Gabriel Cogs awoke blind and in pain.
He had no memory of where he was or how he’d gotten there. The last thing he could recall was riding the city bus to his sister’s grave on the outskirts of New Millennium City. He had always gone to his sister’s grave on the anniversary of her death, and it had always haunted him. He rode the bus in silent thought. He remembered a flash of yellow and orange light and then…
Then he was here with every inch of his body in pain and no eyesight. He tried to move despite the agony and found his body completely bound as if it were encased in metal.
“You’re finally awake,” a phantom voice said. There was a slight echo and Gabriel now felt like he was in a large room. Perhaps a hospital? Did the bus crash? It was still hard to tell.
“Where am I?” he asked the phantom voice. It burned his throat to talk. “What happened?”
“In time,” the voice said. “You’ve been unconscious for three weeks now. My name is Dr. Isaac Sands. You have been under my exclusive care.”
Gabriel’s dark world spun. Had he really been in a coma for three weeks? What happened. He tried to think back. He tried to think back to his last memory. Then it came to him in a flash of yellow and orange.
The bus! It was burning! The driver had hit a slick road and driven the bus right into the side of a moving truck. First there was a fire and the passengers all started crawling over each other in a panic towards the emergency exit. The driver had died upon impact. Gabriel remembered looking over his shoulder once to see if he was alright before the white blinding explosion. Then there was….
Then there was what?
Gabriel tried to open his eyes but they wouldn’t listen to his command. “My eyes,” he said. “Am I blind?”
“Oh, how forgetful of me,” Dr. Sands said. Gabriel heard a whirring sound in his head and he could suddenly see again. First the world was blurry and with a thought it came into crystal clear focus. He could finally see Dr. Sands. He was in a white lab coat that nearly touched the ground. His gray hair was combed neatly and he wore black rimmed glasses. Gabriel’s eyesight was so good he could see every pore on the doctor’s nose before his head began to ache harder.
“Your eyes were damaged beyond repair in the fire,” Dr. Sands continued as if he were describing why Gabriel’s car had broken down. “So I replaced them with new optical cameras of my own design. They are wired directly into your neural network much like your original eyes.”
“What? You replaced my eyes?” Gabriel asked.
“You were in pretty bad shape when I found you,” Dr. Sands said. “To use your own words, I replaced most of you.”
Gabriel looked down at his body. Where human flesh had been was now covered with robotic parts. He looked in horror at his legs which now appeared to be some kind of synthetic muscle and wire. With much strain on his thoughts he brought his hand to his face to see a skeletal metal hand. Some blue-metallic plates had been set along his arm, but it looked as if the job were only half finished.
“Oh God,” Gabriel said. “What have you done to me?”
Dr. Sands looked at Gabriel in the optical cameras where his eyes used to be. “I saved your life.”
Killian remained hidden and nearly crippled. He had removed the metal spike from his midsection and had used his demonic healing power to close the wound before he could bleed to death, but there was still a lot of damage on the inside.
Killian got lucky after Nil had ventured out of Deskue’s psychic range. As soon as Killian had the chance he reached out and froze Nil’s mind. He would have been able to extract more information from him, but he left before Deskue could free him. As soon as the long trip to the ground was completed he found a man hole and crawled into the sewer. There he found a couple of pieces of industrial machinery and hid in the shadows between them. He would have to stay hidden until he was healed enough to move.
It had been foolish to move against Deskue so soon. Killian knew the threat he posed to the city, and now that he knew he had aligned with Nilas Nil the danger of keeping him alive had escalated greatly. He wouldn’t be able to take Deskue or Nilas Nil without them knowing he was coming. Killian had barely started and he was already nearly killed and running out of options.
With his failure in his mind Killian slept.
“Take the sword,” Post said to Jonah Judge. Jonah’s friend Willow looked on as Post offered the sword for a second time.
“Is that the sword?” Jonah asked. “THE sword?”
“It is,” Post said. “My time to wield it is done. What power I have left is fading. The sword needs a new master, and it has chosen you.”
Post didn’t move from his spot in the detention cell where he was currently living. He still held the sheathed sword out to Jonah hilt first. Every nerve in Jonah’s body was on edge. He reached his hand out and took the sword from Post. Jonah expected a light to shine and the power envelop him, but nothing happened.
“The sword will answer to you now,” Post said. “It will aid you in your quest to rid this world of evil. It will be your light, your shield, and your fate. I will train you in its use and aid you for as long as I am able.”
Jonah held the sword across his hands. Does it really contain the spirit of an Archangel? he thought. He tried to feel out with his senses as he had been taught in dojos all his life, but he couldn’t feel an energy in the sword. “How does it work?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Post said. “We shall begin your training tomorrow.”
Killian awoke again. His wound had closed up, but his internal injuries were still very bad. He tried to get up off the ground, but it wasn’t much use. He felt the fever that had crept into his body while he slept. It would appear he was stuck here hiding between the large broken heaters (if that’s what they were) for the time being. He moved his arm over to where the spike was in his abdomen and with a thought the air began to stir and wave as his body slowly mended itself back together.
Killian worked at it as long as he could and and when his arm finally dropped he looked at the ground a few feet in front of him. There was a small plastic bowl of water sitting there. He looked around and felt out with his senses (as much as he could muster) and his eyes found a child sitting across an alley watching him intently. Killian knew without scanning the chid’s mind he had left him the bowl of water. The child was filthy. There was maybe years worth of filth and grime on him. The water was likely dirty too, but demons do not fall to illness as easily as a human would. He picked up the bowl of water and drank gratefully. When he was done he nodded towards the child. “Thank you,” he whispered before falling back into sleep.
Gabriel Cogs was in pieces. He former body was apparently burned beyond repair in the bus crash that should’ve ended his life. Where flesh was most of his body was now robotics and metal plates. He stayed on the gurney he awoke on with dozens of wires going into his chest and back.
“Both of your legs and most of your lower body are gone,” Dr. Sands was saying. Gabriel had just snapped back to reality. He recalled a lot of talk about electrodes and nerves, but Dr. Sands could have been talking in another language for all the good it did. “Your left hand is gone, but you kept your right one. I had encased your right hand in armor as well. Your eyes had been burned and had to be removed. Your back and spine were extremely damaged and had to be hardwired into the exoskeleton.”
“Exoskeleton?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Sands said adjusting his glasses. “The exoskeleton encases your synthetic muscles and organs. Without it you’d be vulnerable. Especially in a fight.”
“A fight?” Gabriel asked. “What do you mean a fight?”
Before Dr. Sands could answer a muscular and intimidating extremely dark skinned man entered the room. He was wearing a black uniform with the red DPA shield on the right side. “I had heard Mr. Cogs was awake!” he said in a booming voice. There was a very big smile on his large face. “I’m lieutenant Banks. I’m so glad to see you almost up and about. How about a test of your combat capabilities tomorrow morning? Would he be up for it, Doctor?”
“Combat?” Gabriel asked.
“Lieutenant Banks,” Dr. Sands said. “Gabriel has only woken up today. I haven’t gone over the weaponry with him yet.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not some kind of weapon?” Gabriel said pulling wires from his chest. “I’m not some kind of government tool!”
“With all do respect, Mr. Cogs, we saved your life,” Lieutenant Banks said. “The way I see it you owe us.”
“Please stop!” Dr. Sands said stepping between Gabriel and Banks. “Gabriel doesn’t owe us anything.”
“I owe you?” Gabriel said ignoring Sands. “I didn’t asked to be pulled out of the rubble to be rebuilt as some kind of machine. You should have let me die like the rest of them!” Gabriel walked past Banks and down the large corridor to what he hoped was the exit.
“STOP HIM!” Banks yelled down the hall. Two security guards attempted to stop Cogs, but with what he felt wasa small nudge both men were on the ground. One was unconscious and the other was holding his ribs. Gabriel looked at his armored hands and back at Banks who was frozen in the doorway to Dr. Sands’ medical room. Without another thought Gabriel left the facility and went out into the cold dark night.
Killian once again awoke not knowing how much time he slept. Once again he put his hand up to his healing abdomen and released as much energy as he could to heal his internal injuries. His injuries were healing, but it was a slow process. He felt as if the fever had passed and he would be able to move above ground soon where he’d be able to breath the fresh air and get fresh food and water to assist him in healing faster.
He opened his eyes to see the child who had left him the water sitting on his knees in front of him with another bowl of water and a small paper package. Killian knew by the scent that it was old meat. The child had likely gotten it from a restaurant dumpster.
“Are you alright?” the child asked. Killian could tell by the voice that it was in fact a boy. The boy handed Killian the bowl of water unafraid and Killian gently took it.
“Thank you,” Killian said. “What is your name?”
“I don’t know,” the boy said. He began to cough violently into his hand.
“Are you sick?” killian asked.
“I don’t know.” The boy said. “Lots of us cough down here. Sometimes we stop and sometimes we die. What is your name?”
“Why did you come down here, Kellan? Are you a bad man?”
“I’m not even a man.”
The boy gave Killian an odd look and handed him the paper with the old meat in it. Killian ate it greedily. It could’ve been days since he last ate and he didn’t care if the meat was full of maggots or not. He swallowed down another mouthful of water and handed the boy back the empty bowl.
“I am hiding if you really want to know,” Killian admitted. “I’m hiding like a cowardly rat.”
“Why don’t you ask someone for help,” the boy said. “Lots of people ask for help. It’s not cowardly if your friends help you. Don’t you have somebody you can ask?”
Killian stared at the filthy boy and said nothing. The boy reminded him once again of the anguish in this world and the unfairness of it all. This boy had nothing but the dirt on his skin and the clothes on his body, but he still had the heart to feed a demon who was hurt. It was all the assurance Killian needed to do something he was hoping he wouldn’t.
“Yeah, Kid,” he said. “There’s somebody I can ask.”
Jonah stood in his large home gym. He spent much of his time practicing when not at work or at one of the organizations he supported. His black hair was tied back and he wore a white tee shirt and black shorts. He had the broadsword given to him by Archer post strapped to his back. Post had told him his training started the next day, but Jonah couldn’t wait. He pulled the sword out of the sheath and held it in front of him with the blade pointed straight forward.
“There’s one thing you must remember,” Post had told him before he left. “This sword has many abilities. One of its greater powers is to draw others to it who would fight beside you.”
“How?” Jonah asked looking down at the sheathed sword in his hands.
Archer Post just smiled and told him he’d see him tomorrow.
Now all by himself Jonah was able to take a good look at this sword. The blade was silver but almost seemed white. It’s hilt was also silver and felt cool in his hand. He swung it around a few times to feel its weight. It felt as light as a feather, but came down with a swiftness that felt as if could cut through steel. Jonah cold feel the potential within the sword waiting to be released.
“Jonah?” his father asked.
“I heard a noise,” an eight year old Jonah said late one night. “Are the demons here?”
His father laughed. “No, son. You were probably having a bad dream. I’ll take you back to bed.”
Jonah took his father’s hand and was led by his father back up the stairs towards the second floor in their large estate. “How do we know when we’ll have to fight?” Jonah asked.
“We’ll know,” his father said. “That’s why we stay vigilant in the night. It’s why we train our bodies and our minds. It’s why The Post exists. When the demons do come in the night we’ll be ready for them.”
“We will?” asked a sleepy Jonah who was climbing back into his bed.
“You will, Jonah. You will.”
Jonah swung the sword above his head with both hands and brought it down in a horizontal arc in front of him. It stopped where he wanted it to stop and it nearly sung with power. He felt the muscles in his arm tense as he brought it back up and turned to another horizontal slash in the space that was behind him less than a second ago. Jonah felt as if he could make the air bleed.
“The point is not to kill,” Jonah’s uncle Bruce was saying. “The point is to kill when you’re ready and to make bleed when you’re not.”
A fifteen year old Jonah stood ten feet away from his cousin Rock who was a year older. They were both armed with wooden practice swords while their fathers looked on. Their swords were at the ready and they just waited for Rock’s father to finish his lesson and give them the signal to fight.
“When the fight comes it will come to our doorstep,” uncle Bruce continued. “They will come in the night. They will come in secret. They will come to sever the head of the The Post. We are what stands in the way of armageddon.”
Jonah locked eyes with his cousin. He was tense and ready to spar. Rock returned Jonah’s glare. Rock was strong and quick with or without a sword. Jonah had a hard time keeping up with him sometimes, but Jonah was determined to be one step ahead of his cousin today.
Wood cracked against wood as Rock rushed Jonah and started swinging. Rock had a brawler’s mentality when it came to fighting, and he had the speed to back it up. It took every ounce of Jonah’s cunning to block the fast blows that were coming from the left and right. He had been whacked by Rock’s practice blows before, and it would leave a bruise that would stay with him for days.
Jonah used his mind in battle more than his cousin and knew that’s where the key to beating him was. He continued to block Rock’s blows feeling the muscles in his arm beginning to get sore when his opportunity came. Rock swung high and wide, and instead of blocking Jonah ducked low. The wooden sword sailed over Jonah’s head, and there was a slight moment of recalculation in Rock’s movement. Jonah used that moment to put his wooden sword point first to Rock’s chest.
“STOP!” Bruce yelled.
The two boys froze in place. Jonah’s blade was on Rock’s chest while Rock’s was still high in the air above his crouching opponent. “Do you know why you lost, Rock?” Bruce asked.
“Jonah outfought me,” Rock replied.
“No,” Bruce said. “He outthought you.” Bruce took the practice sword from his son and tapped in on the head with it. “You must fight with your mind as well as your heart. Your blows are quick and deadly, but you don’t think before you slash. You left yourself full of openings, and Jonah took advantage. You are both growing as fighters, but you both have a long way to go. One day it will fall on the two of you to carry the Judge’s mantle and continue the traditions of The Post.”
Jonah sheathed his sword thinking back on how right his uncle was. It was only a few short years later that he and his father had disappeared and were found two weeks later in the Eastern River mutilated and killed. Jonah dedicated his life to The Post while Rock distanced himself. He didn’t stray too far and kept a job in an organization The Post overlooked, but he took his own path nonetheless. Once his father was gone Rock never picked up the sword again and opted to fight with guns or his fists. Jonah never argued since it suited him so well.
Jonah heard something move not far from where he stood and he once again unsheathed his sword instinctively. He extended his senses outwards in a sphere around him. One of the teachings of The Post that he was taught was how to use the various chakras within his own body. This was a simple technique used to detect other auras in the vicinity. Once he did this he felt the sword’s bloodlust for the first time.
The sword had an aura of its own. Jonah was in awe at how it hungered. He followed the flow of energy emanating from the sword. It took him out of his gym and down the hallway that led to a balcony. Jonah noticed the balcony door was open and saw the figure sitting on the hallway floor next to it. It was a black cloaked demon with a sword on his belt that had nine or ten hooks going down its blade. The demon slept unconsciously in a heap as if it were injured. This was the first time Jonah had come across any demon and he felt pity for the creature.
The sword felt nothing but rage.