Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:37 pm
This was a one-shot fic I did for a competition on another site. It's 5 chapters long so it's technically a bit long for a one-shot, but it can be read in a single sitting without much difficulty.A Hero's Lament
Total Word Count: 9927
Total Page Count: 16 (12-pt TNR font, 1" margins)
Total Chapter Count: 5
I wish the spoiler tags would compress sections instead of greying them out. =/
Edit: Instead I'll just make the text size smaller.Ch. 1:
A Hero’s Lament
The sky was dark and gloomy, in a confused state, as if it were waiting for the sun to rise and it couldn’t decide what color it should remain in the meantime. For now it was a murky blue, looking almost as one could reach out and touch it, until a large yellow orb peeked out from behind the horizon and slowly climbed upward. Although the orb itself was moving at a snail’s pace, it gradually changed the color of the entire sky – from murky blue to sea green to autumn orange and finally to a bright sky blue.
While this transformation was going on, one particular individual – the star of this story – was fast asleep in bed, in a room with windows drawn shut by Venetian blinds. He was a typical college student; his room was a bit messy and disorganized, but at the point where he still knew where everything was in his room, even if it was buried under clothes or papers or textbooks or whatever. The walls were dotted with military paraphernalia and Beckon to Duty posters, and of course his Jeustation 5 was placed cleanly next to a monitor. The bed was laid with blue sheets, and in it was sleeping the room’s sole occupant, a young man whose only visible feature was his face and bright blonde hair – his eyes were fast shut and the rest of him was concealed beneath the bed sheets.
Small beams of sunlight made their way through the cracks in the blinds, bringing some illumination to this sanctum. One such beam hit his eyes, causing him to blink and work on slowly opening his eyes, which were a dark shade of violet.
“Is it morning already?” he mumbled, still blinking. “Time flies so quickly...”
Suddenly, the door, the one exit to the bedroom, flew fully open. A young woman with elbow-length black hair, brown eyes, and a gigantic smile was grabbing the doorknob.
“Rise and shine, brother!” she sang. “It’s time for your big day!”
“Olivia? Is that you?” the half-asleep man asked. “What time is it?”
“It’s almost seven o’clock. You need to be leaving early so you won’t be late!”
“It’s not even seven o’clock? Olivia, you aren’t even awake until after eight...”
“Well, it’s a special occasion, silly! Now come get dressed and have breakfast! We’re all waiting to see you off!”
Without waiting for a response, Olivia then yanked the door shut, leaving the man alone again. A few grunts and he was out of bed standing up. He quickly got dressed, washed his face and had a quick shower, and was now wide awake and ready to tackle the day. He opened the door...slowly, just in case Olivia was hanging around for some reason. His bedroom opened up into a corridor, and he turned to his right and walked that way. The corridor opened up into the living room, and before he was even halfway there, he was jumped by someone coming from another doorway. Whoever this person was had hugged him with such force it was almost like a tackle, and it almost caused him to lose his balance. He looked at his attacker and found it was Olivia, her arms wrapped tightly around him. It put a silly grin on his face.
“Do you always like to tackle-hug me, sis?” the man asked.
“Only on special occasions, Amadeus!” Olivia answered. “And I wanted to get first dibs on hugging you. Waiting here for the past five minutes was worth it!”
“Wait, you mean you delayed your breakfast...just to tackle-hug me?”
“Yep! That’s exactly it!”
Amadeus sighed, still smiling. “Only my sister.” Olivia loosened her grip on him, and he shrugged her off. “Is Sasha already in the living room?”
“Yeah. I think she’s having breakfast. She might be done by now. Go on, say hi!”
Olivia then about pushed her brother forward until he was at the end of the corridor. It opened up into the living room, and sure enough, a hazel-haired girl was sitting at a wooden chair facing a wooden table in the center of the room. She wasn’t much younger than Olivia, who in turn wasn’t much younger than Amadeus. She was holding a notebook she was feverishly scribbling in, and on the table in front of her there was a ceramic plate with a silverware fork and knife resting crossed upon it. There were also traces of maple syrup on the plate – a sure sign that pancakes were on the breakfast menu.
“Oh! Bro!” she said, waving him over. “Come here! Sit down!”
Amadeus obliged and took a seat at the table opposite her. “Sounds like you’ve made a breakthrough of some kind?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah!” she responded, nearly bouncing in her chair. “See, I figure I could have Connor guide Luke to where the artifacts are...”
“But how does Luke know where they are, if he’s lived in the forest all his life?”
“The trees told him, silly! Don’t forget, he knows about everything in that forest.”
“Ah, right, of course! Yeah, that makes sense.”
“I really appreciate your feedback, though. It lets me know what I’ve missed.”
“Good morning, Amadeus!” came another woman’s voice. The owner had just entered the room holding a plate of pancakes, and set it at Amadeus’ place.
“Oh! Good morning, mother,” Amadeus said, nodding. “Thanks very much for the pancakes.”
“It’s a special occasion, dear. You’re going off to a convention for the weekend; I figure we should celebrate the time! Oh, your father called. He wishes you the best of luck and wants you to have a great time while you’re gone.”
“Awesome. Call him back and tell him I said thank you.” Amadeus was eating his pancakes rather hurriedly.
“You’re eating your pancakes rather hurriedly, aren’t you dear?” his mother asked, unknowingly echoing the narrator.
“I need to be there at seven-thirty, mother. It’s going to get crowded really fast.”
“It’s going to be so weird not having you around, bro,” Sasha commented. “I know you’ll only be gone until Sunday, but it’s going to be such a long time not having you around.”
“Aww, leaving already?” Olivia spoke, having just recently popped into the room.
“I’ve got about five minutes, sis, but yeah,” Amadeus responded resignedly. “I can’t stay for much longer.”
“I’m going to miss you so much, brother! We all will.”
“I know, and I’ll miss you all as well.” Having finished his pancakes, he stood up and washed his plate. “It’s not like I’ll be unreachable, though! I’ll still have my cell phone and I’ll keep in touch regularly. It’ll be so weird not being around you all. I’ve grown up with all of you around me, and it’ll be so strange to be separated, if only for a week.”
Amadeus’ mother and his two sisters then immediately gave him a gigantic group-hug, as if it were their final sendoff to him before leaving for the next few days.
“Aw, I love you all too!” Amadeus said, a great smile on his face. “Just be all in one piece when I get back home.”
“We will,” Sasha answered, the group hug now dissipating. “Don’t die, okay?”
“I’m not allowed to die, remember? I still have to be there for all of you.”
“Heh, got that right! Now go off, brother! Make us proud!”
“I will, sister! Thank you!”
Amadeus then took the time to go back to his room and fully prepare himself for the day ahead. He looked at a wall mirror he had hung, to make sure he looked presentable. Bright blonde hair neatly combed, green jacket held in place by a cord over his sky-blue shirt, green knee-length shorts, blue socks in green tennis shoes...yep, he was ready to go.
“I’m leaving now, Mother!” he called out as he was walking out the door.
“Okay, dear!” came the response. “Don’t forget to call back and tell us how you’re doing!”
“I won’t, Mother. I’ll come home as soon as I can! See you in a week’s time!”
He said one final goodbye to his family, got into his blue sedan, and drove off down the road to his intended destination. This was the first step in Amadeus’ journey, to an end he never would have dreamed was possible. And it would be the most glorious, and terrifying, undertaking of his entire life.
It wasn’t a long drive to the convention – ten minutes at the most. The road was straight and direct, and this early in the morning there wasn’t that much traffic on the streets...well, normally. Amadeus was on the way there, and in his rear-view mirror he saw a multitude of cars approaching him. That was good – he was just a tiny bit ahead of the influx of traffic that would soon inundate the streets of Slate Harbor. From here, he could just check in at the hotel he’d reserved a room at, and spend the rest of the day doing as he pleased.
It was a good thing he did, too – after he parked his car and checked into his hotel, then left to go check out the convention, the streets were already flooded with people. The festivities had already begun, and booths of all kinds were set up everywhere. It was to be expected, though – this convention was government-sponsored, and pretty much any organization related to the government in some way had a booth here. The streets were lined with them. The convention was due to last a whole week, and for good reason – whoever designed this convention had apparently planned to stuff as much action as they could in those seven days.
Yet Amadeus knew exactly where he would be going. He was a potential new recruit of the military, having been interested in joining up for quite some time. His reasons for doing so were numerous, though primarily out of a respect for the military itself as well as a devotion to peacekeeping. In fact, a lot of Amadeus’ stay here consisted of attending various classes that were being held here – he’d come here with a schedule of all the places he needed to visit, noting what, when, and where they were. Other than that, he was free to do as he pleased, and a lot of the classes weren’t back-to-back either, so he had a lot of free time.
But a lot of that stuff isn’t fully relevant to the story, so instead of give a detailed account of everything he did that day, I’ll just give you an overview, as I just have, and then fast-forward to the exciting bit.
It was late afternoon, and Amadeus was walking down one of the many criss-crossing streets of Slate Harbor, looking for a booth that would catch his eye. One such booth did, and he walked over to it. The booth was being attended by a middle-aged man, with a smile on his face. Within the booth were placed many animal-like creatures, a lot of them resting on shelves that were nailed to the wall. A few of them were even on the counter as well.
“You seem to be interested in our synthetics,” the attendant said to Amadeus, intending to start the conversation, and potentially get an upper hand in negotiating an eventual sale.
“Synthetics, hm? That is what these all are?” Amadeus asked.
“Yes, sir. State-of-the-art synthetics ready for the consumer market.”
“If I may ask, what is a synthetic? I’ve only heard bits and pieces.”
“A synthetic is, to put it really simply, a mechanical pet. It’s programmed with AI to act as a pet would; it responds to what is said to it, and performs actions based on what it’s told. The AI programmed for these creatures is quite superb; you could say it’s the heart and soul of the synthetics. The designers made them so they’ll respond to nearly any command.”
“These synthetics...they look somewhat like animals, but they look like no creature I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“That’s because they are modeled after creatures that have gone long extinct. There was a great war...about 100 years ago or so? During that time, a lot of species were wiped out. To try and preserve them, at least in people’s hearts, the synthetics were created.”
“I see. That makes sense.” His eyes drifted to one synthetic in particular that was resting on the counter. It was not even a foot tall, its body a lime green sphere. It had two large narrow eyes, a yellow beak, two red feet with three toes each, tipped with talons – two facing forward, one back, a single red plume sprouting from the top of its head, and two oval-shaped black wings at its side, with three parallel red lines on each. In short, it was not unlike a small lime-colored bird, except a lot rounder. The eyes didn’t appear to have any light of their own. It was probably turned off to conserve battery life.
“This one looks quite interesting,” Amadeus said, eyeing it. “May I examine it?”
“Go on ahead,” replied the attendant, and Amadeus lifted it up in his two hands, turning it around and scanning it from every angle. “That synthetic is based on an extinct bird species, as you probably surmised: Espavis natus.”
“Does it have a common name, for the less educated?” Amadeus replied with a small laugh.
“Yes: Natu. With a long A, mind. Some people pronounce it incorrectly, with a short A sound.”
“Oh, is this one really popular?”
“Somewhat, yes. It’s more popular with young adults, though, especially females, based on the sales figures.”
“I have younger sisters, so this one will be perfect. May I purchase it?”
“Of course! We’re having a sale right now for the first few days of the convention, so if you buy it any time before Wednesday, it’s only 16 argents. Normally 20.”
“Sounds good! Do you take CommanderCard?”
“We do, yes.”
“Then we have a deal!”
And thus Amadeus purchased a Natu synthetic. The attendant gave him the one Amadeus had been looking at, plus some other things like an instruction manual, all in a large paper bag to carry around with him. Amadeus was very grateful for the man’s help, and planned to test it out when he got back to his hotel room that night. He was carrying the paper bag under his arm, and was glancing into it, looking down at the small bird.
“I’m sure my family back home would absolutely love you,” Amadeus muttered quietly to himself. “I know Olivia has always wanted an ideal pet and you might very well be it!”
He would have said more, but at that moment, he collided with someone who was walking in the opposite direction, straight towards him, causing Amadeus to fall backward onto the ground. The paper bag fell out of his grasp, and as he landed on the ground square on his bottom, he could hear the sound of a muffled crash a short way off. Amadeus cursed his carelessness; he hadn’t been looking where he was walking, and as a result his newly-acquired Natu synthetic was now probably broken. He could probably go back to the booth and ask for it to be fixed, or even buy a new one, but he was still very irritated at his lack of caution.
“I’m very sorry!” said someone else a short distance in front of him. Amadeus looked up and saw another young man, probably about the same age he was. His eyes were a bright blue, resting below a mess of auburn hair and around a rather ordinary-looking face. He had a fine wheat yellow scarf tied around his neck, resting comfortably above a sky blue padded long-sleeved shirt. His trousers were the same color and also padded, bonded to his upper torso by a worn leather belt with a brass buckle, and his outfit was completed with two steel-toed boots.
“I wasn’t looking where I was going and I...” the stranger continued, his voice rambling and slightly panicky, before Amadeus cut him off.
“No, it’s quite all right.”
“Oh no!” said the stranger, his eyes having noticed the Natu synthetic on the ground. Amadeus’ suspicions had been confirmed – the paper bag was on its side, and the Natu synthetic was resting a few inches out of it. One of the wings and both feet had been knocked out of joint, and it looked somewhat roughed up too, from the impact on asphalt.
“I’ve gone and damaged your Natu synthetic!” he said, his voice genuinely sorry and remorseful. Amadeus could tell that guilt was now riddling this man. He acted fast to dispel it.
“It’s not a big deal. I was looking at the ground while I was walking and didn’t see you. And I can always go back and ask for another...”
“No, let me fix it,” the man offered, kneeling down. He reached out with his hands towards the synthetic, and gently turned the displaced parts with his fingers. As he did so, the parts clicked audibly and slipped back into proper alignment.
“Wow,” Amadeus commented. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone work with such skill with synthetics before.”
“I worked as an intern for a synthetics plant in Sinnoh for a while,” the man responded, scooping up the Natu and rising to his feet, “so I know a few tricks about how they work. Here’s your Natu back; again, I’m sorry for the trouble.”
“Not at all! You were kind enough to repair it for me, and for that I thank you. Ah, where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced myself!” He extended his hand to the stranger to shake. “I’m Amadeus. What do you go by, kind sir?”
“My acquaintances call me Isaac,” he responded, gripping Amadeus’ hand in return and giving him a firm handshake.
“Isaac, hm? I’ll remember that. Do you have time to stay a while? I was about to go find some food and I’d love to have some company.”
“I have time. I’d be delighted to join you.”
Within fifteen minutes, Amadeus and his new acquaintance, who went by Isaac, were seated at a table overlooking the nearby beach, renowned across the country for its beauty. It was mid-afternoon, and the sun’s rays shone over the low tide, causing the entire ocean to glitter marvelously. The two young men were splitting a rather large sandwich they’d ordered – a ‘Submarine Explorer 1’, as it was called. Apparently, this sandwich was famous not only for its large size but also its excellent taste.
“This sandwich is delicious!” Isaac exclaimed as he took a bite. “I don’t think I’ve ever had food this good in my entire life!”
“It is quite superb,” Amadeus commented. “I’d only heard stories about it, and now after firsthand experience I see the stories weren’t exaggerated. Thanks for sharing it with me, though – with a sandwich this big I fear I’d never finish it all!”
“Hah, I suppose not. So, Amadeus, what brings you here to Slate Harbor? I know it’s normally busy, but to come here now at this convention when the crowds are the biggest...? Surely you must have some errand of some kind or another here.”
“I have been considering joining the military, actually, and I heard they’d set up a few booths here – I found one of them at the start of the day, soon after I arrived here. Apparently tomorrow they’re holding a class on how to properly and effectively use firearms, so I’ll most likely be attending that. Maybe then I can put all that practice from Beckon to Duty to good use.”
“Haha, maybe so!” Isaac laughed heartily at Amadeus’ quip, taking another bite of sandwich. “If you ended up joining, where would you be stationed?”
“Somewhere close to home, probably,” Amadeus answered with a chomp. “I actually live on the outskirts of Mauvis, just north of here, so if all goes well I’d be in or around there.”
“And that’s where you got the Natu synthetic from?”
“Not really. I visited a booth that was peddling synthetics of all shapes and sizes, and purchased it there. I was drawn to its simple yet charming design, and the booth attendant said it was a big hit with teenage girls, so that’s a big plus considering I have sisters. I think I’ll call him Widget.”
“That’s actually a very nice name. If I may ask...what motivates you to join the military?”
“Part of it is because I have an unusual fascination with guns and weaponry...which is a terrible reason, I know. Another part of it is...I like the peace we enjoy now. It’s been around for...so I hear, about thirty-five years. I’d like to keep it going even longer.”
“Thirty-five years? What happened back then?”
“The government stopped being ‘on edge’. They were so incredibly paranoid about spirits or something and it had caused many people to live in fear of them. Then I heard two of the Generals quit and that paranoia just vanished. They must have taken it with them.”
“That sounds...really strange. It even seems a little fantastical, don’t you agree?”
“Why is that so? Is it unnatural to be afraid of the supernatural? It’s something beyond us, and something we’re uncertain about. I honestly don’t blame them for being afraid, but at the same time they let that fear consume them, and it sent the world into a constant state of panic.”
“Do you believe in the supernatural then, Amadeus?”
“I haven’t seen any phenomenon of it myself, though I would not dismiss it fully.”
“I see. ...You said your name was Amadeus; what’s your surname? If you don’t mind me asking, that is...”
“Not at all; it’s Dorian. And yours, Mr. Isaac?”
“Isaac Waters...A simple but elegant name. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Would you mind if we met up again tomorrow and talked some more? You sound like a very nice and interesting guy and I really enjoyed talking with you today. I’d like it if we became friends, to be honest.”
“You know what...? You’re quite interesting yourself. I’d like that too. Where shall I meet you?”
“Probably right before your firearms class. When does that start?”
“Nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“Shall I meet you at eight-thirty by the food court, then?”
“Sounds like a plan. You’re staying in town, yes?”
“I will be for a few days, correct.”
“Very good. See you soon, Mr. Waters.”
“See you tomorrow, Amadeus.”
That sandwich was incredibly filling. After that, Amadeus didn’t even have enough room in his stomach to even consider eating dinner, even a small one. Rather, after some more meandering he retired to his hotel room for the night, to be well-rested for the following morning. Before he did, however, he got out his little bird, whom he had decided to name ‘Widget’ as he’d previously told Isaac, and got out the instruction manual for it. He managed to turn it on, and as he did so, its eyes lit up with life. It looked at Amadeus and chirped playfully.
“You’re an energetic fellow, aren’t you?” Amadeus remarked, smiling. “I think I’ll name you ‘Widget’. Does that name sound good to you? Widget?”
The bird closed its eyes briefly, nodded three times quickly, opened its eyes again, and chirped once again to finish its response. It was expressing the closest thing it could to a smile. Despite being a machine, it appeared very pleased with the name.
“Good! Very good! Okay, Widget. Tomorrow I’d like to take you around the convention, to see the sights. I’d like you to remain on my shoulder at all times, okay?”
Widget answered Amadeus’ question with the same response – close eyes, nod three times, open eyes, and finish with a chirp – but after that, it also flapped its small wings to rise into the air, and perched itself on Amadeus’ shoulder.
“Hahaha, not right now,” Amadeus said, grinning and picking the bird up, placing it down where it was standing before. “Tomorrow, not tonight. Tonight, I have to sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”
Widget did its usual response, again, and after that, it flew over to the bedside table, made itself comfortable, closed its eyes, and turned itself off. Adorable little thing; it actually put itself to sleep. Amadeus was genuinely impressed; these machines were indeed quite intelligent. Whoever made the AI for these things, Amadeus now had great respect for them, to be able to understand and respond to human commands so easily. Who taught them how to understand human speech, anyway? And with such skill? These questions fascinated him, but answers could wait until the morrow. For now, he was tired, so he placed his head on the bed’s pillow, folded his hands, said “Good night, Widget,” and laid himself down to sleep.
The next day came surprisingly quickly for Amadeus. He was wide awake at eight o’clock sharp, which shocked him as he’d meant to wake up an hour earlier. Perhaps yesterday had been more tiring than he’d believed. In any case, it was of no great concern – his appointment with his new friend Isaac was only at eight-thirty, and his firearms class at nine, so it’s not like his sleeping in cost him any time. He yawned once more, lifted himself out of bed, had a quick shower to get himself fully awake, and then woke up his new companion Widget. As soon as Widget was up, it jumped on Amadeus’ shoulder with no provocation whatsoever. With a smile to his small mechanical friend, Amadeus was off and ready to go.
Isaac had arrived at the food court at eight-twenty-five, arriving a few minutes early to remain cordial, although Amadeus could take one look at him and noticed that Isaac hadn’t gotten much sleep either – he was rubbing his eyes and mumbling incoherently to himself.
“You awake, Isaac?” Amadeus asked as he approached.
“Oh! Amadeus!” Isaac exclaimed, as if snapping awake. “Didn’t notice you there.”
“You could say that, yeah. A bit concerned and didn’t get much sleep.”
“Concerned? About what?”
“Nothing worth repeating. Just something personal. In any case, I promised to meet you here for breakfast, and here I am. Perhaps we could continue our conversation from yesterday.”
“Indeed, that could work.”
The two of them agreed to meet at a specific table, then split up and went separate ways in the food court, preparing their respective morning meals. Amadeus had decided to keep things simple – pork sausages, hash browns, and scrambled eggs, a small meal that would keep him full as long as possible. Isaac, on the other hand, went for a bowl of corn flakes – a rather large bowl, to be sure, though it probably wasn’t as filling as Amadeus’ choice of food.
“Amadeus, if I may continue the conversation by asking the first question?” Isaac requested.
“By all means, go ahead.”
“First off, I see Widget happily perched on your shoulder, and that reminds me of what you said about your family. You live with your family, yes? How many?”
“I do, correct. My father isn’t around very often – he’s a bit of a hermit-like character so all my contact with him is generally over the phone. Fortunately, I have a mother and sisters to keep me company, who I’m eternally grateful for.”
“That’s wonderful. How many sisters do you have?”
“Two. I have two sisters.”
“You were about to say ‘three’, yet you cut yourself off. Why?”
“It was...a slip of the tongue. I was counting my mother as one of my sisters by mistake.”
Isaac, not satisfied with this explanation, gave Amadeus a good long stare, trying to see into his eyes. Amadeus could see Isaac’s gaze boring into him, and was slightly concerned about the awkward silence he’d created by his small mistake. He could not just see Isaac staring at him...no, he could feel Isaac staring into him...
“Amadeus...I know this may not be my place to say,” Isaac said at length, “but...I had a sister once. You...you did have a third sister once, didn’t you? But not any longer. I know what it is like to lose someone that close to you.”
“Isaac...I barely know you, and already, by merely discerning my gaze and my small error, you have found something out about me...something I thought no one would ever see.”
“So...I am right?”
“You have said it. It is as you say. My third sister died years ago. I miss her dearly.”
“I miss my sister too. She was my only family. I have no living relatives anymore. Be grateful, Amadeus. You still have family whom you can call your own. I do not.”
“...It is strange what camaraderie we share already, and in a detail as so deep and invisible as this. And yet I feel I can trust you with this detail.”
“Worry not, my friend. I am sure we will be reunited with our loved ones one day. Of this I have no doubt.”
“How can you be so sure of the afterlife, Isaac? Can a man see it with his own two eyes?”
“Through a vision or a dream, yes, I believe it’s possible.”
“And you chided me for believing in the supernatural!” Amadeus gave a hearty laugh. “You wound me, my friend! You are quite the crafty one. I wonder what other secrets lie behind that unrevealing gaze of yours.”
“Perhaps the better we get to know each other, you shall find out. And I do believe you have a firearms class to get to?”
“Ah, you’re right! Fortunately we have already finished eating. I must make all haste to get there in time! Isaac, you are free to join me, but for now, I must leave!”
Amadeus then hurriedly disposed of his trash, picked up his things, and rushed down one of the streets to make it to his intended destination. Conversing with Isaac had been so enthralling he hadn’t noticed how much time it had eaten up! He had to run in order to make in time, and fortunately he did, not a moment too soon. The class had started with a brief lecture on how to use a handgun, the most basic of firearms, and after that the students were allowed to test their skills on an indoor firing range, launching bullets at paper cutouts against a concrete wall.
It was at this point that Isaac had quietly snuck in and had asked to watch the shooting demo, to see how well Amadeus would do. Isaac was permitted, and walked against the opposite to behind where Amadeus was, to see his progress. Amadeus had large muffs covering his ears and safety goggles across his eyes, and Widget was napping against the back wall. Isaac was watching Amadeus shoot at his paper target, and much to Isaac’s surprise, Amadeus’ shot hit either at the bull’s-eye or within the center ring of the target, each and every time.
Amadeus didn’t notice Isaac’s presence until he had fired all the bullets that had been provided to him. He waved and greeted his new friend, while the rangemaster was tallying up the scores of each student. Not surprisingly, Amadeus’ score was the highest – the rangemaster had remarked that it was a ‘perfect score’, and that ‘no score had been this high in over fifty years’.
“Fifty years?” Amadeus asked. “Who held this other score?”
“General Machina,” the rangemaster said, “back when he was a new recruit. I remember one of the guys before me telling us about it – by now it’s become a legend that everyone passes on. He simply took up a handgun at the firing range, fired it twenty times at the target, reloading when necessary, and each time it always hit dead-center. He only fired it with one hand and suffered absolutely no recoil, so the story goes. No one’s ever figured out how he did it.”
“To be compared to a marksman of that calibre...It’s a great honor. Though I am no General Machina or any great shot.”
“With enough practice, you could be. Now, if we can proceed to...”
The rangemaster was cut off when the building shook for about a second. The lights flickered for a moment yet remained on, but outside there came the noise of a multitude of screaming people.
“What is that?” Amadeus asked.
“I don’t know...” the rangemaster said, “but it sounds like people are panicking. I don’t like the sound of it. If something dangerous is outside, I’d recommend you get to safety while you can. Your friend there, too.”
“Amadeus...” Isaac began. “Whatever this thing is, it’s threatening people and this convention. I’m going to find out what it is. I recommend you follow me...and bring a firearm.”
“Why a firearm?”
“Because I get the feeling you being a crack shot will come in handy.”
Without waiting for a response, Isaac ran out the door and into the street. Amadeus, confused but trusting, asked the rangemaster’s permission to borrow a firearm (which was granted) and followed Isaac outside. It was a good thing he did – there were masses of screaming people fleeing, and it was everything he could do to try and not be swallowed up by the crowds moving in the opposite direction he wanted to travel. He saw his friend Isaac ahead of him, who waved and motioned him to follow, again in the opposite direction of the crowds. Amadeus obliged, and hastened to follow Isaac.
Isaac was headed towards the center plaza of Slate Harbor, from which the people seemed to be fleeing. It was a large circular area, about fifty feet in diameter, and at its middle was a large fountain, about eight feet in diameter, and about as tall, with two layers from which water flowed down. No doubt a multitude of small coins had been cast into it for good luck, but that wasn’t the most striking thing. Rather, standing in a ring about the fountain were six large silvery machines, fashioned in the shape of what looked like some sort of large mammal or dinosaur. Each was roughly six feet tall and covered in armored plates. They each had two eyes, glowing red, and below them a large mouth with serrated metal teeth. A large horn shot out from between the two eyes, much like a rhinoceros. They were bipedal, having two large arms and legs, plus a two-foot-long tail that looked like it could squeeze a person to death in a matter of minutes. A line of spikes ran down the back of each one, where the spinal column would normally be.
“These are quite fearsome beasts,” Amadeus noted as he arrived, gripping his handgun in both hands.
“These look like synthetics,” Isaac suggested. “If memory serves, these are the Nidoking model. They’re mostly used by the military, predominantly to fight. There’s a lot of military stuff here, so their being here doesn’t surprise me. It’s that they have been activated and set to kill.”
“Who would do that? Who would be able to do that?”
“Questions can wait, my friend,” Isaac replied, reaching his hand behind him and pulling out a long sword resting in a sheath strapped to his back. Amadeus was surprised; he hadn’t even noticed this sheath until now. Maybe Isaac was really good at keeping his sword inconspicuous. “For now, we need to stop these things. Aim right below the horn. It’ll stop its brain. Move!”
Amadeus didn’t wait to say anything else and did as his friend advised. He raised his two hands, locked onto one of the six Nidoking, took aim right below the horn, and fired. The bullet made contact with the machine, which fell over backwards, lifeless. Isaac was right; that was indeed the weak spot!
He prepared to take aim at another, but the Nidoking had all started to move – and quite rapidly at that – so it would be more difficult. Isaac, in the meantime, had ran forward and was fighting at close quarter with one of them, slashing at its body, trying to cut open its head, while parrying blows from its large arms and tail. He succeeded after a brief scuffle, and still being unscathed, he moved on to the next one. Amadeus had to run backwards as he took aim, as whenever a Nidoking saw him, it would charge full-speed at him, requiring Amadeus to either turn sharp corners or get his shots quick and perfect. He managed to do both relatively well, fortunately. The conflict in all lasted only about two minutes, thankfully, and by then, Amadeus had struck down four of the battle machines to Isaac’s two.
“Well done,” Isaac commented, sheathing his sword. “You got more than I did.”
“That’s because I had some good advice,” Amadeus replied, “and that a gun is easier to nail weak points with. I didn’t know you carried a sword, though...”
“I’m what you might call a ‘wandering hero’. I’m a vagabond, traveling about the world to retain order and justice.”
“So...are you with any organization, or do you fight alone?”
“Alone. I find it a bit easier that way. Do you mind if I ask you another question?”
“Not at all; go ahead.”
“Look at me, Amadeus. What color are my eyes?”
“What? What kind of a question is that?”
“Just answer me.”
“They’re blue. Like a deep, ocean blue.”
“And my trousers?”
“Blue as well, though that’s more of a denim color.”
“And what am I wearing here? And what color is it?” He pointed to his scarf.
“It’s a scarf...It’s a wheat yellow color. What is the meaning of this set of questions, Isaac? Do you think me blind?”
“That’s what I was trying to ascertain. I wanted to make sure you actually could see.”
“What? You thought I was blind?”
“As soon as the rangemaster remarked that you had a score similar to Machina’s fifty years ago, that is when I was concerned. See, rumor has it that Machina, revered as history’s greatest marksman, was a blind man. Stripped of his sight, he heightened his other senses – sound, smell, touch – so that his marksmanship was without peer. He knew exactly where his target was at all times, and never missed his mark – even though he couldn’t see anything.”
“And what does that have to do with me? Because I had a score as great as Machina’s, you think me blind?”
“I thought you might be a reincarnation of him or something. This suspicion of mine has...no basis in reality, but I was worried for...Amadeus! Look out! Duck!”
Amadeus’ expression turned to surprise fairly rapidly, but instinctively he obeyed the command and did so. Still looking forward at Isaac, Amadeus saw Isaac unsheathe his sword once more, and he could see the sword glow with lightning, which crackled about the blade. Isaac then swung his sword quickly in front of him, causing the lightning to leap forth and travel forward as a shock wave. It went right over Amadeus’ head, and hit something that was only about five feet behind him. Whatever it was, it let out a guttural squeal.
Isaac ran forward past Amadeus, presumably to battle against whatever threatened him. Amadeus got up, turned around, and looked for his would-be attacker. There was something sprawled out on the ground. It looked to be humanoid, but its body appeared to be made out of some sort of white goo, which looked as if it was perpetually melting. It had two arms, which looked not unlike mechanical prosthetic limbs for humans. It had a head, and a face with two large blue diamond-shaped eyes and a large mouth with only a small number of teeth, all canine.
“What are you?” Isaac asked, his blade pointed forward. “Answer me or die!”
“Not your concern...” it hissed in a strange, almost reptilian voice, as it got to its feet. A noise not unlike gurgling could be heard in its throat. “Don’t need you...give him to me...to me...to me now!!”
Isaac leapt forward and slashed at this slime creature with his blade, to attempt to drive it off. The slash cut at its body, but its viscous state allowed it to absorb and nullify the blow.
“Don’t care about you...Only him...” it gasped, laughing. “He is mine...Mine!!”
Much to Isaac’s shock, the creature leapt up through the air, taking its whole fluid body with it, over Isaac’s head and straight at Amadeus. Amadeus, paralyzed by fear, was only able to fire one single bullet at it, which promptly was rebuffed by its amorphous body. Its arms outstretched and cruel mouth wide open, Amadeus was frozen to the spot as he awaited his end.
But his end was not yet. Another new creature, this one looking like the shadow of some great bird, materialized between Amadeus and the blob thing, and slashed at it with a sharp claw, which knocked the creature to the ground. The shadow then chased its quarry mid-fall, and slashed at it once more, knocking it further away. Amadeus couldn’t get a good look at it, but upon closer examination, it looked like a human’s upper torso, with two large bird wings and its hands tipped with sharp talons. It was floating as well, compensating for its lack of legs.
“You...” hissed the adversary. “What are you...You feel like him...yet you are not...”
“Leave now,” the shadow responded, its voice deep and commanding. “Cause any more havoc and I shall surely destroy you.”
“Not the end...Not the end...not not not not not...”
The amorphous being began to mumble, until the shadow slashed at it again, causing it to utter another squeal. It hissed at the shadow, and then disappeared into thin air, as if it had left.
Amadeus could hardly believe the spectacle. He was as good as dead only about twenty seconds before, and now he’d been saved by...some sort of shadow creature. He couldn’t move; he was still incredibly frightened and jarred by what had just happened. The shadow turned towards Amadeus and moved in his direction. Its face was covered by a mask shaped like the head of a bird of prey, and its front protected by body armor. Up close, he could tell it was six feet tall. Whatever it was, it was terrifying, but at least it was on his side, or so Amadeus hoped.
“Are you all right?” it asked, halting five feet in front of Amadeus. “You are unscathed?”
“I’m fine, yeah,” Amadeus answered. “I was terrified. What was that thing?”
“I do not know for sure. However, based on its behavior, it wants to attack you...and only you. It didn’t care at all for your friend...” The shadow paused and looked around before continuing to address Amadeus. “...who appears to have vanished.”
Amadeus hurriedly whipped his head around, trying to find Isaac. The shadow was right – Isaac had completely vanished. But why, after having saved his life, would he disappear?
“Where did he go? Isaac!” Amadeus called out. “Isaac!”
“It appears that the two of you have saved the day, from what could be an otherwise disastrous outcome. Clearly neither of you are very ordinary.”
“But...who are you? What are you?”
“...I can see the crowds are beginning to gather again. Go to your hotel room at five o’clock tonight. We will talk more then, and I shall answer your questions.”
With that, the shadow vanished from before Amadeus’ eyes, not waiting for a response. Amadeus looked about him, and could see the crowds of people, having once fled away for their lives from the berserk synthetics, congregating again. A silence hung in the air, as all pairs of eyes were resting on him, the bodies of the six synthetics lying broken on the ground. Then, only a few moments later, all at once, the entire throng erupted into cheering. Amadeus had saved them! He was their hero! ...at least, as far as they were concerned. Amadeus was trying to explain and not take all the credit, but said it was partially due to his friend also that the threat had been silenced. Yet Isaac wasn’t there, so Amadeus got all the glory for this valiant deed.
Amadeus spent most of the rest of the day trying to finish up his firearms class and trying to deflect the questions being constantly thrown at him by the crowd. He was even interviewed a few times by certain individuals, some with the military, others with the news, and still others hoping to get a chance to talk to the legendary Amadeus Dorian, some of whom even asked if they could get an autograph. It was indeed a hectic day for Amadeus, yet despite all the praise, he could not bring himself to smile – no, not after that strange encounter that nearly robbed him of his life. He needed to find that shadow. He needed it to be five o’clock. He needed answers.
Because he was not the hero everyone thought he was. Not yet.
Finally, a reprieve. Amadeus had finally escaped from the adoring masses who were constantly firing at him volleys of questions of all kinds, no matter how inane, and was on his way back to the hotel room, Widget still perched firmly on his shoulder. As he walked towards the hotel, and it came into view, he noticed Isaac sitting on one of the benches, hunched over, hands folded, looking down at the ground, as if waiting, thinking, or maybe even half-asleep. The bird-like shadow was also there as well, not sitting on the bench, but floating nearby.
“So you’ve come,” said the shadow, turning to greet Amadeus.
“Isaac! You’re here too?” Amadeus exclaimed.
“The shadow managed to track me down and find me, after I left,” Isaac explained. “It
asked me to come here and wait for you to show up.”
“Why did you leave like that?”
“I didn’t want to be thrust into the public eye. Above all else I cannot let my presence be well-known. I am known only by few and I want to keep things that way.”
“If I may begin...” the shadow interjected. “Amadeus...you have a room here, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“What I am about to say is...not for everyone’s ears. If I may trouble you, I’d like to talk with you both there. It will be a private place.”
“...I’m not sure what your intent is, but...fine. At the least, I know you’re not an enemy.”
Amadeus ushered the man and the shadow into his hotel room, and locked the door behind him as they all entered. Isaac and Amadeus each took a chair and sat on it, while the shadow floated over the floor, staring at both of them. Clearly, this was going to be interesting.
“First off, I am going to have a lot to share,” the shadow began, “so at the very least I shall begin with introductions. I am the shadow of one of the Watchers. I am a projection of his mind...his will, his strength...even his soul. The Watcher would have come personally instead of me, but he had some other pressing matter to attend to.”
“Forgive my ignorance, but who are the Watchers?” Amadeus inquired.
“Eight godlike beings who preside over the world. They watch from above, watching all that goes on, moving the world in the path it should go. On rare occasions, they will directly intervene in mortal affairs if it means forwarding this path. That is why I appeared. Had the Remnant actually succeeded in its attack, you would have died. It is not yet your time to die.”
“Wow. Is that so? Then I owe you a debt of gratitude, shadow. I suppose I should introduce myse –”
“I already know who you two are, Amadeus Dorian and Isaac Waters,” the shadow spoke up again. “I know everything about both of you. Remember, I am the shadow of a god.”
“Do you know what that thing was that attacked me? It looked like some slime monster with two robot hands...”
“I’ve run into it once before. It’s called the Remnant. It used to be a person, as far as I know. Its mind and body are incomplete, and it knows this, and it’s looking for the missing parts of its body. For whatever reason, it thinks you are what it’s missing, hence why it completely ignored Isaac and went straight for you.”
“But is Amadeus the ‘missing part’, shadow?” Isaac asked.
“No. I know who it is, and it’s not Amadeus. But that doesn’t mean the Remnant won’t try to attack you again.”
At this point, a katana, enclosed in an ice-blue metal sheath, materialized in the shadow’s left hand. Only the hilt of the blade was visible, but Amadeus could tell the blade was slightly curved, quite thin, and had superb craftsmanship – the hilt was extremely ornate, more so than any other sword he’d had the pleasure of seeing.
“Here,” the shadow offered. “Amadeus, this is for you. A gift. In case the Remnant shows up to attack you again. I know you are a marksman, but I feel this will be more effective.”
“A katana?” Amadeus asked. “It looks so valuable, though...No, I can’t take this.”
“Do it. It was made to be used, not admired. There’s a lot more to this blade that initially meets the eye. I’m sure you will be most grateful to it...and I’m also under orders to deliver to you this sword. ...Please.”
“If you insist...” He took the blade from the shadow, and held it in his hands. As his grip closed about the blade’s sheath, the image of a girl flashed in front of his eyes, and his vision was flooded with light. The girl had long white hair, deep blue eyes, and was clothed in white garment. She was smiling sweetly, looking right at Amadeus. And just as suddenly as she had appeared in his sight, she, along with the accompanying glow, had vanished.
Amadeus almost fell backwards in his chair, his head instinctively retreating from the sight. He was shocked beyond belief.
“Amadeus, what happened?” Isaac exclaimed, turning to his friend, deep with concern. “Did you see something? You look as if you’d seen a ghost...”
“You didn’t see it, Isaac?”
“No, I didn’t. Maybe it was a vision? Something only you saw?”
“It was...a young woman. Long white hair, white garments, deep blue eyes, a gentle smile, and an expression that stared right at me, a gaze never faltering for a moment.”
“That wasn’t exactly a ghost...” the shadow noted, “more like a soul.”
“A soul? Can you be so sure it wasn’t a ghost?”
“I’m positive. Ghosts don’t exist.”
“How do you...oh right. Shadow of a god. Whose soul was it?”
“Amelia. The person you saw, her name is Amelia.”
Amadeus was instantly quiet. He stood up from his chair, walked forward towards the shadow, and thrust the katana back into its hands, releasing his hold on it.
“Take it back,” Amadeus said, his voice now quite somber. “Take it and leave, and do not trouble me again.”
“Amadeus? What’s the matter?” Isaac asked.
“This shadow...I don’t wish to speak with it anymore. It is no longer welcome.”
“What have you done?” Isaac accused, turning to the shadow. “Why have you offended my friend? He did nothing to you! Why have you wronged him?”
“It was because of something I said,” the shadow remarked. “Amelia is the name of his third sister. Amadeus shares a strong bond with her...even though they’ve never met.”
“Stop it! Stop it this instant!” Amadeus yelled. “You stop talking about her that way!”
“Amadeus, this might be your only chance to meet her. She’ll be with you as long as you hold this blade. She doesn’t have a physical presence anymore; she has to be tied to an object in order for you to interact with her right now.”
The shadow backed away from Amadeus, who was now only inches in front of his face. It took the katana and placed it on a table in the hotel room. “You may not want me around, but you must be able to defend yourself somehow. This sword is my gift to you for that purpose. The sword...its name is ‘Boundary’. It was made in a place beyond the boundary of this world; its strength is beyond what any earthly weapon can attain. It’s not to be taken lightly. Take up the blade and be re-united with Amelia again. Let it fall away and you may not get another chance.” The shadow turned and beckoned to Isaac. “Isaac. Come. Your friend needs time alone. Let us leave him be.” Isaac, noting that Amadeus was very near to the verge of tears, silently nodded and obeyed, whispering to Amadeus “See you tomorrow” before quietly leaving the room.
Amadeus was now alone in the room. Isaac had left, and the shadow had left. All that remained was Widget and that katana, which had given him a vision of Amelia, his third sister. He sat back down again on the chair and began to gently sob, the tears flowing down his cheeks with little effort. He hung his head and clenched his eyes shut, trying to stave off his tears, but he could not. Widget, still on his shoulder, hopped a bit closer, cooed softly, and rubbed its cheek against his, in an attempt to try and brighten his spirit. It helped, if only a little. At least someone understood his plight.
He could not believe the audacity of that shadow, though. Granted, he was extremely grateful for it having saved his life from attack, but to then ask to meet him and mention his dead sister? It was too much for him to handle. That was something no one should have known, or even mention. Even if the Watchers were godlike, it was still not an excuse to be so disrespectful of his feelings.
He lifted his head a bit, eyes still teary, and glanced over at the katana on the table. It was indeed a beautifully crafted blade; he could discern that from looking at the hilt alone. And he so longingly missed his sister. In desperation, he reached out and grabbed the blade again, hoping to once again see a vision of her. Instead, he didn’t get a vision, but a voice, speaking into his mind.
(Amadeus?) it asked. The voice was fair and feminine. It was her, wasn’t it?
“Who are you?”
“Amelia! Is that you, truly? Where are you?”
(I’m by your side. You can’t see or feel me, but I’m here. As long as you hold the blade.)
“What happened? Why did I have to lose you?”
(It wasn’t your fault. None of us could have seen it coming. What matters is that I am here now, by your side. You will grow up into a fine man, of that I am sure. And I’ve been waiting to see you again too, brother. I have missed you so much...)
The tears came flowing from Amadeus’ cheeks again. He clenched his eyes shut even tighter, and gripped fast the sheathed katana in his two hands, as if his very life depended on it. It was like a dream – his sister was back again, and here to stay. He would have preferred her to return as a human, in flesh as well as spirit, but he would gladly take any presence he could get. Finally, after so long with an endless void in his soul, he was, for the first time ever, truly happy.
Isaac and the shadow had been walking further and further away from the hotel room, to leave Amadeus alone. Isaac’s intent was to meet up with his friend tomorrow, after his emotions had settled. He stared at the shadow, trying to discern its emotions or even its thoughts, but it was no use; the shadow had no expression, no face, no light in its eyes. It was inscrutable.
“...I cannot say I agree with your methods,” Isaac said. “You put him in tears.”
“I am sure you would do the same, were you reunited with your sister,” the shadow responded. “You cannot blame him for his display of emotion.”
“But why did I have to be there? You said his sister’s name, right in front of me! You could have just told him without me being there! Why did you bring me along?”
“Because I feel the need to tell you about her, if you are to understand him. Don’t forget, I led you here to guard him and be at his side. You had better put your abilities to good use as well, if you wish for him to remain alive.”
“And what if I fail?”
“You will not fail. I know this for a fact. Now, I must tell you about Amelia.”
“Amadeus mentioned that she died, right? What did she die of?”
“Complications. If she were alive today, she’d be 14. And, much like Olivia and Sasha, she’d feel quite attached to her kindly older brother.”
“How old was she when she died?”
“I don’t understand.”
“She died before she was born, Isaac...if I should even call you that. When he heard this...he was only six at the time...he became much like you saw him. He became angry, entered denial, and then finally broke down in tears. He does not handle death or loss well. That’s why I am entrusting him to your care – to make sure he doesn’t suffer.”
“...The people at the convention all think he’s a hero.”
“Public opinion is a fickle thing, my friend. But make no mistake, he is a hero. He exemplifies what all heroes should be like, and what they should aspire to be – humble, driven, and sworn to protect those they care about. Your new magnetic friend is like that too.”
“Would you please not bring him up? Seeing him makes me feel regret.”
“My apologies. But my point stands...you must stay by Amadeus’ side. Although he is now crying the painful tears of a hero’s lament, he will emerge joyful and triumphant in the morning. And I want you to be there for him, because you genuinely care for him...and although I do too, unlike me, you actually look the part as well. That is your duty. Do not fail me.”
“I will keep that in mind. I will continue to be at his side as his support and his shield, even when you cannot be.”
“Then I shall take my leave. Farewell.”
The shadow, once floating at Isaac’s side, vanished completely from sight, leaving Isaac alone with his thoughts. What the shadow had told him about Amadeus was ruminating in his mind, and it further solidified his drive to strengthen his relationship with Amadeus, and become a friend that could be relied upon, even in the toughest of times. Yet a mite of doubt manifested for a moment in his eyes, and he looked up to the sky. He spoke a question into the air, as if expecting an answer from someone or something residing beyond the clouds.
“How can I do this, shadow of Deus? Will I ever be able to tell him who I really am?”
I'll probably post personal thoughts about it later. In the meantime, please enjoy my spoof names and subtle references.