Author’s forward: If this chapter doesn’t make you want to write classic country songs, I’ve screwed up. Further, honorifics outside very specific ones will not be used. Further: <Translated from Japanese, and name order will be done in Western style.>
This was originally a fanfic for Generation 1 time, but has been seriously altered and expanded. Hikaru in canon is a lot different than Hikaru in fanfic, and as so, her story is much different. I am also going into a bit more background on WHY she’s such a stuck up ojou and kuudere ... and at times, a headcase.
Several characters included in this story are based in part or full on real people, as homage and a nod to them. Be well, gentlemen ... and Ed? Sorry about the nutting. Any other real people are used as political or similar figures, no disrespect or parody intended, and fair use applies.
Last but not least. The names above are not the only ones who have helped with scenes, or editing. They know who they are, and they have my thanks.
The Commando’s Prayer
“Give me, my God, what you still have;
give me what no one asks for.
I do not ask for wealth, nor success,
nor even health.
People ask you so often, God, for all that,
that you cannot have any left.
Give me, my God, what you still have.
Give me what people refuse to accept from you.
I want insecurity and disquietude;
I want turmoil and brawl.
And if you should give them to me,
my God, once and for all,
let me be sure to have them always,
for I will not always
have the courage to ask for them.”
Attrb: Corp. Zirnheld, Special Air Service
Death’s easy, gentlemen. Living’s the bitch, but I’ve found it rewarding, more often than not. Remembering that, though, is the rub. So, let’s remember Patton, when it’s time. We’re not here to die.”
1st Sgt. Michael Tyson, USA, Feb, 1991 in a speech to his company (remembered by the author)
Unknown Time, location, near what would be Nara, Japan. (All parts translated from proto-Japanese)
“Your family’s future will be harder than my family’s, brother.” A warrior in armor with a sword on his hip squatted across from a younger man.
“Our grandmother was clear before she and the rest departed, yes.” The younger man nodded at the older. “And that I and my descendants would spend many years in the shadows, waiting for a time that might not come.”
“Not to mention, little brother, that while it will be easy to protect my heirs, your heirs ... ah, that’s the problem.” Setting aside his sword, the man shook his head, gray already in it. “We chose this, of course, but are you sure?
“I am.” Pausing a moment, the younger man, with eyes, that had the corona of flame, clearly thought for a moment. “You are for this age. I am for the next, for isn’t that always the way?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps, brother. But there is a land to unite, a people to bring civilization to, and an Honored Ancestor to obey. You have my side, ‘til the next age?”
“Until then.” The younger brother stood up and gripped a sword. “Like me, Night’s Bane is your Grass cutter’s younger sibling, and the youngers always follow the older, no?”
“Just like it’s the older’s to defend the younger, when needed, yes.” THe older man smiled. “Now, let us be about what we have been charged with, little brother. The lands will not recover from the Sundering without aid.” Standing as well, he clasped his younger brother’s shoulder. “And I can think of no better to have at my side.”
The younger smiled. “And I can think of no better cause to follow, since I have to wait ‘til my true cause comes.”
Putting his sheathed sword into the sash he wore, the older shook his head. “You have it harder, brother, Living for the future, when you cannot see it fully, is always the hardest road to follow.”
“But the most rewarding, if successful.” A smile, a flash of fire in the eyes. “For the future is always better.”
Myoujin Dojo, Tokyo, Japan, Summer 1983
Myoujin Ichiro looked at his great grandson swinging the bokken over and over again, as he had been instructed. It had only taken a month to get the child to properly perform the katas, which for a six year old that had just started training, wasn’t bad at all. Children wanted to play. But ... Myoujins no longer had the ability to be children. After all, Daniel was the only person under 35 now, of the main bloodline. However, unlike his mother or uncle, Daniel had the irises of a Myoujin. Ichiro’s hope that marrying his daughter to the Americanjin naval officer, after the War, would safeguard the bloodline had paid off, though he had despaired with his grandchildren from that match. However, the first great grandchild had shown him that the idea was sound. Apparently the blood did breed true, just skipped a generation or two. Making a decision, Ichiro nodded once.
<“Daniel! Halt!”> The boy did as instructed, looking at his great grandfather, who nodded at the prompt obedience. <”We will stop for today, for there is more important business to be done.”>
The boy winced somewhat, clearly trying to hide his emotions as instructed, but failing, but Ichiro was pleased by the attempt and the words that followed. <”Yes, Grandfather.”>
<”Good. Put the bokken away, and follow me.”> Ichiro didn’t watch the child do so, but stepped over to a display and picked up the bottommost blade, and lead the child, as Daniel had caught up, to a door that lead to the basement.
<”Um ... ”> Daniel started, but was cut off by Ichiro’s raised hand.
<”I know I told you to never come here, but I am leading you, so it is safe to come if I lead you.”> Ichiro didn’t let his expression change at the confusion in his grandson’s eyes, but he was a bit amused. It wasn’t that it wasn’t safe. It was that it was secret, and that certain precautions had to be taken. Not to mention the Americanjin occupation forces had managed to get several laws passed that while not quite forbidding what was about to happen, clearly would be stressed to the limit by this. So. Taking time to impress family secrets on a child, was more important, at least in the long term. But it was done, and now it was time. <”This is a Myoujin secret, Daniel. It must not be shared outside the family. Your blood requires it. Soon enough it’ll be the Moate secret, but not yet.”> He saw Daniel nod somberly. <”Good, good.”>
Leading the child through the stairs down, he stopped and opened a door which caused him to nod once as a faint click, that was unheard by ears but felt by those who could, whispered though both of them. Being quiet, he lead the child into a room that was brightly lit through clever directions of windows and mirrors to always keep the post in the center of a circle in sunlight. <”Good, I judged the time right.”> Ichiro nodded once, and sighed. Unsheathing the blade he held, he drew a shallow cut that healed quickly, far too quickly as well as leaving no blood, across his palm. Turning to Daniel he looked at the young child, while holding out the blade. <”Enter the circle and use the blade to lightly cut your palm, after you sit. After that, focus on the post.”> Ichiro nodded as Daniel obeyed the instructions after taking the blade. Closing the circle with a bit of special chalk that had been acquired, he waited.
Amaterasu-omikami blinked. It had been a long time since that beacon had activated, and she smiled. She had wondered why no new Myoujin had been presented to herself, maybe she’d get some answers. She knew some were still around, after all, she had kept careful track of them, and there were enough around that she wasn’t worried too much, though the numbers were declining, damned idiots listening to those Black Dragons. However, none had been presented to her since her children were led astray. Well. Time to bring the newest of her dedicated children to her.
The slight ‘pull’ she performed brought a small boy in front of her, and she blinked again. This ... was unexpected, but pleasant. Normally she only got to see them on their genpuku, so seeing such a young boy was pleasant, no matter how shy he was. This must be Ami’s ... grandson? Amaterasu blinked, shaking her head. Prodding Ichiro to get one of his children out of Nippon worked, but had caused her to miss several of them. No matter, here was a little Myoujin for her to coo over.
Studying the boy in front of her, she noticed things. He was so cute! Maybe not what she expected, but still, kawaii. And trying to be so brave! How sweet! Though she’d dearly love to have words with Ichiro, mind you. Not explaining what was going to happen, indeed.
Amaterasu was shaken out of her thoughts by a slightly timid voice pretending to be brave. “Are you an angel?” Was said by Daniel in front of her, in English of all things. The nerve of Ichiro! But punishing him for not teaching his grandson would come later.
<”No, little one, I’m not.”> Amaterasu smiled to reassure at the child, and from her robes, pulled out a piece of pocky. Nice little treat her children had come up with, she mused. She smiled as Daniel took the cookie stick, and patted next to her, indicating that she wanted the child next to her.
Slowly, hesitantly, the child sat next to her in seiza, being careful to be able to bolt. She growled internally, what was Ichiro doing? But not letting that show on her face, she spoke softly. <”So, little one, I’m your well, many times great grandmother. What’s your name?”>
<”Daniel Moate.”> The boy looked at her, and with a hint of curiosity, added. <”Where are we? This isn’t the dojo ... ”>
<”Ah, Daniel-chan ... this is my home.”> Amaterasu continued, stopping the next question she was sure to have been asked by: <”We aren’t quite ... in Tokyo anymore. Don’t worry, it’s a gift I have, and that you may learn over time. But, I’ll be easily able to send you home.”> She smiled to reassure the boy again, and didn’t see the harm in a white lie. Even if called on to do the obligation that the Myoujin had towards her, being able to flit around the astral wasn’t something humans could do, could they?
<”Oh.”> Daniel blinked, not sure how to take Amaterasu’s words.
<”Now, do you know why we’re here?”> The goddess asked the small child, with a raised eyebrow.
<”Um ... grandfather just said this would be a secret, and that’d it’d be a Moate secret ... ”> Daniel was confused. Why would meeting this woman be a secret, after all, isn’t meeting family a good thing?
<”Ah.”> Amaterasu stamped out more anger. Ichiro was proving to be annoying, and not telling this child anything was not good. <”Well, it was to meet me, and for me to meet you. You see, while you’re one of my children over time, I’m not quite ... what you’d expect.”> She was rewarded with a slightly wide-eyed look from the child, and had to hold back a smile. <”No, no, nothing bad ... just ... well. It’s like this. I’m not able to be on earth, and do the things I that I might need to do, child.”>
<”Uh ... ”> Daniel was looking around wide eyed again, trying to figure out what she meant ... <”You are an angel!”> Nodding once, in that way children often do when stating a truth. <”Then ... am I dead?”>
Amaterasu blinked. Blinked again. Well ... <”You are not dead, though I can understand that thought. It’s quite possible to come to these places without death, child.”> Daniel seemed reassured by that, and she continued on. <”As for being an angel ... in the sense that angels are spirts who live in ... well, you could call them the heavens, I suppose.”> Pausing, to see Daniel’s nod, she continued on. <”Yes, I am a spirt, a great one at that, even.”>
<”Cool ... ”> Still wide eyed, the child stared at her. <”Are all spirits as pretty as you are?”>
<”Why thank you. And no, some are nasty evil ones that I fight, or that others fight.”> She received a nod, and continued on. <”Which is why you are here, Daniel-chan.”>
<”Really? I get to fight evil ugly spirits?”> Daniel still hadn’t lost the wide eyed look but it had added a sense of wonder.
<”Ah ... well. Let me explain first.”> Amaterasu gained his undivided attention with another stick of pocky, strawberry flavored as the last one, and spoke as if she was reciting a tale. <”Long ago, before your grandfather’s, grandfather’s, grandfather’s time, even!”> Getting an oooh through cookie crumbs, she had to smile as she continued the tale. <”The world was reborn in flames and destruction. This destruction, was caused by fools who let the evil into their defenses and secrets, who then had them used against them.”>
<”That’s... bad. Spirits?”> Correctly deducing the boy’s question, she smiled sadly and shook her head.
<”Not quite spirits, but it’ll do. My mother and father, protected humanity, and mother gave her life for this. They erected great walls to defend Japan from the chaos and evil that ran rampant. I was born during this period, as my mother died.”>
<“That’s ... sad. I don’t remember my father either ... he died, I think ... ”> Daniel looked empathic towards her.
<”It was, but it was a long time ago. The passage of time, and the Sun chases all sadness away, eventually, Daniel-chan. Remember that.”> Receiving a nod from the boy, she added to her tale. <”Well, many, many times I, my brothers and sisters, and finally others fought those evils, chasing those who could get around the defenses my parents wove. Finally, we were able to add to those defenses, finally gaining order and security for Japan’s children. As well as Korea and a few other areas, too, I must admit.”> Beaming a bit at this, she watched the rapt attention not waver, and smiled. <”But, with all good things, there are prices to be paid. There is no growth without pain, without loss, and from death comes life ... and great works cost the most, of course.”>
<”Oh... is this like when grandfather says when my arms hurt, it’ll be good in the long run because I’ll be strong?”>
<”Very much so, in a way. But, this cost, wasn’t in our pain, or suffering, or even our lives, as sometimes might be, as my mother showed us.”> Amaterasu thought about it for a moment, as Daniel just gazed at her. Gathering her thoughts, she hopefully put it in a way a child could understand. <”By this time, my brethren and I, had had many children, some of which had married humans, and had children of their own, and so forth.”> Receiving a nod from Daniel, she smiled. <”You, of course, like your grandfather are descended from me.”>
<“Oh ... ”> Pausing, Daniel absorbed this in quiet, then finally going <”So, you really are my great-grandmother?”>
<”Well, a bit more than just one great, but correct, yes. But! Back to the history, little one.”> Watching Daniel settle again with yet another pocky stick from her hand, she spoke softly. <”The cost to defend not just Japan’s children, but our own, was being unable to be with them, not fully, not on Earth, child. We would be no more powerful than your average salaryman or housewife, if we came to Earth. And quite unable to do what we believed needed to be done. However, we did insert a loophole, allowing our children, some of them at least to stay, and act for us, or at times, bear our power. But, those with human blood could remain. But their blood carried a price, the price of a shorter lifespan, of course.”>
Daniel just nodded at her, and was totally into her tale. Nodding once, she picked it up once again. <”So, I asked the surviving children of Ninigi, who I had marked as my steward, since it was my obligation to rule, and provide for the Children of Japan. Out of the three surviving brothers, only two stepped up to serve me so directly. To one, I gave my duties of caring for the souls of the children of Japan, and to the other, the duty of being my direct champion, if I so needed one.”> Smiling as she moved the young boy to her lap, and cuddling him ... <”That duty has fallen to you, now, the last heir of the brother who accepted that obligation.”>
<”Oh ... ”> Liking the cuddling, Daniel didn’t want to interrupt, but he had already figured out asking questions was important. <”Um ... what does that mean?”>
<”Well, besides you not telling anyone, outside those who already know, and I am sure your grandfather will tell you who those are ... hopefully just having children of your own. I haven’t needed to use a champion at all. But ... if I do need one, you will take that role up.”> Noticing Daniel had grown sleepy, she smiled. She so missed having children around her, especially young ones. <”When you wake ... this will all be but a dream... but grow strong and brave, and never relent in the fight against evil. You will remember that, for you are born to fight evil, just like all my true children are ... Even if you don’t know it.”> Hearing the child’s soft breathing as he slipped into sleep, Amaterasu placed a feather light kiss on the boy’s forehead, and for a moment just reveled in having a child in her lap again. Sighing, she triggered her powers again, and sent the boy back to his body, and focused on how to deal with Ichiro’s irresponsibility.
Myoujin House, Tokyo, Japan, June 1985
James Tyson eyed the house. Contrary to what he had expected, the neat little two story house, was very western in look, though the dojo out back paid homage to the traditions of the land he was in. He figured it was rebuilt after the firestorm raids of July 1945, and that’d explain the look, compared to what he expected, from his officer’s stories of how traditional his grandfather was. Though he was not surprised at the looks he was getting in this residential area, a big black Master Sergeant of the United States Army, with a Green Beret on his head? Snorting, he walked forward.
Knocking on the door, after gathering his courage, he waited until the door opened and bowed politely, and spoke in Japanese. <”I am Master Sergeant James Tyson. I served with your grandson, 1st Lieutenant Lewis Moate. I told him as he died, I would come and make sure his son was taken care of.”>
The old wizened man eyed the square jaw, the solid build and the package that Tyson presented to him, and nodded once. “A bit late.” James’ jaw clenched a bit, as the old man continued in good, but accented English. “But, it was not your duty to come.”
“I must politely disagree.” James unclenched his jaw as he countered the old man’s words. “He was my officer, and I made a promise.” Pausing, gathering his words, and then nodding once. “I was unable to see to it ‘til now.”
Ichiro quirked an eyebrow, then responded. “Well. I am Ichiro Myoujin, Sergeant. I am most curious to hear how my oldest grandson died. Your messenger did not inform me how.”
James nodded once at the open door, and the old man nodded, letting him in. Pausing, the younger man noted the young boy looking through the door, but before he could say anything, Ichiro spoke softly. <”Daniel. Go and practice your katas. If you have time to look at a guest, you have time to get better.”> Daniel seemed to slightly wilt, but departed the room.
“Lewis’ son?” James asked apparently idly.
“Yes. A good young man. He will learn many things, and train hard, and do the family proud.” Ichiro sounded pleased. “A bit willful, but that is to be expected and trained out of him.” James couldn’t help but have an eyebrow raise towards his hairline at the man’s words.
“Isn’t it Summer?” James was referring to the summer month-long break for school in Japan, often a time for family trips, or being with friends. “Why isn’t he out with some schoolmates?”
Ichiro snorted. “While it is of course in between school terms, he has much to learn about his duty.”
“I ... see.” James was disturbed. Apparently the tales his old officer had told him about his family actually underestimated the situation. Ichiro pointed at a chair and sat down across from it.
“Sit, and tell me a tale.” The old man glared at the younger, who obeyed.
“It’s simple. We were doing a mission somewhere, where I can’t tell you, though I’d not be amiss to tell you disliking tropical forests is not amiss.” Receiving a nod, James continued on. “We were a fair distance away, when we were ambushed by people, and this is important, they weren’t native to the region, either.”
“I ... see.” Ichiro quirked an eyebrow, indicating he wanted more details, if possible.
James nodded, and sighed. “It’s worse. They used magic to hide themselves 'til they attacked, and magic to attack us, nasty shit, our mages called it Mythos. They managed to wipe out half the team in 30 seconds, but we got them.” He smiled cruelly. “One alive, even.” Ichiro smiled at that, but his smile was wiped away by James’ next words. “Boss nailed the mage, but in the process got tagged with something. What, I don’t know, wasn’t told, but as he died, I gave my word I’d look after his family.” James stared at the old man, a hard look in his eyes. “I couldn’t until now, and while I can’t tell you why, I’m here to honor that.”
“I understand.” A wave of Ichiro’s hand, and the wizened man leaned back in his chair. “What do you intend, then, Tyson?”
James eyed the inscrutable expression. “What I promised.” Having considered leaving it there, he decided not to. “Making sure his son and wife are properly taken care of. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“My granddaughter ... in law, is apparently doing fine.” Ichiro gave a slight expression of distaste. “Your Air Force seems to value her talents with the press.” James nodded at that, knowing there was a bit more, but choosing not to press. “My great grandson is doing fine and learning well, what more could be asked for? Come. I will show you.”
James’ expression was shuttered, he didn’t like this conversation’s currents at all. He might not be the sharpest tack, he thought, but there was something disturbing to his American-raised sensibilities. But he held his silence as the older man led him to the dojo, to watch the young boy move though katas. Ichiro retained the passive expression as Daniel moved through each kata, except to interject at the end of one.
<“Your left foot is off. Adjust and repeat the kata!”> Ichiro’s voice barked, and the boy hurried to obey, while Ichiro leaned quietly towards the taller man. “He is doing well, but practice, practice, practice, as you Americans would say.”
“ ... How long does he do that?” James didn’t notice the foot being out of place, but then again, he wasn’t a master martial artist, so, he’d demur on that, as he followed Ichiro out of the dojo.
“Now? 6 to 10 hours a day, while studying other things, of course.” Ichiro passed it off as nothing major, but James expression couldn’t hide the dismay.
“... What about being with his friends, or hell, just being a kid?” James couldn’t keep the dismay out of his voice, realizing what was going on.
“He can see his friends when his training is done, or during school.” Ichiro’s eyes narrowed at the American. “He has duty to his family and his legacy, to do, first!”
James looked back stonily, and asked softly. “Children play, and be children, they’re not to be little adults practicing and training all the time!”
“He has no time to be a child.” Ichiro shot back. “My time is limited, and he has too much to learn, to be a proper Myoujin heir!”
Rocking back on his heels, he thought on how to put this, without getting attacked by the man in front of him. “Sir. You cannot be an adult, without being a child first. You need to ... ” Cut off, James just stewed as the other man spoke.
“He had 5 years of childhood. He is fortunate that I am still around to teach him what he needs to know! He is the last Myoujin heir! He needs to learn this and learn this now. As much as I wish otherwise, I have no time to let him BE a child!” Ichiro hissed. “His duty to both Japan and America, to his ancestors, to his very soul requires this! If you cannot understand that, you have no place here! He will learn and learn well, and then join the Army like his father before him, and serve and defend! And do his duty to the Myoujin!”
“I ... see.” Tyson simply looked at the slightly fanatical gleam in the old man’s eyes, and realized there was no hope there. Possibly Lisa? No, she had thrown herself into her Air Force career, and almost abandoned her son. Well. There was one thing he could do. “Well then.” Tyson put on his beret at the door, and nodded once. “I will await him in the Army.”
“As a good ninja, you will endure there, I see. Good, good.” Ichiro eyed the Sergeant, and nodded once. “Perhaps you will serve a second Myoujin.” James’ jaw clenched, and he simply looked back at the man. “Good day, and you are welcome here, as long as you understand.”
James felt anger rise to the surface again, but stamped it down. At least this man wasn’t like the whites in Georgia when growing up, this was a man who just had a very, very old fashioned outlook to the world. And people’s places in it. But there was nothing he could do, not now. Later, maybe ... maybe. “I understand. I shall remember today, your words, and my promise.”
JFK Special Warfare Center, Ft. Bragg, South Carolina, United States, August 1997.
“Tyson!” a voice rang out, and the named man, still looking nearly the same as he had 15 years ago, except for the wreathed stars inside his uniform’s chevrons and rockers, ambled into the office of Colonel Wisehaunt.
“Sir?” Tyson took a chair, accepting the coffee that was pushed across to him by the officer. “You bellowed?”
“I did, I did.” The colonel ran his hand though his short cropped hair, and nodded once. “Remember that request you put in ... was it 1986?”
“If referring to a Daniel Moate, it was 1985, sir.” Tyson nodded. “And yes, I do.”
The colonel looked at him. “I know you still feel some guilt about that... mission, James, but ... ”
“We might have gotten out of it alive, Sir, but Lewis didn’t.” Tyson shot back. “And we still don’t know what the hell happened, not really. Didn’t help that the one person we caught alive, and didn’t decompose on death, didn’t say shit, and died by his own choice before we could get him back.” Pausing ... “And you were there, Sir.”
“Yes, I was.” Looking out the window suddenly, he nodded once. “Well, as we expected, his boy did join up. Just finished Q-school after OCS and a tour in the Rangers.”
“I want that team.” Tyson’s voice was flat. “I got a bit of work to be done.”
“James.” The Colonel looked at the younger appearing NCO. “You can’t still be ... ”
“His great-grandfather fucked ... ” James was cut off by the officer.
“Not your place, not your shout. You may feel otherwise, and I can’t blame you, hell, James, Lewis was my friend too ... but it’s family, and not our place. Even if you gave your word, Lewis of all people knew what you could and couldn’t do.” The Colonel shot Tyson a glare.
“Doesn’t help, Sir.” Tyson ignored the half-hearted glare from his friend and senior officer. “But, now he’s in my reach, and I got some work to be done. I might not have been able to help earlier, but now? At the very least, a good NCO ... ”
“Makes a great officer. Can’t disagree there. Done. Delta will howl, but, then again, they could try to get the kid themselves to get you back.” Wisehaunt smiled. “And if he is half as talented as Lewis was, Delta would try anyways, so, no foul.”
“Ayup. Well, his file, Richard?” Tyson took the file passed over to him, and flipped through it. Eyebrows rising at one page, he blinked. “What the ... ”
“Got to the testing section, I see.” Richard’s voice was amused. “Yeah, the power testers are sure he’s active, but have no idea WHAT his powers are, if any, of course. Best guess is an avatar, unbound. Some are hoping he picks up a nice spirit we can use.”
Tyson’s eyes narrowed. Over the years his digging and research had led to a lot of unexplained information, such as why so many of Ichiro Myoujin’s family and children died in accidents. Not to mention the pressure Japan’s government quietly had put on the US Army to force the kid to take brass. Kid had quietly rebelled, good for him, and chose to wear stripes instead of brass, but Japan had knocked that act of rebellion out. Something bugged him about those facts. Well, he’d find out. He’d find out.
“I see Sir. He arrives this afternoon?” Tyson didn’t let his thoughts cross his face.
“Yes, he does. I take it you want to walk him though in-processing, while you deal with Delta’s annoyance?”
“That I do. With your leave?” Tyson rose, putting back on his beret, as the Colonel also stood.
“You have it ... and I can’t think of a better NCO, James, to make sure Lewis’ son grows to the officer he can be.” Colonel Wisehaunt nodded once.
“Let’s try getting this one retirement age. Might be a first in the last few generations for his family.” Tyson’s voice was low as he walked out.
Myoujin House, Tokyo, Japan, 23 Dec 2002
“So, Dan, how long are we going to be here?” Tyson eyed his officer, who was wiping his hands as the last of the well-wishers left, while showing signs of a long and stressful day. Not to mention how stiff and unyielding he was, repressing again.
Daniel returned the look and shrugged slightly. “From what I got planned, we’ll deadhead back the 2nd.” Sighing, he looked at the black framed picture. “Bit hard to believe the old man is dead, thought he’d live forever.”
James privately thought to himself, maybe he lived too long, but didn’t let that show. “I’ve met him a few times, recall. A bit ... devoted, I’d say.”
Daniel snorted at the comment, as he gathered up all the clutter. “Yes, to family, to our duty, to our obligation.” Pausing, he shrugged. “Maybe now he can be with the rest of them.”
“Maybe.” James rolled his shoulders, as he disappeared into the kitchen, coming out with two beers. “Got this from Yokohama’s AAFES, so I don’t have to listen to your bitching.”
Daniel took one, and popped the top off. “If you had Japanese vending machine beer ... ”
“Uh, huh. Do I look dumb, Captain?” James took a long pull, and shook his head afterwards. “Though I can believe you.” Pausing a moment. “So, accepted the invite to Selection?”
Daniel smiled a bit sadly. “Yes. It’ll be a challenge. Just the thing to take my mind off everything. Kinda thing that Great Grandfather would be so proud of.”
James opened his mouth, pausing a moment, and shrugged. “Well, after we get this place cleaned up a bit, why don’t you say we run a stage party like you told me about. We’re on leave, and well, nothing better, no?”
Daniel snorted suddenly. “Is this another attempt to get me into a strip club with a hot lady of negotiable affections on my lap?”
“Eh, I wouldn’t know where to find a club here.” James smiled. What the boss didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and he really did need to loosen up. James might not be able to find a club, but a SEAL who had been here often could, and did for the Sergeant.
“Eh ... ” What Dan was about to say was cut off by a knock at the door. Both men looked at each other, shrugging, as Dan went to the door.
Two men, both of which Daniel and James instantly pegged as elite guards, waited patiently. James couldn’t see clearly, but he noted they were somewhat blocking the view of a man, a lady, and two children, plus additional guards.
“Forgive us for coming so late.” The man spoke, as the guards parted ways. “But the House of Yamoto felt that it would be better to pay it’s respects in private.”
Daniel nodded, a bit speechless, as he put the face to a name. Prince Fumihito and his family were paying respects to his family. James could tell that Daniel clearly did not expect that, though he watched as his officer recovered.
“It is House Myoujin that is honored and should pay their respects.” Daniel finally spoke, after pondering his words for a moment. “I am sorry that only I could do so, and that there are no more Myoujin to do so.”
“Ah, but your great grandfather would disagree with your words.” Princess Kiko, the Princess, spoke, as she waited her moment to pray to the spirit of Ichiro. “But you do him honor.”
“I only can try, Kiko-sama.” Daniel paused for a moment, watching the rest of the family pray to the picture and urn, then return. “May I offer you some refreshment?”
Fumihito eyed the half hidden bottles of beer, and smiled a bit crookedly. “If you have an extra of one of those bottles, I would not be amiss to having one. And I severely doubt that my wife would disapprove.”
James blinked, but was already moving, and shortly had come out with a tea set and four additional bottles of beer on the tray. He hadn’t seen the boss move to collect a set of scrolls and a book, but they were on the table in-between the Prince and his officer. James was aware of what they were, and dimly was aware of why.
Putting the setting on the table, he stepped back, after removing one of the beers himself, and just listened to the discussion in front of him.
“These are the ... ” Daniel was cut off by a raised hand and a nod.
“I will accept these on behalf of the Government, yes, as Myoujin records are kept by IOPS, instead of the ward hall.” Fumihito stroked the sealed scrolls carefully, while opening the book and scanning the last written pages, his eyebrow raised a bit at the last entry. Daniel hadn’t put in the death date for Myoujin Ichiro, or he’d have seen something. “But, our time is limited, so I must be ... candid.”
James got the feeling that he wasn’t going to like this report he’d have to write, due to regulations, but he carefully stayed in the room.
“As you might be aware, your great grandfather had duties.” Daniel nodded at the Prince’s words, as the royal continued. “it is not that we seek to impose on you, but do you understand those have ... ” Fumihito, aware of the others in the room asked.
“I will do my best to honor all parts of my legacy, Sir. That you can rest assured of. I will do my family, all of them proud. Duty is duty, after all.” Daniel bowed his head towards the prince, not in submission but in answer.
“Good, good.” Fumihito finished his beer, and stood up. “Again, we deeply regret the loss of a keeper of the National legacy, but we have followed your career, and are aware of your ability to continue the process of keeping the legacy.” Daniel bowed in response, and spoke.
“Your words do me too much honor, and I am humbled by your insistence on honoring my great grandfather.” Daniel straightened, and Fumihito nodded at his words, as his wife gathered the children to leave. Before they could depart, the younger girl walked up to Daniel
“You’re stiff like that guy Daddy talked about at the Palace.” The young six year old piped up. Before anyone could say anything, she continued. “You need to ... oh, yes, go to a strip club and relax, as Daddy said about that guy.” Pausing once again, with James repressing a snicker, and a slight glare from Kiko to her husband as he cringed slightly, she then burbled on. “Though what’s a strip club?”
Before Daniel could react, Kiko had scooped up the errant girl, and spoke. “Forgive her, Captain Moate, she clearly overheard things she wasn’t meant to ... ”
Fumihito winced again at his wife’s stronger glare, but Daniel spoke. “There is nothing to forgive, children will be children. Again, thank you for your kind words and honor done to my great grandfather.” His words were carefully measured and kept neutral as he bowed them out.
James thought that the girl said what needed to be said, though he’d not have phrased it quite that way, though with the Princess departing, and the Prince not saying a word as he followed his wife and two children, he was able to let the smile out as he chuckled and told Daniel. “From the mouth of babes, eh?”
“Oh, for ... ”
Tokyo, Japan, 21st August 2005
“Good thing we’re out of Iraq, eh, Samurai?” Tyson eyed his officer who was preparing to eat ramen this early morning.
Daniel looked at his NCO and shook his head. “Not that we won’t go back to there, or Afgan again.” Snorting, he shook his head. “You’re supposed to slurp, not try to eat the dish as pasta, Chicken.” Putting words to action, Daniel showed Tyson the proper way to eat real Ramen, as the last part of a stage party run.
“Very funny.” James snorted but did so. For a brief time, at the small stand, only slurping could be heard, then a soft aaah, from the older of the two. Turning to look at his friend, Tyson raised an eyebrow. “So, what do you think about the wedding? Haven’t said much.”
“Eh ... it’s her choice.” Daniel shrugged. “You’re the one who told me, if I remember right, weddings are for the women.”
James grinned. “That I did, that I did.” Pausing, he decided to bring up the subject he wanted to, but hadn’t quite done so yet. Shrugging mentally, he just dove in. “So, getting married. Nice girl, I’ll admit, boss, but didn’t think you were ready to settle down. Think it’ll work?”
Daniel sighed. He knew this was coming. “Majors should, and I’m on the promotable list, remember?”
“Fast.” Tyson wasn’t deterred. Sure the boss was on the list, but it was still a few months off, and while somewhat fast to make Major, 9 years wasn’t off, not considering that the last 3 years were spent in combat, that added up to promotions. “But you didn’t answer the question, boss, does she know what she’s getting into?”
“Aiko?” Daniel nodded. “She does, or I think she does.” Shrugging, “Even though she was introduced to me by a few people here, she’s ... nice.”
Tyson understood the urge to facepalm, but kept it out of his voice. “Nice. Ah, Japanese understatement. Hope it’s more of that, or marrying her is a bad idea, Captain.” Tyson’s voice didn’t betray his dislike or distrust of the arrangement, he was quite aware while it wasn’t the classic Japanese arranged marriage, the real only difference was that it wasn’t a agreement between families, but instead an omiai, and that Aiko had been picked for his officer by people who thought he needed a wife.
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Trust me, I’m not minding this at all.” This was delivered in a tone that indicated that he didn’t want to discuss it more.
“ ... If you say so, but ... think you’ll be happy? Big decision here, and you got to make sure you do the right thing for yourself.” Tyson finished.
“Mmm.” A shrug responded. “I have to get married, James. You know that as well as I do. And yes, I think this will work for the long haul. Or I’ll make it work. I don’t intend to trap anyone into something that’d make them unhappy. Anyways, we need to go.” Daniel finished, clearly closing the topic.
James didn’t say a word, but just followed, sighing softly. Still a long way to go, still a long way to go.
Southwest Afghanistan, March, 2006 (Exact Location and Date Classified, NOFORN/TS-KENNEDY)
Tyson watched as Daniel looked out the door at the snow covered mountains while shivering a bit. Even with Legion’s newest gear, it was cold up here for his officer. Riding around in a Blackhawk that barely cleared the mountains didn’t help. He watched as Daniel decided to talk to take his mind off the stark and cold beauty of the Hindu Kush in winter. “Why aren’t you shivering, you’re from the South, Chicken.”
“Eh, you get used to it, though I’m surprised you haven’t. And it’s not that long before we’re with the rest of the Squadron. Shame that Zero got injured, and we have to go take over.” Tyson also thought privately, Dan never did like cold at all, or caves. Very odd that.
“I hate the cold, James, always have, and yeah, it is a shame that Richard was injured enough to be sent stateside. Dog Squadron is critical to plans and he’s good at commanding them, but, needs must. Even if I’m only acting commander, it’s a nice feather. And maybe we can nail some of the paranormals that the Taliban has recruited. Or hired.” Daniel leaned back, thinking about getting some of them. While the Taliban hadn’t had many paranormals before 2001, they had recruited more and even hired some C-list supervillains as mercs. They had inflicted steady and nagging losses on SOCOM personnel, and Dog and Echo Squadrons had been fully assembled to nail them.
Tyson nodded. “Amen. They have a bit of things to answer for.” Before either could say another word, two sharp bangs rattled them, and started the Blackhawk shaking and spinning. Before Tyson could do anything more than grab his harness and Daniel’s, he watched in horror as one of the door gunners flew out of the helicopter.
“We’re going in!” the Pilot shouted, and within seconds, the helicopter had slammed into the ground, driving part of the body into the passenger compartment, while crumpling the front. Worse, was the fragments that slammed into Tyson, while killing the other door gunner.
Daniel panted, at the near miss, and scanned the compartment carefully locking his horror away. Seeing Tyson’s chest rise and fall, he unsheathed his knife and cut away his own seatbelt, then moved to cut away Tyson’s. Smelling petroleum fumes, he moved faster, and grabbed the unconscious man, not bothering to remove his pack. “Dammit, Chicken, you need to lose some weight!” Not bothering to grab their duffle bags he picked up Tyson and staggered out of the ‘copter.
“Uggg ... ” Tyson returned to awareness, feeling his arm over something and his legs dragging to pain. “ ... what th..”
“Got hit when we went down.” Daniel answered short of breath as he kept moving farther away from the helicopter. “Gotta get clear, and call for evac.”
Tyson focused beyond the pain, knowing it was a good thing, since he was still alive. “Others?” His voice was weaker than Daniel had ever heard it, indicating his pain.
“Didn’t make it, could tell.” Daniel stuffed the pictures that flashed to his mind away, preferring to deal with it later.
“Shit.” Tyson muttered, and tried to help his officer move faster. Before Daniel could respond, another voice interrupted their movement
“And so, it ends. When you see the bitch, tell her Twilight comes!” Before either could react, a blast hit Daniel, who dropped Tyson as he staggered backwards.
Tyson rolled to face his and his officer’s killer, desperately reaching for a gun, but knowing he’d be too late.
“Shame, such passion and desire, but it ends here. No Witnesses.” Tyson stared at the Japanese face, as the man twitched his fingers preparing to release a spell that would kill the NCO.
A crack sounded and Tyson blinked as blood splattered him from the man’s ruined face, and he watched horrified as the man dissolved in black streamers of energy. Only thing that ran through his mind as he saw the man dissolve was a thought on how this was how one of those Japanese in 1983 had died. Before he could react, a person became visible.
“That ... was unexpected ... and, oh so disturbing.” The melodic voice was matched to a blonde Sidhe in British camouflage , who shook his head. “I’m sorry we couldn’t get here quicker.”
“Boss?” Tyson breathed, working through the pain, the adrenaline of being alive, and the shock of how quick all this was.
“I have my medic checking him out, but if what I suspect is true, I’m afraid that ... ” The elf was cut off by a shout from where Daniel had landed.
“Sir, he’s still alive! Appears to be in good condition, even.” The voice had the Sidhe raising an eyebrow as he moved to pick up the wounded NCO.
“Amazing. A blast of that nature ... especially given it appeared tainted, should have ... what’s this?” His hands moved over Tyson’s chest. “Does your officer have that same underlayer, Sergeant Major?”
Tyson nodded, looking at the tabs on the British elf’s shoulders. “Yes, Warrant officer, he does.”
“Well, whoever made this very clearly saved his life, and quite possibly yours. Very nice shielding.” The Elf sounded bemused. “I must meet this craftsman.”
“Ah ... ” Tyson tried to keep a mad giggle out of his voice, the thought of Legion meeting an elf would be hilarious, given his rants about pointy eared fools. “That ... might not be the best.” Tyson breathed out, as the Brit lifted him to a shoulder carry and moved to the medic.
Being laid down next to Daniel, he could see the front of his officer’s uniform and weapon simply destroyed, but the underlayer that Legion had made, was only slightly charred. Breathing out, he thought to himself, Legion’s getting his beers on me. Oh, is he.
“Warrant Officer.” Tyson responded as the medic went to work on him, with Daniel slowly waking up, he felt a bit light headed but knew that this had to get to Bragg.
Tyson focused past the pain and stated. “You need to tell Command what went down and that the spell tosser was Japanese. Right the hell now, Warrant officer.”
“ ... First, let’s get you and your officer safe, then we’ll report.” The Elf grinned. “There’s no one left here to try to kill you this time. My men made sure of that.”
Tyson was feeling a falling sensation, but tried again to impress the urgency. “Warrant ... I mean it ... ” He trailed off as darkness enveloped his vision.
Womak Medical Center, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, 19 Sept 2011
Daniel opened his eyes to the white patterned tile above him, and groaned. This attracted attention, and a nurse came over.
“Colonel?” A pause. “Lieutenant Colonel Moate?”
“Yeah ... ” The voice came out raspy, and a glass of water with a straw was placed at his mouth, which he gratefully accepted. After swallowing, he asked. “How long?”
“Two days, Sir.” The nurse responded. “Your wife is waiting outside, and has kept informed, so ... ” Putting actions to words, the nurse bustled out and shortly a elegant long haired Japanese woman walked in, wearing a doctor’s coat and with bags under her eyes.
“Ah ... Anata, what am I going to do with you this time ... ” Shaking her head, she sat down next to her husband.
“... funny, Aiko.” Daniel sighed, not really having the energy to do much more. “How bad?”
Aiko nodded. “Not good, admittedly, but not bad, either. Thankfully the cords shredded when you were less than 100 feet up, everyone thinks.”
Daniel nodded, while he thought it was a bit higher when his parachute decided to rip on him, he’d not argue. “And the injuries?”
“Broken right leg, torn ligaments in your left knee, broken right arm, jarring of the bullet you once got in your vertebrae, which they removed, and your left wrist is a jigsaw puzzle. Oh, and let’s not forget the other damaged ligaments and hairline fractures here and there. We’re just lucky there is no concussion. But ... ”
“Yeah ... ” Daniel forced out, listening to the anger in Aiko’s voice, and the fear that she had. “So, how long of a recovery?”
Aiko shook her head. “At least a year, at the least.” Pausing she shook her head. “if you can fully recover, which frankly, no one’s hopeful for.” Daniel read between the lines and sighed as his wife went on. “Honestly, the fact you got off as lightly as you did is a miracle, I’d not ask for more, dear. Truly. I’m just glad you survived as well as you did.”
Daniel nodded. Aiko had grown a bit upset since 2006 and his first major hospital stay, not to mention his being shot. While she wasn’t against his decision to stay in, she really did want him to transfer to a less stressful posting ... and finish his degree. She couched it in terms of getting his stars, since officers who stayed the entirety of their career in Special Forces rarely, oh so rarely, got stars, but he had figured out that Aiko realized luck runs out, and she didn’t want his to. Plus she thought he’d make a great teacher, at university levels, at least for American universities. “Are they ... ”
“Oh, yes.” Aiko’s voice sounded a bit smug. “At the very least, you can consider your jump status gone for good.” Softening, she shook her head. “I know it’s not the way I wanted, but ... ”
“Yeah, I know. I’m thinking the same thing.” Sighing, he nodded once, to Aiko’s beam.
Aiko couldn’t help but have a hint of joy in her next words. “You’ll love it. I know it, and I know you’ll be good and happy at it.”
“... Yeah, and it’d be better to start a family, wouldn’t it?” Daniel couldn’t help but smile at that.
Aiko wisely didn’t say a word, as the actual attending doctor walked in, but her satisfaction at thinking she found something her husband would be truly happy with, and that wasn’t getting shot at, was easy to see.
Moate house, Uptown, New Orleans, 3rd Jan 2013
Tyson walked into the house, carrying a bag, as his old officer closed the door behind him. “So, Boss. What do you think?” Both men were walking into the family room, where several couches, a small fridge and an excellent sound setup were. Not to mention a classic pool table, which had several balls on it, remains of a previous game the two men had indulged in before going shopping.
“About?” Daniel carelessly threw himself onto the couch as Tyson sat the bag with the PetSmart logo on it. “House, TV, Local News Feeds, SkyNews, Fox news, standard filter. Otherwise, one tenth wind.”
“Huh. Got that new smart house interface, Boss? Why not go full VI?” Tyson pulled a beer out of the small refrigerator next to the couch, and walked across, also collapsing into the chair. “And about the Army’s infinite wisdom.”
“As for the VI, not sure yet if they’re ready for prime time.” Daniel shrugged and pulled out his own beer. “Well, I find it amusing they ran you through Project BLACKHAND, then 6 weeks after you’re certified, they tell you you’re done with 50 years in the service, as of the end of this year. Typical, no?”
“Ayep. But.. yeah, it is nice. Getting just a tad too old to play with the Squadrons. How’s your teaching career going? Any openings in Psych?”
“It’s going fine, and I’m on Tenure track. I’m not quite sure how I got it, nor why I haven’t gotten blasted by the bureaucrats, but ... ”
Tyson nodded. Daniel wouldn’t pull punches, and the current crop of students going to the elite Ivy and little Ivy schools would be ... distressed. He did however have a suspicion, but didn’t voice it. “Well, Psych?”
“I can check. You have a PhD?” Daniel raised an eyebrow. “And what’d Janelle say?’
“She’d not mind moving to New Orleans, boss. And ABD, actually. Had to do something while the project was underway.”
Daniel shook his head amused. “Yeah, I’m sure that something can be arranged. It’s not like, if nothing else, the ROTC dep’t won’t take you.”
A tip of the beer bottle with a sharp look amused Daniel. Tyson didn’t let his old officer rest on the humor though. “Now, we got to install this doggie door, and scatter the toys. Puppies are destructive, and I’m sure that Aiko would appreciate her nice house not destroyed by a chew happy Spitz.”
“Didn’t Janelle say it was a Japanese?” The raised eyebrow questioned the old friend, about his wife’s baby shower gift. Aiko was having a baby shower to welcome the newest Myoujin, and all the Moate family was there, except him. Janelle, Tyson’s wife was there too, with the gift. She had told them both, no child should not have a dog, and put her words to gift.
“Ayep. And since we knew about it, we got out of it. Your uncle is a braver man than I, Dan.” Tyson saluted the absent retired Naval officer.
“He’s higher rank.” Daniel grinned. “Good for something, no?”
“Wasn’t it more that he’s got the bigger gathering space in his retirement house, and couldn’t figure a way out for the day?” Tyson shot back.
“Well, won’t say he’s slow, dangerous, with that target to be clubbed, mind you ... ” Daniel grinned. “It could simply be he likes that stuff.” Daniel shook his head sorrowfully.
Tyson snickered. “Or he just didn’t want to hear his wife bitching. One of the two.”
Daniel looked at James and shook his head. “Chicken, like Janelle could keep you home if a baby shower was happening. You’d find the base of a B-lister, and ‘suggest’ that’ the mission for that day.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Tyson’s innocent expression wouldn’t have fooled a five year old, much less his friend.
Daniel snorted. The fact Tyson had managed to stay married, was a not so near miracle, in the younger man’s eyes. Being a regenerator who actually seemed to focus on aging, over raw injury was just the tip of the issue, as Daniel could see. But, Tyson was from a different age. “Perhaps. Depends on how soft the couch was.”
“Not the problem, there.” Tyson thought about it, and decided to see if the younger man had suggestions about James's retirement “But ... yeah, I didn’t think this day would come. Not quite sure what to do.”
“You have 75% of your pay, as a Warrant 3, not as a Command, Chicken. That gives you a lot of options. You always said you wanted to take up fishing.” Daniel raised an eyebrow
Tyson shrugged. “Eh, Janelle thinks that I should do more than just live off the pension. Putting aside that it’d be more actually than we’re living off of now, since a lot of costs will be gone ... ” He paused. “She’s also worried what I’ll do.” He left unstated ‘when she’s gone’. Tyson knew Daniel knew his situation, which no one had figured out til his 50’s, and by then, it was too late.
Daniel looked up, pondering. “Wise woman. I see the thinking. Get you teaching, so you’d stay busy.” Shaking his head, he shot back. “Sure you want to put up with snowflakes?”
Tyson was about to respond but a tone sounded from the TV, interrupting the conversation.
“TV, display.” Daniel leaned forward, as the TV began to play a local ‘Breaking News’ interruption.
Both men cocked an eyebrow as the pretty vapid woman reported on an LNG tanker exploding. Tyson looked at the map on the TV and cocked an eyebrow, getting a feeling. “Say isn’t that ... ”
“My Uncle’s area? Yes. Let’s go.” Daniel stood up and in a flat tone stated, “I’m driving, I have the faster car.”
“Right.” Tyson and Daniel were already moving, or they'd have seen the center of the explosion.
Astral Planes, Jan 2013
“Hello.” a voice interrupted the two spirits talking. One, a fox tailed beautiful man turned, as the elegant kind-looking Asian woman also turned.
“Benten-chan!” The woman smiled. “Aren’t you in New Orleans?”
The sultry japanese lady smiled. “I was, yes. Good place, good dancing, good music, good artists. What more do I want?”
“Oh, yes, money.” The fox tailed gentleman grinned at her. “What’s in your hands?”
Benzaiten grinned. “I remember you looking around for a spirit to train as a familiar, and I saw this little girl wandering, so I brought her here.” She opened her hands and revealed a white puppy.
Inari’s eyebrows raised a bit, noting the puppy’s pre death condition, and turned to the other woman. “Well, Kwannon?”
The elegant woman looked over the puppy in her friend's hands, and nodded. “I think this one will do, she’s already got a sense of what we need her for. It, still, will take time, and some final polish, once we know, Inari.”
Inari grinned. “Of course, of course.” Pausing a moment, he turned to Benzaiten, and took the puppy out of her hands. “Thank you, dancer. From this small seed we’ll make her into a companion worthy of what is coming.”
Kwannon nodded. “A companion, an aide, a teacher, and if needs be a soother of souls, she will be.” Nodding once, she grinned. “And of course Inari will slip in his touches. Laughter and poking egos will be done, as always.”
Benzaiten laughed. “Of course, of course. Now back to seducing money out of tourists. Nice, fun and oh, so profitable.”
“Do so. And do remember why you’re in New Orleans, as you can be there, and I or others cannot.” Inari grew serious for a moment. “Kwannon would have gone, but she’s happier elsewhere.”
Benzaiten nodded. “But it’s also so fun ... and so honest. Now if the Americans would remember that vice won’t keep, you can just keep it contained, I could so get a new area to watch over ... So easily ... But, off I go. Later!”
"Get busy living.”
Acworth, Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia, 11th Dec 2015
“Dad.” A soprano rang out. “Done fishing?”
Tyson turned to look at his youngest daughter, who had chosen to open a medical practice after she had done her internship, near the retirement home that he had bought. The fact that Janelle had just died when she made that decision was not a factor, or so the girl would claim. Shaking his head, he wandered in. “Yep. Any mail?”
Michelle Tyson, youngest daughter, Whateley graduate of 2005, John Hopkins of 2012, and now local doctor and researcher, rolled her eyes. “No, Dad, I’d have called you if Daniel had mailed you.”
Tyson nodded, and sat down in his chair. Looking around, he shook his head. “Michelle.” Pausing a moment, looking around, and finally accepting something. “I’m going to go on a road trip, tomorrow. Don’t worry, not going to do something dumb like reenlist under a false name, or go sign up with a PMC, as your brother worried.”
Michelle snickered at the comment. “I thought that was my idea, when I was younger.” The light brown skinned doctor shook her finger. “Don’t go stealing ideas.”
“That’s when you were a boy, Michelle. Don’t get all fancy and controlling now that you have the gender to control us pitiful males.” Tyson shot back. “And that fancy school of yours ... Pff. All those telepaths and mages gave you ideas! Bad ones!”
“As if.” The woman rolled her eyes. “I’d be too afraid of Headmistress Carson to actually do that!” Pausing, she nodded once. “Let me guess. New Orleans?”
Tyson nodded once, standing up, and heading for a storeroom. “Good time. And well, if the mountain ... ”
“You’ll just beat it down 'til it learns it’s to come, right?” The younger Tyson shot back at her admittedly imposing father.
Tyson pulled out several bags. And also unlocked a large safe. “Ayep. And stubborn officers often need a 2” x 4” to learn. Been letting that lesson slide too long.” Pulling out several cases from the safe, he put them on the ground next to the bags. “Now, you don’t take no shit while I’m gone.” Pausing. “And if it comes to that, you have the combination here.”
His daughter nodded. “Good thumping, Dad.” With an impish grin she added. “Your clue-by-fours are in shed, should grab one on your way out.”
“That I will do.” Tyson felt better than he had in years. He knew what he was doing was right, and frankly, should have been done a while ago ... but with a snort, the greying man smiled. Better late than never, and that officer was going to get the treatment he should have as a Lt.
Shortly, Tyson was at a car, a nice classic ‘62 Vette. Smiling, he knew he’d have some fun, not just thumping an officer who apparently forgot the golden rule of American Soldiers, but on the road.
“Been too long, since I’ve had a good thumping, a good bar crawl, and a good drive. Let’s do this.” Tyson put words to action, as he loaded in the bags, and put a shoulder rig under one arm. Two-three days to New Orleans, then not only would he educate an officer, but maybe a strip club. He had been dying, and he knew his friend had been too. But both wives would have had curt words, if they didn’t get busy living. Waving at his daughter, the old soldier smiled grimly. “Something’s got to change, not just for me, but for Dan, neither of us are living.”
Moate House, Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana, Pre Dawn, 12th Dec 2015
The cloying smell of death and decay wafted in his nostrils; He could hear the screams of dead and dying - his dead and dying, both those he promised to command, and those they were to protect - the flashes and streaks of fire all around them ... but everything focused on her, a young girl, clothed in peasant robes, innocently pointing up at their position, telling the enemy where his command could be found. As he pulled the trigger, the face changed. The location changed. An innocent’s face turned older; the peasant’s robes flourished into a doctor’s coat. The location was a American home, not some rocky soil. The trigger was pulled; he felt the shudder of the cartridge as the bullet flew from the muzzle of his gun, every cell in his body screaming to have it back ...
He sat up in bed, instantly awake, sweating, shivering, shuddering from the nightmare. Disorientation left him; after a moment, he sighed and flopped back down on the bed. His head rolled to one side, his eyes alighting on a picture of a happier time. A man in Mess Dress uniform, with an elegant young woman’s arm held securely in his. Returning his eyes to the ceiling, he sighed. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You were supposed to be here with me, Aiko. With children to keep us awake at night. That was the plan, wasn’t it?”
Pushing himself up, as if he was rolling a stone up a hill, the man’s eyes landed on a set of academic robes to be worn in a week for a special commencement. It was a milestone in a life. An empty milestone without someone to share it with. Too many moments passed, as the dawn slowly crept in the room, until the man without any life in his eyes, levered himself up and started into the bathroom.
Staring into the mirror over the sink, he looked into his own eyes. The bluish hazel was unremarkable, as well as the bags around his eyes. What drew plenty of attention were the gold rimmed irises, there as long as he could remember, and he remembered his grandfather having similar eyes. For all the fire that gold promised, he knew the spirit behind that fire had gutted and died on a patch of slippery road, over two years ago as a tanker lost control. Splashing water across his face might wash away the sweat and grime of a terror-filled night, but would not wash away the lack of spirit in his eyes.
Hebert Hall, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, Afternoon, 12th Dec 2015
"Professor?” A young woman's head popped through the office door.
"Yes... Miss Stein?" The older man, looking tired, eyed the redhead who stepped fully in on the question.
"Professor Moate, I just wanted to thank you for the class. I learned a lot in it.” She smiled at him, curling a lock of hair around her finger, while looking into his tired hazel eyes with her blue.
"You're welcome, and you were a good student. However, the semester is over, grades are in, and I want to go home." The professor finished packing his bag, and looked at her, pretending not to notice her actions.
"Well... I wanted to know, are you coming to the end of semester campus rally for Humanity first?” She leaned forward a bit, letting her V-neck show a little cleavage.
The professor kept his eyes on her face, while putting the bag on the chair. "Nope. I see no reason to; especially since it's not something I think I wish to attend, at all."
"But, why not? Mutants are a threat and out to kill people! Fullerton proved it!” Her voice had gained a bit of passion.
A sigh and a shake of his head preceded his answer. "Read about talk like that before. Read about it repeatedly, read the results. Didn't like them. Most of my family put people like that down, Miss Stein." He turned to look out the window and added, “You think talk like that hasn't been said before? Once you kill off all the 10,000 or so active mutants, who next? Bloodlust once started, doesn't end, Miss Stein." He shook his head, voice sad. "I wanted to fight and destroy such evil - didn't get the chance.” He turned back to look her in the face, his eyes cold and dead. "Frankly, Miss Stein, I don't care - not about mutants - not about humanity ... not about much anymore."
"Then learn to care!" The student smiled. "Mutants are evil - just look at Maelstrom! People need to take them down! Before there’s another Fullerton!"
"Yes. Those who promote genocide, eat people? Those who lose control of their powers, or are careless of them? Agreed. They need to be put down. If for nothing else, their own self-loathing.” The Professor shook his head. "What you fail to understand, is that not everyone is evil. Not everyone is responsible for the actions of individuals." Moate sighed. "As for your previous comment about threats, girl? I am more dangerous than at least half the mutants out there. I've killed. I've done things that frankly, no one should have done. If you think dangerous people should be put down, start with me. And good luck." He paused and nodded once, tired again. "And be glad I put grades in already, or you'd have a letter drop, for failing to understand the lecture on why Japan went to war. Get. OUT."
She recoiled, and opened her mouth, only to close it to the icy, dead eyes staring into hers, promising pain and death due to a slight ring of gold around the black irises. She turned and walked out.
"Well.” Daniel Moate ran his hand through his hair, and sighed, as another woman, this one older popped her head into his soon-to-be ex-office. Even if he did accept the full tenure, he’d have a new office, if not, well. He’d not be here.
"Well what, Daniel?" The new woman smiled, her green eyes twinkling under her black bangs. "And was that a nubile co-ed trying to seduce you? Left in a huff."
Daniel snorted. "Well, she was trying to get me to go to that stupid rally, Melissa." He was rewarded with an eyeroll. "Yeah, I know. But, as my chair, Professor McKean, you know as well as I do, it's the same old song, just a new target."
"It doesn’t help that you just don't care and are going through the motions ... just like these last two years.” Her voice dropped, and sighed. "I know you gave what you could to your classes, but don't you think it's time to live, Dan?"
"Mmm." Daniel grabbed his bag, and keys, gestured at the hallway, and then followed Melissa out. "Perhaps. But, what for?" He shook his head. "I mean, I have my tenure now, if I want it. I have several nice job offers, which I might take one of. But outside that?"
Melissa's eyes grew sad. "If your wife was as good as I remember her being, she'd hate you just..." She trailed off, and then spoke up. "Did you think about the offer we gave you? You'd be an excellent professor of Asian history, you know, and Asian political history. And we have the funding for a new chair, as well as a full professorship. Rare these days.”
Dan smiled a bit, the expression not reaching his eyes. "I have, a bit. Not sure yet, I know you want to know by the end of the week. You'll have my answer. Well... this is where we diverge. I go to my streetcar; you go to your office, Melissa."
Melissa nodded. "Hope to see you at the party tomorrow."
Dan waved at her as he stepped out of Hebert Hall, and sighed. "You should. Take care, Melissa."
Walking down Law road, to St. Charles, Daniel ran his free hand through his hair again, sighing, eying the young adults enjoying the end of semester at Tulane, preparing for the last two days. Shaking his head, he walked across to the streetcar stop and just muttered as he waited. "Must be nice."
Moate House, Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana, Near Midnight, 12th Dec 2015
Looking out the window of his home - his great-grandparents’ house - Dan sipped at a brandy, letting the late night storm that washed over the city cool him off from the open pane. Shaking his head, he closed the window, and sat down in a recliner, eying the blank TV. “House, TV, debate news feed.”
Watching as people argued about the mutant menace again, Daniel had to shake his head. Ever since Fullerton, the MCO had been pushing heavily to regain all it’s lost power, and to some extent was successful. But EvoRocks and other organizations were pushing back, and while the MCO seemed to be winning, at least for now, Daniel suspected that once again, they would give others the excuse to bring the hammer down. “Here’s to that.” Daniel sipped, and sighed. “House, Music channel, evening, beach. 25 percent volume.” Figuring that the beach sounds would help to get him to sleep, at least for a bit, he eyed his empty snifter, and decided it wasn’t worth the effort of refilling it. Dropping-off the snifter in the sink, he walked out, and looked at the windows, not really seeing the rain falling.
“So.” Speaking out loud, to the empty house, he sighed. “What now, Aiko? You didn’t tell me what to do after you died.” Looking down at the sink, he shook his head. “Melissa’s right. I need to find something to do- a cause, a reason to be.” Pushing away from the sink, he walked out towards the stairs, and his empty bedroom. “But what is it? Not like I’ll be allowed to reenlist, not like it’ll drop out of the sky to hit me. Oh, I know. A dream! Maybe Tyson to come around and beat some sense into my head.” A snort and a rueful shake of the head followed. “That only happens in the movies. Man. I can’t keep doing this to myself. I need to move on.” He pulled off his shirt, as he entered the bathroom, and nodded.
“Tomorrow. That’s when I’ll make some decisions. And figure out how.” Shortly after, the water was on, and the soft ocean sounds competed with running water for the noise.
Drying his hair off from the shower, Daniel adjusted the towel as he walked back into his bedroom, and simply remained quiet as he pulled on some boxer briefs and lounge pants, and tossed himself on the bed. He closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep, hoping that dreams wouldn’t interfere again. His breathing slowly settled and joined the ocean sounds’ soft noise in the house.
Bright sunlight struck his closed eyes, and he opened them. He blinked and blinked again, looking around. He saw classic Japanese grounds, gardens, and an open pavilion with a woman about 100 feet away from him. Blinking yet again, he took stock of his situation and found that he was standing up, and felt dressed, with a confirmation coming as he looked down, and saw his blues that he no longer had the obligation to wear, as well as a green beret on his head. Shrugging, and thinking that this was better than some dreams, he walked towards the open pavilion. Coming closer, his eyes narrowed at the tea ceremony set, and the kimono the woman wore. Keeping to the traditions that had been drummed into him by his great grandfather, he spoke no words- as he knelt, his feet folding into the inward V, his knees touching, and finally his rear resting on his heels as he assumed the position known as “seiza”. One thing that occurred to him- was the lack of pain from assuming seiza- as he watched the elegant woman prepare and serve the tea.
As Dan sipped at the tea, the gentle sounds of the lady’s preparation washing and soothing him, he noted the fine details of her kimono. It was a rich red with sun motifs, an obi with mirror motifs and a gemmed pendant at the opening. His eyes narrowed at the hint of a sword behind her, and he patiently waited until both of them had finished drinking their tea.
“So.” The woman eyed him, her fiery irises staring into Dan’s eyes and - her reddish black hair streaming like a waterfall down her back. “I’m sure you’re wondering what this is - why I summoned you to Tea. At intense cost, since you are not in Japan, where you should be! I’ve been trying to get your attention.” She scowled, then smirked a bit.
“Or if this is but a dream. I’m pretty sure that if you are who I think you are, you would not want to talk to me.” Daniel Moate, veteran of too many battles and too many losses, looked her in the eye. “After all, we both know where I’m headed.” Shaking his head, he added. “Life isn’t a movie, gods don’t come calling, and while this dream is much more restful than others I’ve had, it’s just that - a dream.”
The lady tapped her chin. “Then there’s no harm in listening, is there?” She paused, looking him in the eye, and continued on. “And if this is for real, Daniel, there is much risk and potential harm if you do not listen - not only to you, not only to your duty, not only to your nation, but to the world.”
Daniel paused, looking into her eyes, those eyes of fire, and sighed. “Well, I won’t argue that. This is your invitation, then.” He leaned back and waited.
“As you say.” She nodded. “I do hope you figured out who I am.” She was rewarded with a nod. “I also do hope you know a bit about mutant powers, as an officer of the military should.” She was rewarded with another nod. “Good. Avatars, what do you know?” She quirked an eyebrow.
Daniel felt his eyebrows rise slightly in his head. “Basic premise is an ability to allow the mutant in question to host a spirit of some power so the spirit or entity has the ability to see the modern world, or affect it. In exchange, the spirit grants the avatar powers. That would be for Paladins, mostly, regular avatars make a deal with their spirit, and in exchange for a home, for the spirit to safely build up power, the spirit shares some with the avatar.”
“Correct, in essence. There are variants, of course, and some darker aspects when talking about ... how did you put it? Ah, spirits. Yes. Spirits of my class and renown.” She paused and nodded once. “Several others have chosen avatars, and while many honor the fact that it is an equal give and take, some ... remove the avatar’s soul, and take over.” She made a face, showing her disgust at that. “And yes, some of my ... fellows, shall we say ... though not of my family, be assured of that, have indulged in such behavior.”
Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “ ... Your fellows, as in ... ”
“Other gods?” This time, her affirming nod was quite curt. “Quite. They want their worship and power back, some of them. They don’t like being as weak as they are now.”
“Lovely.” The tone of voice belied the disinterest on Daniel’s face.
“To be fair, that isn’t my family’s interest. We realize we aren’t the rulers of all, and our time of being the powers and rulers is over.” She paused. “We still feel for our children, and want to help them, though, Daniel.” She looks him in the eye. “A time is coming when we will need to help our children, Colonel ... and it’s near.”
“Lady Amaterasu. As one would expect of the Mother and Sun of Japan.” He pauses. “And this has what to do with me?” He quirked an eyebrow at the named goddess who nodded.
“It’s simple. I have decided that you’ll do.” She smiled at him. She was rewarded by a blank look for a long moment.
“Forgive me. Me, Lady Amaterasu?” He paused. “Me?” His tone indicated his disbelief. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I ... am not fit for ... such an honor. You would be better suited waiting and finding another.” His eyes bore into her. “Even if this was real, I’ve done too much. I ... cannot be the Sun’s champion ... ” A pause, a sigh, and eyes dropping to the table showed the shame in his voice. “I’ve abandoned the light. The deeds I have done ... cannot be repented for.” He returned to looking her in the eyes. “Of course, this is but a dream, and you’d know what I know.”
She smirked. “I find your ... lack of faith disturbing.” She was rewarded by a stunned look. “More importantly, you meet almost all the qualifications I want in my champion and agent, and I can make you meet the rest. As for your ... belief in your unworthiness, should we say? I hold no rancor, nor do those who matter, towards your actions. I will concede they were not of the ... best, but I will not say they were wrong in the situation you were in.” She turned away, eying the garden she was looking at, and sighed. “Duty is heavier than a mountain, and requires much. What is honor compared to duty?” She quirked an elegant eyebrow at Dan, inviting a response.
Daniel took a long moment to respond. “Perhaps. Still, isn’t there better suited?”
She paused. A longer moment stretched out. “There is not. I am not even sure there is anyone else who is even slightly suited. Ill winds have...” She was rewarded by a darkening of Daniel’s eyes, and she nodded. “This ... leaves you, Daniel. But I do not force. I do not require slavish obedience to a promise made too long ago, by people not even history names. It will take time for you to learn and adapt to the roles you will need to do, but the time that those roles are needed, is finally coming. Will you accept the position? Will you become my agent and champion the causes that I wish?” Pausing. “Will you walk in the light.” Her rising voice, combined with the stare she was imposing on Daniel kept his attention fully on her. “Will you lead others into the light? Will you keep the darkness away?” A voice like distant thunder rang, “Choose. Choose if you will be who you were meant to be. Choose for not only yourself, but all those now, and in the future. It has always been your choice.” And a final roaring sound rang through the ears. “Choose to live or die!”
The beeping of an alarm bolted the man from his bed, and he looked around, seeing his bedroom. Panting a second, recovering from the abrupt awakening, and still feeling the ringing in his ears, from the dream, he finally settled down, calming his breathing.
“Wow. That ... was different.” After rubbing his face with a hand, he tossed aside the sheet and got up, moving to the bathroom, where he washed his face and looked into the mirror. Staring for a second, he didn’t note that the fire around his irises had grown a bit. “Maaah, if that was only real.” Shaking his head with a rueful chuckle, he turned to get dressed. “I guess it was me reminding myself that there are still causes to fight for. Reasons to fight. Well. Let’s go start looking.” As he left the bathroom, Daniel’s slight smile indicated his day was starting better than what had become normal for him.
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, Late Afternoon, 12th Dec 2015
Walking across the quad and heading towards Hebert hall, Daniel shook his head. “Idiots.” Eying the ‘rally’, he snorted, hearing their rhetoric. “I’m almost sad I’m not an oral comm. prof, I’d get to fail that idiot.” Thankful to hear the speeches drop off as he wound his way into Hebert hall, he was stopped by Melissa.
“Dan!” She was smiling at him.
“Melissa, yes. I accept the tender of tenure.” He quirked a smile. “At least I don’t have to go house hunting, with that.”
Her beaming smile was all the answer he needed, until he was clapped on his shoulder by Linda Pollock. “Great. We can expand our Japanese history courses -- though I’ll have to share you with Asian Studies.” The older lady grinned at her two professors. “Upside, they’re also paying part of your salary, so it’s all good, Dan. Again, welcome to Tulane, Chair of Japanese History and Studies.. Wasn’t sure you’d accept.”
Dan smiled slightly. “Well ... I do own a house here, Linda. I’ll admit some other offers were tempting, but I’d have to buy a new house.” A slight smirk reached his face. “Rather not.”
Linda laughed, clapping him on the shoulder again, and nodded. “Can’t blame you on that. Well. Enjoy the party.”
Melissa was still beaming at him. “Aren’t you glad you stayed, Dan?”
Dan rolled his eyes at his former advisor, who was a good decade younger than him. “You just wanted me here, so you can keep stuffing the PhD candidates off to me.”
Her attempt at an innocent look was foiled by the laughter in her eyes. Finally, she gave up and giggled. “Why yes, that’s what the newest chair does, yes ... unless he can find a TA to dump it onto.”
Dan sipped at a Jax’s pushed into his hand. “Which you did - two years running.”
She opened her mouth to counter, only to be cut off by sounds of a young woman screaming in terror, headed their way.
Dan’s bottle was in her hand before she could speak, and with that, he was already moving and out the door before she regained her senses.
An Astral Plane, designated “Celestial” Betenzaiten’s Tea House, 13th Dec 2015
Susanoo pulled up a chair next to Amaterasu, and eyed the dancer on stage. “One of Benten-chan’s girls?”
Amaterasu nodded a slight pout on her face. “Needs a bit more practice, I’d say.”
“Perfectionist. Though after seeing my wife, can’t disagree.” He harrumphed, as he opened a beer. “So, got yours yet?”
Amaterasu rolled her eyes. “I’d have had mine, if it wasn’t for the accident. She’d have been a bit young, but. Now I have to hope Daniel’s able to handle the duty.”
“You wait too long, you lose, Big Sis.” His tone indicated no apology. “I wasn’t the one who chose to stop and watch Benzaiten do a slow strip tease to Warrant’s Cherry pie. Or not stuff her line into nice and safe spaces where no one can really find them.” The Impetuous Male snorted, earning a glare from his older sister.
Amaterasu sniffed. “Which I’m sure stunned everyone.” Her eyebrow rose at the long silence. “Why didn’t you?”
“ ... No one told me.” He grinned at her. “Works out, my girl is ready and able.”
“And I’m stuck with Dan.” She rolled her eyes. “Really, brother, he’s barely able to handle talking to me right now. His daughter would have been better.”
“But, I can’t share mine, you can’t share your bloodline. That’s the contract we made.” He chugged half the beer, and belched. “It’s not like we had much choice. It was the only way to seal the beasties away, and give the kids a chance to grow and stand on their own. As everyone agreed. Though from what I’ve heard, Sis, Myoujin have been suffering a bad streak of luck, since before the war. Makes one very ... curious.”
“Benten-chan isn’t sure that someone wasn’t targeting my line. And several others.” Amaterasu’s expression was fey. “Something to find out for sure.”
Susanoo’s expression matched hers. “And remind people just how we take that.”
Amaterasu sighed. “First things first, brother. Make sure humanity’s ready to make the next step..” She paused, and then smirked cruelly. “Then kill a lot of fools.”
Susanoo toasted her. “Just point out the targets, dear sister, just point out the targets and I’ll have them serviced. Reminds me, did Benten-chan and Inari find their own?”
“Not yet, at least in Inari’s case. Benten-chan isn’t saying.” She shrugged, her top slipping a bit to Susanoo’s leer. She eyed him. “And we’re divorced, brother. Remember that. Something about how you couldn’t keep up with me?” She quirked an eyebrow.
Susanoo snapped his fingers. “That’s right. Also too demanding, if I remember right.”
Amaterasu smirked. “Well ... if you weren’t so ... impetuous ... maybe you could take your time and do it right.”
“Right to the heart, right to the heart!” Susanoo mimicked a hit. “Wonder if our priests realize how much we’ve learned of the real world over the years?
“Wouldn’t ever occur to them, brother.” She rolled her eyes. “They think we’re still at each other’s throats, they think we’re just in the heavens watching over them - never thinking what that means.”
“Yeah, yeah, and they say I don’t think.” He smirked and took a pull on his beer, finishing it, and opening another. “Want one?”
The goddess of the Sun eyed him, waving her hand and showed in her other a cup of sake. “No thanks- got my own. Heard from Father or Mother?”
Susanoo sighed. “No. No one’s heard from them - not since the Americans ended the war. Even before then, Sis, how often did Dad come out of his hermitage? And well ... yeah, Mom was sealed for a reason.”
“Not a bad thing. You know how they’d be annoyed with us.” Amaterasu sipped at her saucer.
“For this?” His tone indicated the plan that the pair of gods were working on.
“Quite.” She sighed then paused, eyes widening and suddenly vanished.
Susanoo’s eyebrows rose. “Huh, something might have caught her attention.” He smiled as a dancer came up to him, then he held out a roll of bills as she slipped into his lap. “This is the life. No wife, no nagging, and hot women. Plus the promise of good battles ahead.” A pause. “Shit. Got to go, babe.” He slipped the girl off his lap and vanished in a crackle of lightning.
St Charles Ave at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 12th Dec 2015
Parking his Stingray, Tyson stepped out of the car, stretching. Muttering quietly to himself, keen observers would hear ... “Damm, that was fun, but does take a bit out of you ... Eh?”
Keen eyes, trained and experienced swept the situation, as tactical information flew across his lenses, as a crowd approached a girl. Tyson knew, not just from his years in the military, but his past growing up in the Deep south, what was going to happen.
Stepping to his car’s trunk, he prepared to do what he did so well.
Main Quad, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 12th Dec 2015
Heading to the screams was no different than heading to the sounds of fire, Daniel mused as he moved. Somehow, he knew this would come once he saw the ‘rally’. Mobs were mobs and only needed an outlet. Some part of him relished it - relished the chance to once again be what he wanted to be. Once again, he put his hard- earned skill and training to the test.
The historian in him knew it was like stopping the sea - possible, but the sea, in the end, always wins. Still, it didn’t stop the need inside him to rail against the ocean. Perhaps the sea’s passion would be sated without blood today. If not, his old life nearing its end would just have to do, instead of a young life still filled with hope and dreams.
Daniel Moate skidded to a stop, his combat boots catching the wet grass. Ignoring the pain in his body, he swept his eyes across the crowd that was chasing the girl who had fallen to the ground behind the position he positioned himself in, his posture grew more relaxed, belying his ability to act.
The crowd apparently didn’t notice him, baying for blood. Turning to look at the girl behind him, he noted that she was pretty much a typical co-ed. “Stay behind me, ma’am. I think a few idiots need an education.” Turning back to the crowd less than 15 feet away, his voice rang out across the crowd. “Hold.”
The mass of humanity came to a halt as Daniel stood fifteen feet in front of them, his body interceding between the mob and their intended victim. The mob rippled in front of him, angry men and women with improvised weapons suddenly confused at this affront to their collective will. Still, he held his ground, defiantly standing in front of them in his army boots and t-shirt. He spared a glance at the mob’s victim. She was scratched and bleeding, but she was still alive, still mobile. She could still run.
He, on the other hand, had to make his stand.
He looked out at the sea of people, and sighed. For once, as he looked at the not-quite-children in front of him, he felt so very old, older than he was in years. “Go. Just ... go home.” He took a deep breath. “This – attacking people who do you no harm – is wrong, kids. That’s what the bad guys do. That’s what evil does.” He pleaded with his eyes to the crowd, hoping they could taste the pain of his memories. “Defending yourself is one thing; attacking people just for who they are ... that’s evil. Go. Just ... go.”
Silence hung over the crowd for a moment, soon broken by a shrill voice – the will of the mob.
“He’s doing her! Mutie lover! Kill them both!”
Daniel tensed, prepared for the oncoming tsunami, only to feel the world freeze and become pure light.
So. Are you ready? A musical voice sang in his mind.
Daniel answered the voice in the same way. Easy choice, isn’t it? His tone was calm and confident.
There will be ... costs. I ... will make changes to your body. The tone grew softer and quieter. Not your soul, never your soul.
There are always prices. My body ... or my soul. Daniel’s tone didn’t change at all. I’m not willing to add more to my soul.
Then ... . step forward, and show the light, My Champion! The musical voice rose to a crescendo, and the world shifted from frozen in light to high-contrast color, and everyone else was moving slow, as if he was in fifth gear, and they were still stuck in first gear.
Even the few 120 FPS cameras that were at the scene would never be able to piece together exactly what happened. One frame showed the crowd and Daniel surging towards each other, then the next showed his foot slamming against one of the mob’s jaws. Another showed various members of the mob exploding outward, and yet another showed his hands slamming into people’s necks and abdomens. One feature was the slight golden glow around the professor. He seemed to blur in several frames, possibly moving faster than the camera could track.
Less than a pair of seconds later, the standing members of the mob recoiled, clearing a space for half their number to moan and otherwise suffer from the blows rained down on them. Daniel stood nearly in the center, his eyes sweeping the collapsed bodies he had left.
He stood alone, as if he had been unmoved by the tsunami of flesh, indeed, as if he had brought the sea low. Shaking his head, he turned to face the rest of the mob, sweat and a slight tremble in his arms showing his exertion.
“I said ... go. None of them are dead, and they’ll recover. Consider this: I could have killed them. Some would say I should have. But ... I didn’t. I chose mercy. Make sure you take it ... and not make me rethink being merciful.” His voice conveyed exhaustion and sorrow to those who would listen. Very careful hearing would pick out an undercurrent of pain. His eyes swept the crowd again, growing colder and boring into their souls. “Go.”
The mob broke against his will of stone, and turned as if they were a tide, and fled away, receding from the shore.
I’d suggest you get medical treatment. You’re not really ready or able to handle even that little amount of my power, child. Amaterasu sighed.
... I figured that. Term’s burnout. Daniel waited until the crowd had fully departed the open area, and sank to his knees, as Melissa ran up. Voice thready with pain and exhaustion, Daniel asked her. “Call 911 for an ambulance, and dig my cell out and call the VA number in it ... ”
Melissa did both requests. Daniel crumpled to the ground and passed out, never noticing the black man running up with a gun in his hands.
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 12th Dec 2015
Students hate finals week, in general.
For Meg, it was the test of her life.
She hadn’t wanted to be on campus that day. She wasn’t a fool; she knew how volatile the rally was going to be. When she’d looked at the time she was to perform her project for music composition, she’d nearly lobbied for a time change.
That she was a mutant was public knowledge. Her primary gift was vocal mimicry – she could replicate any human voice she had ever heard and remembered. The gift had secondary benefits as well; she had no doubts her perfect pitch was a product of her vocal skills. She’d joined the music program at Tulane, as American-style jazz and blues had always fascinated her (and where else to study jazz and blues but New Orleans?) but she had always known the real reason why she’d gone to school in the United States, rather than her homeland.
Where she came from, the nail that stuck up usually got hammered down – hard. She didn’t want to be yet another cookie cutter idol, and the industry had treated her like they did any other idol who didn’t do what they wanted.
Still, it had been years since Meg had left her family; even though she still attended Tulane on a school visa, after five years of school, she never thought much of her homeland. It was somewhere else, a different world from this. It was a past she had left behind, a past that had kicked her to the curb and left her to fend for herself. It wasn’t that she had broken faith; it was that faith had broken with her.
And then came the dream. That one temple Mother had always taken her to as a child; the impossibly-beautiful woman standing there at the bell, smiling with the radiance of the sun.
A request was made. A plea for help. An assurance of safety, even through strife. And an offer of blessing.
She still didn’t believe. She didn’t want to believe. However, there was a small part of her that still wanted it, still believed in the possibility of those above her - a small, childlike part of her that hoped to be welcomed back home.
So, even though she thought it likely a product of bad jambalaya, she kept her promise from the dream. She didn’t change the time of her performance; she would walk from her apartment to the auditorium, stand defiantly as she performed her work, then walk back, just as she had promised the goddess.
The blues, on that day, needed little coaxing. The piano keys felt like clay beneath her fingertips; her voice – a low alto for the moment – bled with an undefined sadness. Professor Washington had praised her on her skill and emotional delivery; she felt both embarrassed and elated at the compliments.
Which, of course, left the walk home – as the anti-mutant rally was in full swing.
She’d hoped not to attract attention. She tried to blend in with the other students on the campus, tried to be anonymous, tried so hard not to be outed.
“Hey! There’s a mutie! She makes all these strange voices in my music class!”
Her pace quickened. Others around her backed away, wanting nothing to do with the trouble sure to come; the mob surged around her, surrounding her, encircling her.
She was trapped.
The taunts began. A few spit on her. When she felt the shove behind her, forcing her to the ground, skinning her hands and knees on the pavement, she knew she was in deep trouble.
As she looked at the scattered sheet music on the ground, the blood dripping on them, she knew. They wanted this blood; they wanted her blood spilled all over the pavement, sacrificed to sate their fury. And she was REALLY hoping at that moment the dream was more than just indigestion.
She couldn’t help it: she screamed. She was a vocal mimic; she could scream enough to wake the dead. In this case, it was enough to give her room; she broke out of the circle, and ran as though hell itself was chasing her.
A rock hit her on the shoulder; she fought through the pain. If she stopped, she died. More rocks and debris flew at her, she kept on running.
Then she tripped. She hadn’t noticed the people she passed as she ran; one of them had stuck their foot out, sending her skidding and tumbling onto the sidewalk.
That was it. She was going to die. She moved to push herself up, to face her executioners, when a voice stopped everyone cold.
Deep within her, something stirred with the voice. It was a voice of command, of absolute authority. Moreover, it rang with divine authority, as though the gods themselves had sent the command.
She would have to remember that voice.
To her disappointment, the voice turned strangely mortal, almost vulnerable. A good voice for the blues, but not good for authority. “Go. Just ... go home,” he said.
She looked up, and saw him for the first time. Combat boots, worn from years of use, but polished to shine. Military cargo pants. T-shirt. She could hear him too, hear the drip of blood on his hands in every breath, hear the dirge of funerals on his tongue, hear the will-puzzled questions still unanswered with every syllable he spoke.
His was a life that had stopped – and, yet, he was saving hers.
For a moment, she thought it would work. The mob was stunned into uneasy silence, unsure of what to make of this affront to their authority. Perhaps she might live to see another dawn.
“He’s doing her! Mutie lover! Kill them both!”
She grimaced. Such a harsh, noxious voice.
And, at that moment, the world changed.
The man stopped being mortal. She knew of no other way to describe it. One moment, he stood there with only the authority of man, the next he shone with the cutting, perfect light of dawn.
Just like the goddess at the temple.
As he glowed with the light of dawn, he blurred, and the mob parted by force.
As her blurred vision watched this man fight with power that could only be called divine, she understood the goddess’ request. Heroes – Avatars – only rise to challenge. And she was needed as bait, as sacrifice to give that challenge.
She smiled, and for the first time in several years, she thought of her name, the name her father had given her on her birth, and understood.
As kinder hands helped her to her feet, she looked at her savior, and nodded.
Amaterasu was right. It was time to come home.
Main Quad, Tulane University, 12th Dec 2015
“Department of Paranormal affairs, how may I take your call?”
>“I’m at the Tulane University main quad right now, there’s a lynch mob chasing a girl, looks like H1 protesters attacking her” Tyson said tightly as he grabbed his drop-holster and the case in the trunk. he strapped the ridiculously heavy rifle on and ran towards the scene. Even with his speed, he’d not be able to do more than maybe get there in time to save her life as he saw the rocks fly at the girl, cracking her good. His eyesight was far better than it should be, and old age hadn’t gone after his eyes, yet.
Wait one. We have reports of MCO teams inbound to the scene, report of a mutant attack by a siren have been issued.
>“Well the girl looks like she’s fleeing too. Fuck they’re beating her, the girl is not a high-exemplar or PK, she’s showing no signs of Blaster ability, I’m moving. There’s blood all over.”
“Roger, filing false report, please stay on the line. Dispatching DPA oversight teams to your position, now.”
“Thank God ... Oh shit.” Tyson saw the flicker-flash of sunburst light erupt after hearing a familiar, tired voice call “HOLD.” The violence exploded as the mob turned on the man, then the flashing light started, and Tyson drew up short, shocked at what was happening. “DPA, another paranormal is breaking up the riot, using ... nonlethal force. I’m seeing everyone he’s taken down still moving, and he has the girl, pulling her to her feet. The rest of the mob is breaking away.”
“Roger, stand by, please identify yourself.”
>“My name is Sergeant-Major James Tyson, US Army, Retired. MMID Code US-00027-GA. Paranormal breaking up the attack is Lt. Colonel Moate, US Army, Retired, MMID Code US-19213-LA. If the MCO comes through they’re going to kill both of them.” He redoubled his speed and arrived as Daniel Moate dropped to his knees, sidearm out in case anyone else felt the need to revisit the violence.
“Sergeant-Major, you are hereby directed to control the scene. Your Authority is to be considered superseding the MCO until DPA units arrive on-scene.” The woman at the other end of the line. “Heads-Up, the MCO tasked a Strike Armor Lance. We are contacting Fort Bragg now. The MCO does not hold jurisdiction over MMID carriers.”
>“At least Fullerton didn’t change that blessed fact,” Tyson said grimly as he began rendering first-aid both to the girl and to Daniel, who was burning up at his feet. “What’s your name, young lady?” he asked, deceptively calmly as he loosened Daniel’s shirt, to allow better ventilation.
He wasn’t surprised when the shellshocked girl started trembling and the four Powder-blue MCO power units hit the ground thirty feet away. “Nobody move, MCO. Everyone get on the ground and put your hands on your heads, now!” The PA was loud, and the MCO levelled their weapons.
“My name is Sergeant-Major James Tyson, I am here on DPA authority. No one is to make any arrests or leave until the DPA arrives on-site.”
“Bullshit. Get on the ground, NOW, sir.”
“MCO is not responding to DPA override, Sergeant-Major.” The dispatcher told him grimly.
“I was afraid you would say that.” He was on his feet, the APR-25A combat rifle aimed at the MCO Armor units. “This is your one warning MCO, you will stand down for the DPA, and withdraw.”
“He’s protecting the siren, take them all down.” The Power Armor driver forgot to turn off his PA before speaking.
“That’s not ... ”
Tyson was moving to the right, holding down the trigger of the rifle, designed to be wielded by mid-high exemplars, as the 25mm caseless ammunition ripped from the barrel. His reflexes were honed faster than the stupid assholes in their bully-armor, and the first three rounds drilled right through the chest plate of the armor meant to stop an Exemplar four or five from instantly killing the occupant by slamming into it.
“...a lawful ... ”
It was never meant to take the impact of Army-Issue anti-material rounds, and the shells exploded inside the suit as the other three predictably tracked his movement, tearing up the ground around him as the old soldier dove behind a low wall, low-crawling along the ground as the MCO weapons annihilated the stone behind him.
“...order.” It was so nice to know that the DPA was so very quick on the uptake.
The gunfire converging where he had been meant they were focusing on him, not the kid, or Daniel. If the H1 punks were smart, they were running.
Two of the armor units stomped forward, watching the wall for signs of the old man coming up firing. James popped out from the side of the wall like a smart person, holding down the trigger and emptying the magazine into the second power suit with a “Peek-a-boo!” tossed out to infuriate the bastards. After Butcher’s Row had been outed amongst military operators, Tyson would never feel guilty about popping MCO fucks into the next life.
The twin-tracer fire converged again, raking the spot Tyson had just removed himself from, and popped up over the top to blast the third with a newly-reloaded magazine, the internal explosions squirting the former MCO agent out through the new holes in his armor.
“Shoulda surrendered, fucker.” The man, commonly attributed with attending Kindergarten with Jesus, turned his last rounds on the other Powder-blue armor, and destroyed it, along with the man inside, without remorse. One final round blasted the machinegun that had continued firing, despite the death of the operator, as the weapon went runaway.
James scanned the scene for more targets, trembling slightly with the anticipation of yet more MCO assholes arriving when he heard the distinct sirens of the local DPA vehicles converging on the area. “Why can’t the backup arrive before the shooting starts, goddammit?”
The thunderstruck DPA dispatcher had nothing she could say, and the recording of the conversation was all that her superiors needed to declare the four Power-Armor drivers rogue.
Little did Tyson know that watching the live news feed was someone loudly pushing to have permission for an offer to poach him out of retirement.
Daniel struggled to come to the surface.
“Keep him under!” A male voice thundered.
“Sir, he’s at 106.” A female voice responded, and added, “It seems he’s shaking off the tranquilizers.”
There was a pause, as Daniel struggled a bit more to reach ... “Use a stronger one, dammit! Keep him under while we try to get him cool. God only knows what powers that spirit has and gave him!”
Listen to the doctors, child. The soft voice of the Sun Goddess washed over him. *Rest. I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again.* A pause from the voice, then it continued. I did say you weren’t the best suited, did I not?
“Yeah ... ” a croak.
“Hit him _again_!” the male voice shouted.
Well ... I can fix that ... and I will. A longer pause as he sought to gather his thoughts ... Rest, and sleep. I promise no dreams, child.
“Kay ... ” Daniel released the tenuous hold on wakefulness, as if he was releasing a rock to fall into the warm calm ocean of unconsciousness and no pain.
Daniel came to and looked around. Feeling perfectly fine, he studied the beautiful beach, and nodded. Looking down, in his casual dockers, loose buttoned shirt, and dock shoes... He remembered.
“Ah ... our honeymoon, Anata,” a sweet contralto commented behind him.
Daniel spun around and eyed the vision now in front of him. He paused, studying the bikini and wrap clad lady in front of him, her midnight hair flowing down her back, her eyes sparkling as if reflecting the night’s own light, and her classically planed face drew his eyes, and he devoured the vision in front of him. He took a step forward, as if he was to grab her, kiss her and never let go of the vision that had been torn from him ... but his fear stopped him - fear that she was just a mirage ... and that if he touched her, she would vanish like the morning dew.
“Aiko ... ” His voice trailed off and he nodded. “So. I get to see you before I’m sent to where I belong.”
Her laugh caused him to stop. “Oh ... Dan. No.” Shaking her head and letting her hair fan out, she smiled after she stopped laughing. “While I’m disappointed in you, in how you lived the last few years ... ” Her eyes grew a bit hard, and then she stopped, and drew a breath.
Daniel interrupted. “It’s not like I’ll be allowed where you are.” He shrugged. “Just seeing you again ... ” he trailed off at her raised hand.
“You’re not dead.” Aiko paused, cocked her head ... “Well, not TOTALLY dead. And Lady Sun’s making sure you recover from mostly dead.”
Daniel blinked, blinked again, and opened his mouth ... only to stop at her next words
“We don’t have much time ... but you were raised enough to know, that sometimes you have to keep going, have more turns on the wheel ... or be an arrow repaired and aimed again.” She looked deep into her husband’s eyes, and sighed. “Your journeys aren’t over, dear. You still have targets to bring down ... and justice not just for me and your mother, but all your family that was torn from this world.”
Daniel blinked, his eyes growing hard. “You mean ... ” He stopped at her finger laid on his mouth.
“Yes. And at the end of this journey, this life, dear, I will be there. But promise me one thing.”
“You live. You love. You do what you do best. Help others live ... defend, teach and succor them.” She slid her arms around his neck, pulled him down to her lips and the world went bright washing everything away.