Lost and Found: Part 2

From the Story Arc: The Youngest Champion

Previous Story in the Arc: Lost and Found by Shen Fai-Long (Thursday, May 12, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Secret Admirer by Shen Fai-Long (Wednesday, June 08, 2005)

(posted Monday, May 16, 2005)

“Comrade Shen, which way are the Lost?” People’s Blade spoke with such authority that it sounded more like a demand than a question. My voice was caught in my throat for a moment. People’s Blade flexed, and her body began to glow a shade of green that I had only witnessed before in the fields of Sichuan. Even though it intimidated me, it steeled my nerves to know that the Lost would feel the same. “Do not call me Commissar, little one. The proper term is ‘shuai*’.”

“Down the corridor and to the left, Shuai,” I said. My voice cracked a little, but she was kind enough to ignore it. People’s Blade nodded and silently drew her sword. I tapped the little button on my jacket that activated my targeting drone, a tiny machine which pinpointed the location of any moving targets larger than a dog.

The drone was barely online when People’s Blade charged into the fray, cutting down three Lost initiates before the first energy blast left my hands. I managed to snipe the mutated rifleman affording the initiates cover fire, but the television set protecting his head absorbed most of the damage. He lowered his plasma rifle to People’s Blade, taking careful aim at her chest.

“Shuai! Look out—“ the words had just left my mouth when the edge of her blade graced the mutant’s chest, stomach, and neck… all at once. A burst of plasma burned the rifleman’s left foot as the firearm tumbled from his grasp. I planted a burst of energy in his chest as he fell, laying him flat on his back.

“Shen! Follow me,” Shuai barked. I nodded and stumbled forward, jogging immediately to conceal my misstep. The faintest smirk crossed her lips. “Keep up, little one. I would not see you come to harm.”

I became even more conscious, then, of how slow I was compared to her. The next four rooms of the warehouse were clear of enemies before I even arrived. My shuai never seemed angered or annoyed by any of it, but it was grating on my nerves. How was I to prove my worth before her if the Lost fell to her blade faster than I could run? Flying was no better option; I was ill-used to it and could only hover, which was even slower than running! The white-hot kiss of lead jabbed my right thigh as an initiate burst from behind a large wooden box. Six more of his fellow initiates followed, along with two more mutated riflemen and a towering aberrant.

“An ambush! Shen, take out the aberrant!” Shuai commanded, cutting down the initiate who shot me in a single stroke. Two more of the crazed homeless opened fire on her and similarly met their ends. The mound of ragged flesh extended his hand toward us, projecting a cone of glowing rings from the twisted appendage. “NOW, Shen!”

“Understood,” I tried to sound as professional as possible as I let loose with a torrent of bright blue energy. It swept the entire line of the Lost off their feet and created the perfect opportunity to take aim with a concentrated energy blast. While my shuai cut the remaining initiates down, I took careful focus to the task at hand. All was calm, and the carnage of the battlefield was but a memory. The howls of the riflemen as People’s Blade carved their bodies apart were as rain against a rooftop. Nothing existed except for my fist and the aberrant’s skull. When the bolt of energy left my hand, I knew without a doubt that it would find its mark.

The gigantic man-creature was killed instantly. The sniper shot plowed through his skull and exploded against the concrete wall behind him. I was rarely impressed with my own performance, but in that case, I have to admit that I felt pretty damn good. “Target has been terminated, Shuai.”

“Well, done, little one,” People’s Blade inspected the aberrant’s body, apparently satisfied. She approached me with a bandage and a small vial of iodine. I started to thank her, but she dropped the objects in my hands and spoke over me. “See that your wound is bound. Your objective is in the next room.”

After I spent a few moments applying the wrappings and iodine to my leg, People’s Blade and I turned the corner into a dead end that likely used to be the warehouse’s break room. Cafeteria tables, chairs, and a refrigerator littered the small room, utterly dwarfed by the nine-foot tall monstrosity standing in the middle of it. Smiling Max was flanked by aberrants on both sides, but it wasn’t long before they lay in pieces at my shuai’s feet.

“You’ve come a long way to die, you Commie bastards!” Smiling Max roared and drew a sword that was at least as long as I was tall. He bellowed like the rumble of a tractor and lumbered towards us. I was already aiming a sniper shot for the center of his forehead, and People’s Blade stood fixed in his path. The massive Lost leader almost made it halfway to my location before my shuai and I acted in unison to oppose him.

Smiling Max fell in a rolling wave of energy and a storm of flashing steel.

“I’ll bet Max is no longer smiling,” I said, giddy at having completed a mission with People’s Blade, the woman who rescued me when I was disowned by my parents and afforded me this opportunity to work with the CCCP. She was not quite so enthusiastic, but seemed pleased nonetheless as we made our way out of the warehouse. She made no mention of my remark when we left that horrid place. I’m not even sure she heard it.

“You have great potential, Shen Fai-Long,” Shuai gave me a slight nod, which I happily returned with a deep bow.

“Thank you, Shuai! It was an honor to… fight alongside… you?” The way she glared at me told me to stop grinning like a spoiled child. What she would say next sent chills down my spine—both from excitement and from a little bit of fear.

“I said, you have potential, boy,” People’s Blade did not flinch as she spoke. Her eyes cut through mine as though she were looking past my skin and into my soul. I knew to take her words most seriously. “Do not disappoint me.”

*”Shuai” means “Commander” or “General” in a military sense.