A Moribund Hero
Leon struggled to keep stock of reality as he wandered through the mine shafts. The magic suffused on the rocks forced his mind into VR sessions of seamless, stark-white corridors. Drawing out different memories within his semantic storage.
No matter how far he thought he ran, he wounded back at the antechamber.
Realizing that he was getting nowhere, he sat down on the ground crossed-legged and closed his eyes. Slow breaths helped calm his excited blood vessels, which were running low on oxygen.
Footfalls disrupted his stillness, but he didn't move.
An embodiment of mankind's abject failure on two legs. An abstract masterpiece for Death.
The footfalls stopped.
Leon felt a breath warm on his face. The only real aspect apart from himself.
Swiftly, he whipped out his handguns, aimed, and fired.
Glowing shards on the walls were shattered by his bullets. The antechamber's space became dull and honest. He opened his eyes and saw the truth of his surroundings.
"Marvelous!" A slick, deep, voice bellowed across the chamber.
Leon stifled a gasp when he saw a man standing before him. A handful of similar features upon first glance.
He glimpsed the edges of the poison-green skull and crossbones symbol tattooed on the man's bald head. Skin more ghostly white than his own, which showed a network of spindly black lines that ran up to his bloodshot eye; the left eye was natural, but the right one was a bronze mechanical monocle eye with a camera zoom lens. It glowed with iridescent blue light.
The man's opened black tunic, leather pants, steel boots, and carbonized pauldrons fitted around the bronze-silver mechanical parts of his skin and limbs. His hands were titanium skeleton bone laden with various colorful gems.
He held no weapons. Leon suspected he didn't need them, which was a great concern. No doubt that the man was a rogue biodefect of an adept warrior level.
"How does it feel to be Gaia's Champion?" The man's voice held a charm spell to subdue Leon's apprehension.
Leon upped the antitrust levels on his inbuilt firewall application to prevent captivation.
"How do you know about Our Mother?" He calmly docked his guns and stood eye to eye with him.
The man's black lips twitched with a grin. He punched Leon to make him fly into the far wall. Of course, Leon hadn't seen it coming, since the other's speed was greater.
Leon's hat rolled to the other side of the chamber. He coughed out blood as he scrambled to his knees.
He activated his inbuilt tissue adhesive ability to slow his bleeding and enabled his auxiliary pain system. However, his decision-making capacity was swiftly being reduced due to the rapid onset of oxygen deprivation. This impacted his first aid effects, keeping him immobile.
"Good biodefect. Stay there and listen, for I have a tale to tell." The man sighed and clicked his fingers.
Two preteen boys in white gowns entered to place a chair and footstool before him.
Leon's eyes widened with sadness at seeing their soulless eyes.
"Oh? Of course, you would remember these specimens of failure. Beautiful pieces of art, are they not?" The man smiled with an appreciation for the docile boys who stood expressionless at his sides.
He continued to explain their conditions. Both boys had recently undergone the semantic storage impacts and failed to be attuned to the artificial devices, rendering them void of the capacity and emotions to think for themselves. Only their body instincts to feed, sleep and obey had remained. Unfortunate specimens that were doomed to a vegetative state.
"About the same time you were traversing around Tallow's Border to keep House drones busy, my bandits were lightening the GCE's garbage load. We saved these beauties before they ended up in an incinerator." His eyes twinkled when he added. "Another man's trash is my treasure."
Leon's vision began to distort. He reached for his capsules in his belt pouch and had the canister taken from his hands.
"Hmm. Blood pills. I'll confiscate these." The man casually pocketed the item to leave Leon gasping on the ground. He was impressed at how well Leon was holding on to his senses.
"I'm so impressed with your strength, I shall tell you the tale about deities." The man returned to his seat and calmly fed a story into Leon's ears.