Chapter 1 [The Legend Soldier]
“You will be working with a Legendary soldier.” Admiral Jermia stated. I blinked at the older man, certain I’d heard wrong. He watched me with bloodshot blue eyes as he waited for the much-expected protests. My stomach twisted into a million knots.
A Legendary soldier. One of the hundreds Dr. Gian made from genetic enhancement serums and surgeries that ended up killing over half the patients. To add on, all the patients were thirteen. Kids.
“NightStorm?” He asked. I continued to gawk at him. When I didn’t respond, he tried my real name. “Jade?”
He leaned back and swiped at an invisible wrinkle under the three bright green stars on his black uniform, which identified him as an admiral for the Lexi military. After a few moments of tense silence, I exploded.
“What!” I yelled. Jermia sighed, rubbing his forehead. After eight years of dealing with me, he knew better than to argue with me while I was mad. He kept silent, waiting for me to stop. “No! Hell no! I’m not working with a Legendary Soldier!”
“Would you rather a regular soldier that would, as you delicately put it, ‘slow you down’?” He asked, his gaze drifted across the office. Despite being at the base for more years than I had been alive, Jermia kept the place void of personal items. The only things he had were two holographic photos on his desk. One of his dead wife and daughter, both were sporting the same blonde hair, wide smiles and brown eyes.
The other was of me when I received my first award—the Distinguished Service Medal. I was fourteen then. Back then, I wore a smile and kept my white hair tied back. Now, my hair was dyed brown to blend in with the other Lexians, and I never smiled. In five years, I was a different person.
“You used to work with them.” Jermia pointed out. He spun his chair slightly as he watched me. “In fact, you used to adore them. You idolized them.”
“That was before I knew how that insane doctor made them.” I snapped at Jermia. His expression remained a mask of calm. The video I’d watched of the surgery emerged from my memories—kids screaming as their bodies rejected the operation. I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. “She kidnapped kids! Children! She did that surgery to ‘make them better’ and killed half of them! The rest have so much psychological damage they barely act human!”
Jermia pressed his lips together and stared at his desk. I stood in front of him, panting from my rant.
“Are you done?” He asked, glancing up at me. I narrowed my eyes at him. If this were any other admiral, I would have been thrown out of the military the second I opened my mouth. But it wasn’t any other admiral. It was Jermia. The man who raised me with my adoptive mother, Nati, since I was nine. “I’m going to assume you’re finished. You are going to start working with a Legendary soldier by the name of Ethan-008. He was the second-best of his generation. Three years older than you and has a remarkable record that even you could appreciate.”
“No,” I stated. I avoided his gaze, choosing instead to glare at the white wall behind him. He gave another sigh and rubbed his forehead, muttering under his breath. “They were kids.”
“So were you.” Jermia leaned forward and braced his elbows on the edge of the desk. His eyes grew more intense as he stared at me. “But now you’re not”
I bowed my head. When I was born, I was given a serum that made me an enhanced soldier. I joined the military when I was eleven.
“You cannot change the past. All we can do is make sure your... their sacrifice doesn’t go to waste.” Jermia said.
“That’s a load of crap, and you know it.” I rolled my eyes, but my words carried no weight. Kids weren’t meant to be soldiers. We weren’t meant to be given so much pain and expected to keep moving on. There was nothing about sacrifice. It was murder, justified only because the Legion happened to attack us when Dr. Gian was being investigated.
The Legion was a group of four alien races that were hell-bent on wiping out humanity. From what we could gather, it was because their ‘gods’ commanded our death. Another thing that was full of crap. They needed an excuse to fight and a way to gain allies. Religion was the perfect tool for both. Humans have used it for centuries.
“NightStorm.” His tone implied I was pushing his limits. I bit my tongue. “Ethan finished a mission a few days ago. When he gets back tonight, I want you two to meet before your next mission.”
I perked up. Mission? What mission? I waited for him to say more, but he’d turned on the holo-screen on his desk and seemed to be busy with a message. He glanced at me.
“16:00, don’t be late.” He warned. I bowed my head in a deep nod before leaving. In the hallway, I paused to glare at the ceiling and growl. A partner. That was the last thing I needed right now. I headed for the lift at the end of the hall.
I scanned the barcode on my right wrist to unlock the lab door. Once it slid open, I entered the small lab. Six screens lit up above the gleaming black counters. The holographic projector in the middle of the room turned on as a hologram appeared. My A.I., V.I.X.E.N.
Vix appeared in the form of a young girl, maybe fourteen or so, with short dark hair and a thin figure. She wore a skin-tight black bodysuit with a short skirt and heels. Her face was soft and round with wide eyes like mine. Vix had been created by my mother and was one of the first ‘intelligent’ A.I.’s. Intelligent meaning they acted more human than typical A.I.’s that could only follow commands. It also meant she evolved with time. Over the past eight years I’ve had her, she turned more sarcastic and showed more emotions than when I first got her.
“Good morning. How was your mission?” She greeted me with a wide smile. I forced a thin grin and pulled myself onto the nearest counter, crossing my legs as I faced the screen.
“It was alright. Anything from Jermia?” I asked, knowing there would be the Legend’s file.
“A file for Ethan-008. Quite a bit of it is encoded, would you like me to decode it?” Vix asked. Without waiting for my answer, her form brightened for a few seconds before the file appeared on my screen. “His file is impressive. He’s known for being a great leader, but for the past three years, he’s worked only solo-missions. Top of his generation, right behind Reaper.”
“What does Reaper know about him?” I asked. Reaper was one of the only Legendary soldiers I talked to. I’d met him a few years ago, and he never acted like a Legend. If he weren’t seven feet tall and made of pure muscle, you would never tell he was one. Too funny and food orientated to pass for a Legendary soldier.
“It appears they were rivals. Both were fighting for the top spot before they graduated. I can message Reaper for more information...”
“Don’t bother.” I skimmed the file. Powerful, intelligent, strong leadership, blah, blah blah. The basic formula for the ideal soldier. I wanted to gag from how perfect it was.
“Yes, I know. Boring as hell.” Vix chuckled. The file jumped to the last page. “Check this.”
2259, Libra 19. Bar fight, Ethan-008, arrested for public disruption after fighting Felix Jerge.
2259 Scorpio 29. Stole a motorbike from the hanger. The bike was returned within two hours.
2260, Virgo 01. Bar fight with an intoxicated man. The man was bruised, but nothing was broken. Name unknown. No charges were pressed.
“That is a lot of bar fights,” I muttered. Vix nodded. “Was he drunk? I’m not working with a drunk.”
“Nope. Completely sober. From what I gathered, all the men he beat up were, as you would put it, complete idiots and or asses. They were harassing other patrons of the bar, and it appeared he decided to step in.” Vix explained. I stared at the file, fighting the smile on my face. This was what Jermia meant when he said I would appreciate it. The blacked-out sections. As much as Jermia appeared to be a professional and indifferent admiral, he respected what the files didn’t show just as much as I did. “Ethan has a reputation for being simple-minded and aggressive.”
“What do you think?” I asked. Reputations were useless. They were just rumours with little facts attached to them.
“I hacked his mission files and watched them.” Vix sat down, crossing her legs under her. Of course, she hacked them. I smiled to myself. Vix got bored a lot so she would hack files and read or watch them. It came in hand more than once. “My opinion is he’s the male version of you, just nicer.”
“Hey!” I twisted to glare at her over my shoulder. “I am nice.”
“Pfft, when?” Vix chuckled. Before I could think of a retort, she continued. “He creates battle plans within seconds in the middle of a fight. His fatality rate among teammates is almost non-existent. For the Legion, hell, not even their gods could save them from him.”
“Give Ethan any gun, and he’ll hit his mark.” Vix continued. She stood and stretched her translucent arms above her head. “I mean it, Jade. It’s a male you. His mission videos are astounding.”
“You sound like a fan-girl. Should I get his autograph for you?” I rolled my eyes. Vix giggled and shook her head. “I don’t like him. I don’t like Legends.”
“He’s not like the others, Jade. I can see it just by his mission videos.”
“Legends are mindless machines,” I muttered. My words felt hollow, even to me. I skimmed the file again. “They follow orders without thinking. That’s dangerous.”
“Not if you trust those who are giving the order.” Vix tilted her head at me. “Do you trust Jermia and Lily?”
“Jermia, maybe. Lily, no.” I stated. Lily Selene was the Master of Military. She was also my half-sister. Lily worked hard to get to be the youngest Master of Military in history, meaning she would do anything to keep her position. Jermia was only an admiral, meaning he had the council and Master to listen to.
I sighed and closed the file. I wasn’t given much choice in the matter—Ethan-008 was my new partner. I just hope they are as hard to kill as people say.
“I don’t like him,” I muttered, bracing my arms on my legs and glaring across the lab. Vix fell silent as I worked through my thoughts.
I didn’t like Legendary soldiers. They were made to follow orders without question, and their physical ability alone made them extremely dangerous. What they went through as kids didn’t indicate mental stability either. Plus... they reminded me too much of me. Seeing them. Seeing how damaged they were just served to remind me how screwed up I was too.
“Your meeting is soon,” Vix warned me after a while. I jumped off the counter, glancing at the clock. Just enough time to make it to Jermia’s office. “See you tonight.”
“Yep.” I rushed out the door.
I made it to the office just before 16:00. For a moment, I halted outside the door, bracing myself to face the Legendary soldier inside. Ethan-008. One of the last Legendary soldiers made before their creator was arrested. I scanned my barcode. The metal slid opened, revealing Jermia sitting at his desk looked just as exhausted as when I saw him that morning. No Legendary soldier. I stepped in, crossing my arms.
“Where’s your Legend? Late?” I stood in front of him. Jermia’s lip twitched as he fought a smile, his gaze jumping behind me. I spun around, my hand flying to my knife on my hip. Standing against the wall was the Legendary soldier in full armour.
Legendary armour completely enclosed the body with thick metal plates and thick cushioning underneath. A large helmet with a dark blue mirrored visor hid his face. Not a bit of skin could be seen. He stood another head and a half over me and made of pure muscle. Legendary soldiers barely looked human, more like walking tanks. Yet he didn’t seem to make a presence in the room, like a shadow.
“Welp, I already hate this.” I scowled at him. Standing in front of him reminded me how short and thin I was. It didn’t matter that I could lift double my weight; compared to him, I was a weak, tiny human.
“Storm,” Jermia warned from behind me. I felt the Legend’s gaze on me through the visor. “Ethan, this is Lieutenant NightStorm. Storm, this is Ethan-008.”
He dipped his head in greeting. I scanned his armour. A dark grey bodysuit with dark blue plates. When he shifted his arm, I saw his barcode was printed on the inside of his right arm plate. I kept still and refused to return his greeting.
“Anyway, your mission.” Jermia sighed, seeming to give up on a proper introduction and opened the holo-screen. On it, a picture of a dark-haired man with a square face appeared. “This is Leo Greflin, leader of the rebellion group, Eriene, that is against the war. They think there is a peaceful solution. Greflin has a history of a violent protest on Lexi, which makes their philosophy a bit ironic.”
I stared at the picture, trying to figure out why I recognized him. Did I meet him before? Maybe. It was hard for me to remember faces and names for some reason.
“He’s currently hiding on Quetzalcoatl. A Legion controlled planet. You two have to bring him back to stand trial.” Jermia said. I stared at him. A collection mission. That was what he was sending me on?
“Collection. Seriously?” I raised my eyebrows at him. Jermia gave a slow nod. “Come on. I’m a lieutenant and special ops with more than eight years of service. I can do a hell lot more than collection.”
“This is a special case,” Jermia stated.
“Then let me go alone.”
I sighed, spinning around as I thought as another excuse to go alone. The Legend watched me, tilting his head. I faced Jermia again.
“I can get Greflin much faster alone.” I ventured. Jermia didn’t even bother answering me. He stared at me with that sharp look that warned me that I was wasting my breath. I relented. “What time do we leave?”
“Tomorrow. 12:00.” Jermia answered. I pressed my lips together and nodded. The Legend stared at me as I turned to leave; I met his gaze through the mask and paused.
“Stay out of my way,” I warned him. The Legend gave a short nod. Jermia sighed behind me. With that final warning, I left the office.