"...Just exactly what the hell is going on there?" -First-class Lieutenant Jacob thought to himself as he glanced back at the figure in a completely black coat facing hordes of enemies in melee.
* * *
If we use human calendar, the day would have been May 21st. It had been more than 60 years since the end of the Protectors-Destroyers war. In the first 10 years, the Protectors focused their main attention into rebuilding. However, in the year 2061 in human calendar, 15 years after the Protectors-Destroyers war, a Protectors' scientist made a breakthrough. He created a device which opened a portal into another dimension. A ship was chosen to be their ambassador and a war fleet was prepared in precaution. However they didn't know just what was waiting for them. As soon as the portal was opened, hundreds of strange spaceships came out of it and immediately attacked the Protectors' fleet. Battle was won but at the cost of more than half the fleet. Just before the portal was closed, a small single spacecraft was detected and it went straight toward the flag ship of the fleet. Inside that ship was someone no one would have guessed. It was one of the ancient people of the race Prometheus which were worshipped as gods by many less advanced race, including humanity. The one in the ship was called the "Grim Reaper", as the name suggested, he was a big floating figure in black coat and holding a scythe. However his armor and weapon are both high advanced. As his story went, it seemed that the race Prometheus felt that their presence interfered with how other races would develop. So they decided to leave. But not all agree: many of them became fond of acting like gods above lower beings. So they came up with a solution: to force all Prometheus to go into the portal into another dimension, with hope that the races there would be advanced enough to be independent and let him rebuild their society. However they were surprised to find what was inside the dimension. A single race, which they called The Swarm, had dominated the entire dimension, as far as the galaxy had expanded. They were hostile against anyone not one of their own. The war with them was hard as their number was simply overwhelming. The number of Swarm there would probably reached sextillions. The Prometheus decided to hide and build their number but in vain: when they reach a number, they would be discovered and their number would be destroyed quickly. So they waited, as it was the only thing they could have done. Through the Grim Reaper, the Protectors also learned that Prometheus no longer died because of any means because they have developed a technology to make the "soul" of a Prometheus exist outside of the body and can be placed back inside a new body. For the next 14 years, the Protectors would fight against the Swarm, who had discovered how to open a dimension portal. However, to fight the overwhelming amount of enemies, the Grim Reaper proposed an idea to the Protectors: The creation of a new type of Super Soldier. Originally, the first Super Soldier was the Enforcer - fearsome mechanic soldiers who wielded energy sword in one hand and accurate machine gun in the other - created by the Prometheus. The second type was the Assault Droid - gigantic robot as tall as 4 meters with an arm (or in some case, both arms) as a huge shield and sword at the same time and long range weapons of their choice. They were also created by the Prometheus. The third type was the Overlords. They were human biologically augmented to be super soldiers. They were created by the Protectors. The new Super Soldiers were called "Carriers". Before actually proceeding with creating the Carriers, they created a few Super Soldiers with the same method but without the final step. One of them was the Legendary Dominic who led divisions of Protectors to defend against the Swarm on planet Earth. Then the first Carriers were created. They used the same method: created highly intelligent babies using a technology the Prometheus provided. They then enchanted their muscle, allowing them to lift three time their size. Then their bone was enchanted with a metal that was almost indestructible. After many more augmentations, their skin could deflect small arm fire from low grade handguns, they could run at top speed of 60 km/h, lift three times their own mass, fight for 20 hours non-stop and gather, process intelligence then come up with plans quicker than normal human beings at least 400 times. Then the final step: what make them "Carriers". They were to share their body with a Prometheus, allowing them to gain access to strategy and a whole lot amount of spiritual energy to cast spells. This was done as many Prometheus wanted to have a body again, but they are all too unstable, having lived too long and being from different factions, they may even wage wars against each other. So their souls were implanted into the Carriers in exchange for their support. This wasn't something that they liked and as they said: they were tricked by the Protectors and the other Prometheus. That was the reason why they also tried to drive Carriers into madness. As for the first generation of Carriers, the Protectors, trying to balance their minds, implanted each with two Prometheus souls, one a "Hellish Angel" (a Prometheus considered evil by worshippers) and one a "Heavenly Angel" (considered good by worshippers). However the heavy pressure drove many Carriers crazy, and of the 100 first generation, only 30 survived with their mind intact. The next generations were implanted with only one and much more survived but none of them could be compared to the original Carriers.
* * *
Jacob was one of the Carriers, he was number 453, the 53th of the fourth generation. The mission this time included a squad of four Carriers in an operation against a division of Swarm. It shouldn't have been too difficult, considering how powerful each Carrier was. That was why there was a filler in the squad: among the three fourth generation veteran Carriers, there was one that none realized, a Carrier dressed in a completely black coat.
"You think he'll be able to handle himself?" -Asked one of his close friends, number 454, Third-class Sergeant David.
"I don't know. But something feels a little weird about him." -He answered.
"Maybe it's his first mission. He could be a new Carrier assigned to this mission for experience, probably one of those from the new seventh generation." -The third Carrier, number 486 stated his mind.
"He seems too quiet for a newbie. But whether he's new or not, what matters is which kind of unit is he?" -Jacob said.
"Command didn't say anything about that. It almost seems as if they were hiding something."
"The only weapons I noticed are a pistol on his waist and an assault rifle on his back. Seem pretty standard."
"Look like we'll find out what he is here for soon, won't we?"
* * *
As the Dragonfly transport helicopter landed, the four Carriers quickly moved toward the enemy's camp. For stealth purposes, the cloaked heli landed half a mile away from the enemy's camp. The Carriers moved to a position on top of the hill looking down into the camp. Jacob used took a close inspection at the base to insure the intel they received was correct.
"So far so good. Approximately the same number of troops as intel said." -He said.
"Cast a little detection spell just to be sure." -Number 486 suggested.
"You're worried already, 86?" -David asked in an irritating voice.
"Nah, I'm not much of big pussy as you, 54. But I'd rather not have some Punishers take me by surprise." -486 shot back.
The name "Punisher" was give to a new type of Swarm by the Protectors. They were believed to be created to counter the Carriers. They weren't nearly as strong as a Carrier but as predicted from the Swarm, their number was much higher than the Couriers'. They could be dangerous in group, especially if the odd was 3:1 or more as the tactic they used was rather frustrating.
"Let's try not to have another of that "He insulted me so I punched his face" again, you two" -Jacob reminded them of the incident that happened a couple of years back.
"Yeah yeah." -Both answered.
* * *
"…This is simply hopeless!" -Jacob murmured.
He was lying on the ground without control of his body because of the blast. On the West of the camp, 486 was also lying face down on the ground. But different from him, 486 was dead. The only two standing were David who was holding this stomach as he parried a Punisher's attack and cut of the attacker's head; and the mysterious black figure shooting his assault rifle at one of the thirty remaining Punishers.
At first, the Carriers had the upper hand. They casted a detection spell and confirmed the amount of troops… or so they thought. After quickly ending the life of around 20 Swarm units in close combat, a group of more than fifty Punishers shifted into visibility: they were using cloaking device. But even cloaking device can't fool the detection spell casted which check participle in the area in order to know the existence of a piece of wood embed into the boat of a soldier. The reason why they didn't know about the Punishers was probably because of the strange machine which appeared at the same time the Punishers appeared. They were obviously waiting to lure the group of Carriers into their death. Jacob managed to take down 6 of the Punishers before a plasma grenade took him down. It was, however, an achievement considering the odd. Number 486 also took down another 3 before one cut off his sword arm and ended his life. David killed 4 including the one he just parried. The black Carriers himself took down 8 alone with his rifle. At that moment, a new figure walked down from the hill they had just left.
"So you've finally show up." -The black Carrier said in a loud voice.
The one just arrived was a Carrier without a doubt. He wore a set of armor with old damages, almost as if he didn't have time to repair his equipments. He stopped as soon as he heard what the black Carrier said.
"So they've already known and sent you to kill me, haven't they?" -The newcomer said.
Jacob then noticed that he was one of the second generation Carriers: Nicholas number 213. He was said to be potential renegade by Command.
"But which one are you? I can't really tell from your outfit. You don't look so strong. Someone from the later half of the first generation? Number 30 maybe? He seems to be one for undercover missions." -Nicholas said again.
For the first generation of Carriers, the first group consisted of number 1 to 15 were the strongest. The second group from 16 to 22 and the third group 23 to 30 were said to be weaker as they carried the soul of lesser angels.
"Can someone numbered 13 really fail that miserably?" -The black figure said something shocking again.
"They said I didn't have to come all the way here to kill you and they would send someone else. But I know I would be most suitable to kill a renegade Carrier. Because I'm the first one after all."
And that statement put Nicholas in real shock. The black figure was the legendary First-class High General Thomas, Carrier number 1 of the first generation of Carriers. He was the Carrier of Arch-Hellish-Angel Terror and Arch-Heavenly-Angel Justice and was said to be the best, having killed a dragon without a weapon at the age of 14 and defeated the Grim Reaper in a duel at the age of 26 without using the angels' power.
* * *
"Thirty versus one. This isn't fair, they need more soldiers." -Thomas thought to himself.
With a quick movement, he slipped around the first Punisher in front and a grabbed hold of the sword which had just been pushed down into his hand. Thomas' swords were both folded and kept under both of his arm and when he wanted, they would be pushed accurately by a mechanism so that their handles would both be in his grabbing range. The Carrier then quickly used the Rapier in his left hand to deliver a killing blow to the Punisher he just passed. An accurate thrust into the heart and the Punisher went down with ease. The Rapier made with compressed-dragon-bone reminded him of the night up in that mountain and the white dragon he single handedly killed. That night, something changed in him, something he would like to always remember. Another Punisher charged toward him. Thomas quickly grabbed the Broad Sword with his right hand in the same manner and slit the throat of the incoming enemy. Even though everything happened in slips of second, the extremely high reflect and quick thinking Thomas possessed allowed him to not only processing enemies' movements, planning attacks but also trivia thinking. It's one of the only things keeping him from becoming insane of the constant fighting, killing and losing comrades. He dashed forward again, using his Broad Sword to deflect the next target's defense and thrusting the Rapier into its brain. A quick kill but the next one had already held up its energy shield and charging. The Carrier also dashed toward the target but with a distant of 1 meter left, he used a spell to teleport himself behind the target and killed him with ease. The teleport spell worked in a near same way as space travel: moving inside slipspace to cover up a long distant in shorter time. The differences are that the spell instantly moved the host into slipspace instead of creating a hole then travel inside it and the spell created little to no electromagnetic pulse meaning the machines of the caster wouldn't be damaged. It is a very useful spell and almost a signature of higher class Carriers. With a turn, he cut another approaching Punisher. By now, Nicholas had seemed to recover from the stun. He knew that his only chance to survive his was to go full-on against Thomas before more Punishers got killed. Energy suddenly burst out of Nicholas' body, forming a layer of red flame around Nicholas. The flame turned into the shape of a demon in human mythology: a creature with two long curved horns, muscular arms with nails as sharp as knives, a pair of long eagle-like wings and feet similar to horses'. This was the Carriers' ultimate form, by drawing enough power from the angel's souls inside of them, they combined their own power and fighting style with the angels', making them extremely powerful but also unstable. Trying to keep this form up for a long time would most likely end with the Carrier's mind destroyed and the angel's takeover. Each second of doing this required a lot of concentration and mind power of the Carrier. By the time Nicholas finished his transformation, Thomas had already taken down another 5 Punishers, while David took down 2 in the confusion, reducing their number to less than 20. Energy also burst out of the Carrier 1's body. Unlike Nicholas, Thomas' transformation finished immediately, hinting his supreme mind power. The flame covered Thomas was different as well: it was divided into two sides, the left side with red flame and the right side with white flame. On the left side of Thomas, a red half-halo floated above his head. His left arm holding the Rapier was covered by red flame shaped of a blade-arm, the blade of a sword attached directly into his arm. The armor of his left side looked like armor from medieval time, with edges as sharp as spikes. The left wing was the same as Nicholas': a red eagle-like wing. His left foot was also the same as Nicholas', one similar to horses'. On the right side, the other half of the halo was bright white. The whole body was covered in armor of steel-like-metal created by the white flame. His Broad Sword was also covered by white light, but in the shape of a long straight sword with the blade, the guard and the handle creating a holy-cross-look. The right wing was only different from the left wing in that it was bright white. The left foot, however was more human-looking inside the steel-like boot. The most notably feature about Thomas' ultimate form, however, was the flame was entirely translucent: the body of the Carrier inside the flame could be seen clearly. The Carrier then proceeded to end the life of two Punishers on his two sides with two clean cuts before turning to face Nicholas. He quickly dashed forward, thrusting his sword at Nicholas while his left arm sliced down from above. With both of his arms parrying, Nicholas only managed to save his life at the cost of a piece of his shoulder. Thomas, however, didn't give his opponent any ground: a kick into Nicholas' stomach and the two were separated by about 3 meters. Thomas advantage was his superior speed and durability: he can strike faster, close distant quicker and fight this battle much longer. But Nicholas wasn't some easy target: he carried the soul of the Arch-Hellish-Angel Despair. If Nicholas can lock on Thomas in close distant, he could hold out for a long enough time for the Punishers to deal heavy damage. Knowing this, Thomas cut through the Punishers with ease, with just three movement, he took down another 4 of the enemies, including one fighting one-on-one against David, who had almost ran out of energy just taken down another Punisher. Nicholas charged at Thomas again, hoping to close the distant before more of his underlings die. But he was too slow again. Thomas jumped and with his wings increasing the speed, when he dashed toward the group of Punisher behind Nicholas, there was nothing the renegade Carrier could do. Another group of 6 Punishers killed swiftly. The rest now formed a defense next to Nicholas so that Thomas couldn't take out more. But he wasn't planning to kill more Punishers, he was already targeting their superior. With another dash, he closed in the 4 meters distant, striking each of his blades at a different point on the surprised Nicholas. The blade-arm strike was blocked but it knocked back Nicholas, letting the right hand strike to leave a deep wound into Nicholas' left shoulder. In just seconds, before the Punishers even dealt a hit to Thomas, dozens of continuous strikes were exchanged: about 3 hit Thomas, 6 got blocked or parried, while 2 were dodged. Nicholas parried almost 10 strikes but took 8 hits: 3 to the stomach, 2 to the left leg, another deeper into his left shoulder, 1 cut off his right arm and the last one cut off his head. As the head of their commander rolled on the ground, the Punishers also fell one after another. The battle was over.
* * *
"…Rest now, brother, knowing we will carry your burdens for you." -Jacob finished his rite to number 486 in Quarian's language.
Thomas had also just finished burying Nicholas' body.
"So what did he die for?" -Jacob asked the approaching Thomas -"One of you sayings was "You can't avoid casualties, so give each a cause". What was number 486's? If you went full out early, you could've saved him."
"He died assuring the death of the renegade Carrier. If I didn't hide my blades, Nicholas would've fled. Who knows how many will be in danger if Nicholas continues to give the Swarm more information about us, more of our tactics, our weaponry, even our moves. You should know this, 453."
"So more Carriers will continue to die, assuring the death of more renegade Carriers, is that what you're saying? Are we just pawns, created and trained just to fight until we die, protecting the civilians we don't even know? Is that supposed to be the life of a Protector?" -David asked in an angered voice.
"No." -Thomas immediately said -"We are not doing this just for the civilians. We are doing this for our family, the Carriers; for our comrades and friends, the Protectors and more importantly: for ourselves. And we are doing this because we are Protectors. Will you back away from the fight, leave the injustice alone or even join the evil, sacrificing other races to help your own?"
"I don't know about you, but I've seen enough of my friend's deaths to stop worrying about my race and keep on fighting the enemies." -The First Carrier finished his speech then walked toward the landing transport aircraft.
Jacob and David now understood why this Carrier was so strong: It wasn't because of hatred towards the enemies like the Quarian in the Protectors-Destroyers war, but it was because of his will, the way he knew that if he stopped fighting, or lost a single fight, another of his friends and comrades may die. That single thought pushed the Carriers to become the best soldier ever lived, but also slowly broke him every time someone close to him was lost.