Dark on the Rock
O'Brian Gunn
They were designed to assassinate the A-Squad, a team of superheroes who took them in and gave them ... Show More
Genres:
Adventure, Cross-Genre, Fantasy, Sci Fi, Superhero, Young Adult
Tags:
soldiers, super soldiers, superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, science fiction, young superheroes, comic book, graphic novel, comic book novel

Chapter 1

20,000 feet over the skies of the nation of Dalandau
 
         All ten members of the A-Squad sat silently in their seats onboard the Lightspeed. B-Boy scrolled through his iPod compiling what he called a “battlelist” while Coda tuned her violin near the back. Prince Paroxysm tried his best not to accidentally blow the jet out of the air by keeping his trembling hands still as Mythos’s fingers kept curling and uncurling around the handles of his twin war hammers.
 
        Eight sets of eyes occasionally flicked toward the front of the jet where Mister Ree and Kinetic sat in the pilot and co-pilot seat. The man in the deep red fedora and matching duster glared out at the skies, gloved hands choking at the controls.

         Iron Bull unstrapped himself and lumbered into the cockpit, ducking down and resting an arm on the back of the pilot’s seat.

         “’Ey, uh, can we get some music going on back here?” He scratched around the thick iron horns protruding from either side of his forehead. “All this quiet is--”

         “Please go back to your seat, Alex.” Mister Ree studied the Primary Flight Display. He studied it very intently.

         The shiny horns were jerked back. “Look, boss, I know you’re a little mad at us ri--”

         Mister Ree started to whirl around. “A little mad--” He snatched his head back to the controls, shuffling his dress boots on the floor and breathing deep.

         His co-pilot and second-in-command looked up at Iron Bull with sympathy in her brown eyes, tilting her head back at his seat. Iron Bull looked at her for a moment before withdrawing, dragging his eyes across the team leader as he did.

         The woman pulled her silken fall of micro braids tight and restrained them in a high tail that coiled down to her shoulder blades. “You act like they helped assassinate King Kiyanis,” she said in a low voice.

         “They might as well have. That man never should have died and his family should not have had to see his brains blow out the back of his head like that.” He pressed his lips tight. “Only took three hours for the online video to go viral.”

         “This team can do a lot of spectacular things, but there are some circumstances that we just don’t have the proper training for.”

         “That changes as soon as this mission is over.” Kinetic started to open her mouth. “Bring us down, please, we’re here.” He spun out of his chair and walked out of the cockpit to address his team.

         “Before we touch down I want all of you to know how infuriated I am with you. The Poison should never have gotten to Kiyanis. The A-Squad is never two steps behind; we’re never even one step behind. We are ahead. We don’t wait and we don’t react. We make the first move, we lead the dance, we write the script. Raise your hand if you don’t comprehend the words coming out of my pretty mouth.”

         Every hand remained lowered.

         “Good.” Mister Ree walked over to the large side window and looked down. He tugged the glove from his left hand and waved it in front of his face, smearing the air in a wavering red haze that overlapped his view of Dalandau. There was a large cluster of pulsating blue-white energy in the northeast and a small gold pinprick glowing near the center of the capital city. He concentrated on the small dot, “zooming in” on it, and felt the familiar psychic signature. He tugged his glove back on. “The Poison is garrisoned in the northeast foothills. I can’t tell you exactly how many soldiers there are, but I can tell you there’re a lot.” The gray-haired man turned to his team. “I also can tell you that you aren’t to kill any of them.” He popped his knuckles. “Breaking a few bones is fine, but I want them wheeled out on gurneys, not in body bags. Kinetic and I are going after Pharakkan Titus. Understood?”

         A ripple of nods.

         Mister Ree turned to Kinetic. “Open the hatch, please.”

         She turned to the control panel, focusing her eyes and mind on the hatch controls and telekinetically activating them. The hatch doors slid open with a hiss as the cold wind writhed in and sucked eagerly at the interior of the jet.

         Mythos and Iron Bull were the first to launch themselves from their seats and take running leaps into the empty air, Mythos smashing his hammers together and Iron Bull releasing an unrestrained roar. Incandescent stood up from her chair and calmly walked to the yawning opening in her tight silver and white bodysuit. She looked back with a wry grin at Prince Paroxysm as the wind ripped at her curls. She held out a gloved hand. “Shall we, Your Majesty?” She winked and a spark of ivory light twinkled over her eyelashes. The younger man forced his fingers to unclench and accepted her hand, keeping his eyes on her rather than the sky rippling just inches away. Incandescent leaned forward and just as they started to tip over, they burst apart in a brilliant streak of pulsing light that arched down toward the earth in an ivory comet.

         B-Boy moonwalked his way to the hatch in time to Coda’s strummed, quick tempo ditty. Her notes were made manifest in the form of tangible blue waves of neon energy that spilled from her violin and were concentrated into a broad flat rectangle hovering at the edge of the hatch. The heroes stepped and cavorted onto the platform as Coda encased them in a sheer screen to shield them from the buffeting winds...and to keep B-Boy from moonwalking right off the edge. She guided them from the hatch in a controlled plummet. The Alchemist walked beside them and opened his arms. The wind sluggishly swirled around him rather than blasting its way through the jet’s interior. He tilted his body and the gusts gathered him up in their arms and buoyed him down.

         Dr. Terra took the controls. “Don’t set her down too close to the foothills,” Mister Ree roared over the tumult. “I still need to renew the insurance on this thing.” She arched an eyebrow at him. “It’s been a busy month.” He walked over to the opening where Kinetic was waiting for him. “Can you make sure you keep a hold on my fedora this time?” He touched the brim. “Belonged to my great-grandfather, still has traces of his energy on it.”

         Kinetic nodded and wrapped them in a cocoon of psionic energy before directing them down toward the White Pyramid, where Pharakkan Titus, the commander of the army known as The Poison and the assassin of the King of Lufarah, was waiting. She made sure to keep a tight mental grip on Mister Ree’s fedora. Right now it might have been the only thing he still had faith in.
 
 
Ivory Pyramid - Capitol Building of Dalandau
 
         “In other news, earlier today the leader of Lufarah, King Kiyanis, was assassinated at his son’s royal engagement party. Sources say that he was dancing with the prince’s bride-to-be when he was shot in the head. So far there are no leads on who the assassin could be, or how they managed to penetrate Lufarian Palace security, one of the top security forces in the world. Prince Adorai is to be installed as the new king at midnight tonight.”

         Pharakkan Titus lowered the volume on the TV and stood. He thought he’d heard--

         Someone cried out in the hall a split second before something heavy crashed into the wall right next to his door. A set--no, two sets of footsteps were striding purposefully down the hall. He heard a body sliding, squeaking and scrambling across the hall’s marble floor, coming to a hushed stop on the other side of the door. He put down his fork, calmly wiped at his mouth, and reached over to press an icon on the touch screen of the computer panel installed on the wall. The double doors swung open and Set, one of his advisors, fell fully back into the office when the left door no longer propped him up. Titus stood to receive his...visitors.

         The aging man in the dark red duster with a deep gold trim and fedora was the first to enter, his long black scarf fluttering behind him. Three females sprinted down the hall toward the Pharakkan. The black woman accompanying Ree turned, pushed her hand out, and sent them flying back through the library. She twitched her fingers toward herself and the library doors obediently flicked shut.

         Mister Ree stopped on the other side of the small table. “You give the guards the day off the morning after you decide to assassinate a king?”

         Titus sat down to take up his fork and resume his dinner. “I don’t believe in having guards. I’m perfectly capable of protecting myself.” He sipped at his bush tea. “Mister Ree and Kinetic of the A-Squad, correct?” He gestured at the warm tray of food on the middle of the table. “Would either of you care for some? Chef Matekoni always prepares too much.”

         Mister Ree rolled his eyes at the thick steak, brown rice and vegetables. “I would, in fact.” He removed his hat. “Thank you.”
 
 
 Caliphate Foothills
 
         The ground trembled as Mythos punctuated a jagged crater in the earth when he landed in a low crouch. Iron Bull set off another localized earthquake from crashing down, the sound rippling and scattering through the foothills.

         The horned man looked at his heavily-muscled teammate. “We weren’t going for stealth, were we?” He crooked a thick eyebrow.

         Mythos’ well-coiffed facial hair was pulled to the side by his sneer, tattered deep blue loincloth flapping around his knees. “Sneaking around is a soft sport meant for cravens. I am a warrior.” The white beads in the collection of short dreadlocks pulled back on his head clicked together when he looked up at the descending streak of light that molded itself into two human forms. A low hum thrummed in the air and a profusion of glitter burst away from the shapes to reveal Incandescent and Prince Paroxysm just before Coda and B-Boy alighted on the ground.

         Incandescent looked straight up into the glaring sunlight without wincing or shading her eyes. “Where’s The Alchemist?”

         Coda lowered her violin and took a glance at the sky, instantly cringing at the sun before shading her eyes. “He was right behind us.”

         “The magic-weaver will arrive when he arrives, as he always does,” Mythos told them while he surveyed the land. “Where is this vast army I was promised?”

         Iron Bull knelt down and flattened a palm to the ground. “There are faint vibrations heading this--wait, it’s--”

         A shadow darkened the sky.

         “There he is,” B-Boy announced.

         The Alchemist jogged up behind them. “Sorry, adjusting to unfamiliar winds takes some getting used to, I overshot.”

         Prince Paroxysm looked up just in time to see the armored soldier drop from the sky and drop him with a solid kick to the sternum, using the prince’s chest as a springboard to roll into a fluid backward somersault before landing in a low, swaying squat. Its movements were sinuous and agile, a hybrid of spider and snake. The soldier’s armor clung to the body and was made up of several straps and clasps. The black gauntlets and greaves gleamed along with a helmet that completely obscured the face. Two beady eyes glimmered red-orange behind the hard plastic visor stretched across the front. The soldier suddenly stopped swaying.

         “Poooooiiiissssssson,” it hissed.

         The members of the A-Squad turned and found themselves surrounded by more armored soldiers as they dropped from above. Some of them were perched on each other’s shoulders and backs and flipped off as they landed. More seemed to twirl out of the very air and dance around the team in a disjointed ballet as they unsheathed short swords from the horizontal scabbards at their waists and brandished knives between their knuckles.

         “Poison.”

                  “Poooooison.”

                           “Pppppppooiiison.”

                                                      “mmmmmPoison.”

“Poissssssonnnnn.”

                                                                        “Poispoispoisopoisssson.”  
 
 
         B-Boy took an involuntary step backward as the soldier in front of him twisted its head painfully from left to right in tight, jerky rotations, jabbing its neck out like a bird. “The hell did we just drop into?” he whispered.
 
 
“This soup is delicious.” Mister Ree swallowed a spoonful of the thick warm broth.

         “It’s made with Ronini root, found only in the Firefly Plains of Dalandau.” Titus popped a vegetable in his mouth. “I’ll give you the recipe after...” He frowned. “Are you going to arrest me, or are we waiting for your country’s military to arrive?”

         The other man lifted his gaze from the soup. “How do you know I didn’t come here to kill you?”

         Kinetic roved her eyes over to Titus who relaxed in his high-backed leather chair. “Being the leader of a country is like being the head of a household, just as being a king is like being the commander of an army or the CEO of a company.” He reached for his steaming cup of tea. “It doesn’t matter how big or how small your province is, in order to run it efficiently, you have to make decisions for people. They look to you to do the right thing even when it isn’t so right. That way the messy and unsavory emotions like shame, regret, and guilt are yours to bear.”

         Mister Ree sliced into the steak and lifted the fork to his mouth.    

         “I can tell that you are a strong man, Ree, but you still don’t want the considerable weight that my death would bring to your narrow little shoulders.” He sipped at his tea. “So again I ask: are you going to arrest me, or are we waiting for your country’s military to arrive?”

         Ree swallowed before answering. “Why did you have King Kiyanis killed? Up until now Dalandau has always been a peaceful nation.”

         Pharakkan Titus peeled his lips back to reveal white teeth. “That’s why Dalandau’s army is called The Poison. We come from the most unlikely place, kill you, and then we vanish before you grasp what’s happened.” He rubbed a finger across a walnut-brown cheek. “We are our own antidote. Just as all of the world’s varied and toxic forms of government are its own poisons.”

         Mister Ree lowered his fork and puffed out a laugh. “So you want to take over the world?”

         Titus scratched at his smooth jaw. “Nothing so tiring and time consuming.” He waved a hand forth and back. “I want to make over the world, eliminate all forms of rule that don’t mirror that of the great and illustrious nation of Dalandau.” He spread his arms.

         Mister Ree and Kinetic looked at each other, turned back to Titus, and simultaneously said: “So basically you want to take over the world.”
 
 
The soldier soared over Iron Bull’s haphazard rush, tucking its legs beneath it as another rolled to the side. The large man whirled around just as the two opponents spun back-to-back. One served up a blurring crescent kick to his face and twisted around to allow the other to hit him with a spinning back kick. Both blows landed in the space of a second and were powerful enough to stagger even someone of Iron Bull’s formidable stature. The Poison troops moved like mirror images and were about to launch another attack when a sharp snap cracked the air.

         The space in front of the agile fighters violently exploded in a fury of sound, concussive force, and a tight burst of flames that blasted them back.

         Prince Paroxysm lowered his hand and grinned. “You just got your ass handed to you by two ballet dancers.” He tossed his head back and laughed. Iron Bull suddenly lunged forward and shoved his teammate to the side. The man hurled one large foot up and out in a vicious blow at the Poison troop in the air who had a gleaming knife aimed at where the Prince’s neck had been. His kick slammed into the target’s sternum, emitting a burst of sparks as the chestplate crumpled, and knocked the soldier back a dozen feet into the gnarled branches of a tree.

         “And you just had your ass saved by a dumb jock,” Iron Bull said as Prince Paroxysm fixed his crooked crown.

         Incandescent raised her arm and released a wide laser column of hard light at her opponent. He...she...it slipped into a slide on its knees, arched its back and allowed the blast to ripple a scant inch over them and continue on toward Mythos. The epic hero growled deep in his throat, smashing one war hammer down on an opponent in a crunch of bone and armor. Without looking he swung the other mystical hammer to shatter the beam of hard light from the air in an eruption of shimmering shards. Incandescent’s dance partner, still on its knees, flipped back on its gloved palms and pushed itself up and over before shoving off the ground and leaping at her with outstretched arms. She spread her arms to her sides and manifested a concave shield of light. The Poison soldier landed on her barrier, clung there, and began pounding on her construction.

         Poison!Poison!Poison!Poison!It howled at her before yanking a short sword from its waist and stabbing at the shield. Bright sparks hissed out, but her barrier held. It suddenly stopped and Incandescent could feel it glaring at her. Her opponent twisted its head around and up before releasing a rippling screech that made her cringe not at the volume of the cry, but at the way it seemed to scour her skin.

         Every Poison soldier suddenly stopped what they were doing, parted from whomever they were fighting and joined in with the call, their voices coming together in a screeching choir. Then they stopped.

         The Alchemist brought his hands up and was about to transmogrify the Poison’s body armor to liquid metal when he felt a disturbance behind him. He and the rest of the A-Squad turned to the foothills and watched as a pack of large four-legged beasts ran silently down the sloping mounds of earth.         

         “What in the world?” Coda stopped playing as the twelve large animals swept closer and she saw that they were wolves, mechanized wolves. Their “fur” was a deep blue that absorbed the light and their flashing legs were non-reflective steel, paws ending in four razor sharp points. Sensors, gears, and pistons flashed, spun, and pumped as the beasts blurred forward with disturbing speed and grace. Each one had a large cannon attached to its back, cannons that began to glow and hum. The Poison soldiers flipped, spun and rolled out of the way, clearing the field.

         A low CHOOMMMmmruffled the air as twelve cannons discharged simultaneously. The silent blasts were all but invisible, smearing the air as they rocketed toward the A-Squad.

         Coda quickly strung together a harmonic stream of notes that wrapped the team in a blue half-dome and Incandescent added a second layer of glittering protection.

         Something told The Alchemist that both women’s efforts wouldn’t be enough to stop the nearly invisible volley. He raised his hands to conduct an atmospheric symphony and hardened air around Incandescent’s light shield.

         The muted projectiles struck...

         ...and blasted through all three shields of obdurate force.

         The explosion happened silently, but the results screamed loudly.
 
 
“Would you care for some dessert?” Titus gestured at Mister Ree’s empty plate.

         “No. Thank you.” Ree’s tone was terse.

         Their host looked at Kinetic. “What about you, young miss? You’ve hardly spoken. Would you like some cake? Coffee perhaps?”

         Kinetic shook her head. “No.”

         The Pharakkan silently held his chin in his hand for a moment. Then he lifted his napkin from the table to reveal the pistol underneath and slid it toward his guest. The gun clattered to a stop against Mister Ree’s plate.

         “I want you to pick up that gun and shoot me.” The man tapped an elegant index finger at his forehead. “Right here.” He waited. Ree glared. “Shooting me and people like me in the head is the only real choice that you have. Putting a bullet in our brains is the only way to knock sense into us.” He tilted his head to the side. “Much like I had done to Kiyanis.” In a blink Titus suddenly had another gun pointed at his head. “I’ll just do it for you.” His finger squee--

         Mister Ree snatched up his plate and flung--

         B L A M !

         --it at Titus’s wrist. The bullet embedded itself in the far wall. The older hero was halfway out of his chair when the Pharakkan began laughing. He tossed his head back, closed his eyes, and grabbed at his stomach as the laugher uncoiled from his lungs, gasping for air ever few seconds only to resume his assault of amusement. “AHAHAHAHA! You can’t--” Sharp inhale. “You can’t even allow me to kill myself! HAHAHA!” Finally, the mirth began to fade. “It’s people like you that I want to get rid of.” He wiped at his eyes. “People who have the power to bring about the change they want, but are afraid of the consequences, afraid of what happens after.” He stood.

         Kinetic and Mister Ree tensed.

         Pharakkan Titus held up his empty hands. Then he held them out, wrists together. “Do with me as you will. I’ve already won.” He looked out of the window as a faraway screech chimed in the air. “I hope my Poison is treating the rest of your team as amicably.” His lips split and his teeth gleamed.
 
 
B-Boy turned up his iPod and broke into a krump routine, his body jerking in wild and tight yet precise, flowing movements. He cranked his arms out at angles on either side and thrust his chest out in a spastic jolt. The Poison troops in front of him were suddenly knocked back by an invisible force. B-Boy moved his body in an undulation that started at the fingertips of his right hand, rippled and flowed throughout his entire upper body and ended at his left hand. The movement literally extended out of his body and latched on to the soldier jabbing at him with a short sword. His opponent was caught up in the wave, losing control of their body and mirroring B-Boy’s fluid movements. The wave slithered from that soldier’s body and continued on in a widening ripple that swept up several more enemies and forced them into dancing submission. B-Boy leapt up and hammered a fist in the air. Immediately the Poison troops under his control collapsed to the ground unconscious.

         Prince Paroxysm clapped his hands, focusing on the cannon on the back of the mecha wolf charging towards him. The cannon was ripped apart by the explosion he released, but still the wolf ate up the distance between them. Backpedaling, the young man clapped, parted his hands and sharply snapped his fingers before bringing his palms together again in a hard clap. Four blasts of varying intensities ripped at the canine automaton and tumbled it out of the air, blowing off a hind leg. The mangled wolf emitted a robotic growl as it pawed vainly at the ground.

         A slim rectangular panel on its right side popped out and hissed back to reveal a mini-gun. The firearm barked bullets. Paroxysm threw himself to the side as Mythos flung a hammer that smashed the mini-gun into mangled uselessness.

         The warrior whirled on his sandaled feet, extending an arm to call his weapon back. The hammer slapped his palm just as he completed his spin and slammed it into one soldier’s head. Something that didn’t sound like metal or a servo popped. The soldier went limp and collapsed on the ground in a sprawl.

         Coda’s rapid chromatic scale manifested in a cascade of arrows that whizzed toward a mecha wolf. “Mister Ree said we aren’t supposed to kill them!”

         “I am not a dog to be commanded and tamed!” Mythos bellowed at her. He bounded a dozen feet into the air and brought both hammers down on several soldiers and a mecha wolf. He tossed his head back and released a berserker yell, veins popping out on the shaved sides of his head and cords stretching tight against his throat. He turned and rammed an elbow into an opponent’s face as they rushed at him with two short swords whirling in their hands. “You come at me with sharp sticks!” Mythos grabbed his adversary by either wrist, braced a foot on their chest and yanked at their arms while pushing against their sternum. Armor ripped and popped free...along with the soldier’s limbs. The Poison troop fell writhing and jerking to the ground, an odd huffing noise issuing from beneath their helmet. Mythos saw a frayed collection of wires, tubes, and mechanisms torn lose from the ragged ends of his foe’s appendages. He looked down and saw more of the same spooling out of the fallen soldier’s shoulder sockets. “A robot,” Mythos sneered.

         Incandescent flew over near Coda and hovered in the air, her body coated in glistening liquid light. “I think we’re starting to thin their ranks.” She pointed a finger at two Poison soldiers. A bubble of light rapidly expanded in the air in front of her targets and burst apart, violently knocking them down. She ascended higher to survey the battlefield. “We should be done in a matter of--” Her voice trailed off when she spotted the tumultuous tide of Poison soldiers and mecha wolves pouring out from the garrison to the north. There were at least a thousand.

         Incandescent’s light dimmed. “Oh, shi--” Shots from four silent cannons blasted her from the air. Her light completely snuffed out and she returned to flesh and blood, flesh that was burned and bruised and blood that flowed from the gaping hole blown through her thigh. 

         “POOOOOISON!”
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 9/19/2012 5:01:30 PM
  • annah brown commented on :
    4/3/2016 1:30:25 AM
    Hello good day, i will like to meet you in person, am miss Anna, am from France and am leaving in London, please contact me on my email id at (annh1brown@hotmail.com), ... Show More
  • Robert Arrington commented on :
    11/4/2014 2:08:23 AM
    Not the typical supers story. I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.