After years of conquests I still can't help but be overwhelmed by this feeling of elation. As the final moments before the devastation of a world unfold… It’s orgasmic. The feeling of emotions that bounce off these soldiers, their prayers, fears and pitiful desperation before heading into battle, it’s almost sustenance. It feeds an insatiable hunger. The credits from the Empire are simply a well-deserved bonus.
The armada slowly falls through the mesosphere and enters the shadows of the dark world. This endless night blankets this half of the globe. Below, they no doubt can feel their impending doom looming, running their veins cold and causing their hearts to stutter. The night that once concealed them, hid them from the empire now envelopes them.
We descended further, into the stratosphere, and that’s when something went wrong.
The hull shook and the sirens blared. We were taking fire. From where, I didn’t know. This planet was barely military capable, according to Empire Intelligence. It was then when I could see the lights of a fleet in the distance. Their numbers in the myriads. Someone called for a retreat. I killed him where he stood.
My vision was hazy and all I could feel was the clutch of my father’s calloused hand and the cool foliage under my feet. We were running, the whole world was running. Some fled underground; others took their chances and fled to Igneous 3, but we had nowhere to go. We were moving on a primal instinct to survive. No destination. One thought had overtaken us, survival.
We were miles from the city, but we could still hear the fire of their incinerator weapons, the gust of their shuttles flying above. Our group slowed simply to count numbers to ensure everyone had made it. Through my vision at the time I could only recognize N’Cari, the marketer’s daughter. She was crying and by herself.
I squeezed my father’s hand as he spoke in hushed voices to the other men.
It was then when a bright light beamed down from above us along with a powerful gust. Blinded, I called for my father and my mother. All I needed was the sound of their voice for comfort, but instead I felt the sudden slip of my father’s hand. I called out again, my voice now hoarse, until I was overtaken.
The metal crumbled under my fists as I tore through the hull’s casting and broke out its side. I watched the craft plummet into the dark world, flames overtaking it. My resolve was simple. Defeat was unacceptable. I would not lose this world, not to such meager might. My armada was heavily outnumbered but my strength was matched by none. This I knew. I pushed further through their numbers, casting their crafts aside and taking the brunt of their onslaught, carving a path for my armada to follow. There numbers were waning, and we had them on their heels.
“Sir, we have something big incoming.”
The black sky boiled with anticipation and the mountainous craft loomed above. A Behemoth. I turned and headed back for the ship. The men were waiting on my orders, eyes gleaming and ready for me to see give the signal to retreat. The bitter words left my mouth and they too quickly obliged.
The Behemoth fell into pursuit picking off ship after ship, its destructive weapons barely on display. The hull rattled and the prospects of out running the Behemoth were waning. We had to jump into hyper-space or join the dead space as wreckage.
The rising sun was obscured as a spark captivated the sky. This falling star was unrivaled as it grew louder and it's flames more volatile, licking but not burning skin. I streaked across the sky before skidding into the Earth, shaking its surface. I laid in the hole my body crafted of the earth, not being able to feel anything. I didn't feel the pain, nor did I feel up or down. It felt as if my body floated in a purgatory, an in-between. I might've laid there forever if the rustic voice didn’t call for me.
"How’re you doing down there son?"
At the edge of the pit was a cane holding up a wizard of a man.
It was at this question I could finally feel my body, as if he reminded me. He must've noticed my confusion.
"You fell out the sky son, a magnificent fall I gotta say." He spoke with his hands. Still I said nothing. "You must be one’ them heroes?"
"...I'm not sure."
"Then a villain?"
My head began to pound in my attempt to recall my name, anything. Was I a villain? Nothing was clear.
"Let's get you out of this hole."
The hymns were beautiful. The way the voices of the congregation rose and fell together sent shivers down my back. The painted light that fell into the carefully architected building fell onto their faces, exposing the wrinkles of sorrow that grew on their face, seemingly overnight. The emotion they had for this man, this Sollus, was incredible. It made me tremble with a surreal glee that I genuinely feared.
I looked over to Troy and Merrin, the old couple that took the man who fell out the sky into their home. Their hands were clasped and theirs head bowed, deep in prayer, and I realized the real love they had for this man whom they never met. They were in love with the idea of him. The idea of a fallen hero. My stomach plunged in a feeling I didn’t understand.
It was then when someone crashed into the church.
"They’re attacking the vigils!"
It was on every channel. Half the town was huddled around the television. No one moved, or dared to breathe even, as these almost unearthly beings tore through Khazan without any concern of consequence. Leveling buildings with ease until the Sentinels of Liberty and Justice finally responded, but they weren’t enough and their body language said they knew it.
They flew in in a formation that was distantly familiar to me, for some reason, but as soon as the fighting started, it wasn’t a fight, it was a bloodbath. Those monsters took everything that had to dish out and there was no Sollus here to save the day.
I was behind the crowd; looking over their heads at the TV they were transfixed with. Outside looking in, that’s what I’ve been since I deemed this a place I could stay with Troy and Merrin. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown to love them and their undeserved kindnesses but, at the end of the day, to these people I’m still simply the man who fell from the sky.
I pushed open the double doors to get a chance to breathe and think. The headaches were coming on. I could feel it in the back of my head. I let the warm breeze fill my nostrils, letting it expand my lungs in a moment of tranquility.
When I opened my eyes Manny was sitting at the bottom of the Church steps. He was looking up at me with tear dried eyes. He idolized these heroes. Certainly he saw one he held dear get torn asunder.
I didn’t know what to say to console him but words spilled from my mouth.
“It’ll be alright.”
“How do you know?”
I was lost for words, and there was a solemn silence. His voice was full of defeat, unlike the kind of hope that Troy and Merrin seemed to hold at all times. He let his head hang for a moment, and in that moment I dreaded my existence. I realized then I needed to be more than “the sky man”, more than an extra machine to till the fields.
I was unsure if my strength would be enough, I’d been living carefully for so long. It didn’t matter they needed a Guardian.