5. A Riptide of Events
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His eyes opening, Numa was once again greeted by light muted by a screen, and big green eyes peering into his faceplate.

“Hello? You in there? Is everything ok?”

Tapping on his helmet with an armored finger left a dull hollow ringing of metal on glass in his head. Fully opening his eyes, Numa carefully raised a hand and pushed the princess’s hand aside.

“Can I help you?”

Numa’s voice was neither angry, nor insistent, but instead calm bordering on robotic.

A grin breaking out on her face, the princess took a step back, holding out her hand,

“Hi, I’m Lily Damocles! It’s nice to finally meet you Numa!”

Her voice was so cheerful and vibrant, that it felt like there was almost a smiley face breaking out at the end of her introduction. For many people it would cause an almost visceral reaction of happiness, an intoxicating feeling that was completely and utterly lost upon Numa. Her voice was seemingly just as dead as his, to most her eyes would be a shining reflection of happiness.

But to Numa, her eyes were just a dead reflection of his, dead, utterly lifeless. Completely void of any mirth or anything that anyone would call an emotion. His response wasn’t calculated, but its emotionless response made him seem snobbier than he really was.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you”

Seemingly unperturbed, the princess flashed one more blinding smile before with an audible click her faceplate covers her face back up. With a sharp turn, she sits on the opposite side of the room. Sitting straight up, she was most likely reading something from her HUD, a great addition if you were someone as important as her, someone who probably had mountains of reading and reports to pour over.

There was nothing Numa needed to see, even though he was part of the Tullis family this was all but a formality. It was honestly depressing, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now. Frankly, he had no loyalty to that family. While he didn’t know who his mother was, he was sure she was surely dead. She had served as the shoe in for his father’s sin, the sin being Numa. The only reason why Numa lived this long was because was he was the only son (he had four older sisters), and he was of Tullis blood.

This allowed for the old guard to grab onto him like leaches, sucking him dry for all that he was worth. But now Numa had a younger brother, a brother whose very birth was apparently graced by whatever god remained in this hell scape of nonstop war.

Numa had no use and no desire to stay chained with the Tullis title, but he also didn’t want to go and become the “brains” of a golem. Instead, he would fight for his freedom, fight for true freedom. Numa would seek to find whoever he was, as they were undoubtedly linked.

As for the princess, he would avoid her at all costs until he had both stabilized/removed himself from the political sphere and until he had found out more about “him”. He wasn’t sure about the princess’s relationship to “her” but nothing good was gained from rushing into a situation blindly. Plus, his father had some plans for the princess especially if she was traveling on his family’s ship. While technically she could demand transport from any noble within the empire, but if you basically owned a galaxy why would you ever ask to bum a ride? No, she must have been asked and there must have been a reason. That’s probably why Numa got the “special” treatment of basically being set under room arrest for the entire trip. Not that Numa minded, there was no one for him to really see or talk to, no one who Numa really trusted.

Funny enough, the only person Numa trusted was his father, not once had his father ever lied to him. Numa had to give it to the man, he really did know how to make someone feel hated.

After only a couple of minutes the room became more and more crowded as more and more people were shepherded into the room. Everyone in the room had an impressive aura. Judging by how all their armor packs all looked new and a little different from one another this was probably the group that had managed to impress the examiner in some way.

Across from Numa sat a massive hulking mass of a person. They loomed at an impressive seven feet tall and built like an ox. Their armor was blue and grey like his, but impressively there were weapons strapped all over it. On his back there was an impressive looking great sword and shield attached to it. His mask was different, instead of having a faceplate like what came standard, his was shaped like a legionnaire, with impressive frills and a clear face guard. There were many scars crisscrossing his face, more alarming was that most of these scars were around his lips and mouth. Were the things he was trying to eat actively fighting back while he was eating them?

This ox was arguing with a thin character, they seemed to know each other. This person was wearing a similar helmet, this time without any frills and a bow attached to their back. Curiously, there wasn’t a quiver to go along with their bow. Turning to face Numa, the girls face was revealed. She had a striking resemblance to the Ox, all the way down to the scars crisscrossing her mouth. She resembled the Ox enough that they almost appeared to be twins and not cousins. The mouth scars alarmed Numa, but before this fact could be fully processed all emotion associated with it was packed up, shipped and sent into Numa consciousness as a data point.

It was a jarring feeling, but Numa was already getting used to this. Before when he had succumbed to his emotions when seeing the princess for the first time was a million times more distressing then when he first realized his emotions had “died”.

Observing the crowd, there were many different faces, and many more still obscured. Standing out just as much as the princess and even more than the ox was a figure who was trying to stand as inconspicuously in the corner as they could, but this only seemed to people’s eyes to them even more. They wore the standard armor pack of the marine cadets—but colored blue and green, the indicator for a radioactive mutant. For a race as old as humans it is inevitable that there have been mutations and branches created to the human genome, radioactive mutants on the other hand were well radioactive. They were those few blessed or cursed souls who had survived on a planet that was experience some form of nuclear winter. It wasn’t that their body was immune to radiation, or they had hidden, instead their body was converted partially to radioactive particles. To call them humans still was a little bit of a stretch to be frank, but they still fought and died for the empire of humanity, nevertheless.

Radioactive mutants emitted a very fierce but stable radiation, meaning they wouldn’t explode but if their suit was ruptured those unprotected would soon fall sick and die of radiation poisoning. The only issue was that radiation was an indiscriminate killer, meaning they would either kill no one or everyone, friend and foe alike.

For a core like the marines whose job was basically to minimize losses, they were rarely if ever used in combat roles. Instead, their radioactivity was used for other, support type roles.

Using the radiation generated from the decay of their own bodies these mutants can generate large amounts of electricity. In other words, they are used as batteries that can carry themselves. The process that allows for this is top secret, as is the result when radioactive decays finish for these mutants.

Numa didn’t spend much time staring at the mutant, there was no need. Instead Numa simply closed his eyes, he had seen all that needed to be seen in this room. What he wanted most was for this day to be over with. There was nothing more stressful than the calm before the storm, and Numa wanted no more complications added to his day.

Walking into the room, Numa’s first impressions of his instructors was a very honest one. One looked like they wanted to be anywhere but here, walking into the room and immediately stealing a cadet’s seat, they proceeded to do nothing but sit there. Their armor was the standard color scheme of senior marines, blue and black, with no visible attachments. This was both equal parts normal and strange, the bulk of marines would live and die in the standard armor pack of the marines, faceless and just as equally nameless.

Everyone in this room had some form of modified armor or were armed with a non-standard weapon, meaning they were valued higher than the average cadet. So, was this instructor considered a dime a dozen like the rest of the marines? Surely not if this much care was being put into their armor.

Numa turned the question in his head over and over, turning it in circles, it really was an interesting question. Why was Numa so worried about it? It was an innocuous issue on the surface, but this probably marked him as an augmented, while it is true everyone had some form of enhanced cybernetics, these were mostly limited to processing and sensors within the body.

This meant that the cybernetics were additions to people, many times just serving as interfaces for electronics and could identify internal injuries within their host. Augmented on the other hand had portions of their body replaced with advanced robotics, the bottom line was that augmented changed their bodies and many times couldn’t live without their cybernetics.

This plain looking instructor really sounded and looked like he wasn’t going to stop laughing anytime soon. These armor packs were space capable, meaning airtight, in other words pretty much soundproof. This meant that he had turned on his speakers, meaning he wanted them to hear his mocking laughter. It really was an intimidating aura that was created here.

Soon, probably having done this before and having seen enough of it, the second instructor, the one who had quietly slipped into the room simply clapped twice, diverting everyone’s attention from the augmented onto themselves.

External speakers crackling to life, this instructor stepped forward and introduced themselves and their partner.

“I am R.C. Hickens, but you can call me Commadore Hickens, and I will be your instructor and warden for the short solar cycle and a half that I get you. To my right is my assistant, you may refer to him as Higgins. He is an augmented, but you shouldn’t look down on him. As of right now, most of you are worth less then him and many of you will never rise above this low bar”

Walking through the room and examining each one of them, it was like a chef walking through a meat market, observing the state of the ingredients that would later come together to make a symphony of flavors. Continuing her speech,

“In you I see weak, flittering souls, each and everyone of you afraid of death. You might wear your armor with hesitation, some even wear it with stupid naivety. Many of your fellow cadets will die horrible deaths, their screams filtered out and silenced. But you, you are the leaders of tomorrow you are the few, you will become brave, for that is your duty, your purpose.”

Glancing at certain individuals within the room but seemingly zeroing in on the princess and the ox, R.C. continued,

“Some will rise to greatness, while others will be swept away by the annals of time, forgotten by most, yet all of you will serve a purpose, serving within the grand kingdom humanity against foul Endaria and traitors alike.”

Having completely walked through the room and apparently seen all that needed to be seen, R.C. turned to say one more thing before exiting the room, “Higgins will show your barracks to you, try not to get too accustomed to how luxurious your dorms are. Oh, and welcome to commander class everyone, I hope you enjoy your stay.”

Stepping out the room, she left almost as silently as she had entered. Numa noticed a couple of things from that interaction, Higgins was silently chuckling to himself, yet the shaking of his shoulders seemed to have paused with the augmented comment before, seemingly a sore topic for him. That shouldn’t be too surprising though, and in a couple of rotations Numa would be joining him too.

Standing up, and in a softer voice then expected, Higgins asked them to follow him. But by now Numa was on autopilot, just following the group from the back and not really paying attention to anything. His mind elsewhere, slowly processing all the new sights and sounds that he had seen. A lot of these sights were things that Numa had seen before, but for some reason they all felt like new information. So, between digesting his surroundings and trying to sort through this singular, irregular, emotion was taking all his attention.

A couple of the other cadets, including the ox, attempted to talk to him on the walk over as Higgins was simply walking in silence, expecting the cadets to follow and not bothering to explain anything else. Maybe this was his personality, or maybe the augment comment bothered him more then expected, but only he could know this.

Lily was surrounded by people, but she seemed to only be talking directly with the sister of the ox. The ox seemed have made friends with the mutant, a strange friendship for sure.

Numa? He was walking by himself in the back of the group, slowly growing in distance with them before catching back up with them.

No one noticed, but even if they did who would care? Pity wasn’t something anyone here had the luxury of feeling. Empathy and pity were the marks of the powerful, those who had enough space to think about someone else, and that just wasn’t anyone here.


End of the Epilogue Arc

Next: Gestalt United Arc

And that's that for the beginning (end?) of Numa's story! Stay tuned for the beginning of the next arc: Gestalt United Arc