him. Confused, he turned to see Jet tearing through Constructs, the youth jumped up in the air and slashed down into a Construct and cut it in half. For a moment, Paladin thought to call out to Jet, thinking he had almost gone feral. But then as Jet turned and blocked an incoming attack, Paladin noticed how Jet was moving. The fluidity of it. A small smile crept onto Paladin’s face. Confident in his pupil, Paladin resumed battling Constructs on his own.

Jet held the Construct at bay with his sword and then he pushed hard and violently sent the Construct’s blade arm back through itself. As it’s body dissolved to ash from the point of slash, Jet reached forward and grabbed the edge of the Construct’s sword arm and ripped it from the Construct’s body. Jet pivoted and threw the blade arm like a javelin through three other Constructs that closed in, the sword dissolving to ash as the other Construct’s it pierced did.

He then turned and parried another attack as it came in, and Jet truly began to feel unstoppable as he let out a devastating punch at the staggered Construct. The Construct dissolved around his fist and Jet then stepped forward and slashed down at a Construct. He then stabbed forward through another Construct and then cut upwards through it. Jet then spun around his back foot, putting his back to an incoming Construct who had leaped up and was descending upon him. Jet thrust his sword behind his back and it skewered the Construct in the air.

As Jet extracted his sword and turned around to face the Constructs again, Paladin’s shouting distracted Jet for a moment.

“Jet! Find the generator!”

Jet turned to face Paladin who being swarmed by Constructs. They were crawling over top of each other to get him, as he slashed away endlessly as them.

“Generator?!” Jet called back in between cutting down Constructs.

“They keep coming, which means there must be a source! Something that’s generating them!” Paladin shouted. “Find it and break it!”

Jet took a quick searching glance around the room. He couldn’t immediately see what Paladin might have meant. All he could was the writhing mass of Constructs as they approached from all sides. Then he looked back and saw that second-floor office room from earlier.

“Okay, uh, cover me?” Jet requested as he began to try and cut a path to the office.

Jet quickly jumped up and planted his foot down on a Construct’s head. He launched himself off, sending that Construct into the ground. With his next step down, he again bounded off a Construct. Jet leapfrogged his way across the room using the Construct’s to keep himself above them. An occasional sword from a Construct would swing up and try and cut him off by the knees, but Jet either moved too fast or would parry the blades with his own.

Once Jet reached the far wall, he could see the large windows which looked into the office. With the strength he could muster, Jet leaped up high and covered his face by crossing his arms. He burst into the office, the sound of glass shattering echoing through the warehouse. Jet landed with one knee on the floor and one hand placed on the ground.

There was a hum of electricity, and Jet looked to his left to see something he had never seen before. In the mostly open room, there was a large, five-foot-tall cylindrical device that glowed with green energy. Around the outside of the cylinder, three large triangular stands were nailed into the floor. Blue electricity crackled around the device, and connected by several cords to it was a waist-high control panel. The whole machine seemed to create a minor wind that blew through the room, but just as soon as Jet took in as many details as he could, he noticed he wasn’t alone.

Standing in front of the device was a tall man wearing a trenchcoat. His coat seemed to sway with the wind, and he took a few small steps around to face Jet. The hair on his head was shaved around the sides, leaving a small black loose mohawk that blew with the wind. His facial hair was untidy, scraggly shaved with a minor goatee around his mouth. One of his eyes was a deep blue, while the other pale white and glassed over.

Upon seeing Jet, the man smiled slightly.

“Ah, I see,” the man commented. “Another teenage pain in my side. And one trained by Paladin.”

Jet stood up and looked at the man intently. He wasn’t sure what to say to this stranger.

“Well, I’m not ready for a fight today, so I’ll take my leave,” the man said.

He turned back the device and outstretched his hands. There was a moment’s pause, and then suddenly the green energy and blue electricity drained from the device and drifted towards Jet. Jet’s eyes widened as the man inhaled sharply as the energy seemed to enter him until the machine’s hum and the wind died down entirely. It then sat there lifeless, and the iron on the machine began to rapidly rust before Jet’s eyes.

The man then began to walk to a window that faced the outside of the warehouse, seemingly not giving Jet another moment’s thought. Jet looked from the man back to the warehouse, and he could see the Constructs had all began dissolving into ash. Paladin could be seen catching his breath, and Jet turned back to the man.

“Wait!” Jet yelled at the man.

Paladin would want to know who this was, Jet figured. Even if he was seemingly outclassed by whoever this is, Jet had tried to stop him. The man didn’t falter in his step, and seeing his words had no effect, Jet charged at the man from behind.

The man had reached the outer window, but he turned to Jet advancing. He grinned and then pointed a finger at Jet. From his finger, that green energy with blue electricity shot forth as a straight beam. Jet just brought up his sword in time and blocked the beam, but the force of it sent him flying backward. His back crashed into the window facing the warehouse.

It rattled Jet and he slumped over a bit upon the impact. He did his best to go back to a full standing position and look up at the man. The man waved his hand and the outer window he was facing shattered into nothingness. Then that same energy that had almost laid Jet flat began to glow from the man’s back, and suddenly two large, grey batwings that spanned the length of a tall person formed from seemingly nothing on his back.

Jet watched in awe, perplexed by what he was seeing. That hit he had taken had totally knocked the wind from him, but he could still try and ask.

“Are you Xanor?!” Jet shouted at the man.

The man looked over his shoulder at Jet for a moment. Then he turned to more properly look at Jet, and his smile said it all.

“I am,” he said. “But if you continue to get in the way, it won’t be me you deal with next. Tread carefully.”

Then the man pointed a finger again at Jet. Jet’s eyes widened.

The window behind Jet blew backward into the warehouse as Jet was launched through it by another attack. He fell down the second story and hit the base floor with a hard thud. His whole back ached with pain, and Jet coughed a couple times involuntarily.

“Jet!” Paladin called.

Paladin rushed over to Jet’s side, and Jet rolled over and pushed himself up. As much as it hurt, Jet felt it probably should have hurt more. Jet was up on his knees as Paladin reached him. His mentor kneeled down to Jet’s level and took off his helmet.

“Are you alright?” Paladin asked.

Jet coughed and nodded, and he looked back up the warehouse. Xanor’s words had been so cryptic, he wasn’t sure what to think.

“What happened up there?” Paladin asked.

A short explanation later, Jet and Paladin were walking back out of the warehouse.

“I see, so he took the energy back out from the machine then,” Paladin said.

“Is that what he does? He has machines that make Constructs, he just has to put energy into them?” Jet asked.

“In a way. Chaos Energy on a good day is just unstable. He uses those machines to focus his Chaos Energy, without it, he doesn’t have proper control and can’t maintain anything.” PAladin answered. “At least, after all, my investigating I believe that’s how it works.”

“Hence why you wanted me to destroy it,” Jet said.

“Yes, it’s why I try to get to where he builds them before he can take the energy back,” Paladin said. “If I can destroy enough machines, his energy will be wasted. Slowly but surely, I can weaken him to a point where we can bring him to justice.”

Jet then stopped walking for a moment, making Paladin stop to look back at him.

“What do you think he meant when he said to tread carefully? What would that mean?”

As soon as Jet asked, he saw a moment of concern in Paladin he had never seen before. Paladin shook it off quickly though and walked back towards Jet.

“It’ll be nothing you have to concern yourself with. More importantly, how do you feel?” Paladin questioned.

Jet didn’t follow the question at first, so Paladin elaborated, “The bad guy might have gotten away and we might not have accomplished as much as we’d like, but you handled yourself tremendously well out here. You seemed to really understand your powers and your skills. So after all that, how do you feel?”

Jet pondered the question for a few seconds. The fight had been terrifying at first, but as soon as he reevaluated how to fight and began to truly battle, it had felt amazing. He had felt more alive than ever. Analyzing his opponent’s fighting tactics, using strengths and his opponents against them, and winning? It was some of the most fun he had ever had. It had the moment he had waited for all night.

“Honestly, like I’ve arrived,” Jet said with a smile.

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