Nightfall was the time the NACPD and the Apalian military utilized for most of their combined operation efforts. The sounds of soldiers and what were supposed to be police officers filled the night. Rebels were what these troops sought out.
To refer to the kind of vehicle traveling down a beaten street of New Apalia standard issue was to call a machine gun apart of the contents that should be expected in a child's lunch box. This mammoth of a contraption was roughly the size of six fairly sized automobiles. The passengers in this juggernaut were none other than the Deathkites formerly known as the Amazoness squad. Since the unit was comprised of mostly female NACPD officers it was only natural to link their name to that of the famous Amazon warriors. Their new title came in response to the growing conflict and from the fact that New Apalia police officers were forcibly enlisted in the ranks of the Apalian military.
Inside the vehicle were a group of soldiers that were once cops. Each bore the color black as well as the Apalian army insignia. This thing had to be big. Otherwise there would be no way to house multiple people, weapons, ammunition and what looked to be like a small fighter jet latched into the flooring. As the wheels turned, rolled and crushed smaller vehicles the mission briefing was taking place.
Guns were being loaded. Ammunition was being counted. The jet was being fueled. Black uniforms moved constantly inside of the ride as preparations were being made for combat. There were some side bar conversations until the commanding officer cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. Commander Shiva, now at the rank of major due to recent promotion, was explaining the plan.
"Alright, as you all know we're entering Galileo. For this reason I'm letting Captain Gognish here take over. Pay attention," Velinica said.
Captain Gognish stood up. To those who never witnessed Eric's true appearance it might have been quite the experience. This man had the ability to go into another person's mind and force them to visually see him as something that he was not. Normally he would take on the appearance of a middle aged Russian male. As his true self he was a six foot, eight inch blue skinned creature with a third eye and six arms. His uniform had to be custom made just for him though he would have preferred white instead of the typical black.
While he would normally prefer to use the MTS channel or telepathy to communicate Eric opted to use his voice. Since he always believed everyone to think of him as a really intelligent freak he didn't want to draw anymore attention to himself by utilizing his abilities. He reached back towards where he was sitting and retrieved a vanilla colored folder. Inside were details about his homeland that he compiled himself. He turned his head to the left and to the right as he spoke so as not to make any one person believe he was referring to anyone over the other.
"We're entering the capital of Galileo; Athens. Now, as you all may know, these people bear witness and testimonies that are unique and difficult to counter. Bear in mi-" Eric was interrupted by the youngest member of the unit; Samantha Isenk. She rose her hand.
"Yes. What is it Private Isenk?" he asked. She stood up.
"Captain, do you mind going over witness and testimonies again? Maybe a refresher course is good for everyone?" she inquired.
Everyone, except for Eric, sighed. While the now Private Isenk was a good asset in terms of raw firepower and shear luck she had the tendency to be annoying when it came to questions. She recently graduated from the New Apalia criminal justice academy. She should have known what a witness and testimony was.
"I'm afraid we don't have time for that private. Captain, go along with the mission brief," Shiva said.
"Major, while I under the importance of the details of this job I really don't mind answering a good question. The only dumb question is the one never asked. Wouldn't you agree?" Eric asked in return.
Shiva frowned. While she couldn't stand it when her second in command made such comments she was always obliged to agree. Eric had the tendency of always treating any newer soldier or police officer as if they were his children. He would look out for them in any way possible. This was why so many newcomers considered him to be a good officer. He turned to the private to answer the question.
"Witness and testimony isn't known to the general public. To them we're nothing more than tabloid stories and internet nonsense. To us we are very much real," he pointed out. Eric knelt down in front of Samantha. "Do you know the difference between witness and testimony Private Isenk?" he asked.
Sam tapped her finger on her chin. Others, besides Eric, shook their heads in disdain. "Uh, well, I know that deities really existed but there wasn't anything really supernatural about them. They were called deities for what they did and even sometimes what they didn't do. Their power came strictly because of personal belief and situations," she recalled.
Shiva stepped in to help educate the lower ranking member of the party. She did so despite the fact that she believed this conversation to be stupid. "As you know the current year is 2304. In 2029 it was discovered that a human's beliefs could actually make themselves and even other people gain abilities. The people who gained said abilities were called 'demis.' Basically we were thought to be demi-gods," she explained.
"People would think of us as demons when really we're no different than any deity. The so called gods were nothing more than people like us. We gain our abilities because human belief and hope can, for some reason, generate superhuman ability but it is always an extraordinary situation that brings about that change. Anybody can become us. That's what we don't want the general public to know," Eric said.
"Not to mention that if people knew how easy it was to become us they'd do it more often. There are stories of people lifting boulders off of themselves and that happened just because they believed they could do. Human belief can give a person or someone that person believes in super human abilities. Sometimes it can happen from a situation. For example, if you were caught in a burning building and believed you would survive and believed that belief enough you could end up with the ability to control fire," Shiva explained.
Sam's eyes widened with that child-like wonder that always annoyed her commander. "Wow! I remember when I got my powers but I didn't think it was that easy!" she exclaimed.
In the back corner of the vehicle Sergeant Montaine remained in his seated position with his legs folded up. He heard everything even though he had the appearance of being in a meditating state. Xelic had to add his two cents as well.
"At the point that you gain abilities that is when you get into what kind of ability. Your ability or abilities are separated into two categories; witness or testimony. Some may have both. A testimony is something that people can outwardly see. Take Captain Gognish for example. You can very much see his witness and because you can witness it yourself that explains the name. So can you guess what a testimony is?"
Sam's eyes widened with excitement. She knew the answer. "A testimony is something that people may not be able to see. Captain Gognish's witness is something anyone who isn't blind would be able to notice. I mean, he is a big blue guy, right? But what someone wouldn't readily pick up is his mind powers. Right?" she asked.
The Captain nodded his head. "That is correct. But it gets a little more complicated than that I'm afraid. Once you know what a witness and testimony is there is where the divisions really begin. There are five different types of that both categories much adhere to as far as we know. Do you the five different types Private Isenk?" he asked.
She nodded. "If I'm not mistaken there is altar, ritual, prophet, matyr and, uh, well, not too sure on the last one. Gosh, it's right on the tip of my tongue! What was it again?" she questioned aloud.
Everyone, except for Sam, looked one another. This wasn't necessarily because she was asking a dumb question again. Nobody wanted to answer. Eric smiled. "Well, lets not worry about the last part. It isn't important. Tell me, what do you know about each type?" he asked.
"Well, as far as I know, ritual types tend to have witness abilities but on the rare occasion can carry testimonies as well. Ritual types are as the name suggests; predictable. Sergeant Montaine is a ritual type because he uses muscle memory to perform some of his martial arts moves and those moves wouldn't be on the level of superhuman if he didn't have impeccable timing most of the time. He fights on the level of a martial arts master. But he is also an altar type. By sacrificing one of his senses he can become invisible," she explained.
Xelic lifted his head and looked at her. "Right. While I may not want to admit it ritual types tend to use deception and that's mostly what I use. My altar abilities would kind of go into the martyr category but sacrificing the sense of smell in exchange for not being able to be seen isn't that great of a sacrifice. So that basically breaks down what a martyr type is. Some may sacrifice their youth, hydration level and sometimes even body parts to do the things that they do. But the payoff for such an ability would be on a massive scale," the sergeant said.
Shiva crossed her legs. "And altar types power themselves but their powers always affect their personality. At one point I was a nice and pleasant person. My power makes me crude and mean. I'm not afraid to admit it. Some say we're just like martyr types because we have to sacrifice a part of our own personality to fit the power. A person who can control fire may gain that ability but become a hot tempered individual. That is different from martyr because we don't have to sacrifice something on the fly. Since our powers affect our personality from the second we get them we are already used to the changes while a martyr may not be," the major pointed out.
Eric took over the education from there. "Prophet types have the least amount of sacrifice but our powers come at a cost as well. Our bodies rely off of mental power. Therefore our brains become stronger but in return our bodies aren't as strong. That is why I'm lucky to be a dual demi versus just a plain old prophet. But that doesn't mean prophets are to be underestimated. Shiva can make herself virtually indestructible but that doesn't mean her mind isn't vulnerable," the blue man told the private.
"What about the last type? You know, the one I couldn't remember?" Sam asked.
Again, everyone looked at one another. Nobody was tripping over another person to answer that question. "Like Captain Gognish said it isn't important for now. Just worry about the mission," Shiva said.
"That was cutting too close Eric. She isn't supposed to know what she is yet. Cut the classroom talk," Shiva projected via MTS.
"I agree. That was a lapse in judgment. My apologies," Eric projected back.
Samantha lowered her head in disappointment. She assumed she was an altar type like her commanding officer. But nobody had told her what type she was without her having to guess. Nor did she learn of the mysterious fifth type of demi. Her head rose again when she realized she and her team had a mission to complete. Sam's eyes were focused on Eric.
"Right, so, like the Major explained this is my home. Galileo is split into four sections. The one we're about to go to is called Enlightenment. Our mission is a hostage exchange," Gognish explained.
Xelic frowned and stood up. His arms were folded.
"There a problem Sergeant Montaine?" Eric asked.
"Sir, last time I checked, Apalia has a pretty strict policy about negotiating with terrorists," Montaine said.
"I get that Sergeant. But our operations are out of the public view. In fact there are some politicians who don't even realize what we're doing here. That is the other part of the instructions I have to give you all. Those instructions are strict silence. Nobody is to know about what is going to take place here. Failure to comply with those instructions will result in strict punishment including jail time but, more than likely, a swift execution," Eric explained.
When he mentioned the "execution" portion everyone's gaze went upon him. This was something even Shiva didn't know. Eric was the intelligence officer. In the Apalian military it wouldn't be unusual for those in his position as intel to know something that even the highest ranking soldier wouldn't be aware of. The military and the Apalian government understood that civilians would raise concerns over such an action as hostage negotiations of this magnitude.
"There are over a million soldiers Captain. Why send us?" Shiva asked.
Eric put all six of his arms behind his back and interlaced all fingers on all hands. "That is simple. With your service record in the NACPD, combined with mine, Sergeant Montaine's standard of excellence and a newbie that managed to survive a scope attack we're considered to be one of the best group of soldiers ever assembled," Gognish explained.
Such words boosted everyone's ego. Velincia believed that it was mostly her actions as a police officer that would give this unit such a reputation. She earned the nickname, "human hellhound." Xelic wasn't one to brag but he understood that any officer with as many kills under their belt as he had would be considered to be a force to be reckoned with. Eric was already being contacted by military recruiters before this conflict started. As for Samantha just hearing those words made her day.
Now that she was psyched up Sam listened to the rest of the briefing but was sure to complete the repairs needed on her arm. Because it was Rotiliacore arm she needed to be sure it was operational. While Eric talked she couldn't help but take a stroll down memory lane. She remember when she first encountered Eric and knew that he was a really special person. The part she found to be funny was that the two of them were not intended to meet one another.
Samantha was assigned to another unit when she signed up for the police force. However, Commander Shiva personally interfered with her unit assignment and had her placed with the Amazoness unit. Private Isenk never understood why Velincia would go to such lengths to get an officer who was seemingly just a random officer with no special significance to the Major. All became clear when she realized that, her girlfriend Jack Durham, turned out to be an old partner of Shiva. Jack asked Velincia, without Sam knowing, to take care of the young private.
The vehicle stopped. Mechanical cranks and gears sounded. Everyone stood up and stared at the only available exit. Sam went to the small jet and boarded it. This aerial assault vehicle was pointed towards the exit. It was as if no words were needed for what was to come next. Of course the briefing wasn't complete. The soldiers assumed that Eric would continue the brief via telepathy.
"Alright, this is it people. Now, I must stress that you aren't to interact with civilians. If anyone asks we are on a peace keeping mission. This is a hostage exchange. We are in Galileo which has the highest concentration of demis. Don't engage them. Focus on the mission. Engage them only if you feel as if your life is threatened. Otherwise we're here to exchange," Eric projected.
Shiva started walking off of the transport. Unlike the rest of her troops she didn't bother picking a firearm of choice. She never needed such weapons. Xelic stuck to his katana. Eric decided to take up six fire arms since he had six arms. Like the commander Samantha didn't need any mechanical projectiles. Velincia turned her head towards Eric.
"While I do understand our mission I can't say I'm super excited about it. But a job is a job. Speaking of that where is our hostage that we're supposed to exchange?" Velincia projected.
Eric used telepathy with both Shiva and Private Isenk. "Private Isenk isn't aware of this but he is tied up in the back of her Shuriken," Gognish projected.
Sam immediately turned her head in the cockpit and noticed a pudgy blue skinned man with multiple arms confined by chains. Her mouth dropped open. She didn't bother checking the backside of her assigned vehicle because she was pretty sure it was empty with exception to weapon systems. Samantha couldn't believe the captain would stow a hostage in the Shuriken like this without her knowing about it. He may have outranked her but she didn't appreciate not being informed.
"Captain, with all due respect, if I'm to put my life in your hands I will respectfully request that I shouldn't be left in the dark about potentially illegal actions. Sir, I have a man back here, who, for all I know, isn't here of his free will," Sam projected.
"I understand your concern private. While many officers would tell you to stay in a private's place I'm more rational. In the future I'll do my best to give you information. However, if I had mentioned this before I don't think you would have been on board," Eric shot back with.
Velincia knew that the private was the weakest link of the unit. She had to pour water on what she perceived to be future fire. "Sam, this is Shiva. I know I used your first name because while you are my soldier I've known you since you were a kid," Shiva projected.
"But I can't call you by your first name because you're my commander. I'm not okay with this. It is wrong. If we do the same thing as the scopes we're no better than they are. We aren't supposed to negotiate with terrorists commander. You know this," Sam's mind sent back.
Shiva sighed. "I understand. Listen, complete this job and when we get back we can talk about this some more. For now I need you. Sam, you graduated from the flight academy two months ago. You're one of the best pilots I know of. Jack would have just done this without question. Do this for me?" Shiva projected.
Samantha revved up the engine as her response. She would do it. But now she had a little less respect for her superiors. If the Apalian government found out about what they were doing Sam could be punished with the rest of her unit with the maximum penalty being execution. Such actions would be nothing short of treason which, to her, deserved nothing short of death. She knew this and yet she would now put her life on the line for the sake of completing an illegal mission.
The commander smiled. Shiva, and the others, walked the streets of Galileo with Samantha taking to the skies immediately without having a drawn out take off. Eric let out a sigh of relief. Xelic copied that action. None of them believed that the private, being the super patriot that she was, would actually go through with this. They all figured she would just report the situation to Velincia's superiors.
"See? I told you. She's a little too by the book but even she understands the concept of having to do evil to sometimes do good," Shiva said. There was currently a bet as to whether or not Sam would turn them all in.
Xelic and Eric handed over credits, the form of currency in Apalia, to their commander. "Betting isn't sanctioned or tolerated either commander," Eric said.
"Yeah, well, if its found out what we're doing here none of that is going to matter. Pay up sucker," Velincia responded with.