"I'm going to need your military ID, ma'am."
Rei began to search herself. "Must have left it on base." She turned to Bard. "You never saw me put it down somewhere, did you?"
He smiled. "Can't say I have."
"Yeah it's on base…"
The attendant huffed. "I do apologize, ma'am but I would have to see your military ID. It's the law."
Rei nodded. "Don't worry about it. I'll just pay the fare."
She held her closed fist out. As soon as the attendant made contact with her hand, she began to shake slightly.
"I'm starting to feel faint…"
The attendant fell over. Rei leaned through the window speaking loudly. "Ma'am? Are you alright?!"
Everyone began to crowd around the window in panic. The guard next to the train doors ran toward the building to help. Rei began to push Bard toward the train.
"Go, go, go."
The intercom clicked on, indicating arrival to Etna City within ten minutes. Rei was sitting down with her legs crossed. She was still wearing her armor. There was at least two seats worth of space between her and the passenger on either side of her. Bard stood up.
"What exactly did you do?"
"I beg your pardon?" Rei looked up at him.
"I don't recall you hitting a pressure point or anything. She just touched you and fell over."
"It was a coincidence. I simply took advantage of the situation. I never did anything."
He raised an eyebrow. A light smile was still worn on his face. "Really, now? I watched you. You pulled nary a coin out of your purse in spite of saying you would pay. I knew were setting something up."
Rei stared at him. Just what kind of person is he? Very observant, clever, expert in combat, possibly even sly and cunning. He said he had a story of his own I didn't think to ask about. Was he once an elite soldier? Or what if he's a most wanted outlaw in disguise? Might be why he didn't give me a name. That constant smiling is starting to get creepier by the second.
"I'll tell you about it later. So what exactly is your story?" She said.
"My story? I have many. Which do you want to hear?"
"You know what I'm talking about. I shared mine. Now it's your turn."
"Cold little bugger, aren't you?"
Rei continued to stare. "I'm just being realistic. I'm a give-and-take sort of person. I think I deserve to hear what happened to your own family."
"Well there isn't much to tell. I lost my family in an accident many years ago."
"What kind of accident?"
"Someone decided they didn't like us."
"So they're victims of murder?"
"That about sums it all up."
Rei's thoughts shifted to her own parents. She just hoped they weren't dead. She shivered slightly. Bard seemed to take notice.
"Is my tale too frightening for you? I'm sure your parents are fine."
"I know they are. I know they are. So…exactly how old are you?"
Bard thought for a moment. "Mmm…late twenties, maybe early thirties?"
"You don't even know your own age?"
"Why keep up with how much longer I have to die?"
"…you said you never had a name, either. About how long ago did you lose your family?"
"I was close to your age, maybe? Just a little younger."
"…so do you keep your name hidden just to protect yourself?"
"Sort of." His smile dropped. "It's more of a reminder of something I want to forget."
Rei again hid inside of her mind. She began to feel remorseful. Maybe he was someone, like herself, who was simply had a horrifying experience. I don't think he's a runaway criminal…I can't believe I would have thought of him like that. He's probably had rough trials in life, just like me.
"I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't mean to dive too far. I won't ask anything else."
Bard's smile brightened. "Think nothing of it. I'm just blessed that the good Lord has given me life, when I could have been killed as well."
The sky train began to slow. As soon as the doors unlocked, Rei and Bard stepped out on the dock. Rei was amazed at what she saw. Everything looked more advanced than even Olympia City possessed. Glowing neon pulsed up almost every side of every building or structure.
"Quite breath-taking, isn't it?"
"Breath-taking? That's an understatement." She replied.
The two walked through the city. Rei was constantly looking in every direction.
"Olympia City was impressive when I'd seen it. But this…? This is simply stunning!"
"Quite. But now that we are here, we need a game plan, no?"
Rei suddenly focused. She had almost forgotten why she came here in the first place. There were a few holographic screens floating in a window nearby. A news reporter was making an announcement, standing in front of a place Rei immediately recognized. The military base.
"…has been reported dead earlier this morning. There are no visible signs of the occurrence and his death remains a mystery. Local doctors and physicians have ruled it as cardiac arrest. We now go live with forensic expert Joseph Swanson who says that things may not be what they seem."
"Thank you, Tricia. My team and I have managed to find fingerprints on the back of the neck and on the right wrist. However we cannot get samples dense enough to determine who's they are; however we do know that someone indeed could be behind General Zan's death. Scientists on base have also stated that a prototype armor program has gone missing, that the general had just received moments earlier before estimated time of death. This also further supports the fact that a person or persons could be behind this, as there is no other evidence indicating why Zan would have suffered a myocardial infarction, stroke, or any other medical related issues. Unfortunately mechanics have been working to fix the security surveillance issue that has been plaguing the base for nearly a week. Because if this problem, no cameras were working and we were not able to get a visual of the possible perpetrator. We also have received a report from a local convenience store owner stating he had seen a young woman enter and then later leave wearing military armor. Again we could not get a visual recording, as the owner said that 'security was a waste of the electrical bill' and did not have running cameras in the building. A few spectators have also mentioned seeing someone leaving the same building that was also wearing armor. The only visual identification we have received is knowledge of a young woman with long blonde hair. Whether this could be the possible suspect related to General Zan's death is certainly possible. However I have not possessed enough evidence indicating that any one person is involved in this, and could only be merely coincidence. I urge no one to make any accusations toward anyone and please remain civilized until we can uncover any more information."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Swanson. Currently the new position of general will be decided at a later date. Until…hold on. I'm receiving a call from a sky train station at Olympia Point B. It seems an armored individual was also seen at the station matching Swanson's description. Apparently the individual was paying for a train ticket when the attendant at the window suddenly fainted. The individual is then seen boarding the train afterword. The attendant stated that she began to feel faint upon trying to receive the individual's payment for a train ticket. We will continue to investigate the case and get back to you as soon as possible. Stay tuned and we will return after commercial break…"
Bystanders hadn't seemed to notice the news report. Such reports probably aren't new to them.
Rei and Bard exchanged looks and ran inside a nearby library.
"That wouldn't happen to be you, would it?"
"Yes. The armor I'm wearing isn't exactly mine." She took it off and placed the program in her bag. Hopefully she won't be as susceptible to being noticed.
"So that general…?"
"Yes, I killed him. And yes the attendant fainting was my doing."
"And exactly how…?"
Rei looked at the planter next to her. She looked around. With no one nearby, she grabbed the trunk, and immediately the plant's lush green leaves began to brown and wither. Some fell off and floated gently toward the ground.
Bard was almost shocked. "You can literally deliver death by touch?"
"In a sense. More accurately it's more of a vampiric drain if you want to compare it to anything."
"You suck blood through your hand?"
"No. Just life energy, whatever it is. But bottom line, I can take someone's energy from their body and restore my own. It's something my parents have prohibited me from doing for almost ten years. I almost forgot about it completely. I didn't kill the attendant. Just drained enough to make her lose consciousness."
"That is certainly an interesting talent…but in any case I would avoid wearing that armor for a while, especially with the law being this close to us."
"Yeah. Great idea, Captain Obvious."
"I'd also suggest we leave out of the exit on the other side."
Rei and Bard walked back outside. Rei covered her eyes. The sun was brighter than she remembered. The armor's visor must have been polarized. Another monitor was playing nearby. There was someone interviewing a man, who was demonstrating some kind of new assault rifle.
"…and that concludes this week's segment of what our military works hard on to develop. Tune in next week when we again hold our regular interview with our amazing inventor who may be the smartest man alive. This is S.H.E.I.L.D. Industries, and we will bring you more exciting and astonishing weapons and packs next week!"
The interviewer tuned out, leaving the screen showing "S.H.E.I.L.D. Industries" across the middle of the screen with a building in the background. Rei turned to the right to see a matching building in the near-distance. Sure enough, floating above it were the holographic "S.H.E.I.L.D." letters.
Bard turned to Rei. "So what do you you say we do first?"
Rei thought for a moment. "It might be easier to split up and gather information and several different locations at once." She looked up at a clock tower. "Meet back here at about six o' clock."
"Whatever works for you. Are you sure about separating?"
"I'll be fine. Time is ticking."
"Alright. Do be careful." He smiled and walked off.
Rei whispered to herself as soon as he was out of sight. "Connection to the military and smartest man alive, huh? Let's just see exactly what you know."
She ran toward S.H.E.I.L.D.
My arrival in Etna City was amazing. However it was short lived. It seems that the law is starting to catch up to me. I'll need to tread more carefully. From what I learned on the train, Bard and I have much in common. He's just someone who has had difficulty in life as I have. He also now knows about my special capability and he doesn't seem to express discomfort around me. He'll be a good friend and I'm fortunate enough to have met him (and thankfully not kill him). I've let him search for information on the strange men who took my parents away on his own. I've found a source that might just be what I need, especially if this "smartest man alive" has connection to the military.