Sparrow rubbed her head as she emerged from the rubble. The last thing she remembered was fighting off an influx of monsters that had begun to overrun the sector. Tears filled her eye's as she looked out at the city. Fires burned throughout, and choking the air in a black soot.
The sounds of people moving through the rubble grew into a grim chourus of moans and groans. Hawk and Falcon were digging themselves out from a pile of loose brick while Owl clamored up from a ditch. Static winced in pain as she crawled out from under a partially collapsed wall.
Sparrow started to notice something odd about all of them. They were all covered in wounds. She had never seen so many little cuts and bruises on them before. Sure they got injured during fights but this was different.
"What happened?" Static called out.
Sparrow threw a few stones off from the pile she sat in. "I have no idea."
"Ahhh!" Falcon cried out in pain as he fell to the floor.
"What! What is it!"
"My foot!" He moaned while pointing down at the jagged piece of rebar protruding out of his foot.
"Lay him down over here," Sparrow commanded, pointing to a mattress that lay in the middle of the street.
They carried him over to the mattress, cleaned off the rubble, and gently set him down.
Sparrow was confused. The team didn't get injured from things as minor as all this. They could fly through buildings without a single scratch! Why was it all of the sudden so different?
Owl gripped the rebar pole and casually remarked, "I apologize for what I'm about to do next."
Falcon then let out a blood curdling scream as out yanked it out of his foot. They bandaged it and began to address their own wounds. Everyone then looked up at the sky as a fireball streaked across the horizon, landing close to where their guild hall is stationed.
Sparrow had a bad feeling growing in her gut. Something was very wrong and she needed to find out what. Everyone, stay here and take care of Falcon. I will be right back."
Hawk grabbed her arm, forcing her to turn and face him. "Where are you going?"
Sparrow ordered him to let go. "I'm going to check something out I wont be gone long. Just stay here and keep each other safe!"
Static ran over and grabbed her by the hand. "I'm not letting you go out there alone."
Sparrow shook her off and commanded, "I'm not asking, I'm telling you. I promise I will be right back. Just stay here and keep out of sight!"
They watched as she sprinted away from them out into the ruined city.
"Should we go after her?" Static asked.
Hawk shook his head. "No, she is our guildmaster and she gave us an order. Our duty is to follow those orders. Now then, Owl, Static, help me move Falcon to a more secure location."
Now running through the ruins of the city she loved, Sparrow began to wheeze and pant. No longer could she leap and bound over cars and buildings like before. Now she was confined to a slow, lazy stagger.
Upon reaching the guildhall she fell to her knees. Looking on at the heap it had been reduced to, she began to cry bitter, bitter tears.
Her sobs were suddenly interrupted by the sound of something pushed through the rubble. It sounded like someone was underneath the remains of the hall, trying desperatly to escape."
"Hello? Is someone there?" Can you hear me?"
Piles of stone and wood erupted into the air sending massive slaps crashing back down into the field around her. She leaped to the side, narrowly avoided being crushed by a foundation block.
Hovering above her head was a figure she couldn't make out. It was obscured by the dust hanging heavy in the air.
"James! Is that you? Oh please let it be you!"
"James?" The figure repeated in a wicked tone. "I suppose you could say I am a little bit James."
Sparrow began to back away as a horrifying creature approached her, its metalic boots clicking against the ground with every step.
Now directly in front of her, it let out a greeting. "Hello Sparrow," the creature remarked as it bared rows of razor sharp teeth through a wretched smile.
Her eye's narrowed. "How do you know my name?"
"Oh I know a lot about you little lady. Let's just say I have gotten to know you quite well over the past year."
She was lost. Why was this ugly creature talking to her in such a familiar tone?
"Who, or what are you?" She asked as it flexed it's bony spine.
"Where are my manners? My name is Kazav and I am here to make your life much, much better than you could have ever hoped!"
"Make my life better? What do you mean?"
Kazav bent down to her level, much like an adult kneeling when speaking to a child.
"I know first hand how much you hate the lying and corrupt figures of this world Sparrow. You realize this yet but you and I have been friends for a while."
She looked at him with a disgust. "I have never seen you before in my entire life."
Kazav chuckled. "You're right, you haven't seen me before, but I have seen you."
"What? What are you talking about? Explain yourself right now you freaky bone guy!"
"I would but I doubt you would believe me."
She crossed her arms. "Try me."
Kazav shrugged. "Alright but don't say I didn't warn you."
He sat down on a chunk of rubble and began his explanation. "James and I were bonded together in a quantum relationship. Think of it as the kind of relationship some fungi have with trees only much more complex."
Sparrow's face lit up. "You know James?"
"Oh yeah, I knew him. Matter of fact he and I are the whole reason all of this happened!"
She moved closer to him tentatively. "What do you mean you guys are the reason all this happened? And why are you speaking in the past tense?"
Kazav sighed. "I hate to be the one to tell you this but, James is no longer with us."
Sparrow's heart sank. "What? What are you talking about?
Kazav just sat there unsure of what else to say.
"Answer me!" Sparrow commanded.
"I'm sorry to say that James did not want to take part in the paradise I was going to make for all of you. He chose to stand in the way of progress so I had to, eliminate him."
Sparrow flew into a rage. "I don't know who you are or what you are talking about but if you laid even one bony finger on James I will kill you!"
Kazav stood back up and wagged his finger. "Little lady, I would advise you to calm down. If you try to attack me it won't go down how you think it will."
Sparrow ran at him and attempted to form a shadow knife. A weak, blinking blade formed for a moment and then vanished. She tried again and again but couldn't keep it from sputtering out."
"See," Kazav mocked. "I told you so."
She ran at him anyway, letting out a scream as she tried to kick and punch through his armored body. Her knuckles soon became bloody and torn as her blows did nothing but serve as a minor nuisance.
"Where is James!" she screamed. "What did you do!"
"I just told you what I did. He is gone, dead, sleeping forever, there are only so many ways I can phrase it toots."
"Liar! You are lying!" She shouted with blood and tears flowing in equal measure.
"Afraid not hun. Now unlike him, you still have the option of living in a great new world with me as your king! I would make sure nothing ever hurt you again. Wouldn't you like that?"
"Get away from me!" She screamed. "You're not a king of anything and I wouldn't listen to you even if you were!"
"Oh," Kazav mumbled. "So you too huh?"
His body language changed from friendly to threatening. "I really didn't want it to be this way Sparrow, I had truly come to care for you just like I cared for James, but I won't let this world die like the others, I just won't."
He opened his massive jaws and started charging an energy beam. Sparrow tried to start crawling away but he held her foot down and pinned her to the ground.
"Just hold still and I promise you won't feel a thing."
She tried to jerk her foot free but she was trapped! As the laser began to build in his mouth Sparrow closed her eyes and accepted her fate.
Instead of being vaporized Kazav dropped her as he was sent flying by a massive stream of glowing plasma. There, standing at the top of a hill was James, smoke exuding off him like a burnt ham. Sparrow ran over with her hands outstretched.
"I'm so glad you're ok!" She cried out. Her joy then mixed with fear as she looked over his scorched body. "What happened to you?
He pulled her close and hugged her, running his finger through her hair as she gripped him tight. "It's okay Sparrow, I'm fine.
A sonic boom in the distance served as a warning that Kazav was on his way back, cutting their reunion short.
Sparrow, listen very carefully. I need you to join the rest of the team and find someplace safe to hide until this is over do you understand?"
She began to object. gripping him tighter and refusing to let go. "Please I don't want to leave you again."
"I know, but I need you to trust me."
She hesitated at first but then conceded. "Okay, I trust you."
James smiled and gave her a wink. "Good, now go as fast as you can!"
She took off running while James stood poised to meet Kazav and finish this once and for all.
"You are a lot more durable than I thought!" Kazav shouted as he touched down in front of him.
"Sorry to disappoint."
"No biggie! Just stand still and I will make sure to end your pain as quickly as possible."
"You know, when you first betrayed me I was willing to let you go provided you never show your face on this planet again. I would have still extended that courtesy to you now had you not done the one thing I could never forgive."
Kazav raised an eyebrow, his curiosity now piqued. "And what might that be?"
James launched forward in the blink of an eye and took him by surprise. Then, as they were face to face he roared, "You tried to hurt my Sparrow."
A blast of plasma erupted out from James' hand and enveloped Kazav hurling him against the ground and coating him in a corrosive gel. He was quick to shake it off but James was already on top of him landing blow after blow against his ever-weakening armor.
Kazav tried to shield himself but the blows were so fierce it made little difference. Rather than defend he shot out into the sky taking James along with him. They flew across the land and wrestled in mid-air as each tried to get the advantage over the other.
"It's impolite to grab people!" Kazav shouted as James held onto him by one of his bone ridges.
"It's also impolite to be this ugly!"
With a swift strike from his elbow he sent Kazav crashing down to the ground along with several of his protective plates. Streams of bright light began to peak out from behind the damaged sections of Kazav's armor, giving James a sudden realization.
Once more a powerful burst of energy shot out from Kazav's mouth only for it to be stopped in midair by James. Twirling the beam around, he absorbed its energy until it vanished inside his body.
Kazav was shocked. "What did you just do?"
"Oh, that? I just absorbed your laser, so, no biggie. Oh and look what I can make it do!"
James pointed his finger at Kazav and returned the laser back at him. He tried to dodge it but it clipped his shoulder and sent another piece of his plating flying off.
He rubbed his shoulder and winced. “So that’s how you survived? By absorbing the beam?”
James shook his head. “Deflected is more like it. After taking it head-on for a bit I started to get the feel for it, to understand it better. It seems like the more you use your power against me the more I understand how to manipulate it.”
Kazav began to clap. ”I have to admit I’m impressed. I suppose I shouldn’t be but I am. You always did adapt on rather quickly when we were together.”
His clapping then slowed until it came to a complete stop. "But now I need to end this so I can get to work. So if you don't mind I need you to die now."
Kazav shot out with his hands outstretched, eager to end the battle. James stood there motionless as if he wasn't going to offer any resistance. He closed his eyes as Kazav approached and took a deep breath in and out.
"That's the idea kid, just hold still and I'll make it as painless as possible."
He flung his arm forward at James but came to a standstill just before he could close his grip.
Kazav looked down at his motionless body. "What's happening? What did you do?"
James opened his eyes, a massive grin growing across his face. "I realized something about our relationship Kazav."
He let out a laugh. "And what is it you learned pray tell?"
While walking around Kazav's motionless form James explained, "Remember when you took control of me and forced me to attack Jeremy and steal the Nexus Orb?"
Kazav's was growing concerned. He didn't like were this was going.
"Well my freaky friend it was while you were blasting me with laser that I began to theroize if that ability was a two-way street. Now that you had a body I wondered if I too could control you like you controled me."
Now Kazav was really worried. If what James is saying was true then he may have made a huge mistake. In no time concern was replaced by a devious grin. "You're right kid, it is a two way street."
James began to jerk and twitch as Kazav tried to bring his body under control. A tug of war was now taking place as each of them invaded the other's mind, attempting to subdue the other.
Kazav was trying to exert a strong influence but now that he was no longer inside of James he found it much more difficult to override James willpower. The battle began to have a clear winner as James shunted off Kazav's attempts and sent out a wave of raw, irresistible resolve that brought Kazav completely under James' command.
"Why is this so difficult!" Kazav cried out in frustration.
James forced him to kneel down so he could talk face to face. "I have had a body my entire life. You have only had one for less than a day. Do you know how much willpower it takes to be a human Kazav? How much strength it takes to get up every day and decide to keep going? Do you have any clue what it takes to endure the heartbreak of losing love? Of losing a mother, a father, or even your best friend?"
Kazav became sullen, his hideous features drooped as memories of all the people he used to love came flooding back. All the pain they felt, all the loss they endured. He wished he could have truly understood what it was like but at best he was just an observer.
"That's why I did all this James. I wanted to end that feeling, to make it so you never felt anything but joy and contentment. Sure it would take some sacrifice but wouldn't it be worth it?"
James nodded his head side to side. "Kazav, it won't work. Even if you brought about peace for a while it wouldn't last. I won't be a party to mass murder even if it's based on good intentions."
The sullen look was now replaced by anger as Kazav yelled, "Then you, along with everyone who dares to keep this dying world alive will be annihilated!"
James opened his hand as if to hold something, a shimmering plasma blade formed and he gripped it tight.
Kazav tried to move but his body was locked. He was however still able to spit out laser and he sent out shot after shot.
James deflected them with his sword and, using a hand motion, forced Kazav's mouth shut. Then, bringing the blade up, he plunged it deep into Kazav's chest causing a stream of glowing red light to flow out of his body and swirl around like crimson snow.
Kazav let out muffled screams of pain from the intense burning roiling through his body. James forced the blade in further and mercilessly carved out a massive molten hole.
The stream of red energy was now pouring out like a river, forming into a sphere in the air above them. James retracted the blade and backed away from the creature now writhing on the ground in agony.
Hunks of rancid meat plopped onto the ground as Kazav's body began to fall apart. The bony plating that protected his innards disassembled and turned to dust.
For a brief moment, Kazav had a strange look on his face. It was neither remorse nor sorrow, not anger or rage, James could only wonder what Kazav's final thoughts were as he erupted in a fiery explosion that sent bone shards and cooked flesh in every direction.
A tear streaked down James' face, he kneeled on the ground and whispered, "Goodbye my old friend,"
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