A Moribund Hero
That night, Leon laid on his blankets, fully dressed to up and go at any time. His mind madly indexed and analyzed a recap of his previous day.
Unable to power down at the lights-out time, he quietly slipped on his hat and eased out of the cabin's opened window to catch a sight of the full moon on the chapel's roof at the bell cot.
His overcoat's hem flapped against his legs as he leaned on the bell cot's alcove wall. The moonlight reflected his lean shadow across the terracotta roof tiles, which absorbed his pattern into their unrefined texture. Another buried figure of darkness against the light.
He couldn't stop re-analyzing his moment with Vedas. Clearly a higher-level warrior than himself. His inbuilt body armor, titanium bones, and the ability for telepathy with mind-illusion were advanced.
Throughout his time in the main barracks, he had heard of the Elite Cadets, but had never encountered one in person. The elites were those golden warrior cadets who demonstrated the best aptitude and won the most bouts. They passed all the enhancement procedures, with perfect levels being one operation away from graduation. So, naturally, slept on the top shelves.
His low rank was too far below to encounter them. A cadet only trained with those of their shelf rank.
Fight hard. Win. You, too, can advance your level into the elite and better serve your people and country.
The advice his battle masters gave before pitting him against another of his shelf rank for promotion. He worked hard to make his number move up the rank leaderboards. But the highest level he could achieve was Shelf Rank 2500 across 8000 shelves.
Vedas was more powerful. The man's magic genetics were obviously high in abundance and flowed with better ease within his blood system to allow the elite powers. However, he hadn’t seen him use telekinesis, which was also the other elite magic. So, he wondered if Vedas had failed his final operation.
A frown creased his forehead. So many justifications for Vedas’s success circled his mind. They were negated by his promise to enrich, not deplete, life. Regardless of what cadet stage the man had achieved, he had to stop him from placing Yama’s power on the Almighty God Throne. Should that happen, Earth faced an era of death and darkness.
“It can’t happen.” He reconfirmed his answer.
A spark made his palm itch. He lowered his eyes to his gloved hand and removed it. A tiny red swelling formed a circle at his palm's center. The spark multiplied and gathered into a ball pattern. Magic light danced as tiny lightning bolts before his eyes.
He closed them and activated a command to disengage from the magic. It quietened the active cells. The lights faded and swelling was reduced, so his skin was cool to touch. He returned the glove to his hand. It seemed the magic was still assimilating with his blood, but he had it under his control.
However, the magic spark activated the bell cot ball drone. It lit up with a stripe of green lights on its surface. He activated a semi-transparent console with no backlight to avoid casting spotlights on the ground; initiated a few commands to return the device back to its sleep mode.
It wouldn't do well if Lucy and the others found out he had magic again, since it would place their squad in trouble. Once the magic had finished assimilation with his blood, it shouldn’t spark without command.
Natural moonlight was the only source of illumination on the roof again. Feeling the chill, he descended to the courtyard.
The barn's single side door opened and closed. Lucy stumbled out looking bleary-eyed. She had been working on Bessy the entire day and night. Exhaustion was making her boots drag along the dirt with sluggish steps.
She was headed for the sleeping quarters and stopped when she saw Leon standing before the chapel's doors. The man was looking mysterious beneath the light.
“Can't sleep?” She yawned and glanced up at the moon. Its light waned as hidden clouds covered some of its glow.
He nodded. “My indexing of recent events is taking a longer time.”
“I guess there's no helping it.” She growled with another yawn. “Let's get coffee.”
They made their way to the kitchen, where Lucy stirred up a new fire at the hearth. She filled a kettle and warmed it on the stove.
Leon watched her coffee-making activities and noticed the smudges of grease on her cheeks.
“You have grease on your face.” He pointed out.
She shrugged her shoulders and wiped them off with a tea towel. The wiping only served to spread more around the area. She didn't seem to care, so he decided not to say more about it.
When mugs of steaming coffee were ready, Lucy carried them to the table where they could sit and chat. She got straight to the point.
“So, Mr. fancy guns, I wanna be biodroid but not gonna be. What's clogging up your RAM space?”
He blinked, doing his best to register his understanding of her metaphors. Regardless, he told her his problem.
Lucy's frown deepened as he divulged his conversation with the Eleutherian City Patrol clerics in Avril's office.
The clerics had prompted him for his version of events. His inbuilt suppressors enforced a true recount of events upon demand. The suppressors were limiters to prevent misinterpretation of lived experiences. In short, it prevented him from lying when pressed for the truth. He frowned at the fact they hadn't second-guessed his information. The city patrol was certainly well versed with facts on their enemy.
After giving his report, Rabbit was asked for hers and then both of them were dismissed. As they were about to enter the lift for the main hall, a woman in a flowing white gown and a silver star crown on her head stepped out. He mentioned that she was the same appealing woman he saw giving a sermon on the city’s pantheon podium.
Lucy screwed up her face. “That tit’s famous in all sorts of circles for righteous suck-ups. She’s Sister Mary Jons. Since the little people love her, she's always doing the goddess-will gigs.”
“You don't seem fond of her?” he asked.
“She's a bitch, and she knows it, but obviously can’t show it. Nothing more to like or say about the woman. Because she carries Our Lady's will, she's pretty much untouchable.” Lucy shrugged her shoulders and prompted him to continue.
Leon nodded and carried on to the end of his recount.
“The stuffy robes have rights to be concerned.” She rubbed her chin with her musing. “I'm surprised the good sister would come here. But I guess you and Rabbit are unique.”
And added when she looked at his chest. “And could it be something about the amulet?”
Leon pulled out his chain so they both could observe the amulet beneath the kitchen's light. A soft sheen was cast across the charm’s gold.
Another nagging thought surfaced in her mind. “Say, Leon. Whatcha really up to?”
“I mean, you rock on up into HiRock with an old lady's amulet and a promise you swore to her. Yeah, I get that. But the promise seems, I guess, strange.”
Leon paused for thought, then returned with the same reasons she already knew.
“Dude, you do realize you’re not carrying some cheap granny trinket. Butcher said your amulet has a high rep to make Ministry of Truth deadpans turn their heads.” She leaned in to peer hard into his eyes. “Don't you think your promise is more than placing it on granny's favorite altar?”
He looked at his amulet in his hands some more before placing it back around his neck.
“Perhaps, but I agreed to a promise and I intend to keep it.”
The adamant tone of his words made Lucy smile.
“Fine. I won't ask more 'cause I've got a feeling it's better, I don't know. How about we agree to this? I trust you; you trust me. We protect each other's back. Loyal friends.” She flashed a hearty grin and held out her hand to him.
Leon smiled and nodded as he shook her hand. “A reasonable deal.”
“It’s all good, innit?”
She yawned and decided not to finish her cold coffee. “Well, bath and bed.”
They quietly made their way back to their cabins. He returned to his bed to lay on it, but his mind was still active from the conversation.
One thing he didn't mention was the conversation he and Rabbit had eavesdropped on from the chapel's main hall.
The woman called Sister Mary Jons had tasked Avril to send daily activity reports on them. If she missed a day or their behavior was viewed as remotely suspicious, she was to incinerate them.