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Chapter 7

Sarah had been playing back her recorded newscast before turning it off to try and mentally make contact with her mentor, or Brian. She sang the lullaby under her breath by habit. A good idea since she was keeping the group mentally linked, and if the Other decided to awaken they would be threatened. She hated to push the barrier between the id and super ego, but he had to be done.

“There,” the elf known as Occam’s Bow said. Her blonde hair sparkled like gold even in the dim light. “I can sense them now.” She was almost an icon herself dressed in green tights and leather. One could easily think she was from a fantasy convention. Her carved elven bow was firmly gripped in her left hand and her quiver hung off her left hip. She barely stood five feet tall.

“Me too,” Thauma said to the elf. The two contrasted each other’s attributes perfectly. Walking next to each other, Bow looked much smaller and Thauma looked even taller in her late night clubbing outfit. A white wide brimmed hat covered her white spiky hair and mystical third eye. Her black skin accentuated by the shadows still kept a reflected the faintest of light. She wore knee high boots and a short skirt hugged her curvaceous hips.

Norman was unaware of Sarah’s mental singing because his mystic helmet blocked her mental intrusion. He did have a hell of time concentrating with Thauma walking in front of him, but he enjoyed every second of the couple hours they spent tracking in the caves. Many times did his heart race as he struggled to remain calm, his pulse barely staying below seventy-five. His love for Thauma was so strong it actually pained him to be near her. It continued to wage war with his Arachnos training that allowed him to remain in control. He could not explain this attraction, other than it truly must have been destined. There was a feeling of fate in the air tonight, it sparked with electricity and excited him. It felt like his first kiss. Unfortunately, a kiss from someone he could not remember.

Occam’s Bow and Sarah had originally set off to locate their mentor when they came across Thauma Guard and the Rogue Isle Protector. Apparently, both their quarries had crossed paths so they decided to search together. Sarah could not help but notice how protective the Arachnos trooper was over Thauma. He was always near her, enraptured by even the slightest movement she made, a twist of her neck, a fleeting look, or a slight smile. She could feel the passion of love he had for her, of which she found quite odd. Thauma seemed to display the slightest of emotion for the Protector, one akin to amusement and maybe just a little coyness. Sarah found the introversion unusual even knowing Thauma as little as she did and did not know what to make of the situation.

The Other stirred in the deep recess of her psyche, sensing danger from the minds in front of them. She continued to whisper the lullaby to keep it distracted weighing the decision to read the minds of those ahead. Approaching where she sensed her mentor and News Flash she realized how close to the ceremony they really were. Sarah started humming the words instead of mouthing them and immediately the enemy’s minds rushed forward. She began reciting the opening prologue to the Canterbury Tales to stop herself from penetrating the thoughts too far. She could already feel the anxiety at the summoning. This was truly a great event for this splinter cell of Circle members. In each of their minds, she erased the image of her and her friends rendering them essentially invisible. She held back from going into the Dark Lord’s mind. And with his back towards them she would not have to attempt it.

“Okay, I have blocked us from their minds, but we must hurry.” Sarah felt one mind she dare not enter to far.

            Brian was able to sense Sarah and he enacted his own mind spell seeing whom she truly was… the hero known as Occam’s Mind. A coincidence, maybe, Brian was not sure. Occam’s Mind was none other than Sarah Starling, the person responsible for murdering seven people on the very floor he recently occupied in King Row. It was around her sixteenth birthday when the mysterious beatings and break-ins from the neighborhood had started. There was never a sign of intrusion only the strange attackers that scared their victims to no end. All the reports indicated different attackers and no motives. This went on for two weeks straight before the murders began causing heroes to line up on the rooftops to catch the culprits. Unbeknownst, to everyone at the time it was Sarah. She was having nightmares of every attack and murder becoming the police’s first suspect, but she had a solid alibi for every instance, being asleep in bed. It took a powerful psychic to track the murders and beatings to her.

            Apparently, her mutant powers were so great she could not control them and they invaded the minds of those around her revealing their fears and terrors. Her mind recoiled from the images, but it did not disconnect and continued to witness them. The super ego took over and created a phantasm from the mind of the victim in an attempt to kill the source and end the fears. The States Attorney never officially filed charges against Sarah instead her parents chose for her to be locked away in the mental ward of the Zig and kept in a constant drugged state to prevent her subconscious, or conscious, mind from attacking anyone ever again. Somehow, Sarah was able to push past all the countermeasures put in place to prevent the use of power and psychically contact the last drake known as Occam’s Razar. Whether, it was truly Sarah or the Other was never answered.

            Brian snorted slightly at the thought of the last drake. Maybe technically Occam was the last drake, but he had pictures of the half-dragon’s clone whose whereabouts was officially unknown, although he had evidence it was in the Rogue Isles. It was when Sarah’s group arrived did Brian panic, seeing Thauma. He looked down unable to look her in the eyes and shrank away to the deeper recesses of the alcove.

            Thauma quickly cast a spell creating a shield barrier in front of the large opening of the alcove modifying it to prevent it from passing sound.

            “Brian,” she said slowly approaching him, the others stepping back.

            Occam deduced what was to come from the body movements and tones. He could sense an internal struggle in Brian. He silently prayed this would be resolved swiftly; this was neither the time nor place to be counseling anyone. He glanced at the ever-vigilant Occam’s Bow who stood staring out the doorway with arrow notched. Occam’s Mind stood next to her keeping them blocked from the Nightcasters’ minds.

            Norman stood against the wall silent. He should have realized Brian’s deteriorating condition; the signs were all there, he just chose to ignore them. He was livid at himself for missing the obvious mental distress of Brian.

            “Brian,” Thauma stared again. “What is this?” She held up the envelope containing his letter of resignation and other last remarks.

            Brian felt exposed his emotional defenses rising. He glanced at the letter, located the Protector, and glared at him feeling betrayed and desiring to act upon the emotion.

            For a split second, the Protector was sure Brian was about to unleash hell against him. For another split second he almost felt guilty for ratting out someone he might consider a friend. He grew perplexed at the feeling; it was not like he betrayed Arachnos or his oath.

“Please Brian, talk to me,” Thauma begged stepping closer.

His mouth felt like lead cotton not knowing what to say, his heart sinking to his knees and replaced immediately by desolation. He heard the call of the flask once again.

“It’s not your fault.”

He finally looked at his mentor locking her gaze with his own. “Yes it is. You don’t understand.”

“Understand what? Being afraid? You would have been killed too.”

Brian reached for the flask and popped the cap.

“Drowning your sorrows in alcohol and guilt is not the solution. And going on a suicide mission against Oranbega isn’t a way out either.”

Brian took a double shot and let the liquid burn down his throat. It warmed his insides and sparked the courage he needed to go further. “I should be killed. I AM A MURDERER!” he shouted, his voice not traveling beyond the protective shield.

“No you’re not. You were not strong enough then. There was nothing you could have done to change what happened.” Thauma voice was soft and soothing but firm. She could not reach out to her former apprentice to make him understand.

“I killed her!” he blurted revealing his dark secret. Tears began streaming down his face and he again began sobbing.

Norman steadied himself wondering who could have shattered this mans life so completely. Brian seemed to have more secrets than those kept in boxes.

“Who?” Thauma said holding back her emotions trying to be the stoic all-knowing leader. She desperately wanted to help her friend get better but something was always nagging him since Aaron’s death. She knew it could not be the death specifically, but every attempt she tried to go deeper she met his stinging sarcasm.

Brian removed his duster hat, monocle, and reaper mask and tossed them to the ground. “Aura Mattson, I killed her.” He collapsed against the back stonewall and slumped to the ground.

Thauma rushed forward to console him, but he yelled for her to get away. She knelt by him bringing herself to his level. She was ready to listen if he would only tell her what the issue was. It broke her heart she could not help him. The name he spoke was not immediately familiar to her.

“She was the only reason we ever met. I was your contact for the mission Azuria sent you on. Remember, the Circle of Thorns that abducted her.”

Thauma shook her head, “Right, they abducted and murdered her.”

Brian’s red-shot shallow eyes stared emptily back at Thauma. “They chased her and she ran into me. I pushed her down and told her to get away. The picture I took of her being dragged away even made it to the front page. I am not the hero I led you to believe I am.”

Thauma was shocked. She suspected Brian was closer to their first case then he originally indicated and now she knew why.

“I have always thought of you as my sister.” He said thinking to the one he had lost during the Rikti War when his family was killed.

Tears pooled in Thauma’s eyes, but raged against the emotional dam she had built from Aaron’s death. Slowly fading was the stronger emotionless leader and in its place was Brian’s adopted sister. She too had grown to see Brian like a brother and not just some apprentice. It was one of the reasons she had suggested he join the Onami. For once, she was truly at a loss of words not having known the great weight he carried.

“And to think I would rather watch your lover die then sacrifice my life to try and save him. Taking his picture because I thought it would be great to catch an action shot. I considered him my friend, but…” Brian’s voice trailed off.

Thauma now saw the true burden and the link to Brian’s self-hate, “You did not kill him! It is not the same thing.”

“Yes, it is,” Brian said desperately looking to the others. Norman had been surprisingly silent and he could see the shock on the part of his face the helmet did not hide. Occam stood silently watching the two, but he could see the tears welling in the drake’s eyes threatening to extinguish the fiery suns. “I failed to act, in saving him or in stepping up in his place afterwards to be an example for others to follow.”

“What about all of those you have helped since then? How many lives have you saved?”

Before Brian could answer, the cavern shook violently. Occam’s Mind was balled up on the floor; the heavy emotions pouring forth overwhelmed her and her connection to everyone’s minds. She experienced everybody’s sadness at the same time, and could not handle the surge. The Other moved to protect her super-ego, but she fought to restrain it using the flood of emotions like a wall, but it was like holding torrential waters from broken damn back by thought alone. Each mind she remained linked to hammered her ego, sending reverberations into her soul.

“Occam,” Bow said motioning to the ceremony. She had been the only one paying attention to their surroundings remaining cold and impassive.

Occam snapped from the emotional cloud covering the alcove realizing it was too late. The Envoy had been summoned.

“Get to the surface!” he yelled disappearing around the doorway of the alcove.      Everyone, including Brian ran to the entrance and witnessed the drake run by the rows of surprised minions, right past a flabbergasted Saurian god, and slide into the portal that lay open at the center of the pentagram. Everyone’s jaw dropped seeing the half-dragon disappear down the cross-dimensional hole his last act to scrape his claws across the binding circle etched in stone, severing the magical protective barrier.

“Can he do that?” Brian asked. From his understanding of rituals, what the drake did was… impossible.

“This summoning circle is rare,” Occam’s Bow said drawing her bow with an arrow her amber eyes glistening in the dim light. “This particular portal opens both ways. It is essentially a two-way gate.”

“Why is that?” Thauma asked rhetorically, putting words to everyone’s thoughts.

Sarah sensed the gate opening exposing even more minds to the Other. Like a crack addict, the Other strained against her will to read even more dark thoughts. She fought back struggling to maintain the groups invisibility.

The cavern dropped into a dead silence, everyone holding his or her breath at the same time. Never before had anyone witnessed the event that had just occurred. Even the Dark Lord was momentarily puzzled thinking the drake was stopping his new Envoy’s arrival. The seconds stretched to a minute and still nothing emerged from the portal. Murmuring broke out and the Saurian god dared to think the half-dragon had at last finally met his end and chuckled silently. He ignored the others accompanying him, for they were insignificant. Their blood would only begin to quench his thirst tonight.

The cavern shook even more violently sending dirt columns falling from the ceiling threatening to collapse the roof on the rogue order and heroes. The air pressure dropped rapidly and a roaring explosion shook forth heralding the arrival of the Envoy. Clutched in an eternal struggle it held the drake at arms length, Occam stabbing at its face.

The hell spawn easily occupied a third of the room’s height. Already a black ichor dripped from its left eye socket where the half-dragon had scored the first hit. Several lacerations covered its arms and Occam’s continued to add to them. The Envoy howled in a rage that shook the cavern causing all non-humans to cover their ears in pain. The demon flung half-dragon down, but the drake somersaulted in mid-air and landed gracefully. The drake’s eyes radiated a red eldritch glow focusing intently upon the Envoy.

Enchanted claws sprang from robotic arms emitting their own amethyst light guaranteeing the fight was not completely hopeless. Occam growled charging the Envoy who surrounded itself with a thick inky black mist that hung thick in the air around it.

Sarah stoically rose from the stone floor and in a silent agreement with her companions, chose not to flee determined to stay and assist Occam. Using her glove controls, she turned off her MP3 player and all other sources of stimuli. Choosing to hum an ancient dragon battle song her mentor had taught her, she focused her thoughts commanding the Other to obey. She unleashed the full force of her mutant gift causing reality to twist and distort to her willpower. Reaching out with her hand targeting the Dark Lord and his minions, she could feel everyone’s presence upon the galactic plane, their breathing, their fears, and more importantly their movement. She tilted the laws of physics and ever so slightly, nudged the kinetic energy around her targets stealing it from them, and breathed the force into the bodies of her teammates. Each felt a sudden surge of energy and power. Sarah unleashed fiendishly numbing nightmares against the nearest Nightcasters their terrors coalescing into reality. To the group of heroes they saw only shimmering humanoids, but to the individuals affected they saw the worst most terrifying images they dared dream. From the dark recesses of their psyche, Occam’s Mind delivered unto them their own personal Hell making each one powerless to react. Sarah again warped reality and outstretched her hands sending her form into the air hovering a mere ten feet off the cave’s floor. She simply manipulated gravity’s pull to counteract the fundamental force.

Occam’s Bow stepped forward sending her first arrow at the Envoy, her second against the Dark Lord, and a third explosive arrow into the rows of faithful. The arrows targeting the Envoy and Saurian god bounced harmlessly off their bodies. The explosive arrow impacted one Nightcaster and detonated shredding those standing near him with his bone fragment acting like shrapnel. She desired to help the drake, but she needed to keep back the mobs if they were to escape with their lives.

Instantly, Norman was in front of Thauma his breastplate deflecting the crossbow bolts the cult’s defenders shot from deep within their ranks. There was no doubt; his being here had been destined. The fact Occam’s Razar was here was proof enough to him. When he was selected for the Protector program, he was given complete knowledge of the procedure. Arachnos awarded loyalty with the truth. It was during his physical exam that Arachnos, and himself, discovered he had Mu heritage. After special dispensation he was allowed to forgo the Mu training usually assigned to descendants and continue with the program. For what he did remember, the recombinant DNA injected in him was two parts; the first was by some one named A. Christensen, or so the vial sold to Arachnos had been labeled. He never knew the first name, nor did the identity seem to matter to him. The second vial was labeled Drake, and had recently acquired it there was only the one vial. He had won the Arachnos lottery, allowing him to test the validity and viability of the half-dragon’s DNA. He had felt honored for the assignment, anything to promote Lord Recluse’s vision. Unfortunately, after the injection he remembered nothing until waking up in the Zig hospital ward of Paragon City. None of that could have been coincidence, even if he usually did not believe in predetermined fate.

He watched Occam dodge a sword forged from pure fire. He was in awe at the speed the drake possessed. Norman was not a fool or a pessimist, but a realist. In his heart he knew they all would not be making it back to the surface. Damn the fates for he would not let his true love fall before these parlor magicians. If any were to survive, he would ensure her safety. Death would only come when he was good and ready.

The Rogue Isle Protector took the momentary lapse in projectiles to remove his helmet. Normally, anyone to see the true face of a Protector so they could be recognized would be cursed to death. Tonight he would decide who would live and who would die. He turned to face his true love wanting her to see his face before he died.

“How’s ‘bout a kiss before dying.”

Thauma could only blink in surprise words avoiding her swift tongue. She realized the Protector had made a heroic gesture in revealing his identity, but it was his face leaving her speechless. His left eye was blue and the right brown, no doubt a result of the process of the Protector program. The mismatched eyes, sharp features, all looked familiar yet slightly different. Thauma looked on, mouth slightly agape.

“PhoenixHawk,” Brian whispered thinking the same thing.

“What’s that?” Norman asked slightly puzzled at the reaction. He might not have been that handsome, but he thought he looked okay.

“You look like…” Brian started.

“Aaron,” Thauma finished.

The reality of what they were saying burst forth in Norman’s mind linking pieces of information previously lost to the Protector. PhoenixHawk, Sutter had just said… Aaron, Thauma had followed… Her dead lover… A. Christensen… Aaron Christensen had been the original DNA donor. He had never drawn the connection until now. He considered himself quite good at unraveling political puzzles and hidden motives, but he completely missed the correlation until now. Aaron Christensen, who’s DNA he had been injected with was the legendary PhoenixHawk.

Could it explain his feeling for this woman, he thought, a love so great and singularly destined that it transcended DNA itself? He could not answer the question for whatever the answer it would not lessen his feelings for her in the least.

            “I guess you like the tragic hero types don’t you,” he said creating waves of heat and sending the over his body. “My real name is Norman, and I just want to tell you that I love you. I have always loved you since the time we first met.”

Thauma was now truly speechless his words knocking the breath from her. With everything that was happening with Brian, she felt completely vulnerable. She did not have any feelings for this villain, whom happened to share a common goal with her once. Love requited was a terrible feeling for the one not receiving returned affections. The Protector had always seemed to treat her differently. She felt at that moment if she were to lead a strike force against Lord Recluse himself that, Norman would lead the way. Maybe she did feel something, but too much was happening for her to know what it was.

“Alas, the beauty remains silent. Then we shall go our separate ways.” Norman said breathing life into the fire sending the flames to dance teasingly over his skin. His eyes suddenly burst into a green light all too familiar to those that knew PhoenixHawk.

“Another time, another place then.” He turned to engage the Envoy in hand-to-hand combat feeling no regrets. Not all true love stories had happy endings.

Brian and Thauma could only exchange looks of astonishment.


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