Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 22

I crouched, motionless, in the underbrush. The stars above were almost entirely obscured by the canopy of trees. The clear sky made for a cold, still, night, but the crisp air was exactly what I liked. My squad was all hidden in this forest, north of Lake Superior, lying in wait for Nahalore’s men to come through. For all of these years, we still didn’t know the exact location of their base, or we’d wipe them off the face of the earth with a non-nuclear cruise missile or something. Tonight may be the night, though.

We had received info that our enemy was undertaking a mission of unknown purpose, and would pass through this area. If we could capture one, or attach any sort of tracking device to one of them, we could find their headquarters and end the war once and for all. Maybe that was why Razo had attached me to this mission. He may believe that this is the night of prophecy, and I would be the one to lead Tsalderek to their base.

Many of the agents in this group were only students in other classes at the time of Teklos’ attack six years ago, and had never seen combat. Their promotion was accelerated because of the loss of so many agents, so nearly all of the classes of students older than me had finished their training program. There were also veterans on this mission, such as Hanson, Takeji, and a couple others who I didn’t know. With all of these powerful men and women, plus the element of surprise, those Nephilim didn’t stand a chance.

Hours passed, and there was no sign of our enemy. I shivered, and wondered if someone had made some mistake. How did we hear about this mission, anyway, and why were we so sure they’d pass right through here!? My stomach was hurting a little, and my muscles felt a little like weak noodles. Actually, I felt pretty sick. I must just be nervous, as it was my first mission and everything. I pushed these feeling to the back of my mind and focused on the night around me.

Just when I began to think this whole thing was a waste of time, I heard a rustle out to our east. Everyone in the unit was suddenly at full attention. Our senses were piqued for even the slightest follow up sound or movement. Our night-vision goggles gave us the edge in nocturnal combat, and our enemies still didn’t know we were there. They would all be dead before they knew what hit them.

Before the rest of the Nephilim came into view, the wind started picking up. At first, it was just a slight breeze, and we thought nothing of it. However, the whispering breeze continued to grow stronger, until it became a deafening roar.

What’s going on? Before I could even ask the question out loud, I heard one of my compatriots shout:

“It’s the Nephilim! They know we’re here!”

At that point, the whipping wind tightened into a swirling tornado. This powerful storm that came out of nowhere tore through where we were hiding, ripping trees and cover out of the ground. We were left exposed to the night sky.

How could they have known we were here? Ah! I’d learned about something like this in one of the classroom sessions! There were certain electric-callers among the Nephilim which were able to detect bioelectricity. All Nahalore would have to do was bring along someone who could detect bioelectricity, and all of our attempts at stealth would be for nothing.

Hanson screamed out orders to his men, ordering us to regroup. Just then, the entire area was lit up with a pinkish glow. I’m not sure how, but the Nephilim were lighting up the night, disallowing us from using the darkness to our advantage either.

All of Tsalderek’s agents here gathered near Hanson, and all of the Nephilim of Nahalore were gathered across the recently created clearing from us. The playing field was leveled. There were no more tricks, no more stealth, no more tactics. It was just us versus them. Our training and technology, versus their gifts and magic. Good versus evil.

There was complete silence for several long seconds, as each side stared at the other, with loathing and malicious intent. For the first time in six years, since I was living on the streets, I felt fear. The evil glares from these hideous abominations that desecrate the Earth and the image of God were wishing death upon all of us who opposed them. Then, my fear turned to anger. These monsters did not deserve to live. Our, no, MY mission in life was to exterminate them. Remove their aberratious form from the world. Starting now.

Hanson yelled out. “Tsalderek! Attack! Destroy them all!”

All of the panicked agents regained their composure at the words of their field leader. They pulled together all of their equipment and weapons, and began the assault.

The battle was like nothing I’d ever experienced. There were bullets and lightning bolts, rockets and energy beams, grenades and tornadoes. I could barely make out what was happening, as men were falling on both sides. They had trusted me enough to give me a gun, but I had yet not gotten an opportunity to fire it. I was too busy just trying to stay alive.

I saw Takeji in the heat of battle. He was fighting multiple opponents, using his cybernetic enhancements to their full capacity, and to his advantage. His insanity that was obvious within headquarters was ragingly blatant on the battlefield. He moved in unpredictable ways, which made him even deadlier. I’d heard that one of the reasons he’d gone mad was because of the scorpion-like appendage and the accompanying neurological incorporation. He was able to move the tail completely independently, but the implanted circuitry in his head messed with his brain.

After he had dodged a pulse of water and impaled the Nephilim responsible with his tail, a bolt of electricity coursed through him. I was afraid it would damage his cybernetics, but it had an entirely different effect. The man who had fired it looked to be around 18, with spikey blond hair and sunglasses. Takeji fixed his eyes on this assailant, and seemed to ascend to a new level of psychosis.

“YOU!! ELECTRO-NEPHILIM!!” I could hear him scream across the battlefield. “I HATE YOU!! I’LL KILL YOU!!”

With that, he pursued the young man, who proceeded to retreat. I wondered about this for a second. Was it possible that Takeji was remembering Trinity, and how she died? He didn’t mention her name, so maybe the only shred of his memory that remained was anger and hatred for the Nephilim, and he couldn’t even remember why. It was obvious to me that this young man was not responsible for Trinity’s death, to me anyway. He only would have been 12 or 13 at that time, and the killers I had seen were definitely older than that.

Suddenly, I found the earth shake beneath my feet, and I nearly fell to the ground. Looking to my right, my eyes caught a Nephilim with his hands to the ground. It was an earth-caller. He must have the ability to cause vibrations through the ground. Before I could regain my balance to turn and fight him, the wind-caller had re-created the tornadic vortex from earlier, and I had to find cover.

I rolled behind a very large boulder, and hid there for a minute. I was still battle inexperienced, and this whole thing was overwhelming. I peeked around the boulder again, and saw Hanson engaging the earth-caller. My captain charged in, firing his pistol. The Nephilim dodged the bullets, and unleashed a localized quake that rocked the ground within a radius of about 15 feet.

Hanson was knocked to the ground, but rolled to his feet and leapt over the next quake. He attempted to kick the enemy, who blocked his foot. Hanson followed up with a punch to the gut, a forward pistol whip to the face, then backward, sending the Nephilim to his knees on the ground. He then fired the gun into the back of his adversary’s head.

Just then, a figure sprung out of the shadows and attacked Hanson. It was an athletic-looking woman, probably in her late thirties, with her dark hair in a bun. She was wearing a scarf, but her uniform had no sleeves. Her first strike was a high jumping spin kick to Hanson’s head. He ducked, and attempted to shoot her. She forced his arm up, then gave him a front kick to the stomach followed with a perfectly executed spin kick, which knocked the gun from his hand.

The two then fought hand to hand and exchanged several blows. I had never seen anyone go up against Captain Hanson like that, and it looked like she was winning. Just then, another Tsalderek agent came to his aid. The woman seamlessly incorporated the newcomer into her series of attacks, beating them both with a series of flowing strikes and spinning kicks. Then, she focused on the newcomer for several hard chops in a row, and a double hand palm strike into his chest. The man nearly exploded, and ice crystals had emerged from inside of his body, killing him. Without hesitation, she turned and delivered a powerful back kick to Hanson, sending him flying to the ground on his back.

She must have known he was our field captain, because she purposefully strode over to him, and prepared to finish him off. As much as I didn’t like Hanson, this was my time to prove to him that I deserved to be a part of the elite unit. Before she could kill him, I sprinted in at top speed. When she saw me, I was already close enough to attack. I feigned a left kick, then quickly switched to a right roundhouse. She was so fast that she changed the position of her block to halt my new direction kick. Then, she actually punched my leg. If I hadn’t anticipated her movement, she would have broken my knee!

I took a hop back to get my bearings. My heart was racing, but I pushed the intensity and chaos of the battlefield away, so it was only my opponent, and myself. I had never even heard of a Nephilim relying on physical combat before. Usually, they only used their powers, and knew very little about hand-to-hand. But this woman was different. I considered pulling out my gun and shooting her, but that hardly seemed sporting, when she was such a skilled fighter. That being said, she was still a Nephilim, and had to die. I’d never killed one before, but this could be a good place to start.

I dashed forward and jumped into the air, unleashing a flurry of flying front kicks. She blocked them, and attempted to sweep out my feet upon landing. I moved my legs, and grabbed her arm. Before I could capitalize, she twisted it around to put me in a joint lock. I stopped the motion with my other arm before she could complete the motion. The woman whipped up her leg in a kick to my face. It hurt, but not too bad. I pushed toward her and flipped her over my turned body, Judo style. She landed on her feet, right before I side kicked her in the gut, breaking her hold on my arm. I followed her with a high punch, but she knocked it aside, and attempted a palm strike to my chest.

Remembering what had happened to the guy who’s blood she had frozen, I spun to the side and narrowly dodged. Her hand passed a centimeter from my body, and I could feel droplets of sweat freeze to my skin. She had lost her balance from the strike, and I saw my opportunity. I whipped my left leg up in an outside moon. It struck her arm, knocking her further off balance. In an instant, I pulled a knife out of my vest with each hand, and slashed downward in a lethal ark. The blades lacerated her left arm from the shoulder to the elbow.

She cried out in pain, and stepped back. I readied myself with my knives, but she didn’t attack anymore, instead electing to fall back. I threw one of the knives after her, but she evaded and disappeared. I suddenly realized how out of breath I was. I placed the remaining knife in my vest, and leaned down onto my knees. That was the first time I’ve ever cut an actual person. It didn’t really feel very good. She was really hurt, and I was three inches away from cutting her jugular. Wait, she was a Nephilim. It would be good if I killed her, right?

Hanson pushed himself to his feel. Without thanking me, he surveyed the battlefield. Our men were falling at a faster rate than theirs, and defeat looked inevitable.

“Damnit!” He swore. Then, into his radio system: “Everyone! Fall back! Retreat!”

The two of us began heading back to a part of the forest that still had cover, while providing fire to cover the retreat of the other men. As we went back, I spotted Takeji again. He was on the far north end of the battlefield, deep in enemy lines. The psychotic warrior had chased the electric-powered boy into a corner and was preparing to kill him. A female Nephilim with her jacket tied around her waist and long, light brown hair flowing from underneath a stocking cap attempted to rescue him. She fired a pink beam of energy at Takeji, but he dodged without even looking at her, and swatted her with his tail.

He was totally surrounded by Nahalore. With the majority of Tsalderek retreating, they were all focused on him. Hanson tried to hail Takeji with the radio system, but he was too focused on his kill to listen.

Takeji wasn’t my friend anymore, but I couldn’t leave him out there to die, or worse, get captured and lead them to our headquarters. Against my better judgement, I dashed from the relative safety of retreat toward enemy lines. To avoid detection, I remained in the shadows as I ran. For some reason, my speed reached incredible levels. I had never run this fast in my life. It was easy, too. I wasn’t even out of breath. Maybe this was adrenaline?

As soon as I stepped out of the shadows, the exceptional speed I had disappeared. That’s kinda weird, but I had no time to think about it. None of the Nephilim had seen me, but I still had to grab Takeji and get out of there. First I tried calling his name.

“TAKEJI!”

I got no response.

“TAKEJI! WE’VE GOTTA GET OUTTA HERE!!”

He still ignored me. There was no time to wrestle with him on this. He was coming with me, dead or alive. I ran toward him, kicking several Nephilim in the back on my way. When I reached him, he still hadn’t killed his target, but was fighting off the great number of enemies that had surrounded him.

I helped clear a path for him.

“Come on, Takeji! We need to go! Leave him!”

He still wasn’t listening to me, so I punched him in the face.

“TAKEJI! COME WITH ME, OR I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU!”

Even that didn’t work perfectly, but I grabbed him by the arm, and hauled him, with some difficulty, out of the battlefield. Again, when I reached the shadow, I could feel speed and strength filling my body. Takeji’s resistance became very negligible, and I was able to drag him at high speed back to our point of retreat.

When I made it back to the Tsalderek agents, Hanson was waiting for me.

“You idiot! What were you thinking!? They could have attached a tracking device to you or him! You should have left him!”

I stared right into his eyes. “If I’d have left him, they would have been able to use him to find our headquarters. Now they can’t.”

We glared at each other for a second. If he was grateful that I saved his life, he didn’t show it.

“Well,” the man growled. “We need to be getting back to base. Even though we lost, we learned a great deal about their capabilities.”

I nodded, and we started quickly and stealthily heading for the base. I kept my senses very keen to be sure that we were not being followed. As far as I could tell, they had not tracked us.

Well, my first battle. Honestly, while on the battlefield, I didn’t feel like some kind of magical-trump-card-RYNO-ace-in-the-hole-secret-weapon Shadowy One of prophecy. I felt like a scared agent like everyone else.

But, I would fight, no matter how scared I was. The fate of humanity is on my shoulders, and I will fight…until I die.

“It’s time for another culling, my friend.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Nahalore has grown out of balance. We must even them out before they attempt to destroy all that we have worked for.”

“There is still no appearance of the Fiery One?”

“No. It has not made its appearance. But it will, soon. Then, this will all be over.”

“Yes sir.”

“Wait a day or two, until the time is right.”

“Yes sir.”

“And one more thing. Nahalore is like a mighty redwood. It can grow extraordinarily strong, but it takes an exuberant amount of time. Our pruning must be slightly…gentler.”

“Yes sir.”

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