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For two years, we have suffered his wrath. For two years, we have endured his hate and malice thrust upon us. For two years, he has wreaked havoc on our world. For two years, we have watched him turn the strongest men into his slaves, in an instant. For too long, this world has lived in fear throughout his reign. We have tried to fight back, but our efforts have been in vain. Who is he? He is the malevolent beast, known as Vigor and two years ago, he enslaved Airosfield, except for us, that choice few. We are the ones who chose to fight against him. We are strength, we are resistance, we are the rebels; we are the Valinior Force.
Now, after two years of planning, research, and necessary sacrifice, we have found the secret. Vigor is not one, but two. He is Vigor and inside him lives a boy named Atton Brown. Actually, Vigor considers Atton his weaker side even though Atton was the original host. We consider Atton the key to finally defeating Vigor. Although our leader, Nirvana, is only sixteen, she has devised the perfect plan to divide them.
Vigor sat on a large throne with Atton’s jacket hanging on the back and looked out over all of Airosfield.
“For two years I have ruled this inane wasteland,” Vigor addressed Atton. “What do you think? Do you think it was necessary for me to kill just to be put in ultimate power?” Atton did not answer. “Answer me boy!”
“I don’t know what to think sir,” Atton drearily responded.
“Of course you don’t,” Vigor sneered, “because I do all of your thinking for you. Your father taught you nothing. He was nothing but–” Vigor paused.
He saw something move out of the corner of his eye, someone that was trying to escape Airosfield. It was a child no older than ten years.
“Where do you think you are going?” Vigor bellowed in her direction.
“I –I,” she stuttered.
“Come,” Vigor chillingly invited the girl to his throne. He began to stroke her long raven hair. Then he grabbed her hair and lifted her up to eyelevel. He held her there as he asked, “What is your name, child?”
“Marie,” she shook.
Vigor took note of her French accent. “Have you ever seen blood, Marie?” Don’t do it, Atton thought. Please.
Non,” she quivered.
“Really,” Vigor was surprised. “Would you like to see some?” Before she could answer, he revealed his knife and cut her hand, and deeply slashed her wrists, her legs, and her arms.
Cela rouge,” Marie noted. It is red.
“It is.” He sliced her stomach. “Do you know what happens when you run out of blood?” Vigor dropped her and she darted in the opposite direction as quickly as possible. She did not make it more than forty feet before she collapsed. Vigor chuckled as he said, “I bet when she woke up this morning, she didn’t think she was going to die.”
“That was just,” Atton stopped to search for the word, “evil.”
“Yes,” Vigor smiled, “another dead body for the streets, for my paradise.”
“You have turned Airosfield into nothing but a hellhole of full of dead bodies,” Atton argued. “Look around you; there are buildings burning and dead bodies flood the street. All these deaths are tragic,” he said glumly.
“Tragic,” Vigor contested. “One death is a tragedy; one thousand deaths… is just a statistic you’ll hear in a thousand more years.”
“The world you rule is nothing to be proud of. You rule Hell,” Atton responded.
“Then I am the Devil,” he proclaimed.
“Is this something you’re proud of?” Atton snapped.
“The Devil possesses power, does he not?” He did not expect Atton to answer. “Yes he does and I am proud.”
“Killing is not a power,” Atton said wisely.
“Then let me see you do it,” Vigor snapped, “You are too weak,” he continued.
Atton was beginning to think for himself. He was becoming stronger and Vigor could feel it. He had to weaken Atton, or else.
“I am not weak,” Atton contested.
“You are. You cannot stop me; you will never stop me! I am all-powerful!” Vigor declared.
“You are,” Atton began.
“I am what?” Vigor protested.
“My… master,” Atton gave in.
“Yes, I am your master and you will do well to remember that.” Vigor looked up. “The weather is changing. I feel… a storm coming. Finally,” Vigor released a devilish smile, “it is time.”
“Alright everyone quiet. Quiet please,” said Nirvana, trying to get their attention but everyone continued their miscellaneous chatter.
“Want me to take care of them?” her best friend asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“QUIET!” a voice boomed that instantly silenced the room.
“Thank you, Zak,” Nirvana said.
“Yes ma’am,” Zak nodded.
“Now, as I was saying, tonight is the night we go after Vigor,” she explained.
“What is so special about tonight?” someone contested.
“Tonight is special because tonight there going to be a storm,” Nirvana told him.
“There have been plenty of storms,” the man continued. “What makes tonight so special?”
“A direct bolt of lightning plus this should separate them,” she irritably explained.
“Why couldn’t we do this before? Why did we wait so long?” the doubter continued.
“Because, we didn’t have this before,” she told him. Nirvana held up a miniature metallic backpack no bigger than a football.
“And just what is that?” he asked.
“This,” she held up her fist, “will be in the side of your jaw if you don’t shut up, trust me. Now stop interrupting me.”
“Yes ma’am,” he gulped.
Now, Nirvana was not a vicious leader. On the contrary, she was quite benevolent at times and she was anything but weak. However, Nirvana hated when people who second-guessed her methods.
“Now,” she addressed everyone, “this combined with a direct bolt of lightning will separate them. Then, we will have the key. Everyone cheered; all but one, the one who questioned her. Nirvana walked up to him.
“Do you doubt me?” she wondered. “Do you doubt my methods?”
“I – well...” he stuttered.
“It is a yes or no question,” Nirvana said sternly.
“Yes,” he spat out. “I doubt you. Your plan is not thought out, it was rushed and you don’t know if it will work. It’s just like you teenagers always expecting a great outcome from a horrible plan. You aren’t ready to lead; you’re still a little girl!”
“Little girl?” Nirvana tried to hold her composure; she hated to be called a little girl, more than any name. She shook her head in dismay. “You’re really getting on my nerves, Alec.” When Nirvana got mad, she usually let Zak do the talking. Nevertheless, she was willing to give him one more chance, given their history. “One more time; do you doubt me?”
He could not lie to Nirvana. “Yes,” he gulped.
“Then I am truly sorry,” said Nirvana sincerely. She snapped her fingers and everyone made way for Zak. She did not necessarily want Alec to die, but she could not have stopped Zak if she tried.
Ever since her father’s death, it had been her and Zak. Zak was a large hulking man that would give his life for Nirvana.
“How you doin’?” he said to Alec, chuckling.
Zak picked the doubter up by his neck and peered into his eyes. He placed his other hand around his waist and pulled. His screams of torment and remorse could be heard miles away. The group watched the doubter get what he deserved. They watched, in disgust, Zak enjoy a midday snack.
Nirvana hated to see Zak kill, but when he was on a rampage, he was practically unstoppable. Zak rarely killed though because he hated it as well. Sometimes a leader must have their followers fear them, rather than love them.
“Any more questions?” They shook their heads. “Good.” She heard the pitter-patter of rain against the ground outside. “It is time. Now, after the strike he will be knocked out for twenty minutes. At this moment, we must take Atton and flee the scene. This is one of our most dangerous missions yet. I will not ask all of you to come. I will ask; who’s with me?”
Five men stood up, along with Zak. “We are,” they said.
They walked through the rain seeing Vigor but he was prepared. His army of the undead arose, ready to fight.
Nirvana’s group charged in but Vigor was steadfast. Nirvana handed her device off to Zak, like a quarterback to a running back and the hulking man charged in. He knocked out everyone in his way, snacking on the side. Surprised by his strength, Vigor’s eyes widen, and made a hasty retreat. Although Zak was an enormous behemoth of a man, he was extremely swift and caught Vigor. He strapped the invention to him. Just as lightning struck him, Vigor was knocked unconscious and Zak was propelled backwards crashing into Vigor’s throne. He shook it off.
“Nice job Zak. Let’s get back to the hideout,” Nirvana told him and the other five.
“Yes ma’am,” Zak replied.
Atton woke up to Nirvana’s beautiful face. “Rise and shine Sleeping Beauty,” Nirvana said warmly.
Atton saw her and thought, God she is beautiful. Like an Indian princess.
Zak and Nirvana walked into the next room. “Now Zak, I want you to tell Atton to report to the sparring room after he has fully recovered his strength. Is that understood?”
“Yes ma’am.” Zak had noticed how Atton had been looking at Nirvana. He made his way to the kitchen where Atton was. “Hey kid, I found this,” Zak said, throwing a brown leather jacket at him. “I guess it’s yours.”
“Thanks,” Atton smiled weakly.
“You got all your strength back yet?”
“Yeah I feel alright,” Atton said, thinking the question was out of pure courtesy.
“Good.” Zak picked him up by his neck and slam-med him against the wall. “This is your first and final warning; keep your eyes, hands, and everything else on your slimy little body off my sister. You got that!” 
“But I–,” Atton began. Zak released a low chilling growl. “Yes,” Atton said in a terrified voice.
“Good,” Zak growled. “Now get to the sparring room!” Zak tossed him aside.
“His sister,” Atton said to himself. “Well that just sucks.”
“Hey kid, come here,” a familiar face called him.
“Who are you?” Atton asked.
“Mann. Ralph Mann. This is my friend Reggie Geye (guy),” Ralph introduced himself and his friend“Am I supposed to know you?” Atton asked.
“I guess you wouldn’t remember us. We used to work for CJ McCoy with your dad.” He lowered his voice. “We hired you for a special assignment a couple of years ago.”
“Oh, now I remember. You two doofs hired me to get McCoy,” Atton remembered. “Look how great that turned out. I really regret killing him.”
“You do?” Reggie asked with confusion on his face.
“Not really,” Atton laughed. CJ, in Atton’s opinion had deserved death. He had inflicted pain on just about everyone he had met; he thought that was cause for a little payback. Still, part of him regretted it.
“Well anyway, you were pretty bold looking at Nirvana that way,” Ralph continued.
“Is that really Zak’s sister?” Atton said with hopes they would say no.
“Yes, and he’ll rip your head off if you look at her like that again, literally,” Ralph told him.
“Right, I doubt it,” Atton chuckled.
“Yeah look at her again see what happens,” Reggie suggested.
“I think I’ll pass. Hey do you know where the sparring room is?” Atton asked, remembering what Zak said.
“Yeah, past the main hall, second door on the left,” Ralph told him. Atton thanked him and headed to the sparring room.
When he arrived, he saw Nirvana in action. Man, he thought, she can throw down. Phew and looks fine doing it. He tilted his head to get a better view. Daaaammmnn!
“Hey you, Atton, get over here now,” she ordered he hurried to her.
“Yeah?” he said, eagerly.
“Yes ma’am,” she said with emphasis on ma’am. “While you are you will abide by my rules. Is that understood?”
“Sure,” he yawned, she raised her eyebrow at him. “I mean…Yes ma’am,” Atton replied as she had told him.
“Now, the only reason I freed you from Vigor is because of your experiences. I don’t actually expect you to fight anyone,” she scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Just in case, you will need the proper training. So we will begin with hand-to-hand combat training.”“I can fight,” Atton protested.
“Really, how many times have you actually fought?” she wondered.
“Do video games count?” Atton joked.
Nirvana faked a laugh, as she said, “No.”
“Okay,” Atton said, ready to learn.
“Seriously, do you have any fighting skills whatsoever?” she inquired.
“Yeah,” Atton lied. “Tons,” he said, smugly.
“Really?” she said seeming surprised. “Show me your stance.”
He took a wimpy and pathetic stance, with his feet, pointing inward and his thumbs clinched within his fist.
“I can see we’ll have some work to do,” Nirvana mumbled, then, she began to correct him. “First straighten out your feet, make sure your toes face your opponent. Always have your thumbs on the outside of your fists.”
Atton corrected his posture.
“Like this?” he asked.
“No, don’t position your arms so close to your body,” Nirvana said analyzing his stance.
“Is this the right way?” Atton wondered.
She walked closer and straightened his arms, his knees buckled. She spread them apart from his thighs. “Never lock your knees,” she warned.
He gulped, “Is this good?”
“Yes, now punch, give a straight jab towards me,” Nirvana said ready for his weak punch.
“Alright Nirvana I don’t wanna hurt you,” he said with an air of arrogance.
“I doubt you could,” she whispered under her breath.
He threw a punch straight towards her face as hard as he could but she caught it. Then kneed him in the stomach and effortlessly flipped him over her shoulder.
Atton collided with a ground with a back-bruising thud. Then, for no apparent reason, he began laughing. “Wha –Why are you laughing?” Nirvana asked.
“Because you’re not,” he explained. “If I flipped some goofy kid over my shoulders I’d think it was hysterical.”
“How old are you?” Nirvana said hoping he would act his age.
“Eighteen,” he told her, “but, because of Vigor, my brain never fully developed. So sometimes I’ll have lapses to a child brain.” He received a peculiar look with his response. “That’s not the point,” Atton realized what he’d just told her.
“And just what was your point?” Nirvana wondered.
“Nirvana, you’re what, sixteen?” Atton asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“So act like it! Don’t act like an old grandma,” he pressed on. Then he imitated an old woman with a walker. “Have fun!” He threw the walker away.
“We could die any minute,” Nirvana replied pessimistically.
“Exactly,” he exclaimed. “If we don’t seize the moment now, it may never come again!”
“Atton,” she started.
“No Nirvana,” he interrupted. “I was trapped by Vigor for too damn long. And I know I wasn’t extracted from him just so I could take orders from some stuck-up, power mad, priss!”
As soon as his sentence was finished, he was out of breath. It was not because he had said such a mouthful, but because Zak was choking him.
“I warned you,” he whispered in his ear.
“Let him go, Zak,” Nirvana commanded.
At first, he did not listen and tightened his grip. However, when he saw the seriousness in Nirvana’s eye, “Let. Him. Go,” she said sternly. Zak threw Atton to the ground, leaving him gasping for air.
“You see that,” Nirvana pointed to Zak. “A few more seconds and you would have been dead! Now I did not extract you so I could be criticized; you goofy, snot-nosed brat!”
“You love me don’t you,” Atton joked.
“What is wrong with you, kid?” Nirvana said, frustrated.
“Kid,” Atton contested. “I got two years on you, little girl.”
Little girl,” she protested. “Zak you might have to kill him.”
“I –I didn’t mean little girl,” he apologized as he saw Zak move towards him. “I meant young… you know.”
“Yeah, I know. We’ll finish our training tomorrow,” she vaguely instructed.
Atton started walking and then he turned back. “Nirvana, if anything, Vigor taught me who I really was. Who are you?”
He walked back to his room shuffling past amass of angry glares. Could they really be that mad over what had just happened?
Atton lay down in his bed. He hadn’t felt the comfort of a soft bed in years. It felt like he was floating on Cloud 9 through a sea of cotton candy. Every trouble seemed to disappear as his head hit the pillow. Atton could feel someone watching him, so he turned to his right and saw a man just standing there, staring at him. Then he turned back to the ceiling.
“So you’re really him?” the man asked.
“No,” Atton answered, at first intending to be sarcastic but then taking time to think. “I’m not.”
“You know, it’s hard for us to look at you and not see him,” the stroked his chocolate colored beard. “I see differences though. You have a certain realism in your eyes.”
Atton turned to him, “Are you afraid of me?”
“I’m afraid of what you were. I’m afraid that you’re going to go back to Vigor. I’m afraid that I’ll forget who you really are one day and just beat the hell out of you thinking you’re the man that raped my little sister.”
“Vigor did that,” Atton reminded him. “I tried with all my will to stop him.”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” he said. “I trust you.”
“Why?” Atton wondered. “I wouldn’t if I were you. I can’t even look at myself these days.”
“I told you, it’s the eyes. Vigor’s eyes show evil and hatred. Yours show truth…and remorse.”
“His eyes tell me about his eyes,” Atton whispered. This was meant to stay in his head as a memory but it came out.
“They’re blue,” he told Atton.
“Like ice,” Atton rebuked himself.
“No, like the ocean,” the man paused, and then smiled calmly. “I remember the ocean.”
Atton looked at the man oddly for a second then said, “Thank you.”
“It’s no problem. Well, I’m headed to the mess hall, I’ll let you rest.” Before leaving completely the man turned back, “I’m Guile, by the way.”

Submitted: November 24, 2009

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