There was a grand crystallized window along the port side of the vessel––the Harbinger. It afforded a view that overlooked Terra, as the blue planet had been called for the past thousand years. The sun cast a glare over its edges. Had one known what the world had looked like millennia previous, they would have seen the changes. The dark coloration of the seas, the murky, bruised clouds that covered a good portion of the land––save for the hundreds of square miles just beneath Culouth, the world above as it was called by those below.
A figure stood abreast the window; the one-piece jumpsuit was dark black, matching his short-cropped hair. The tight spikes were flushed forward. Hands clasped behind his back, he wore the expression of a military man.
His furrowed brows formed a sinister line over his cold brown eyes; the solitude that encompassed him reflected in his frozen glare. The corridor around him was bathed in shadow. The only light came from the glow of the planet below and faded illuminators that lined far off into the distance.
He was called Marion. Once he had been a respected member of the House of Te’huen, a warrior sect of Culouth that had waged wars against man and rim worlds alike.
He broke from Culouth, a clear distinction being made between those who chose to align themselves with Intelligence: fiber optic enhancements and regenerative replacements and those who opposed these technological interventions.
The clicking of footfalls resonated in the dismal chambers.
Marion did not bother to turn.
His dark eyes watched the slow rotation of Terra. His cheek muscles flexed. “So Kyien would not come himself I see,” Marion spoke with an air of confidence.
Deeper down the hall the lights flickered.
The running lights dimmed and then exploded in a shower of clear sparks. Black boots walked over the carpet of glass as each one shattered in turn. The face was shadowed over; only the stark white pants and the dark boots emerged from the darkness that seemed to surround the being.
“To see you?” responded the shadow man.
Marion lowered his head.
Eyes closed, his hands were still firmly placed behind his back. “A peace must be reached. Even your master must understand this….”
The man snorted indignantly.
He still hid in the shadows. His eyes were now illuminated crimson. Billowing energy flowed freely from his face. “There can be no peace. There will be no peace.”
“Why then did you bother to come here?”
The shadow man paced outside of viewing range, ignoring the question and posing another. “How many refugees are here with you?”
Marion’s surprise showed visibly in the cock of his head, looking back toward the shadowed figure. The twin clouds of energy shone like two animal eyes in the night. “What?”
“How many of your tainted kind walk this hollow home?”
“What is the meaning of this?”
The man emerged from the darkness, his features apparent for the first time. His bald head was tan. A jagged scar ran diagonally across his face, carving a ridge over his eye, nose, and ending just below his lip. A light brown beard covered his chin.
His brown eyes were tainted.
Crimson clouded where white should have been.
He wore a gray suit, fitted around his waist and flared out loosely over his thighs and legs. Marion inhaled sharply upon seeing the man move into the light.
His features darkened, outlining the set of his strong jaw. “He who kills his own kind,” whispered Marion. His words were like a hiss, a curse at the man who stood before him.
“I have no kind.”
“You have tainted the power of Terra, used its energy for the Intelligence. You were once a man, a human not unlike us,” reasoned Marion, his voice wavering.
“How many are here with you?” pressed the warrior with a level, unrelenting glare. A sweep of his hand dismissed Marion’s words.
“I am alone,” responded Marion.
The shadow warrior turned his head and looked toward the corridor wall. His face curled into a cruel grin. Turning back to Marion, the shadow warrior clucked his tongue against his cheek. “You lie,” he spoke with a hint of sarcasm and wagged his finger as if he were doing so to a sullen child.
“No,” called Marion, but it was too late.
The shadowed warrior raised his arm to the wall, flattening his hands against it. They shimmered with the same energy that consumed his eyes. The wall began to swell from the heat radiating out from his hands, the center brighter than the rings that flowed around it. Marion moved forward to intervene, but in the eyes of the shadow warrior he might as well have been standing completely still.
He had lowered his shoulder to bull rush into the dark warrior.
The denizen of shadow proved too quick, his foot flew out with true aim. He caught Marion along his kneecap, disintegrating the bone with inhuman efficiency and power.
“Damn you,” Marion snarled as he fell to the floor.
He grasped at the empty pocket of flesh riddled with shards of bone. His cold glance fell on the shadow warrior. His eyes welled with tears from pain and shock.
The shadow warrior did not even acknowledge the man’s pain.
“Why do you slaughter your own kind like cattle?”
The being looked down, but did not respond.
The wall melted away like a viscous liquid and pooled on the ground, solidifying into a gnarled mass of steel beneath the makeshift entrance. The shadowed man stepped through, his stride broad and the scowl carved across his features sunk in seriousness.
Startled screams erupted throughout the room.
Azure energy waves swirled with amber and complete darkness. He reached out with his left hand and traced it vertically. A spherical energy field formed around him. The energy blasts rebounded over the sphere, scorching the walls with burn trails as the crimson energy flowed outward from within the warrior, consuming him like a surreal flame.
He walked, searing the floor beneath him.
His eyes lacked the human quality they had previously.
The splatters of energy slammed into the sphere, melting like snow on a hot engine. The warrior grimaced outwardly as he sliced his hand through the air, energy ripping like a disc running horizontally across the room. Horrendous screams echoed against the darkened, blood-soaked walls.
“Why do you oppose what is meant to be?”
“Because they have chosen to be free,” muttered Marion as he struggled across the hole that the shadowed figure had created. A sigh escaped his lips as his arms struggled to carry his heavy, useless body. “You are a….”
The shadowed man’s eyes settled on Marion’s fallen figure.
His dark eyes seared into the man.
Sweat beaded at Marion’s forehead. The sheer heat from his energy choked Marion, forcing him to gasp as the oxygen thinned around the fallen Resistance warrior.
“I am what, lower being?” mocked the dark eyes.
Marion gasped for words.
Clawing at his throat and then his chest, he rolled over onto his back––his mouth opening and closing like a beached fish struggling for its last breaths. The shadow being spun and with him went the current of dead air. A sputter of air emerged from Marion’s open mouth and then his lungs took in a fresh taste.
A blade collapsed against the sphere.
Energy trickled like flakes.
The shadow figure lashed his arm out.
The blade collided with his outstretched forearm, shattering the reinforced steel. The face of the assailant came into view as the shadow warrior’s gloved hand wrapped around her throat.
Her blond hair fell over her shoulders. The tousled curls hung back from her face as he lifted her into the air. The veins in her throat bulged as she struggled to swallow. “Bastard,” she spoke, her words labored as she tried to breathe.
“You are only a child,” croaked the shadowed warrior, looking at the woman’s features with a snarl. Her blond hair was draped over smooth, tan features.
Intense blue eyes stared at him.
He shook his head, mental pictures flashing across his vision.
He saw images of a young woman.
Her short hair faded to white.
Dark eyes stared back at him.
He pulled back, releasing his grip upon the woman.
She fell from his grasp.
“Run, child,” groaned Marion, a defeated look in his eyes.
She remained crouched, staring up at the shadowed creature.
As she backed away using her hands to propel her retreat, the being’s energy dissipated. He lowered himself to the ground, the sphere fading, receding back into his body.
“We have to get out of here,” spoke Marion, desperately trying to move from the rubble. His hands clawed at the surface of the metal.
The girl backed away from the shadowed man. Her hands supported her as she backpedaled and then slipping, she tried to regain her balance.
She fell flat on her back.
Grimacing, she brought her hands to her face.
A dark liquid covered them.
She wiped them against each other and turned her hands into the half-light from the adjoining room. A thought ricocheted hollowly in her mind: blood.
She looked around in a panic.
There were bodies scattered all over the floor, blood smeared across the metallic walls. A wail started deep in her throat, a thin whining sound that was trapped in her chest.
“So much blood,” she cried, crawling up the walls.
She slipped with each step, the screeching sound escaping her lips. Placing her hands on her face, she let loose a primal scream. Its volume opened the shadowed man’s eyes––irises still consumed in fire. The sphere reopened once more, a devilish fire accompanying it. The heated gale knocked Marion back into the corridor and the girl against the wall, holding her there by an invisible force.
“You are not her,” he spoke.
His eyes were black now, like polished obsidian stones.
“What?” she queried through tight lips.
“You look like her, but it cannot be,” he continued, his presence unfolding around her.
Marion watched the exchange with a bewildered look. The dark warrior spoke casually, as if he were in tavern and not on a battlefield. “There is still time to end this madness, you don’t have to slaughter us like animals,” spoke Marion.
The shadowed figure looked at the man.
Disdain was plastered across his features.
Her overhead strike caught him across the skull.
She struck again, the steel bar gripped tightly in her hands, a cold snarl carved across her beautiful features. The shadow whirled on her, his face hidden in the crimson aura that consumed him.
He stared down at her, and then rose into the air menacingly.
“You are a brave girl, but that is not enough.”
He grasped the free end of the pipe and lifted it, taking with it the girl’s diminutive figure. She kicked her legs out in a useless gesture, striking him across the chest.
“You wish to make this a game?’ he mocked, cocking his head.
Reaching out with an unreal quickness, he grabbed her throat with his free hand and then threw her into the adjoining corridor. Her body collided with the opaque window that overlooked the world below.
A whimper escaped her lips as she rolled onto her back.
“By all means, run.”
“Don’t do this,” whispered Marion.
His voice wavered.
Glassy eyes watched the hungry, predatory look in the shadow’s eyes. The warrior turned, looking down at Marion and lifted his foot. He did not pause as he smashed down on the base of Marion’s overturned neck.
A crack echoed in the dismal chambers.
His eyes glazed over; death had claimed him.
“This must be done,” replied the shadow to the corpse.
Looking down into the dead gaze of Marion, he sighed.
Not one of regret, but of annoyance.
The girl had a good lead on him.
Her boots clicked as she charged through the corridor.
Her breath came out in practiced lengths.
The muscles of her legs pulsed with adrenaline as she glanced back, seeing only that the darkness of the corridor chased her. She breathed out as she slowed, her arms flailing at her sides as she ran.
The shadow warrior stood before her, his dark red eyes the only visible feature. As she backpedaled, he followed her. She looked down, seeing that each step he took seared the metallic walkway.
Burn marks stretched far off into the distance.
“Why?” Her words had a pleading tone. “This can’t be the power of the Believer.”
The shadow angered visibly.
The curl of his tight-lipped grin lessened and disappeared.
His face was like charcoal, the deep inset regions of the sun marred in extreme heat. “What could you know of the power of the Believer, the burden that it carries?”
“I know that you were not meant to have it, your dark heart.”
The shadow was upon her, a flash accompanying his sudden forward motion. He lifted her by the throat, holding her against the glass, high above his own body.
Tears streamed down her face.
Eyes held strong, but her lips quivered beneath his gaze.
“I will show you a dark heart,” he sneered.
He pulled her body back easily, as if she weighed nothing at all, and then flung her forward. His unnatural strength, coupled with her body mass, was sufficient to shatter the opaque window. A powerful sucking sound permeated the corridor as both of them were pulled out into space.
She shuddered in the cold abyss.
Her mouth gasped for only a moment; the lifeless scream trapped in her throat faded. The blood drained from her face as he let her free––her body floating weightlessly in the expanse of space.
The fire engulfed him completely, though it lacked the licking branches it had in an oxygenated environment. His eyes were buried beneath the dark power that claimed him.
He watched the girl drift away.
A voice whispered in space.
It was a woman’s voice, powerful and clear.
He shook his head defiantly, beating his fists against the side of his head. His human features appeared as the fire died away, leaving his listless eyes to stare off into space.
“I am no longer that man,” he screamed, his arms tucked close as he spoke the words. As he extended his arms over his head in a powerful motion, a wave of energy resonated from his body. The force of the power surged across the stars and disintegrated the space station.
He pulled his arms close to his body again.
The energy reached the limits of its power. And then as quickly as it had come, it returned to the shadowed warrior who had once been known as Ryan, son of Evan, but now as Fe’rein, the half-man assassin of Culouth.