The Fated Mission

  The flight to Tel Aviv is surprisingly empty. Good. Hopefully, the airline took a loss on this one, and for some reason, that thought lightened my otherwise somber mein. I am not sure when I became so spiteful and cynical, but at least it seems that my negative thoughts tend to limit themselves to only the rich and powerful. See, I aint so bad.

  The stewardess in first class is cute. So I order another glass of wine. To be honest, she is more than cute. Damn right hot if you consider her true age. Like most women these days, she has gone through great lengths to appear younger, but this is a seasoned and mature woman. This will be good hunting. I smile as she walks back to my seat with my fresh glass.

  Funny, in my youth, I was never the "playboy" that I am now. Indeed, the only word that comes to mind to describe my demeanor back then was "awkward". But a little money and fame changed much of that. Not that I am a bad looking guy, but tall and imposing dark skinned black men have been out of vogue for a long time, arguably, not since Wesley Snipes in the Blade movies, and even then, Wesley is a little guy, and not that bright. I share none of his flaws. And I mention none of this to brag or any thing like that, but to sorta segway into an explanation that I feel that I owe you.

  And yes, I am referring to my rather odd reaction to Chrysalis. And for the record, that "fuck her cold corpse" stuff was just battlefield talk. I am not into necrophilia. Indeed, while I do prefer older women, like the stewardess, I still prefer them alive.

  However, I do hold grudges. And against Chrysalis, I hold a serious grudge. A grudge of unrequited and unreturned love, of disillusionment and disenchantment. Moreover, Chrysalis took something far more important than my virginity (which she also took), she stole my faith; my hope; my belief in "happily ever after". Chrysalis stole my capacity to love. And I will never, ever forgive her for it. Nor can I ever thank her enough for the lessons she taught me. And thus, my weird, violent, almost psychopathic reaction to her. Nevertheless, before we go any further, and considering that I have about 15 hours to kill, I think it best that I explain to you why I once loved Chrysalis.

 

  * * * * * * *

 

  It was sophmore year of college, and I was lying in my bed half asleep. An email notification on my computer jostles me from my stupor. I roll over and strain to see who the message is from. The First Elder. And from the subject line, he needed something. I stumble over to my desk to read the email in detail. The task seemed simple and straightforward. The First Elder had located something he lost a long time ago. He did not know who had it, but he knew where the artifact was, and so the Zion, Chrysalis and I were to go to the dreamscape and retrieve the item. It was just another of the First Elder's accursed favors.

 I knew that I owed the man, but damn, every time I turned around he wanted this or that. I was already beginning to suspect that the First Elder's assistance came at a high price indeed -- perhaps too high.

  In any event, the artifiact was located in a dreamscape that resembled a beach. The First Elder suspected that whoever the thief was, that he would probably be there with the item, and thus we were to proceed with extreme caution. Quizzically, the First Elder gave no instructions regarding the thief. He simply wanted us to enter the dream, obtain the artifact, and retreat.

  Personally, I hated these "missions" because they were always a waste of time. I wanted to think that I was learning something, like in one of those montages in martial arts movies were the adventure itself prepares you for the battle with the big boss at the end. But I never learned anything from messing around with the Zion and Chrysalis. For one, we all had very, very different ideas on how to handle things.

  And more than that, Chrysalis and the Zion often chose to handle things in a manner that did not exactly coincide with their respective strengths. Kip was too quick to talk and too slow to fight. Robyn greatly overestimated her fighting prowess, and greatly underestimated the persuasiveness of her feminine guiles. I was not so much in between, as I was just lazy, and really didnt care.

  At the time, it seemed to me that I always ended up either saving someone or getting my arse kicked. And while I was cool with the former (in regards to Chrysalis, because I had a crush on Chrysalis and wanted to spend time with her), the latter was exceptionally annoying. I wish that I could just take Chrysalis, and maybe we could, you know, talk, and what not. Yeah, yeah, I know, my hormones were clearly clouding my judgment. But to make matters worse, I read the last part of the email, and not only had the First Elder insisted that the Zion accompany me, he had designated the Zion to be in command on this endeavor.

  Fuck.

  Well, since I wasnt quite sleepy, I figured that I would rub one out thinking about Chrysalis. As it seemed that only in my fantasies did I get to spend any quality time with her. I awoke a few minutes later behind a sand dune a few hundred yards from a series of craggy cliffs. About half a click to the north, I could just make out a bonfire near the water. Apparently, that was the thief's camp. I looked around to see if Kip and Robyn were already here. And of course they were, and both were double timing it in my direction. Kip looked flustered as he slid down beside me.

  "You are late." I rolled my eyes. "Bite me dude.", and changing my tone considerably, I continued,"Hey, Chrysalis how are you?" Ironically, she looked at me, rolled her eyes, and scowled. Damn! I loved everything about this woman! "Okay, this is what..." And of course, Kip had to fuck up my mood with his incessant chatter. Unsurprisingly, Kip had spent most of the day concocting this sophisticated plan.

  "First, we will each take up positions around the camp to observe the beachcomber and determine how the artifact is guarded, who the beachcomber is, and how the camp is laid out. Then we can reconvene here behind this dune and decide on a final plan." Chrysalis scowled again, "Damn Kip, we will be here all night at that rate. Why not have you and Magnus distract the guy-" Kip smiled, "You mean attack him." Chrysalis glared at Kip as she ignored his interruption, "and then, because I am the fastest, I dash in and snatch the artifact, and then we just retreat. And if the guy gives chase, we stop and kill him."

  Kip sighed. "We do not even know if Magnus and I are a match for the beachcomber. Maybe, just maybe, we should know our relative strengths and weaknesses before we attack." Robyn rolled her eyes again. "Dude, Magnus can already feel the guy from here."

  Both turned to stare at me. I hesitantly responded, "He is strong, but he appears, and I emphasize the word, appears, to be near our power levels." Chrysalis clapped her hands approvingly --"Great!" But upon noticing the concerned look on our faces, smiled. The entire beach lit up. "Geez, you two, grow a pair and let's go." Chrysalis picked herself up and began striding toward the beachcomber's fire pit.

  Yeah, and that was the real reason why my fantasies and reality would never gel. Chrysalis did not think very highly of me.

  So I looked over at Kip, and Kip looked at me. No words needed to be said. We both got up and followed her. No sense arguing now. Kip faded into the background, and I released Wrath and Justice. We quickly made our way around the dunes at the back of the beach, and approached the campfire along the narrow rocky edge of the shore. With the crashing waves, tall boulders, and lack of moon light to mask our approach, the circumstances seemed to grant us the element of surprise, but oh, how wrong we were.

  For one, the stranger's presence became disturbingly stronger as we grew closer. But I did not have the balls to say anything. So I was not particularly surprised when things started to happen and happen fast. In fact, I do not even recall exactly who went down first, but I do remember that it happened in an instant and with no warning. At best, we were 20 yards away, when Chrysalis screamed. The Zion started dodging blows that I could not even follow. Half way through the volley, the Zion was a nanosecond too slow, and he flew across the beach and back into the dunes, landing in an explosion of sand, rock and water.

  And before I could even think another thought, I felt someone rush towards Chrysalis. Wrath and Justice shattered and a blinding sandstorm swarmed around us. Too late, as I heard a loud, wet crunch, as the beachcomber struck the fear frozen Chrysalis squarely in her chest. I moved to ask Chrysalis if she were okay, but didn't get beyond "Are" before someone, presumably the beachcomber, struck me in the stomach with such ferocity that my lungs immediately deflated. Breathless, I just reached out, grabbed Chrysalis by the shoulder, and hurled her toward the dunes -- just before collapsing to my knees.

  And then, it was just me and the stranger in a sand storm, laced with chi, on the beach.

  And from somewhere in sand storm, he said, "Shall we begin then?"

 I glanced over my shoulder, and saw that the Zion had moved to Chrysalis's side. We made fleeting eye contact, and again, words were not necessary. He threw Chrysalis over his shoulder and retreated. Leaving me to engage the beachcomber -- alone.

  I summoned Wrath and Justice back to me, as the beachcomber was clearly not affected by the sand storm.

 "Thanks. That sand was getting annoying." Having barely caught my breath, I was relieved to be talking instead of fighting. "Don't mention it. You mind telling me who you are and why anyone would want that artifact next to your fire?" The shadowy figure turned toward the fire. And started laughing. "Odd. The First Elder told me to protect the artifact from thieves. Let me guess, he told you to retrieve it?!?!"

  Now, I started laughing. "Kirkland House, 1996". "Cabot 1993", he replied.

  "What is your name here on the dreamscape?"

  "I am known as the Polynesian, but this is not my true name, you will have to earn that honor." That was an odd name to be sure, as this figure did not seem polynesian at all. But when he stepped from the shadows, his tattoos, sorry "moko", and there is a very real difference, said it all. "And I imagine that you are also one of the Professor's pets?!"

  At first, I was offended, and paused to consider my answer, as I considered myself no one's pet. But after a few thoughtful moments, I nodded my head. The Polynesian understood. "I didn't mean to offend you, it simply is what it is. He saved me too. Brought me here to Cambridge and taught me things that my people could not. I mean, even now, he helps me hone my powers, even though he knows that I want nothing to do with him. I just want to go home."

  "Where is home?"

  "Molokai."

  "Huh. Didn't know people really lived on that Hawaiian island. I am from Georgia. And I miss my mom." We both chuckled. I immediately liked the Polynesian, and I would like to think that the feeling was mutual. In fact, it was. "You still didn't answer my question. Ready?" I grinned from ear to ear. Even though we both knew that the First Elder wanted us to fight, it didnt really matter. The old man had his reasons. We had ours.

  Then, I turned toward the dunes and screamed, "Kip, get out of here, this guy is too strong. Leave this dream immediately!" I waited from the flash of light indicating that a rupture had opened and closed. I stretched my neck. He cracked his knuckles.

  "You aren't going to take this ass whupping personally are you?" I laughed again. "Not if you don't." I threw my head back and roared. The Polynesian did the same. "I am Magnus, Son of Albert. I carry the weight of my ancestors' suffering, the hopelessness of a thousand unanswered prayers. And I seek only the Face of the Creator." The air around became hot and heavy.

  "Mahalo, brother, for your name! Know this, I am Molokai the Polynesian. Son of a proud and noble warrior race. I feel no fear. I know no pain. I have no peer. Nature herself is my only consort. The Creator my only master." Flames engulfed his right hand, wind and water swirled about his left."

  It was time to get busy.

  The Polynesian wasted no time. He charged, head down. I drew Wrath and Justice and fired a few ineffective chi blasts. Damn. But as I crouched to dodge, I noticed that a puddle of water had formed around my feet, and that I was stuck. The Polynesian smiled as his fist of fire flew toward my face. I shattered Wrath and the black shards blocked the Polynesian's fiery fist. I then snatch Justice from the air and fired a continuous chi blast at the ground. I took off into the sky like a rocket. The Polynesian looked up and laughed. "Not bad. But my powers extend into the sky as well." The Polynesian pointed at the sky, and hollowing winds replaced the calm beach air. Lightning flashed across the sky and my path.

  That's no good. I turned Justice toward the sky and plummetted back to the ground, landing most ungracefully, but still on my feet. I then drew both Wrath and Justice to me, and began running parallel to the beach, firing chi blasts at the Polynesian. He blocked the blasts with a wall of water called from the ocean itself. I needed to make up my mind here. I could fight the elements at a distance or I could take him on up close. He didnt wield any weapon that I could see. But his fists made me nervous. I had never seen anyone wield opposite forces before. This would be tricky.

  The Polynesian gave chase, closing the distance between us. "Can't decide huh? Afraid to come inside, afraid to stay outside. Let me help you." The Polynesian snarled, and the moko on his chest glowed a fierce black, and slowly spread to cover his entire face.

  The Polynesian, who was already frightfully quick for his size, exploded forwarded and closed the distance between us instantly. I am still not sure what happened next, but I do recall a searing, burning sensation in chest, and a cold, stinging sensation in my gut -- "Fire and Lightning" -- I heard the Polynesian whisper. I flew across the beach like a rag doll in a hurricane -- or, in this case, typhoon. The Polynesian gave me scant chance to recover, as he clapped his hands together in front of him and began to focus his chi. Fuck. I needed a solution.

  His powers were obviously elemental, but that made him dangerous in close quarters and at a distance. Moreover, his speed and physical strength were unparalleled among all of the First Elder's "pets" -- to use the Polynesian's unflattering term of art.

  However, the Polynesian did seem to have one weakness, he was aggressive and confident; undoubtedly a consequence of that "fearless" thing that he was so proud of. I would only get one shot at this, so I better make it count. As I tumbled to a halt, I ignored the pain in my chest and abdomen, and I quietly and very gently focused my chi into my core. "Taking a break, Magnus? I am surprised. I thought the First Elder sent you here to do a job?"

  Cocky bastard, but he had me at a disadvantage, no doubt about that, as he intentionally marched over to my still prone form.

  "Get up Magnus, I want to show you something, something very, very special." The Polynesian began sprinting toward my prone form, with his right hand hidden behind him. I strained see what he was holding, but couldnt make it out until he pounced, and even when he did reveal his hands, I didnt believe it. "Kelvin's Absolute Paradox", the Polynesian whispered.

  Funny thing is, I was so amazed by the Polynesian's attack that I almost missed my chance. In fact, I screamed as the burning water only barely touched my "skin". Fortunately though, I had left the husk of Wrath and Justice on the surface and burrowed a few feet from my body. So when the Polynesian struck me, I burst from the sand behind him. The Polynesian nodded and smiled. I replied with "Nova". The ball hit him squarely in the back, and flames exploded around the Polynesian, badly burning most of his body. However, the Polynesian somehow managed to somersault away from the blast radius. His moko swirled around his burns.

  "Well done, my friend, well done. Few have survived my water flames." I was too exhausted to respond. I literally had nothing left in the tank. As for the Polynesian, well, he seemed to just be getting started. Apparently, his moko allowed him great regenerative powers. "I guess that you need a little more softening up, to take some of that fight out of you." His moko shifted again, and both of his fists glowed red hot.

  And once again, the Polynesian instantly closed the distance between us, and began to rain furious blow after furious blow upon me. I summoned Wrath and Justice, and did what I could to block the Polynesian's flaming fists. But he was relentless, and after a few moments, shattered what remained of my defenses, and this time, he really put me on the ground with a single blow.

  "Okay. That should have taken all the trickery out of you. But I will say this my friend, you have earned the honor of seeing my greatest attack -- a combination of all of nature's forces brought together at once." The Polynesian began to chant, and I sensed an frightening energy come from him. Then, the sky darkened, creating a stark contrast of moon and sky. Too stark, actually. And it was at that juncture that I realized that the waters on the beach were receding, and the moon was, well, growing -- perhaps even approaching us.

  "What the hell!? What are you doing?!" The Polynesian looked at me and smiled. "Do you see?" I slowly pulled myself to my feet. "Yeah, I see, I dont believe it, but I see." I was badly injured, and so called Wrath and Justice to my aid. "Armor of Pain", I whispered as I literally groaned from the pain. My confrontation with Antares had only been a few months ago, and I had not been able to reproduce the attack that defeated him.

 Indeed, once I got to "Nova", I had yet to be able to form the singularity from the condensed ball of hot matter. I understood the physics of it, so that once I started smashing stuff together, starting an explosion, and then letting it run wild, i.e., "Nova", was the easy part, but controling the energy, and directing it inward, until space time could no longer tolerate the concentrated energy, was not.

  But I had no other meaningful attack, and so I had to try. I too, focused my chi, and brought the weight of my emotions to the forefront of my heart, mind and soul. The ball of matter formed in my hand, but instead of exploding, I had to further pull the energy into the palm of my hand. I focused more, and more. The ball of energy in my hand turned from black to red, and began to flicker with streaks of orange.

  I doubled my efforts, pulling each streak of energy back into the ball and into itself. The ball went from orange, to yellow, and began to flicker blue white. Suddenly, the dreamscape quivered ever so slightly, and the Polynesian broke his concentration. "What?! Hey, is that you? Stop. Wait, I can't control it, it is happening way too fast. Shit, shit, shit." Then, I think there was a really big explosion.

  I am not sure how long I had been unconcious, but apparently I had maintained the integrity of my astral projection. I opened my eyes and found myself lying next to the Polynesian's fire. "Ahh, you are awake. Mahalo, my friend. It will take me months to understand what you have taught me here today." I looked puzzled. "Oh, yeah, you still got your ass kicked, but you did it with style. Those are some weird powers you have there. Do you understand them?" I looked away and shook my head. "Geez, for a genuis you are really dense sometime, no wonder you suck at particle physics." I strained my eyes in the dark to look at the Polynesian, and I immediately recognized his "normal" form.

  It was Castille. My physics TF (a "TF" or "teaching fellow" is a very advanced student who helps a professor teach a class). "Castille?!?!" The Polynesian smiled, "One and the same! And I have quite the revelation for you my friend. It appears that the First Elder wanted us to fight to confirm his suspicions about your powers." I looked confused again. "I lost control of my "Celestial Gift" because it appears that you can manipulate one the three fundamental forces of the omniverse." I smirked, "there are four fundamental forces dumbass." Castille looked at me and shook his head. "That explains your grade on the theoritical part of the midterm."

  Suddenly, there was a rupture opening and closing on the far side of the beach. "And it seems that one of your friends did not leave when you thought." Stunned, I stared at the Polynesian, and then, back at the area where the rupture had been. Surely, he was mistaken, but I knew he wasnt, I just didn't want to recognize the sloppy energy signature. Nevertheless, after that day, my interactions with Chrysalis took a decided change.

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