First On Earth

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“I decline,” I said, determinedly. Dr. Greg raised his brows. We were in a secluded room with no camera or people watching and hearing our conversation. “I don’t give a damn about things like that. All I care about is living without a worry."

“I am very sorry to hear that,” said Dr. Greg. “I thought you would share our standing.”

“I do understand, but do not agree with the last part. That’s beyond my interest,” I repeated.

“Do you think, you can seriously have the kind of life you want?” questioned the doctor in a sarcastic tone. But I knew better to not fall for it.

“If you people don’t intervene in my life and let me be, yes I think it’s possible,” I answered casually. Dr. Greg leaned back on his chair, keeping his eyes steady on me. The grimace on his face suggested that he had not been used to this kind of insolence from anyone. But he nevertheless stood up and pushed his chair inside the table dividing me and him. He started to walk out without a single word.

“I’ll just say I understand you; for now,” he said. Just before he left the room, leaving me sitting in the middle of it, he turned to stop. “But remember. My deal will always be valid.”

I waited until Dr. Greg was out of my sight. Then I quickly exited the building. What the old man said was all nonsense, but I felt half part of me has already given up to him. Still, I did not agree to his idea. I presumed it will create only chaos.

The director and Michelle was nowhere to be seen in or outside of the headquarter. I didn’t even see Scarlet at the lobby. With nowhere to go and no enemies to kill, I decided to get myself some exercise.

The gym wasn’t far from the command center. Passing a few more buildings would arrive to a building structure that had obvious sign on it ‘SECTOR 3 GYMANASIUM’. The gym wasn’t an ordinary gym, nothing like the one back in the 3rd Ark. Most of all, general ‘exercise’ was for ordinary citizens. On lower sections of the structure, had a couple of more levels featuring shooting ranges for soldiers and sword practices for Crusaders.

I hopped into the elevator inside the gym and went down three levels. Inside the practice center, I didn’t see any Crusaders with their swords practicing. It was completely empty and rarely used by anyone; which was fine for me because I got to have the entire space to my one. Now, at first I had no idea how you can ‘train’ a group of Crusader with physical abilities overwhelmingly surpassing any human being. The answer the Sectors came with was simulation training. They had every piece of high-tech gadgets from the Arks and made this state-of-the-art machine. Of course the technology wasn’t completely new, but it was the first time they made it this large.

Inside the third level were ten rooms, each larger than where I live. The rooms look smaller because the simulation machine takes up the entire space. I went into one of them and launched the machine. I attached all the sensors and the world shifted.

I was inside a thick forest. It didn’t just look like one, it sounded, smelled like a real forest. Birds and insects chirping, far cries of small animals, sunshine squeezing its way down to the bottom and the strong scent of grass and trees creeping up my legs; it was all beautifully animated.

Then a group of birds somewhere behind me flew off opposite to my directions, as if fleeing from something. The sun light gave up working its way through the leaves and insects went quiet. The forest immediately went dark.

A stomp from behind.

I turned around quickly and saw the monstrous figure of the Hunter facing down at me, ever so real. I launched a preemptive strike as soon as I saw it. With a stroke of sheer force, I smashed down at the Hunter but it blocked with its two arm-blades. The Hunter was thrown backwards from the impact, colliding with a tree behind. I stood up before it could and stabbed my sword against the disgusting head of it.

The second of the third Hunter was already coming for me from two sides. I pulled myself upward and targeted one of them. When I clashed my sword against it, the Hunter evaded. The two launched a coordinated attack against me. The impulse was unbearable and was thrown off meters away. Horrible thing was, the exhaustion in the real word depends of how much you got hurt in the simulation; it was the part I truly hated about these things.

I drew out my ability. Silvery shadow followed behind my sword and I charged against them. With a simple swing, I would be able to kill both of them. I landed just in front of them, avoid their blades and leaped with my sword swinging wildly.

Then everything disappeared.

I looked around and saw the huge simulation machine and myself attached with these weird wires and sensors. Then I saw Scarlet in front of the ‘on’ button.

“That wasn’t necessary,” I grumbled.

“Actually, that was. There’s a problem,” she said. “We need to get out first.”

“You have to be joking,” I scowled as I walked with Scarlet out of the structure. “Who gave the order?”

“Jerrod. But that’s not the real problem,” said Scarlet hurrying. “The Crusaders are surrounded and reinforcements are nowhere to be seen. Leon, they’re all going to die, not even Michelle has a good chance fighting her way out.”

“Where is this place?” I demanded.

“It’s just by the ground route from Sector 2 to here. I –“

“Do you have your aircraft?” I asked her, gripping her by the wrist and dragging her to the airfield. She nodded. “Fly me there, Scarlet.”

“What? No… I can’t do that, not even for you,” she said, suddenly releasing herself free. “I’m sorry, but I can get my license cancelled… I… I’m sorry but I have a family to feed and…”

“Please,” I pleaded. “Say that I threatened you by force. I’ll take all the responsibility. Just fly me there!”

She hesitated. I was extremely anxious. Every second she hesitated was a waste. Michelle might be on the verge of dying for all I knew. I grabbed her again and continued to drag her to the field, not waiting to hear her answer. When we finally arrived, I turned at her in front of her helicopter.

“You brought me this information for a reason, Scarlet. Please, I beg you,” I cried. She had an unfamiliar anxious look that I had never seen her wear since I've known her. “Fly me there, and you can leave right away if you want, just… please!”

“All right! All right…” her voice faded. She unleashed her keys and unlocked the cockpit door. I went aboard the helicopter at the back and grabbed a handle beside me. I equipped the headphone and the chopper started to lift off soon enough. Scarlet asked me if I was ready. I answered back with a yes and the aircraft was on its way.

For the entire flight, I readied the rope and gripped the hilt of my sword hard as ever. I walked side to side of the chopper to catch sight of any battle, and most importantly of Michelle. But for minutes, all I saw was a vast ocean of green trees. Beads of sweat ran down my cheek and back. I wiped off and tried to calm myself, but sweating did not seem to stop. I wildly looked around from above to find even a small glimpse of her.

“I found her!” buzzed the headphone. “9 o’ clock!”

There I saw. In between the thick forest, I saw the monstrous black figures running through the woods. My right hand grabbed the rope and other, the hilt.

“Lower her a little bit. I’m going to rappel down, leave as soon as I hit ground. Just tell them I threatened you,” I said through the headphone.

“Leon…!” she yelled back just before I removed the headphone. “Just... try not to die.”

“Will do,” I removed the headphone and went down with the rope. About a few meters, I just jumped down in hurry. I almost sprained my legs but that was least of my concerns. I ran towards where the black figures were.

The area was in complete chaos. I saw quite a lot of dead Crusaders but only a few Hunters ceased to live. The woods echoed with screams of terror and the eerie howls of Hunters. I ran past bodies, closer, closer to the sound’s origin. I leaped myself to run faster – when all of the suddenly something slammed my body onto a tree nearby.

“Rachel, Daniel, get up, we have to run!” shouted back Michelle to her companions. Only about twenty seven or so were left… after original number of more than 50. Ambush… how did they evolve so quickly? Was that even possible… She couldn’t think more. She was one of the few who can actually fight off Hunters alone within the Crusaders. If she could have managed a more organized defense position, less would have died. But in this kind of confusion and chaos, the probability was zero. “Come on! Let’s get out of here! Sector 3 is this way!”

She came to sudden halt. The others also stopped running. In front of them, was a Hunter much smaller than normal ones; almost size of a normal human. But despite being smaller, it looked too frightful for its size. The skin was more purple than black. The blade from its arm was abnormally long and menacing. Its eyes gleamed bright red, as if longing for blood and human flesh. Now that its size was smaller, in eye line of a normal human, its red eyes seemed to penetrate right through her, paralyzing her with fear. The grotesque mouth was also different; it became more terrifying – smaller but with sharping and longer fangs.

It started to move. There are no other Hunters around us… if we can just attack all at once…!

“Everyone!” ordered Michelle. But before she can give the next order, the only thing in front of her were pieces of human flesh, and the red eyes just in front of her, only inches away from her face. “What…”

This Hunter did not move as quickly as when it killed the others. Michelle felt weakness… She tried to unleash her blade but knew that the Hunter’s blade will fall onto her first. Still, she wanted to die at least trying. She saw it… the purplish blade coming down at her. And then…!

“Michelle!” I yelled and bashed my sword onto the Hunter from the top. The Hunter was incredibly fast and blocked my surprise attack with a simple stroke of its blade.

“Leon?” she said. She collapsed to the ground, her hands still on the sword.

“Don’t worry…” I murmured. Blood trickled from my head from several Hunters on my way to her. I wasn’t injured badly but I was worried it might influence my strength. But I said to her. “Don’t worry…”

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