A black man, just slightly under average height, walked across the rooftop from the right of the television screen. He was clad in a green, gemstone suit of armor; what would have been, on a knight, made of metal was for him made of what seemed to be emerald. On his hip was a sheathed sword, made of the same gemstones. His helmet’s visor was up, revealing his face. He had a scar from the bottom of his right eye down to his lips, and a thick beard that looked like a black-and-gray Velcro. A cape fluttered behind him as he walked across the rooftop, and placed a foot on the raised edge.
From the same side of the roof followed a young, pale-skinned man that followed. He was dressed in a black, one-piece uniform, a black belt tied around his waist to hold his gear in place. His mask was pulled up to reveal a smooth, clean-shaved face with blue eyes. “It almost looks peaceful from here, doesn’t it, Emerald Knight?”
“This city never sleeps – even at it’s most restful. That’s why we have to stay vigilant, Shadow,” the Emerald Knight said as he looked at the fake cityscape, back to the camera. The camera began to move around the set as Shadow stepped towards the edge. The new camera angle revealed the red bricks that made up the side of the rooftop where Emerald Knight stood. “For who knows what evil is being plotted in the shadows of the night, if not the Emerald Knight and his trusty Shadow?”
The camera was now between the Emerald Knight and the cityscape he looked at. The moon behind him created a silhouette of his form against the night sky, his eyes looking down at the camera.
“And perhaps,” Shadow said as he pulled down his mask, “Not even the Emerald Knight.”
“What do you mean, Shadow?” he asked, starting to turn around. Shadow answered before the Emerald Knight could turn all the way around with a punch to the face, knocking the armor-clad man off his balance. With a shout he fell into the darkness below, the camera following as he plummeted towards the street below.
And then, before he hit the street, the camera turned back up to the Shadow. Slowly it zoomed in on his masked face, his eyes glistening in the artificial light. “Good Knight,” he said calmly.
The screen faded to black, and the words “To be continued...” appeared against the background. The credits began to roll as the Emerald Knight theme song played. On the couch across from the TV, Ami Ikari was sleeping.
Ami Ikari woke up as the credits ended and the commercial break began. She sat up on the couch with a sleepy yawn, her perfectly black hair was a mess as her pajamas hung from her body loosely. She moved slowly and lazily as she laid down, stretching her arms and legs out. She sighed and grabbed the remote. “Great, I missed the end...”
The sound of her cell phone going off filled the room and with a tired groan she muted the TV, her other hand pulling the phone from her pajama pants’ pocket. She looked down to see that it was a call from the laboratory. “And to think, I woke up just in time for this,” she muttered.
“Hello?” she asked as she answered the phone, pressing it to her ear. She was silent as she listened to the woman on the other end, and nodded silently. And then she paused for a few moments.
“N-Three R-Zero is being transported to Avalon Bay? Why?” She paused again, and then nodded. “I understand. Thank you for telling me.”
She hung up, and shook her head as she set the phone down on the short table in front of the couch. “After everything she did for us three years ago, too,” she muttered. “But if she did that, I can’t blame the lab for making that decision.”
Ami shook her head slightly as she closed her eyes and laid back onto the couch. “Well, at least I don’t have to do the paperwork,” she muttered to herself with a half smile, and opened her eyes to look at the TV. The news was on, reporting what seemed to be a tropical storm forming in the northwestern Ogallala Sea, moving east slowly – the first such storm to form in the inland sea. She unmuted it and was met with the weather man talking.
“- first of its kind in this part of the country, and how it’s forming isn’t clear yet. However, it seems to be growing all the same. We’ll keep you updated as this storm continues to move east, but for anyone is planning to be visiting the Midwestern United States soon, I personally would advise you avoid travel until the storm is over.”
The visuals showed it moving from a the northwestern of the sea, where a small island was located. She smirked slightly, and shook her head. “What are those soldiers in Avalon Bay thinking?” she asked herself as she hit the rewind button. The news bulletin stopped as she rewound the television. The credits for Emerald Knight rolled in reverse, and she pressed the rewind twice again – fast enough that she’d be unable to tell what was going on in the scenes that she had slept through the first time.
“Not my problem, whatever it is,” she said as she put an arm beneath her pillow. The rewind function hit the start of the episode, and she smiled as it began playing.
Ariel opened her eyes to find herself in a hospital room, the sterile, white lights blinding her momentarily. Her bed was one of three, but the other two were empty. She sat up to find herself groaning in pain, and looked down to find bandages wrapped tightly around her torso. She laid back down.
Faint memories of the gunshot passed through her mind, and she swore under her breath. She looked to her arms to see that she had some wires hooked into her, and glanced around the empty room. Beside her was a screen displaying her vitals, clearly from the wires hooked into her arms.
“Of course, it’s a miracle she’s alive,” said a voice from behind the door. It paused for a few moments, as if listening to someone that was out of Ariel’s hearing range.“Very interesting test results from her blood samples though, you’re right.”
There was silence again, whoever the doctor was talking to was out of earshot completely. Ariel leaned towards the door but it did no good – she still heard nothing from the other person.
“It was some sort of... foreign substance, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ll show you after I’ve checked in on the patient.”
The door opened and in walked a black man in a clean, white lab coat. He was bald and wore a pair of wire-framed glasses that sat too far up on his nose, so that his eyebrows practically rested on them. His eyes were a bland brown, and his smile revealed a set of perfectly white teeth – even if it was a bit too big of a smile for Ariel’s tastes. “I see you’re awake,” he said as he pulled out the clipboard from beneath his arms. She saw no one behind him, but didn’t have much time to look for whoever he had been talking to; he shut the door as he walked closer. “How are you feeling?”
“Well, the bullet hole hurts like Hell,” Ariel said as she leaned back against the pillow. “Who were you talking to?”
“Oh, I was talking to a supervisor that was interested in your blood test – some strange foreign material, but from what I can tell nothing dangerous.” The doctor smiled again slightly, before he pulled a pen out from his coat pocket. “Other than the wound still hurting, any pain? Light-headedness, dizziness...?”
“No,” Ariel answered. She didn’t respond to his mentioning the supervisor – or the substance. If there were more people after Angel hosts, like whoever had tried to kill her and kidnap Christina, then it was fully possible that there was a connection. Best to not rouse suspicion any more than she had to. “How did I get here? I don’t remember anything after getting shot.”
“A man came in with you, said that he heard gunshots from your home and found you inside,” the doctor responded as he sat down on a stool near the bed. “When were you born?”
“June twenty-third, nineteen ninety-four,” Ariel responded.
“And your full name?”
“Ariel Lee Smith.”
“Alright, that checks out with what we got when we checked out your ID. We called your parents a while ago, but neither answered. Do you live with them still?”
“Any medication you’ve been taking lately?”
“None.” The doctor went to write that down. “Actually, I took some aspirins earlier. For a hang over.”
The doctor nodded and wrote it down, before he put the clipboard down again. The pen was under his thumb, against the top of the clipboard as he looked at Ariel’s vitals on the monitor. He lifted it up again to write down the numbers on the screen, before turning to the redhead. “Alright, you’re looking good. I’ll let you get some more rest, the wounds weren’t as bad as they could have been – the bullets missed your major arteries, but you still lost a lot of blood.”
“How long will I be here?” she asked as she sat up slightly, wincing in pain again. She used her arms to hold herself up, but the movement still caused her some discomfort. “I want to check on my friend, make sure she’s okay-”
“Relax, lay back down. You were the only person there, and there’s been no reports of anyone else in the area getting hurt. I’m sure your friend is fine,” the doctor said with a gentle smile. Slowly, Ariel laid back down, the pain subsiding as she returned to a fully horizontal position. “And from how you’re recovering... you’ll be good to go in a day or two. We’ll notify your parents to tell them what’s happening, so just take it easy for now.”
Ariel nodded and said nothing, and the doctor left without another word. He seemed almost... aggressive in his interruption of her concern for Christina, was it possible he knew more than he was letting on? But he had plenty of opportunities to try something, surely he’d have taken them if he was in on it.
Ariel shook her head as she was once again alone. Silence filled the room. “Of course he’s not in on anything,” she said to herself quietly. “That’d be silly. I’m just paranoid because of that... man,” she remarked, nodding at her own explanation. Surely, she could trust a medical professional – at least this doctor. There was no way that he’d have not tried anything while she was in this state.
Of course, there was the matter of the supervisor, and the foreign material in her blood test. Whatever that was, she didn’t like the sound of it – but if there was something in her blood...
“Then that would be why the supervisor was interested,” she explained to herself with a short nod. “I have something in me that’s new, and the supervisor is just interested because of that.” It was reasonable, if she were in the same position that would attract her interest. An unknown foreign material in a patient? Surely, that they were interested was good.
“But if they mention the finding to the wrong person,” she whispered, her eyes widened with the realization. But she didn’t finish that thought aloud. It didn’t need to be said aloud for it to be clear. If the wrong person heard about what was going on, then it would be clear that something was up with her. And while it was true that the shape shifting man knew about her, other groups, other individuals... It was a scary thought.
For the first time since gaining her powers, Ariel realized that there were layers of deception surrounding her. And she was going to have to find a way to deal with these layers whether she wanted to or not.
“Nihilium,” Raelyn said as she walked into the living room of her house. Her hands were at her ears, fiddling with an earring. “Did I tell you about this dream I had the other night? The one about the Angel.”
“Hm? Oh, yeah, I think so – you mean the one where you were told you had a power by an Angel, right?” he asked, looking up at her from the magazine – some geek culture magazine that, apparently, Raelyn was subscribed to.
“It’s silly, but for some reason I can’t stop thinking about it,” Raelyn said as she finally pulled the earring out. She smiled and put it down on a shelf that hung off the wall, before walking to the couch on the other side of the room. She sat down, and looked across at Nihilium. “It’s almost as if it wasn’t a dream.”
Nihilium nodded, putting the magazine down and turning to look at her. “And what if it wasn’t?”
Raelyn paused and said nothing, thinking on it. If it wasn’t a dream, if it was... real? What then? She laughed and shook her head.
“What is it?”
“It’s just that it seems like this conversation’s been had before,” she responded as she leaned back into the couch and shrugged. “If it wasn’t a dream though... I don’t know. How would I know?”
“Let me show you something, Raelyn.” Nihilium stood up with a quick push with his hands, and stepped forward. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, his mind focused on his link with Delirium. He heard Raelyn gasped and opened his eyes, to find the Angel standing in the room now. Delirium’s shadowy form stood there, his red eyes piercing through the shadows of his body as the blackness drifted off like smoke.
“You... you just appeared,” Raelyn said as she stared at the man who stood there, and then after a short moment added, “Are you... what are you?”
“I am Delirium, Nihilium’s... Angel.” His mouth twisted into a smile as his eyes stared blankly at Raelyn, and he turned towards Nihilium. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Delirium, do you know what happened last night? Raelyn has memories, but they seem off to me,” he said, cutting in before the two could continue.
“My memories seem off to you? At least I have memories.”
“No, Nihilium is correct,” Delirium said as he nodded. “Your memories have been altered – his lack of any led him in the right direction,” Delirium continued. He sat down on the couch, the cushion not bending at all from his weight. “Should I begin with your dream?”
“You know about my dream?” Raelyn asked, and then looked at Nihilium. “You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“He did not,” Delirium said before Nihilium could deny the accusation. He put a hand out to gesture for them to sit, and Nihilium slowly took a seat on the couch across from Delirium, and Raelyn soon did the same. “I am aware because it was, in truth, an Angel’s message. While I do not know the message itself, you have the power the Angel told you about.”
Raelyn said nothing as she stared at Delirium, the Angel pausing for a few moments. The Angel continued, finding no reason to wait for her.
“In any event, you used your power last night – you transformed metal into a weapon three times. However, it seemed to me that you were straining your powers after the third time, so I wouldn’t recommend using it for a while.”
“Why did she use her powers?” Nihilium asked, Raelyn still having nothing to say in response. There was so much being told to her at once that she had no real response to it other than a stunned silence.
“There was an Angel host that had... lost control of his powers. Military-related, from what I saw – there was a general there, he was a host as well, and with an... Archangel.”
“The most powerful form of an Angel, an Archangel... well, to be honest, I can’t believe one is safely channeling their powers to a human. Or able to even be on this planet without causing immense destruction,” Nihilium responded. “They’re capable of surviving without any external energy input; they are walking nuclear reactors.”
Nihilium too was now in stunned silence, the sheer magnitude of power required for such a being to exist was... frightening, to say the least. “What about this general, then? What happened?”
“He offered to take the two of you to be part of the experiments going on in their laboratory, you declined – and he wiped your memories of the entire series of events,” Delirium explained. Silence followed for a few seconds as the two processed that information.
“Wait... so a military general was there, and he wiped our memories?” Raelyn asked, breaking the silence now. “And... I can make metal into weapons?”
“That is what I said, I believe.”
“So... do you know where this lab is?” Nihilium asked, leaning forward and placing his elbows on his legs for support.
“I do,” Delirium said, and his smile came back. “It’s in the northwest of the so-called Ogallala Sea, on an island base referred to as Avalon Bay by the military. More interestingly, it’s where the recently-formed tropical storm over that sea began.” He stood up and walked away from the couch, wisps of shadow trailing off behind him. “I’d wager that investigating would be wise.”
“And why is that?” Nihilium asked.
“Because they’re well aware of you. And they aren’t going to give you time to decide what you think about them before they act. Especially since they think that you’re unaware that they know you exist,” Delirium explained as he walked away from the two. He turned around, and leaned against the wall as he watched them.
“How would we investigate?” Raelyn asked, as she looked at Nihilium and then at Delirium. “I mean, it’s the military. Surely they can keep tabs on us.”
“I could look into the future, see what they plan doing with us. Or is that too much for my foresight to handle?”
Raelyn put a hand up to stop Delirium from speaking, and asked, “Wait, you can see the future?”
Nihilium paused, and then looked over to Delirium. The Angel nodded, before explaining; “He can see into the future a limited amount; to much strain, and well... he had two working eyes and a full memory before you met him, and then he pushed too hard.” He shrugged, and then looked at Nihilium. “Yes, you’d be able to for a bit – I can’t guarantee much, but I’ll stop you if you push too deep again.”
“Nihilium,” Raelyn said as she grabbed a hold of his arm, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself doing this. So make sure you don’t push too hard. We’ve known each other for only a little time, but we’re in this together it seems.”
Nihilium looked at her and nodded once. He pulled her hand from his arm and patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I won’t.”
“Will you help?” she asked, turning her head to Delirium. The Angel shrugged again, and stepped away from the wall.
“I can see if I can find any other Angels involved. But beyond simply looking into it...” Delirium lifted his hands up as if to say “Oh well” as he walked towards the door to the house. “I will see what I can do. Beyond that, it’s up to the two of you. Make sure you don’t attract any unnecessary attention to yourselves.”
And with that he was gone, walking through the still-closed door and vanishing from the room. Nihilium and Raelyn sat on the couch by each other, his hand on her shoulder still. She grabbed his arm and squeezed it again, before getting up. His arm fell to his side.
“I’m going to make myself something to eat, alright?” It was a rhetorical question. Raelyn pushed herself up and walked away from the couch without waiting for Nihilium to say anything.
“Yeah,” Nihilium responded as he watched her walk out of the living room. She paused at the entrance to the kitchen and looked back at him for a second. “I’m going to try to see what I can see in the future about this whole thing, but... I don’t know if I can.”
He closed his eye, and focused forward into the future, hoping to find something relating to the military’s involvement with the Angels. What he saw was familiar though; it was the same scene he had seen when he had met Raelyn, on that very same rooftop. He didn’t hear Raelyn’s screams yet, and he frantically looked around the frame of vision future him had. He quickly saw the face of the man who had been there the first time, and saw that he had a military uniform on.
This time, even though he couldn’t find Raelyn, he saw someone new. He was a large man, with brown hair and green eyes – and mechanical arms, it seemed. As the man approached he heard Raelyn from behind him shouting something, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn around – he was seeing this through his own eye, from the future.
“So, Nihilium and Raelyn again... You didn’t back down when you had the chance,” said the general. He shook his head and laughed. “You looked into the future all the way back then, and saw this happening, didn’t you? And you still came.”
The man with the mechanical arms rose them each over his head. There was a sharp whirring noise, and the general spoke as he watched the two face off. “You never had a chance to start with, Nihilium.”
“Nihilium, get down!”
There was a flash; a beam of light erupted from behind his future self, and filled both his present vision and his future vision. Light flooded everything, and there was a scream. Nihilium tried to move but couldn’t – it was, after all, his future’s body. and he found himself unable to see as the brightness blinded him.
When his vision returned he was in Raelyn’s living room again, and quickly got off the couch. He understood now what Delirium had been showing him from the day he woke up in that field, near the wreck. He didn’t need to be told the meaning of what he saw.
She’s going to die, he thought to himself as he walked towards the kitchen. But it’s too late to change that now.
He smiled at the sight of Raelyn in the kitchen, he had seen the events that would lead up to her death three times now – as far as he was concerned, she was but a living ghost. He didn’t want to get to know her better now that he knew that she was doomed, but he understood why Delirium had told him not to look ahead too much into her future.
“You’re a fixed point,” he whispered to himself. Raelyn turned around when she heard his voice.
“Oh, Nihilium, did you want something too?”
The opportunity to tell her what was destined to happen, that he would watch her die on a rooftop as a result of what they were doing now, was at hand – all it would take to warn her and try to change the future was to say “I saw you die.”
He did not say those words. He pushed the thought far out of his mind, and smiled. “Yeah, I could go for some orange juice if you have any left. I didn’t see anything yet, but scanning the future takes a lot of energy.”
Ignorance would be the only way he could protect her. Not from death, but from fear and anxiety.
Besides it didn’t matter if she knew or not, he was well aware now – she would die, regardless. He just as well let her live without that knowledge.
The late morning sun washed over Kyosu’s face, the man stirring as his eyes opened. He found himself laying on the couch in the main room of Bellona’s apartment, the sound of water boiling in a coffee pot in his ears. He pulled himself up with the back of the couch, and looked forward to see Bellona in the kitchen. The sound of running water joined the sound of the coffee pot’s bubbling.
“Morning, Bellona” he said as he watched her press her head against the refrigerator, water filling her cup. She looked back from the refrigerator and pulled her glass from the water dispenser, and nodded softly.
“Yeah... good morning,” she said as she lifted the glass up to her face. She took a short drink, and then looked past Kyosu and out the window. “Did Celestia come in by any chance?”
Kyosu paused for a few seconds, his eyes widening as he quickly pushed himself off the couch and onto his feet. “No, she didn’t,” he said as the blanket fell to the floor. He stood there in only his boxers and Bellona shook her head softly, glancing towards the couch and then away from him completely. “We have to do something,” he said as he stood there, looking around himself for where the rest of his clothes had gotten to.
“Like you getting dressed and cleaning my couch,” Bellona muttered as she walked around the counter, looking away from the man as he bent over to grab his clothes off the floor.
“That won’t help us save Celestia,” Kyosu said, grabbing his shirt and putting it on first. Bellona rolled her eyes with a sigh as she set the glass down on the counter, and put her hand next to it.
“Well, what’s your plan, then, Kyosu? Just dive back into wherever you were, try fighting her way out?” Bellona asked as she rose an eyebrow, Kyosu silent as he pulled his pants up his legs now. “For all we know, they’re not even there. Do you even know who we’re chasing?”
“Jacques Bryant III,” Kyosu said with a nod, looking up to her. “And I don’t know where they’d have gone. I can open a portal back up to the location, you freeze time, and we go ahead.”
“Do I look like I have the energy to freeze time?” Bellona asked, tapping the counter. “I have to get myself awake more so I can focus to do anything.”
“Okay, well, we can just check the news and see if there’s any developments with the gangs’ activity there first, right?” Kyosu asked, grabbing the remote off of the small end table.
Bellona smirked slightly and nodded, “That’s the first smart idea you’ve had about this. It’s dangerous to get involved with anything like this, especially if they are Angel hosts themselves.”
The news flickered onto the screen, to reveal that the situation was still unchanged – the monument was shut down, the hostage situation still under way. Only now, instead of them having no stated demands, their demands were simple: That they would be given control of the parts of the Badlands that bordered the Ogallala Sea.
The coffee pot hissed and stopped bubbling, the pot itself filled with enough coffee to last her the whole day. She grabbed a travel mug out of one of the cupboards and poured the coffee in. She smiled and inhaled the smell of the fresh coffee as it filled the apartment, and set the now-empty pot back on the burner.
She took a drink without waiting for it to cool, and slurped at the top of the steaming liquid. Kyosu watched her take the drink, waiting for her to finish slurping.
“You’re not going to add cream or sugar?” he asked.
“I like the first sip or two to be just the coffee,” she said with a shrug. “You’re not nearly as frightened sounding as you were earlier.”
“Well... I just can’t imagine that anything has happened to Celestia beyond the obvious,” he said as he glanced down. “I mean, he wouldn’t kill her – he wants her powers. He’s probably just holding her hostage.”
“And if she refuses to give him his power too long, why wouldn’t he kill her? He had that knife, he could do it.”
“If she was dead, I’d feel it,” he said matter-of-factly, looking away from Bellona. “Are you ready?”
“Give me some time to get the coffee working in me, alright?” she asked, opening the refrigerator and pulling out a small bottle of creamer. She poured it into the travel mug and put it back, Kyosu watching the news report on the situation at Mount Rushmore still. Surely, Jacques wouldn’t have done anything drastic yet- after all, he was still in the middle of the stand-off with the response teams.
She put the lid on the travel mug and tightened it as she walked back around the counter, placing a hand on the back of the couch. “So they’re still there, huh? Kinda unexpected,” she said, taking a sip through the lid of the travel mug. “Looks like you know exactly where to open a portal to then.”
Kyosu nodded as he turned his head to face Bellona, looking behind him to do so. “It means a lot to me that you’re helping, Bellona.” He smiled softly, and glanced down for a moment. “I haven’t had someone to help me out like this in... well, a long time.”
“Don’t thank me until we’ve actually done it,” she said with a short shrug. “You’re sure you can still use your power, then?”
“I... I guess I didn’t even think of that,” Kyosu said sheepishly, turning away from her. He looked at the wall and closed his eyes gently, focusing on the image he needed to picture. “Let’s find out...”
He pictured a portal opening near where he had been taken perfectly, every detail he needed to accurately open the portal. But none opened, and when he opened his eyes he found himself staring at the wall in front of him.
He took a step forward slowly, and then broke into a run. He closed his eyes and pictured a portal opening in front of him, he pictured a portal opening at Mount Rushmore for him to run through. No portal opened, however, and he soon crashed into the wall. Bellona cringed as he hit the floor, the apartment shaking from the sudden impact against the wall.
“Dammit,” he muttered as he opened his eyes and pushed himself off the floor. “Why isn’t it opening?”
Bellona stepped forward and placed a hand on the young man’s shoulder. She gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze and shook her head. “It’s not going to help to ask why. Celestia’s the one in charge of your power – whatever is happening, she’s not able to make the portal open apparently,” Bellona said, and sighed softly. “I’m not sure what we can do with that in mind.”
“So I have to just sit here and wait then?” he asked as he looked at the wall, and put a hand on it. Bellona nodded slowly, and gave him another pat on the shoulder.
“Well... there’s nothing else we can do.”
Kyosu pushed her hand off of his shoulder as he stepped away, and gently he hit the wall with his head. Bellona sighed and took a drink from her travel mug, the man resting his head against the wall.
“I’m sorry, Kyosu. We’ll have to wait until either she comes to us, or we can go to her.”
Bellon watched in silence as the man focused hard, trying with all his might to open a portal. Truth be told, that he was able to open a portal that far was incredible in her opinion. Yet it wasn’t her thing to compliment another.
Maybe she would help him after all, if things don’t go too well.
Kyosu said nothing as he closed his eyes, ignoring the world around him as he focused on the image of the portal in his head.