The air is brisk and slightly chilly, the sun shining through the cracks in the trees. There is silence all around, no deer nor bird can be heard in the thickness of the forest. A stream flows gently through the foliage, clean and pristine as though it has been untouched by even a speck of dirt. The air is fresh and clean, the breeze so refreshing, one could lay out in the tall green grass of the meadow in bliss. Yes, this is the world as we now know it, a green utopia.
500 years ago, the earth was facing the most destructive crisis of its history, the depletion of all its natural resources and a global warming that took a deadly toll on all walks of life. To make matters worse, just as it had reached the breaking point, the Kree invaded and decimated the world’s population. These humanoid aliens thrived on carbon, nitrogen, iron and they found earth’s newly catastrophic state with their release irresistible, leading to invasion in 2030.
Just when all hope seemed lost, four brave warriors rose up against the Kree. These women commanded neural linked battle suits created by the world’s best scientists and engineers and pushed back the Kree as the remaining population retreated into citadels designed to keep the Kree out. With these citadels, the world was proportioned into four provinces known simply as The East, West, North and South and within them, the world was reformed into the clean, sustainable ecosystem it is today. Environmental protection is the highest concern and is strictly managed, such that not an ounce of pollution exists with the Serene, Pristine, Green Intuitive.
Those four warriors, known historically as Valkyries, have protected this new world against the Kree with their assigned Berserkers, at their side as their most loyal shields. After each warrior had been primed to their respective suits, their bloodline was bound such that only women who shared the bloodline could ever operate the suit. When the suit is worn, several neural sensors are activated, giving the wearer enhanced strength agility, speed and resilience, much like the Kree. The only way to kill the Kree is to remove or damage their brainstems, which are vital for their survival. Only Valkyries have the blade to puncture their heads and when the Berserkers pierce their hearts, they become paralyzed, making it easier for them to do. They became revered as Valkyrie Princesses of their respective citadels, the Berserkers as Valkyrie Princes and together they have passed on their duties to their eldest daughters and the chosen Berserker, the tenth generation just beginning to blossom and thrive. A new age of has been born with the evolution of Kree and humanity and battle lines are forming. Thus our story begins….
***The West Province- The Wilderness Outside the Gates of the Citadel, Spring Year 2512***
A tall, lanky man runs through the trees with the speed of a man running from the devil. His breathing is heavy, his knees are weak and sweat drips down his face so heavily, that the collar of his shirt is drenched. He’s been running for miles in the dark of the night, holding nothing but a single bundle within his arms. He holds this bundle securely, but gently, as though it were his most precious possession. As he runs, he periodically looks behind him, looking for any signs of movement in the trees. He knows he’s close, but not close enough to feel hope just yet. If he can just reach the citadel, if he could just make it to Lady Almyra and plead his case, surely she’d understand and absolve him for his sins. Above all, he must inform her of the newest threat they face with the Kree, a threat deadlier than ever before and this precious bundle will be his evidence. In the Kree’s hands it’s dangerous, but in theirs they may have a chance.
Just as the man feels as though his legs are going to give in, he sees the familiar path which leads to the citadel and in the distance, he can see its gate. “Thank the lord, we’re saved!” The man finally allows himself to have hope that everything will be ok and even begins to smile, but in an instant, his newfound hope dies a terrible death, along with himself. There is no sound and no signs of life to be seen. However, the man had retained the faintest of luck and his precious bundle was preserved safety under the cover of the brush, such that his assailant could not see and would surely suffer severe punishment themselves as a result.
As night becomes day and the sun rises over the horizon, a single sound can be heard. It’s the sound of a cry and drawn to this cry was a lone fisherman returning from his early morning fishing. He follows the sound and pulls back the brush to reveal its source, wrapped up in a bundle is a baby, likely only days old, crying as it sits in a pool of rich, red blood. “Oh no.”
The fisherman picks up the child and looks around, but no one else can be found, not even a body. Blood is all that remains. “You poor little thing, did you lose your parents too?” The baby settles down, likely soothed by the man’s gentle voice and embrace. “What pretty eyes you have; I’ve never seen anything quite like them. I can tell, you are a very special child.” The baby looks at the man and laughs. “Are you laughing at me? You really are something.” The man suddenly finds himself laughing too. “I’m sorry you lost your family and I’m sorry you were left all alone, but I was too and I think I came out alright. I’m not sure if you’ll like me as much as you liked whoever you were with before, but if you’ll have me, I’ll do my best to take care of you. I can’t offer you much and I’ll never be able to give you the life of the nobles in the compound, but I can promise you’ll be safe, have a home and have your needs met. Is that ok?”
As though it could actually understand, the baby smiles and makes sounds as though it’s giving an answer, though the man cannot understand anything significant from its babbling. “I guess I’ll take that as a yes then. From today on, I will be your big brother. Not your father, not your uncle and not your cousin, but big brother.” The baby laughs again. “I’m serious you know. I’m way too young to be anything else. I’ll have you know I’m only 18, so being anything other than your big brother would ruin my reputation with the ladies. They love dudes with little brothers though, so I think this will be a good arrangement for the both of us.” The baby gurgles. “What, is that a problem? You understand right? One guy to another?” He pauses. “Wait, don’t tell me….” He pulls back the blanket and looks at the nude body underneath and his expression becomes surprised. “Well, I didn’t see that coming. Why didn’t you tell me you were a girl sooner?!” The baby laughs again at his reaction and he smiles in return. “Well, that doesn’t change anything I just said, I’m still gonna be your big brother. Though now I’m going to have to fight off all those boys I just know you’re going attract.” He fixes her blanket in place.
“Ah well, I suppose little sisters have their charm too.” He looks far into the distance, at the compound that sits high above, overlooking all of the citadel and feels as though something is changing, though he can’t explain it and he feels that this baby could be the cause. “Will you make it there some day, I wonder?” He looks around once more to ensure no one was around to follow them and then back at the baby. “You need a name. Hmm….” He looks down and notices some pretty flowers. “Oh, these are flowers from the Forget Me Not family. Oh and this one…yea, this is perfect. Ok then little girl, from this day on, your name will be Ellisia. What do you think?” She smiles and babbles and he’s content, feeling she approves. “Awesome! Oh and my name is Liam by the way, just Liam. Now, let’s go home, Ellisia.” He holds her close with one arm and secures his catch with the other and approaches the gate. There are two guards.
“Please identify yourself and state your reasons for being outside the gate.”
“Liam, ID LA7452835. I’m a freelance fisherman and was on my morning fishing routine.”
“You are recognized Liam, welcome home. Please confirm you have no illegal contraband.”
“Unless you consider this fish contraband, I’m clean. Come on Phil, can’t we cut the formality? We do this like every day.” Phil starts to smile, but then then other guard steps in.
“What’s that you’ve got in your other arm? It looks like it’s covered in a bloody blanket.”
“Oh this? This is my new baby sister. I found her lying out in the woods in a pool of what I’d presume to have been her parent’s blood. She’s got no one left, so I decided I’d take her in.”
He looks skeptical. “You are going to take in a baby? For what gain? You would never be so giving unless you had something to gain. That’s just the scum you are.” He frowns.
“Uh…dad that’s….” Phil wants to protest his father’s harsh words, but holds back.
“Let me see that child. It needs to be examined anyway for any impurities and disease.”
“It’s just a baby. I’ll take it to the health center myself to be seen by a doctor. Not an old perverted geezer like you who’ll get off on her naked body. That’s why your ex-wife took you-.”
Liam takes an abrupt blow in the stomach. “Silence you ingrate! I’d never hurt my daughter!”
Liam staggers and Phil is concerned. “Dad calm down, he’s holding a baby!”
“I know that! If he was more concerned with her then he’d have kept his mouth shut!”
Liam laughs. “I believe you’d never hurt your own daughter, but everyone knows all bets are off when it comes to other people’s daughters. You’ve been taking advantage of young girls for years and probably still do. Though you got sloppy with that Brigham girl and even though they couldn’t prove it was you, your wife knew you did it and so she left with your daughter and left poor Phil behind with you, worried he may take after his father. Your son had to grow up all these years without his mother and it’s all because of you. That’s why he hates you so mu-.”
“Shut up Liam!” Phil slaps Liam hard with tears in his eyes. “You talk too much!”
Seeing the hurt in his eyes, Liam realizes he might have gone too far. “Phil, I’m sorry, I just-.”
“What’s going on here Peter?” A woman’s voice can be heard from off to the side. The guard immediately stiffens up and turns to the woman and bows. Phil follows suit as the woman approaches them, wearing an elegant dress robe and headpiece.
“My Lady, I’m sorry if we disturbed you. This delinquent was causing some trouble, but rest assured, he will be dealt with strictly. Please don’t soil your purity with filth such as him.”
Liam is disgusted by his lies and his rude words, but he quickly realizes who the woman standing in front of him is and as does the others, he bows his head. “I’m very sorry Lady Almyra.”
“Please raise your head child.” She gently pushes his head up and she looks at Liam with such kind eyes that shine like emeralds. Her golden hair blows slightly in the breeze. She’s beautiful. “What is this you hold? Is this the source of the unrest that is happening here?”
“My Lady…this is a baby I found among the brush as I was returning from my morning fishing routine. It was wrapped up in this single blanket and lying in a pool of blood I can only assume was that of her parent. I was concerned for her safety and wellbeing and so I simply thought….”
“That you would raise her as your own?” Liam looks down in shame, feeling foolish and naïve.
“A foolish notion indeed. This is why I requested that he hand that baby over to be properly-.”
“So you believe this young man to be unable to provide adequate care for this child, am I right?”
Peter looks nervous but responds, “Yes My Lady, that was my concern. Surely the shelter-.”
“Be it at the orphanage or with this man, the baby will still be parentless, isn’t that right Peter?”
“Yes My Lady.” He’s certain he knows where she’s going with it and becomes annoyed.
“Then why should he not be given a chance to prove himself the noble man he seems to be and allow this child to know the love of someone they’ve bonded with rather than many different caretakers? A bond between a child and their trusted guardians is the most important bond in this life, wouldn’t you agree Peter?” She looks at him directly now, never breaking her smile.
Peter is unsettled and slightly dismayed, realizing she’s siding with Liam, but he knows better than to oppose his queen’s wishes. “Yes My Lady, you are correct. Bonds are important.”
“Thank you Peter.” She turns back to Liam. “You’re Liam right?”
Liam looks up in surprise. “Yes My Lady. How did you know if I may ask?”
She laughs and it sounds like that of an angel, making Liam blush slightly. “Shouldn’t a queen know all of her subjects’ names?”
Liam is shocked. “My Lady, you really know everyone’s name? But there are millions of people living in this citadel. Hundreds of thousands alone in this district. How could you possibly….”
She laughs again and pats his head like a child. “You really are still a child aren’t you?” He blushes. “I’m sorry to say I don’t know everyone’s names, but I am familiar with yours. I knew your mother. She was a fine solider, my best general, and served in my army valiantly. She was always going on about what a fine boy you were, just misunderstood. Your kindness mistaken for troublemaking. I was distraught upon hearing of her death all those years ago.”
Liam is slightly sad, but tries not to show it. “Thank you My Lady. I’m honored by your words.”
“Of course. It’s been one of my biggest regrets that I could not come to your aid after that due to my need to remain objective and fair in regard to all the others who lost their loved ones, but I often thought of you. So seeing you now as I make my rounds in this district, I felt compelled to reach out as your Queen. I understand the situation, so if I may, can I see that child please?”
“Yes My Lady, of course. Please mind the blood on her blanket.” Liam hands her over.
Just as she’s taking the baby, a tall man, with Maple hair and blue eyes approaches her side. “My love, there you are. I wish you’d stop wandering off like that. It’s dangerous. What’s this?”
“I’m sorry James, but I was growing bored of that meeting. I wanted to stretch my legs”
“I understand and that’s fine. I’ve already told you, I’ll take care of the diplomacy and you can focus on keeping us safe, but please at least inform me of your whereabouts and take an escort with you. You’re so reckless. Sometimes I think you forget you are a queen.” He sighs.
“I’m sorry darling, but I’ve come across something much more important. Look it’s Liam.”
The man looks at him and once again, Liam bows. “My Lord, it’s an honor.”
“Ah yes Liam, good to see you again. You’ve grown quite well. Returning from fishing?”
As they talk, Lady Almyra pulls back the blanket and looks at the baby. She suddenly gasps, alarming them. James supports her from behind. “Myra, what’s wrong?!”
She quickly regains her composure and says, “oh, it’s nothing. I’m sorry I scared you darling. I was just surprised by her eyes. Doesn’t she have just beautiful eyes?”
James looks and for a quick moment, his eyes widen, but then return to normal. Liam feels like he’s missing something, but says nothing. “Yes, her eyes are quite beautiful, so unique.”
She hands her back to Liam and then asks, “So tell me Liam, how well do you know plants?”
“Well, not to be boastful My Lady, but quite a bit. My father loved them and so taught me everything he could about them before he died. If this city had the resources, I’d love to plant all kinds, but potted plants are about as good as it gets here. That’s why I fish to get by. Most people are too nervous to fish in the lakes outside the gates in fear that they could encounter the Kree despite knowing that it’s the freshest and tastiest fish around. As a result, I can make decent money selling fish from out there to the local markets and any rare herbs and plants I find that the clinics are happy to pay for to make high quality medicines. Why if I may ask?”
“Well as I’m sure you know, Garmin is known for its nature and beauty and a certain area is in desperate need of a knowledgeable and skilled gardener. I think you just may be the one.”
Peter understands it first, and shouts, “My Lady! You cannot be serious. To let scum such as-.”
“That’ll be all Peter. Thank you.” She shuts him down with those words and a smile.
Liam thinks for a moment and then it clicks. Garmin? The only residency there is…. “My Lady! I’m so very humbled, but I couldn’t possibly be skilled enough to tend to your garden.”
“I appreciate your humbleness, but I think you’d be the perfect man for the job and it’d be my way of making amends in your mom’s honor. This is a personal request from me. I’m not asking for you to move into our compound or even work full time. I want you to continue to live your life here, as it’s your home and you have a successful business. I’m just asking for you to come twice a week and tend to the grounds. Of course, as a royal employee, you will receive all the benefits that entails, including the use of our high quality medical services and other perks too.”
Liam understands what she’s saying. Not only will this provide better financial stability and comfort for him, but for Ellisia as well. He can’t think of just himself anymore. If he’s serious about raising her, he’s got to have the best resources to offer her. Not to mention, he’d love to have such high quality healthcare for them both. His popularity boost with the ladies wouldn’t be the worst thing either. His mother often spoke of Lady Almyra fondly, at times so much so that it made his dad jealous and he thinks he’s starting to see it for himself, just how kind she can be.
“So, what do you say Liam?” She looks at him with a genuine expression and smile.
“I think I’d be a real fool if I were to refuse your generous offer. I kindly accept My Lady.”
“Wonderful! Well then, I invite you to have your new daughter examined at our facilities at your earliest convenience. While you are there, please be sure and have her registered as such.”
“Thank you My Lady. However, with respect, she’s actually not my daughter. I’ve decided that I will be her big brother instead. I will of course still love her just the same as a father would.”
“Well, that’s just as well. What matters most is that she is given love and care. Do your best.”
“I will. Thank you again My Lady. I won’t squander your kindness. Please take care.”
She nods and Lord James follows behind after giving a nod of his own. “Best wishes Liam.”
“Thank you My Lord.” They leave and Liam turns to Peter who’s scowling. “Well that’s that.”
“You may have fooled them you little brat, but that’s only because your mother was so highly revered. You may think you’ve won, but they can only protect you so much. If you think of me as such a creep, then you should be very afraid. That baby won’t be a baby forever, and if I am what you say, then you had better hope she never passes my way.” He grins.
Liam scowls back. “Don’t you worry; I’ll be sure she never comes anywhere near you. But do understand that I will kill you if I even think you’ve touched her in any way. Now excuse me, but I’ve got to get her taken care of now. Phil, I’m sorry for before. I’ll see ya around.” He enters the gates of the citadel and heads to the district they will now together call home, Armenia, formerly known as the once great metropolis, New York City.
A few hours pass and Liam has successfully registered Ellisia and adopted her as his little sister. Holding her in a brand new onesie provided by the clinic, he makes his way down his street. As he walks, he gets looks from several people and can hear their whispers. “Wow, so it’s really true.” “I can’t believe it. HE is gonna raise a baby?” “That’s so suspicious.” “Maybe he’s lonely.” “That delinquent?” “What if he violates her?” “Does he even know how to raise a baby when he can just barely raise himself?” “Why has Lady Almyra taken favor to him?”
He hears the whispers, but he doesn’t let it break his smile, because he knows that he’s just gotten a wonderful gift. It’s a gift that he’s sure will cause him trouble, but even more joy.
He knows that this little girl will be looking up to him and so she’s encouraging him to be better for not just himself, but her too. He doesn’t know where she came from or who she is, but that doesn’t matter. She’s his little sister now and he’s going to protect her smile no matter what and he just knows that she’s destined for something beyond his wildest dreams.
***The West Province- Lady Almyra’s Chamber-The Royal Compound, Spring Year 2512***
“I’m sure James, that girl is Kree, yet she’s not. It’s like she’s a hybrid, Kree and human I’ve never seen anything like it before. In fact, we’ve been told it’s impossible. So how…?”
“I don’t know love, but I saw it too. I could never miss the eyes of a Kree, having gazed upon them so closely all these years before impaling them with my sword. However, if I had not looked closely, I could’ve easily missed it and assumed them to be perfectly human eyes. As we know, Kree, who are lizard-like humans, are easily spotted from their bright yellow eyes, orange specked corneas and scaly skin, but that girl’s were a rusty color with a slight yellow tinge and there were scant speckles and her skin was smooth as any baby’s would be. In the distance, her eyes could easily pass for almond colored, as many humans have so she could easily blend in.”
“Yes, that’s what is so concerning. Could there be more like her? Could Kree be among us already and passing for humans? If these are indeed hybrids, then that would mean humans are mating with the Kree. However, is it by their own will, or are they being captured and forced to do so? There are so many things to consider, but the biggest concern remains, can they live among us and are they doing so in the hopes of taking over from within?”
“If that is their plan, it’s a damn good one, which means they’re evolving. Kree have never been so smart as that, they’re like zombies. They crave the carbon, nitrogen and iron in our blood. The only reason they’re so dangerous is because they are super strong, agile, fast and resilient. Of course their venom is nothing to laugh at either. One bite or scratch from them and you’re done.”
“Yes, that does seem to be a rather elaborate plan, a bit too advanced for the Kree as we know them. If they have evolved, do you think this means there may be civilizations of them out there? Could they be reproducing and growing in numbers so that they will be a bigger threat that can overtake us? Is there a queen of their own out there that is setting this plan in motion? More importantly, what became of the person carrying that baby? Liam said he found her lying in a pool of blood, which means that person must have been killed rather viciously; typical of the Kree. If that’s the case, there may be some in this area, which is alarming as we haven’t spotted a Kree so close to us in quite a long time. I think we should patrol the area a bit more.”
“Of course, I’ll get some units on it at once. If there’s anything, surely they’ll find it.”
“Well that’s fine, but actually I was saying I’d like to-.” He places a finger on her lips.
“I know exactly what you were saying love, but I meant what I said too. I know you’re itching to get back out there and fight the hordes, but you have other responsibilities that only you can do.” Just as he says this, the cry of a baby echoes through the room. “See, your princess calls you.”
She sighs heavily. “I guess it can’t be helped.” She walks over to the crib nearby and picks up a baby girl, only a couple of months old. “What a needy little thing you are, making such a fuss.”
“No need to wonder where she gets it from. I can just feel another trigger happy girl coming.”
She sits back on the bed, lowering her shirt so that her baby can feed, which it does eagerly. “I’m not trigger happy; I just enjoy the thrill of battle. As a Valkyrie Princess, I cannot be so lax as to forsake battle. Our survival relies on the strength of me and my fellow Valkyries and you know that only we can defeat the Kree. Of course we couldn’t do it without the help of our Princes.”
“Yes I know love and your ferocity and bravery is why I fell in love with you, but it’s not good to forsake your duties as a mother either. It’s also your duty to raise our daughter up strong and mighty so that she can take your place when the time comes. If you go out there and battle, if you die, who will teach her your legacy. Who will teach her about the suits and reckoning. Only you can do that love, but you can only do that if you’re around. Furthermore, as a Valkyrie Prince, if you go into battle, so must I and if you fall, that would mean I would’ve fallen first as your shield and then where will that leave our daughter? So please, do it for her, our Amelia.”
Almyra looks at her daughter and she smiles. “Don’t worry little one, I won’t go and leave you alone. Not until you’re big and strong and don’t need me anymore. This I promise you.” Amelia coos as though to respond to her mother’s words and her daddy sits beside them smiling. There is a knock on the door. “Yes, please enter.” She is Carmen, the Lady and Lord’s main attendant.
“Excuse my intrusion so late, but Doctor Wanda wished to inform you at once that the child had been brought to her and she thoroughly examined her and found nothing unusual as of now.”
“I see. So she’s physiologically human as well.” She mumbles to herself. “Ah ok, thank you Carmen. Please tell Wanda that I’d like her to continue observing for now. Thank you.”
Before she can respond, a young boy, with blond hair, blue eyes runs past her. “Young Lord! I’m so very sorry, I will take him away at once. I know you don’t like him around the baby.”
“It’s fine, he’s our child too. Tobias, please be more mindful. You could hurt Amelia that way. It was your reckless behavior that almost hurt her before, which is why we’ve kept you away.”
“Sorry Papa, I just wanted to see you.” He hugs him and James embraces him. Tobias smiles with glee, but when he sees how his mom and dad gush over Amelia, it makes him very angry. He silently vows to one day be so great, that they will only ever look at him and he will rule.
“I have a feeling that girl is going to be very interesting to see grow. I’ll definitely be keeping a watch on her. I want to believe she’s more human than not, but if there’s even a chance that she could be a danger to us when she’s older, I won’t hesitate to eliminate her, child or not.”
“Ruthless as ever aren’t we love? That’s why I love you though, you don’t hesitate to act when it comes to our safety. That’s why we’ve had the least incidents of the four provinces in the last 20 years since you took the throne. You were the bravest 18-year-old girl I ever knew.”
“Perhaps, but I was only as brave as my mother before me. I will teach Amelia just as my mother taught me. I used to think she was so harsh and hated her and my life for a time, wanting nothing to do with this birthright, but now I can see what she wanted me to and Amelia will too one day.”
“Indeed she will. I wonder if she’ll be as uncompliant as you were when your father picked me to be your Berserker? I remember how much you hated me at first, though I always loved you.”
“Yes, I definitely had to grow to like you, but that was only because I thought you were weak. However, after taking that strike for me and facing all but certain death, I knew you were the one. We were lucky, most Valkyries are not. Whoever their fathers pick is final, like it or not.”
“Yes, one of the more archaic aspects of our tradition, though I understand the reasoning. You must have the strongest men to fight alongside such strong women to have the best chance. Love isn’t something we can afford to look for, but it’s always great when we can find it.” She nods.
“May Amelia’s love be the strongest warrior, so help her god, as I won’t accept anything less.”