I’ve become accustomed to the darkness in Dark Astoria. The way the shadows hunger and claw at your feet, the way the sun never shines but the light never completely fades. The near-constant screams in the distance.
I awake here more often than not. Some measure of my Kheldian finds solace amongst the darkness. Maybe out of duty we lurk here, perhaps out of fear we hide. I can’t tell and I’m not sure I’d want to know if I could.
I’m rarely alone out here though. The populace having long been evacuated or abandoned I’m usually greeted by devious cultists or sinister wizards.
I hadn’t slept well in days. I may not have slept at all but it’s hard to say when you’ve had as much coffee as I have. I think they called it ‘Black Blood of the Earth’. An homage to mystical rituals and sorcerous habits. While it came in concentrate, intended to be thinned out and rationed over days or weeks, I had taken to drinking it straight.
The kheldian inhabiting my body had woken and it was seething with anger. Betrayal and Outrage were the order of the day.
Shocklord was born one sleepy morning in ’06 when concept met opportunity. A blaster then he went through the normal character cycles of adventure and development until a series of ugly encounters pummeled hope and ransomed my dreams.
I had trashed the character then, given up the name to a friend who had a great deal more success than I did. Now on Homecoming I’m back in the saddle and while I’ve revisited some of my old ‘blaster curse’ it’s not as bad as it was. For one, I’ve had a fair bit more success than before.
We were running down some plans for a giant robot when I stopped to admire the beauty on Striga Isle.
I’m what the FBSA classifies a Sentinel:
“The Sentinel is a powerful ranged combatant with moderate protective powers and protection against control powers. Sturdier than a Blaster, it also has the ability to distract enemies to avoid being overwhelmed.“
The clinical declaration of Blaster frailty is understated in my mind.
Which in and of itself was a curious thing to say.But we had been talking about my Kheldian and how little it spoke to me.
I continue to think about those words. I dwell on the idea daily, nights are lost in contemplation. I don’t know when I slept last, or when I ate. I know it’s been months since I was bonded.
She called it Synchronization. That I wasn’t in sync.
Meanwhile the Saints of Liberty welcomed me to their halls. I was rapidly promoted for my actions, words of encouragement and the leadership I could provide. This garrison would be my new family.
I wouldn’t think anything of it but some kind of battle fugue had begun to take hold. More than once I found myself with strong memories where none were before. Of armor so thick I could resist the pull of dwarf stars. So robust I could shrug off rockets.
It took several months, while the Kheldian was sleeping and recovering, to hone my understanding of the power available to me. I learned a thing or two and had become quite comfortable in my new life.
It was while throwing down with some Council Warwolves that a stray Quantum blast buzzed past my head. Not the first but the first to elicit a reaction and something stirred in me. I was angry.
In a fit of unhealthy fury I blasted that soldier until my arms ached from the exertion. Oblivious to his friends who fought in vain to stop me I projected light-blasts across the room and maintained the barrage until I was sated.
This wasn’t the first time I had encountered a hunter out for just me, packing special tools and their mysterious ‘Quantum Cannons’. In fact most of them had little effect on me mentally or otherwise.
No, this was new. Something had awoken. The mere thought of the gunner stoked the fire of hatred. A single thought fanned the flames: Betrayal.
As almost an afterthought I noticed my customary blue glow had turned a lovely shade of sunset.
Venturing into the Shadow Shard is not for the faint of heart. The distances are vast, the terrain inhospitable and tricky to navigate. I find it incredibly interesting, the fragments of earth floating.
And then there was the floating fortress, deep in the ‘Shard. Assaulted by Rularuu for Rularuu against Rularuu..
Some kind of cosmic alignment was in process. Doorways and apartments everywhere were puking out daemons and witches faster than capes could counter them. And yet..
..something more sinister was afoot. A tip, a clue, found it’s way to me. Someone had assembled the missing pages of a dark manuscript. Something MAGI would pay well for and something I certainly didn’t want laying around for too long unsupervised.
It didn’t take long to find some Circle lurking while I watched from the roof nearby. They had a look of extra-nefarious intent.
Dark Astoria. A looming name for a looming place. What happened? Why did it happen? Questions jutted out at me as I flew across the landscape. Circle battled Knives, Tsoo confronted Banished.
It was a battlefield. The forces of evil won, the landscape was rendered inhospitable and all civilian activity was halted and evacuated. Protective wards erected to keep the unwholesome elements inside while armed agents lined up to find a way to undo the nightmare.
Dark Astoria is the last place you want to visit. I crossed the massive emergency doors from Talos Island with a little trepidation. What kind of horror was I about to witness.
There are some days I find my own native glow the only beacon of light in such a place. It feels as though hope and light were drained and replaced. I persevere, I roam and patrol and do what I can to remind the villains that live here We have not forgotten.
Responding to a request we dived into the seaside city with a interest. Word was that some comets fell curiously slowly to land in the mid of this city. Apparently we were following some Longbow agents and every villain in a short reach who thought they could take some of these space rocks with them.
The battles were short but fought well as we pushed through Freaks and Thorns. What waited for us at the end of the road was beyond my understanding. I’ve heard of Shiva but I was never told they would be this big.
The team gave it’s all and we survived. Though I’m certain more than one of us walked (or flew) away with more than a simple concussion.
It struck me that perhaps I was getting ahead of myself. That you might want the whole story. At least an explanation of who I am.
I was, and to a certain point, still am Kyle Harkins.
I was drifting through life, working odd jobs and filling in where I found opportunity. It paid the bills and in a place like Paragon City there’s never a lack for work.
But it’s a dangerous city and you learn to watch out. They don’t make the front pages but you can almost always find a story in the paper about super heroics gone awry. How some would-be cultists kidnapped another innocent or how the ferry was delayed again because of Lusca. You learn to keep your eyes and ears open because sometimes trouble follows you on foot and at others it’s on wing.
I was finishing a long day, a double or a triple.. I don’t recall. I was running thin on more caffeine than what the FDA thinks is safe. My normal commute takes me along the blue line, through Steel Canyon and to within a block of walking in Skyway. But some of those previously mentioned delays had occurred and I was hoofing it longer than I’d planned. Long story short, I rounded the corner into Skulls territory and very quickly regretted it.
Push came to shove and someone pulled out a knife. I didn’t have much to give or wasn’t quick enough in handing over what I did have. Or maybe out of spite, they stabbed me. Twice. And with a couple of laughs they ran off to spend their gains while I bled out.
It was around this time that Ganymedean found me. In a sense, he felt my pain and was able to home in on it. To save me and itself we had to merge, it explained. That it was hurt and needed shelter and that repairing my body was well within its means.
In hindsight I wish I’d read the fine print. I don’t regret my choice but I do have some doubts. I accepted, naturally. Faced with death and a slow demise at that I feel that most people would choose whatever option B was. But there are details I would like to have known before my life was inextricably bound to a higher purpose.
The merging wasn’t painful. I did recover fully as I was told. But I was quickly briefed on a few key topics. Chiefly, that I would now be hunted. That we were know known as Ganymedean and that we were hunted by the Nictus. That the Nictus had allies specially tasked with hunting us down.
Of course, the community at large would recognize us. Ganymedean was very clear about that. That we were Kheldian, merged and whole. That some extraordinary powers were within my grasp and that we would understand them in time.
But it was very weak and quickly fell asleep. I still had some of the power but the voice was gone. So I was left with a dash of responsibility, a measure of opportunity and more than a little wonder and excitement.