Hello! I’m Brian; I started it all…Now with my friends’ help, I shall help set things strait, and slay our foes!
“You told me that 80 mph would be good enough!” Brian shouts back at David from the steering wheel in a rather annoyed tone. “And I thought it would be!” David snaps back, also showing some worry as well. As Brian looks through his mirror, which says ‘objects in mirror are closer than they appear’, he sees the Darmichrons dangerously close. A few feet from the car close. “Well, obviously not! They’re gaining on us!” Brian is clearly worried, as he knows that they simply must have this car to make it anywhere. A few feet when closer than they appear means that they are literally inches away, giving a minute or two at most before they can latch onto the car and rip it to shreds. “Hey, Trev, can you modify the engine to go faster?” Brian stares directly behind him—right at Trevor—with a slight tint of a plan, though whatever he plans to do is dependant on the response. “I’m not that quick! Just because I was going to become a mechanic doesn’t mean that I instantly know how to make a kind of modification like that!” Trevor nervously replies…he doesn’t want to get trapped any more than Brian does. Trevor is at the ready in his window—seatbelt unfastened—to fight at a moment’s notice, but he, too, knows that without a car, they are doomed. Not a member in the car does not have their heart pumping, knowing that there is simply nothing they can do at the moment. And Jack is just trying to keep himself from getting a nasty mauling from his pursuers, so he can’t slow them down either.
By estimates, the Darms are running at 85 miles an hour, so to out-distance their pursuers, they need at least 90. Desperate, Brian thinks of a last-minute plan. “But can you freeze the roadway?” he shouts back, as Trevor ponders the thought. What could he be planning? “Yes, but why would I want to…” Trevor begins to question, while there are mixed feelings around the car. David has a nice grin on his face at the cleverness of the plan; he must already know. Julie, however, is pale from fear. She knows how her brother thinks and she doesn’t like the plan. The rest of the group is all confused, however, as they see no logic in this decision. “Just do it!” Brian shouts, as he braces himself. Trevor shouts back “I hope you can control the car without any friction on it!” as he races outside of the window—still holding onto the door with all the strength he has in one hand. He then presses his hands onto the roadway—Julie holding him back—freezing it in a thick layer of ice. Jack simultaneously grabs onto the front door where Brian is driving—knowing he’d fall behind—and as a last modification, Trevor adds makeshift spikes to the tires on the move. Brian begins to struggle with the slide, but the tires help little. The Darmichrons are falling behind from slipping; the car is zooming and sliding at roughly 100 mph. They are yet again safe, at least for the moment. Brian sighs at his luck, staring at his comrades. Jack is on top—grabbing on for his life—Julie has pulled Trevor inside, who is to exhausted to think, and the rest of the group lets out an identical sigh to Brian’s. David, however, merely grins at what he realized to be a bold plan from the start, muttering to Brian when the rest of the group is sleeping during the night “Clever plan there, Brian. You really are looking like a leader at this point and time.” Brian harshly whispers back to him “It was a one-time situation. And don’t bother with the school; I did it because I was the only one capable of driving this behemoth.” David then sighs—not from relief but somewhat out of pity—simply muttering “If that is what you think. You would be surprised at your hidden talent, Brian. I should know better than anyone else.”
The group continues driving with the feeling of security, oblivious to dangers they may face. About three hours later, however—at the town of Silverbar—the car stops, smoke bellowing from the engine. “Well, Trevor, we should have enough time for you to fix the engine now!” David smirks, as he is always looking for the chance to torture other party members. Brian, Julie, and Trevor all shoot him a nasty glare, but at least he had meant it humorously. They know already that most of the time, comments like that are meant as insults; today it was just an average comment. David just doesn’t seem to fit in as well, but he has proven himself a close friend and ally and Brian passionately believes that he has great potential. Accepting the fact that they are stuck for a while, everyone vacates the car, leaving Trevor to work on the engine, and generally everything under the hood. Brian leaves his door open—as the front row doors are needed for repairs—and decides to take a look around. He knows this town well; he often passed it on his various field trips years ago. It is the next town after Monroe, the distance being that far for no known reason.
He looks around the area, finding familiar shops and the reptile zoo nearby. All buildings still in tact are empty; stores long-since depleted. The lush green hills on both sides of the town extend on for miles, so this area—full of rivers and unusual wildlife before—was very popular with environmentalist classes at his school. However, he turns away from the thousands of evergreens, the thought again popping up into his head about why this is his entire fault. The sky is at least clearer hear, only a trace of green in the sky. While the buildings are ruined, at least they maintain somewhat of their original forms, as broken signs, torn shop windows, and such devices meant to advertise products seem somewhat still in tact. After brief further exploration—not interested in the broken buildings—Brian goes up to Dallas to ask a favor, which no one else hears. Shortly afterwards, Dallas nods and teleports away, going unnoticed as if Brian wants his re-appearance later to be a surprise. Now this is no small favor, as it greatly will tax his friend and possibly requiring multiple trips, but he has his reasons. “How’s the engine modifications going, Trev?” Brian—staring and Trevor completely buried by the car—asks as soon as Dallas is gone. Trevor slides out of his position and briefly to respond “Oh, shut up!”
He stands up and lifts the hood up, a few seconds later causing a blast of steam expands from a valve, forcing Trevor to cough a little. “Not well, then. We should get going within a few hours, seeing as how they will catch up soon.” The subject is worrisome, but Brian decides not to torture Trevor any further, and instead goes around with Julie salvaging spare items for the trip bound to come up ahead. They have to go somewhere and they might not see a town again for quite some time, so preparation is a must. “I wonder, Brian…do you still have your school supplies from that day?” Julie asks, as Brian reaches in his pockets, only to find he still has his pencil, eraser, and flashdrive in them. “Yup. I guess I never thought about throwing them away. The pencil was useful for when I still had to use so much effort—I still do, but now my hands bleed by themselves—and the others I didn’t even care to notice.” The two are walking on the path that was once the highway and main road of the town and as they stare at each other, the two have a brief moment of silence. From the distance behind them—about where the car is—they hear a little bit of an explosion, at which they hear a loud “Arg!” from that same location, followed by the same voice shouting “My bad!” Julie and Brian share a laugh at Trevor’s little situation, both then talking about how much they appreciate him. “Without him, we’d be dead twice now,” Julie comments with a tint of admiration, continuing “and his abilities are very powerful. He would have grown up to be one of the most popular around and now fills that role anyway.”
Brian agrees, stating “Yea, he’s a great man. He shows qualities similar to those of leadership and I see such potential in him.” However, at this comment, Julie swerves in front of Brian, somewhat startling him. “Brian, I agree that he is a very talented person—I admire his strength—and he may be a good leader, but face the truth and stop hiding it…you are the one who should be leading; Trev himself believes that. I believe it as well. I can’t speak for all—Trev is the only one I’ve talked to about it—but I believe that everyone here has the same opinion.” Brian—stubborn as he is—refuses to accept this, but his conversation with David earlier is a reminder of just how much they see in him. But how can he be the leader? He caused this whole mess; he just will end up killing his friends because he is someone who just messes up. Trevor had saved them; he couldn’t continue fighting. He had been forced to retreat when he should have pushed forward, something he should have never done as it made his job later harder. He ran out of energy when the rest kept fighting on, only being encouraged by Trevor’s determination and David’s skill. And he had relied on Trevor to save them yet again from his foes when the car was at risk. He thinks that he is not worthy of the position; at first he couldn’t even kill a lowly Darmichron! But Julie can see the look in his face and they had slowly been walking back to the group, Brian’s look still on his face. He doesn’t need to say a word for everyone who manages a glimpse of him to know what he is thinking, Julie being the only one daring to comfort him.
Julie again tries to cheer Brian up, this time by changing the subject. Changing the subject is probably the most frequent thing in the whole group’s conversations; often the topics they had been on lead to silence from the pain those thoughts end up bringing. This time, she guides Brian into a local river, telling him that they need a refresher. It had been a while since Brian had swum, so this would most likely feel good. The two jump in fully clothed in a shallow area, enjoying the ice-cold water rushing over their bodies. They can always dry off later and the whole group—including Trevor at Julie’s persuasion—takes a little bit of a break. The only one refusing to go in is David, stating that such activities are too childish for his tastes. Brian is one of the first to get out, convinced he has wasted enough time on soothing recreation. Trevor follows afterwards, knowing that he, too, has work to do. The whole group leaves a few minutes later, two out of the three who had encouraged the recreation gone to work again. Brian decides that there is nothing better to do than to help Trevor, not wishing to explore the town he once knew any further. Eventually, the whole group has gathered again—Dallas still gone—next to the car where Brian and Trevor continue to work. The group converses on a few subjects, touching only those that seem empty of pain.
When Julie asks where Dallas has gone, Brian simply replies “Oh, I’m sure he’s just wandering around and will be back soon.” For the moment, he obviously does not want to reveal why he sent Dallas away. However, Julie thinks about it and can’t seem to remember even feeling Dallas’s presence since she started to chat with Brian earlier. The group begins to search for a place to rest besides the car—the day half gone as it is—and work on the car is nearing completion. Obviously, the car was in worse condition that what Trevor had initially thought, though the upgrades he is installing also gobble up precious time. A few hours later, Dallas returns, holding a bunch of supplies. Blankets, quilts, pillows, and sheets for sleeping are amongst them and then there are survival supplies, including 27 water bottles—one of which is a two-liter waterbottle which Brian acquires possession of—and a water jug. He had gone to get supplies for the journey bound to come up ahead. Brian informs the group “We left in such a hurry, we did not bring any supplies. Dallas has gone to get things we’re bound to need in the future.” The entire group is in awe of their oversight and how Brian had caught this little detail. Julie had been touching the subject earlier without knowing it, though this kind of measure was not anticipated by anyone. Brian obviously is hiding something that he doesn’t wish to reveal, the supplies just being a cover. Brian himself seems to have also kept some personal objects that he sent Dallas to get, for reasons no one else can determine, though they assume he must have a good reason. However, even with those, he seems to be cloaking something. Brian—quite happy with the scenery, not wishing to help the other’s search, and convinced that Trevor needs no further help—decides to train himself just a little longer. Despite all of this, they don’t seem that interested, as everyone again goes off wandering around. Julie shoots him a few stares, but decides that she’ll get back to him later.
He draws his katana—which he now often keeps at his side instead of sending it away—and does a quick few movements he learned from sparring years ago and experience from personally killing with a similar weapon. Parry, Dodge, Thrust, Block, Downward Slash, and Uppercut, and so on, completely randomized. He arches his back on many of the blows, trying to get as much power as possible. Even on his defensive movements, he puts enough strength into them to hurt even a Darmichron. Occasionally, he will stop to send a red blast out, just for a finishing touch, or just shoot a solid stream from his sword. He is determined to train himself to his limit, wishing to go beyond his perceived limits. But how? The only way he knows how to, of course, being through his training. He goes by the philosophy of ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect’, but what exactly is perfect? He can train his body, but what good will it do to his powers? He simply can’t tell what to do to train, the only answer being time. At the very least, he needs to be in good physical condition, as any less would make him completely worthless. “I know that every person here has potential to access much greater power, and I intend to obtain every inch of my own!” Eventually, Julie interrupts him, looking at her battered brother. He is panting pretty heavily, yet still continues slashing away, oblivious of her presence. He seems to be shooting more and more blood out of his system, frustrated in the fact that the attacks are just as strong as they were a few hours ago. After she gets up from her position on a stump, she walks over to him on his right side, stating “Hey, Brian, you can’t train all day, you know…at the moment we’re all plenty strong, but you need to rest like us. Come with me and see the school here. It seems like a good resting place, if you can overcome how much it resembles ours.”
Brian, however, can disagree with every argument that Julie had given. He needs to train all day in his mindset, as he sees himself as weak. And the fact that the school is in tact enough to be a pain to his memories would most likely be unbearable. He turns to face Julie, eventually submitting. “Alright, I’ll come with you,” Brian states as he walks away, taking no note of the scenery around him. Julie informs “There were only two locations that we could find with enough of a roof to rest under, one the hospital and the other the school. The school brings mental pain, but at least it brings a sense of security. For some reason, at the very least David and I seem to have an unnatural fear of the local hospital, so we couldn’t choose that location. Anyway, the school is closer to the car—being right next to it—so we should have no work to do.” Once passing the car—Trevor finally stopping, presumably finished—Brian finds the two sets of double doors that lead to the inside of the large building.
Brian enters, and immediately spots what must have been the lunch room. Walking about thirty feet, he turns left—ignoring the school’s main administration that is the first door to the right—proceeding inside. Julie is impressed with how well he knows this school; he’d never been there, though this school is in a similar layout to what he knows. Turning again once inside the lunch room, he walks about a hundred feet to find what must be the band room. Of course, there are more direct routes to the bad room, a door cutting into the lunch room and two doors—one near and one inside—on the band room, but he ignores those routes as unimportant. Trevor—unlike at their school—decided to leave the doors open, just in case they need out fast. Opening the brown—in stark contrast to the red doors everywhere else—doors, he finds the cold metal handle turned 90 degrees to face down to be painful, though ignores it as he walks inside—followed by Julie—and lets the door close behind him. Everyone is inside, so when he enters, they all greet him with a friendly stare and some smiles. It is getting late, so the group wishes to chat, though Brian asks for just a moment to look around. Alone, so the rest of them press the door to move briefly outside, with Julie stating “Take your time…the longer you’re up, the quicker you’ll fall asleep…remember, you no longer have to tax yourself by watching Anime ‘til two in the morning, and only getting four hours of sleep almost every day of the week.” With those words, she allows the door to close to leave Brian to think about the location deemed the most suitable for a night’s rest.
Brian runs his hand across the wall…through is glove, he can clearly feel the little holes in the metal plating. The plates cover most of the semicircle room and every one has a small hole in it, for reasons that always mystified Brian. Perhaps they were meant for sound acustics; with the original designer long-since dead—since he would be well over 30—there would be no way to know. The design on the holes even matches that of the band room he knew so well, with only one slight difference. In one section, the plating has been removed and the bare cyan wall beneath the plating shows quite clearly that someone had used that plate since this started, but they had searched the town…who was it, and where did that person go? He can’t answer that question. But at least the thought gives him hope. Someone had survived the disaster besides them, but that person is long-since gone. Whoever it is obviously is traveling alone; remnants of supplies suggest that there is only one person taking a safe amount with him or her. However, observing the semi-circle room, he looks back at where he had first put his had—next to the emergency exit—and notes something that obviously he had been responsible for. Silently, he curses at himself when he sees that running his had along the wall, blood has dripped out…the glove is no longer effective. Using that blood, he cleans up the mess a little, but leaves the hand print of blood he had made on the bare section of wall. “I’ll ask Trev for a favor a little later,” he comments to himself, as he enters what was once a storage room.
Of all the items there, only one trumpet is gone and the rest are all there. Flute cases, Trombone cases, clarinet cases, saxophone cases, and above all else, percussionist instruments are lying around, but the fact that the percussionist instruments are in there is a little worry. Why had they been moved from the back of the room? Probably in panic, students tried to blockade themselves in there. That is, if they survived. Very few skeletons exist, as the Sarciller usually turns them to ashes or Darmichrons eat them whole. Another thing disturbing him is the fact that all band folders in the case in the back are empty. Sure, some differences from his school would exist and they would be large, but this meant that someone must have cleared them out. What could someone want with those folders? Yet another question he cannot answer. Brian tries his hardest to push out the thought that all the people here were probably playing their instruments when this happened, and probably stood no chance. Neither the thought of students being killed nor the thought of survivors leaving mysteries are rather pleasant, so he is quite disturbed by the simultaneous thoughts.
Julie then enters the room, closing the door quietly behind her and heading directly for the storage room. She can sense where he is—her abilities have gotten better—and seems to even be able sense what he is thinking—though unclear if by her abilities or just logic—telling him “Try not to think about it…That was my band room as well as yours, so it hurts me to see something so similar, but with you, it is much worse. I can’t even imagine how you truly feel, but I have a good idea. Rest, Brian. We’ll set forth in the morning.” Brian opens the door to let the rest in, signaling he has some peace of mind for the moment. Since the sky now shines black with white stars shining in the sky, it does not take long to succumb to sleepiness. The rest of the group takes only minutes to fall asleep, but for Brian, it takes hours. By midnight, he finally begins to succumb to the effect of sleepiness, and gets asleep an hour earlier than what he would normally. He had managed 1:00 am to finally rest, now somewhat at ease. Julie wakes up first—at dawn—moving slowly from lying down, kneeling, then standing up and extending her hands out with a yawn. She takes a quick look around, seeing that Brian is already up, sitting on the only table in the room. She is rather startled at how Brian is up before her, briefly thinking that he got no sleep. But he has no rings around his eyes, so he likely got at least some. She also seems to be sensing that he is rested, so the question is “How come you don’t get enough sleep?” “I’ve got too many things on my mind. Anyway, since the change, I doubt I need eight hours, and it is probably half of that.” Julie actually thinks about it, admitting that she herself does not need as much sleep as she used to, and the others also seem to have cut off an hour or two. “I suppose you don’t want to see the rest of the town?” She asks, trying to lighten the mood. “How’d you guess?” Brian asks sarcastically, explaining in a more serious tone “I simply don’t feel like looking at how—out of billions of people—the only survivors I know of are right here.” “You know that isn’t true. There are probably still millions alive, hiding in areas where Darms can’t reach. Then there are others who might have moved on a long time ago, doing something similar to what we are.”
This comforts Brian, but not for long. David is the first to wake up after Julie, followed by Trevor, and then the rest in rapid succession. All get up in a similar fashion to Julie, David being the exception instead of choosing to get a crunch or two before leaping up onto his feet. “We’ll be leaving soon, so be sure to pack up!” The order is from Brian—shocked at even himself for making it—the whole group follows Brian’s order. However, Julie drags Brian out for sightseeing, much to Brian’s dismay. She is taking advantage of his hood, choking him if he resists. Literally dragged out unwillingly, he has no choice but to follow her as she forces him to look at the scenery he just glanced at and left before. “Look at the beautiful hill, covered by the yellow, orange, and red lights of the sun rising. Look at the rocks that you once admired and the forests dotting the landscape. You once enjoyed it. Enjoy it now, or else you may slip into a state worse than death,” she slowly orders him, forcing Brian to think. He already thinks he’s in a state worse than death, but she is right in the fact that he’d just get worse with his depression. “I know.” With those two words, he forces a smile and stares in apparent awe at the great sight. He mutters to himself that he will try to maintain the positive attitude when the two current most optimistic members of the group—Trevor and Julie—fail and fall into a state similar to his. This is the least he can do to try and help his friends through the worst, so his true attitude must remain a secret.
When the whole group is ready, Trevor drags Brian aside, and demands “Brian, we can’t simply keep on running, so we need a plan. We’ll have a ten minute meeting, and then we leave. It is not an unreasonable request, since not one of us made you leader yet. You obviously don’t want the position right now, doubting yourself, but at the least you can agree to this meeting.” Trevor’s grip on Brian’s jacket on the school symbol is tight and dead serious; backed against the wall, he really has not much of a choice. Brian is reluctant, but agrees. The group sits in ten chairs—taken from the school for use—next to the car, and Trevor is the first to speak. “We have been running, and running. We’re in Silverbar—not so far away from where we started—and we keep mindlessly wandering. We need a place to go. We are going practically nowhere, just wandering. We need a plan.” The whole group had been thinking about it, but only Brian has an answer. The only thing is how to word such a plan that would give them hope. He is ambitious, so perhaps if he manages to hide his doubts, the group will be more at ease than he.
Brian thinks about it for a long second, and then answers “We search for survivors. We travel the world, heading East towards New England, then sail to England. From there, we travel through Europe and Asia going mostly through Russia. We go to Japan, then head back west, covering southern Asia and Europe where we missed before. We then go through the deserts of Africa, then head for Australia. Once there, we head back up through Russia, and then cross the arctic back to Alaska. We head south, and with all of the survivors we have found, we go back to our home of Monroe. We start a community of all the survivors, and we will be free of Darmichrons forever.” Brian’s plan is ambitious, but what else will they do? Run for their lives, and hope that ten people can keep the human race alive? No, they would need allies. They would need a plan, and Brian had just offered them one. “Any objections?” Trevor had asked the question, knowing that not a single person would make a movement. Not a single member can disagree, so Brian tells them “Gather our hands together, and make a pledge. A vow. Swear to this cause, and do not break it.” Everyone puts their right hand in as a response, now standing up next to the chair. “We devote us to this cause, and shall not fail to continue!” With that, the hands wave up into the air in a sign of friendship, determination, and hope.
Finally, Trevor looks around the area, staring at the eight other individuals. He is about to reveal a secret they had talked about before, knowing Brian’s probable chagrin. But he knows it is necessary, politely stating, “Oh, and Brian, before the meeting started, we theorized this would happen, so we need a leader. A council of ten won’t be effective in the future, so there really is no other choice, Brian. Weather you want to be or not, you are our leader, and shall lead us on our goal.” Brian then thanks Trevor, much to Trevor’s response. Everyone had been expecting some sort of resistance and had prepared proof, but Brian seems to have accepted the position with his smile shining in the bright sunlight. Of course, in reality he is a little worried, but they place his trust in them; he cannot fail now. The group now has a little chat, though Brian isolates Trevor to ask for his favor privately, “If you didn’t notice, my glove has a leak.” To show this, he simply extends his palms to show two wet hands, soaked in a slight red glow. “No problem,” Trevor laughs, as he places his hand on the gloves, causing them to glow. It takes a few seconds, but after the yellow glow subsides, Brian can feel slightly thicker devices covering his hands. They are thicker, but they seem just a little heavier. Silently, Brian thinks to himself “Ah, the magic of ‘Alchemy’. What would I do without him?”
Trevor is pleased at how he is now extending his palms, flips them over to the over side, and turns them into a fist. “They are now stronger than ever before, and I added a little something.” Brian undoes his fists, now staring at the palm side of his gloves, and sees a red star on both of them, surrounded by a circle. “That should make it so that you can access your powers without taking them off.” Again, Brian thanks Trevor, and he responds to Brian’s gratitude with “Don’t mention it…by the way, are your hands better, or worse?” “They are slightly better.” With this conversation ended, the two join the group, but just as they are about to get in, they hear a terrible roar, and that one becomes ten. Then a hundred. The number of voices then becomes too hard to track, and they see the Ultra Darmichrons. “They’re here!”
“Revelations, Round One”
Julie is the most surprised at this, shouting above the voices “How come we couldn’t sense them?” David himself has no idea how they managed to get so close, but theorizes “They must have found a way to mask their movements!” With the rest of the group, Brian begins to get in, but immediately notices “Trev, we’re out of gas!” He is staring rather nastily at his friend, who is quite shocked by the sudden revelation. The gauge clearly reads empty, confirming this statement. Without gas, the car won’t start. And they had failed to retrieve any, an oversight that even Brian had missed. By now, some are already outside, including Brian, Julie, and David, readying them for the worst. “We had some before! There must have been a leek! It’ll take at least five minutes to fix!” Trevor shouts back, already under the car starting repairs. He knows where the gas tank is, so when he looks closely, he observes a large gaping hole where the gas should be. Somehow, he had failed to notice the leak before; something had prevented him from seeing the gas just leak. He curses at how he missed something this large, barely receiving Brian’s response. “You have four! That is, if we can hold them for that long!” Brian informs as he jumps forward, already activating his gloves and wielding his sword. “David, I need your assistance taking the fight to them, and the rest of you stay to help Trev with the repairs and defend the car.” Almost everyone accepts the order, bracing in defensive stance, with one exception. “Pacen, what are you doing?” “You trained with me in martial arts; you know I can help you! Come on, none of us girls have fought since you arrived except for Julie, and I simply can’t wait any longer!” Brian smiles at her bright enthusiasm, knowing she has a large fighting spirit within. “Alright, hurry! We have to take them out.”
The three jump on top of the school, as it provides the best platform for attacking the things they now deem ‘Uldarms’. The logic behind the name is quite simple…they are much stronger than regular Darmichrons, hence are Ultra, and Ultra Darmichrons compresses into Uldarms. Brian had been the first to use the name, at which Julie had put her had over her head, and shook her head in what seemed like a gesture of disgrace. She didn’t say anything at the time, but it is not hard to imagine what she was thinking about. That large shrug was not exactly that of approval, but the thought is pushed out of Brian’s mind with more low-pitched roars beginning to appear on all sides. Charging forward, Brian throws a ball of red energy at one, killing it instantly. In comparison to the main force, it is likely no more than a scout, so its death should grab hold of interest. “That ought to get their attention!” He happily declares, but David’s expression is grimmer. David is looking in a different direction over the school, somewhat at the forest and somewhat from the highway. Brian is shocked to see the look of fear in his eyes—from David?—and David shouts gravely “Too much of attention!” Brian then sees why—looking at where David had been staring—as at lest two hundred charge at them, looking to be rather nasty and more organized than normal Darmichrons. “Oops.” Brian whispers, as Pacen and David stare at him. “Oops?” David questions annoyed in a rather large tone. “Yea, oops.” Brian responds reluctantly, knowing that he probably shouldn’t have said that. “‘Oops’ doesn’t describe this!” David barks at Brian, as he is showing fear that Brian did not know David could feel. “Well, it’s too late to go back now!”
The three fight valiantly and let none through. The Uldarms are charging in organized ranks, so Brian concludes “They must have a leader! No normal Darmichron could be this organized; this is a tactic only someone with a much higher intelligence could devise. Let’s try and break through to see who it is!” David and Pacen agree with a nod of their heads and begin fighting full power. Pacen, at first, uses some basic Tae Kwon Do, but then picks up the speed and variety of the attacks. Soon, she delivers punishing blows and kicks from multiples styles at speeds even enhanced eyes cannot see. From a small glimpse of his eyes, Brian can almost see blue energy being emitted from her firsts, though stares at David for a second later. David fights with his claws and even bites a few Uldarms, but gets careless and is stabbed in the gut. Brian is a little worried about this, but David merely mutters “Ouch!” and continues to fight. Brian is rather puzzled and asks if he is alright, by which he grins, and laughs “Do you honestly think you can get rid of me that easily? This is nothing; I’ve had much worse!” The two smile at each other—managing to show their white teeth—before sharing a slight laugh and continuing fighting. Brian charges into a large bundle of the Uldarms, many avoiding him to the best of their ability. Despite this, Brian cuts down ten with a slash—taking out three—followed by rapid blasts of energy from his sword and hands. Brian, at this point, is surprised that most Uldarms are avoiding him, though such thoughts only get in his way. However, he soon finds out why.
He is forced to take his gloves off, as he has to fight with further strength. He takes one off by removing the middle finger part with a mighty pull, pockets the glove, and repeats with the other one. His hands have now been revealed to be fully healed, with the exception of the blood pouring out. With the gloves removed, he shoots more of his power at a group, though a few survive. He is too close to use his blade, so he pushes away an Uldarm with his unnatural strength, yet something is different…the blood from his hands is absorbed into the Uldarm and it dies. The Darmichron clenches its shoulder—in the exact spot Brian made contact—and lets out a cry. That kind of pain Brian knows he has only experienced once, as that is the pain of death. But unlike Brian, the Uldarm won’t be magically revived. The Uldarm in only a few seconds is on the ground—the group had leaped down into the Uldarms earlier to cause disarray—never to get up again. Brian is shocked for a second, staring at the now-black corpse contrasting the brown soil and asking “What just happened?” David is more than happy to let out an adequate reply of “It appears your blood is poisonous to Darmichrons, but not to us. This is most the useful tip, Brian, as we need to press every advantage we can.”
Brian smiles at this news and begins slashing and shooting with triple the ferocity, knowing that he can strike fear into the hearts of these normally heartless creatures. They had stayed away by instinct before, yet now, instinct would be complementary with emotions. Soon—not counting those that are in too small of shreds to be noticed or those burned to a crisp—a whole battlefield of Uldarms lies dead, yet they keep on coming. Brian continues fighting, however, the three can hear an evil laughter approaching. Brian tries his hardest to sense whatever it is that is making that noise—determining that it is no Darmichron nor human—but he can’t pinpoint it. In fact, Brian can no more decide which direction the voice is coming from than the rest can by ears. Whoever it is must be a complete master at movement, preventing a lock on by Brian. Suddenly, the three can see a figure revealing itself about three hundred feet in front of them, but he is hidden in a veil of shadows. Even if Brian could see the figure as if it was five feet away, he doubts that he’d be able to see the evil man—assuming that thing is a man—since the shadows are covering him unnaturally. In a cold, dark, evil voice, the figure declares “So these are the great fighters of the world? Ha! You are pathetic and are not even using your full power! You won’t last another minute!”
The taunting voice sends David into a further fury, though the Uldarms seem to be backing away as if by orders. However, they still attack when even a foot is taken towards the figure, so one can reach a rather simple conclusion. “You’re leading the Uldarms, aren’t you?” It didn’t need to be said, though Brian feels the need to talk to this figure. Anyway, every second he stalls is a second off of those four minutes. It couldn’t have been less than three in this battle, so they just have to hold out a little longer. “That is correct. Brian, I doubt you will live much longer, as you are using too much energy per kill…you have the potential to kill my soldiers with a fraction of what you use, but because you know not your own power, it’ll kill you. You three are a joke in comparison to me.” Brian would like to send that statement away or possibly let the rage of that statement get embedded in his mind forever, but neither can happen. The thought is embedded in his mind as a reminder of just how weak he is. ‘You three are a joke in comparison to me.’ Those words ring through his mind, destroying his morale. The figure is correct, as Brian knows he has yet to access a fraction of his power. Yet he had wasted almost all of his current power already and still, this is likely just another one of this man’s evil tests against the group. The very fact that he is a pawn not worthy of mentioning is a further blow, though Brian isn’t the only one affected. David lets his rage control him—exactly what the figure wants—by extending his claws further and leaps higher than Brian thought possible—obviously heading for the cloaked figure—but is struck down by a group of Uldarms. They don’t harm him severely—just puncturing the stomach again—but they pin him down, one holding him under its massive foot. David had healed from all his previous injuries, though the pain from his recent defeat shows rather clearly. “My, my, David…why do you fight like this? Perhaps I should kill you, or force you to show your true form. You know what I’m talking about all too well and are the only figure on their side here that can access full power, so I ask…why do you hold back?”
Brian stares at the wounded David, and sees the injuries heal at an unnaturally rapid rate. He forces the Uldarm off of him, ripping the leg off in the process. His hands covered with fresh blood, he leaps onto his feet and stabs the Uldarm in the head with his right hand, leaving a large gap. He then stares at Brian, giving him a look that is a bit of regret and other emotions that Brian cannot trace. With some hesitance, he begins to talk. “Brian, I am sorry I didn’t tell you, though you would find out eventually…you probably felt uneasy around me, and you should be…for what I am is that of a monster, more powerful than I’d like to admit. I try to limit myself from doing this, but I have no choice.” The voice reveals that David obviously hates what he is about to do, as it must have some side-effect that he would rather get rid of. Brian stares in complete horror as David transforms into the exact form of the first Darmichron he ever fought. The transformation is instant, the David that Brian had known being expanded and torn into this new form which he recognizes all too well. Every mark on his body—down to the scar on his forehead and shattered teeth—now stands before him in a perfect match. This had been why Brian had felt like he had seen this David before. This had been why Julie and he had felt so uneasy about David; his sister and his great powers combining this feeling to sense that someone who could be an enemy is amongst their ranks. “You thought you killed me, but I cannot die, even though I wish to. I was thirty for less than a week when this happened, not twenty-nine. I was the first Darmichron, a prototype. The first to be infected, and I was even at the hospital when this all happened. I became half-Darmichron, and lost control. That day was a full moon, and every full moon, I loose control. But until then, I can control this form well enough to kill any of these things!”
Brian is too shocked to even think about it; all he can do is watch as David single-handedly wipes out half the Uldarms in a berserk fury, ripping many in half. The body count rises, as this new Darmichron form dwarfs even the power of the Uldarms. The bloody massacre continues, Brian now too far away from combat to help. David had cut deeply into the enemy’s ranks, preventing Brian from reaching him in time if anything were to happen. This is a reckless move—something Brian thought that David would never do—and it is obvious his emotions are driving him to fight in his new form. Crushing the head of yet another, he then heads for the figure which suddenly vanishes in a dark smoke. More and more fall, leaving only about ten left. However, the figure just lets out an evil laugh as yet five more are gone. “Good; this is exactly what I had seen. Too bad you still have some control, David; I wish that you had truly lost it.” With those muttered words, the figure slowly begins to dissipate into an unknown location, so David cuts down the last that had stood before them. Somewhere back there, there are at least a dozen left, but they are too far away to be of concern. David lets out a cry of frustration with a taint of the voice Brian knows all too well, cursing at his slow speed.
Whoever it is that leads them, he is clever—a complete mastermind at the least—and likely planned the whole thing out. It does not take long for the Uldarms to retreat as well, as they disperse in every direction away from the three. David transforms back after getting over his failure, then extending his hand in an offer of renewed friendship. “I am not your enemy, as I hate Darmichrons more than you do.” David seems to keep his ‘tough-guy’ appearance, though his wavering limbs—especially his feet—tell Brian that this took more effort away that even Brian’s own powers do. Depending on how bad it is, he might not be able to move for days afterwards, though it is far more likely he will just be sore. “What about every full moon?” Brian asks as the three slowly move towards the car, taking the long way around the building. “I believe Nightshade will suppress my powers those days, preventing me from getting out of control. I managed to procure a rather healthy dose of the plant, so I should be good for well over two years. I’d be useless on those days, but at least I wouldn’t try to kill you.” “Alright. Come along, David. We can use you. You’re our friend, so don’t think you can get rid of us that easily!” The three there share a little laugh at how they had just achieved a major victory before they round the last corner and head back towards their car.
Just before leaving, Brian does ask Pacen when the two are relatively isolated “By the way, I know my martial arts…my trained eye managed to see what moves you were doing, and I only briefly recognized a few of them…where’d you learn those?” Pacen laughs at how she had managed to surprise Brian, responding with “Training. My power is complete mastery of martial arts, including a rock-hard body and spiritual drainers that were myths until two minutes ago. Many Uldarms died not from the blows, but a loss of spirit. You might have even seen the blue flowing from my fists, if you were lucky.” Brian is quite amazed by this, but decides to drive off without further conversation. He opens his door after pressing the handle, puts his leg up, follows with the rest of his body, and slams the door. “The further we are from this place, the better,” Brian mutters to himself, wishing for nothing more at the moment other than to be out of this area. Repairs went well, and the car starts flawlessly. The car drives southeast, destined for the desserts to follow. He knows that they will experience much hardship, but they must go on. “We’ll do just fine. We start here today on our great journey, for a fate that can only be good. Prepare yourself, everybody, for destiny.” With that simple little speech, the car speeds off over the worn roads at double the normal speed. His own words he somewhat doubts, though the fact that he hides it so well means that he feels a little relaxed. “We’ll come back here.”
Brian drives for a large period of time and the car follows signs of life. They stop very few times, and not a soul there is complaining about what they have already gone through. Remote little signs—occasionally even a campfire remain—drives then further than they would normally go, as Brian’s positive spirit is inspiration to the rest of them. The desert can not be that far, not after driving all that distance and not finding any significant signs of life. Sure, an occasional campfire would be found, but nothing that is hard evidence of survival. “I’m worried Brian…it has been a while since we have seen any but the ten of us. We ten couldn’t have been the only survivors!” Julie converses as Brian is driving, but then Brian catches a glimpse of the looks on all members of the party excluding Julie and he. They all look down in shame, David included. Something had happened that week which Brian was not at the school some month and a quarter ago. “You know of some more?” Brian asks as he turns his head around briefly to catch Trevor’s full face. “Knew.” Trevor sadly states, as he sheds a single tear. He temporarily looks down at the ground, clenching his fists in his seat at this kind of pain. Whatever had happened, it had scarred Trevor emotionally at a very deep level. That kind of pain Brain recognizes, as it is a pain that he himself had almost touched. Yet—despite the fact that Brian had felt more pain than any others in most situations—Trevor’s pain seems even greater than his.
“To start with, before you came, there were forty survivors at the school, David not amongst them. We held out for a while, but…” Brian sees that Trevor is clearly in pain, so he can’t ask him to continue. Trevor pushes it aside with a shake of his head, and continues anyway “Ten left us, leaving just thirty. Eight headed southeast—the way we have traveled—but two went northwest…where you came from. By the fact that you did not encounter them, we can assume they perished. Another twelve disappeared, leaving eighteen of us.” The part about disappearing seems particularly to affect Trevor, as he must have seen some close friends—no, more than that—disappear for good. However, the part about eighteen is also clearly painful, as Brian knows the end number all to well. “Eleven of us…were killed in that time, fighting desperately for their lives against the armies we faced. Only us—the strongest seven—survived this tragedy and only David joined us. We buried what was left of our friend’s corpses—many had already been chewed to pieces by the Darms—in the ravine next to the school. I believe you know the story from there. We lost good friends, and probably will never see them again.” Julie is sitting next to Trevor and comforts him, though both slightly blush at her method. What she did is unknown, since no one had paid any attention, though it obviously was something a little embarrassing.
However, she seems to have somewhat succeeded, or at least, distracted Trevor from the original topic. Brian then actually smiles and replies “There’s still hope then…they could be alive, and maybe are just ahead of us. Eight this way and twelve that disappeared; that is hope enough. We may yet meet someone close to us again, and I know you may get to see your sister again.” Trevor is dumbfounded by this statement because he had never once—in all the years he had known Brian—even mentioned his sister. How could Brian even tell that he had a sister? He needs not to ask the question for Brian to give an answer. “I can tell by the way you talked that she was amongst those that disappeared.” Trevor shows his signs of sadness, but pushes them aside to try and smile “You’re right. She’ll see me again.” However, Trevor is thinking about “Though the condition I find her in is what worries me.”
Driving, they ignore the topic of Uldarms, as they, hopefully, are miles behind. Of course, some are slightly more anxious than others, and the fact that after traveling for so long, yet they still have not reached any location of significant meaning, is beginning to destroy them. Trevor—one of the best optimists in the group—seems to be becoming even more of a pessimist, while David has actually turned around to be somewhat of an optimist. At least all changes they experience aren’t bad; the fact that David has changed his original ways is comforting enough. However, thoughts of how they still have failed plague their mind. Nor had they improved their powers, so the group’s confidence in their abilities is low. And on top of that, the group fears that they may be the only people alive, and Brian is the only one pushing such thoughts aside. However, inside, Brian has more doubt that any of his friends, but he had learned to control it quite some time ago. Hope needs some sort of encouragement, but Dallas is actually the only one who seems to feel confident that someone is alive. Why he and not even the best optimists is a mystery; if it is because of the favor Brian asked of him, he surely would have said something. However, what he is hiding is his trump card: a last resort for hope to be used after time defeats them. “It’s been nearly two months, yet we haven’t gotten to the desert yet,” Trevor sadly and angrily comments, and receives a rather serious response from David “This terrain makes it rather hard.”
He is looking right at Trevor, who seems to be just staring out the window at the sights that are beginning—but still are not completely, like originally hoped—to look like the desert they seek. It was decided that this path would be best, considering it follows major roads, tints of survival do exist, and it is the most direct route Brian can find. It is all too true that their journey is difficult…they have to cross two mountain ranges, survive instant changes in weather, and find a route through the old roads falling apart. With no humans around, nothing controls the weather or repairs the roads, so when the group encounters obstacles, it takes time to overcome them. Too much time for any member’s comfort. “At this rate, it’ll be ten years before we can reach our goal!” “Don’t worry, something will speed us up.” Brian comforts, as he stops the car for everyone to stretch their legs.
At Brian’s request, a tenth seat was added, so now everyone can stay inside the car, where it is either air-conditioned or heated, depending on the layout of the land. Already, they had gone through some mini-deserts and a few blizzards, so Trevor had again made modifications to the engine to withstand both for a period long enough to pass through. “We still haven’t left Washington, so how do we plan to get to the East Coast?” Brian sighs at Trevor’s negative response, but he is obviously agitated, so he mutters “We’ll find a way, Trev. We’ll find a way.” Julie has yet again taken to comforting Trevor, ignored once again. Whatever she does, it distracts him enough not to notice other things, weather it is from embarrassment of comfort still unclear. Brian stops the car at a location containing the ruins of a town—not even a school or hospital standing—deciding to let the group out for a while. He knows all too well that enough travel time makes your legs feel numb, so rest helps a little. The group is managing on their rations rather well; they have paced the amount they eat well. Once the group has stretched their legs, Brian calls them back in once again, determined not to stop again until they escape Washington’s claws. The driving continues and they manage to navigate outside the state of Washington, being just that much closer to the great dessert of the United States. But this eats away even more time and if Trevor wasn’t so busy with repairs, he would likely go insane from the pressure and sheer boredom that now lies over the whole group. Roles have turned, as Trevor now seems to waver between optimism and pessimism, Dallas has gone from neutral to optimism, Julie maintains sli8ght optimism, though is loosing some strength, David keeps Trevor from falling apart almost as much as Julie, and Brian comforts the whole group. Compared to when this started, not a single soul has not been transformed. As more and more time is passed, the group is beginning to take on recognizable features; they are far from the group that could best be described as lowly kids from earlier.
“Brian, it has been three months to the day since this all started.” Julie observes, as she carries a sentimental calendar. In those months, many members had celebrated an extra year on their life and Brian’s would be next, on July 23rd, two months from now. The car finally has reached the desert, but Trevor has stopped it in the worry of the heat killing the car. He did not have to do much convincing; Brian could tell from his voice that this was a serious threat, not some pessimism. “She wasn’t built for this kind of heat, Brian. At least not for the distance we wish to drive her.” Trevor again reminds Brian as he ponders the options. “We’ve found ways before, so we’ll just improvise again here.” The whole group is again miserable, but the fact that they in one month over doubled the distance they had traveled brings some morale back into their hearts. Though still, the heat is beginning to devastate them. Looking forward 200 feet, Brian notices a little blip in the distance, but the heat waves block out any kind of visual, so he suddenly starts the engine and then moves 180 feet, just to make sure he can see what is revealed to be a truck.
Trevor is clearly puzzled by this, and again worries about how the car could fail, but when Brian explains how he saw something, it calms Trevor down a bit. Trevor had not been the only one wondering, however, as the rest of the group was just as mystified with Julie being the exception. She knows all too well this feeling inside of her and with Brian, it is only a little weaker. “Trev, can you feel it?” Brian stares back at Trevor during the brief drive, at which—with some concentration—Trevor feels it as well. His abilities to sense must have been dampened with time, but he still is quite high in comparison to others. Once the car is again at a stop, Brian stares forth and notices someone standing over by the truck. The truck is a nice little red pickup truck, and the license plate on the car is that clearly of Washington. The figure nearby the truck is holding a bunch of electronics, storing about ten times that number on the back of the truck, shielded from direct sunlight. When Brian stares a little closer, his eyes widen with happy shock, as he declares “Andy!”
Trevor asks how Brian knows him, at which Brian simply answers “A very good friend of mine; he was a master programmer before this all happened.” When Brian places his foot on the ground, steps outside the truck, and walks towards his old friend, once closer, he can hear what Andy is blabbing about. From the past, Brian knows just how talkative he can be; Brian was no better. In fact, almost every member of the younger nine talked a lot in comparison to others, so it is no surprise to see him do it yet again, though this time to himself. Andy rubbing his very short blond hair mumbles “Now how do I cross the desert with all these electronics? I’ve been thinking about it, yet still, the answer eludes me. I may be good, but I need help.” His yellow eyes are so intent on the task that Brian could probably be right behind him and Andy would not notice. His round-cut t-shirt is one that Brian had seen often; one that had a joke about programming on the front. Brian notices that Andy himself is nearly unchanged and when he finally gets close enough, his reflection appears in the truck’s shining paintjob. Obviously, Andy had chosen his vehicle well, taking such care over it that Trevor is impressed. Even David—who cares nothing about the look of things around him—is impressed with just how well-kept this truck is.
Turning around, Andy stares at Brian with his yellow eyes and welcomes the driver of the giant suburban. “What took you so long? I had expected survivors to catch up with me a month ago.” “The real question is how did you beat us here?” Brian responds as the two shake hands and smile with a slight laugh at being reunited. The grip is firm and Brian can feel the heat being emitted from Andy, hinting he has been around the desert for a little too long. “One travels faster than ten.” The two share a few laughs, and have a short conversation of old electronics, especially in the field of gaming. Trevor comes in, and immediately asks “Normally, I can tell what someone’s power is, but for you, I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Trevor’s power has been getting weaker in that sense; he hopes that it is because his normal powers are getting stronger. Yet somehow, Andy has hidden his own power. Andy responds with a little shock on his face “Oh, like you, I’m a master of technology, but I specialize in electronics, a fact Brian knows all too well.” Trevor is grinning, as he had yet to match someone with a similar power. This might also explain why he couldn’t sense his powers; similar powers can be hard to distinguish from your own.
“Can we talk about it?” “Sure, but I was wondering why you didn’t discover a little fact that I did.” Both Trevor and Brian lean in, as he continues a little louder “Our powers are directly related with what we were doing, learning, or planning to do…Julie was in the Environmental School and was planning to be a veterinarian, so I can tell her power is over nature from this. Your friend was a good martial artist, since she was raised by those of similar interests, and now is a complete master. Dallas was planning to travel the world, and he’s a teleporter. And Trevor was going to be a mechanic, so now is a master of technology and mechanics.” This makes sense to Brian, but makes him wonder what his power is. “What could I be then? I have no specialty; I merely lead them because there is no other. My abilities are limited, and yet I somehow have managed to earn fear of Darmichrons. What am I exactly?”
Since Trevor and Andy seem to converse so well, Brian had already heard everything he wished to from Andy, and since he wishes to ponder a thought or two, He leaves the two to converse for a while. He slowly walks back to the car, making sure to go at a speed slow enough not to get there too quickly. “We have been fooling ourselves too long now. We need to hone our abilities, and prepare for the worst. We need to move faster. We need to do so many things, and I have to figure out a way to get across the desert before the Uldarms swarm us. We have avoided the subject, yet I know they are there. For some reason, I can feel them even when Julie cannot. Her powers outgrow even mine there, so why I know they are not far behind remains a mystery. Something is going on here, and I need to find out what.”
(To be continued)