Chapter Twelve

A Rose by any other Name

"With great power comes great headache. How long was I out?" Travis said through a yawn.

"Two days. How do you feel?" Isis said as she opened the healing chamber and scanned his body

"Half dead, now who am I?" Travis stretched his arms above his head until his spine cracked.

"My child there will be time for that after I've run more tests on you."

"You will explain everything." As Travis spoke electricity arced off his body.

"Calm down. The tale is long, but when it's finished you'll have your answers. Long before Horus or I were born our people were at constant war with each other. Warlords enslaved the masses and fought for control of Tori. From the ruins of our broken people rose a powerful warrior. He saw the path of destruction he and his comrades caused and it sickened him. He could no longer stand by while the innocent were slaughtered, and with his leadership our people won their freedom. He become the first emperor of Tori and ushered in an age of peace and prosperity that lasted until his death."

"This history lesson is nice and all, but what does it have to do with me?"

"Everything."

"Could you be any vaguer?" Isis ignored him and continued on. After his death the emperor's sons fought over who was next in line. Karasu argued as the oldest he was the rightful heir to the throne.

"But I'm the smartest," Fukuro the middle child said.

"But I'm the strongest and our people need to be led with an iron fist," Washi the second oldest said.

"Nonsense, I'm the most loved and our people will follow me to their deaths," Dove the youngest son said. The brothers were at each other's throat until Fukuro decided they should let the people decide. Dove's people settled in the deserts of the east and over time gained mastery of water. Karasu's people became mariners and had domain over earth. Washi's people fled to the ice fields of the north and learned to harness the power of fire. Fukuro made his kingdom in the mountains and his people had dominion over wind. The kingdoms warred against each other for thousands of years, until the Nekoshin Empire attacked. Outnumbered the kingdoms joined together and drove back the menace, but suffered massive casualties. The brothers realized they were strongest as one. As a measure of good will the descendants of the emperor's children were betrothed to each other. Down through the generations the process continued until finally Isis and Horus were married and the great work was completed.

"Ok, I can handle that I have these abilities. I still find it hard to believe I'm merged with your son, but there's no way in hell are you going to sit here and tell me I'm royalty. Hell, fuck, no!"

"Yes you are a prince but it's a meaningless title. The monarchy was abolished thousands of years ago and gave way to city-states. In time these too were abandoned in favor of a global democratic republic," Isis said trying to stave off another blow up. Travis pondered her words and then said," Very well then what is my name?"

"You're name has no equivalent in the earth tongue but you were named after the first emperor. We'd been trying to conceive a child for a thousand years and then we had you. You were born 500 generations to the day of his death and there was a great celebration worldwide, but then our enemies struck. They sabotaged all our ships and ambushed us when we teleported to the nearest inhabitable planets. I tried using my device to negate the black hole but it malfunctioned and accelerated the growth of the event horizon."

"Hold up? If you guys can teleport then why did I have to run all the way here? Who built this place? How long is a generation and, damn it, what's my name?" Travis's voice rang out, his last words echoed back, piercing like a bullet.

Into his mind came an image: a man surrounded by countless enemies, yet he refused to stay down as they beat him. No matter how bad he was hurt the man refused to give up. Travis watched the scene play out and was reminded of the strength he felt while fighting Oblivion: indefatigable, it had always been there waiting for him, and others, to tap into it. He was broken out of his thoughts when Isis spoke.

"One generation is about, five thousand earth years and this place was built by the same device that saved you. As to why you can't teleport, it's simple. You don't know how yet."

"So, let me get this straight. You're such a kickass scientist that your technology built this whole place, yet couldn't save your planet? I don't thinking so."

"Yes granted we were the most advanced civilization within three galaxies, but there are limits to everything my child."

"Mmhhm, I wonder if there's something in here to help me train?" Travis thought and ran around flipping switches on random machines. The holograms tried to help him but he ignored them until he came to a huge control panel at the back of the cave, and seeing the biometric scanner placed his hand on it.

"No, you're not ready yet," Isis said but it was too late. She and Horus along with everything in the room disappeared and Travis found himself in a jungle. Before he had a chance to take in his new surroundings an explosion ripped through the area and he was smashed into a tree.

"Ugh, what hit me?" He got up and rubbed the large bump on his head. A flash of light out the corner of his eye was the only warning Travis got before a bolt of lightning hammered his chest. He fell and rolled on to his back in time to see three torins dashing towards him, their eyes radiating promises of pain. Travis got to his feet and blasted off a wave of fire engulfing them. "Yeah, you just got pwned," Travis said then doubled over and fell to the ground.

When he looked up he saw himself surrounded. "Play time's over bitches," he thought and attacked them using any method that came to mind. They dodged his pitiful attacks, laughing all the while. Travis's body was hammered into the ground time after time. His right eye had swelled shut and the other was half open, but he refused to stay down. Every time he got back up, his rage grew until he couldn't hold it back. With speed he didn't know he was capable of Travis dashed forward and bashed the face in of the first torin, then kneed the next one in the stomach and turned his sights on the last one. Seeing his fallen brethren it took to the air and sent bolts of lightning down at him. He hopped from foot to foot and roll out of the way, trying to dodge the blasts, but his speed failed. As he rolled to the side a sear pain shot up his right leg. The scent of burnt flesh met his nose and when Travis looked down he saw only bone and what was left of his calf. He dragged himself up and placed all his weight on the other leg and when the alien next attacked he deflected the blast right back at him. It gave a screamed then fell to ground.

"That was close." As the battered boy waited for his injuries to heal a computerized voice said, "Warm up complete, beginning training level one: increasing gravity to 19.6m/s2 and number of targets to six."

"Fuck me," Travis said and glanced down at his calf: the wound was only half healed and when he put weight on it he fell over. Great how the hell am I to get out of this mess, he thought as he tried to right himself. From behind him he sensed them approached and tried to set off a shock wave but nothing happened. Travis tried to run but he barely managed a jog and then they were upon him, beating every inch of his body they could get to. He fought back as best he could, swinging wildly at anything that moved, but it had little effect and the aliens rained down their attacks on the boy without end. As pain washed over him Travis turned inward and tried to find the massive power he felt earlier, but it was no use, it was there but he couldn't access it.

That enough kid you're getting your ass handed to ya and I've been cooped up in here too long, Prometheus said.

No! I have to do this on my own, he replied back and they fought for control of the body. Travis sent they aliens flying with his telekinesis then mustered all his will and placed layer after layer of mental barriers on Prometheus.

You're not getting rid of me that easy numb nuts. He pushed back Travis's barriers and placed his own on the boy and pulled him deep into the subconscious of their mind.

"I told you to stop body-jacking me asshole," Travis said bashed Prometheus in the face.

"And I won't be locked up in here anymore." The boy got up and knocked Travis in the face then stomped on his chest. Travis dodged a punch to his stomach and delivered a decisive plow to Prometheus' throat. He concentrated and massive chains bound Prometheus. A cage materialized and Travis tossed the other inside.

"This isn't over kid. I will be free."

"Whatever," Travis said and smirked, but he was met with a rude awaken when he came to and saw that the torins had recovered and were headed straight for him.

"Crap," he thought as he jogged into the dense forest as fast as his good leg could carry him. He was hidden behind a massive tree with purple bark and took a moment to catch his breath and formulate a plan.

"OK gotta think; I'm in the woods, they're minutes from finding me, how am I gonna defeat them? Duh! With that final thought he set the tree on fire. When the torins neared Travis putt everything he had left into it and the roots of the flaming tree were ripped from soil as he hurled it at them. The torins were caught by surprised and down they went as the hundred foot long tree crushed them.

"Woot bitches," he said then collapsed.

"Over did it again I see," Isis said as she helped Travis out of the healing chamber.

"Spare me the lecture mommy dearest." He rolled his eyes at her then headed for the control panel at the back of the cave. He began punching buttons at what appeared to her at random.

"What are you trying to do?" Isis said as she appeared next to him and grabbed his hand. He yanked it free then gave her a death glare before answering, "Trying to program this stupid thing so the gravity in here increases, 5g should be a good starting place." She shoved him out of the way, clicked a few keys then stepped back with a smug look on her face. Travis got up to see what she did then fell to the ground.

"Oh god I hurt," he said then go up—tried to that is—and he fell ass first back down.

"Motherfucker," he said rubbing his butt as pain shoot up his back. With fists balled and teeth clinched the boy tried to get up, muttering a litany of profanity. Travis stood covered in sweat and gasping for air, and smiling. Closing his eyes Travis a deep breath in and grimaced as he felt a sharp pain in his chest and began a coughing fit. Isis and Horus came over to comfort him, but Travis shooed them away and began a steady chant in his mind: "Calm, controlled, centered, I am the void and the void is me."

With each iteration his breathing slowed and the roaring sound of Travis's heartbeat withered into a murmur.

"Pain is weakness leaving the body. Now move," he said to himself and felt a surge of power wash over him. Travis lifted his foot and took a step forward then another, his legs felt like there were made of lead, but he continued moving until he made it to the other end of the cave then started the hundred-yard trek back.

"Dear you've been at this for hours. Please, you need to rest."

"I won't rest until I can move around without difficulty," Travis said to Isis then picked his pace and broke into run. Tarry sweat pored off his body and stung his eyes as each step he took inflamed the ached in his back, but Travis gritted his teeth and plowed onward. Hours passed but still he ran until he dropped to his knees and vomited. Isis ran over to comfort him, but he would have none of that.

"Honestly woman, I'm fine. Stop treating me like a child and up the gravity to 98m/s2." Travis wiped his mouth with the back of hand, and the next thing he knew Horus pinned him down, his talons biting into the flesh of Travis's shoulders.

"Let me go right now!"Travis tried to buck Horus off him, but failed and let loose a growl.

Shut up retard, I was sleeping.

That's it I'm coming in there.

"Aw, did I hurt—ouch," Prometheus said after Travis kicked him in the balls, and then pulled him to his feet.

"I'm going to say this once, so listen up. I'm going to let you out," Travis said and then was cut off when Prometheus shouted, "Hells yeah. Travis's face twisted into a malevolent smile and he laughed as the other boy quail in fear, but Prometheus' mood changed when Travis removed the chains from him. Travis laughed so hard he was in tears as he watched Prometheus dance around and jump for joy, when he had enough he formed a choke chain around the boy's throat and yanked it. Prometheus dropped to the ground and writhed in agony.

"Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain. I'm done dealing with your parents, so I'm giving you control for the time being. And when I'm ready you're going back on lock down. Is that clear?" Travis said and pulled on the chain.

"OK ,OK you asshole. I'll be good I promise, just stop," he said in between spasms. Prometheus got up and when his hand made contact with the chain screamed in pain.

"Did you think it'd be that easy to get rid of that?" Travis said, his acidic words stung Prometheus and he roared back, "I hate your fucking guts."

"The feeling is mutual. Once we're separated you can die for all I care. Run along now, or do you want me to change my mind?"

"I'm going, but how'd ya do that?" Prometheus said grimacing all the while.

"Grasshopper, my Google-Fu is strong," Travis said. Prometheus groaned and then disappeared.

Travis surveyed his surroundings as he strolled on; the rocky landscape was painted in shades of gray and black, while the flora were deathly white as if frozen in time. When he got to where the wall had been Travis saw an ancient stone well and was flung backwards. He charged forward and was suspended in mid air. Before his eyes a creature of flames formed and took his shape.

"Who are you and what is the meaning of this?"Travis said through gritted teeth.

"I am your power, and you haven't earned the right to enter my domain."

"I don't think so." Travis broke the hold on him and then bound the creature in chains and dragged him next to the well where he sat down and focused. Piece by piece a structure began to take shape until a citadel stood: its black walls soared thirty stores high with spikes spiraling to the heavens and above it all laid a white tower. In the center Travis sat upon a red throne and smiled to himself, then he turned to his fiery twin and they disappeared.

A whip, pliers, flogs and other torture devices lined one wall of the dungeon, while a large cell took up another wall. Travis strapped the doppelganger in and cranked the rack until he was rewarded with a scream. Blood lust unquenched, the boy materialized a bucket of water.

"No, don't. Please. This won't get you any closer to mastering me."

"Bored now," Travis said then doused it. When the screaming quelled, he continued, "I have other business to attend to, but I'm not done with you by far. This will be but a memory of paradise when I'm done."

He entered the cell then concentrated and five clones appeared. The red one in the corner drew his attention after it slugged the nearest clone. Travis sighed then bound it and helped the other clone, only to be shoved away as it got up.

"I can handle myself."

"Well excuse me princess. You must be Pride and he's Wrath. The kid crying in the corner must be Fear and who might you be?" Travis said locking eyes with the gray clone in the center of the cell.

"My name, like everything, is meaningless."

"Aw, that's not true, there's always hope," the pink clone next to it said and hugged him tight. Travis shook his.

"Despair and Joy I take it? Ok kiddies listen up: you're on lockdown until I say otherwise. That is all," Travis said then phased through the cage and whistled while he flayed Power.

"Little pig, little pig let me in."

"What now? I was just starting to fun." Travis sighed and Oblivion's face appeared on a monitor in front of him.

"And what do you want?"

"I wish to talk. By the way, love what you've done with this place—though the tower is a bit gauche if you ask me."

"Well Martha you can eat a bag of dicks."

"It's understandable you fear me," Oblivion said then burst into a patronizing laugh.

Travis dropped the dagger he'd been flaying Power with, and the next instant he stood before him.

"Make this quick, and if this about earlier go screw."

"A bargain was struck and now it's time to pay the price," Oblivion steepled his hands and a smirk splayed across his face. The skin pulled taut and Travis saw it wasn't skin, but the faces of thousands screaming in pain. He looked on Oblivion then spoke; his words came like an arctic blast:

"I refused your bargain and owe nothing."

"How astute of you, tell me have you ever heard the fable about the frog and the scorpion?"

"No, but what does it have with to do anything? I'm three seconds from handing your ass to you."

"Your victory was a fluke, now listen well boy. A scorpion needed to cross a river and asked a frog to carry him on its back, but the frog feared he'd be stung and declined. The scorpion promised he wouldn't as they'd both drown, but halfway across he stings the frog. When the frog asked him why the scorpion replied: "It is better we both parish, than for my enemy to live." Now what is the moral of the story?"

"Story time with Oblivion sucks?" Travis laughed as the creature's eyes become pits of fire, and then said, "The moral of the story is: the scorpion was an idiot. He should have stung the frog as he was climbing of its back once on the other side." The fire in Oblivion's died away and he got so close that Travis could the bones which made up the beast's teeth.

"What is the nature of power?" he said sending the scent of rotten flesh wafting to Travis. He wrinkled his nose and forced back the urge to vomit.

"Power alone is meaningless. You must control it and know when to use it," Travis said and moved a few feet back.

"And he shall know our ways as if born to them," Oblivion said to himself.

"What was that, and what's with all the questions? I have things do and people to torture you know," Travis said as he rocked back and forth.

"You reminded me of an old saying among my kind: power without control is chaos, but power without knowledge is the path of insanity. Walk with me awhile my child."

"Do I look dumb? You putt on this nice act and expect me to forget that stunt you pulled last time. I don't think so and what's this child crap?"

"Boy you're on thin ice. I apologize for being overzealous. I've been at this far too long, but the fact remains you are mine, child."

"I'm not your anything and my patience has grown thin. Leave!"

"You were born of my spirit and I love all my children."

"Bullshit. What do you know of love?"

"Love is sacrifice: kind and patient, neither envious nor boastful. It's neither selfish nor vengeful, and keeps no record of wrongs. It's righteous and truthful; always protects, hopes and trusts. Love is perseverance," Oblivion said to a thunderous applause from Travis and he smiled, but his face fell when he saw the boy's smirk.

"Nice speech, but even the devil can quote scripture for his purposes," Travis said and gave a round of fake applause.

"You call me Satan, Beelzebub, Angra Mainyu and countless other names. You call me evil, but what you fail to grasp is I'm half of the perfect equation. I never asked for this. I'm just doing my job, but I'm tired."

"This is my problem how?"

"I've had it," Oblivion said and transformed into a giant seven headed dragon and lunged for Travis. He stood his ground and Oblivion was flung back as he hit an invisible wall.

"How?" he screamed then all seven head erupted blasts of white flames. Travis moved forward and the fire along with Oblivion were pushed back.

"This is my sacred territory and none may enter," Travis said and his right hand became a flaming sword.

"Quis ut Deus?" Oblivion shrank back and reverted to his other form.

" I may have been a little rash, can we start over? Walk with me and I'll tell you why you were chosen."

"No deal, spill or I start cutting."

"Travis Armageddon was set in motions long before you were born, but the day you entered the abyss all eyes turned to you."

"What's so special about me?"

"A second in the abyss is enough to drive most mad, but you spent thousand life times there and were unchanged."

"Right, so I guess you didn't get the memo I'm a psycho?"

"I said unchanged, not well adjusted. You are not meant for this world. You long to return there, don't you?" Oblivion said and approached Travis, hand extended.

"Yes. What did you call me earlier?" he said ignoring the gesture.

"I'm offended but understand. Remember trust must..."

"Be earned before it's given," Travis said as he walked beside Oblivion and arched an eyebrow.

"This changes nothing. First sign of trouble and I'm kicking your ass."

"Oh I wouldn't have it any other way. You reminded me of an old enemy, but you're not him."

"Really then who was he?"

"The story is long so settle in. In the beginning there was the void, and then came the heavens and the Earth."

"Genesis? Why are you telling about that bunch of bronze age myths?"

"Remember at the heart of every myth is a seed of truth. Now can I continue?"

"Fine, but only if you give me the abridged version."

"You would deny an old man a chance to relive his glory days?"

"Yep." Travis swatted him on the butt then ran off.

"I'm too old for this shit," Oblivion said and pinched the bridge of his nose.

***

It had only taken a moment for Prometheus to realize he'd been screwed over, and as he stared back into Horus' eyes he plotted Travis's death. He grabbed Horus by the elbows and rolled. They tussled until Prometheus was on top then he broke Horus' hold and then punched him in the face for good measure. Isis made to separate them and he sent her back with a blast of fire. Prometheus retreated to the end of the cave, wincing with each step he took and then he waited. Every time the pair moved towards him he blasted them until they got the message.

Prometheus had no idea how long had past while he leaned against trying to catch his breath. His back still hurt, though it had quelled to a dull ache. He'd been shooting Horus and Isis scrutinizing looks when he was sure they wouldn't notice while his left hand was trained on them ready to blast at the slightest provocation. The hyper vigilance was wreaking havoc on his nerves, and so he took a hesitant step towards them. The pair tensed up then relaxed when they saw he wasn't going to attack. Isis rushed to him with her arms out stretched, but Prometheus shrank back and the trio froze. Although three feet separated them it felt like a million miles to the boy. His eyes ping-ponged between them and then he spoke:

"So, you my folks? Well get y'all ass over here so I can where I get my shit from."

Isis got carried hugging him and after Prometheus pried her off he relaxed and took in their black almost blue skin accented with a shock of silver hair. Their lanky, yet powerful frames were capped off with wide heads that tapered into lipless faces. Their high cheek bones looked as though they could draw blood if you brushed against them. For the longest time Prometheus was content to look at them and he forgot all about his back until Isis scanned his body and found he had a broken coccyx. Twenty minutes in the healing chamber sorted him and he was ready to play and made a beeline for Horus.

"Yo, Pops put `em up and show me what ya got," he said and throw a right jab. Horus planted his feet, and cocked his head to the side. The slight movement seemed like a knee jerk reaction to Prometheus, but when his fist met air his jaw dropped.

"Mother fuck me. Pops got some skills, huh? You best have brought yo' A game, `cuz it's `bout to get medieval up in this bitch." Prometheus kicked his legs out aiming for Horus' chest. The alien leaned back as if he were limboing and Prometheus fell flat on his butt. The boy let out stream of curses then charged forward, and swung wildly. Horus was not the least intimidated and laughed while he dodged the attacks, his never moved from the spot but his body twisted as if made of elastic.

"How can you move like that?" Prometheus said in between gulps of air.

"I was always the best at circle," Horus said.

"What you talking about?"

"Ah young one you've missed so much. Circle is a game that all torin are taught from the moment they can stand. There are countless variations but this is only one rule: remain in the circle at all times," Horus said and went on to describe the finer points of the game. Circled was created to teach hand-eye coordinated and serve as a primer for combat training. Among Horus' people the smaller circles were the mark good player, but the elite were those who never moved their feet. By the time Horus finish his speech Prometheus couldn't contain himself anymore and shouted, "Ooh I wanna try." They agreed on a circle with a three foot radius and began.

Horus vanished and appeared behind Prometheus and delivered a roundhouse kick. Prometheus sensed the movement and dropped into a squat and then rolled out of the way. Horus's foot pounded the ground where the boy had a second ago, then without stopping he knocked Prometheus off balance with leg sweep. Prometheus kicked his legs up and balanced on his hands. He smirked, but then his arms began wobbling and he fell over with one tap of Horus' talon.

"I'mma kick your ass, bet on it son." His skin flushed red and then the pair started round two. Prometheus faired just the same but he refused to give in and they continue playing until he collapsed on the ground a sweaty mess.

"This aint over Pops. I'mma get buff ass fuck and be all like wika pow on your ass. Watch," Prometheus said then puffed out his chest and walked halo-trainer.

"New user recognized and accepted. Create new profile?"

"Yeah," he said to the computer and rocked from side to side while he waited for the program to load. As soon as the jungle took shape dashed off towards where he sensed the holograms. Smack went the first went after Prometheus' feet connected with its chest. Before the body hit the floor the boy pivoted and decapitated the next with a well place blast of fire. The final torin went airborne and Prometheus gave chase. He used the second's body as spring board and launched skyward then blew a hole through the third's chest. Hr landed with heavy thud then pumped his fists in the air.

"Prometheus wins, flawless victory!" he said and continued celebrating.

He ploughed through the next level using a tree as a giant baseball bat and got to level five before his combination of luck, dirty tricks and raw skill weren't enough.

"This is some ol' bull. I quit," he said after being knocked down for the fifth time in less than a minute. After the halo-trainer powered down he limped over to Isis and plopped down. His chest and legs were throbbing and his arm ached every time he moved them. Isis rubbed his back and then Prometheus curled into a ball and sucked his left thumb. She laughed then went up to a red cabinet and removed a silver blanket and a gold pillow from it.

"Lay your head down child and I'll tell you the story of a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away."

"But Ma I aint tired," Prometheus said then immediately yawned. He giggled then went back to sucking his thumb. Isis shook her head and began the Tale of the Four Princes.

There were once four princes who never agreed on anything. They had been had at war since the death of their father, but then the Nekoshin Empire brought war upon them. Though no match for the princes' technology their forces overwhelmed them. As Karasu V slept Gato the Crusher of Souls ripped his heart out and devoured it. One by one Washi V, Fukuro V and Dove VI all fell prey to Gato. All seemed lost. Then above the great wailing rose the voice of Prince Talon of the Earth: "Who is like Karasu?"

"No one!" his people replied and they took up the fight, and drove back Gato and his men. Inspired by their cousin, Bubo of the Wind, Robin of the Flame and Opus of the Ice joined the fight. For a time they had Gato on the run, but their old rivalries could not be overcome and the princes turned their forces on each other. In the chaos that followed Gato and his men whipped out half of their men, and those left were too injured to continue.

The princes were all that stood between Gato and the destruction of their people. And they fought. Not because they hoped to win, but because it's what the emperor would have done. Those who witnessed the battle spoke of it in reverence, for on that day four boys stood against ten thousand. They combined their powers, impaling some with shards of ice, exploding others and raining down great balls of molten rocks on the rest. Only Gato remain, but the princes were too exhausted to continue.

"Surrender and I'll spare your lives," he said, but they refused and as one spoke.

"In brightest day or darkest night, I shall stand against evil's might. For those who came before me and are to come I will fight."

A black light radiated from the princes as they merged together. With one burst of golden flames Gato fell dead. The princes separated and below them lay items of incredible strength. Talon received the Hammer of Storms; to Bubo, the Razor Whip of Invisibility. To

Robin was given the Sword of Inferno, and to Opus: the Naginata of Freezing. Their fathers' voice issued from the weapons and congratulated the princes. The kings told their sons they would always protect them so long as the weapons never fell in hands of evil. The princes gathered the items then went home.

"Cool story Ma, tired now," Prometheus said and began to drift off to sleep. Isis showed him the pillow upon which were inscribed with the names of their ancestors and the royal crests on his blanket. He replied, "That's nice, night."

"Sleep well my son and me our ancestors watch over you on your journey that lay ahead."

That's it for part 1, part 2 will pick up with Travis taking control of their body. For those wondering the Names of the princes and kings are all bird related. Send comments to silentbutcudly.com