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Yajuu_Kikuishi

These Bloody Streets: Origins

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Welcome one and all, and welcome to a collection of Origin stories for some of the characters I've been using for the 'These Bloody Streets' RPs over in the 'Fantastical Role Plays' Section. Each Origin story will be Six chapters long and pinpoint key moments in the Character's early life. First up, Zane.

Zane Pengallion: Origins

Chapter 1

 

- 1 -

 

- Training Begins -

 

December 18th, 0700.

 

5 Years of age…

 

“He’s just a child, Randal, barely old enough to walk!”

“Walk, Susan? He’s running around the house like a crazy child. The training will provide discipline and I won’t make the same mistake my father did.”

The Pengallions were near opposites in terms of build; Susan was short and slim while Randal was burly and as wide as a door. However, both were stubborn and could be a force of nature if they so wished it. When the two had opposite opinions, the normally ever-present aides disappeared like smoke.

“Listen closely Susan, we’ve been feeding him right so far, making sure he takes in exactly what we wanted but now is the time to begin the regime. He can be my masterpiece.”

“He’s not one of your weapons, Randal.”

“But he is! Or rather, he will be. The fight against Supernaturals will not be fought with tanks and planes, but with soldiers designed to counter them.”

Before Susan could get another word in, the door to the study they were in shook in its frame as a loud bang sounded from the other side.

“My point is proven.” Randal said as he strode over and pulled the door open to reveal a young boy sat on the floor rubbing his head from where he had clearly run headfirst into the solid oak. A slim woman was in a half-crouch, clearly about to console him but was now frozen looking up at Randal. “Lydia, bring the boy in.” he said and walked back across to Susan with a small smirk on his face.

Lydia, Randal’s personal aide, took Zane by the hand and helped him to his feet. The only child of the Pengallion Empire pulled free once he was steady and tottered over to stand in front of his parents; Lydia kept herself just behind him as he walked. Zane looked up with a smile on his face.

“See, Susan, can you not see the potential weapon I do?” Randal said, glancing down at Zane but returning his gaze to his wife instantly.

Susan snorted and waved her hand in the air. “Fine, whatever, do what you want with him; I have more important matters to attend to.” As she exited the room by a second doorway, a man appeared through the same doors Zane and Lydia had entered through and quickly followed after her.

“Brilliant.” Randal exclaimed and turned to crouch down in front of Zane. “How about it, son? Care to become my greatest weapon?” Zane tipped his head to the side, incapable of understanding what his father was talking about. Randal laughed and stood up again to address Lydia. “Lydia, take him to my Gym; I will be there shortly.” The aide nodded and ushered Zane to take her hand again before leading the child from the room. As soon as the door swung shut behind them, Randall pulled out a cell phone and hit a quick dial number.

The dial tone only rang once before it was picked up. “Mr Pengallion, how may I help you today?”

“Te’Kan, you begin training Zane today; meet me in my Gym in 5 minutes.”

There was a brief pause as if Te’Kan was confirming he had heard correctly before he spoke. “As you wish; I’m on my way up.” The phone went dead as he hung up.

Randal replaced his cell into his pocket and quickly made his way to the gym he had had constructed down the hallway from his study. When he entered, he found both Lydia and Zane stood silently by the wall, keeping away from all the equipment. He had instructed Zane many times not to mess with the equipment and apparently the boy had finally learned not to. Randal smiled however and rested a hand on Zane’s shoulder.

“Feel free to touch, Zane, you’ll need to get used to them quickly.” Zane’s face lit up with the permission from his father and he immediately ran across to a weight-based device to poke and prod it. Randal jerked his head at Lydia and she went across to supervise Zane as he played around on the machines. When the clock ticked exactly 5 minutes since the phone had hung up, Te’Kan entered the room.

Te’Kan was a slim man of solid muscle and messy blond hair; 3 scars ran parallel across his face. “Mr Pengallion.” He said in greeting.

“Te’Kan, nice to see you; I have a new assignment for you.” Te’Kan followed Randal’s gaze to Zane and couldn’t help but raise a questioning eyebrow, although he didn’t say anything. “From right now, on every single day, you will train my son. You will bring him to peak physical perfection. Then you will teach him to fight.”

Te’Kan frowned slightly and kept his gaze on Zane as he began trying to life one of the larger weights with Lydia watching on. “For how long will I be doing this for?”

“Until I tell you to stop. There is no time limit but the quicker the better; I will leave the specific of the training regime to you, of course.”

“As you wish.” Te’Kan replied after another hard look at Zane. “Of course, I won’t take it easy on him.”

“I would expect nothing less.” Randal said and clapped his hands once, causing Lydia and Zane to look over at him. “Come, Lydia, we’ll leave Zane in Te’Kan’s capable hands.” Lydia nodded and followed as Randal left the room.

Zane had remained stood next to the bike he had been messing around with, looking at Te’Kan with a mix of confusion and interest.

“Come here, boy.” Te’Kan said, his voice giving off such command that Zane followed without hesitating and moved to stand in front of him. “Did your father tell you who I am? What I am going to do?” Zane shook his head. “First, I will mould your body into that of the perfect human. Then I will train you to become the greatest warrior born on this Earth. When I am done with you, no-one will be able to stand up to you in combat.”

Zane simply looked confused but remained where he was stood.

“Come, let us begin.” Te’Kan said and ushered Zane across to the far side of the room.

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Chapter 2

- 2 -

- Bionics Installed -

February 24th, 18:00.

8 Years of Age…

The two twelve year olds circled slowly, keeping a wary eye on the boy in front of them. He may have been smaller and younger but he had unnaturally tuned muscles and a look in his eye that told them approaching rashly would be a mistake. That and they had just watched him take down an eighteen year old in a matter of minutes; completing dominating the fight.

Zane decided that he had waited long enough and dashed forward to tackle one of his opponents to the floor. As he did so, pulling the back of his knees sharply to fold him over and get into the upper mount position, the second boy immediately swung his leg with in a wide arc towards Zane’s head. Zane ducked forwards and used the opportunity to smash his forehead into the first boy’s nose, causing it to spurt blood down his chest. With the second boy now off balance due to his missed kick, Zane reared back up and punched him in the side of the knee that was supporting his leg. It buckled instantly and the boy collapsed to the floor with a cry.

With him temporarily dealt with, Zane turned his attention back to the boy beneath him who was still clutching his nose in pain. Zane grabbed the boy’s wrists and yanked them away from his face before planting a fist directly into his bloody nose. If it hadn’t broken with the head butt it had been now as it bent away from the boy’s face at a disturbing angle. Zane then rolled across the boy’s chest and latched onto his arm, entwining it around his knee until the elbow pointed up and the whole arm was rigid. Without hesitation, he braced his leg and smashed the side of his hand into the elbow, folding it backwards on itself. The boy cried out in pain as Zane released the now useless arm and stood up to face the second boy.

He had recovered from the knee strike, Zane hadn’t been able to hit him very hard from his mounted position on the first boy, but Zane still noticed he now favoured his other leg. With that in mind, Zane circled quickly and ducked in towards the boy’s preferred side and aimed a quick kick to his side. The boy caught the attack and locked his arms around Zane’s leg but Zane simply bounced on his other foot and kicked the boy in the mouth. Blood sprayed into the air as the boy staggered backwards, leaving Zane to catch himself before crashing into the floor.

Zane immediately rolled to his feet and dashed forward again, this time he let the boy attack first and caught his wrist in an iron grip. Zane twisted his body so that he backed into the inside of the boy’s arm and then locked his arm around the boy’s wrist. A second later, he lifted him and dropped him onto his shoulder like a wrestler. Only Zane moved faster and the floor was much harder than a wrestler’s and as the boy collided with it, Zane jerked and twisted his arm and he pulled it out of its socket.

The boy cried out as Zane rolled backwards and skipped to his feet before dropping to one knee and slamming the side of his fist into the boy’s orbital bone, caving it in. Then he formed a ‘knife-hand’ by folding his fingers to their second knuckles, and punched the boy in throat; his pained cries reduced to a gurgle as Zane stood up and observed the two twelve year old boys now lying in pain before him.

Te’Kan stepped forward from where he had been watching from the side and looked down at Zane’s two opponents. “Congratulations…but you were slow and sloppy. Your bout against the older, single opponent was far better.” Zane nodded in agreement. “At least you are smart enough to realise it; we’ll have to get you used to fighting multiple opponents. Go, we’re done here for today.”

Zane nodded and bowed to Te’Kan before heading towards the door that would lead him back towards his room. However, before he got there the door swung open and his father stepped through with a hungry look in his eyes. Zane paused and then bowed to him as well.

“I was watching the bout.” Randal said, gesturing towards a camera that was mounted in the corner of the roof. “I’ve seen some of you other fights as well and I must say I’m impressed. If Te’Kan keeps this up, he’ll keep his promise.” Randal looked across to Te’Kan, who was tidying up the two boys, and smiled before looking back to Zane. “But it won’t be enough; you can be the greatest human on this planet but a single one of the other kind that lives here will still be able to beat you like you were nothing but a baby.”

“The Supernaturals.” Zane stated; he didn’t speak much but he knew his father was looking to see if he had been paying attention in his studies.

“Yes, a single Vampire or Werewolf would cut you down like grass. But, of course, you couldn’t be my greatest weapon if you couldn’t beat them. As such, I’ve come up with the answer.” Randal smiled and placed his hands on Zane’s shoulders. “Once we’re done, you’ll be able to face off against anything. Come.”

He led Zane by the shoulder and exited the sparring room. Then he led him down the corridor, past Zane’s room, and towards an elevator that was the only way in or out of the complex; an elevator that Zane had never gone in before. Randal waved his hand at the button-less panel built into the wall and the doors slid open silently. The inside of the elevator was brushed steel along the lower half while the upper half was mirrored and a number of small lights were built into rows in the roof. The two of them stepped in and Randal inputted a code into a number pad that was there instead of the normal buttons.

A number of minutes passed in silence before the elevator made a tiny jerk as it stopped. The doors slid open silently again and revealed a hallway so bright that Zane actually had to lift a hand to cover his eyes. Once his eyes adjusted, he saw that every inch was painted white as bright neon lights shone down from the roof. Randal started walking and Zane made sure to keep up with him as he led him through the corridors.

It was nearly completely devoid of people, the few that Zane caught sight of quickly ducked through doors as if they weren’t allowed to remain in the presence of his father for too long. Eventually, Randal pushed through a door and when Zane followed him in he saw it led into a moderately sized room with a strange boy stood in the centre of it.

Except that as Randal stopped in front of this strange figure and Zane stood next to him, he realised it wasn’t a man at all. It was some sort of statue made up of wires, tubes, and what appeared to be plastic meshing. There were solid plates and ridged blades, and even a pair of eyeballs sat in the head area; although they appeared to be cut in half and hollow.

“This cost me a lot of money to develop and create. There is nothing else like it anywhere in the world.” Randal said with pride in his eyes and a smile on his lips. “And we’re going to put it in you.” Zane’s brow furrowed in confusion as he turned to look up at his father but his unasked question remained unanswered as Randal kept his eyes locked on the contraption before them. “Yes Zane, in you. Here, meet Doctor Silika.” He gestured to a side door Zane had not noticed and a small, weedy man wearing a white coat walked in.

“Mr Pengallion, a pleasure as always.” Silika said as he stood beside Randal and his gaze too turned to one of pride. “A masterpiece the likes we’ll never build again I imagine.”

“A quick explanation to the boy, Silika.” Randal said.

“As you wish.” Silika walked around until he was stood next to Zane and then crouched down so they were on the same level. “What you are looking at Zane, is what will equal the playing field with Supernaturals. We’re going to fuse you with this technology and turn you into something akin to a Supernatural yourself.” Zane looked across to him and started at a blue gleam that appeared for a second in the Doctor’s eyes. “You see it is currently built to your size? Well, obviously, once it is in you we can’t change it but there is where my true genius shines.” He smiled and stood up to his full height again. “It grows with you, child, as you grow taller, bulkier, nimbler; the bionics will grow and adapt to their new carrier. It is magnificent.”

“Enough, Silika, it is time we got started.” Randal said as he finally turned to Zane. “You are making me proud, boy, you really will be my greatest weapon.” At these words he headed back out where they had entered as Silika took Zane by the shoulder and led him towards the hidden door.

“The procedure will take close to 24 hours but you won’t feel a thing, we’ve got a special sedative just for you…” whatever ever else Silika was saying was lost as Zane gazed over his shoulder at the door his father had left through.

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Chapter 3

- 3 -

- The Supernatural Test -

May 13th, 12:00.

11 Years of Age…

Not that he had needed to since the installation, but Zane stretched off his muscles as he readied himself for the upcoming task. He had grown in the recent years and his size had finally caught up with the training he was receiving from Te’Kan. He was taller and more muscular than anyone else his age, that was for sure, but he looked a lot more natural now. He was actually looking forward to growing up further and the specimen he will no doubt eventually become.

With his ‘stretches’ complete, he crouched down and picked up the circular shield that was lying at his feet. It wasn’t anything special, a metal alloy created by Pengallion Industries and forged into an ancient Spartan style. He tightened the leather straps around his wrist and just below his elbow and stood up before swinging it around to ensure it was fitted correctly. As always, it was. Happy with his shield, Zane then moved across to a wall where a number of different styled swords were mounted. He selected a one-handed long sword and pulled it free with a slight tug. With a few experimental swings he conditioned himself to the weight and then spun it around his and like a majorette’s baton. A grin slid onto his face as he stopped the spin by gripping the leather wrapped handle tightly

Te’Kan had explained what was happening today; it was an important moment for his Father and he had invited many important people to witness it. This was the time when Zane would prove a human was a match for the Supernatural. Of course, this wasn’t the first time he had fought against something beyond human, but it was the first time he would have no back-up, no safety net if it all went wrong. Te’Kan made it very clear that if he did not succeed, he would die.

Zane did not concentrate on this fact though, he trusted in Te’Kan’s training and was sure whatever they threw at him, he could take it. With that at the forefront of his thoughts he walked up until he was stood in front of the door that would lead him to the testing area. As he put his weight down, a panel in the floor lit up with a green light; a light that would also light up in the observation room where his father was and tell him the test could begin.

A minute passed while Zane focused his thoughts for the challenge ahead and then the door slid open in front of him. He reaffirmed the grip on his sword and then walked forward confidently. The room they had chosen was the smaller of the two Showrooms that his father used to show of any new weaponry he had created. It was a large empty cube with reinforced tiles fitted on the floor, walls, and ceiling. A large mirrored pane of glass, also reinforced, sat centrally on the far wall; the observation point. They normally filled the room with architecture and objects from a desired location but for this test they had left it completely empty.

Zane glanced towards the viewing window, he couldn’t see through it but he knew his father was in there. A door then slid open below it and Zane dropped his gaze to what he presumed was to be his opponent.

Honestly, it was not what he had been expecting. The way Te’Kan talked about his opponent, Zane had been expecting something big and ugly. The skinny man who walked through the door, complete with a ruffled suit that had cuts and tears all over it, was quite the opposite. In fact, if Zane hadn’t been in a test, he would probably have assumed this man to be completely human.

The man stumbled as if drunk, clutching his head, before looking up towards the view point; the blood that covered his mouth and chest now shone in the light. “You want me to kill a kid?” Obviously, whoever he was asking couldn’t answers so he shrugged his shoulders and turned back to look at Zane. “Whatever, not like I care.” He said. In a burst of energy, he exploded forwards and closed the distance in a second.

If Zane had been a normal human, no doubt the Vampire would have killed him there and then as he extended his arm forward to rip out his throat. Of course, Zane was not and his enhanced eyes followed the man with ease. He waited until the last second and then raised his shield and knocked the attacking hand away. The Vampire’s expression changed to surprise and Zane took the opportunity to shove his sword through the creature’s bicep.

The Vampire didn’t cry out, he simply looked down at the sword and then back at Zane. “That’s strange, you smell human to me.”

“I am.” Zane replied before pulling the sword out and kicking the man in the stomach, sending him reeling backwards.

“Aren’t you the special little boy?!” The Vampire snarled but had to cut off what he had been about to say as Zane’s sword passed through where his head had been a second ago.

“Hey!” He cried as Zane followed up the attack with another, then another, then another. The Vampire clearly had not been expecting Zane to move so fast so he leaped away and landed back where he had exited his door. “You’re an annoying little fucker.”

Zane didn’t wait and dashed forward himself, closing the distance the Vampire was trying to keep. Now that his back was against the wall, Zane stepped in with a low slice at the man’s knees but the Vampire dodged it with a well-timed leap over Zane’s head. However, the move was countered as Zane lifted his shield and batted him out of the air. The Vampire rolled as he hit the floor but Zane was upon him in a second.

The Vampire struck out but Zane blocked the blow with his sword and punched him in the throat with his shield. The man gurgled in response but Zane ignored him as he pulled back and rammed his sword through the Vampire’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground. With that done, Zane stood up and took a couple of steps away before looking up at the viewing window; his expression said it all.

It was the sound that alerted Zane the quickest and as he spun around he saw his own sword flying towards him having been thrown by the Vampire, who was directly behind it. Without thinking he reached out and snatched the blade from the air, expertly closing his fingers around the handle. He used the momentum from the catch to spin past the Vampire’s stabbing attack and sever his arm from the elbow. The Vampire cried out as blood leaked from the wound and he staggered backwards

Zane made use of the advantage and stepped forwards, flashing his shield to the Vampire’s face. As predicted, the Vampire flinched and Zane kicked his knee sideways, knocking the man to the floor. The Vampire scrambled but slipped on his own blood before rolling onto his back and looking up at Zane.

“You fucking little shit head.” He spat.

Zane made no acknowledgement but stepped forward and stamped down on the Vampire’s knee, breaking it. Everyone knew Vampires could heal faster than humans but they still needed a couple of days for something that would normally take a month to heal. Not that this particular Vampire would have that long. As he thrashed about in pain, Zane planted a foot on his chest and pressed down with enough force to stop any movement.

“You are an embarrassment.” He said before swinging his sword and decapitating the Vampire.

With the fight concluded he walked slowly back across the arena to stand in front of his door; it opened a second later. Before he walked through he turned back to look at the viewing window and saw it had gone transparent and he could now hear his Father’s voice as he spoke to the uniformed men around him.

“As you can see, complete domination.”

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Chapter 4

- 4 -

- Advancements In Technology -

November 22nd, 09:00.

15 Years of Age…

“So, you’ve finally completed it?” Randal asked, holding up the small red cube to get a closer look.

“Well, as you know, Mr Pengallion, the technology worked, it was just limited in size and capacity.” Dr Silika replied, holding his hands steady in front of him to stop them shaking with the excitement he felt. “But I cracked it; inside of that cube is one of our Mark II Gravity Assault Tanks.”

Randal looked across at Silika with surprise. “I am impressed, Doctor. This can’t be more than a centimetre cubed and…” he bounced it in his hand a few times “…weighs as much as a penny.”

“It really is amazing, right? This project, everything about it has pushed my mind to new and incredible places. I must thank you for coming up with the idea.”

“And these will work on the boy?” Randal said, brushing aside the thanks.

Silika smiled. “Yes; they are fully compatible with the endo-skeleton we built for him. He will be able to command them with nothing more than his mind.”

“How many can you embed; how many can he use at once?” Randal’s mind was filled with the possibilities he could turn Zane into.

Silika looked uncomfortable for a moment, dry washing his hands in front of himself. “I’m not entirely sure on that, I’m afraid. You see, apart from getting the object within the cube, we have no testing availability for it being used by a person like Zane. There is no-one else out there like him.”

“Your estimates then, if you have no proof.” Randal said with annoyance clear in his voice.

Silika bounced his hands up and down like a scale. “With the energy these take to materialise the object within, I’d say we could probably insert 4 or 5 before his body, and the technology within, rejects them. “

Randal passed the cube back to Silika. “Good, that should be enough. I want him prepped for surgery immediately, I have Gareth coming in later for his appraisal.” Suddenly Randal’s face changed as an idea struck him. “What state is the Exo-Suit prototype in?”

Silika hesitated only a fraction of a second before answering. “Fully functional on our last test…” realisation dawned on him. “You wish to give it to Zane?”

“To the boy, yes. Presumably it would be able to be inserted into one of these…these…what do you call them?” Randal gestured to the red cube.

“Proprietary VoltTech, Mr Pengallion.” Silika said with a smile, Randal’s raised eyebrow told him he had gotten the joke. “I’m sure it will with some modification on the suit’s part, I may have to fiddle with the VoltTech as well to ensure smooth materialisation rates.”

“Then do it, with that on top of everything else, Gareth won’t be able to resist. Now, prep the boy, insert the tech and get Te’Kan down here to brief the boy on what is required to impress Gareth.”

* * * * * * *

Zane had removed his shirt as instructed and now was reclined back on the operating chair Dr Silika had pointed him to. He was relaxed with his head back against the rest and his arms were laid wrists uppermost. It had been explained to him that his operation would take considerable less time than his previous one. All they had to do for this one was open up the flesh at his wrists and link the four small red diamonds into his Endo-Armour. That was the easiest bit as a larger diamond was going to be embedded into his chest; Dr Silika said he would enjoy what that one would give him.

Dr Silika appeared from behind him with a smile on his face and holding a face-mask connected to an anaesthetic gas tank; there would be no need for the special one used previously. The Doctor didn’t say a word but Zane nodded and he placed the mask to his face. Within a couple of deep breaths, Zane felt the edges of consciousness fade and quickly fell into darkness completely.

After a couple of extra seconds to make sure he was under, Dr Silika removed the mask and motioned to his assistant who rolled over a tray with the five VoltTech Volts and the equipment Silika would need to complete the operation. With a glance at the clock on the wall, Silika began by cutting into the skin at Zane’s wrists.

* * * * * * *

The table that folded down from the wall held a vast array of weaponry ranging from ancient roman spears to Pengallion Industry Assault Rifles. It was quite the collection. Zane walked slowly alongside them, running his hands over various weapons as he did so. Te’Kan had said he was free to pick what he wanted to store in his Volts; with four empty spaces, it meant all Zane had to do was pick four weapons to put in them.

His first option wasn’t really a choice; a weapon he had used since he was child and Te’Kan had started training him. A long sword with a hand-and-a-half handle fashioned after the bones of a finger and covered in dark blue leather. The cross-guard and hilt were silver and glinted in the light while the blade itself was black as night and seemed to suck the light in. He placed his right hand on it and concentrated on the Volt like Silika had explained. For a second nothing happened and then the sword started disappearing into tiny blue-coloured energy cubes until it had gone completely; the first Volt on his right wrist vibrated to tell Zane it was now full.

The second choice was really a complement to the first as he moved down the table a bit and placed his left hand on a large silver shield. It was circular in shape with a diameter of 40 centimetres; a large four-pointed star as black as the sword’s blade was its only adornment. As with the sword, he focused on the Volt and the shield disappeared and the first Volt on his left wrist vibrated full.

Zane’s other two choices were going to be a little more difficult; he had no other obvious inclinations. As he continued his pacing, a thought came to him that he should probably have a long-range weapon if he needed it. The pistols, rifles, and the like were not appealing but a weapon at the far end of the table drew his attention. When he got there, he looked down and nodded to himself before placing his left hand on it and focused on the second Volt there. The Silver recurve bow shimmered in the blue light before the vibration told Zane it was tucked away. He remembered practicing with the weapon and liked the solid bars of light it fired instead of arrows.

With his final choice upon him, Zane’s eye was drawn to a long-handled weapon lying in the very centre of the table. It was about as tall as he was and sported a deadly black blade that matched his sword. The scythe had been purpose built for battle with a straight shaft about as thick as two of Zane’s finger. The blade was a hair longer than 2 feet with a slight curve on it and had been sharpened on both the inside and out; to allow the user to attack with greater variation. Zane smiled as he placed his right hand to the blade and placed it within the second Volt on his right wrist.

“An interesting set of choices.” Te’Kan said from where he was standing in the corner. “You barely even looked at the modern weapons.”

Zane turned to him with a slight grin on his face. “You’ve always told me how unreliable they are when faced with a skilled supernatural. With these I’ll be able to make sure they are dead when I attack.”

Te’Kan raised an eyebrow. “A fair assessment. Go and get suited up and head to the test chamber, General Linman is waiting with your father.”

Zane nodded and headed out to his rooms to get ready for what his father called the final test.

* * * * * * *

Even Zane was impressed with himself. In this test, his father had faced him against the largest odds yet. It had started with a gang of vampires who worked incredibly well together as a team; Zane had taken them all down with shield and sword alone. Then the Demi-Demon had been released and after only half-an-hour Zane had finished with his bow with a beam of light through the creature’s head. Following that was pair of wizards who claimed to be part of some council and that he would face them if they died; he had decapitated both of them with his scythe. Even after all of that though, his final fight had been the most exciting.

Zane’s father had spoken over the intercom as the final challenge and a simple looking man had stepped out of the gate. After blocking Zane’s initial barrage of light beams and dodge through his scythe attacks like wind, Zane had forced a close-range fight with sword and shield; Nephalims were not to be taken lightly though and after close to an hour Zane had done nothing but scratch the being while sported a large wound down his back in exchange. How his father had captured the man was a mystery.

However, once Zane activated the Volt in his chest and adorned himself with the Silver Suit things had changed. It took only 10 minutes before the creature lay with no arms and legs and three holes through his head.

Now Zane stood in the centre of the testing area with his hands in his pockets and looking up at the viewing screen that showed his father talking to a man in uniform Zane presumed was General Gareth Linman. Before the intercom had been shut off, Zane had caught the word ‘sell’ and only one thing had suddenly occurred to him. All this training, all these upgrades, everything his father had spent on him had always been for one thing only.

To sell him to the highest bidder.

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Slightly delayed but here nonetheless...

Chapter 5

- 5 -

- A Life Belongs To The Person -

February 4th, 00:00.

18 Years of Age…

The radio crackled to life in his ear and Zane pulled the door of the helicopter closed to ensure he didn’t miss anything.

“Target is coming up in 60 seconds, prep for deployment.”

Zane let the voice cut off before reaching up and tapping the Press-To-Talk button his radio twice; a silent command that he had received and understood the order. A single tap would have been a negative reply and he could always actually speak if he was able to.

The large folder sat on the chair next to him and given Zane in an in-depth brief on what the plan was for today’s mission. It gave co-ordinates, locations, names, times, and everything else in between. None of that interested Zane anymore. Back when he had first started missions for the military he had read every word, sometimes twice. But after so long he had given up and simply focused on the main points. Who did he have to kill?

That was what constituted nearly all of his missions; assassinations. Where the military could not take out a supernatural target, Zane was sent in to get the job done. Not only for the Government, but General Linman had also let private contractors borrow him from time to time; the General had become quite rich from these side missions. The General’s use of him didn’t bother Zane anymore though, he had become quite the deadly combatant thanks to him and his missions. Normally the only way for him to survive was to kill off his target anyway.

For today’s mission he was wearing his standard get-up for his Black Op missions; Soft leather combat boots, cargo trousers, a long sleeve t-shirt underneath a sleeves jacket practically made of pockets, and a beanie cap. All of these were black, and he finished off the look with a thick nylon belt that held a few fancy gadgets supplied to him. Naturally, he carried no external weapons.

Zane felt the helicopter shift angle and he knew they had reached the target location. He stood up and reached for the door just as the radio cackled to life

“Building is directly below us, 50 feet; mission is green.” The same voice said as before, and Zane replied the same way with a double tap of the talk button. Then he pulled the door open and leapt out.

The building that was the setting for this mission was a glass skyscraper in the centre of a large city in America; Zane hadn’t bothered reading which one. He did know it was owned by a billionaire and it was this billionaire’s recent acquisition that was to be Zane’s target. A creature he had only come across once before, sent against him by his father to convince General Linman to buy him in the first place. A Nephilim.

Of course, Zane had come a long way since his first fight with the offspring of a Demon and an Angel. But he still expected it to be difficult. His plan was to catch the creature off guard and take them down before they even realised he was there. The less noise he made, the better as far as he was concerned.

Zane hit the flat top of the building and rolled forwards to dissipate the force and lessen the impact. A quick look around told him that the only clear entrance to the building was a metal door fixed in a concrete block that rose out of the floor below. Zane moved across to it and laid a gloved hand against it. He felt no vibrations and in the silence of the night, at least at this height, he couldn’t hear anything either. He reached into one of the pouches on his belt and pulled out a flat, disc-like object and placed it over the lock on the door. A few seconds later the lock clicked, and Zane could push it open with no trouble at all.

No alarm sounded, and nothing gave any indication that Zane had broken in, so he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. It led directly to a set of concrete stairs that took Zane down and into the building proper. A second unlocked door opened to a stairwell that Zane figured was for fire evacuations. He continued down these until he was four floors down.

He walked up to the metal door that led into the floor proper and pulled a slim, phone-like object from a pouch on his belt. Zane placed it against the centre of the door, where it stayed without help, and pressed button on the side to bring it to life. The screen flickered once before it filled with shadowy grey lines that showed Zane the layout of the floor.

The half closest to Zane was like any office block in a building in the centre of a busy city but it was the second half that he was interested in. It had been converted into a living space, like an apartment spliced into an office. There was a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and two bedrooms. The device Zane was using showed three red and yellow masses in one of the bedrooms.

Zane had expected guards but unfortunately the device didn’t tell him which one his target was. Luckily for him, General Linman cared little for collateral damage, especially if they got in the way of Zane’s mission. So, Zane pulled the device from the door and slipped it back into his belt pouch; he then pulled back his sleeve to look at the watch he wore. As he looked it ticked over to midnight and the lights in the stairwell clicked off. Without hesitation, Zane pulled the door open and slipped into the office setup. As the door clicked shut, the lights turned back on around him.

He waited a second to see if any of the figures in the far side would decide to investigate but no-one appeared, so Zane made his way past cubicles and smaller offices before coming to a set of double doors that had a numbered keypad set into the wall next to it. A small red light set above the keypad told him the door was currently locked. However, the General’s intelligence gathering was in depth, so Zane simply tapped the eight-digit code in.

The light switched to green and Zane heard the magnetic lock disengage on the doors. He pushed the right hand one open and slipped inside, closing the door himself to avoid it making any noise. As soon as it was closed completely, he heard the magnets lock the door again. His device had told Zane where the people were, so he moved straight to the door that would lead him to that room. The floor was furnished with a thick carpet meaning Zane didn’t need to worry about his boots making any noise as he positioned himself at the door.

The door was fitted with a standard key lock, but Zane didn’t worry about that, it wouldn’t matter. It did mean he could reach into his belt again and pull out another phone looking object with a miniature camera fitted on the end of a long, bendable rod. He switched the device on and slowly fed the camera through the lock. As the lens cleared the far side, a picture appeared on Zane’s small screen, showing him the inside of the room.

Two men were stood near the door, one leaning against a dresser, the other stood in a relaxed position with his hands held behind his back; both were turned partially away from the door. From the camera’s positions, Zane couldn’t see the third figure, but he could see what seemed to be a bed on the far side of the room with a lump on top of it. He withdrew the camera and replaced the device into his belt.

The two men he could see were dressed the same, clearly some kind of bodyguards, so Zane figured his target was the one on the far side of the room. He did a quick plan in his head and then held his hands out to his sides. Instantly, tiny blue cubes appeared and started to form objects. In his right hand, his black-bladed longsword, and on his left, his silver shield. It took less then a second for them to appear and then Zane took a couple of steps back until he was as far away from the door as he could be in the small corridor.

He took a deep breath and then exploded forward with his technologically enhanced body. He raised his shield as he reached the door, smashing it to pieces and sending the debris flying forwards into the rooms. The two guards reacted quickly, turning to face the door and reaching into jackets for what Zane presumed was weapons. He didn’t let them draw however as he slammed his shield into the left-hand man, sending him crashing into the dresser where it collapsed around him, and struck out with his sword and cleaved the right-hand man’s head from his shoulder, spattering blood up the wall behind him. Two more quick steps took him to the bed where he aimed a piercing attack at the person in the middle of it.

The point of his sword stopped inches away from the flesh of young boy with pale blue skin and the beginnings of black bone-like protrusions growing out of his forehead. He appeared to be no older than five years old. Zane’s eyes widened in surprise; this couldn’t be right. But his thoughts were interrupted as a hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around to receive a fist to the face. Zane shook the hit off with little trouble, before springing forward to headbutt the first man who had pulled himself out of the dresser mostly unharmed.

The attacked knocked the man back and Zane realised he wasn’t human, but vampire. Without hesitation he deflected the vampire’s clawed hand attack with his shield and pierced his sword through the bottom of the vampire’s jaw and up into his head. Then, with a violent twisting motion, he pulled the head clean off and knocked the body away from him where it fell limply next to his partner. Zane grimaced and used his foot to push the head that was now stuck on his blade, off. It landed on the floor with a thud.

Zane turned back to the figure on the bed and walked up for a closer look. Although the attack and been quick, it had been pretty noisy, but the boy was still fast asleep. This was a first for Linman, targeting a kid. Zane loosened his grip on sword and shield and the two weapons disappeared as they had first materialised

“What the fuck?” Zane muttered.

“My sentiments exactly.” A voice said, and Zane spun around to face a man who was now standing in the doorway of the bedroom

The man stood taller than Zane by about a foot, crowding the doorway, and his skin was leathery and dark blue; it was mottled in places and a large pinkish scar ran down the left side of his face. Long black, bone-like horns sprouted out of his forehead and curled back over his slicked back hair. His eyes were a deep red and seemed to glow even in the light of the room. Contrary to his appearance, he was wearing a fitted suit with a white shirt and blood red tie.

“Demon.” Zane said.

“Charles, actually.” The man replied, no hint of a joke on his face. “I would ask you what you’re doing here, but the state of my men give me the answer.” He gestured to the two bodies laying between him and Zane. “I just have one thing to say; get away from my son.”

Zane started to raise his hands in a calming gesture, but Charles apparently didn’t care for explanations as he exploded forward with immense speed. Zane barely had time to raise his arms and block the kick aimed at his head. He blocked the attack but the strength behind the kicked lifted him off the floor and sent him flying through the wall where he crossed the corridor, crashed through another wall and landed roughly in the kitchen. As Zane pulled himself to his feet, Charles checked his son before walking slowing towards where Zane was, who had now re-summoned his sword and shield.

Charles looked at the weapons with disinterest. “You’re lucky you didn’t actually manage to kill Areal, otherwise I would have been in a very bad mood. Even so, I’ll have to kill you now. Just be glad his mother isn’t here right now.” As he spoke the words a bright white light filled the room and Zane caught sight of a city of silver through a hole in the air before it disappeared, and a second figure stood in the room.

She was a woman of stunning beauty, standing nearly as tall as Charles, with pale skin and glowing blonde hair. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, heeled boots, and a tight, white vest. Zane didn’t see any of that though as all he was focused on was the pair of glowing, feathery wings that was sprouted from her back. Zane easily guessed this was the mother and was surprised. He knew the target was a Nephilim and therefore he knew that the parents had to be Angel and Demon, but he had never known a situation where the parents were still together. Angels tended to do their business and then return to their realm.

“Looks like I spoke too soon.” Charles said with a small grin.

The woman looked at Charles, swept her gaze across the rubble that was spread around the kitchen and then settled it on Zane. Here eyes were stunningly blue and filled with an ethereal light. “Charles, what is going on?” She questioned, her voice musical in the quiet air.

“Kela, dear, this man came to kill our son.”

“I see.” Kela replied and then raised her hand in Zane’s direction.

He had only a second to raise his shield as a bright light filled the room and an immense force slammed into it. Zane couldn’t stop it as he was sent hurtling backwards and crashed through yet another wall. Except this wall led outside and Zane found himself flying through the night air. Before he had a chance to worry about falling hundreds of feet to the street below, Kela appeared in the air next to him and grabbed him around the throat and suddenly he found himself thousands of feet in the sky.

“You’re lucky my son is unharmed. Why have you come to kill him?” she asked, her voice melodious yet filled with the certainty of death if she wanted.

“I didn’t know he was a child.” Zane replied, wheezing slightly from the Angel’s grip. Any thoughts of attacking her dissipated and he let his weapons disappear. “I work for a man called Gareth Linman, a General in the army.”

“Why does this Linman what my son dead?”

“I don’t know, and I’ve had enough.” Zane said, thoughts clearing in his head that had been there ever since his father had sold him.

“You’ve had enough? Why should this stop me from killing you?” Zela said with a sneer.

“I can give you the information to find Linman, here.” He reached into a pouch slowly and withdrew a phone. “It has multiple contacts for him plus a bunch of info on locations I worked at with him.” Zela took the device and slipped it into her pocket. “Frankly, I’ve been thinking of quitting for ages.”

“I am merciful by nature, so I won’t kill you.” Zela said. “But I have your energy marked now, boy, and if I sense you so much as in the same country as my son again, I’ll evaporate you from the face of the earth.” Zane hoped she was exaggerating but got the sentiment. Zela swung her free arm and a hole in space appeared again, this one leading to a large forested area. “Now begone.” She threw him with ease and Zane found himself rolling on the floor before hitting a tree and jerking to a stop. When he looked up, the hole was gone, and he found himself alone with no idea where he was.

However, this was an opportunity he could not give up easily. He pulled the radio earpiece from his ear and unclipped the radio from his belt to drop it to the floor where he crushed it with the heel of his foot. Zane then unclipped his belt and threw it over his shoulder and stripped his gloves off to join them. He then rolled his sleeves off and started walking in a random direction.

Zane would take this opportunity to disappear and Linman would have no idea what had happened to him and no way to track him. He would also be distracted by an Angel and Demon setting their sights on him. It was time for Zane to finally be free of his father’s perfect role for him.

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The Final Chapter

- 6 -

- For Protection -

December 25th, 19:00

21 Years of Age…

The bar was some dingy hangout in the back alley of god knows where, but it was where Zane would find who he was looking for. It had taken a little bit of bribery with the small of amount of money he owned and also a little threatening; the latter of which he was pretty good at. Zane had picked a spot opposite the door where he was hidden from view and was watching the few patrons who entered the building. He glanced down at the cheap, plastic watch on his wrist to see he only had a few minutes before his target showed.

In the years since Zane had escaped from the military and set out on his own he had become skinnier with more refined muscles and his brown hair, which was somewhat dirtier than he would have preferred, had grown to hang to his shoulders. To keep it out of his face, he tied it back into a loose ponytail. Zane now wore a maroon shirt, the button undone, and the sleeves rolled up, a pair of black cargo trousers, and dusty yellow workman’s boots on his feet. All of his clothes had a ragged look to them as he had been wearing them for a while; his lack of money forced his hand on the attire department.

The man he had been waiting for suddenly appeared at the end of the alley and started making his way towards the entrance to the bar. Zane studied him carefully to see if he was hiding any weapons. The man was wearing a crumpled blue suit and Zane could see nothing obvious as he swung the bar door open and entered swiftly. Immediately, Zane stepped out of his hiding place and crossed the alley to enter in behind the man.

Inside was much the same as any other low-key bar in any city in the world; an open are filled with a mix of circular and rectangular tables, more tables lining the far wall, and a bar filling the nearside wall so you had to walk past it as you entered. Tall stools lined the front of it and drinks stood on racks behind it with a mirror replacing the wall they were mounted on. There was one barmen and a smattering of patrons around the room. Zane’s target had taken one of the stools in front of the bar and the barmen was passing him a tall glass of whatever he had chosen to drink.

Doing a quick scan of the other people inside for threats, taking particular note of a tall guy sat in the far corner of the room who was wearing a hooded poncho that covered his upper body, Zane entered the room properly and took a seat at the stool next to his target. The barmen looked at him and he gestured at the target’s drink before pointing to himself. A clear indication that Zane would take what he was having; he didn’t care what it was, he wasn’t actually going to drink it, but barmen get antsy if you don’t order a drink.

“So, I’m told you’re the guy I need to talk to.” Zane said casually, thanking the barmen with a nod when his drink came.

“Oh, aye?” The man said, his thick Scottish accent a grumble.

“You’re a freelance employer right, a man with odd jobs to spare?” Zane turned slightly in his seat, moving himself more face on with the man.

“Aye, that be what I do. You looking for work then? Are yer aware of the kind of work I provide?”

Movement caught Zane’s eye and he saw the tall man he had noticed earlier rising from his seat and moving towards the bar. He dropped his gaze to continue his conversation. “I am, but I’ll make it clear that I won’t be involved in anything that may result in…losses of a particular kind.”

“I get what you mean, I’ve got a couple of jobs might suit you then.” The man said but suddenly Zane lost interest as he glanced up at the tall man who had stopped beside them on the bar to pay for his drinks and Zane got a good look at his face. A man he had known from a very young age.

“I’ll get in touch later.” Zane said quickly, digging into his pocket for a few coins that he dumped on the counter before standing up and moving towards the door quickly yet as unobtrusively as he could. He glanced back as he pushed the door open and locked gaze with the man. “Shit.” Zane muttered under his breath before turning around and escaping back into the alley.

He turned the opposite way the man had come from earlier, the busier route, and headed towards the other side of the alley. He didn’t know how his father had found him but he wasn’t about to return to him. As he turned the corner into a second alley, he came face to face with the tall man.

“Te’kan.” Zane snarled and opened his hands to summon sword and shield.

The man raised an eyebrow at the name and then raised his hands in a calming gesture. “I think you have me confused with someone else; it would explain the looks you were giving me in the bar.” He slipped his hands back into the pockets of the black jeans he was wearing and leant casually against the brick wall of the alley. “Nice weapons though. I’m intrigued as to where they came from, I don’t sense any magic coming from you.”

“I don’t know how you found me, but I’m not returning to my father.” Zane said. He may have liked Te’Kan somewhat, but he meant what he said. “Just report back and say you never saw me, Te’Kan.”

The man frowned and reached up to push his hood down, completely revealing his face. He sported shoulder length hair that was black as the night and pulled into a braid at the back of his head, his blue eyes shone in the dim light of the alley but most importantly, his face was smooth and unmarked. “Seriously, I’m not Te’Kan, but I can see figure out why you might be confused.”

Zane furrowed his brow at the man’s face; he really did look like Zane’s former teacher but Te’Kan had three scars running across his face where this man had none. Zane returned his weapons to their storage space and stood up straight from his battle-ready pose. “I’m sorry, you look like someone I used to know.”

“Yeah, I know him too. Te’Kan is my elder brother. How is it you know him?”

“Your brother?!” Zane exclaimed. Te’Kan had mentioned once that he had a younger brother, but Zane had never expected to actually meet him. “Uh, Te’Kan trained me in combat from a young age.”

“Heh, he’s still up to that old schtick? I’m Te’Lan by the way. How long were you his student?”

Zane thought for a minute, wondering if he should be giving this man information. But he did appear to be Te’Kan’s brother; it couldn’t be coincidence he looked nearly exactly like him. “Around ten years. He said I was one of the better students he had ever taught.”

Te’Lan nodded, clearly impressed. “Not bad. I haven’t seen Te’Kan in some time but if he’s anything like he used to be, that’s some high praise. Hey, did he ever talk about me?”

Zane shrugged. “He never gave a name, but you came up once as far as I can remember. Frankly, it’s the only reason I’m still talking to you.”

“Are you still his student?”

“No.” Zane answered immediately, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Te’Lan cocked his head slightly at the sudden answer. “Ah, I’m guessing he finally got around to why he was teaching you at all. He was always one for pushing too far.”

“Actually, it was my father’s fault. I don’t think Te’Kan cared either way.” Zane replied.

“Seems you have a somewhat complicated history behind you. Hey, I’ve got a good idea, come and train with me for a while!” Te’Lan smiled and spread his arms. “You can maybe give me a hand with something.”

It was Zane’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Train with you? Even if I wanted to, you can’t be better then your older brother, right?”

Te’Lan smirked. “Oh, he’d never admit it but I was always the better fighter. Actually, I taught him a lot of his tricks he’s no doubt passed on to you.”

Zane considered the man’s proposal. “What’s this you want me to give you a hand with? I’m not about to go kill anyone for you.”

“It’s nothing like that.” Te’Lan said with a shake of his head. “It’s more of a sort of bodyguarding gig for a friend of mine; or rather, his student. What do you say?”

“Bodyguarding…?” Zane frowned. He was looking for a job that would make use of his skills without going off the edge and Te’Lan looked a whole lot more trustworthy then the other man in the bar. “Fine, I’ll come and train with you. But if I think Te’Kan was better, I’m out of there.”

“Oh, you won’t regret training with me, I can show you some wicked stuff. Come on then, my car is parked not far from here.” With that he turned to go, pausing to let Zane catch up before continuing on. “You’ll like my friend too, he’s a bit of a hothead but a cool guy nonetheless. As for his apprentice, I’ve only met her once, but you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with her.”

“Her?” Zane questioned but Te’Lan only laughed as he continued to lead them out of the alley

===================================================================

6 Months Later…

“Nice, Zane, keep it up.”

Zane attacked swiftly, his scythe cutting through the air with a whistling sound; a testament to the speed he was moving it. Te’Lan was quick though and dodged all of his attacks, if only by a hair’s breadth though. Midway through his next swing, the scythe vanished, and Zane stepped close into Te’Lan as he froze mid-dodge. A second later, Zane’s sword was in his hand and he was swinging upwards towards Te’Lan’s face.

This time Te’Lan didn’t dodge, instead his hand shot upwards and deflected the sword’s blade with the metal ring around his wrist. Zane let the blow carry him in a spin and as he completed a full turn, his shield appeared, and he aimed a short jab at Te’Lan’s stomach. He only dodged it with a sudden crouched lunge to his right where he ducked under the shield and caught Zane with a quick uppercut.

Staggering backwards, Zane let his weapons disappear and rubbed the part of his jaw where Te’Lan had struck him. “Didn’t hold back, did you?” he said with a grin.

“Oh, I was holding back, otherwise your head would be lying on the floor next to you.” Te’Lan replied with a laugh.

In the time Zane had been training with Te’Lan, he had put on some muscular weight and looked healthier than he had done in a while. He had cut his hair short, leaving it just long enough to stick naturally up to the right-hand side. He had replaced his maroon shirt with a looser fitting white one, the top three buttons undone to reveal a part of the VoltTech diamond embedded in his chest. He now sported a pair of loose fitting brown trousers that he had tucked into high-topped boots of soft leather.

Te’Lan on the other hand, was much the same as he had been; braided hair blond in colour and blue eyes. He was wearing the same clothes as when they had met, the only things added to the ensemble being the metal loop around each wrist.

“So, what was this little training session all about, it was different than usual.” Zane asked, moving across the room to where a pair of glasses sat next to a bottle of water. He poured one and took a sip. “Something special on the horizon?”

With a smile, Te’Lan walked over and joined Zane by the water. “You could say that. You really weren’t kidding when you said my brother called you a fast learner. I haven’t had many students before you, but I’ve seen other people train youngsters and none of them learned as quickly as you.”

“Thanks.” Zane said in reply, taking another sip.

“So, I think you’re ready for that bodyguarding job I mentioned. I’ve called across to my friend already and he said he’s ready for his apprentice to meet you; so, what do you say?

Zane finished his drink and replaced the glass on the table. “Sounds great. We leaving now?”

Te’Lan nodded “Yup, come on.”

With that, Te’Lan led the way as they exited the large building he owned for training purposes. They descended down two sets off steps until a door led them into a large garage that housed five vehicles. Te’Lan headed for a mid-size sedan and clicked a button on a fob he had pulled out of his pocket, unlocking the car. He circled around the bonnet to get into the driver’s side while Zane got into the passenger seat, ensuring he was buckled in.

The journey didn’t take long, just under an hour, and Te’Lan pulled into an open concrete lot outside what appeared to be a derelict warehouse. He slowed to a stop and got out of the car, ushering Zane to follow him.

“This looks like the kind of place a drug deal would go down.” Zane commented as he followed his trainer.

“Yeah, they have been a few here in the past actually.” Te’Lan replied with a grin. “But don’t let your eyes deceive you.” Zane aimed a quizzical look at Te’Lan, but he simply smiled and gestured at the set of double doors they had arrived at. “After you.” Te’Lan said.

Zane frowned but stepped forward and opened the door. What he saw inside stopped him in his tracks. It wasn’t inside at all, it was a vast open area of green grass, blooming flowers, and large trees. The blue sky was clear above it and the sun shined down in bright beams. Still standing in the doorway, Zane grunted when Te’Lan jabbed him in the ribs and stepped past him into the open air.

“Oh, didn’t I mention…? My friend is a pretty powerful wizard.” Te’Lan laughed. “Come on then.” He started off without looking back, heading to a wooden hut sat at the edge of a forested area.

Zane followed Te’Lan in eventually, and he couldn’t help but glance back as the doorway closed behind him and disappeared completely, leaving the two of them stranded in the open area. Zane quickly jogged to catch up with his master and the pair of them came to a stop a couple of paces away from the hut and Zane noticed a large tower rising the distance beyond the forest.

Before he could question Te’Lan about it, the hut door opened and a man slightly shorter than Zane stepped out. He appeared to be skinny, although the baggy clothes hid his body shape, and pitch-black hair that rose upwards like smoke. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of black, mirrored sand goggles but Zane swore he could see a flickering light emitting from them. The jacket the man wore was dark red with a high, wide collar that hid his mouth from view. Baggy black trousers covered his legs and were tied mid-shin with leather straps. Heavy boots, scratched and dented, adorned his feet. In the man’s hand was a staff of wood taller than he was with a curled symbol carved at it’s tip.

Te’Lan smiled and opened his arms wide. “Michael, my friend, how are you?”

Michael stepped down off the hut’s small veranda and nodded a greeting to Te’Lan before turning his hidden gaze on Zane. “I am fine. This is the boy you have been training?”

“Boy?” Zane said with a raised eyebrow.

Michael’s bent frame suddenly straightened, revealing his smiling mouth from behind his jacket’s collar. “I like him. Zane, I would like you to meet Eleanor Wake, my apprentice.” He gestured behind him as a young girl stepped out of the hut.

She was short and Zane guessed close to his age. Her hair was dirty blonde and pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her eyes were chocolate brown and looked at Zane with a mix of cautiousness and interest.

Zane looked up at her from his lowered position “Hi.”

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