Earth. In all of the dark night sky, littered with gleaming stars and far-off galaxies, this single orb of glittering blue and scarred land mass remained the last safe sanctuary for mankind. Humanity was not alone. The sacred places of the world, from the strongest of nations to the solitary reaches of uninhabited desolations, had been raided, burned to the ground, their inhabitants destroyed. For such was the way of things, and humans were no longer the masters of their own fate. They were dying for a long time, dying and dying in droves of millions, billions- until The Traveler saved them.
Aaren Talon gazed silently at the world- his world- beneath him, staring through the glass viewport on the bridge of his ship, the Crimson.
“All we have is hope. All that hope is rests within humanity. If humanity dies, then so does hope. And the hope of many lies upon you.”
The human blinked once, eyelids flashing over eerily bright blue irises for a fraction of a second. When Aaren’s eyes opened again, the world had changed. Indistinguishably, he knew, but it had- because every second he waited, every passing moment, humanity was fighting, growing, struggling- and it was his duty as a Guardian to protect it.
The human straightened himself in his pilot’s seat, using his left hand to reach out and touch a control stick as his left inputted a sequence of coordinates and commands in a small keypad to his left. Talon took one last glance at Earth before he simultaneously hit “enter” on the keypad and threw the stick forwards, jerking him backwards in the chair as the Crimson accelerated. After the momentary disorientation of the speed change wore off, Aaren forced himself up, knowing that in several minutes he’d have reached his destination, and walked away from the bridge, down towards the small armory in the aft section of his ship.
Upon entering, his hands moved of their own accord, piecing together his armor and moving different plates into position on his flight suit. Finally, Aaren pulled his gauntlets over his hands, clipped his cloak on- tugging on the fabric twice to ensure it wouldn’t come off- and reached for his helmet, the wide viewplate reflecting his own image back at him. Talon paused, cocking his head.
Looking himself over once, he saw a man- tall, wiry and muscled, dressed in a padded dust-and gray- colored flight suit, cold metal armor protecting most of his chest, a small electronic readout on his upper left breastplate, while the rest of his outfit was mostly gray leather and cloth, worn and faded, but still decent protection from both the elements and a knife blade. On his right shoulder, a pauldron of bone overlaid with bright metal rested, and his forearms were covered by steel vambraces with jutting crests of wicked points. His lower body was less armored, so as to preserve mobility, while his pants were also stitched with pouches to carry supplies or extra ammunition, kneeplates hidden behind some cloth, and his boots rose to mid-calf, where the excess pantleg was tucked in to prevent snagging. At his waist a holster hung from his right hip, the butt of a revolver sticking out, and a belt of ammunition, holding both clips and ammo cylinders, and a long-barreled assault rifle hung on his back.
Aaren exhaled as he lifted the helmet above his head, and closed his eyes as he brought it back down, the back of the armor piece connecting to the base of his neck, where the wraparound of his chestplate checked the serial number of the helmet, verified its occupant, and accepted it. There was a small hiss as the armor compressed, and scrubbed air filtered into the helmet’s mouth. Finally, Talon reached behind him, and pulled his cloak’s hood over his head. The color of the garment, a dark blue, was not a random choice. It meant something. A guardian’s choice of color always meant something, and in Aaren’s eyes, blue stood for one of the only things left to him- ch’arlen. A word from another language, one that had no proper human equivalent.
“It’s not exactly easy to explain,” he’d been told. “But the closest thing it translates to is a will to survive, to gain. A refusal to give in or to die.”
A single “beep” issuing from his helmet’s headset cut into Aaren’s thoughts, informing him of the Crimson’s halt at his destination. The Guardian turned on his heel, exited the room, and strode purposefully to the personnel airlock, a small cylindrical space, hitting a red panel on the side of a wall. He waited several seconds as he was scanned before it turned green, the door opened, and he stepped forward. Suddenly, he halted at the lip of the exit, looking at the damp ground before him. The words of his own creed echoed in his mind.
And this is the Hunter’s way,
to live unchained,
to die free,
for glory gained,
and that to be.
Aaren stepped to Earth.