The Pride traveled through deep space. 19 wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he last rested. The wonder of seeing stars negated by the endless black sheet holding them not so neatly together. He was beginning to feel like he may never reach Pratham, or maybe the shipped refused his instructions.
Even more likely, he would die before the Pride reached its destination. The navigation system beyond planetary travel was completely foreign to him, piloting the ship himself wouldn’t work. 19 had no idea where Pratham was located.
He had no choice but to rely on its autopilot. Most of the time 19 roamed about the small vessel practicing his combat forms he and the Sentry practiced tirelessly at Fei’s behest.
19 contemplated his arrival, concluding he would most likely have an altercation or two before he could even have a word with someone in charge. Any planet Fei and Lale fled had to be the absolute opposite of receptive.
What felt like a few days, he calculated was nearer to a few months? Solitude didn’t suit him well, reminiscing about Tetcht, and the many years before Tumakako and Vanakan’s arrival. The two Prathaman serving as the catalyst for the downfall of his home planet.
Now he was forced to experience the universe alone. His fellow citizens left behind, as well as the link with his former Sentry members and most of all, not a clue of what to expect next. The navigation dashboard lit up, displaying a small light-based replica of a gigantic planet.
The planet that laid before him appeared similar to Tetcht, but nearly twice the size. Its aura loomed a lush green, matching the color of its sky and water. The planet’s solar system revolving around its white-hot star.
19 pushed as many buttons as he could, weeding through some the information about Pratham, the Council, four tribes, and the deadly creatures that inhabited the various types of ecosystems. The ship breached the atmosphere and began a final descent onto the planet surface.
There stood tall buildings glimmering in the sunlight. Millions of ships in innumerable models occupied the sky. People and animals alike soared through the air at amazing speeds. On the ground, spotless streets, spacious areas, and structures.
Even with the millions of visible inhabitants, there were a vast amount of available areas untouched by agriculture or construction. The grass swayed in the wind away from the central city, its blue hue providing the illusion of water cascading across the field.
Sentry 19 took in the new planet. The long journey to Pratham was more difficult than he expected. Exhaling a sigh of relief, he sat in the pilot chair as the ship remained on autopilot. Suddenly, a large laser bolt blew a hole in the rear corners of the ship.
Alarms blared in response to the extensive damage. 19 was violently expelled from his seat onto the dash, unable to attempt evasive maneuvers, the Pride began to spiral out of control.
He activated his armor as he was thrashed about Fei’s ship. The torque launching him around the interior. “This is it?” He thought, mentally preparing for his death.
If not for his armor, the sheer force at which he was colliding with the walls would have rendered him unconscious. The Pride halted in midair preventing it from crashing in a glorious blaze. 19 found himself suspended in limbo inside. After a brief moment of suspension, the ship and his body were gently guided to the ground.
Through the translucent haul, 19 saw an enormous army. Their purple armor was like his own in design but more of what he assumed was modern technology. The entire mass of soldiers armed with a weapon he hadn’t seen before.
Their armor less bulky, more refined and custom suited to each soldier. Still, the style remained in unison with the Pratham uniform. The army stood poised and without flaws. From the sky two figures descended.
A paled skinned man with wrinkled skin that couldn’t possibly define his age. He possessed alternating strands of black and white short hair and a clean-shaven face. He dawned gold armor more unique and exquisite than anything Fei or Lale possessed.
A long dark purple cape draped behind him and a black sash from his left shoulder across his body down to his waist. He was substantially taller than the child clearly providing the display of power.
The male child possessed brown skin as tree bark, with shoulder length curly dark red hair. His eyes gleamed a cylinder of yellow inside a sea of orange. He too dawned purple armor, very slim fitting and a black sash.
Neither male figure wearing their helmets, unlike the prepared army awaiting orders. 19 could not believe his eyes. “It can’t be.” He thought hoping he was wrong about the appearance of the child.
19 gathered himself together, mustering up the courage to fight. As the pair landed on the ground, the older man forms his index and middle finger together, waving them forward. 10 soldiers raised their weapons aiming them at the ship and proceeded forward.
Each step synchronized and calculated. They moved as if they were on one accord. Maybe this was what Fei expected of the Sentry. 19 closed his hands together and separated them retrieving his pole axe. As the soldiers approached, he tried to strategize his exit.
The troops reached the ship and halted. Waiting for their orders. The child stretched out his hand and effortlessly removed a chunk of the ship’s hull, levitating it in the air with just a wave. 19 dashed out of the ship.
He swung his axe viciously, impaling the soldier in front of him. The force caused the lifeless body of the victim to follow the swing, landing into another soldier. 19 spun around twirling his pole axe for momentum. Blaster fire whizzing by his helmet. No bolt landed. He quickly impaled another soldier.
Ducking and dodging he covered the distance to his next target. He smashed his blades head onto the soldier’s helmet shattering the victim’s armor. 19 proceeded to use the soldier’s body as cover, absorbing multiple laser bolts.
19 moved with urgency, thrusting the body onto another soldier, knocking them to the ground. He swung his axe, removing the head of the nearest standing soldier. Pulling his axe inward, 19 seized the throat of his weapon mid swing. He forced the blade down onto the soldier trapped beneath his comrade.
In a matter of moments, 19 had dispatched half of the small battalion of troops. The five remaining circled him, ready to fire. “Stand down.” Commanded the old man. The troops shouldered their rifles at his voice. “Bring him to me.” The old man said, slightly tilting his head toward the child. The soldiers cautiously retreated.
19 didn’t know how to respond as the small child marched toward him. The confidence of 10,000 warriors labeled each step of his small feet. “What?” 19 thought. He exerted a lot of energy taking out the soldiers but had more than enough to kill a child. The boy raised his hands to his waist, his small fists clenched before they began to glow red with a fiery energy.
“I’m really starting to hate children.” He thought. Clearly this was no mere child. 19 swung his pole axe at the boy’s neck. The child ducked at the last second, lunging simultaneously. The child pushed 19’s arms upward, throwing off his swing and exposing his side.
19 looked down just in time to see the evil grin on his opponents face as he landed a powerful blow to his exposed abdomen. A small gale of wind accompanied the hit. The child’s hand seared through 19’s armor and landed flush on his ribs.
19 yelled out in pain, the force sending him tumbling a few feet. The Sentry member gasped for air holding his stomach. As if all in a day’s work, the child began to return to the side of the old man. 19 was beginning to lose consciousness as two soldiers approached him. “Ugh! How?” 19 thought, as he grimaced in pain before blacking out.
Hours later 19 awoke. The pain coursing through his body from his battle. His vision was blurry and unable to focus. He sluggishly turned to help himself sit up. His fingertips pulling and scraping at the ground for support, until they reached a wall.
The metal floor was ice cold to the touch. His vision was gradually settling, trying his best to take deeper breaths. 19 placed his back against the wall. “You fight well off worlder.” Spoke the figure in front of him.
19 was startled by the voice. The pain and confusion prevented him from noticing he wasn’t alone. The lenses of his vision coming into focus, he saw the old man and young boy. “Remember this feeling, if you attack again, you will not be spared. Understood?” Asked the old man.
19 couldn’t help but concentrate his attention on the young boy. His fear was nearly rivaled by his curiosity. The pain he felt being the deciding factor as his body winced in its selection.
19 nodded in agreement with the demand he had been given. “I am Magnus, One third of the council members of Pratham.” Magnus waved his hand in an upward motion, creating a seat for himself while the boy remained by his side.
19 tried to share his focus between the two individuals as not to elude his potential hunch about the boy’s parentage. He was doing a poor job, as his constant fixation on the boy did not go unnoticed. “Who are you off worlder? How did you arrive in the ship of the traitor Fei Zeall?” Magnus questioned.
19 held his ribs in pain preparing to speak. “I am number 19 of the Vanakan Sentry.” 19 answered grimacing with each word. It had finally occurred to him, that his armor had been removed along with his bracelets. He was utterly defenseless, his wrists felt free from the constant grip of his bracelets.
Not that weapons mattered; he was clearly outclassed by the child. And at this rate he may not be the most convincing threat in the room.
“I stole the ship.” 19 said. Taking breaths between sentences. Magnus’s expression displayed he was not being fooled. “I am over 5,000 years old. I know when I’m being lied to.” He warned.
Magnus nudged his head toward 19. On cue, the boy casually walked over and seized 19’s throat. “If your next words are even remotely close to the opposite of your candor, I will have him separate your skull from your spine.” Magnus threatened, his voice accompanied by an accent 19 had never heard before. Every syllable being properly pronounced as if he were above anyone who heard him speak.
The boy’s hand began to glow the same red energy as during their duel. His eyes changing color reflecting his power. The warmth from his energy was welcoming on 19’s face contrary to the cool of the room. “Tell him the truth.” A voice spoke. 19 looked confused.
The voice was unfamiliar and clearly not from Magnus or himself. “Tell him the truth. I don’t want to kill you.” The voice continued. 19 considered the eyes of the boy. The child’s voice sounded like an echo of multiple voices in his head. 19 returned his gaze to Magnus. “Fei Zeall and Lale arrived on my home world of Tetcht over 2 years ago.” 19 began.
“Lale was killed shortly after by a child of immense power. Fei sent me to pursue her. I was defeated by a woman named Tumakako and banished from the planet. My people thought Vanakan kill her long ago, but she survived.” 19 confessed.
Magnus adjusted himself in his seat, listening closely. “Surely after the Eira storm is over, Fei will track them down and destroy them. He possesses even more power than both the child and traitor.” 19 stated.
The echoing started to return. “We don’t have much time. I will return.” The boy spoke into 19’s thoughts. “That’s enough Jesh.” Magnus ordered. The boy released his grip on 19 and returned to the side of Magnus. Jesh never opened his mouth the entire interaction. As soon as his grip was released, the voices disappeared.
“It would seem your father is still alive.” Magnus stated. 19’s eyes explained his stunned confirmation. “Oh yes, I could tell from the time you saw Jesh, you knew his lineage. Most people do.” Magnus said.
“Unfortunately, Fei convinced the best warrior on Pratham to defect and live the life of treason.” Magnus continued. Magnus dropped his head into his hands. “It is most ill-fated to hear of her death.” He said, genuine sorrow on his face. “And Vanakan.” Magnus chuckled.
“The old fool. Brilliant but still a fool. I warned him Tumakako would abandon us. Her heart splintered with every mission. His last report hinted of a planet we couldn’t locate in our orbital chart records. I now know why we never received his debriefing.”
Magnus informed and unsuspecting 19. The words sunk to the lower depths of his stomach. All the time they praised Vanakan. Meanwhile, he had been deceiving the people of Tetcht.
Only one unreceived communication stood between peace and their exposure to the expanded universe. 19 noticed the stoic face Jesh constantly presented. It was clear Fei may have been more correct than previously thought. Peace is impossible. It is our nature to seek conflict.
“Fei’s power is unrivaled on Pratham as well. However, not even the mighty Fei Zeall can withstand the onslaught of the Pratham army.” Magnus stated pompously. He rose to his feet, whisking away his seat.
“Rest Sentry 19, you will be the final piece. You will help usher in the destruction of Pratham’s most lethal foe.” Magnus proclaimed. He spoke with an elegance of the perfect dignitary, rusty tone but a smooth pronunciation of every word.
He spoke as a man who had ruled for centuries, hearing his voice would be a pleasure, if you were not his target. Magnus exited the small metal room with Jesh following closely behind.
Days passed with no word or visit from Magnus or Jesh. 19 spent each day, trying to piece together his next move. Even with his injury all but healed, he stood no chance at escape. Escaping alone would only expose him to the Pratham army. He possessed, no ship or destination.
“Maybe Pratham is still the best option.” 19 thought, while he rested on the cold metal floor. The door opened, breaking his train of thought. Jesh stood on the other side of the entrance.
Wearing a more casual mesh attire with his sash still across his chest. 19 sat up, unsure what would happen next. Jesh extended his fist, turning over his hand to reveal 19’s shards. “I upgraded your armor. Pratham has evolved since my parents left.” Jesh said. 19 gazed at the child, hesitant to retrieve his shards.
“From what I understand about my father, he is lacking in patience.” Jesh began. “It is a commonality we share.” He said with a playful smile, but there would be no lie in his intentions. 19 cautiously approached Jesh and accepted the shards.
He placed them on his wrists and watched them take the bracelet arrangement, before he returned to his edge of the room. He refused to take his eyes off Jesh. “Am I allowed in?” Jesh asked. “You’re the one with the power.” 19 said with a shrug of his shoulders. Jesh remained outside the room.
“Maybe you don’t know the power you possess.” Jesh offered. “Let me explain. You know the location of my father. From your short time on this planet, you can infer, that information is of the utmost importance. Therefore, it would appear you possess the power.” Jesh suggested. 19 shook his head in denial. “You could torture me, force me to give up the information.” 19 responded.
“You served father, fought against Tumakako, a great warrior and genetic scientist of the early days, survived the elements of space and killed 5 Pratham soldiers.” Jesh said smirking.
“Torture is a waste of time on the courageous. As I stated, patience is something that eludes me. So, if you would please.” Jesh finished. 19 looked into the child’s eyes. There was no glimmer of untruth or game. “Come in. How can I help you, Son of Fei?” 19 inquired.
Jesh entered the room, sealing the door behind him. He leaned back allowing the air to catch his body, taking on a relaxed posture while levitating in the air. “I require your assistance.” Jesh said. 19 looked confused. Unaware of any benefit he could provide to Jesh. “I want to meet my father. I need to reach him before the council does. Take me to him.” Jesh demanded.
“I can’t return to Tetcht. I failed to complete my mission. Your father isn’t really known for his forgiveness either.” 19 answered. Jesh frowned at the response he received. “What if I aid you in your mission? Surely, you will be welcomed back.” Jesh suggested.
“Assuming that your father has not killed her. The mission was to kill a little girl. A child. Dara.” 19 said. Jesh floated effortlessly through the compact room, causing 19 to circle to maintain eye contact. “Wow. What’s so special about this girl?” Jesh inquired.
“She consumed the raw Iku. It’s the green version according to your father. Apparently, it will make her extremely powerful, unmatched in the universe.” 19 explained.
“She became more powerful than even your father. Managed to wound him in her escape.” Jesh’s shock halted his movements. His reaction transferred into excitement. “Wow. That would be amazing. I’ve always heard about the strength my father has.” He said, before starting to float around nonchalantly again.
“Still, I hold the power of both Iku. I survived the Blending. The only person to my knowledge. Vanakan was merely the first scientist to nearly figure out the delicate extraction process. Magnus and his research team were able to use the notes they received from Vanakan to solve it. Only reason more people don’t take the raw Iku, is the Blending.
It’s too unstable. Hundreds of thousands of test subjects died. I’m the only one to survived it on Pratham. I’m practically a god.” 19’s chest began to pound. He was unsure if Jesh was telling the truth or trying to intimidate him. Such power would confirm the way in which he dismantled him in their duel.
“I can feel your increased heartbeat. You’re not in danger.” Jesh said. 19 couldn’t help but recognize the similarities Jesh shared with his father. So confident and calm, whilst a grand force brimmed below the surface. “I’m the strongest being in the universe. Each day I grow more powerful. This Dara is no threat to me.” Jesh said before floating to eye level with 19.
“I just need my father’s help to overthrow Magnus and the Council.” 19 thought for a moment. Confusion riddled his brain. “If you’re a god, why not destroy the council yourself?” He asked. Jesh looked disappointed. Dropping down to the ground, he stood looking up at 19 who was a couple feet taller than him.
“Even a great star can burn out. My body is young. Exhausting my power would leave me exposed. I can’t take on the council and half the Pratham army alone.” Jesh said.
Jesh turned to make his exit. “Only half?” 19 asked. Jesh nodded. “This universe is vast. Humans are but a blink of its reality. We may have reached too far this time. As far as Pratham goes, war causes people to choose sides, choices are not always the equivalent to unity.” Jesh responded.
He turned to observe 19 once more before he would leave. “I need to formulate a strategy for us to escape to your home world. I’ll return when I have made arrangements. Remain prepared at all times for departure.” Jesh admonished. 19 acknowledged the instructions he had been given. Jesh left 19 in the room.
19 walked around the room, dwelling on everything he had just heard. He lapped his containment a couple more times before settling in the corner. 19 studied his new bracelets.
He was about to tap them together, but the simple thought of it activated his armor. This version felt lighter, yet stronger. 19 returned to his feet. He looked at his distorted imaged in the metallic wall. The armor resembled his original version, with a slight variation. It was sleek like Jesh’s, with less of a quartz appearance and more of a diamond.
19 held out his hand, his thoughts generating his improved pole axe, blood red in color. It too felt lighter. 19 gently allowed the blade to touch the floor. Upon lifting it again, the metal flooring revealing a thick ridge the width of his blade. “This family really knows how to win you over.” 19 thought, delighted by his personal upgrades.