Chapter 19:

La Costa Mines [Pt.3]

A Moribund Hero

The mine corridors were strangely sterile. Clean natural copper, dark chalcocite, and chalcopyrite rock were held back by steel panels embossed with the [E] emblem and a star crown symbol. All was quiet until they stepped into the first antechamber.Bookmark here

Lucy had accidentally triggered a magic hex trap on the floor. Leon smelt the sulfur and pushed her out of the way when rocks crashed and crumbled down to separate him from the squad.Bookmark here

He scanned the rock wall to determine the condition of the others. His heart raced when he couldn't hear any sounds.Bookmark here

"Rabbit. Lucy. Wolf!" He channeled his voice on the chalcopyrite, so it was clearly transmitted via attuned vibrations.Bookmark here

"Brother." Rabbit coughed. She adjusted her strength settings to push the rocks off her legs. Fortunately, they weren't heavy to cause damage.Bookmark here

She instinctively started pulling rock from the partition, but she stopped when she sensed the wall pile would cave in and cause more harm.Bookmark here

"Singing rock loosens the wall and to remove is dangerous."Bookmark here

"Leave the mines. Either find another entry or help Squad43." Leon offered his suggestions. "I'll handle things here and find an exit. Any innocent survivors, I will help them out."Bookmark here

Wolf shuffled to his feet, helping Lucy to hers. "Lad, as much as I hate to leave yah in this situation. Nothing we can do at this point."Bookmark here

He added. "Don't die. We'll find a way to reach yah."Bookmark here

Leon heaved a sigh of relief when he sensed their exit and faced his way ahead.Bookmark here

He walked along winding steel panel corridors, which seamlessly connected and looped into each other. Although there was the odd tremor here and there to stir dust clouds over his hat, he didn't detect magic.Bookmark here

Glowing letters on the iron doors ahead made him pause.Bookmark here

Golden Warrior. Humanity's failure. Do you want to know the truth?Bookmark here

The letters faded from view. The ground quaked and began to split at his feet.Bookmark here

He fell through a fissure and as he was falling the scenery changed at the sound of a bell toll. This sound caused a sharp pain to his tempers and nape. Memories of his cadet life flipped through his mind to virtually simulate replays of the past reality.Bookmark here

All the virtual reality sessions were focused on his warrior training post 11 years of age; where the comradeship with ACE2 was replaced with social isolation within the main barracks. The barrack's rules were simple. Do not speak unless asked by a superior. Do not move unless ordered. Fight and win. Be the best to protect your fellow man.Bookmark here

His youth was battle training to be a machine. Any thoughts deemed impactful were removed from his semantic storage and natural memory banks during his downtime at his cot. His cot was a metal tray lined up on a shelf among hundreds of others. The barracks were shelves of sleeping trays rising to the roof. The headrest and footrest of each tray were connected to brain scanners and body information feeders. Cadets with the highest stats were slotted closest to the top. They were promised premium positions and biodroid enhancements upon graduation.Bookmark here

It's all a lie, isn't 426983ACE1?Bookmark here

The bell tolled.Bookmark here

Leon faced a memory of his first solo kill straight after his recovery from his semantic storage implant.Bookmark here

His superiors had tasked him to fight a cadet who had been unsuccessful in the semantic storage implant operation. The cadet had been programmed to be hostile and attack him with the purpose of drawing out his killer instinct. He killed him. Another eleven-year-old boy with the inability to think for himself. Leon hadn't stopped to consider the morality of the kill, for that sentiment had been suppressed.Bookmark here

They told you that the boy had died honorably to your brutality. Dying in battle is honorable. But nothing you did in that battle was, 426983ACE1, for the brain-dead boy was merely target practice.Bookmark here

Leon rapidly blinked and shook his head to trigger his inbuilt antivirus scanner.Bookmark here

Truth, 426983ACE1. Your true nature yearns to be death's heavy hand. The old peoples' faction is lying to you. They're afraid of your power, of your true nature as a killing machine.Bookmark here

His body slammed to the ground, which was cool to touch and smooth like polished stone. His eyes opened to an empty antechamber.Bookmark here

The virus scan finished without detecting anything untoward. The chalcopyrite and chalcocite walls had been magically enhanced for telepathic attacks. Telepathy was a high-level warrior skill. This placed his situation at a higher danger level.Bookmark here

He had to make sure the others didn't return to the mine.Bookmark here

It's too late, 426983ACE1. They're on their way.Bookmark here

Leon sighed. The best he could do was recover his strength and prepare to fight whatever came next, with the intention to reduce the odds of fatalities among his squad.Bookmark here

Hungry Sheep
You can resume reading from this paragraph.