Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 18: An Old Fling Returns

The hunters I hired have secured a live Space Worm, a very large and impressive specimen. Dissection will begin immediately.

Leon never really liked plants. He supposed that some people felt a certain amount of pleasure when surrounded by nature, especially girls. That sentiment, however, never really applied to Leon. For him, nature was an obstacle. When trees were around, they were just potential hiding places for enemies. Having spent most of his life in an urban setting, Leon did not have as much experience traversing through rustic areas like forests. He could if he needed to. He could hide in the shadows of trees as easily as in buildings or alleyways, but there were so many more variables to consider when going through a forest. As annoying as he found it at times, he reasoned that it was a good thing there were a lot of trees at the Fire Ministry. It gave Leon some much-needed experience in navigating nature as many of his missions would no doubt take him to less developed worlds filled to the brim with trees. Leon was of the mind never to give his enemies any advantage over him, even something as simple as the environment. But even so, despite his years spent at the Fire Ministry, Leon still did not like trees. To him, they were dirty, itchy, sappy, and generally uncomfortable. Worse, forests tended to have things living in them, things with primitive animal minds that Leon would’ve preferred not to feel with his telepathy. Though, to be perfectly honest, he preferred not to feel most minds with his telepathy as people tended to be depressingly dull.

Still, wouldn’t mind feeling Éclair’s mind right about now, he thought to himself. Dear Caretaker, how much I miss her. Seeing things through her eyes, even trees don’t seem so annoying.

These thoughts and feelings broiled up inside Leon as he walked through Nazz’s arboretum. Using the excuse of a standard report and briefing to get the Elf alone, Leon figured that now would be as good a time as any to grill Nazz on what he might know about Éclair and Ryan. Something in the Elf’s earlier reaction still bothered Leon, and he was determined to ferret out the truth, even if it meant delving deep into the Elf’s subconscious. His training in telepathy had come a long way. He could steal complex information and memories now, not just feelings. Nazz would serve as another Guinea Pig in Leon’s development if he did not surrender what he knew willingly.

But why did he have to have the meeting around all these blasted trees? Seems a little too on the nose for an Elf.

The arboretum was made out of a large circular dome of countless small green diamond-like structures which focused beams of light for the plant’s nourishment. Light, when focused through the prisms of the triangular crystals, simulated UV rays, allowing the plants to photosynthesize as if in a natural environment. Leon walked through the rows of strange plants while scanning all around him for any sign of trouble. He now donned a less grungy black cloth trench coat, a white shirt, gray cargo pants, and brown combat boots, a style favored by many of James’ less eccentric crewmembers. He still kept the contact lenses as his glasses might attract too much attention. So far, since intermixing with the rest of James’ crew at their basecamp on Platform 913, everything had gone to plan, but that didn’t mean they were in the clear. For all they knew, Brocktree’s men might already be onto them and sending assassins.

While searching for danger, Leon noted the various plants and their strangely shaped leaves. There was a section of trees with round, balloon-shaped trunks with blue bark. Like balloons, these trees, a type of birch from Elven worlds, floated above Leon’s head. Only thin yellow vines that almost looked like strings connected the plants to the ground. Red bricks lined each side of the black soil of the plants, marking a clear path for Leon to follow along the rust-colored metallic floor.

Another row of plants appeared more jungle-like, coming in all kinds of shapes and shades. Some were purple, some were red, and some were bright yellow. Some of the plants made spiral patterns, or jutted out like giant thorns. There was a great deal of large colorful mushrooms and vegetables added to the mix, making for a rather chaotic mess. Some of the crops in this section greatly resembled farmland associated with the Elven colonies. In fact, Leon recalled that Ryan came from one such colony, a planet that had been rendered lifeless by an attack from Black Dragons. Toramirese Colony if Leon was not mistaken.

Another section contained plants a bit more familiar to Leon as the flora here more closely resembled foliage from Ancient Earth. Leon’s aunt once had a small garden where she cultivated plants from Ancient Earth. She was rather proud of it considering how difficult it was to get seeds from mankind’s old homeworld. There were various trees and shrubs of maple, pine, oak, chestnut, hickory, and birch. Most of the trees had been cultivated to be shoulder length, but as Leon went down the row of Earth plants, the trees got taller and taller until some nearly reached the tall, diamond-lined ceiling.

At the far end of the row of trees, standing beneath the shadows of tall oaks, Nazz held a small datapad while chatting with a holographic floating head of Captain James. Small beams of green light from the crystals that lined the ceilings and walls rendered a strange sort of hazy glow on the old Elf. It made for a peaceful, tranquil kind of atmosphere that Leon found decidedly annoying. Without Éclair around, anything that even seemed remotely beautiful paled in comparison to her, and only reminded Leon of how much he missed having her at his side. Hence, his annoyance.

Leon stopped a few paces away from Nazz and waited patiently as he held his arms behind his back. The Elf’s brown eyes flashed briefly to Leon before turning back to James who continued speaking in a business-like fashion about finances and such. The way James was talking now, he almost sounded sober and professional, something Leon might’ve considered well beyond the pirate’s abilities. It didn’t seem that James had noticed Leon’s presence as there was no break in the conversation between him and Nazz.

“Given the damages to the school, that just leaves us shy of about two-hundred thousand to finish this job. We probably won’t be able to count on any more raid money for a good while either. Think what we got left will be enough to see to the crew’s pay, Nazz?”

Damages to a school? thought Leon. What possible interest could a pirate have with a school?

“It depends on how quickly you can find Brocktree’s hideout, and how fast the Elementals can take Nirvana,” answered the Elf. Nazz then glanced at Leon with an odd look. “We might ask the Elementals to give us an advance on our services, just to keep our operations afloat for the time being.”

Leon’s lips drew tight as he suppressed a groan. After much consideration, Leon chose to remain silent to see where this conversation was heading.

James grinned at Nazz’s idea, and said, “That’s a swell idea, Nazz. I bet them Ministry stooges have credits to spare. And since we’ll be their important allies in this little coup, it’s only in their best interest to see to our wellbeing then, eh?”

“I am sure they would agree, Captain,” said Nazz in that quiet, shaky voice of his. The way the Elf talked sometimes made it sound like he might fall asleep at any moment. But given how shrewd he was acting now, Leon guessed his frail old-man routine was more a put-on than anything.

“One last thing, Nazz. Is that ... ya know, that little gizmo I asked about ready yet? That whatchamacallit thing we pinched from that lab a while back?”

“The DNA Preserver,” said Nazz, giving Leon another odd look.

DNA Preserver? thought Leon to himself. A device used in cloning experiments if I’m not mistaken ... a means of increasing the lifespan of clones who tend to live shorter than the norm. What scheme could they be hatching with such a thing? Better question, why would Nazz be comfortable enough to talk about all this when I’m around? Is this some kind of setup between him and James to fool me somehow?

Leon lightly probed the Elf’s mind and found it somewhat guarded. He could tell that the Elf unsurprisingly had some training in blocking telepathy. However, Leon thought he could probably still break through with enough time. But he doubted that his efforts would go unnoticed to a mind as crafty as Nazz’s.

“Yeah, that thing,” said James excitedly. “Is it ready yet?”

“You’ll be the first to know, Captain.”

James nodded, seeming satisfied. “Alright then. Let me know as soon as you can. Mozar’s getting antsy about it.”

Again, Leon chose not to react at the news that Mozar was somehow involved in a scheme concerning a complex cloning device. Now that I think about it, Thisy did say something about Mozar having access to a rare type of Psionic Double, one that is almost like cloning a temporary copy of himself. Could this be related to that ability somehow?

As the hologram of James disappeared, Nazz turned around very slowly to give Leon his full attention.

Leon gave the Elf a flat look. “I don’t suppose you want to tell me what James and Mozar are cooking up with highly advanced cloning technology?”

“That is a private affair between the Captain and Mozar. The bounty hunter hired us for a job concerning the device that is largely unrelated to our current mission. I can assure you that it should not interfere with our work here on Nirvana.”

Seeing as how Nazz didn’t seem too concerned about hiding the existence of such a device from Leon, the Elf’s story was likely true. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that Leon had no cause to be concerned. If Mozar was seeing to private affairs, it could prove a distraction when they needed to stay focused on the mission. He would have to inquire about the matter further with Mozar later. Though he doubted Mozar would want to give him a straight answer, Leon would have to force the issue or ask the bounty hunter to abort the mission. He could ill afford a teammate keeping secrets from him.

“I’ll be the judge of what constitutes as interference on my mission. But I suppose that’s an issue I shall have to take up with Mozar himself,” said Leon with calculated restraint. “What interests me now is how you plan to convince me to give your crew an ‘advance’, I believe you put it. Also, I need to know why such an advance is needed. The financial difficulties of pirates are not usually matters of priority among Elementals.”

The Elf gave a weary nod, then put away the tablet in a pouch around his belt. Nazz then slowly, very slowly, walked over to a metal bucket near the line of red bricks encasing the soil for the plants. He tiredly reached down a shaky hand to pick up the pail of water. The bucket quivered as it seemed the Elf’s weak grip might give out at any moment. Nazz then very purposefully walked down the line of bricks, sprinkling water over the soil by dipping his hand in the bucket and scooping up a little water at a time. The Elf gradually made his way down the rows of plants, seemingly ignoring Leon’s question. Despite the Elf’s refusal to answer, the lethargic and obviously pained movements of the old Elf elicited some slight pity in Leon. He was almost tempted to take the bucket from the old codger and finish watering the plants for him, if for nothing else than to move this conversation along.

“The reason we find ourselves in financial straits,” said the Elf suddenly as he continued watering the plants. “Is because the school and orphanage that the captain and his sister fund recently suffered a fire.”

Leon was thrown off not only because the conversation had unexpectantly resumed, but also because Nazz actually expected him to believe that pirates would fund a school.

“Now that is quite an interesting story,” said Leon as he walked at the Elf’s side with his arms folded in front of him. “An orphanage funded by pirates tragically suffering a fire. Of all the scams I thought James might use to swindle us out of more money, that definitely did not top my list.”

“You may confer with your teammate, Grafael, to ensure the veracity of such an incident,” Nazz said casually. “As I hear it, he himself rescued a number of the children who were trapped in the school when the blaze occurred.”

Leon stopped for a moment in surprise as he let that little tidbit settle. Having learned from his father long ago that it was best never to show much reaction to new information, Leon resumed his step at Nazz’s side. Again, given the open way Nazz spoke, Leon decided to take his word for it. He had no idea why pirates would fund an orphanage, but if he could verify such a story with Grafael – which he would later – then he had no reason to doubt the validity of the statement for now. More importantly, he had no reason to argue the point. There were more concerning matters that he needed to discuss with Nazz anyway, namely if he knew anything incriminating about Éclair.

“I don’t know if I can get your crew an advance. But if it is needed, then perhaps the Fire Minister can be persuaded in that regard. Just don’t hold your breath. The Ministry of Fire is not exactly swimming in wealth these days,” Leon explained.

If I am going to get those funds, I’ll have to ask Rachel to convince Saria on that point. I don’t envy her that task given how she’ll also have to explain to the Fire Minister how we disregarded her orders to undertake this mission in the first place. It’s a good thing the two are related then. I’ll use every scrap of leverage I can get over Saria ... even familial favoritism.

Nazz nodded tiredly, sprinkling more water onto his plants from his fingertips. “I suppose that is the best we can ask for under the circumstances.”

Leon couldn’t help but wonder how Nazz became a pirate in the first place given how feeble he seemed. Piracy should’ve involved a great deal of physicality, something he simply didn’t see the Elf exhibiting on a regular basis.

Hoping to steer the conversation in a more useful direction, Leon said, “I take it you have the reports I asked for, as well as possible scouting positions for my team to investigate as we search for Brocktree’s base?”

“Yes, indeed. Right here on my holopad,” said Nazz with a nod as he gestured to the tablet in his pouch with one hand.

Leon had hoped that Nazz would hand him the pad and thus allow for an opportunity for direct skin contact. His telepathy was always more accurate when he could physically touch his subject. However, the Elf continued to slowly water his plants without giving Leon the holopad. Leon waited ... and waited ... and waited some more. Nazz, however, seemed to be in no rush as he made his way down the rows of his plants, being careful to evenly distribute the water from the pale.

When he could stand the wait no more, Leon said impatiently, “Are you going to give me the report?”

“Yes,” answered Nazz. However, he made no move to do so as he continued watering the plants.

With a huff of annoyance, Leon said, “Are you going to give it to me today?”

“Yes,” Nazz said in that soft voice of his, though still made no move to do so.

After what felt like an eternity, the old, skinny Elf lethargically set the pail of water down, staring directly into Leon’s eyes. That look conveyed volumes as if Nazz had something of the utmost importance to say.

“Before that, I’ve been meaning to ask you. When will your other teammates be joining us? The two younger ones that you spoke of.”

Leon’s eyes widened in surprise. So, he outright admits that he has a vested interest in Éclair. Since it’s come to this, I can’t take any chances. I have to find out what he knows. If he’s one of Chissler’s agents, then Éclair could be in danger.

Foregoing all notions of nuance, Leon took the Elf’s temples in both hands, forcing his way into Nazz’s mind. The old Elf seemed startled at first, but Leon used his will to override Nazz’s fright, putting him into a stupor. Nazz’s brown eyes went hazy and unfocused, as if lulled into a trance. It was the first time Leon had used telepathy to dominate another. He wasn’t sure he was capable of such a thing at his current level of training. Fortunately, the old Elf wasn’t that powerful and hadn’t been expecting a psychic attack of Leon’s caliber, so even his mental training wasn’t enough to ward off the intrusion. When the last vespers of Nazz’s will diminished, Leon breathed in deeply, already feeling tired from the exertion. Dominating the mind of another was much more draining than he thought it would be. But for Éclair’s sake, Leon forced himself to continue regardless of what may follow.

“Alright, old Elf. You’re going to tell me everything you know about Éclair whether you want to or not.”

Leon mentally plunged into Nazz’s consciousness. It felt like submerging himself in dark, icy water as their brainwaves merged. He lost track of his own physical body as a swirl of sounds, smells, and images flashed before him. The sound of screams. The smell of smoke. The sight of black wings. As far as Leon could tell, the images appeared to be an old memory of some kind, but one that was freshly on Nazz’s mind as it pertained to what they were just talking about.

What is this? Leon asked the hypnotized Elf. What does any of this have to do with Éclair?

Éclair? said Nazz’s voice in confusion. Who is that? Does she know Ryan?

Leon realized part of the Elf was still conscious. The revelation jolted Leon’s concentration, and he lost his domination of Nazz’s mind. Leon released the bond and was thrust back in the real world breathing heavily as he let go of Nazz’s temples.

Nazz blinked in confusion, rubbing his head. “I suspected you had telepathy, young Lurranna. But I had no idea your training had gone that far. Still, I don’t know why you felt compelled to intrude on me as such. That is improper etiquette for telepaths, I hear.

Thinking fast, Leon composed himself and said, “It wasn’t Éclair you were interested in. It was Ryan. Tell me why.”

“Will you try to steal my thoughts again if I don’t?” said the Elf warily.

“Maybe,” Leon admitted. Cold resolve overtook Leon as he lowered his voice threateningly. “And if I don’t like your answer, I may have to kill you. Regardless, your death becomes a certainty if you repeat any part of this conversation to anyone ... especially if it involves Éclair.”

For some reason, the Elf looked away from Leon, staring past to something beyond the crystalline arboretum. “Murdering me will have to wait for the time being. When you touched my thoughts, I felt another mind watching us on the Third Plane. They are still here.”

Leon was almost tempted to think that the Elf was playing a cheap trick. Just to be safe, he gave himself a mental scan of his subconscious, and discovered an alien aura poking around in the back of his mind. He had been so intent on Nazz that he hadn’t noticed. He could almost hear his father’s voice upbraiding him for carelessness. When Leon went lax in his training, his father sometimes had telepaths forcefully delve into his thoughts, subjugating him to all kinds of pain and nightmares. Leon had to learn to partition his thoughts as a child to ward off insanity. To think that after all his training, someone was subtle enough to spy into his psyche without him being aware of it.

The intruder appeared as a smoky black figure silhouetted by white mist within Leon’s mind. Tendrils of wavy beams of purple light emanated from the figure like tentacles. Those purple glowing tentacles acted as anchors, attaching to the core of Leon’s being. Their touch was so light that Leon could barely even feel them prying into his innermost thoughts. Outraged at the intruder, Leon envisioned a mental image of himself grabbing the purple glowing tentacles. He tried to pull the intruder into the light of his conscious thoughts, thereby discovering their identity and putting them under his control. Quick as a thought, the intruder slyly dashed out of Leon’s grasp, vanishing from his mind like a phantom. However, Leon was in contact with the intruder’s psions long enough to lock onto their location.

The exchange happened in an instant as Leon tracked the psionic signature of the one who dared to infiltrate his mind. He could still feel the intruder. He was very close by. Deciding that he would deal with Nazz another time, Leon dashed out of the arboretum. He didn’t bother to use the exit as he burst through the crystal walls using his shoulder and a gust of wind to slam through the walls with little difficulty. The crystal walls shattered like glass against Leon’s power, clinking to the ground behind him. As Leon came outside, he caught sight of a figure in black dashing away on rooftops in the distance.

The Mystic agent in Brocktree’s employ, thought Leon grimly as he gave chase before he could lose the psionic signature of his quarry. Run all you like. You won’t escape from me.

Leon flew through the air, leaping between the rust-covered buildings by dozens of feet with each stride. He combined his own enhanced agility as an Elemental with the power of wind to propel him forward at unimaginable speeds. The Mystic had a good head start on him. Though his opponent didn’t appear to have access to Wind Elemency, he was still almost as fast as Leon ... almost. Moving so fast that the onlookers below appeared nearly motionless, Leon put on a burst of speed that made a loud popping noise in his ear as he broke the sound barrier. The wind buffeted his back as he pushed himself forward, gathering a ball of air in his fist so dense that it actually became visible as it distorted the atmosphere. With his burst of speed, Leon nearly caught his prey in a single stride as he aimed his ball of air at the Mystic’s legs in order to incapacitate him.

However, the Mystic sensed Leon’s presence just before he launched his attack of air, changing directions as he dashed violently to the left. Leon’s ball of air left a fist-size hole in the metal-plated floor where his target would’ve been. Judging by the pop that resounded in Leon’s ears, his opponent was traveling at Mach speeds as well.

Given the fact that he was inside my mind, that makes him a Mental Type, so he’s definitely not a Runner. He must be using his element creatively like I am to travel at that speed, thought Leon with a grin, almost enjoying the game now.

The Mystic moved among a throng of people through the busy market area near the edge of the platform, his black cloak making him look like a shadow in their ranks. He moved so fast and so quietly among the people going about their business that most didn’t even see him. Though Leon could move that fast, he doubted he could be so precise at that speed as the Mystic didn’t even touch the bystanders. Not that Leon would have to be that precise. He had his own methods for such situations. Leon clapped his palms together, concentrating wind in the space between his skin before spreading his hands to the right and the left. Using only a light touch of wind from his palms so he wouldn’t hurt anybody, he separated the crowd directly in his path to the Mystic. The marketgoers cried out in surprise as an invisible force staggered them to the left and right of Leon. A few tripped, but the worst they would get was a slight bruise on their rumps. In an instant, Leon had a clear path to his prey as the crowd parted for him.

If the Mystic was surprised by Leon’s tactic, he didn’t show it as his stride never wavered for an instant. Instead of hesitating, the Mystic continued running ahead, moving inexorably for the far end of the market. Leon realized with a slight bit of shock that the Mystic’s path would soon take him to the edge of the platform. Leon could hardly believe that was the Mystic’s plan until the cloaked figure jumped over the final line of square buildings that separated the market from open space.

For a moment, the Mystic was in freefall as his jump took him directly into a traffic lane of hovercrafts traveling between platforms. With the reckless speeds that the vehicles were traveling, Leon almost thought the Mystic would get squashed flat by an oncoming spacecraft. However, the Mystic somehow timed his leap perfectly to land on a hovercraft directly below him, kicking off with a single lithe step. Even though many of the hovercraft were traveling at least two-hundred miles per hour, the Mystic easily used them as stepping stones as he hopped from vehicle to vehicle. He was making his way to Platform 315 which hovered to the north of Platform 913. Leon allowed himself only a moment to be impressed before following his quarry.

The game got a little more strenuous than I would’ve liked, but I could use the exercise, thought Leon to himself, refusing to be intimidated by the abilities of another even for an instant.

In a single bound, Leon cleared the line of buildings, soaring into the vacuous space that made up the majority of Nirvana. He felt an instant of terror as his body went into freefall and his momentum took him directly into the path of a speeding, noisy hovercraft. Steeling himself, Leon forced his emotions under control quickly as he searched for his nearest opportunity. With the power of wind, Leon could easily direct the trajectory of his fall as he avoided getting smashed to bits by a trucking freighter pulling a trailer of black ore behind it. As soon as he was clear of the freighter, Leon directed his attention below him as he kicked from a yellow taxicab. The occupant inside honked as he thought that someone in another lane above must’ve grazed him. After getting the feel of it, Leon’s instincts and razor-sharp reflexes kicked in, and he easily repeated the process as he hopped from craft to craft just like the Mystic did. He knew his movements were slightly clumsier than his prey as he missed his mark a few times and had to settle for hopping off crafts from lanes of lower altitude. Leon figured that the Mystic had more practice with this kind of thing as he no doubt had used this tactic as an escape route in the past.

Leon never lost sight of his prey as he crossed the lanes of flying traffic after a few moments. The Mystic’s little trick did give him more of a lead on Leon, but that would soon be circumvented as the cloaked figure appeared to be slowing slightly after reaching Platform 315. The Mystic probably thought Leon had given up the chase as he landed on a tall building and looked behind him to savor his perceived victory.

The final hovercraft Leon leapt from was a convertible with an open cockpit. There were a couple of young humans inside making out while their Harpy chaperone drove the vehicle. The young man and woman cried out in surprise as Leon landed in the seat next to them. They didn’t have time to react as Leon ignored them, using their white cushion seats to springboard the rest of the distance to Platform 315.

The Mystic watched Leon without moving, perhaps in disbelief that Leon had actually managed to follow him through the lanes of hovercraft. Leon didn’t waste the opportunity his enemy had presented him. When he was in range, Leon thrust an open palm forward. From his hand, he sent a jet of air at the Mystic, blowing his target off his feet and sending him directly into the path of the orange, metal wall directly behind. Leon had intended to pin his prey to the wall long enough to catch him, but the Mystic again reacted with a surprising solution. Instead of trying to jump over the wall, which would’ve been useless given the strength of the wind that Leon subjected him to, the Mystic summoned a black sickle and chain with purple glowing symbols running down its length. He then twisted around sharply in mid-air to face the wall the wind pushed him towards. In an instant, the Mystic cut his way through the wall while using Leon’s own wind to carry him into the hole. Leon heard a scream from the occupants of the building inside. A second later, the Mystic burst out from a window at the opposite end of the building, shattering the glass as he continued jumping from rooftop to rooftop out in the distance. Leon was still high overhead and could see the Mystic’s every movement from his vantage point. However, Leon knew instantly the trick his opponent tried to use on him.

Leon smiled to himself. Sorry, friend. But I know that one. It won’t work on me ... not when I have a lock on the psions in your real body.

Ignoring the retreating figure in the black cloak that just leapt through the window, Leon used wind to direct his fall to the building itself. Leon summoned his dual swords to himself, the twin silver blades glowing purple from lines of curving symbols going all the way down to the black handles. Each sword had several blades that could extend outwards to make the swords appear fan-like. Doing so helped Leon create air currents and also served as shields with added surface length. For the moment, Leon needed his swords more compact, so the blades remained in their original form pressed tightly together to make the swords seem more like classical single-edged weapons. Swinging both swords forward, Leon cut a hole for himself in the roof of the building in the blink of an eye. Leon fell into the dark apartment complex and lashed out with his swords at his true target directly beneath him.

The source of this story is Finestories

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