Authors: Nicodemus Zamoran and DreadnoughtDT
Leo: The Passing
Leo leaned against the wall of the building, surveying the crowds of people that poured from the various buildings. In the span of a thousand years, the kingdom of Bayers gained the knowledge of technology. Now, there was just about everything from guns to transportation. Leo didn’t like the technology, but not even he could stop the advance of humanity. He sighed. “Storm… My time is coming to an end…” He said to the armored Sergal beside him.
Storm looked at Leo. He'd been dreading this moment for a thousand years, but he knew it had to happen eventually. "I understand." He said, knowing full-well his friend was about to pass on from this world. "You did so much good in your life. When you leave, it will be as a hero."
“Thank you, my friend. It has been a pleasure fighting alongside you.” Leo said, smiling.
"No, thank you." Storm said, smiling and fidgeting a bit. "I mean, after all, without you, I'd probably be dead a thousand times over."
“That was only the first ten years, while I was teaching you the basics alongside your mother.” Leo said. “It is too bad she has passed on… She was a valiant warrior in her prime.” Leo smiled as he remembered the battles they had fought together.
Storm looked down, the shadow from his helmet covering his eyes. "Yeah..." Was all he could muster at the painful memories of her funeral. She had been properly mourned, but the memory still caused him pain.
“Do not be sad. We will be reunited with her in the afterlife.” Leo said, placing his hand on Storms shoulder.
Storm nodded. "That, my friend, is very true." He said, taking a deep breath.
Leo smiled. “Come, we must pull our minds away from the sorrowful thoughts. I hear that the Southerners are uprising again. What say you we pay a visit to them and save the trouble of a battle?”
"Again?" Storm said, standing upright, using his halberd as balance. "They never learn. One of these days were probably going to wipe them off the face of this planet..."
“They will learn when few remain alive. It is probably the only way.” Leo said, pushing off from the wall and grabbing the long katana at his side. “But then again, they may not learn, no matter how few they become.”
"Lately they've been sending diplomats." Storm said, remembering the two that had been there that morning. "But the Northerners reject all their advances. I think it may be us who's being too stubborn."
“Diplomats? And why is it that this is the first I am hearing of them?” Leo asked.
"I thought you knew." Storm said, looking a bit uneasy.
“Then we should discuss this with the Northern clan leaders later. Right now, we need to stop that uprising.” Leo said, walking for the edge of town.
"Right." Storm said, placing his halberd along his back. As he did so, his fingers brushed along the hilt of Leo's sword that he gave him, and he was flooded with memories. He smiled and gripped the hilt. This would be it's first use in a long time.
The two walked in silence for most of the way to the southern tribe, unaffected by the heat of day. Leo stopped suddenly, only mere miles away from the tribe. “Someone is following us.” He said in a low tone.
"Can you tell who?" Storm said, his voice so quiet he wasn't sure that Leo heard it.
Leo stabbed his sword into the ground to the left of him and turned the blade slowly. Eventually he stopped. The reflection of a cloaked being, standing still within the shadows, graced the blades edge. “No. They are wearing a cloak.” He said.
"Hopefully they aren't aware that we know of their existence." Storm said, gripping the hilt of his sword firmly.
Leo pulled his sword from the ground and started walking forward. “When we turn the corner, I will transport back some to catch him from behind. You stay at the corner and wait for him to try to follow. He won’t get away.” He said in a low tone.
"Alright." Storm said, walking with Leo. "Let's try not to kill him right away this time. Maybe we can get some info out of him."
“Exactly what I was thinking.” Leo said with a slight smile.
"Great minds think alike." Storm said, smiling wryly.
They had reached the corner and turned. Leo glanced briefly at Storm and nodded, vanishing a split second later. From around the corner, the slightest sound of footsteps came, barely loud enough for Storm to hear.
Storm braced himself, ready to tackle whomever was coming around the corner. He only had one chance to catch him off guard.
The cloaked figure stepped around the corner and stopped suddenly, staring at Storm as it’s cloak swirled around it’s body.
Storm jumped forward, tackling the cloaked figure to the ground. "Gotcha." Storm said calmly as he held the figure's limbs down.
Miraculously, the hood never fell off, but the figure spoke. “Stop.” It said. “If you do not release me, death will be upon you.”
"By who?" Storm said. If he was squeezing stones, he didn't care. He needed to get as much info as he can.
“By the Builder.” It said quietly.
“The builder?” Leo said, stepping up to them. “He’s just a myth.”
"Builder?" Storm echoed. "Fairy tales and spun rainbows. There's no such thing."
“He’s real all right.” The figure said. “Not even death could defeat his technological advances.”
“Death is unaffected by technology.” Leo said. “And death comes for who it wishes.”
“He’s real.” The figure said, then yanked an arm free. With it, he pulled his hood back, revealing a face, part skin, part metal. “I am proof.”
It was all Storm could do to not jump back. The metallic clashed horribly with his flesh, making him look like some kind of beast.
The cybernetic man smiled, his semi metallic face barely moving, but moving nonetheless. “The builder saved me, and he saved Him.” He said, deviousness in his tone. “He nearly got your mother, but somehow, she survived. He’s coming for you.”
Storm's lip twitched. "You can't mean him... He was driven away years ago. Right Leo?" He said, looking at his friend for desperate encouragement.
Leo had a dark look upon his face. “He was driven to his death by Rain, but we were not near him when breathed he his last breath.”
Storm looked back at the man. The initial shock was gone. Now he had to restrain himself from beating the cyborg to death here and now.
“He will kill you. This time, there is no escape from death.” The man said.
In that split second, something snapped in Storm's brain. He let loose a Sergalian battle cry and slammed his fist hard into the fleshy side of the man's neck.
The man clutched at his neck while yanking his other arm free. “Your death is coming.” He managed to cough out as he grabbed Storms wrist and started to squeeze.
Storm yelled as surges of pain scorched through his arm as the bones of his wrist warped, threatening to break at any moment. He drew his other arm up and again hit the man's neck, harder this time.
The man let out an electronic scream as the human part of his neck collapsed in on itself, but he did not relinquish his grip. A moment later, the pressure subsided as Leo cut the arm off at the wrist.
Storm jumped back, nursing his throbbing wrist. He grabbed his sword with his good hand and brandished it. "That's it." He said darkly, his fangs bared.
Leo placed his hand on Storm’s shoulder. “Stop.” He said quietly. “Watch him.”
The man, now missing an arm and sporting a collapsed neck, twitched some. It seemed that there had been more damage done that originally thought because there was a huge gash in it’s chest, revealing frayed and cut wires, and some now lifeless organs.
"I would run if I were you." Storm said. "I will give you only this one chance to keep your wretched life."
The man twitched again, then collapsed onto the ground. “It seems that my attack did more damage than I anticipated.” Leo said.
Storm sheathed his sword to examine the man's corpse. "Yeah, you did. You severed this, right here..." Storm said, pointing to a red and white striped cable. "That was the power output from the generator. Now the lights are on, but nobody's home."
“Yeah…’ Leo said. “But whoever he is, he just proved the existence of the Builder. It should be impossible, but here is the proof.”
"It's sickening..." Storm muttered as he stood back up. "Who in their right mind would have something like this willingly done to them?"
“When faced with death, all choices are open.” Leo said.
"That is true..." Storm said. "I guess some people are just afraid to pass on..." He shook his head. "What do we do now? Quell that uprising, or find the Builder?"
“The uprising can wait until later. If this Builder has indeed revived Him, then who knows what other enemies he has revived as well.” Leo said lowly.
"The scribes tell tales that the Builder will take any job, no matter how dirty or pure." Storm said with a hint of darkness in his voice. "Good thing Sergals like my mother can stop themselves from fearing death..."
“Our only clue to finding the Builder is him.” Leo said, indicating the dead cyborg. “Let us take him to Hal. She will surely be able to help.”
Storm nodded and, with a disgusted look on his face, picked up the body. He had always had a hidden fear of dead things, but he didn't like to let it on to friends.
The two left the street, entering the dark maze of alleyways. Deep within, the home of Hal resided. Hal had been in the Great War between the Daktors, a vampiric race, and the Humans. During the battle, she had been in an explosion. Miraculously, she survived, but lost her left leg. It was believed she would never walk again. One day, however, she figured out how to bind metal and flesh to create new limbs made of technology. She was the first, and one of the best, experts on cybernetics.
Storm sighed, looking at Hal's home. "Cozy..." He said in a slightly sarcastic tone.
“The inside isn’t much better.” Leo said. He was indeed right, for inside, cybernetic equipment and robotic limbs hung upon the walls, the foyer of her home doubling as a workroom. Hal herself stood at one of the desks scattered around the room, working on a brand new cybernetic arm. She was always working when Leo came to visit. This was, however, Storms first time within her home. “Hal.”
Hal raised her head, her dirty blond hair cropped short, and turned around. She had startling green eyes and wore a dark sleeveless tank top, one grayish-silver fingerless glove on her left hand, and some ragged blue jeans, plus some black tennis shoes. She smiled. “Leo!” She cried with a smile, and ran to hug him. “It’s been a while.” Leo had been the one to save Hal from death, and the two had become great friends. “Hey Storm.” She said, glancing at the body that he held, not noticing the cybernetics of it.
“Indeed. But today, I’m here on business.” Leo said. “Earlier today, we came across something that would be of interest of you.”
Storm dropped the body on a nearby, empty table. "We need you to examine him." He said, looking at Hal with pleading eyes.
Hal paused for a moment. “Sure, sure.” She said, quietly, then turned to the body. As she bent over the corpse, she removed the clothing from the torso and gasped. “A mechanical heart! And lungs! This man is practically made from machines. Where did you find him?” Hal asked, quickly getting some tools and opening the chest cavity wider, her slender hands moving through the circuitry.
"He attacked us." Storm said dryly. "He found us."
Hal continued to examine the body. “A living cybernetic being… This is amazing. I have been working for years on perfecting such a thing.” She stopped suddenly and leaned closer to the body, holding a jewelers loop to her eye as she examined the arteries. “Nanite cells instead of blood cells… It actually works.”
“That’s not all.” Leo said. “The Builder exists.”
Hal looked up sharply. “That’s not possible.”
Storm shook his head. "Entirely possible. The only one who could do something like this is the Builder." There was no doubt in his mind that it was him. "Either it's the Builder, or a really good imitator."
“The Builder… cannot have possibly done this.” Hal said quietly, her eyes wide.
"It's not that hard to believe." Storm said. "If someone wants to live longer, just have their body be replaced with artificial components that can be easily replaced." He added. "If you ask me... People shouldn't be allowed to live past their life expectancy unless it's mandatory."
Hal took a deep breath. “That’s not what I mean.” She said as she turned around. “Ten years ago, I met the old builder, and he taught me all that he knew and… passed on the title of the Builder…” Hal turned to face Leo and Storm again, “to me.”
Leo started. “You are the Builder?” he asked in a distant voice.
Hal nodded slowly. “Since the day I became the Builder, I vowed to keep the knowledge a secret…”
"That means that the one this man was talking about is a fake..." Storm said, the knowledge hitting him like a ton of bricks.
“It can’t be a fake… Only a Builder could have done this… but it can’t be…” Hal muttered the last part.
"Then it's the original?" Storm asked, feeling slightly lost.
“No. He’s long dead… But you are close… The previous Builder told me about one of their kind named Adrian… He was different from the others. He did bizarre experiments. Experiments that had been forbidden in the Book of the Craftsmen, and before his master died, he exiled Adrian and appointed a new Builder.” Hal said.
"Guess he didn't get the hint." Storm growled, gripping his spear.
“I agree.” Leo said thoughtfully.
“Listen, if he’s doing this, he’s probably doing the forbidden experiments. You’ve got to stop him before he does something that…” Hal hesitated.
“Hal?” Leo asked cautiously.
“Before he creates the Black Cyborg…” She finished.
"Sounds like your average doomsday weapon to me..." Storm said softly. "Don't worry, Hal. We can get rid of him. Right Leo?" He looked at Leo, smiling. "One more mission for the storybooks."
Leo nodded. “Of course.”
“Before you go…” Hal said, walking to a panel in the wall and placing her hand on it. A blue light flitted across the surface and a hiss was heard. The panel opened to reveal a medallion hanging from a small hook. She took the medallion and walked to Leo, placing the item in his hands. “This is the crest of the Builders. Look for it.”
“I will.” Leo replied.
"So, where should we start looking?" Storm asked Hal.
“Try the Cathedral in the old part of the city. That is where all the new Builders are ever found. People say it’s haunted these days, but due to its… strange history… I suggest you try it.” Hal said.
Storm looked Leo in the eye. "Time to go, then." He said.
“Agreed.” Leo replied. As he turned to leave, he hesitated, then looked over his shoulder. “Your secret is safe with us.” He said, then walked out the door, Storm right behind him.
Hal closed the door slowly and turned around, leaning against it, a tired look on her face. “Be careful…” She whispered.
"So, the cathedral..." Storm muttered. "Why is it always the big, dark places...?"
“Because they are the last place anyone wants to go.” Leo replied, walking forward calmly.
"I hate it when you're right." Storm said jokingly as he followed Leo. "But you have a point."
Leo pulled out the medallion that Hal had given him. The platinum treasure in his hand was in the shape of a gear with an ancient language carved into it, the chain it hung upon I bright silver. “It’s amazing how some people still can surprise you.” He said.
"That is very true." Storm agreed. He looked at the medallion. "Can you read what it says?" He asked.
Leo shook his head. “Unfortunately, no. I have never seen his language before.”
"It does look rather strange." Storm said thoughtfully. "Almost as if something other than human wrote it.”
Leo ran his fingers over the markings. “You’d be surprised what humans have done.” He said in a low voice.
"After what I've seen..." Storm began. "I don't need to finish that, do I?"
“Not at all.” Leo replied.
"I thought so." Storm said, with finality.
The two walked for a few hours until they reached the old part of the town. Abandoned and decrepit, all was silent. Not even the birds roamed here.
"It's really quiet..." Storm muttered, afraid to break the silence.
“Perhaps a little too quiet.” Leo said.
"Don't say that." Storm hissed. "Bad things always happen when you do. I should know. You do it often."
Leo looked at Storm. “Do I really?” He asked quietly.
"More than you'd think." Storm said.
“Hm.” Leo faced forward again, a thoughtful look on his face.
"That's something to ponder after this is over." Storm said, fists curled. "Let's go!"
“Calm down, Storm. Where here.” Leo said, indicating the old cathedral that they now stood in front.
"Uh... Right." Storm said, slightly embarrassed. "It's just that I hate that this man is doing this to people..."
“Come on. We’ve got some work to do.” Leo said, patting Storm on the shoulder as he walked toward the doors of the grand old cathedral. The oaken doors opened slowly, creaking loudly. The place seemed deserted save for what looked like a monk sitting in one of the old pews.
"So... You've arrived..." The cloaked man said, standing up and turning towards the pair of heroes. His hood covered his face in shadow, and his cloak hid all his extremities.
“And who might you be that you have been expecting us?” Leo said, drawing his long katana.
"Not someone you'd know." The man said calmly. "I am acquainted with the hero, Adrian."
"Hero... Feh." Storm said darkly.
“So you work for Adrian. He’s a menace. Tell us where he is.” Leo demanded.
"He's the one that kept me from death when I was ravaged beyond repair!" The man shouted, his voice turning inhuman. "He kept me alive... And I'll never tell you where he is!"
Leo smiled slightly. “Storm, how long do you think he will last?” He inquired.
"Not long." Storm said confidently. "He looks like he can barely stand."
The man growled and straightened up. "You'll regret that choice of words." He spat, and with a flick of his arm he extended a triple-clawed arm at the duo.
Leo stepped forward a few steps, glancing up at the unstable rafters holding up the building. “Hey Storm. Remember what your mother always told you?”
"Do whatever's unexpected!" Storm yelled, running straight forward and bashing the cloaked man's claw out of the way with his spear.
Leo smiled, charging forward. In a second, his sword was at the cloaked man’s throat. “Tell us something, stranger. What is your name?”
"Ray..." The man growled.
"That name sounds familiar..." Storm muttered, his brain working in high gear.
“There is only one man I know had that name… but that’s impossible.” Leo said thoughtfully.
"Perhaps my full name will be of more help." Ray said, jumping directly backwards. "Ray Foroaza."
Leo froze. “You…” He said, then suddenly charged at Ray. “You raped Rain!” He slashed at Ray ferociously.
Ray ducked just in time to miss one of the slashes, but the tip of Leo's sword tore his hood, revealing a rather disturbing sight. Ray's face was horridly disfigured, covered in scars. His lower jaw was entirely mechanical, and there was a telescopic lens in place of his left eye. "So what if I did?" He said darkly. "She ignored all my advances, I had no choice."
Storm roared and grabbed Ray by the throat before he had a chance to react. "You hurt my mother!" He screamed, throwing Ray into the wall.
Leo placed his sword against Ray’s throat again. “Rain was Storm’s mother, and a close friend of mine. We do not tolerate such acts of cruelty as rape.”
Ray gulped. "Wait, if Rain is Storm's mother..." He looked at Storm. "Then that means..."
“Precisely.” Leo said.
"Oh my god..." Ray gasped.
"Yeah. Now you're sorry." Storm muttered.
“So, care to tell us where Adrian is now? If you do it now, you may actually survive. Again.” Leo said.
"Oh, I'll gladly tell you where he is." Ray said, his voice filling with anger. "I'll tell you where he is, and then I'll come with you and fight alongside you." He said, gritting his teeth.
Leo lowered his sword. “What?” He inquired.
"He tricked me!" Ray growled. "He told me you two were accomplices of darkness, and that he told me he'd save me if I agreed to fight you."
Leo looked at Storm. “Should we trust him?” He asked.
"He seems legitimately angry..." Storm said. "But at the first sign of traitorism, we throw him out the nearest window."
“Agreed.” Leo said.
Ray sighed. "I'm glad to have such trusting allies..." He said sarcastically.
Leo turned to Ray. “So, where is Adrian?”
"The east tower." Ray said, pointing to a door to his left. He tore off his cloak, revealing his scarred and half metal body. His left half was almost entirely mechanical, with only a few bits of flesh showing through the metal. His legs seemed to have extra muscle added to them, but were overall still organic. His right half was mostly organic as well, with only a few metal bands on his wrist. "I was getting tired of that damned cloak." He muttered.
“Well, now that you’re ready, let’s go. It is time to put a stop to Adrian.” Leo said, walking toward the indicated door.
"With pleasure." Ray said darkly.
Storm holstered his spear on his back and unsheathed Leo's old sword. "Justice shall be served..." He muttered, following Leo.
Leo opened the door quietly, sheathing his sword, the claw gleaming as he climbed the stairs leading to the top of the tower.
"He should be right here..." Ray whispered in his half metallic voice.
Leo nodded as they ascended. At the top, Leo halted. The door looked old, but upon closer scrutiny, revealed that the wood was made to look old. The door was strengthened by heavy metal bars, and the doorframe was metal painted to be stone. “He seems to really like his privacy.” Leo said under his breath, hardly loud enough for the others to hear.
"Privacy that shall be breached." Ray said, clicking the three claws of his extendable arm together.
“Of cour-“ Leo began, but stopped as the door opened slowly.
Ray and Storm exchanged glances. "Doesn't exactly seem inviting..." Storm said softly.
“Do come in.” Said a voice from within the room. “I’ve been expecting you.”
Leo glanced at the others and entered cautiously. The room was crammed full of technology, but Adrian was nowhere to be seen. “Show yourself!”
“Ah, Leo. You seem ever so angry today. Whatever is the matter?” Adrian said, his voice seeming to come from everywhere at once.
"You tricked me, you bastard!" Ray yelled as he stepped into the room.
"Careful..." Storm soothed him.
“Ah, Ray. You’ve betrayed me. Do you not remember our arrangement? You fight for me, and you live. Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.” Adrian said.
"It was a false arrangement." Ray ground out. "You twisted the truth, and told me lies!" He shouted.
“Our arrangement was founded on one thing. Your life for your service. Now, you have broken that arrangement. I hope you are prepared for death.” Adrian said.
"If that's what it takes to bring you to justice, so be it..." Ray said quietly.
"And at the best outcome, you won't die." Storm added.
“You can’t kill anyone if you don’t even show yourself.” Leo said, his clawed hand clenching.
“Oh, I never said I would kill him.” Adrian said laughing. A high pitched sound suddenly coursed through the air.
Ray clutched his head and screamed for a moment, falling to his knees. When he stood back up again, his eyes were entirely blank. He took a sword from the rack to his left and turned it towards him, ready to pierce himself through the chest.
Leo looked at Ray for a second, wondering what was wrong before he realized what Adrian was doing. He zipped forward, grabbing hold of Ray’s arms, trying to prevent him from killing himself. “Storm! Find Adrian! I’ll try to keep Ray alive.”
Storm nodded. "Got it." He started walking around the room. "All this stuff looks pretty expensive." He said casually, and grabbed a gem-like object. He threw it into the air and sliced it apart. "Oops. What an accident." He said tauntingly.
“The Zarconian gem. It is a hard item to destroy, but when destroyed,” Adrian chuckled, “the gem makes quite the contained explosion.”
"Say WHAT?!" Storm yelled. Sure enough, the gem was starting to hum. He kicked the bits away and jumped behind a sturdy looking shelf. "Leo! Get down NOW! And drag Ray with you!" He yelled.
Leo dived behind a nearby shelf, doing what he was told and pulling Ray along with him, just as the gem exploded. About a fourth of the room was demolished. Leo whistled. “You keep that just lying around?”
Adrian laughed, still nowhere to be seen, although now his voice didn’t come from the demolished part of the room at all. “I have many. I have them for just an occasion as this.”
"You're not in here, are you?" Storm growled. "You gave Ray even more false information, to lead us here."
“Bravo, bravo. I was wondering how long it would take you to figure it out.” Adrian said, the speakers being shut down until the one nearest the two was the only one working.
"Do you take us for fools?" Storm said dryly.
“Fools? No no. Of course not. I think of you as…” Adrian paused for a second. “Lab mice.”
"Bastard..." Ray ground out, still unable to move of his own accord.
“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to kill you now. You see, I can’t let you leave here alive. Surely you understand.” Adrian said, the sounds of keys being pressed audible through the speaker.
"Understand... Feh." Storm said indignantly. "Where are you REALLY? I mean, if we're going to die, you might as well tell us." Storm asked, trying to get a little bit more information out of Adrian.
Adrian laughed. “You cannot fool me, Storm. The moment I tell you where I reside, you will proceed to hunt me down and attempt to kill me.”
“At least you get the general idea of it.” Leo said.
"Fine, don't tell us." Storm said, turning to leave the room. "C'mon, Leo. Let's look elsewhere."
Leo stood up, dragging Ray with him. “We’ll find you Adrian. You won’t be able to stop us.”
“That, Leo, is quite wrong. You see, when I said I cannot let you leave alive, I truly meant it.” A whirring sound started to come from one of the piles of technology and a robotic being arose. “Do you actually think that I would not keep at least a bodyguard?”
"Oh, come on!" Storm shouted. "I am NOT in the mood!"
The robot held its arms out to its side and laser blades formed. “It’s a marvelous piece of technology. It responds only to my commands, and it has the best of mechanical engineering.” Adrian said as the robot advanced a few steps.
"At least it's not as ugly as that clunker you sent to fight us before..." Storm muttered.
Ray growled and, with all his might, extended his clawed arm at the robot and struck a glancing blow on its head. "You can't control me... So... Easily..." He said slowly.
The robot staggered for a second, but then turned its head to face Ray. It advanced a few steps and then thrust his blades into Ray’s chest. “Too bad you had to betray me, Ray. You could have been a marvelous ally.” Adrian said, contempt in his voice.
Storm kicked the robot in the head with both feet, sending it into the wall. He crouched over Ray. One wound bled, the other wound sparked slightly. His eyes had gone dim. "Ray... You'll be okay, I promise. Just hang in there..."
The robot, only slightly dinged up, stood once more and advanced on the two. “How touching.” Adrian said. “It’s a shame you shall die without seeing your mother again.”
Storm looked at Leo. "Keep Ray alive as long as you can." He said softly. "I'll hold off this tin can."
Leo shook his head. “No, you go. I’ve still got my ace in the hole.” He said, his eyes flashing a fiery red for a few seconds.
"Alright..." Storm said, taking Ray in his arms. "Do you think Hal can fix him?" He asked.
Leo faced the robot. "I know so. She is, after all, the true Builder."
"Right." Storm said. "Good luck..." He muttered, then started walking out of the room.
At that moment, the door slammed violently, the sounds of locking mechanisms clearly heard as the door sealed itself. “Leaving so soon? Come now, don’t be that way. After all, as the host, I haven’t even given the speech yet.” Adrian called out, humor clear in his voice.
Leo looked to the door. “Adrian, I think it’s time to end this.” He said, flames slowly traveling up his body, becoming black armor. A blood red katana appeared in his hand in a gout of fire. “It is my sworn duty to protect others, and that is what I will do.”
“Ah, the strange power that saved you from death all those years ago. It would be a shame to see it go to waste. But, as it is, I cannot let you live, as I have said before.” Adrian said.
The blade of the katana turned white as Leo gripped the sword tightly, facing the robot advancing on him. “You do not scare me, Adrian. Somewhere, you are sitting, watching, listening, comfortably. You should be the one to be afraid.”
"I'd listen to him, Adrian." Storm said darkly. "Your days are numbered."
"Thank you..." Ray mumbled, barely alive.
Adrian chuckled. “My days are numbered, just as everyone else’s days are, yes, but I have one thing that the others do not possess.”
"And that is?" Storm growled.
“The Black Cyborg.” Adrian said quietly.
"Completed?!" Storm said, his blood turning to ice.
“For three days now.” Adrian boasted.
"Damn, we were off by a long shot..." Storm muttered. "Leo, what do we do now?"
Leo cracked his neck. “It’s time to do what we do best.” He charged forward, slicing cleanly through the robot in front of him. “Do whatever it takes to stop the enemy.”
"Says the guy who doesn't have a dead weight in his arms." Storm growled.
"I heard that..." Ray gurgled. "And I'm more than dead... Augh!" He clutched his chest and coughed up a bit of blood.
“That dead weight is more our bloodhound than anything else at the moment.” Leo located the final working speaker and yanked it from its resting place, then tossed it to Ray. “You’ve got the technology to find where this is transmitting to.”
"Certainly..." Ray said. He held the speaker to his mechanical eye and a laser scanned over it. "The... Basement..." He said slowly.
Leo walked to the door. “Then I guess we are going down.” He said, slashing at the obstacle. His sword cut cleanly through it, and in a few moments, blocked the group no longer.
"I'm sorry I can't be of more help..." Ray said, still clutching his chest. "If I could... I'd tear that Adrian to pieces...!" His voice strained at the last word as his face contorted in pain.
Leo turned to look at Ray. “Calm yourself… You will make it out of here.”
“Of course, with a little help from me.” Said a voice from the stairwell. Standing in the doorway was Hal. “I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should come to lend any help I could.”
"How convenient." Storm said. "The broken Sergal you see in my arms is my father..." He added softly.
Hal walked to the two. “Hmmm… Here, let me take care of him. I’ll repair him. Just go and stop Adrian.”
"Just make sure he doesn't leave." Storm said as he handed Ray to Hal. "I want to... Well, get to know him."
Hal nodded. “Be careful.” She said.
"We will." Storm said, turning to Leo.
“Shall we?” Leo asked, the black armor fading.
"We shall." Storm said darkly. He looked at Ray. "Where's the entrance to the basement?"
"Over there..." Ray croaked, pointing to a small, out of the way looking door.
“Thank you, Ray. We’ll be back.” Leo said, turning towards the door.
"I promise I won't leave you." Storm said, following Leo.
The two descended into the basement, the large underground room littered with dead bodies as well as unmoving robotic bodies. In a chair sat a man wearing a cloak. “Ah, so you have finally come.” He waved about the room. “Welcome to my sanctuary.”
"It will also be your tomb." Storm said blackly, baring his fangs at Adrian.
“That, Storm, is perfectly true. About my body alone.” Adrian said.
“What are you getting at.” Leo said.
“Do you wish to know what the Black Cyborg really is?” Adrian inquired.
"Not really, but like all villains, you'll probably tell us anyway." Storm bit out.
“You’ve already seen one. The robot in the tower was merely a prototype. It is only created when one successfully transfers the mind from the body to a fully cybernetic body.” Adrian said, completely ignoring Storm. “The full potential of such a being is beyond your comprehension.”
"Are you the Black Cyborg incarnate?" Storm asked, glancing over to Leo, who seemed calm.
The gleam of silver teeth shone from beneath the good in the shape of a grin. “Quite the perceptive one, aren’t you? Yes, I am the perfect Black Cyborg.” Adrian said, standing up. “I feel invigorated, powerful!” He lifted his arms into the air, hands open. “I feel undefeatable!”
“You seem positively confident to place your life on the line like that.” Leo said, a slight smile on his face.
"As are all villains." Storm said. "But before we fight, I must ask you one question, Adrian."
Adrian laughed. “Stating that you must ask a question is as useless as trying to blow me down. Just ask!”
"Why my father?" Storm asked, his voice growling.
“He was desperate to live that he would do just about anything to thwart death. I could use that to finish the Black Cyborg project. You see, he had to bring me subjects to experiment on. He brought me many subjects, as you can very well see.” Adrian said, waving about the room, indicating the various dead bodies. “The robot you fought was the first one to successfully become a Black Cyborg.”
"You preyed on his weaknesses..." Storm growled. "I can't forgive you for that! He may have done something wrong in his past, but that doesn't make him a bad person! You had no right to trick him like that!"
“Oh, I had every right to. After all, I am the Builder.” Adrian said with a chuckle.
“Your master rejected you, Adrian. We know full well who you are. You see, we know who the true Builder is.” Leo said.
“Wh- What? The True Builder??” Adrian said, startled.
"Fallacious warlock... That's all you are! The true Builder is someone close to us. You are nothing but a fake." Storm said, his eyes seething.
“You pretentious brat! I think it’s time for you to learn what you are dealing with!” Adrian said angrily, advancing a few steps.
"No, it's time for you to learn what you are dealing with!" Storm said, gesturing to Leo.
Leo looked at Storm. “Are you ready to end this?”
"I was born for this." Storm said, literally meaning it.
Leo smiled, turning to face Adrian. “It’s about time that your death has arrived.”
“My death?” Adrian said, laughing. “Now that I am the Black Cyborg, I won’t die!” He started to advance on the two, tearing off his cloak, revealing the heavily cybernetic body beneath. The metal was dark, almost black, and the only place where flesh even existed was part of the face, but only half seemed human. The rest was machine.
"Don't you think that's a bit much?" Storm said in a snarky tone.
“Insolent fool! I will not tolerate your insults any longer!” Adrian roared, charging forward with lightning speed. In a second, he had knocked Leo into the wall, cracks radiating from the impact point, and kicked Storm in the chest.
Storm sputtered as he flew back, his chestplate cracking in two. His back slammed into the wall, breaking his shoulder armor. He gripped his spear tightly and threw it, aiming for Adrian's head.
Adrian caught the spear in midair and grasped it in both hands. In a second, he had broken it in two pieces with as much ease as tearing a piece of paper. As he tossed the pieces aside, he advanced on Storm. “Such a simple fight. A pity this can’t last any longer.” He said, a manic gleam in his robotic eyes. As Adrian spoke, Leo moved stealthily behind him and attempted to slash at him with his clawed hand, but Adrian turned quickly and grasped his arm. “You are terrible at sneaking, Leo. I can hear you a mile away!”
“That was the point.” Leo said, grinning.
"That spear'll cost you!" Storm yelled, unsheathing Leo's old sword and thrusting it towards Adrian.
Adrian sidestepped Storm, tossing Leo across the room. He turned and grabbed Storm by the throat, lifting him into the air. “And your foolishness will cost you.” He said, grabbing Storms arm and forcing him to thrust the sword into himself. “Maybe next time, if there ever is one, you will think before taking on a fully powered Black Cyborg.”
"You mistake foolishness for bravery..." Storm spat.
Adrian pulled Storm close. “Bravery is only a concept.” He said in a low voice, then threw him to the wall.
“You… Bastard!” Leo cried, running to help Storm. The wound, however, was too terrible. “Storm, hold on. I won’t let you die.”
"I don't think I'm gonna make it, Leo..." Storm mumbled softly, his eyes blank.
“Don’t say that. You’re going to be just fine.” Leo said. He stood slowly and turned to face Adrian. “You have made a big mistake.”
“Oh, I have, have I? It’s not like you can defeat me now that your little friend is dead.” Adrian said, malevolence in his tone.
Leo stared coldly at Adrian. “Death is not the end for him.” He said lowly, then turned and a barrier formed over him and Storm. He crouched down and placed a hand on Storm’s chest. “Storm, valiant fighter, brave Sergal, I grant you a second chance. I pass my title of the Lord of Weapons to you, along with the powers that it entails. Rise once more and fight with renewed strength!” Leo said, his hand glowing brightly. As the glow diminished, Storm’s wound healed and Leo leaned against the wall, drained, and the barrier fell. “My time has come…”
Storm's eyes seemed to burn with fury. He stood up and stared deep into Adrian's single human eye. "Your time is measured in mere minutes, ‘Builder’." He said darkly.
Adrian stepped back, startled. “Alive and unharmed? Impossible! This must be a hallucination, a projections! Leo, you fail to trick me.” He said, glaring at Leo.
Leo laughed weekly. “This is no trick, Adrian. Storm has been reborn!”
"And like a phoenix, I will crush you with my flames!" Storm yelled, grabbing his sword and yanking it out of his chest.
Fear flickered in Adrian’s eyes, but when he spoke, he was as confident as ever. “You are still no match for me!” He screamed, charging forward, sparks flickering across his fingers.
"Mere sparks?" Storm said darkly, a ball of flame appearing in his hand, and a ball of darkness appearing in the other. "Try this instead." He said, and threw them both at Adrian.
The balls struck Adrian with so much force, that he was thrown into, and through, the wall, striking the ground behind it with an audible crash. His armor was dented and slightly melted, and even missing in some places. He got up slowly, his joints moving erratically, wires the wiring having been damaged in the assault. “How… How could this happen?” Adrian forced out, his voice now mechanical and full of static.
"Overconfidence begets evil. Evil begets a downfall." Storm explained. "There is no mercy for your kind."
Adrian stared at Storm, fury in his eyes. “You… Why won’t you just die!?!” He cried angrily, sparks dancing across his chest, the metal cracking further.
"I won't die because I have a purpose." Storm growled, grabbing Adrian's head and lifting him up off the ground. "But your purpose has come to an end."
Adrian struggled, attempting to grab Storm’s arms, but he could barely control his arms. In the end, he fell limp. "If I cannot win, I will ensure that we all die." He said in a low voice and a small glow appeared in the center of his chest. From within his body came a mechanical hum and the glow brightened.
“Storm! You need to form a barrier around the body!” Leo called from over on the wall, his voice just loud enough for Storm to hear.
Storm squeezed and crushed Adrian's head, letting the body drop. He raised his hand and formed a barrier of darkness around the body, then formed a second barrier of flame and wrapped it around the first one. He backed off to Leo's side, ready to start running if this didn't work.
Leo placed a hand on Storm's arm as Adrian's body detonated, the two bariers holding easily. "You have forgotten one of the first rules of battle. Believe in your ability." Leo said quietly. "Never forget it. Now, I must go. My time has come, and your new life has just begun."
Storm knelt down, face to face with Leo. "Your life was served well." He said, taking Leo's hand and placing it on his old sword. "Know that much."
Leo smiled. “Thank you, Storm. You are, and forever shall be, like family to me.” He said, meaning every word. “Be strong. Remember, death is only the beginning.” With those final words, Leo faded into flames, leaving nothing left but a sense of joy.
"And a beginning has no end." Storm agreed to the nothingness. Taking a deep breath, he exited the room, walked up the stairs, and met Hal.
Hal nearly ran into Storm in her haste. “Oh, Storm. Ray will be fine. Where’s Leo?”
Storm said nothing and merely shook his head. He didn't feel like talking about his best friend's death.
Hal looked deep into Storm’s eyes and frowned, a sad look in her eyes. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” She said, her voice low, sorrow just breaking the surface.
"Sacrificed himself to save me..." Storm said softly.
Hal placed a hand on Storm’s shoulder. “He loved you very much. He’d have given anything in the world just so that you would be happy. Don’t let his death be in vain.”
"I won't." Storm said strongly. "He'd want it that way." He looked out at the sky. "Let's go back. I want to see Ray again."
Hal nodded, turning and started up the stairs with Storm in tow.
"I wish my mother was here to see this..." Storm said to no one in particular. "She'd be proud of me..."
Hal looked at Storm. “She is. She has been very proud of you. Just as much as she loves you.”
"Is? As in, present tense?" Storm said, slightly confused. "I think you're speaking incorrectly.”
“Well…” Hal said, slightly nervous. “It’s best if you see for yourself.” She opened the door to the tower, revealing Ray laying on the floor, and in the corner stood Rain.
Storm's eyes went wide. "My... My god..." He sputtered, unable to speak.
“The Builders have been maintaining her for years, and, like them, so have I.” Hal said.
"Why didn't you tell me about her?" Storm asked, feeling slightly confused.
"I didn't want you to see me like this." Rain said, gesturing to the numerous cybernetic enhancements on her body.
"I see..." Storm said. He looked at Hal. "You didn't tell her who Ray is yet, right?" He whispered.
“She… already knows.” Hal said nervously. “She recognized him immediately.”
"Really?" Storm asked, surprised. "I would think with his disfigurements..."
"I heard that." Ray muttered under his breath.
“He maintained enough of his face for her to recognize.” Hal said with a slight smile. “Even though he is horribly disfigured.”
"I HEARD that!" Ray said, a bit louder this time.
"I would've knocked him out the moment I saw him." Rain said darkly. "But Hal convinced me not to after she told me he helped you."
"Good thing, too." Storm said, sitting down on a nearby chair. "I wouldn't like my father dying without my permission."
"Oh, now I need your permission?" Ray said sarcastically.
Storm got up and, impulsively, embraced his father. "Yeah, you do." He said softly.
Ray looked at Rain with an expression that seemed to read "help me". Rain sighed and pulled Storm off of his father. "I understand there are still those uprisers you need to discipline." She said.
"Right." Storm said, grabbing his sword and turning to the door. "Care to come with?"
Ray and Rain nodded at the same time. "Thought you'd never ask." Ray said, cracking his neck.
Hal placed a hand on Storm’s shoulder. “You mind if I come? I’ve been itching for a battle for ages.”
Storm raised an eyebrow. "Funny." He said. "I never saw you as the fighting type. But sure." He smiled, the black armor of the Lord of Weapons materializing on his body.
“You forgot that I was in the war.” Hal said, smiling energetically.
"That's right..." Storm said, feeling slightly embarrassed. "But whatever. That was then, this is now. Come on."
Hal smiled and started walking for the door. “Sure thing.”
"This ought to be fun." Storm said, exiting the tower.