This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2008 Gabriel Common
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Cover art Design by Tiffany Compton – deviantart user profile – Eisoptrophobic
Cover Landscape art by devianart user profile – Wyldraven
Federation cover symbol – Angelo Ruiz
Book Editor – Virgo Castro
Special Thanks to Lamar Latham
The pained screams of a young woman echoed throughout the halls of a small hospital. In a busy delivery room, the nurse held Rose’s hand in an attempt to comfort her while the doctor talked to her through a rough procedure.
“Come on…. Rose, push! You’re almost there,” the doctor said in a soft voice, trying his best to help her relax.
In that moment, the young woman let out a pained, final scream, ending as she heard the infant cries of her son.
“Congratulations Rose!” the doctor said with joy. “It’s a bo—” Silence struck the room, as the doctor was too shocked to even finish his statement.
“What’s wrong?” begged Rose, fearing the unsettling silence. “Please? Let me see my child.”
Rose’s pleas were unintentionally ignored, as the doctor and nurse were too much in shock by the baby’s foreign appearance to even notice.
With a tight hold on the infant boy, the doctor slowly turned the child around for a better view of the little feathered wings protruding from his tiny back.
“Oh my God!” the nurse spoke in a low whisper, trying not to alarm the baby’s mother. “What is this?”
Their amazement was cut short as Rose suddenly screamed again in pain, startling the room.
“There’s another one coming!” the doctor shouted, handing the first baby off to the nurse as he frantically rushed back to his station to help Rose deliver her second child. Her screams escalated and echoed throughout the small hospital.
Three floors above the delivery room, under the bright moonlit sky, a mysterious man stood staring up into the stars. He was stricken with grief for having to hear the painful screams of his lover, yet unable to give her comfort. He wanted nothing more than to be at her side, but knew that his presence would only cause her more heartache. His thoughts were stolen by a familiar voice floating into his ear. “I didn’t expect to find you here, Krisstan.”
“At the hour of my sons’ birth?” the man replied, not turning from his view. “Where else would I be?” He let out a sigh of despair before finally turning to acknowledge his brother. “I see they’re trying to play on my emotions by sending you, Michael.”
“You betrayed us, Krisstan. You knew the rules, but paid them no heed. I am afraid there is nothing I can do for you now.”
Krisstan dropped his head. “I see….”
“Please Krisstan, do not flee.”
“What kind of father would I be if I did?” he replied. He turned back to look into the eyes of Michael.
“Then let us return to Heaven for your judgment,” ordered Michael. “The Seraphim are waiting.”
Krisstan put his hands together as his head dropped in concentration. His body rose up, floating, as he lifted his head and opened his arms, allowing a soft glow to consume his entire being. Seconds went by as a bright halo of light circled his body. Steam rose off his skin as two large, feathered wings gracefully extended from is back. As Krisstan’s appearance began to change, so did Michael’s, shifting in sync with his. The Angels continued to rise up in the sky, destined for a higher plane. As they passed the lowest clouds, the air around them brightened. The two looked around. They were in a brilliant room with glistening crystal walls and burnish golden pillars.
In this plane, their bodies were not glowing and emitting white steam as it did on Earth. Now in Heaven, they appeared as normal beings left only with white, feathered wings extending from their backs.
“So you’ve finally decided to return, Krisstan?” came a thunderous voice that seemed to vibrate their surroundings.
Seven glowing beings faded into the room. Though shaped as humans, they possessed no physical features. They were only radiant bodies with wings stretching from their backs.
Krisstan knelt before the seven glorious beings, pleading his case with remorse. “Please be merciful, for I am aware of my sins and do not deserve your grace.”
One of the seven Seraphim stepped forward, speaking for all. His empowering voice echoed across the room like thunder. “Krisstan, you went against the word and gave in to your lust for a mortal being. Mercy is the last thing you will receive.”
“My actions were not the effect of lust but of love,” Krisstan replied, boldly allowing his feelings to pour. “I love this human and at this moment she is giving birth to my sons, Raven and Traiven.”
“Krisstan, despite your motives, your sin cannot be justified.”
Another Seraphim stepped forward as the first one stepped back, allowing another Seraphim to speak his thoughts. “Now you have brought the Nephilim back into existence. You know that being half human gives them the option of free will while still possessing the power of the Angels. You also know that was the very reason why every Eye of Eden was destroyed except for the one you were charged to protect.” He continued, “The very one you used it to manifest yourself onto the Eden to be with a human.”
Krisstan bowed his head and sighed, losing all hope that he would ever see Rose again. “Day after day, I watched the humans live out their lives while living among them, envying them every second. Yes, I was able to contain myself until I met Rose. That’s when everything changed.” He lifted his head to show no sense of regret in his eyes. “I never intended for things to go as far as they did, but my feelings for her are pure and are the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced in all the centuries I have existed.”
His words of passion were clear and harmonious, causing the Seraphim to all take a moment of silence. None of them wanted to condemn Krisstan for his faults.
“Krisstan,” spoke a third Seraphim, taking over the conversation. “We now understand the cause of your actions, however it’s the threat of the Nephilim that we cannot take lightly. We cannot allow them to—”
“Please!” exclaimed Krisstan. He fell to his knees before them. “There’s got to be another way,” he begged. “Do what you want to me, but I beg you, spare the lives of my sons.”
The room was again struck silent, the Seraphim looking back and forth at one another, all trying to think of an alternate solution.
After a few more anticipated seconds, the first Seraphim who had spoke suddenly stepped forward to be the last. “You will continue to guard the Eye of Eden,” he said. “Banished from Heaven and put on planet Croft. There you will remain with one of your sons; you will raise him as a loyal servant to Heaven. Your other son will remain on Earth with his mother. If we act now, we should be able to suppress his power as long as he never leaves Earth. In case a time comes, we’ll need his service as well.”
Krisstan gave a sigh of relief as a single teardrop fell from his right eye. He gave a silent plea. Forgive me, Rose.
Eighteen years later . . .
In a distant planetary system at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, a large fleet of warships rushed through space. Their sights were set on an immense brown planet. Their target—a brown metal castle in the shape of a pentagon, sitting on the planet’s rocky surface. The castle had a tall tower on each of its five exterior angles, connected with long pathways extending high above the ground. All pathways connected to a larger tower in the center.
The castle sat peacefully until it was suddenly interrupted by loud alarms, warning of the incoming war ships. Soldiers scattered within the castle as the alarm reached its peak. The generals tried their best to shout over noise and give orders for the soldiers to mount their battle stations and prepare to defend their castle.
Within the large tower in the center of the forest, soldiers in uniforms were posted at computer screens and control panels, while in the center of the room sat a circular black panel providing a holographic feed of the massive fleet, which headed straight toward their position. The entrance opened and three men entered the control room. Two were dressed as typical soldiers, while the other wore a dark brown cloak, its hood hanging over his head, almost covering his entire face. The three men approached the center hologram as their leader removed his hood, revealing the face of a young and innocent-looking man, though his eyes were old and deep, the only things that showed his true middle age. Although his face appeared innocent, his body without a doubt showed he was a warrior, built with broad shoulders that he could use to charge through anything that got in his way.
The man walked to the center hologram and watched in silence as the fleet of ships gradually approached their planet. “Looks like the Federation didn’t waste any time,” he said calmly with his uniquely deep voice.
“Just as we expected, Lance,” replied one of the men who stood behind him.
Lance stared at the feed for a second with an anxious smile before shouting to the entire room. “Is the defense system ready?!”
“Yes, but we still haven’t tested it,” responded one of his men who sat at one of the control panels.
“Well there’s no time like the present,” Lance stated with a cocky smirk on his face.
“My lord!” called another man from his computer station. “We’re receiving a transmission from General Shinnle.”
“This ought to be interesting,” Lance murmured. He walked to the computer screen and stood behind him. An older man appeared on the screen before them wearing his full regalia—his typical black uniform—with patterned red and white colors. The pin over his heart was the most important part of his attire—a silver shield with white, feathered wings and two swords that were crossed behind. The most unique part of his pin was the gold ten-point star over the front of the shield, which signified his position and rank.
“General Shinnle!” called Lance with a sarcastic smile. “Didn’t you think sending your warships was obvious enough?”
“No blood has to be shed today, Lance,” replied the general. He spoke boldly and calmly, trying his best to avoid the impending war. “You are guilty of crimes against Eden. Surrender and let the people of Sabola be free of your war.”
“You have an entire fleet of ships ready to attack my planet, yet you’re calling me the bad guy,” Lance replied. “Tell me, General, we have free will. Is it really wrong to exercise that as we see fit?”
“It is when you put the lives of others at stake to do it.”
“Well then go ahead!” Lance exclaimed. “Send your armies, send your Arcs.”
“You can’t win, Lance!”
“Maybe, but I’m not as foolish as you think,” Lance replied. “I did expect you to eventually find out my true intentions, so I planned accordingly. Your men won’t even make it through our atmosphere.”
General Shinnle was quickly beginning to grow angry, apparent before he flashed off screen.
“Protect the Gateway at all cost,” ordered Lance as he turned toward his men. “I’m quite sure that’s what they’re really after.”
The soldiers of Sabola rushed to their stations, ready to defend as the fleet of warships reached their atmosphere.
Leading the fleet were large gray carriers carrying the symbol of the Divine Federation, similar to General Shinnle’s pin, except the star over the shield was made of five points rather than ten. Directly behind the carriers were dozens of smaller, oval-shaped ships. Unlike the rest of this fleet, these ships were dark blue in color with wings that curved out toward its back. The symbols they carried bore a three-digit number over each shield instead of a star.
As the fleet of ships descended toward the planet, large hatches slid open, releasing dozens of small fighter ships, which instantly rushed down toward the brown planet.
“The fleet is approaching!” reported one of the soliders in the tall tower of the planet’s castle.
“Activate the defense,” ordered Lance, a cocky smirk on his face.
Above the atmosphere, thousands of red beams opened fire as the fighter ships reached their range. Each of the beams struck its target, destroying each fighter with a single hit. The entire fleet drew back, seeing the danger, not wanting to take the chance.
Meanwhile, across the planetary system, far from the planet Sabola, General Jonathan Shinnle resided on a bright green and blue planet called Vana. He stood over a large square platform, watching a holographic feed of the battle. “STOP THE FLEET!” he shouted as he noticed many of his carriers going down from the artillery of cloaked turrets floating around Sabola’s atmosphere.
The soldiers around him began to relay his order, each from their own control panel.
The general stared at the feed of Sabola’s surface in deep thought before devising a new plan of action. “Run a scan of their atmosphere,” he ordered. “Find a point of entry.”
Just as the soldiers around him went to work, Lance appeared on a screen again, still holding his grin. “I’m afraid you’ll only be wasting your time, General,” he said.
“We won’t give up that easy, Lance,” General Shinnle replied. “Justice will be served.”
“Proceed if you wish, then, but these are no ordinary turrets,” boasted Lance. “They fire compressed shots of intense plasma. Even the power shields can’t withstand their force, as you have already witnessed.”
General Shinnle stared at the screen, blank in silence, unable to think of a solution to the pressure his fleet faced.
“And do feel free to look for a point of access,” continued Lance, taunting the general even more. “But you’ll find that these turrets around the entire atmosphere. Plus, they’re not only cloaked from sight but from your radar as well. You wouldn’t even be able to find them to shoot them down.”A soldier who had just left his computer station spoke quickly to General Shinnle. “He’s right, sir. I can’t detect any of them. We have no idea how many or even where they are.”
General Shinnle was still silent, his fist straining as he tried his best to remain calm. “Call them back!” he ordered before turning back to Lance. “You won’t be able to hide behind your defenses forever.”
“Soon, I won’t have to,” replied Lance with a victorious grin before he disappeared from the screen.
On Sabola, one of the dark blue ships stood out from the fleet. It was a bit closer to the atmosphere than the others, holding steady just outside of the gun turrets’ range.
“This is Phantom Seven-Five-One,” came a transmission from the ship. “Vana, do you copy?”
“This is Vana. What’s your status, Five-One?”
“We’re in position and ready to commence the mission.”
“Stand by for further instructions.”
Within the bridge of the ship, the pilot Benny turned his chair to face the center, where Captain Joker Jenkins sat, calmly sipping on a warm cup of tea.
“Captain, Vana has ordered us to stand by,” reported the pilot.
“I know, Benny,” Joker said in annoyance. “I just heard the message. It’s pointless to repeat it when I’m right here.”
“Sorry sir, but repeating Vana’s message is really the only thing I have to keep me occupied right now.” Benny silently turned back around, facing the front screen and his control panel, before speaking again. “And I really need to keep my mind off of—”
“I know,” Joker replied, already knowing what he was referring to. “And I’m sorry, it’s just really hard for me as well.”
“You know, sir, it might be wise for us to withdraw,” Benny suggested while staring out at the large planet before them, its atmosphere littered with turrets. “After our recent loss, I’d say we’ve paid more then our share of dues for this war.”
“I wish we could, but casualties come with the responsibility,” Joker replied. “Besides, if we don’t see this through till the end, Vincent’s sacrifice will have been for nothing.”
“I understand that, but I’m just worried about Raven,” stated Benny. “He hasn’t quite been the same since.”
Joker sighed. “I know.”A metal door in the back of the bridge slid open as a young woman named Bethany Smartly walked in. Unlike like the others, she wore a suit that displayed light green stripes on her sleeves. Over her heart was a light green symbol of a hollow circle, with a green line vertically crossing the bottom, representing the galactic medics corps.
Bethany walked onto the bridge, stopping as she reached the back of Benny’s chair. She never took her gaze off the large brown planet for a second.
“Ironic,” she said. “For having such an evil leader, the Sabola is sure a beautiful site.” Another transmission from Vana suddenly came in, grabbing everyone’s attention. “Five-One, this is Vana, do you copy?”
“Loud and clear,” responded Benny.
“General Shinnle has ordered you to abort the mission.”
“Why?” questioned Joker.
“A new development has just surfaced about the enemy’s defense system. We’ll abort the operation until we have a way through.”
“Understood.” Joker sighed. “Benny, take us home.”
“You got it.”
Just outside their ship, several more Phantoms sat waiting. Each ship had two human figures standing on top of their hull, looking down on the planet—all except for Phantom Seven-Five-One, which had only one figure standing atop its hull: a young man, whose short dark hair and radiant blue eyes complimented his young face. He wore the Federation uniform similar to General Shinnle’s; however, over the shield of his pin were three five-point stars, which marked his rank.
The young man anxiously looked down at Sabola, holding a tight grip on the kilt of his sword, which hung at his waist. Each side of the sword’s crossguard was shaped like wings of a silver Phoenix, the rest of its silver body swirling around the white handle.
“Raven!” called Joker over a small communication device lodged in his ear.
“Due to insufficient data on the enemy’s defenses, we’re aborting this mission for now.”
“But Captain, what about the Gateway?” objected the young man. “Every second we avoid them is a second closer to them raising Cassius.”
“If we act now, we’ll lose. Their defense is too powerful,” Joker replied. “Don’t worry; they’re nowhere close to raising Cassius now then they were before. We have time.”
Raven continued to stare down at the planet, still eager to invade. He wanted to follow the orders of his captain, but at the same time he was filled with a vengeful rage from the results of his last mission. Raven took in a deep breath, and as he exhaled, large, white wings violently stretched out of his back.
“Raven! What are you doing?!” shouted Joker.
“You guys can run if you want to, but I’m going to destroy that Gateway before the Summoners can use it.”
“VANA HAS ORDERED US TO ABORT!” Joker demanded.
“IT WAS VANA’S ORDERS THAT GOT VINCENT KILLED!” Raven shouted back. “Following them is the last thing I want to do right now!”
In the next moment, Raven bent his knees before leaping from the ship, heading straight toward Sabola’s surface.
He plunged through the sky face-first into the planet’s atmosphere, just as all of the turrets activated in a synchronized motion aimed in his direction. As they all opened fire, Raven constantly changed his wings in motion, shifting from side to side in the air, dodging the barrage of turret fire. Raven passed a low satellite hovering just over the planet’s atmosphere. Just as he went by, the satellite deployed two small mechanical robots that began chase after him, every direction he turned.
While maneuvering his way to evade the stalking robots, Raven took notice of red beams, which barely missed him and pierced through his clothing.
Raven quickly looked back, lifting his left hand as a small gun emerged from his sleeve. He opened fire and destroyed one of the robots before the other shot the gun out of his hand. Raven drew his sword, revealing the shiny blue blade. He deflected countless shots from the robot’s inhuman attack, whose bullets approached him with speeds that left him no second to take a breath.
As Raven turned forward to get a sense of direction, he caught the sight of a mountain running right toward him. Instinctively, he turned his body to the right, avoiding a collision and crashing to the side of the rocky slope. Raven then sprang back up, swung his sword, cutting off a piece of a rock from the mountain before kicking it back toward the robot, destroying it upon impact.
Back within the castle of Sabola, Lance watched on a screen through the robot’s video feed, just as the rock flew speedily toward it before the screen cut to black. A soldier quickly walked in. “My lord, their fleet is retreating.”
Lance pressed a button next to the screen, pulling up the image of Raven the robot had seen right before its demise. “Apparently not,” he stated, turning toward the soldier. “Find him and kill him!”
“Yes sir!” the soldier responded.
“Leave him to me,” came the surprising voice of a young man from the doorway.
Lance turned to see a gray figure standing within the darkness.
“Moth, how nice of you to finally join us,” Lance stated sarcastically, staring at the newcomer with irritation. “I had sent for you days ago.”
Moth walked deeper into the room before responding. “Had to make a quick detour.” He gestured toward Raven on the screen. “I’ve faced him before, so let me settle things with him.”“He is no ordinary Arc,” warned Lance. “It isn’t going to be so easy to kill him like you did his partner.”
Moth silently turned and walked out, but not before leaving behind a trail of words. “Don’t worry. I like a challenge.”
Raven finally had the castle in view. He shifted his body while flapping his wings, changing his direction toward his target. Now rushing toward the castle, he took notice of his landing point, stretching his wings, and again turned his body to bring himself to a midair stop. As he retracted his wings, he fell a few feet onto the castle’s highest point, picking up on the sound of sirens going off from every section.
The soldiers were scrambling around the area, giving Raven an opportunity to reach his destination unnoticed.
Back on the bridge of his ship, Joker waited anxiously as Raven’s voice finally came over the communication system. “Captain, I’ve just reached the castle.”
“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?!” Joker shouted angrily.
“I’m already here, so we might as well complete this mission,” Raven shot back.
Joker sighed, calming himself. “Do they know you’re there?”
“I was spotted by two sentry robots.”
“Damn Raven, you can still turn back,” suggested Joker. “I’m sure by now they’re looking for you. If you stay, you’ve only got a few minutes to destroy the Gateway and get out.”
“I only need a few minutes.”
“Okay, but if you face any confrontation, abort immediately. Do you understand?!”
“I’m sure it’ll be nothing I can’t handle,” replied Raven, before he jumped from the peak of the castle and landed on a large courtyard in its center. His sights were set on a large machine posted in the courtyard. He walked quickly toward it, tilting his head up as he moved closer to see a huge metal arch towering above him. “Wow, this thing is huge,” he whispered to Joker through his earpiece.
“Just hurry up and destroy it, Raven,” the captain ordered. “I don’t want you on that planet for too long.”
“Got it.” Raven walked to a control panel at the machine’s side and pulled out a small device shaped like a silver pin. He aimed it at the panel next to the Gateway. A red beam extended from the pin, illuminating the panel’s surface.
“Captain, I just sent you data on the Gateway,” Raven whispered.
Back on the bridge, Joker stood over Benny, staring at the screen as information began to flash before them. “I’m looking at it now,” Joker replied.
“Looks like they’re almost done,” Benny remarked. “I’d say about one more week.”
“If they do manage to open a gateway to Hell, then they can release all of the Demons that are too powerful for them to summon, including Cassius,” Joker said.
“I didn’t think it was even possible,” Benny murmured.
Raven was staring at the machine as Joker’s voice again came into his earpiece. “There are theories, but I’d rather not find out. Raven, destroy it now!”A bright glow emitted from the top of the machine. Raven looked up to see a clear square box, trapping a divine white light within. Curious, he stepped closer to the arch, noticing the light growing brighter with each step he took. His mouth dropped in shock as he instantly realized what the shining object was.
“Captain!” he whispered frantically. “It’s the Eye of Eden! This must be how they’re able to build the Gateway.”
“Of course,” Joker said. “They’re going to convert it to connect to Hell instead of Heaven!”
“Should I retrieve it?”
“No time,” Joker ordered. “Just destroy it along with the Gateway.”
Raven grabbed the handle of his sword and unsheathed it. “Unfortunately, I lost my gun in the landing. I’ll have to do this the long way.” He bent his knees, taking a stance to strike.Raven kicked off the floor, rushing toward the Gateway.
“RAVEN!” came a familiar voice, causing Raven to stop. The soldier turned toward the sound, catching the sight of a dark figure standing several yards behind him. As the man stepped into focus, Raven took notice of his familiar gray outfit and black gloves that extended past his elbows. A mask was ripped along the upper right corner of his face, revealing wrinkles and decayed flesh. This was different, Raven realized. Last time he saw this man, he had smooth young skin.
“Moth!” Raven spoke angrily, tightening the grip on to his sword. “I was kind of hoping I’d run into you again.”
“Well, after my last job against your team, I thought it was time to give you a closer experience of my power,” Moth boasted.
“Raven!” came the voice of Joker through Raven’s earpiece. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? DESTROY THE GATEWAY NOW!”
“Don’t worry, Captain,” Raven murmured. “I’ll get to the machine. But first, I have some unfinished business.” He reached to his ear and removed his communication device, leaving no distractions to enact his awaited vengeance.
Moth laughed. “Aren’t you defiant today?!” He stretched out his arms and a foot-long blade emerged out from each of his gloves, over the backs of his hands. “Didn’t realize I meant that much to you.”
Raven replied with a satisfied grin, “Well, it’s not every day I get to enjoy my job.” He lifted his sword, bending his knees to his attacking stance. “And I’m going to enjoy killing you.”
Moth lifted his arms with a sinister grin as he crouched, ready to strike. His unique fighting stance seemed to be oddly familiar to Raven’s, but Raven had so much hate for Moth that he brushed it off.
As the seconds rushed by, the two stared at each other as the fury of an impending battle built up within them both.
In an instant they quickly rushed toward each other. Moth swung his right blade as Raven blocked it with his sword. The masked man then swung his left fist toward Raven’s chest. Raven instinctively jumped backward, dodging the attack while thrusting his left palm forward, emitting a powerful unseen force. Moth was hit by the force and pushed back several feet, managing to land on his toes.
“Come on, Nephilim!” taunted Moth. “Show me your true power!”
“But I’m not ready to kill you just yet,” Raven replied, grinning with excitement. “I want to enjoy this.” He launched toward his enemy with his sword cocked back before taking a swing.
Moth rhythmically synchronized Raven’s movement by lifting his blades, blocking each attack until he saw his opportunity and thrust his right blade toward Raven’s chest. Raven spun around and dodged the attack, ending up behind Moth before swinging his sword and landing a blow on Moth’s back.
Raven’s attack pushed Moth forward a few steps, as he instantly turned to block the soldier’s next attack. Moth swung his blade again, but Raven jumped up, dodging the attack while flipping over his opponent. As Raven came down, he swung his sword. Moth instinctively jumped forward, dodging the attack while turning his body and grabbing several small disk-like blades. He heaved the weapons at Raven.
Raven adeptly swung his sword, deflecting the attacks, but he failed to notice Moth rushing toward him with his right palm cocked backward. As Raven blocked the final disk, Moth stood directly in front of him, thrusting his palm forward with all his might, emitting a force much greater than the one Raven had used. The attack threw Raven backward, where he crashed into the electronic control panel of the Gateway before landing on the ground.
Raven stood and regained his stance but noticed Moth looking over him with terror. Raven heard the sound of sparks coming from behind. The soldier turned back to see sparks flying from its panel where Raven struck it. Its arch shook violently. The light from the Eye of Eden grew with intensity. Seeing an explosion imminent, Raven and Moth began to sprint away from the Gateway as its explosion created a bright light that disappeared as fast as it came.
The force of the explosion had pushed Moth to the ground. Once he recovered, he looked back to see that the Gateway was destroyed, with the Eye of Eden still intact…yet Raven was nowhere in sight.
Back on the bridge of Phantom Seven-Five-One, Benny was frantically scanning the planet’s surface while Joker tried in vein to reach Raven.
“Raven! Raven! Come in!” Joker shouted but received no response.
“Captain, I’m not finding him anywhere,” stated Benny.
“Widen the search!” Joker shouted.
“I’ve searched the entire planet,” replied Benny. “Raven is gone.”
The bright moon shone over the peaceful town of Elton, Louisiana. It was far from the war in a distant planetary system. Elton was a peaceful town where everyone knew and trusted each other. Surrounded by farmland and forest, the town had only a single two-lane road that served as the only way out and the only way in.
The sun had been down for several hours. The moon was in the center of the sky, shining its light over a small construction zone, where a new building was in the process of being built. The lonely building had slept peacefully through the night—until its doors suddenly had burst open. Two teens dressed in black and wearing ski masks crept inside, holding a large container of gasoline.
The teen who took the lead stepped in first with confidence, looking around the empty, newly built room for a target.
“Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?” asked the other teen, who seemed to be a bit uneasy about their crime. He walked in cautiously after the first, trying his best to be the voice of reason.
“We’re doing this town a favor!” exclaimed the first teenager. He turned and grabbed the container of gasoline from him. “Now keep a lookout while I set things up.”
“Okay,” the second teen responded as he walked out and closed the door behind him. The leader instantly went to work, pouring gasoline on the floor, making sure to maintain his predetermined pattern. Once he had completed emptying the containers, he tossed them aside, unaware that one of the empty cans had knocked open a gas pipe upon impact.
Finished with his task, the first teen stepped out of the building to notice a distant flashing red and blue light gradually making its way toward their location. He quickly ran to the nearby roadside, meeting up with his partner.
“Go finish the job,” he ordered. “I’ll lead him away.”
“Are you sure this will be okay?” asked the second teen, still uneasy about what they had done.
“Yeah, the floor is concrete. It isn’t flammable. It’ll just scorch the message and that’s it.”The teen quickly pulled off his ski mask, revealing his eighteen-year-old boyish face, his short black hair and radiant blue eyes. He casually walked down the road as the car grew closer. His partner ran back to the building, ignited a match, and then threw it on the gasoline. It instantly ignited, scorching the words go away! onto the concrete floor as the teen retreated into the forest.
Back on the road, the car moved closer as the first teen called out to the sheriff. “Sheriff Payton, what a surprise!” he said with sarcasm.
“Wish I could say the same to you, Traiven,” replied the sheriff. “We’ve gotten a tip that there were trespassers on Mr. Tanner’s new property.”
“Oh…you think it’s me,” Traiven replied with fake surprise.
“It wouldn’t be first time.”
“Come on, I learned my lesson,” Traiven spoke again “Even though no one wants this guy here, we just have to sit back and continue to let him take all the jobs from the good people who lived here their entire lives. Don’t worry, I understand that now.”
“This is America, Traiven.”
“Unfortunately,” the boy murmured.
Sherriff Payton sighed. “Okay, look,” he said. “Nothing seems to be out of order, so I’ll let you go this time. Just please stay out of trouble, and say hi to your mom for me.”
Just as the sheriff began to roll up his window to drive off, he was stopped by a big bang and a bright flash of light that could be seem from miles away. He then rushed from looking around in panic to find the newly created building going up in a violent blaze. After a moment of shock, the sheriff was finally able to pull himself together, as he slowly turned to Traiven with rage emanating from his face.
“Okay,” begged Traiven, his hands in the air. “That was not my intent.”
Far above the small town, miles from the flaming building, a dark blue ship had just swung into the atmosphere of Earth. As it faded back out of the clouds, two dark figures dove off, heading straight toward Earth’s surface.
“Avoid any type of confrontation,” said the voice of Captain Lamar Latham over the communication system. “We can’t, at any cost, risk giving ourselves away.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t,” came the voice of a middle-aged man speeding down to Earth.
His voice was then followed by the voice of the younger man who was accompanying him. “Why can’t we carry our weapons?”
“This is a fourth class planet, therefore the people on this planet are unaware of any activities outside their atmosphere,” answered the captain. “Carrying a weapon might draw unwanted attention.”
“But what if we run into trouble?” the young man further questioned.
“If you do, it’ll be nothing you can’t handle without your weapons,” Lamar stated in an effort to implant some confidence in the young man.
“Remember, Shawn, we’ve just found out about this ourselves,” added the voice of the middle-aged man, Rukaryo. “There’s no way the Summoners would be here.”
“True,” replied Shawn, “but it kind of makes me wonder what other kinds of secrets the Angels are keeping from us.”
“It’s not our place to question them, Shawn,” replied Lamar. “They have good reasons for their actions. Our job is just to be their hands here on Eden, so let’s get this done so we can return to Vana as soon as possible.”
The two continued on silently, plunging down toward the surface.
Back in the small town of Elton, the sheriff’s car pulled up at Traiven’s home, his mother Rose, waiting at the front door. She looked on with no surprise to see her son stepping from the back of a police car.
“Thank you so much,” she said to Sheriff Payton, as he and Traiven walked up to the front door. “And I’m so sorry about this.”
“Mr. Tanner is actually out of town right now,” replied Payton. “But we did contact him. He is willing to work something out.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“Take care,” said the sheriff before turning to Traiven. “Try to stay out of trouble for the rest of the night.” He walked back to his car and drove off as Rose and Traiven went inside the house.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” said Traiven, not wasting any time to apologize. “But I had to. Look at all the trouble this guy has caused; he’s putting everyone out of work.”
“Traiven, I don’t want to hear it!” Rose snapped. “It’s not your place to take matters into your own hands like this. Do you have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused?”
“I didn’t mean to do that much. I was just trying to leave him a message.”
“Traiven, go to your room!” Rose yelled, not wanting to hear any excuses from her son. “I’m not in the mood to deal with this right now!”
Traiven silenced before turning toward the staircase that led to his room. As he walked in, he closed the door behind him, taking a seat on his bed with his head down for a minute to think. Although he felt bad for again causing his mother grief, he didn’t regret the damage he had caused to the construction site.
Looking up at the clock on his wall, Traiven noticed the time, five minutes past midnight. Damn! he thought, realizing he had only five hours before he had to get ready for his shift at the coffee shop. He rolled over and closed his eyes, too tired to do anything else that night.
Traiven jolted awake, the annoying chime of his 4:45 alarm ringing in his ears. As he rubbed his eyes to wake himself, he noticed he was still wearing his same clothes from the previous night.Was I really that tired?
With no time to think, he rushed out of bed and prepared himself for his morning shift.
Half an hour later, Traiven found himself walking through the doors of a small coffee shop. The floors, walls, and ceiling were beige and brown, which intended to lend a calm ambiance to the room, a feeling that provided him with extra comfort during his morning shifts.
Small brown stools were posted around a circular counter, located at the center of the room. There stood a teenage girl wearing a brown apron, hard at work, wiping down several of the machines.
“You’re late,” said the girl, tossing Traiven a rag as he approached the counter.
“Sorry Giovona, I overslept.” Traiven caught the rag and tossed it aside to a nearby table.A door from the back suddenly opened, allowing another teenage boy named Clinton to enter, with a mop in his hand. “Hey, did you guys hear about what happened to Mr. Tanner’s new building last night?” He started to mop the floor.
“Oh, no!” shouted Traiven. His voice was fake as he tried his best to hold his innocence.
“Yeah,” replied Giovona. “Traiven did it.”
“Wait, how do you know that?” he asked, surprised by her answer.
“My dad’s the sheriff, remember.”
Before any of them could say another word, they were all taken by a banging on the front door of the shop. The quickly turned to see a young man in his early twenties, holding his head with a pained look on his face. He put his hands on the glass door to push it, as if he couldn’t figure out how to open it.
“Maybe we should give him a hand?” suggested Giovona as the three teens stared at him in confusion.
“Or, we can bet on how long it’ll take him to figure it out the door doesn’t open that way,” Traiven suggested sarcastically before he noticed Giovona giving him a shameful look. “Come on,” he begged. “Just look at him—long black hair, suspicious brown trench coat. The second we let this guy in, he’ll probably gun us down.”
“Oh my god, Traiven,” replied Giovona, annoyed, as Clinton walked to the door and opened it.
“Thanks,” the stranger said gratefully. “Your door is a complicated device. You should make it more obvious how to open it up.”
“Right,” replied Clinton, with an awkward look.
After a quick adjustment of his coat, the young man walked further in, instantly fixing his eyes on Traiven’s face.
The stranger’s stare began to make Traiven uneasy. “Can I help you?” he asked, slowly. After his actions of the night before, he was starting to grow nervous by his presence.
“You look just like him,” the stranger murmured softly.
“You’re Traiven, right?” the stranger asked.
Traiven nodded slowly.
“Okay,” replied the stranger, nodding firmly. “My name is Shawn. I’m here on important business. I need to have a word with you.”Traiven stepped back in fear, creating more distance between them as he suspected his thoughts about the strange man were true. “Okay look,” he begged, holding out his hand. “I wasn’t planning on blowing the place up, okay? That was an accident!”
“Wait, what?” asked Shawn, confused by Traiven’s actions.
“Come on, Mr. Tanner can’t be that mad about it. And I know he has a thing for my mom. Maybe we can work something out.”
“Traiven, are you really trying to whore your mom out so you don’t get into trouble?” asked Clinton.
“Don’t talk about my mom, dude!” Traiven shot back, pointing an angry finger at Clinton.
“Look, I think there is a misunderstanding here,” stated Shawn, taking back the conversation. “I’m not here in regard to this, Mr. Tanner. The ones I work for are of much greater importance than any man of your world.”
“Wow, this guy’s pretty deep,” Clinton said in amusement. “Ask him what he wants, Traiven. I’m curious now.”
“Is there any way we can discuss this in private?” Shawn asked, ignoring Clinton’s interest.
Traiven sighed with relief, knowing the man wasn’t who he thought. “Sure, follow me,” he said, leading the Shawn toward the back of the shop.
Minutes later, Traiven and Shawn arrived at a large dumpster behind the coffee shop.
“This is the smoking area,” Traiven said. “Or at least it would be if any of us smoked. So what can I do for you?”
Shawn took a deep breath, trying his best to portray the seriousness of his visit. “Listen, Traiven, my Master and I came from a very far away place to find you.”
“Master? What are you, a slave or something?”
“He’s my trainer,” answered Shawn. “Also he was a friend of your father.”
“Really?” asked Traiven, scratching his chin in interest. “He knew my old man. Wow, I gotta be honest. Other than my mother, I can’t think of anyone who’s ever known my father. Okay, where is he?”
“We separated in an effort to find you,” Shawn replied. “Look, I know this is being really forward and I can only imagine how this will sound. To be honest, I’m not really a people person, but I came here because we need your help.”
“We need you to come back with us, to where we’re from.”
Traiven stared at him a moment in silence. Shawn’s request sounded so direct, too sudden, causing Traiven’s suspicions about Shawn to return.
“Did you hear a word I just said?” asked Shawn, impatient with Traiven’s silence.
“Ah, okay…” Traiven began. He laughed, perceiving Shawn’s visit as a joke. “Ha, I don’t know who set you up for this, but maybe next time try to be a bit more convincing.”
“Traiven, this isn’t a game!” exclaimed Shawn. “Tell me, what do you know about your father?”
“Nothing. He died when I was a baby and that’s all. Also, he wasn’t from this town so no one else here knew him. Which is why I’m finding you hard to believe.”
“Traiven, your father died only five years ago,” stated Shawn. “He was killed by a powerful being named Sanit, who—like your father—wasn’t human.”
Traiven flashed a grin in disbelief. Okay, ha, ha. Did Clinton put you up to this?”
“Seriously, you’ll have to try a lot harder if you want to pull one on ol’ Traiven.”
“TRAIVEN, LISTEN TO ME!” Shawn raised his voice, getting even angrier with Traiven’s stubbornness. “Many lives are at stake, and from what I’m told, you’re the only one with the power to save us all.”
“Oh, I get it,” continued Traiven. “It was Brahim who put you up to this. He’s trying to distract me before the big match. Well, you go tell him I’m not as stupid as he thinks. And tonight I will end him.”
Traiven pushed past Shawn as he went back into the coffee shop, brushing Shawn’s words aside.
Shawn could do nothing, but stomp on the ground in anger. “Master Ruaryo?” he called, speaking over his earpiece. “I made contact but for some reason he won’t believe a word I’m saying. This will be tougher than we thought.”
“Of course, Shawn,” came the reply. “As I told you before, the people of this planet are unaware of anything going on outside of their atmosphere. You have to find a way to convince him. With Raven gone, he’s all we’ve got.”
“I could really use your help on this,” Shawn begged.
“Unfortunately you’re going to have to do this on your own,” Rukaryo replied. “We’ve picked up the presence of a ship entering the atmosphere. I need to check it out to make sure we weren’t followed. So you’ll have to convince him yourself.”
“How? He’s just as stubborn as Raven.”
“Find a way,” said Rukaryo. “I have faith in you.”
Shawn sighed. “Fine, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Keep an eye on him. I’m going to meet with an old contact,” Rukaryo instructed.
“A contact?” asked Shawn in disbelief.
“Yes, we’ve had an Arc stationed here since Traiven was an infant to keep watch over him. Traiven knows our contact so he can probably help us, to convince him to join us.”
“Okay then, good luck,” said Shawn. He went off communication.
Across town, Sheriff Payton sat at his desk, sipping on a warm thermos of coffee. His deputy sat at a desk across the room. Each of them were looking down at maps of the town, marking out their patrol routes for the day.
“So, Sheriff,” the deputy called, “should I open a case on the Tanner building?”
“No,” the sheriff replied with a sigh. “I’ll take care of it myself.”The office door opened. The sheriff and deputy were stunned to see a tall, mysterious man walk into their office, covered in a brown trench coat and with an odd, yet serious look in his eyes. He seemed different and out of place for their town, with a wild black hairstyle slicked back in spikes. His demeanor was odd for an older man of his age.
Payton stared at the stranger at a loss of words, immediately recognizing and knowing what his sudden visit had meant.
“Hey,” called Payton to his deputy, not turning from the stranger. “Why don’t you go grab us a couple of cappuccinos?”
“Are you sure?” the deputy asked, noticing Payton’s anxiety.
“Yes, me and Mr. Ruiz here need to have a word.”
“Okay.” The deputy stood. He walked past the stranger and straight out of the door.
As he did, the stranger made no hesitation to speak. “It’s been a while, Payton,” he said.
“Master Rukaryo!” replied Payton as he gladly stood up, unable to hide his emotion. “Wish I could say it was good to see you, but being that you’re here, that can only mean one thing….”
“I’m afraid so, old friend,” said Rukaryo. “It’s time.”
Payton sighed, dropping his head in despair. “To be honest, I was kind of hoping this day would never come…or at least not this soon. He’s still just a kid.”
“We’re at war, Payton,” replied Rukaryo. “And no one is more vital to ending it than him.”
“And Raven?” asked Payton, lifting his head toward Rukaryo. “Is he even still alive?”
“We don’t know,” Rukaryo answered honestly. “But we do know that the Summoners are getting close to raising Cassius. If that happens, Traiven will be our only hope to stop him.”
Payton remained silent for a second, thinking of the task that lay before Traiven, knowing that he wasn’t ready to take on the destiny Rukaryo was asking. “He’s working at a coffee shop a few blocks down the street,” he said, realizing that Rukaryo was right.
“I know, I have someone watching over him right now,” answered Rukaryo.
“It’ll be better to let me explain things; he’s known me his entire life. It’ll be easier for me to convince him—”
“Yes I know,” interrupted Rukaryo, “and you will, but for now we have a bigger problem. I think we may have been followed by a Summoner.”
“Really?” asked Payton, his anxiety quickly returning.
“Yes, and the Arc who’s traveling with me isn’t ready to take one on yet, so I’m going to need your help.”
“Okay,” replied Payton, grabbing his club and placing it on his belt. “It’s been over a decade since I’ve faced a Demon. Let’s see how rusty I’ve gotten.”
Rukaryo laughed, lightening the mood for the first time since he had entered the office.
The day went on as the sun made its pass over the sky, making way for the moon. The small town again went quiet as the people turned in for the night, getting their rest after another long day. They lay peacefully in their beds, unaware of the potential dangers threatening their galaxy. All was silent throughout the tiny town…except for one hidden event taking in an old barn deep within the nearby forest. This was the best-kept secret of Elton’s youth.
Sounds of a crowd echoed from within the old barn out to the forest. Inside, the crowd was gathered around its center, watching as two warriors dressed in padding battled with long, thick staffs. The warriors stood on an elevated platform with a large cushion underneath to catch the loser once he fell out of the ring.
Clinton had pushed through the crowd, making his way to an open space where the upcoming warriors were preparing for their battles. He immediately walked up to Traiven who was wearing white pads and holding his bow, preparing to enter the ring.
“Traiven!” he called, not wasting any time. “Brahim’s been practicing so you might want to be on your toes this time!”
Traiven calmly replied with no hint of care in his voice. “Sure, whatever.”
“Is that all you have to say? I just watched that guy battle. He’s gotten a whole lot better. You should really take him seriously this time,” Clinton remarked.
“Come on, Clinton, you know I can’t lose. Never have and never will.”
“I just saw him beat two guys at once,” Clinton insisted.
“I’m really not worried.” Traiven turned his back to Clinton, walking toward the platform. Clinton grunted in anger before he walked off.
At the barn’s entrance, Shawn slowly walked in, looking around for Traiven. He scanned the area until picking up a familiar face in the distance—one of the teens he had seen at the coffee shop that morning. In an attempt to reach Clinton, he began pushing his way through the crowd.
At that same time, Clinton walked up to a small table to talk to another teen sitting behind it. “Yo, I wanna change my bet to Brahim.”
“Wow,” said the teen at the table. “What happened to all your faith in Traiven?”
“Traiven’s lost his mind, so…Brahim,” Clinton stated.
Shawn finally caught up to his target. “Excuse me, you’re a friend of Traiven’s, right?”
“Who wants to know?” asked Clinton. He turned, surprised to see Shawn. “Oh, you’re that crazy guy from this morning?”
“Crazy?” Shawn looked serious.
“Or not,” Clinton said, backing down in fear.
“It’s very important that I find him.”
“Sure, I’ll let you deal with him. Follow me,” responded Clinton. He turned and led him through the crowd. The two walked back to the preparation area to see Traiven with his staff in hand, swinging it around to warm up.
Shawn was walking directly toward Traiven.
“Not you again,” Traiven muttered.
“Traiven, we need to finish our conversation,” stated Shawn.
“Yeah, my dad’s an alien, got it,” Traiven replied, brushing him off.
“I never said that.”
“Look, I’d love to do this with you, buddy, but I have a battle coming up in a few.”
“This is more important than that,” Shawn insisted.
“I doubt it,” Traiven said, turning away to continue his warm-up.
Growing angry, Shawn stepped up to Traiven threateningly, grabbing his staff from his hand.
“What’s your problem?!” Traiven snapped.
“We don’t have time for this,” Shawn hissed, his voice rising out of desperation.
Their confrontation stopped when the voice of the announcer interrupted them. “and for our next match, we have the returning champion, traiven maryland.”
The crowd’s cheers grew, making it obvious that Traiven was their favorite.
“…versus the challenger, brahim moris!” concluded the announcer.
“I’ll deal with you later,” snapped Traiven, pulling back his staff before walking toward the ring.
The cheers grew more intense the moment Traiven stepped into the ring. Traiven threw his arms up in the air, reveling in the glory, exciting the crowd even more.
With no other options, Shawn was desperate to gain Traiven’s attention. He approached the other side of the ring where Brahim was preparing to step in.
“Hey!” Brahim exclaimed angrily, but Shawn walked up to him without saying a word, rudely grabbing his staff.
“Go away!” ordered Shawn as he shoved Brahim aside, taking his place as Traiven’s opponent.
“Are you out of your mind?” asked Traiven, surprised to see to what lengths Shawn was going to get his attention.
“Okay! Let’s make a deal,” Shawn suggested, grinning with a clever thought. “I win, we talk. You win, I’ll leave you alone.”
“Are you serious?” Traiven laughed in disbelief. “I’m the best, plus you’re not even wearing padding.”
“Don’t need it,” boasted Shawn. “You won’t land a single hit on me.”
“ah, it appears we have a new challenger?” remarked the announcer, surprise evident in his voice. “What’s your name?” He held the microphone to Shawn.
“Just start the damn battle!” demanded Shawn.
“Ah, okay guys, let’s begin! …I guess.” The announcer hastily left the ring.
“You really are crazy,” said Traiven, spinning his staff with skill. “As I said before, I’m the best.”
“As well you should be…with the right training, of course,” Shawn sneered.
“Don’t get cocky!” Traiven shot back, rushing toward Shawn and swinging his staff with all his might.
Shawn calmly tilted his body aside, allowing the force of the swing to throw Traiven off balance as his attack barely missed the target.
“Really?” Sarcasm oozed from Shawn’s voice. “If that’s your technique, then you have a long way to go, my friend.”
“Shut up!” shouted Traiven. “You got lucky.”
“If you say so.”
Traiven angrily rushed toward Shawn, swinging his staff again and again. With each swing, Shawn calmly shifted his body, adeptly dodging every attack. In a final effort to hit Shawn, Traiven jumped up and swung his staff downward with tremendous force; however, Shawn thrust his staff at Traiven’s chest just before he landed. The unexpected attack came as a supernatural feat, causing Traiven to fly off the platform and crash into the cage before he hit the padded ground.
The once-cheering crowd stared in silent shock after witnessing such a superior attack from the unknown challenger. Their silence seemed odd to Shawn at first, until he remembered why he was told to keep a low profile in the first place.
“Ah, sorry?” he said, dropping his staff before he walked to Traiven and offered him a hand up. “Now we talk,” he said.
“Who the hell are you?” Traiven asked, grabbing Shawn’s arm and pulling himself up.
“I would love to answer that.” Shawn looked around at the still silent crowd, whose eyes were all fixed on them. “But first I’d rather leave this awkward situation.”
Looking around for a moment, Traiven suddenly threw his arms up into the air and shouted praise, causing the crowd to return to cheering as the next contestants prepared to enter the ring.
“Okay, let’s go,” said Traiven. He led Shawn toward the exit.
Rukaryo and Payton cautiously made their way through the dark forest just outside of the small town. Leaves and sticks crunched beneath their feet as they headed toward a location marked by a signal.
“So, eighteen years is a long time,” whispered Rukaryo, walking out in front as Payton followed. “Did you ever once consider returning to Vana? We could have easily assigned a new Guardian.”
“At first, yeah,” answered Payton. “I wasn’t planning on staying here beyond three years, but you know…. Sometimes things happen.”
“Ha!” Rukaryo chuckled, knowing exactly what Payton was talking about. “I see, guess this place is far better to settle down in than Evangeline.”
“There are no Demons here,” replied Payton. “No Summoners, no Kaiju, no Mystics. In this small town I barely even have to worry about human crimes.”
“So you stayed for the easy life?”
“I stayed for my family to have an easy life,” replied Payton, trying his best to make his pride clear.
“I understand,” Rukaryo murmured. The older man finally came to a stop, looking upon a foreign craft. “But you had to have known that some day you’ll have to return.” He turned back toward Payton. “An Arc’s duty is to serve the Angels. “You had to have known that someday they would come calling.”
“Then it was nice while it lasted,” Payton replied with a sigh, before stepping up toward the craft.
The two began to scrutinize the small one-man ship, unlike anything that had existed on Earth—or could even be built with Earth’s current technology. They approached the craft to examine it further.
“Captain, do you read me?” Rukaryo called over his communicator.
“Master Rukaryo?” replied the voice of Captain Lamar. “Do you have a report?”
“I just found a small transport ship. The style resembles one of the Sabola’s ships,” stated Rukaryo.
“Sabola?” asked Payton, confused. “Why would they be here?”
“A lot has happened recently,” answered Rukaryo. “Their ruler is also the leader of the Summoners.”
“You have to find whoever was on that ship and take them out immediately,” Lamar commanded, his tone frantic.
“Aye, Captain,” acknowledged Rukaryo. He and Payton continued on through the forest.
Shawn and Traiven made their way over a long gravel road, heading back toward the town.
“So let me get this straight,” began Traiven, “you came from another planet to find me, so that I can fill my missing brother’s place—whom I knew nothing about—because he and I had the same dad…who happens to be an Angel, by the way.”
“Correct,” replied Shawn.
“And you seriously can’t see why I’m skeptical about this?” questioned Traiven.
“I don’t understand why you’re being so doubtful, Traiven. I’m offering you a chance to be an Arc, the galaxy’s highest honor. People would kill for that,” Shawn stated. “Also, negativity doesn’t get you anywhere.”
The two had made it to a wooden bridge, erected fifteen feet above a large, dried-up ditch littered with large rocks.
“Look, I’ve had a pretty long week, okay?” stated Traiven. The two began walking over the bridge. “And I really don’t have time for this, so how about you stop this bullsh—”
Traiven’s words trailed off as he noticed Shawn staring past him, a slight look of fear on his face.
“Are you even listening to me?” he asked. Traiven turned to see what Shawn was looking at, and caught sight of a strange man wearing a brown hooded cloak. A sharp silver sword hung at his side. The man bent his knees and jumped, landing on the top of a five-foot railing that guarded the edge of the bridge. His movements were graceful and smooth, as if he were jumping on the moon.
“Friend of yours?” asked Traiven, unable to stop staring at the hooded man.
Distracted by the actions of the stranger, the two failed to notice the stomping of large footsteps until they felt the rough vibration of the bridge.
From out of the darkness walked a large, bulky creature. It crawled on four legs, standing the size of a horse. A thick coat of red fur covered its head and neck, while the rest of its body had brown, rough skin. The creature slowly crawled toward its target, flexing its sharp claws, preparing to attack. As it stepped closer to them, the boys noticed that its face was shaped like that of a jackal, with horns protruding from the top of its head.
The closer the creature came, the farther back they retreated.
“This isn’t good,” muttered Shawn, eyes wide with fear. As if on cue, Shawn received a message from from Rukaryo. “Shawn, keep your eyes open,” the tinny voice came through in his earpiece. “I’ll explain the details later, but we think there may be a Summoner in the area.”
“And I think we just found him,” murmured Shawn, watching fearfully as the beast turned toward them.
“Traiven, do you trust me?” asked Shawn with urgency in his voice.
“No!” exclaimed Traiven with a tremble in his.
“Good!” shouted Shawn, not paying much attention. His eyes were transfixed on the menacing foe preparing to come straight toward them.
As the creature pounced forward, Shawn pushed Traiven off the bridge, then jumped off the opposite side. Both fell into the dried-up ditch below the bridge.
Shawn landed on his feet atop a tall rock, while Traiven landed roughly on his back with a grunt.
It took a moment for Traiven to stand, holding his back in pain, surprised he survived the fall. “Hey!” he shouted, turning to Shawn in anger. “You pushed me!”
“look out!” exclaimed Shawn, pushing Traiven again while jumping away. The beast landed next to them, barely missing Shawn. Like the hooded man, Traiven couldn’t help but notice Shawn’s movements were very similar—jumping around as though he were weightless.
The hooded man finally came down from the bridge, landing on a rock next to the creature. The beast pounced again toward Shawn. Seeing the attack coming, Shawn quickly flipped back, dodging the creature’s claws while landing on his hands, then he pushed himself into the air while grabbing a rock and chucking it at the beast. The rock hit the creature’s head, and the beast fell to the ground before quickly recovering. It stood up again and shook off the pain as if nothing had happened.
Once Shawn landed, he pulled out the gun that Rukaryo gave him and opened fire, shooting red beams toward the beast. The shots hit the creature, but it did little damage. The beast again sprinted toward Shawn.
“Traiven, catch!” Shawn shouted, as he tossed Traiven the gun that Rukaryo had given him. “take out the summoner, it’s the only way to stop the demon!”
“what, you mean kill?!”
“if you don’t, they’ll kill us!”
Nervous but too afraid to think, Traiven aimed the gun at the man in the cloak, closed his eyes, and pulled the trigger. The Summoner quickly pulled out his sword and deflected the beam. Traiven continued firing shot after shot, but the Summoner blocked each one. While still deflecting the beams, the Summoner jumped up and flipped over Traiven, swinging his sword as he landed. Traiven was struck by its blade and sent flying several feet away, crashing into a rock and dropping the gun.
As Traiven recovered, he noticed the Summoner lunging toward him, his sword ready to strike.
Another figure rushed in, kicking the Summoner’s sword out of his hand, seconds before he could complete his attack. Traiven noticed a familiar man standing before him, facing the Summoner.
“Are you alright, Traiven?” the man asked.
“Sheriff Payton?” Traiven replied in confusion.
“Don’t worry, I’ll handle him.” Payton turned back to make sure Traiven wasn’t hurt. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Payton grabbed his club from his belt, then held it up and pulled off its end to reveal a long blade that was attached to the handle. Payton jumped forward and took a swing at the Summoner, but the cloaked man quickly recovered his sword and lifted it in an attempt to block the attack. The force from Payton’s weapon caused the Summoner’s sword to fly from his hand a second time. Payton reached in and kicked his chest with an enormous force that sent him flying back before crashing to the ground next to his Demon. Just a moment later the Summoner stood, staring angrily at his three foes before jumping on the Demon’s back.
“Come, Syn,” said the Summoner. “We found out what we needed. Let’s report back to Lord Lance.” In the next moment, both took off, disappearing into the dark forest.
With the danger gone, Payton and Shawn turned back to Traiven to see him staring speechless. His eyes were wide and fearful, as if his entire world was just turned upside down.
After a few seconds of silence, trying to process everything that had just happened, Traiven slapped both hands on his face before replying. “Holy hell!”
Exhausted from their dangerous encounter, Traiven, Shawn, and Payton entered through the front door of Traiven’s home. Traiven was still in shock, moving about in silence as his mind struggled to process everything over the past twenty-four hours. The three moved through the small house, stopping in the living room as they caught sight of Rukaryo, leaning back on the coach while sipping a warm cup of tea.
“Ah! Guys, you’re here,” he said, not caring for the drained state they were in.
“We were just nearly killed by a Summoner and his Demon!” exclaimed Shawn, anger in his voice.
“Well, I was going to help, but figured you guys could handle it,” Rukaryo responded. “Besides, I think Payton wanted me to give him this one.”
“It has been a while since I’ve seen combat,” Payton muttered.
As they talked, Traiven stared at Rukaryo for a moment. “So, you’re another like them?” he asked.
“Traiven, is that you?” Rose interrupted, finally walking into the room. She approached her son, giving him a loving embrace. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
“Don’t worry, Rose,” replied Payton. “You know I’d never let anything happen to him.”
“okay, hold up!” Traiven shouted, releasing his mother. “I still have no idea what’s going on!”
They all stared at him in silence, looking around to each other, waiting for someone to explain things to him.
Rose stepped forward with a sigh. “Honey I’m sorry, but I was never completely honest with you about your father. He wasn’t a soldier in the Army, as I previously told you.” She spoke softly, grabbing his hand. “I know this may be hard to believe, but your father wasn’t even human.”
“Wait…” replied Traiven, stopping her from saying another word. He turned back toward Shawn and said, “So, you were telling me the truth.”
Shawn nodded silently.
“Then who was the guy who tried to kill me?” he questioned, again looking around the room for answers. “And what was that thing that was with him?”
“He is part of an ancient clan that practices an art called Summoning,” answered Rukaryo. “They are able to turn their bodies into a temporary doorways to Hell, allowing low-level Demons to cross through into our plane.”
“So there are more like him?”
“Yes, and they all want you dead,” said Shawn.
“But what did I ever do to them?”
“It’s what you are, Traiven,” Rukaryo answered. “You are the last Nephilim. You’re the only one who can bring down their dark lord.”
Payton stepped forward, taking control of the conversation, as he felt that Traiven might trust him more. “The Divine Federation sent me here to watch over you and your mother,” he said. “You were to live a normal life, while your brother, Raven, was to live in service to Heaven. We had all assumed he was the one to defeat the Demon King, but the Summoners are getting close to finally raising him. Now that Raven is gone, being the only Nephilim left, it is your duty to take his place.”
“But, I’m not a powerful warrior,” Traiven complained. “Shawn was able to defeat me in five seconds. Not to mention how useless I was against that thug and his pet.”
“It’s your birthmark, honey,” stated Rose. “The one on your back that resembles little wings. The Angels put it on to suppress your power, but it’s only limited to Earth. Once you leave the atmosphere, it’ll fade away and your true power will awaken.”
“Of course you still have to learn how to use it,” added Rukaryo. “As any Arc does.”
“Wait,” replied Traiven. “Shawn used that word also. Is that what you guys are, Arcs?”
“Yes,” Rukaryo answered. “Like you, we possess the power of Angels, but we weren’t born with it. We must go through a selection process, after which we are given what is called the Angel’s gift. It gives us certain attributes of the Angels, but our power is nowhere near as great as yours. Being human, our bodies can only handle so much, but being half Angel makes your power limitless.”
Traiven dropped his head in thought, trying to take in everything that Rukaryo had just told him. “So?” he asked, turning back toward Rukaryo and Shawn. “What do you want from me?”
“As we said, the Summoners are trying to raise a Demon whose power exceeds all we’ve faced in the past,” answered Rukaryo. “With the right training, you can become vastly more powerful than any other Arc in the Federation, making you the only chance we have to defeat this Demon. Unfortunately we don’t have time to give you a complete training, so we’ll have to teach you the basics and you’ll learn everything else in the field. In theory, you should pick it up just as quickly…just as Raven did.”
“Look, this is too much,” replied Traiven. “I can’t just up and leave like this. I have a life here; I’ve got plans, a future.”
“Traiven, you don’t have an option,” Payton said. “Your existence alone is defiance. Since the day you and Raven were born, it was decided that you were both to be servants of Heaven.”
Rose walked up to Traiven and put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t want you to go either, but this isn’t up to us.”
Traiven turned to her. “But Mom, how could you have even agreed to this?”
“Because it was the only way they would spare your lives,” Rose answered, tears beginning to flood her eyes. “The Angels feared your potentials, and after the trouble that the ancient Nephilim had caused, they weren’t willing to take any chances. Your father somehow convinced the others to spare your lives in return for your service.”
“So if I refuse, then what?” asked Traiven, directing his question to the Arcs. “Will they kill me then?”
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