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The door to Norman’s office slid open and he swiftly
strolled in, donned in his red and orange Protector-Mu uniform. He made his way
over to his desk, which was placed just offset the center of the large room.
Security sensors in the room recognized his bio-signature and began powering up
his computer accessories and peripherals. The recessed overhead lights dimmed to
a nice comfortable level for viewing backlit computer monitors. One of three
large plasma screens near his personal training equipment turned on and
restarted digital video footage of a montage of the hero Tropic of the Paragon City super group, Top Ten.
Norman placed an aged leather pouch the size
of large backpack, on a long wooden table set against the wall behind his desk.
The table held a few ancient and newer tomes borrowed from several of the Mu
leaders in Arachnos, and one from Sirocco himself. Norman turned around, watched the door to his
chambers slide close, and clicked a switch on his desk locking the door.
“Clear,” he said under his breath
before a shimmering image of Ock quivered into existence in front of the desk.
“You’re going to get me real trouble if we are caught.”
“Nothing you couldn’t handle I am
sure,” Ock commented moving behind the desk to the table holding the ancient
Norman walked over to the video of Tropic and
watched some of the action sequences of the fire-wielding hero. His mind drifted
to recent events. Johnny Sonata had not been much of a problem; the singer just
did not care about anything anymore since his soul was destroyed. Well, he did have
a concern regarding the quality his soulless life would have, if left crippled
and body burned beyond recognition. Norman
promised he would be kept alive to endure the pain of the fire unleashed upon him.
With proper motivation, people usually came around to his line of thinking. Ock
claimed the incantations and ceremonies of Johnny’s spell would allow for
someone to journey into another’s psyche and unleash forgotten memories stored
in the voids. It was not the exact
spell, but Ock said it would serve as a good foundation. Johnny also revealed
from whom he received the scroll. Another visit to Hard Case, a demon hunter in
St. Martial and a quick raid on a Circle of Thorn hideout revealed further
pieces of the enchantment.
The Protector moved to his training
equipment and removed his cape and helmet. Part of an impervium metal girder
lay fixed to the floor and rose vertically eight feet. In a sudden movement, he
raised his arm and projected his thoughts into the bar sending forth waves of
heat. The waves focused, answering the commands of his will. Within seconds,
the center of the practically indestructible metal began to glow a dull orange.
He strained to raise the temperature higher, but released the heat completely
when flames began forming around his person.
With a quick movement, he hit a
couple of quick release latches on his armor breastplate and it fell to the
ground. He slid his gauntleted gloves from his hands and let them fall to the
floor with a clatter. Bare-chested, he began attacking the various punching
bags near the pole and focusing on his Jeet Kune Do technique. The bags were
filled with what was called Sands of Mu and practicing with them helped attune not
physical prowess, but also the sands imbued the ability to unleash negative
magical energies. All Protectors received training in the Way of the Intercepting Fist. It was their preferred mode of combat
outside the mutant or science imbued powers. The idea of the martial art served
as a foundation and greatly complemented whatever style a Protector brought to
the table. Arachnos found JKD, free from the bias and misconceptions of choosing
a style like karate, tae kwon do, Gung Fu, or even Wing Chun. JKD proved to
easily cut through the traditions and offer a straight forward fighting style
that was extremely effective. It also allowed for improvisation, a talent few
Norman tried tuning his thoughts and chi into
his training. His mind continually plunged blades of insanity into his heart
forcing a confrontation against whom he considered his true love, Thauma Guard.
The thought of her in the arms of her real lover PhoenixHawk unconsciously started
to build an inner fury. The chaos was subtle at first but the more he mulled
over the ex-dead hero’s betrayal the faster and stronger his muscles responded.
Lost so far into his fury it took Ock a focused chi strike sent through his
flames to knock Norman
back into the present. The training bags were ablaze and Norman’s fire had sprung from him, licking
his skin while craving the succulent flesh. Lost in self-pity he had
manipulated his fire and martial arts with great skill. Self-discipline had
proved vital when releasing his inner rage. How cruel the Fates, giving him the
power of fire, but not the resistance to it. Intense heat and flame hardened
his flesh allowing him to absorb vast amounts of physical and energetic damage,
but it seemed to make him more flammable.
“I can’t live this way anymore,” Norman said, lowering his
head and staring at the black sand that spilled unto the floor from the bags. He
nonchalantly dismissed the flames, extinguishing their essence, but never the
hunger. “She haunts my waking thoughts and mocks my dreams. It’s only a matter
of time before I completely lose control.”
Ock looked at his friend and equal.
They were both brothers by modern day science and that seemed to forge an
inconceivable bond from the beginning. He reached out his hand and placed it on
“Why can’t I have her?” Norman asked.
“She is not yours to have.”
“I know,” he sighed staring at his
palms. He gently released the voracious flame and mocked its hunger by mentally
keeping distance between it and his skin. The heat emanating from the burning tongues
hardened his flesh.
“I am here to help you; soon we will
have the answers we need.”
Norman stared at the flames flowing around
his hands and dancing down his forearms. He was lost in their undulating dance
of desire and hunger.
“I am quite impressed. Your speed is
accelerating,” Ock said, to change the subject.
“Yeah?” Norman said, looking at the charred practice
bags and smothering the tongued beast once again. The gear had been replaced
several times before with varying degrees of flame resistant material. The
building’s environmental system was already evacuating the smoke.
“Maybe you should work on narrowing
the gap between your human and dragon reflexes. I think you may be pleased.”
Ock returned to his research and Norman walked over to a contraption
centered on the wall in his training area. It consisted of two large rotating
circle attached to metal arms. Smaller rotating circles the size to cushion a
blow form his fist rotated around the edge of each circle. Multi-colored
blinking light-emitting diodes covered the circumference of all the circles and
when he flicked a switch, the arms and circles spun at random patterns and at
differing speeds. The device spun fast its diodes blurring into circles light
Closing his eyes and standing before
the machine, Norman
slowly focused his mind to achieve a state of peace. His mind wandering again
to her, but he was not surprised.
am a Protector damn it, he cursed. I
control my own actions. I control my own thoughts. I am the stronger.
He thought back to his initiating
ceremony and his induction. The words of his oath he conjured into his mind’s
eye. Rolling over their meaning, he tasted their bitterness for those candidates
who failed to survive the program. The sweetness of loyalty, duty, and honor
replaced the sensation. The memories of the love that never was and nor to be,
fell away swallowed in a darkness greater than the faux love’s black skin. A
greater society could be achieved through technology where the weak would be
protected from the stronger. Those lost in the depravity and despairs of life
were shielded from the horrors of living. The ends justified and validated the
future, a utopian world of peace and security. Everyone would be safe. Everyone
would play a role. Arachnos would show the way to the world, might he be lucky
to give his life in fulfillment of that dream.
From his trance, he smirked. Life?
Death? The meanings of those words were lost to him. His embracement of his Mu
heritage and the marvels of science have imbued him with a strange afterlife.
All thanks to Arachnos. His powers grew stronger the further he studied the
ancient mystical ways and the utopian reality neared. The Destined One he was,
whatever that truly meant. The only question was -- whose Destined One? Arachnos?
Mu? Dragons? His?
He let that thought go, feeling his pulse
lower and the outside environment drop away. Deeper and deeper his psyche
traveled, allowing his senses to calm. The serenity trumped his fury and power
spread out like a spider web entangling every stray thought. The office fell
away next and so did the training contraption swirling about just past his
enclosed eyes. He felt himself falling free in blackness… deeper… deeper…
A light in the distance caught his
attention. He heard voices in a language he did not even know, but oddly
understood. Pinpoint lights spun in the distance and he felt a presence, no…
several presences. He found himself at a precipice, but his eyes saw only
darkness. He felt calmer than he ever did. The lights still spun in the
distance like pinpoints barely aglow like a candle flickering. He heard a baby
crying and stepped forward. The crying stopped, another picked up where the
other left off, this from behind him. His chest heaved from breathing a sudden
thickening in the air like black smoke.
Another step forward and he fell off
the edge of whatever he was experiencing. He watch the lights spin away from
him toward what would be the heavens and exploded across the blackness creating
the night sky. The stars twinkled in unison and twirled. Recognizing several of
the constellations, he found he knew them by different names. Names foreign and
alien to him, but they seemed… right.
Norman opened his eyes. The training device
before him moved through its chaotic pattern ever so slowly, even more than
normal. The lights even seemed dimmer than their usual brightness. He had been
able to perceive bullet paths and watch lightning bolts crack the night sky
with intensity, but lacked the momentum to join them. Instinctively, he took up
the centerline horse stance from the martial art Wing Chun. The technique
helped him find focus in training. The spinning circles seem to slow further as
he struck out hitting each target dead center. He felt a great elation with
His breathing grew labored and
suddenly, like a switch, the circles sped up again leaving blurred light
coughed feeling his bones ache and bent over resting his hands on his knees.
“Excellent brother,” Ock exclaimed
striking him on the back.
Norman cast a sideways glance at him, “I did
it.” His breathing was labored but it could not hide his smile.
“That is a big first step you made.
Good timing too you will need that kind of focus if you are to survive.”
“How long was I at it?” the
Protector said straightening up and glancing at the clock. The amount of time
that had passed surprised him.
“A couple of hours actually, I
finished a half an hour ago.”
“What? Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”
“You seemed much focused in your art,”
the drake commented smirking and bowing low.
“Damn,” Norman stammered. “You… Drake… sometimes I
swear you’re just like your alter ego.”
“And so are you,” the Drake replied
holding his dramatic bow low.
For once Norman laughed at that; maybe he was finally
warming up to the idea of becoming a drake. Their brother, Occam’s Razar, was
so positive that he should council him it actually repulsed the Protector. With
what he just accomplished, he began to believe that being half-dragon or even
part-dragon was a good thing. Norman
made his way to his shower stripping the remains of his uniform from his body.
“So what’s next?” Norman asked the drake from behind the
frosted glass screen.
“We are very close; I need to review
the collected works of the Malleus Mundi.”
“What!” Norman coughed shocked by the request. He
knew of the ancient spell book and that it was actually much more than mere
“Azuria has it stashed away.”
Norman could not help but laugh aloud.
“What amuses you brother?” Ock asked
Norman finished composing himself, “Whew, for
a moment I thought we had a serious problem. I got a contact… hell, I just
thought of a plan that’ll work even better. That is if you don’t mind posing as
your better half.” Norman
walked over to his closet and pulled out a green black costume looking very
much like the hero, PhoenixHawk, wore.
Ock just smiled, releasing his long
mane from its ponytail and laughed. Knowing what Norman had in mind, he looked
into a mirror running his hands through his hair to add the wild look his brother,
“It just might work.”
TO CHAPTER 6 >