“Good evening, Osin.” A pale-skinned woman with bright ginger hair and a white lab coat sat at a table across from a small, brown-skinned boy dressed in black clothing, which caused him to stand out against the small white room that was his home. The boy’s golden eyes looked Sawyer over and he blinked. His mouth curved slightly in a polite smile.
“Good evening, Dr. Sawyer,” he replied.
Dr. Anais Sawyer smiled back and nodded. She made a check on her virtual interface display, noting that Osin’s Canter skills were still coming along. Despite Sawyer’s ten year long work to eliminate “devilish” influences from the boy’s mind, Osin still sometimes slipped up. He often referred to Captain Simeon Grey as yasur and when Tarsus translated the word from its original language to Canter, it was defined as meaning, “father; master; king”. Naturally, Grey had taken quite well to being addressed as such, even if it was derived from a “lesser” culture’s language. Sawyer inwardly rolled her eyes at the thought.
“Captain Grey briefed you on your new assignment, right?” she asked.
“Jinn lo torma…” Dr. Sawyer gave Osin a glance and the twelve-year old boy gulped. “That is to say, kill the traitors.”
Dr. Sawyer sighed softly and made another mark in her VI. “Traitors” was a subjective term, she felt. ORION operatives were a mixture of archaeologists and terrorists who held no loyalty to the Tribune run government of Blancus, only, they claimed, to “the blind and deaf babes, the people”.
Recently, they had threatened to bomb entire cities on the eastern coast of the country if they didn’t receive coordinates to some ancient secrets that they felt the Tribune of Blancus hid from them. That information had been given to them this time, but from Sawyer’s understanding, it was all a trap to lead them like sheep to slaughter with the twelve-year-old boy in front of her being the designated butcher.
The young boy nervously looked over at Sawyer and then outside of his room. Perplexed, Sawyer followed his eyes and saw Captain Simeon Grey standing outside. The fear and respect on the Osin’s face looked deeply ingrained. Sawyer found the oddest part of her job was observing a child with the power to bench press a small military tank cowering next to a man with barely a fraction of that strength.
“It looks like Captain Grey wishes to speak to you, Osin. I’ll go get him,” Dr. Sawyer said with a smile. Osin’s eyes never left the looming figure of Captain Grey outside his room. Sawyer gave a brief, awkward smile before she rose from her seat and left Osin alone in his room. When Sawyer faced the Captain, her smile faded.
“What’s the problem, doctor?” Grey said in his deep, monotonous voice.
“You. You’re interfering with my session with Osin.”
“And what of your session?” Grey asked. “Is he psychologically cleared for the mission?” Sawyer frowned.
You don’t even care… she thought before she said, “He’s as medically cleared for killing as any twelve year old could be.” Her dry tone caused Grey to raise an eyebrow and he stared deeply into Sawyer’s eyes.
“Don’t allow your compassion for the little devil to cloud your view of FLOCK’s greater vision and purpose. You are a psychiatrist…”
“And it is my job to tell you or anyone else that what we’re doing…” Sawyer paused to glance at Osin through the glass before sighing and looking back at Grey. “It’s damaging him. There’s nothing but violence etched into his brain.”
“That is all he knows, anyway. He is a devil,” Grey said.
Sawyer balled her fist and turned red in her face. “And who the hell made him that way? You don’t think that sending him someplace like that could possibly undo all that–”
“You’re relieved of duty for the day, doctor.” Grey folded his arms behind his back and continued to stare.
Sawyer’s eyes widened and she swallowed a final word that attempted to climb past her teeth. Calmly, Sawyer turned and looked at Osin through the glass. Golden eyes flashed from Sawyer to the Captain. Sawyer turned away and walked down the hallway with her head down.
In her heart and mind, something awful clicked. She had the strangest feeling that she wouldn’t see Osin again for a long time.
Osin kept his eyes down when his yasur entered his glass and white room. The king in white armor stood over him, casting a shadow that covered the young boy.
“What did Sawyer talk to you about?” Grey asked.
“The mission,” Osin replied. He gulped. “And my bad words.” He heard his yasur breathe hard.
“I’ve spoken to you on that, devil,” Simeon’s voice rumbled. “Do you want me to punish you?” Memories flashed of the shock collar that Osin wore as a toddler until he spoke fluent Canter and the electro-bolts from Simeon’s AC-8R that traveled through his body to distribute pain in Osin’s brain. Of the many punishments he had received, electricity hurt more than anything.
Osin cowered and dropped to his knees to bow. “No, yasur!” the boy said, hoping that his term of affection didn’t set the Captain off. He heard Grey take in a deep breath, but a clubbing blow didn’t follow.
“It’s time for you to leave.” Osin rose to his feet and stood at attention. When Grey turned and began to walk away, Osin followed.
The FLOCK facility that Osin had called home since he could remember was white, glass and metal, as cold as a winter day. It was small and secluded, with the only source of light being a massive skylight hundreds of feet above that gave access to the outside world, which Osin only saw during missions, which were in themselves few and far between. The only other people that Osin ever saw on a regular basis were Captain Grey and Dr. Sawyer. Others filed in and out of the building, usually potential pilots for Osin’s personal carrier and even then, they never spoke to him nor were they ever the same from mission to mission.
It made Osin feel uneasy. He recognized that everyone, except for Sawyer, treated him like he was different from them. And he was. Osin had never seen anyone with skin as deep and dark a shade of brown as his or anyone that possessed the golden amber eyes he found staring back at him when he looked in the mirror. That disparity between he and the people around him filled Osin’s young heart with a deep-seated loneliness and sorrow that he barely comprehended.
Captain Grey constantly called him “devil” and though Osin didn’t fully understand the meaning of the word, he felt venom whenever it left the Captain’s mouth. Osin couldn’t determine why someone he loved so much could speak with such malice towards him.
His yasur was cruel, yes, but Grey’s cruelty shaped and made Osin stronger. He had prepared Osin for every sort of discomfort or pain he’d feel on missions until the boy was ready for anything. Grey’s methods readied Osin for combat and that made him inherently good in his view and despite what other emotions he felt towards the king in white armor, Grey gave Osin power and purpose.
Osin and Captain Grey stopped in front of a white paneled wall. The Captain raised his hand and pressed against it, causing the wall to emit several high-frequency clicks. Osin heard the machinations behind the wall turning and unlocking until finally, the wall hissed and split open. A black, metal suit was racked up on display and pushed out towards Osin. The young boy felt a jolt of excitement.
He stepped forward and touched the black armor that had become synonymous with an adventure away from the trappings of the white walls. Called Corvus, the AI adaptive armor attached itself to Osin and closed around him. A thin, spongy cloth layer wrapped around his body first and the black metal plates followed. The helm came down last, hissing as it secured itself on Osin’s head and his vision blacked out. When it reset, Osin could see Simeon’s resting heart rate as well as several counters indicating his own bodily functions, his level of elevation above the sea and the current level of the armor’s energy and life support.
When the suit had fully activated itself, Corvus spoke into Osin’s ear. “Combat Optimized, Reticent Visibility, Utility Suit online. DNA recognized. Welcome, Osin,” it said in a soothing woman’s voice, not too dissimilar to Dr. Sawyer’s. Osin smiled underneath his mask and then looked up to Grey.
“Everything’s fine, yasur,” he said, noting the heavy modulation to his voice that sunk it down several octaves. Simeon nodded slightly and tapped a few buttons on his own white Columba AI gauntlet piece. Corvus let out a barely audible chime and a map display appeared in Osin’s view, showing several markers that appeared to be on the move to the south.
“Board your bird. You should have a comm-link to this facility,” Grey said, folding his arms behind his back. Osin obeyed and walked out of the door to the carrier docking bay. His personal carrier, a small Harpy-class stealth fighter, rested in the center of the flight pad directly below the skylight. Several engineers looked it over before noticing Osin making his way forward. The crew of mechanics backed away and Osin didn’t look at them as he passed. His ship’s engines, though clearly on from the heat that Osin felt when he approached, were relatively quiet. When the boy boarded the ship, his pilot jumped in the front seat and turned towards him.
“G-good evening, sir,” the man said. Osin emulated his yasur’s body language when addressing his subordinates and nodded his head curtly.
“We don’t have time to waste,” he replied. “Let’s go.” The pilot quickly pressed a few controls and pulled back on the stick. Osin’s carrier slowly began to ascend, hovering as Osin tapped into Corvus. “Upload the map coordinates to the Harpy,” Osin said. Corvus did as he said and the pilot looked down and saw the virtual display.
“Sir…” the pilot said.
“Follow the moving dots and…”
“I know, sir. Captain Grey briefed me,” his pilot said. “However, the insurgents have all converged on a single location. Far south, away from Asticus and across the waters to Kasira. Even further south than that from the looks of it,” the pilot said. Osin paused. He didn’t even know what Asticus or Kasira were, but he assumed that they were locations.
“Fly me there.”
The pilot looked back at him as the skylight opened and the moonlight hit the carrier. “South of Kasira is completely irradiated, sir. Even your suit will do very little to keep you safe from the toxic air and this ship isn’t designed for…”
“Please. Drop me near Kasira if you must. I can track the targets further from there,” Osin replied quickly. The pilot dropped his head and pressed a few key codes. The Harpy’s engines shifted towards the back of the fighter and with a flick of the pilot’s wrist, propelled the plane forward at breakneck speeds. Osin heard a chuckle from his pilot and imagined that he was admiring the machinery. Osin had been on the Harpy so many times, he had gotten used to the sudden jolt in speed..
The young boy stared out of the window as the plane ascended into further into the sky. His eyes widened underneath his helm as he saw a massive cluster of buildings and vehicles below him. People the size of ants shuffled below. In his head, Osin asked Corvus to switch to telescopic view and zoomed in on everyone below him. He saw women like Dr. Sawyer except some had yellow, black or brown hair. Some were fat and ugly, indistinguishable from the males around them. He saw little people, seemingly smaller than even he was running around. Osin’s smile faded when he noticed one thing.
None of them looked like him.
Osin at back in his seat and watched the clouds passing, only to be even further distraught at how white those were as well. He stared down at his suit, using the x-ray view of Corvus to stare through the metal plates at his own skin, the brown that wrapped his bones like dirt. What was he and why was he so different than everyone around him? Where had he come from?
“Sir, we’re over Kasira. Do you want me to set the bird down?” he asked.
Osin looked outside of the fighter, taking in his surroundings. The city of Kasira below him was nothing but dry, grey rubble and buildings that looked as if they were going to crumble at any moment. Craters dotted the cityscape like a giant man had taken footsteps from one side of the area to the next. Osin had never seen a city so devastated, not even in pictures. Corvus spoke in his ear again.
“Environmental conditions, Class 4 hazard level. Nuclear radiation, smoke particles and low oxygen. Acclimating…” Osin looked at his pilot.
“No, I’m fine. Hover in the clouds above the water or something. I’ll be back in a little while,” Osin replied. He rose to his feet, took in a deep breath and then jumped from the side of the plane. The wind whistled in his ears as he descended towards the ground. Corvus’ reflective shields focused to his feet and helped keep the suit intact as Osin landed.