Kingdom of Heildin, remote village: 930, December 31st, Tuesday, 10:00 PM
“Run, Claire!” The voice of the little girl’s father cried out as he tried to stop the monsters razing the village.
The whimpering girl stared petrified as she witnessed her home burn to the ground, her irresponsive legs unable to react to the horrifying scene before here. “But...” she managed to blurt out.
“Now!” Her father roared one last time as the creature’s began to overwhelm him.
Forced to flee into the density of the forest surrounding her home village, the young girl’s breathing became heavier as she hurried further into its darkest depths with teary eyes. The screams of the residents began to fade away in the distance, swallowed by the thunderous roars and screeches of the specters.
Racing through the dusky forest, the small girl sobbed uncontrollably as the branches cut her arms while trying to protect her face. Stopping to catch her breath for a second, she desperately scanned her dark surroundings in search of any familiar landmarks she could find.
“Where…” she breathed.
The sudden creak of a bush scared the girl out of her wits as she frantically turned towards the sound; spotting the frog that leaped away merrily from bush to bush. Leaning her back on a nearby tree, she found herself petrified by the many glowing crimson eyes looking for her in the shadows. A terrified gasp involuntarily left her lips at the many sounds echoing all around her. Covering her mouth with her hands, the girl’s legs shook in terror as she could only remain still and listen to the approaching groans of the specters; becoming louder and louder with every passing second.
“Father…” The girl cried as tears uncontrollably rolled down her face.
Cerberus HQ, training facility: 935, December 31st, Sunday, 1:00 PM
“Welcome to Cerberus’ training facility.” The commanding voice of a woman called through the PA system installed in the room, “Please, step forward and prepare for your evaluation.”
A young woman of black hair and amber eyes strode quickly through a metallic door and into the large open room. Wearing a white and gold military uniform, with the crest of a three headed dog.
“A dummy opponent will appear in front of you,” the voice announced. “Dispatch it as fast as possible, making use of the gear provided to you.”
An automated metallic dummy emerged from a vault-like door constructed out of solid steel; its demonic shape inspired by the creatures known as “specters.” Monsters that threaten humanity’s existence on earth, having been led to near extinction by them many times throughout history.
After the specters defeat nine centuries ago at the hands of a figure known simply as 'The champion', the world saw a period of peace and was able to rebuild over the years. However, with their sudden return only a decade ago, an organization known as Cerberus was created to counter the threat.
A paramilitary company overseeing the hellish region known as, the Deadlands. A supernatural zone in the middle of the Hemel continent that served as the home of the specters. Secured by a massive wall that wrapped the entire region, Cerberus had been preventing the specters from breaking out into the outside world—at the cost of many lives.
“The girl just graduated from the academy and has no experience on the field, are you sure about this?” The female voice offered her warning, looking through a one-way mirror from the upper floor of the facility.
“A little late to be asking me that, don’t you think?” A masculine voice speaking from a phone on a nearby desk replied. “We could always discuss your doubts with a nice, none romantic dinner if you want.” he offered playfully.
“With you? I’d rather throw myself at the Deadlands.” she coldly answered to his proposal.
The voice in the radio simply laughed, “I patiently await your report, Ki-Joon.” He said before cutting communications.
The woman of name, Yeon Ki-Joon, inspected the rookie battling the automated dummy on the lower floor. She wore a neatly put black office suit with the crest of the three headed dog, her short black hair styled with bangs, pale skin and a pair of square glasses over her dark brown eyes.
Yeon picked up a set of papers placed in her desk, documents providing information about the most recent addition to Cerberus’ ranks. Second lieutenant Claire Lionheart, a talented student from the academy who graduated at the top of her class. Brought to the training facility under direct orders of the new CEO of Cerberus, who recently acquired the company with Yeon’s help.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, what is it that you see...” Yeon wondered—scouring through every word written on the papers. Redirecting her attention to Claire’s battle against the dummy, Yeon took a sip of her coffee while observing the match with great interest.
With both its hands interlocked, the automated dummy reeled back to add momentum to its attack, pulling down with all its strength afterwards. With a quick reaction, Claire rolled to the side to avoid getting smashed in the head by her opponent. She firmly grasped the pistols in her hands, steering in the dummy’s direction and shooting the joints on its knees, bringing it down for a second. She continued her assault with a strong spinning kick to the head, but her attack proved to be ineffective as dummy remained firm after the impact.
“Perhaps this wasn't covered in your time at the academy, but that’s metal you are kicking, lieutenant.” Yeon’s tepid voice warned the young rookie. “You didn’t injure yourself I’d hope?”
With a soft groan and a dissatisfied expression in her face, Claire repositioned herself away from her opponent while swapping mags on her pistols—curses filling her mind for making such a rookie mistake.
The battle resumed quickly after, with the metallic doll making the first move with a straight charge towards its target. In an attempt to stop its assault, Claire Released a barrage of bullets against her opponent—the dummy however, implemented its right arm to block the projectiles and its left arm to respond with a horizontal strike.
By instinct alone, Claire barely managed to avoid the dummy’s attack from clubbing her face by bending her upper body sideways. “Ugh...!” Not letting its assault break her focus, the lieutenant made use of the close distance to inspect the dummy as fast as possible—a faint blinking light caught her attention, noticing the tiny secured slot near the center of the dummy’s chest.
With her next step in mind, she released a quick shot of her pistol against the little hatch door protecting the faint light. Continuing her assault with multiple timed shots between the dummy’s joints and body, Claire swapped magazines with incredible speed and precision—proceeding to discharge their entire clip against the dummy’s chest, breaking the hatch door in the process.
“It’s just like…” She whispered to herself—her observant eyes noticing the tiny red core inside the dummy’s chest.
Unaffected still, the dummy leaped towards her from the distance with its fists stretched out. Stepping out of the way, Claire took the opportunity to eject the empty magazines and replace them with the last pair in her bags. Not letting up, the dummy turned to face her once more, recklessly rushing in her direction.
Claire reacted by targeting her opponent’s joints once more, striking every point with deadly accuracy—which sufficed to bring the dummy down to its knees. With the last shot in the chamber, she lined up her shot and slowly squeezed the trigger of her gun. The bullet flew across the air after leaving the chamber, concluding its trajectory inside the dummy’s chest and shattering its source of energy.
The automated unit fell flat on the ground, concluding the evaluation.
“Definitely top of her class. These things aren't easy to beat, but...” Yeon remained thoughtful for a few seconds before unmuting herself—putting the documents back on the desk. “Excellent work, lieutenant. Your performance is as brilliant as they say,” her confident voice expressed content as she praised the young rookie. “Leave your gear at the table near the door on your way out. You’ll be given your next task in just a moment; we expect great things from you.” she concluded.
Cerberus HQ, CEO’s office: 936, January 1st, Monday, 9:00 AM
With a track record of countless failures and many lives sacrificed with no results to show, Cerberus began to lose support of many backers over the years after its conception. Having no way to maintain itself in the long run, its disbandment seemed imminent to the public.
However, someone arrived to buy the company in the recent days. Due to Cerberus’ terrible position, negotiations went smoothly and the crumbling company traded hands in an uneventful exchange.
The new CEO of Cerberus arrived at his office, having acquired the company by partnering with Yeon. An older man already waited for him inside, dressed in a white lab coat combined with a pair of round glasses with red frames over his dark brown eyes, his hair going gray with the age.
“Welcome to your office, boss.” He casually greeted the new owner of the company.
“Looks like a nice place.” The new CEO expressed about the mostly empty office, “How is she doing, Jacob?”
Yeon’s confidant, Jacob Foley. A brilliant scientist who was recommended by Ki-Joon herself in order to acquire Cerberus, acting as an assistant to the new CEO of the company.
“You are not asking about Yeon, I imagine.” Jacob sighed loudly while fixing his glasses. “The girl was assigned her first operation in the Deadlands yesterday, I’m sure you are pleased to hear that.” He expressed with indifference, keeping his eyes on the CEO who wandered around the office without a care in the world. “I know Yeon briefed you on the situation already, but are you sure this is a good decision?" he expressed his doubts to the young man roaming around. "Your plan is already quite eccentric, this feels a little unnecessary.” Jacob’s tone became more urgent as he pressed on the matter.
The CEO smirked—inspecting the desk in the office. “She’ll do just fine, trust me. I know Ki-Joon does.” He responded with every bit of confidence in his body.
“Just trying to be cautious, our first operation in the Deadlands is about to begin.” Jacob warned him. “If this doesn’t work out, it will be the end of Cerberus and everything you’ve been working for.”
Going through an array of papers on his desk, the CEO stopped at the picture of a large specter. The creature possessed a tall humanoid shape with muscular structure, its dark exoskeleton had a fissure at the center of its chest that ran through the entire body, protecting the core that supplied it with energy through the glowing crimson veins inside.
“It won’t be a problem.” He said to himself—a confident tone and expression that many would dismiss as simple foolery.
END OF CHAPTER