Hope lunged behind mangled and twisted metal as another concussive blast ripped through the air and slammed into his last position. Panting, he wiped off the gleam of sweat that had formed on his forehead.
Who are these guys?
Hope got into a crouching position and peeked around the metal cover. He ducked back just in time to avoid another concussive blast. Hope’s eyes briefly rested on the unmoving bodies strewn about the rubble and twisted steel of buildings blown apart. These were his fellow trainees, his superiors and most of all, his friends.
How could they do this?
Hope, grit his teeth in anger. How he’d held them off this long, he didn’t know. He just knew he wasn’t ready to die without putting up the fight of his life. That last thought snapped his mind back to the task at hand. Surviving. He heard the shift of pulverized rubble. The sound was coming from his left. Hope spun in that direction and instinctively deflected the rifle aimed at his body, with his left hand. Invisible blasts were shot skyward and the downward pressure from the blasts slapped on him like a vicious paw.
Hope grimaced and willed himself forward, slamming his hand into his attacker’s solar plexus. The muscular man’s powerful arm served as a beam for Hope, who hoisted himself up and caught the man with a kick to the left cheek. The air around Hope’s own cheeks, slowly heated up. Another attacker had fired a few concussive blasts at him. Hope pushed off the first attacker’s arm, into a midair cartwheel, with his head pivoting away from where he instinctively knew the concussive blasts were. He landed back behind the cover and spun to his right, around the cover, while firing a few plasma shots at the second attacker.
A few more shots were fired back at him and he spun back behind the cover. The first attacker pushed up to his knees and Hope trained his plasma gun on him. His finger wrapped around the trigger and froze.
Shoot dammit! Shoot!
Hope sprung forward and broke into a zigzag dash. The world exploded around him, spraying him with pulverized concrete, shrapnel, and melted metal. The air behind him heated up, scalding the back of his neck. Hope glanced back and wished he hadn’t. They’d fired a high-powered blast at him and from what he could see, it’s width was so wide, he couldn’t possibly evade it. Hope closed his eyes and put his hands up in front of him. The crashing sound was thunderous and the heat level around him skyrocketed. Hope felt engulfed by the explosion and prepared for the unknown.
Clieo. I’m sorry.
“I’m sorry.” The words startled Hope as they escaped his mouth.
He opened his eyes and gasped. The agitated air around him howled, slashed and lashed about, obliterating everything he could see. Yet, it seemed he was unharmed.
“H…how?” Hope asked no one in particular.
It was then he noticed the green structure that had formed around him like a dome. It was translucent, enabling him to see the outside world albeit shaded in a predominant green hue. The dome appeared to be made up of hexagonal shapes that shone a bright green at the edges. Hope looked around him and saw the attackers slowly walk towards him, their black mechanical suits whirring with each step. They raised their guns, but one of them raised a hand signaling them to hold fire. Judging from his physical size, Hope guessed the attacker was the one he’d spared earlier. He hadn’t killed any of them, even though he had chances.
Just what kind of Soldier are you? This is a battle. It is kill or be killed.
His thoughts echoed Duran’s words.
The attacker who had signaled his comrades to hold fire, walked up to the edge of his shield – it was the only thing he could call it.
“You have our apologies, kiddo. We did not know you were one of the warriors we are looking for. Our sensors did not initially pick up any heightened spectral energy and we were caught in the heat of battle.”
“W…what are you guys talking about? Warrior? Spectral? Who are you?” Hope took a step back and the shield moved with him.
“I know you have a lot of questions. My name is Baxter and I am a member of the Exiles.”
“Just… drop your shield and come with us. We’ll answer all your questions once we are safely out of Eden.”
“I might be young, but I’m not naïve!” Hope yelled. “You think you can trick me into dropping this, so you can kill me?”
“I know it sounds ridiculous but we aren’t here to kill you or those like you. I’m not even sure you knew about this ability. Do you know how to drop it? How to maintain it? Our leader has researched your kind for a few years. We’ll help you with what we know.” Baxter pleaded.
“Just like you helped them?” Hope pointed to a few dead guards.
Baxter sighed and stretched.
“Listen, kiddo. I’m not particularly good at coaxing. You are important to us, so I cannot and absolutely will not kill you. You need to come with us, now or we’ll take you by force.”
“You’re not taking him anywhere!”
Hope spun around and was quickly filled with joy and worry at the sight he saw.
“Clieo!” He yelled.
“Hope!” Clieo yelled back as she ran towards him, her dirty blonde hair flying in the wind.
Kaya and Maggy quickly caught up to her and all three stopped just before Hope’s shield.
“Hope… what is this?” Clieo asked.
“I… I don’t really understand it myself. Clieo how did you find me? You shouldn’t be here!”
“I sensed you. It’s weird but I could… follow your energy. We have a lot to talk about.”
“Guys. I hate to break up the party, but we’ve got immediate problems here.” Maggy stated, never taking her eyes off the intruders.
She had counted eleven of them. Hope had been a recruit for a month. How could he have single-handedly faced eleven men and held them off?
“Hope. You’re hurt.” Clieo said.
She stepped forward and something amazing happened. She slipped effortlessly through Hope’s shield, as a yellow halo of light surrounded her. Clieo placed her hand on Hope’s face and the reddened parts of his skin where he’d been scalded, slowly healed.
“Steadman. Give me a reading.” Baxter ordered.
One of the attackers ran forward and crouched beside Baxter. He was holding a black triangular device with a smooth display.
“Sir. Prism indicates all four subjects to be emitting heightened Spectral energy.”
“Four spectral warriors.” Baxter sighed. “Where’s Alexa when you need her?”
“What are you rambling about?” Kaya asked coolly.
Baxter turned towards them.
“Yeah… so… all four of you need to come with us.”