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Random Short #19: Promises

Happy Holidays all!  Finals are over for this term and break is well under way.  I can’t say I’ve been doing as much writing as I would like to be, but I’ve had a scene that was spurred by a combination of music that I’ve been listening too and an idea that is to come in Jayko’s storyline–not too terribly far in the future from Star Catcher.  I had to get it out of my head despite it being a couple of books away at the least.  I can’t wait to get to this point in the storyline, but it needs a good amount of development before I’ll be able to reach it and dive into it fully.  In the mean time however, enjoy this little excerpt from a future story.  Cheers!

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Random Short #18: Hard Strike

Laurel lay at the crest of the bluff overlooking the valley below.  Set in front of her on it’s bi-pod, was here long-range kinetic scout rifle.  It’s butt snugged up against her shoulder-plate, visor linked into its optics, she scanned the entrenched Ssin.  Their silver-plated arched forms strode about on patrol around the perimeter set at the base of the mountains.

Large ground to air cannons had been set up around the valleys leading in to key points.  Going in by ground seemed to be the only option to Laurel with the gravitational distortion enveloping the ring of mountains, preventing any orbital strikes on the area.  Not to mention the Ssin fleet orbiting high overhead.

The valley below her that they had been tasked to recon was the most direct route into the Gate caldera, as Jayko had called it during their briefing.  The wide opening into the valley from the grasslands was perfect for a joint air and ground attack.  She knew it, and so did the Ssin.

The sun was heading toward the horizon, falling behind her.  This strike needed to happen soon.  Laurel could only hope that the info they’d sent up to the Arcayan advance vessel had made it back to Jayko and the rest of the fleet.

Catching movement through the scope, she saw the two figures of the twins moving quickly, nimbly through the Ssin fortifications in the valley below.  They were heading back.

Good.  They need to get their asses back up here.  Both Tappen and Tarren had opted to set up some sabotage on the massive cannons protecting the valley entrance.  Laurel panned ahead of them a ways to a Ssin patrol that was headed right for the twins.

Letting out a hiss of breath from between her teeth, she sighted in on the lead Ssin, mentally activating her radio.  “Patrol, baring twelve hundred from your position,” she said as calmly as she could.  Just watching them move through the Ssin forces put her on edge.  “The Created”, as they were called by the Arcayans, were some of the fiercest and most deadly opponents that the squad had ever faced.  And if they were allowed to live, they adapted quickly, so the next time they fought, there was no chance of survival.

“Come on,” she hissed quietly.

“Clear,” called back the twins in unison.

She let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding and panned away from the lean Ssin looking for the twins.  They had vanished from their previous path and were no where to be seen.

“Just keep it quiet down there and get back up here in one piece.”

There was a double clicked response from their radios.

Now, where’s Ben?  She scanned the hills leading up to the fortifications.  He’d headed off to get a look from a different angle and had sent back some good intel from his recon.  However, he was supposed to be back by now.

As if on queue, her radio came alive with his voice.  “I’m on your six.  What’s the sit-rep?”

“Glad to have you back.  Twins are just finishing up on their end.  Intel’s away, so we should be getting a response sometime soon hopefully,” replied Laurel.  She felt Ben’s presence as he crawled up next to her on his elbows, a scope held in one hand.

“I don’t see ‘em down there,” he said scanning the fortifications.

“They skirted around a patrol.”

“I give ‘em two minutes.”  Ben kept the scope up to his visor trying to locate them.

“Give us some credit,” came Tappen’s response from their radios.

“How ‘bout thirty?” chimed in Tarren.  “We’re on your six.”

Ben grunted.  “Now all we need is the cavalry, then we can really get this party started.”

Laurel reached out and flipped up the bi-pod on her rifle and started a backward crawl from the edge of the bluff, rifle cradled in her arms.  When she was back far enough she sat back on one leg, and checked the charge on her rifle.  Tappen and Tarren came up next to her, crouching.  Ben joined them momentarily.

“Do you really think this is going to work?” he asked.  “They have a helluva lot of defenses.  Just between us.”

Laurel shook her head.  “Don’t start.  Everything is riding on this and you know it.  You saw how serious those Arcayans were in orbit.  I just wonder when they’re getting here.”

Ben nodded.  Silent.  Then, his head jerked up.  “Holy shit.”

Laurel and the twins turned to look at what he’d seen behind them.  At the same instant their radios came alive with chatter.  “Heavies incoming!  Look alive down there!”

“Strike cruisers!  In atmosphere!?” cried out Ben in shock.

On the horizon the clouds had parted into a mist, whisked away by the drives of the array of Gamma-Class Heavy Strike-Cruisers that were descending from orbit onto a path right up the valley toward their position.

“Let’s kick the door in!  Cover your heads!”

A pinpoint of light winked at tip of the cannon slung under the belly of the lead cruiser.  Laurel and the squad threw themselves to the ground, covering their heads as the super-sonic round impacted on the gravitational distortion behind them. The ripple of the shock-wave engulfed the area in a roar of sound, light, and debris.

Even on their perch several clicks out from the Ssin fortifications, the squad felt the full force of the strike.

“I take what I said back!  Who the hell authorized the firing of a Jump Cannon in atmosphere!?” shouted Ben over the noise.

Laurel uncovered her head as a shower of grit rained down on them, the dust from the impact clearing steadily.  The roar gave way to the steadily increasing wine of afterburners.  Looking up into the sky she caught sight of the first wave of starfighters as they blew by overhead, unloading a salvo of missile fire on the Ssin ground forces before pulling up to skim over the top of the distortion.

The Ssin fortifications went up in a hail of fire and explosions

Her radio speaker crackling with static from the initial blast, it alive on multiple channels, with orders being give and status updates coming in from hundreds of places at once.

“Weapons free, you are weapons free.”

“Jump Cannon online!  Charging for another strike.”

“Ssin fighters incoming!  Watch your six!”

Laurel slowly got to her feet as the next wave of fighters streaked by overhead, followed close behind by dropships of all designs.  Almost immediately she picked out a familiar form and a familiar voice as well.

“Yeee-haw!  We’re not missin’ the party are we?” came the voice of their pilot over the radio.  Their dropship came in low, circling around and dropping down, hatches open.  As Laurel watched, she spotted the figure standing in the doorway of the dropship, rifle strapped to his back, pistol at his hip, hanging onto one of the hand panic-bars overhead.

“Jayko!” called out Laurel over the radio.

Raising an armored hand, he waved them on-board.  “Need a lift?”

“Hells yeah!” cried out the twins scrambling to their feet and hopping up into the bay with him. Laurel pulled herself in along with Ben and the dropship started to ascend.

Jayko touched the side of his helmet.  “Recon team aboard.  You may initiate the drop.”

“Drop?” asked Ben quizzically coming up beside Jayko and Laurel.

An Arcayan voice came over the radio.  “Drop initiated.  Impact in thirty.”

Jayko just nodded to the sky above them.

Laurel saw the form of the Arcayan Advance Vessel materialize in the sky high overhead, followed in the next second by twelve flaming comets streaking through the lower atmosphere.  On the crest of the hill where they had been moments ago, the comets struck hard throwing soil and dirt into a cloud around them leaving craters in the green earth.

The twelve heavily armored mechs, stood, their limbs articulating, long heads on the swivel as they pulled out their cannon sized rifles from their backs, cradling them in four sets of mechanical limbs.  Steam rose from their armor as they started to move forward, sighting in on the nearest Ssin ground to air cannon that was turning it’s aim from the sky to fire on them.

With a discharge of energy down the cannon sized rifle, the mech fired and the Ssin cannon erupted in azure fire shattering with a roar.

“Holy hell!” breathed Ben.  “And I thought those things were impressive just standing in their bays.”

“Heck of a landing spot,” said Laurel remembering that they had just been standing on that bluff.

“A tactically sound spot for a landing.  The Arcayans wanted to make sure you were out of harms way before dropping into the fight.”

“Nice of them to make sure we were clear,” retorted Ben.

The dropship juked wildly in the air.  “Hang on,” called the pilot.  “Fire’s getting heavy.  We’re coming in to the LZ.”

“LZ, sir?” asked Laurel.

Jayko nodded looking over to her and un-holstering his rifle one handed.  “You ready to take on some heavy fighting?”

“Always,” confirmed Laurel, checking the charge and ammo supply on her own rifle. Under her helmet, her gin on her face couldn’t have shown with more confidence.

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Random Short #16: Joint Operation

Laurel stood with her helmet in hand, waiting for the lift to arrive at it’s destination.  Clad in her ability enhancing armor, her pistol at hip, kinetic scout rifle attached to her back, she was ready to get their recon mission started.

Behind her stood the rest of her squad, the twins Tappen and Tarren, and Ben, her second in command.  His wide build and heavy AE armor made him look like a tank of a man and that was what he was.  The twins took care of tasks that required a quick nimble touch to them and Ben took where there was sure to be damage dealt.  His armor showed scars of past missions and his contribution to the team.  Laurel served as the long range member of the team, coordinating and taking out targets from a distance.

They’d been through hell and back together under Jayko’s command before he vanished.  Somehow though, they’d come full circle and the old bastard had shown he was alive and kicking no worse for the years he’d been gone, and they were under his command once again.

The lift doors opened and Laurel stepped out onto the Combat Hangar as it was labeled and stopped dead, the rest of the squad mimicking her, all of them gazing in awe at the scene before them.

Ben let out a soft whistle, impressed at the view.

They’d come onboard the Arcayan Advance Vessel through one of the hangar bays that housed smaller ships.  Since their time onboard though, their drop ship had been moved to the Combat Hanger.  Having had limited access aboard the ship this was the first they’d seen of the hanger and their drop ship.

“I’ll be damned,” said Violet softly.  “So this is what they were hiding.”

“Not sure how they can hide these things in the first place.  That is a good size of firepower they have,” chimed in Ben.

Laurel shook her head and scanned the hangar for their ship.  It sat in the center of the floor on a raised launch platform, waiting for them.

Starting down the steps Laurel strode toward the drop ship resting between the rows of giant mechs standing tall on either side of the hanger in their respective bays, scaffolding and restraints wrapping around them.  Each torso the size of a large drop ship, standing on two double jointed legs.  Four arms, to large and two half-size adorned the broad shouldered torso, and resting on top a the elongated form of a head, optical sensor suite staring menacingly ahead.  Set in racks on either side of the bays was a single large kinetic rifle the size of a starship’s cannon.

Evidence of battle scared the mechs and each one seemed to wear it’s set of scared and pitted armor plating like a badge of honor.  The Arcayan Advance Vessel had obviously seen battle in the past.

The crew of the Advance Vessel bustled around preparing the mechs for combat.  The song of war had been sung, and they were prepared.  However, Jayko had asked them to wait until a recon of their objective had been completed.  He’d told Laurel in the briefing that he believed they would need the combine strength of all the ships he could muster and Helios Station if they wanted to take out their target in one strike.

As the squad reached their drop ship, climbing the steps up to it’s launch pad, their pilot met them at the open hatch.  She tipped her shaved head toward the mechs lining either side of the bay.  “Quite a sight, ain’t they?” she said as way of greeting.

“That’s an understatement,” said Ben under his breath looking around.

“These Arcayans sure know how to project their power.  Aside from dropping into orbit around the planet unnoticed, they have these things prepped and ready for battle,” she said expanding on what they already knew.  “And they said they’re going to insert us under the radar too.”

“Good, all without our target knowing we’re here,” said Laurel with smirk.  “Just the way I like it.”

The pilot snorted a laugh.  “Climb aboard honey and let’s see what they have in store for us.”   She reached up and grabbed one of the hand holds, hoisting her self up into the drop ship’s bay and heading for the door to the cockpit.  “Mac!  You ready?” she called up to her copilot.
”All in the green!  Jus’ waitin’ on you.”

“Well fire it up and give ‘em the go signal.  They haven’t told me what’s in store, so let’s be surprised, shall we?”

Laurel followed with the rest of the squad, stepping up into the bay.  She slung her rifle off her back and secured it overhead before dropping into of the crash-seats on either side of the bay, pulling the harness over her chest and putting her helmet over her head.  She sealed it and looked up to see Ben Across the way with the twins doing the same.

She flashed him a thumbs up and he nodded back.  “Comm’s are in the green,” she heard him say in her ear.

“Glad to hear it,” she replied.

The pilot came over the comm and the bay doors slid shut with a hiss of compressed air.  “Engaging seals.  All green.  We are go.  Repeat we are go.”

An Arcayan voice came over the channel.  “Affirmative.  Begin drop sequence.”

“I read you, but I don’t know what you want me to do.”

“As you humans say, ‘sit back’.”  The connection went dead.

“I’ll be damned, what stuck-up fool—“

The pilot’s sentence was cut off as drop ship suddenly jarred and Laurel felt herself being pressed into her seat at the ship was moved suddenly from where it had been resting.

“Well I’ll be, they got us in one of their cargo grapplers.  What in the hell are they doing?”  Laurel felt the world turn sideways and she queued up the outside camera’s on the drop ship’s hull on her heads up display.

“Shit!  We’re in a drop chute!” called out Ben.  He’d queued it up as well.

“Yeah I can see that,” said the pilot.

The Arcayan voice came over the comm again briefly.  “Extending cloak.  Prepare for drop.”

“They can do that?” asked Ben quizzically.

“Brace yourselves!” called back the pilot as the connection cut.

Suddenly the pulse of electricity shot past the outside of the drop ship and in the next second they the ship was accelerated past the mach barrier and in the next instant they had exited the drop chute and were rocketing into the atmosphere.

“Holy shit!  They were in hella low orbit!  We’re already in atmo!” called out the pilot.

Laurel felt more than heard the drop ship’s thrusters fire over the roar of their descent.  They’d gone through several cloud layers and were coming up on the ground very quickly.  The world leveled out and suddenly skimming the grassy planes of the continent they’d landed on.  Ahead in view was their target.

The massive ring of mountains pierced through by multiple spires reaching up toward the heavens dominated the view before them.

“Alright, squad.  Once we hit dirt and we’re in position, we send the green light to orbit.  Here’s hoping our commander can pull off his wild plan by that time or it’s going to be us against an Ssin army.”

“I think we can handle that,” said Ben confidently rapping his thick chest-plate with a gauntlet.  “There’s no way they’re stopping this beast.”

“All that fat you mean,” jabbed the twins in unison.

“Shut it!” snapped back Ben.  “Or I’ll throw you out of this bird.”

“Only one doing the throwin’ in going to be me,” shot back the pilot.  “LZ’s coming up, so get your arses in gear!”

“Aye, ma’am!” called out Ben releasing his harness and standing up.

Laurel followed suit.  “Let’s do this!”

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Random Short #15: A Way Out

Hello internets!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Well, at least it’s been a while since I posted something here.

College has gotten, as usual, crazy hectic and who knows how much more hectic it will get in the coming months as I try to find the motivation to sit and study up.  I figure I’ll get through it somehow, I always seem to.  But, that’s not why I’m here.  I just wanted to write a short update and give a taste of what’s been going through my head lately.  I’ve really been itching to get back to writing, but it seems like forever since I did anything writing related, so I’m feeling real rusty.  At the same time though, I did take the time to try and scrape off the layer of rust and finish up the last few chapters of the next book after Star Catcher.  I think I’ve called it a sequel in the past, but it’s really just a new story unto itself.

So, I got that finished up and now it’s time to start editing it.  I’ll have more to say on that later, but at the same time, I’m trying to get my mind back into novel planning mode, which I’m finding really hard.  I keep coming up with ideas and having no where for them to go, no good way to fit them into a coherent story.  I think I just need to sit down and start writing again.  So, I did!  And below is the result.  It’s not a beginning, it’s not an end, it’s somewhere in the middle.  It takes play sometime after the sequel that I just finished up.  So let’s call it a scene from the sequel to the sequel.  That’s a lot of sequels.  Anyway, it’s a little out of context, so if you want some back-story, head on over to the shiny new E-book page and pick up copy of Star Catcher– available in paperback soon!  This follows the characters from it, so happy reading!


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Random Short #14: Lost History

Jaymen smiled in greeting as Aronon entered the room, his large lizard-like form moving with grace as he crossed to where Jaymen was standing near the projector table in the center of the library.

Aronon nodded back in greeting to his good friend.  “Time has seen fit to cross our paths again!  How are you Jaymen!” called Aronon in his lisping, deep voice.

Jaymen reached out and clasped Aronon’s hand firmly.  The days have been good to me.”

Aronon tilted his head.  “That is excellent.  Trade with the inner colonies has been growing as of late, and I have a few shipments that you will love.  I dare ask what has called us together again, though, as my trips out here are not frequent and your message was most strange.”

“Right to the heart of the matter as always I see,” said Jaymen the skin around his eyes tightening as he is expression changed.  “I will have to take a look at what you have brought.  But… regarding my message.  We can speak here freely.”

Aronon fixed him with a hard stare.  “You said you had some information that you believed placed you in danger.”

Jaymen nodded, resting his hands on the projector table.  “That’s true.  I fear I have overstepped my bounds in the eyes of some.  I have to ask that I may place the burden of this information on your shoulders as I cannot risk it being lost and forgotten once again.”

“We arilians have watched and kept safe information millennia old of our own history.  This is just the mere peak of knowledge held within the arilian archive.  I am not one of the few charged with keeping and protecting this knowledge, but I will do my best to shoulder this burden.”

Jaymen nodded again.  “You’re one of the only people I can trust with this.  Thank you.  I’m also creating a back up of all the data related to this where it will be safe until it is needed.”

“I am ready,” said Aronon.

Jaymen tapped the projector table with one hand, bringing up a series of controls.  The projectors lit and a hologram of the galaxy formed, floating above the surface of the table.  Pinpoints of light dotted the map, marking coordinates across the spiral arms all the way to the center.

“As you know, I’ve been working on uncovering ruins, artifacts, here on this planet for some time.  I recently came across a large information databank encased in what I can only determine is a quantum time field.  A technology yet to be achieved by anyone.  It took some effort, but we were able to access it.  Only a trickle of information was gleaned from it before it shut itself down and sealed all outside access.

“What was extracted from it was a only broken, fragmented information.  A puzzle in it’s own right, but it told a history I have only heard mere mention of in legends older than I.  The arilian knowledge core might have a recollection of this history but I’m not sure if even they would know of this.”

Jaymen pointed to the projection as it slowly rotated.  “What we found was that, scattered throughout the galaxy, are a series of installations.  Interconnecting portals.  This is only an extrapolation as to their specific location gained from information pieced together from the database.”

Jaymen manipulated the controls and the hologram changed to display a large construct sunken deep into the crust of planet.  “Seismic scans show an installation of similar size and shape buried here on this planet.  My belief is that they are a series of portals connecting the regions of the galaxy together.  We’ve only explored a small section of our own spiral arm, but if my calculations are correct, these portals were seeded nearly throughout the entire galaxy.

He switched the view back to the image of the galaxy.  Each of the pinpoints of light connected together, tracing each arm of the galaxy.

“The database showed us that these portals were all active at one time.  That a galaxy-spanning civilization existed before any of ours, for nearly a millennia or more.  Then, something happened.  One by one the portals were shut down or destroyed, I don’t know which, or what happened to cause this, but the information was recorded in that database.  A collapse of civilization on a galactic scale.

Jaymen looked Aronon in the eye.  “This is just the small amount of information we were able to piece together.  The rest is still unsolved as to what it means.  More context is needed, but what I am worried about is the reason for this collapse.”

The hard look in Jaymen’s eyes spoke volumes to the arilian.  The information he’d come into contact with had affected him deeply.

Looking back to the controls, Jaymen highlighted one of the pinpoints.  “This was the first point of the collapse.  All that we gained from the database was that something at these specific coordinates was the start of the entire thing.  What troubles me most is that this portal lies on the adjacent spiral arm to our own region of the galaxy.  There was no record that we could discern of what caused this collapse.”

Aronon examined the hologram for a moment.  “Knowledge set in the stone of the past can affect the future,” mumbled Aronon, reciting a piece of arilian wisdom.

“Exactly,” responded Jaymen.  “Whatever is still locked in that database may give us the full picture.  But I’m afraid that knowledge may also bring our own civilizations to the same conclusion as what happened over a millennia ago.  The small bit of information we gleaned from it may have been meant as a warning.”

“A warning to what?”

Jaymen shook his head.  “That’s what I would like to know.  There is more to the puzzle that we have not solved.  If you would like to take a look at it, I have a copy of the data ready.”

Aronon shook his head.  “This knowledge is a burden unto itself.  What do you plan to do with it.”

“I plan to finish solving the puzzle.”

“And in this…”

“In doing this, the people that I was working with feel I have overstepped my bounds out here.  The information that was taken from the database is to be given to them and all other copies destroyed.”

“What do they plan to do with it?”

“Seal it, bury it away,” said Jaymen with a frustrated sigh.  “We must learn from this history so that we may not repeat it.  Once these portals are discovered.  Once we have explored more of the galaxy, I fear what happened, will again come to pass once more.”

“And if this information, this warning, is lost.  So will our hope,” finished Aronon.

“I refuse to take a look at the rest of the information.  But I will accept the burden of it.”

Jaymen sighed in relief, satisfied with his answer.  “You’re young.  Arilians live for nearly a thousand years.  I myself have lived longer than the average human and I do not know how many years I have left.”

“When the time is right, the warning will need to be heeded.  When you have completed the puzzle…”

Jaymen nodded.  “I will forward you what I have found.  I fear that I will not be able to though.  Everything that I have achieved on this planet, in this city, puts us farther ahead of the rest of the galaxy and the people I was working with on this also fear that as well.  I was wrong to trust them.  If this single human colony outside of the borders of known space is lost again…”

“It will not be forgotten,” reassured Aronon putting a scaled hand on his friends shoulder.

“The safeguard that I spoke of…”  Jaymen made a move to the controls to switch the image on the projector.

Aronon shook his head.  “No.  It will be better that I not have knowledge of it.  It will be safer that way.”

“Alright,” said Jaymen.

Aronon let his hand slip from his friend’s shoulder and folded his arms.  “I must consider what you have told me.  I will accept the burden of this knowledge, but it must remain safe until it is needed.”

“I’ll leave you a way to find it when the time comes.  I’m close to solving it.  I just need a little more time.  I believe it has ties to the planet that I’ve been searching for since I discovered this colony.  I’m so close and yet so far.

Aronon nodded and turned.  “When you are ready, I will be overseeing trade down at the dock.  The cargo that I have for you is there.”

Jaymen nodded, with a sigh, smiling at his friend.  “I’ll meet you there in a bit.  And Aronon, thank you.”

Aronon briefly bowed his head, an arilian gesture of respect, and then left the room, the door swishing closed as he exited the library.

Jaymen tapped the controls, switching the image over to that of the schematics for where he would safeguard this information.  The small insect like robot floated over the table.  It’s head was rounded, wing-like hover jets and stubby arms protruding from it’s body.  A small drone capable of flight and of many other feats.  It would protect the data, the warning.  And his son.

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Random Short #13: Persuasion

Jayko faced the kid standing several meters from him in the small field of grass in front of his house.  The kid had an over-confident smirk on his face as he stared at Jayko over-top of his reflective shades.

On the balcony above stood the rust colored dekk watching the two of them.

Both the kid and the dekk had interrupted his morning work out routine and the kid had demanded a rematch from the evening before.

Jayko was happy to oblige.  They already knew his identity and where to find him.  His cover had been blown, so he figured he might as well have some fun with it.  He was going to wipe the smug grin off the kid’s face.

Dressed in a pair of sweat-pants, Jayko stood shirtless and shoeless in the morning sun, his bright red hair still mussed from his early morning exercise routine.  Spreading his legs shoulder length apart and balancing on the balls of his feet, he relaxed his body and raised one arm, crooking a finger at the kid.

“Show me what you’ve got,” he said casually, a small grin spreading on his own lips.

The kid ginned even larger and immediately threw back his arms, kicking up dirt as he lunged forward in a fast dash at Jayko.

He ducked low, coming in swinging as fast and as hard as he could.

Jayko bounced back on the balls of his feet, arms slack, swaying his body in dodge after dodge as the kid threw swing after swing at him.  He twirled out of the way as the kid lunged at him.  The grin on his face had vanished.  He was in the moment, predicting each of the kid’s movements from just his stance and follow-through alone.

He was surprised by the kid’s nimbleness as the kid leapt up lashing out in a strong kick.

Jayko ducked under it easily enough.  The kid saw his movement though and changed to a downward kick, trying to bring his full force down on Jayko.

Raising an arm, Jayko blocked his kick without budging.  Pushing off the ground, he shoved the kid’s leg high into the air, expecting to see surprise light the kid’s face, instead the smirk was still plastered there as he leapt up, using the motion to do a flip backward, landing on his feet, hands at the ready.

“Not bad,” mumbled Jayko, impressed.  Louder he said, “Let’s try to step it up though.”

Standing from his half-crouch, Jayko pushed off the grass, coming up beside the kid in the blink of an eye.  He could see the excited grin on the kid’s face in the moment before he swung his body around in a high kick.  In that same instant, the kid touched the circlet on his wrist. There was a small gust of air and Jayko’s kick swung around, unimpeded. 

Jayko glanced around behind him as the kid came flying down, trying to land a heavy blow on his back. He reacted instantly.  His feet planted solidly, he swung around, grabbing the kid the moment before he hit the ground.  Surprise lit the kid’s face then, as Jayko’s hand gripped the back of his head.

Suddenly the kid found himself looking straight at the ground.  Jayko saw his arms shoot out and was surprised by how the kid was able to catch himself and soften his impact as Jayko pinned him to the ground.

He hadn’t intended to smash him into the ground very hard, but seeing that he could react like that, Jayko held his grip on him lest he try to get away.

“Not bad, not bad at all,” Jayko said, holding his grip.  “You’re still a long ways off from matching me though.”

“That’s what they all said in training too.  I’m the best of the best in my class, though,” said the kid, confidence still ringing clear in his voice.”

“And what class is that?” asked Jayko.

“Once I beat you and you come with us, you’ll see!”

Jayko felt a grip as the kid twisted around, having grabbed one of Jayko’s legs.  He shifted his weight on the ground under Jayko’s grip and Jayko felt his own balance waiver for a moment.

It was all the kid needed though.  He twisted and rolled from under Jayko’s grasp, leaping up from the ground, ready to go.

Jayko saw his fingers graze the circlet again.

He let a smile play on his face as he lunged forward, swinging his arm.  His eyes met the kid’s for an instant.  The confidence was still there, but this time the kid didn’t dodge.  He swung his arm the instant Jayko’s fist was within reach.

Jayko felt the impact as his blow was deflected.  His eyebrows shot up in surprise.

He leapt back from his lunge, putting a couple meters between him and the kid.  “Now you’ve peaked my curiosity,” said Jayko quietly.  He held his hands at the ready, waiting to see what the kid would do with this sudden change of tactic.

The kid drew his arm back, as if to make a swing.  Then, bracing his feet, he lunged forward at Jayko.  His movement was slower than before, but Jayko could tell he was up to something.

Shifting his stance, Jayko kept his own hands at the ready as he concentrated on the kid’s movements.

“This is going to hurt,” he mumbled to himself.

Putting all his force into his motion.  The moment the kid was close enough to complete his swing and Jayko started to feel the force from it impact his hands, he shoved back with all his might.  The impact of the blow hit harder than it should have for the kid’s size and speed, but it did, and Jayko felt it radiate through his body and into the ground.  The surprising thing was, that the kid’s fist had never made contact.

Then suddenly Jayko felt something give and the kid lost his footing thrown back by the force of his own blow.  He landed in the grass on his back with a shout.

“Damnit!  That was supposed to work!” he said, sprawled out on the ground, his breathing heavy.

Jayko’s own chest heaving from the exhaustion of countering the kid’s final blow gave a small chuckle.  “That was impressive.”  He looked the kid over, focusing on the silver circlet around his left wrist.

Letting himself collapse into a cross-legged sitting position, Jayko gave a small nod.  “Alright,” he said between breaths.  “I’ll hear you out.  Then if what you have to say is of the level of importance you tell me it is, I’ll come with you.”

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Random Short #12: Buying Time

Jay pushed himself up off the ground, his breathing heavy.  He ran the back of his hand across his jaw, wiping away the trail of red blood.  It was only a slight shade darker than the red markings on his armored gauntlet.

“Damn,” he muttered glancing at the fracture running through the armor plate.  “I was sure this would last me a little longer.”

Standing straight, he released the clasps holding it in place and let it fall to the ground with a clatter.  Trading hands, he released the clasps on his other gauntlet.  It fell next to the first.

“Not that I really needed those anyway.”  Working the clasps on his arm plates and shoulders, he let rest of his torso armor covering his dark, crimson long-coat fall to the ground.  Unbuckling his boots, he stepped from them.

Van watched him closely, his sword held at the ready, his eyes hard.  “Shedding that armor is going to be your defeat, you know this.”

Jayko rolled his shoulders and took up his fighting stance again fists held at the ready.  “The only thing that armor was doing for me was holding me back.”

Van’s eyes narrowed and he lunged, striking fast, with his sword, trying to end it with one last jab.  Straight though the heart. 

Jay vanished in the space of an instant.  Van felt a hand on his back and heard Jay’s voice, the confidence evident.  “Missed me.”

He felt Jay’s weight disappear and whirled, bringing his sword around in a wide arc.  Jay was well beyond the reach of the blade though, having danced back a good distance.  He shifted his weight lightly from foot to foot, his hands held at the ready.

Van transitioned smoothly from his sweep into a lunge, bringing his sword straight for Jay.

Jay lunged at the same instant.

The same tactic.  This time he won’t surprise me with it.

Changing mid-lunge he tried to redirect his blade, swinging the instant Jay came within reach.

Suddenly he felt his blade being pushed.  Van’s eyes went wide as Jay ducked nimbly under the swing pushing the blade up and away with the flat of his hand.  In the next instant Van saw him raise his other hand palm forward, as if aiming with it.  He drew his arm back, twisting and swinging with his other fist.  The jab came too quickly for Van to follow and stuck him mid chest.

The wind rushed from his lungs and he skidded backward, trying to keep his balance.

He lost his sight for a moment, but regained it quickly, tracking Jay as he danced back.  Suddenly stepping to the side, Jay vanished again.  Van tried to react, sensing where he would strike, but coming up short.  The blow to his back sent him tumbling forward.  He caught himself mid fall though, stepping into it and using the momentum to swing his sword up and around.

The blade grazed Jay as he retreated from his next attack.

I underestimated him.  The armor made him stronger before, but it impeded his true speed. 

Van stepped forward, following through with another swing, trying to catch Jay off guard.  Jay danced and ducked out of the way.  His face was serious, but Van could tell that even though he was on the defensive again he was confident.  Too confident.

Suddenly Jay ducked low under Van’s swing, lunging backward out of the blade’s range.  Van saw the flash of sliver as the pistol came up.

Damnit! Van gripped his blade, tilting it as the single shot struck it, deflecting the shot away from him.

It had all been a ruse to get his weapon back.  Van had lost track of the position he’d been keeping between Jay and his weapon.  That had been his objective all along.

The glow of the power cell under the barrel of the pistol shown a bright blue-white.

Jay smirked at Van.  “Sadly I’m only here to buy time.  I know enough about my own strengths that I can’t defeat a true immortal such as yourself.”

The shadow crossed over the two of them briefly, vanishing within seconds with a gust of wind on it’s tail.

Van’s gaze moved for only a second, but he caught sight of the man drop from the airship.

He landed in a crouch in between them.  The black metal of the revolver he held glistening in the sunlight.

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