Delta Thread, Chapter 8
Caden stood with a Mod headset on, its multifunctional viewer extended in front of his left eye. It was a transparent red, but could also display multiple images and live feed. The wing-like module that rose from the circular speaker covering his left ear was what made this device so special: it could communicate with any other Mod headset, regardless of the dimension the other was in. That meant that he could see what Shadow and Wildfire saw, and talk with them, whether or not they were in the physical world or Overlay Region. Right now Shadow was monitoring the Overlay Region around the palace grounds, and Sunburst was on patrol in the fields surrounding the city. They weren’t sure how Masa’s creatures would strike, but they were prepared in all events.
“Has anything happened yet?” Kira asked, coming up behind him. They stood in her bedroom, a room that Caden considered more secure than any of the lower level rooms, especially the throne room. He glanced back at her and shook his head.
“Not a peep.” he said, glancing back at a blank wall. He used its undecorated background to give him something more solid to help him watch his brothers’ viewers. “Nothing since the army disappeared.”
“Are you sure we’re under attack right now?” Kira asked. “They haven’t appeared for almost an hour now. I understand keeping our guard up, but how do we know they didn’t just run to a secondary point when they were under attack?”
“That’s not like Obsidian, or even Masa.” Caden said, setting his image feeds to smaller frames in the top of his view screen. He turned back towards Kira, shaking his head in frustration. “They knew we were coming. There’s no other explanation for why they were able to elude Wildfire and Shadow unscathed, for what little damage they did to those things. Shadow studied the map he saw the elves show Masa.”
“And?” Kira asked, walking over to him.
“Nothing more than some rude drawings and an unpleasant note about your future.” Caden said.
“Don’t you mean ‘crude drawings’?” Kira asked, trying to get him to calm down a small fraction.
“No, I mean exactly what I said. It was a group of their men mocking a trio of caricatures representing my brothers and I. They had our symbols above our decapitated heads as they stood on our bodies.”
“And what was the message they had for me?” Kira asked.
Caden looked away from her, and his jaw tightened. “It wasn’t for you, but about you. I’d rather not repeat what they said.”
“Well, if it wasn’t for me, then who’d they address it to?” she inquired.
“Me.” Caden said, still looking away from her. She reached up and gently pushed his face to look at hers, though he kept his eyes averted.
“Tell me what they said.” Kira said quietly, trying to keep Caden from completely clamming up.
His eyes finally looked into hers, and she saw his resolve to keep her from hearing the message, as well as his desire to protect him. “No, you don’t need to hear it. It is enough that you know you were threatened, and that they challenged my ability to protect you from that threat. But I will not let that happen.”
“All right, if you think it that bad.” she said, letting go of him. He silently walked towards the tapestry depicting the scene from the legend. He reached up and gently traced the outline of Hero’s sword with his forefinger. He started to say something, then stopped and pressed an invisible button on his headset’s speaker. He readjusted the microphone that snaked down his jaw and stuck out in front of his mouth, leveling it. Kira looked at him questioningly, and his eyes told her that something was happening. His face darkened, and he glanced briefly at his viewer, then his eyes widened in shock. He spun towards Kira and stationed himself directly in front of her, his back to her but not his protection.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, but he held up his hand for silence.
“Curse them all!” he exploded vehemently, and reached up as if to rip his headset off, but held his hand an inch from his earpiece. “Wildfire, go tandem on physical and Overlay. Shadow…already on top of it, as always. What about the Guard? As worthless as we anticipated. That’s comforting. How close are they to the Palace? Where’s Masa? No sign of Obsidian? All right, Wildfire, keep the plains clear and the beasts on their toes. Shadow, sign off and let me know when it’s over.”
The room had begun to slightly heat up when he began speaking, and by the time he’d finished his back was radiating as much heat as a roaring fire. He slapped his headset when he was finished, signing off, and then his body began to fade like the gloom of night at sunrise. He stopped when he appeared to be an insubstantial specter, not quite there, but not gone. He’d told Kira that if he ever did that, he was staying in both the physical realm and the Overlay, to maximize his ability to sense enemies and protect her.
“Caden, what’s going on?” Kira asked, concern threatening to shake her voice.
“They’re here.” Caden replied, the room continuing to grow warm.
“I gathered as much.” Kira said. “I meant outside. What’s happening? Are they attacking?”
“They’re not staying in one spot long enough to be considered doing anything.” Caden said. “They are jumping back and forth between regions, so they can’t be touched by the soldiers positioned in the defenses, and my brothers can only kill them if they strike them in the same region the enemy is in. Wildfire can coat the plains in charges, and not touch a single one unless they happen to be in the right spot at the right time during or after a transition back to the physical realm.”
“So we really have no defense against them?” Kira asked.
Caden looked at her, and his gaze was hard and dark. “Without help, we’re probably going to lose.”
Shadow’s gun was slinging bullets as fast as he’d built it to, and perhaps only half the shots reached their targets. He would have switched guns earlier had he considered how ineffective his rifle would be, but he doubted being able to shoot faster would be any more help. Sunburst’s gun was the fastest shooter he’d ever created, and it was hitting roughly a fourth of the elves that came into Wildfire’s sights. So he sat back mentally and prepared to tough this firefight out.
His face tightened grimly, as close to a smile as he could manage during a fight, as he thought that the advantage was that these creatures didn’t have guns to fight back with. They were armed with bows, spears, and swords, effective against the natural armies of Eldia but worthless against a pair of angry Moderators. Cadence would be welcome help in this fight, but his job was to protect the queen, and he wouldn’t be an effective guard if he were nowhere close to her. He cursed the maker of these infernal wretches as yet another vanished before his shot could reach its mark. There were thousands, popping in and out around him, as he sat in the Overlay Region. He’d thought it best to make them afraid of the one thing that gave them an advantage over the normal elves, and Wildfire was making sure they rued returning to the physical world, with nowhere safe to run to. Despite the amount of shots sweeping the enemy’s running ground, the vast majority of soldiers was still evading their fire.
“Can this thing withstand this kind of abuse?” Wildfire’s voice cried over the chaos of battle through the speaker.
“It’s designed to fire indefinitely.” Shadow said, his finger beginning to ache from being held in one position for so long.
“We’ve never had to test that.” Sunburst replied, concern lacing his voice. The steady hum of his gun’s fire spilled into his transmission.
“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t choose today to prove me wrong.” Shadow growled in reply. He lined up another row of elves, then flinched as a silver blur sped through the group, leaving a mutilated pile of shredded bodies in its wake.
“Did you see anything odd?” Wildfire asked through the intercom. Shadow watched as the elves’ jumps began to grow more infrequent.
“Silver flash of fur?” Shadow replied.
“Something like that.” Sunburst said. “Suddenly they’re easier to hit.”
“Don’t hit it.” Shadow said. “It may be unknown, but right now it’s a friendly.”
Kira felt the change before Caden disappeared completely into the Overlay Region. He vanished, then reappeared simultaneously with three ex-Guard and dispatched the intruders, grabbing their bodies as he vanished again. Suddenly elves were appearing and disappearing in her room, and she fought the urge to run. She was untouched so far, and Caden kept the invaders at bay as he flashed into and out of the physical world. An arm reached out of the air to grab at her, then fell to the ground, severed. She stifled a cry, and Caden appeared at her side, picked up the limb, and disappeared once more. After a few more moments of confusion and disarray, Caden reappeared in front of her, leaning heavily on his knee.
“Well, that takes care of the first wave.” he said, standing up and turning to face his charge. “We should…” But his voice died in his throat as he saw the elf holding a knife securely to Kira’s exposed neck.
“Hello, Caden.” Obsidian said, sneering as he tightened his grip on Kira’s arm. “So nice of you to finally join us.”
“I strongly advise you to let go of her, before I do something really stupid.” Caden said, taking a step forward.
“Ah-ah, none of that.” Obsidian said, pressing the blade’s point more firmly against Kira’s neck. “Now, take off the headset.”
“This? It’s not a weapon.” Caden said, glaring at Kira’s captor.
“No, but the Moderators it can communicate with do have weapons. Now, take it off.” Obsidian said, a little more forcefully than before. He stepped back, pulling Kira with him. Caden reached up and ripped it off, smashing it onto the ground.
“I can’t talk to them when it’s not activated.” Caden said.
“And is it activated?” Obsidian asked.
“There’s a sensor on the side I’d have to touch in order to activate it.” Caden said. “Is that all you want me to do, Obsidian, or do you want my clothes too?”
“It’s on.” Obsidian said, his eyes narrowing. “Well then, tell your brothers to stay back.”
Caden glared at Obsidian, but complied. “Sunburst, Shadow, Obsidian is with me. He has Kira and has ordered both of you to stand down. I suggest you not do anything to jeopardize Kira’s safety.”
“Go tell him to burn in Interim.” Shadow’s voice cackled over the semi-functional speaker. Caden frowned darkly at the speaker, but said nothing.
“I see that we’re being agreeable in the matter.” Obsidian said. “Since you’re being cooperative, look behind you.”
Caden did, and had to fight his initial reaction to slay Masa, who stood behind him. Masa simply smiled and withdrew a crystal dagger of a pale blue hue.
“You recognize the material, yes?” Obsidian asked, his voice pleasant and chilling.
“Yes.” Caden said flatly. “It is a crystal that is capable of inhibiting movement between the lower dimensions and the Moderators’ Realm.”
“And?” Obsidian said. “You’re forgetting the most important point. But since you seem so reticent to comment on the subject, I’ll inform Kira for you. That, Kira, is made of Override Crystal, a fitting name, in my opinion. Yes, it does what Caden described, but it also has one important feature to it.”
“It kills Moderators.” Masa said, grinning evilly.
“Yes, it kills Moderators.” Obsidian said as Kira softly gasped. Masa came up and placed the blade point on Caden’s back.
“I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to anyway.” Obsidian said. “Are there any last words for Kira, Caden?”
“Yes, there are.” Caden said, his eyes starting to roll. “Evil never wins.” And then he fell to the ground, his face growing pale in death.
“No!” Kira yelled, trying to run to him. Obsidian tightened his grip on her and restrained her.
“That was a little too easy.” Obsidian said, looking suspiciously at Caden. “Are you sure it’s that effective against him? You barely touched him.”
“You’re the Moderator.” Masa replied, leaning down to check Caden’s pulse. He stood up and nodded. “As dead as I can make him be.” he said, kicking Caden in the rib cage.
“Make sure.” Obsidian said. Masa looked at Obsidian in confusion.
“He’s dead. I just checked his pulse. There’s no heartbeat.” Masa said.
“Slit his throat and rip out his heart, then.” Obsidian said. “I don’t want him using one of his abilities to somehow overstep the laws of nature.”
Masa leaned down to do as he had been ordered, then jerked up as an elf appeared beside him. “What now?” Masa said, standing up.
“Sir, the two Moderators have stopped fighting.” the messenger reported.
“Old news.” Obsidian said. The messenger looked at his commander and bowed briefly at the waste.
“Sir, Demis are still dying.” the messenger reported apprehensively.
“How?” Masa said, spinning the messenger to look at him.
“I’m not sure, sir.” the soldier replied. “There is some sort of creature, covered in silver fur, that is shredding any Demi it encounters.”
“And you can’t stop it?” Masa demanded.
“Sir, I was sent here to ask how you think we might stop it.” the messenger replied.
Before Masa could reply, Obsidian cleared his throat and said, “Masa, finish with Caden first. Then we can discuss this anomaly.” Masa nodded and leaned down.