Dawn Chronicles: Skies of Gray

Prologue

In the darkness, We were light. On the winds of chaos, We spread calm and order. Throughout the thousands of worlds among the billions of stars, We were a shield to the weak and a blade to the unjust. But it was not to last. Dissention from within, combined with an incurable genetic disease, at last crumbled the mountain that was Our galactic empire.The few of us that remained were left with little choice but to take refuge in a distant solar system, observing from a distance as anarchy and bloodshed took the reins of the galaxy once more. In Our last surviving capital ship, Fortress to Eternity, we stand a silent sentinel over a tiny blue-green planet and its fascinating people. Its treasures are overwhelming; the rarest mineral ores are found in abundance, and this trove is matched only by the biological diversity unparalleled on any world We have seen.The true value, as far as the outside galaxy may be concerned, is the vast material wealth in the many planetoids and moons of this simple yellow star. Enough fuel and minerals to maintain entire fleets of starships, and land enough for the vastest armies can be found here. Realizing the potential for ravaging and plunder, We have sought to invisibly protect this world and system from any outsiders for millennia. But We grow old, and Our powers weak. We began to prepare for a time when this world would defend itself in Our absence…While the race of sentients on this world were in their early stages of civilization, We began testing them: sampling and tinkering with their simple genetic code. From these modifications we attempted to integrate superbeings into their meager societies, hoping that they could end superstition and violence. Our early attempts were… less than successful. We instead refined the process and application, waiting to deploy a single package of our finest weaponry into the genes of a carefully selected child before birth. But only when the time was right…The time approached quickly enough. A raging interstellar war between two vicious heartless races has come to a climax, and Earth is their next battlefield. We stirred, going straight about our tasks. The human was a boy, aged nearly fifteen Earth years, with an affinity for science and the stars as well as average strength and excellent health. He is headstrong and reckless like many humans his age, but not quite as reckless… Although not always well motivated, he has two traits which may well define him above all other candidates: an inexplicably ironclad willpower when devoted to a task and a deep-seated caring for his fellow humans and the creatures who share his world.Perhaps these qualities will help him succeed, or perhaps this youth will lead his race to ruin. Ruination or salvation, this child is Our legacy and Our power. We are the Guardians. It is now the eve of his sixteenth birthday… and this is the day of the invasion.

Part One

BEEP.BEEP.BEEP.Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-bee-WHACK.Another day has begun for The One. The chosen one. The hero. The savior. The mighty. But not yet; today he is just Allen Avery, student. Allen Avery, teenager. Allen the tired. Allen the bored. The Sophomoric One. The Great Procrastinator.Allen, the Newly Discovered.Being careful not to wake his younger brother, Allen dredges through his morning routine, with just a little less slumping than usual. Carefully adjusting the clothes he slept in, daintily adjusting his ever-tousled hair, and delicately snatching up his ragged backpack off the floor, he dashes through the living room. Shouting a quick goodbye to the house in general, he clicks the door shut before checking his watch. He has about half an hour, and he has convinced his parents that the “walk” really takes that long. “Hmm, thirty minutes, thirty seconds… same diff’.”Faster than he flew out the door, he launches himself into the air. A light hop, only a thousand feet or so. His new-mind, fast-mind, calculates the exact number of inches over the rooftops, the trees. But his boy-mind, it doesn’t care. Not now. The autumn sun is gleaming, a pale reflection of his ecstasy.He lands, jumps again. Faster than the final heartbeat before a rollercoaster plunge, his form is gone from the ground. The frost nips at the grass far below, only wishing it were the maw of the icy jet stream winds. At the apex of his leap he finally looks down. Sighting his brick-red target amongst the city grid, he allows his body to go limp like a dive-bombing leaf. It dawns on him suddenly, what he loves most about the “flying”…… (the azure sky’s encouraging whisper turns into a worried roar)……is the fall.Slipping into the back door, just beyond the security camera angles, he ducks into an empty locker room. Waiting for the altitude ice to melt from his face, he slides back into mild-mannered human teenager mode. His super-wear molds itself into a gray hoodie, blue jeans and black sneakers as the glow in his blue eyes fades and the green scales on his nose retreat. Humming himself a little happy-birthday-to-me, he heads to the cafeteria for yet another very early breakfast.His speed walk slows to a shuffle as a neon blue message types itself across the back of his brain://^REQUEST FOR COMM., prior. BETA:::ACCEPT-DECLINE?^//With a flicker of his eyes,\\^DECLINE^\\“Seriously? A beta priority? On my birthday? Tough luck, guys”, he mutters, once again quickening his pace. Ever since the arrival of that damned ship in the Centauri System, the Guardians seemed paranoid about everything; every terrorist threat, every peace conference, every potential natural disaster. I’ve worked my ass off for like, a year now. I deserve a little break. That damn ship isn’t getting any closer, and I must’ve bagged a dozen dictators in the past wee- “Oof!"“Man, don’t you ever look where you’re going?” Allen looked up from the floor at his friend Mike Harrison, grinning like a maniac at his smaller cohort on the floor. “Heh, right. If everyone else just learned how to fly, I would never have to look. Now can I get a hand here? This bag weighs a ton and a half!” Chuckling and shaking his head, Mike reached down and assisted Allen. “Yeah, whatever, big shot. If I threw you far enough, maybe you would fly, huh birthday boy?” And although Mike looked big enough to make good on that statement, Allen knew his true strength was his intelligence. He was one of those few good-looking computer nerds and was damn proud of the fact.But Allen wasn’t the only one who knew better, nor was Mike the only good-looking computer geek in school; the other one was dashing up from the bus loop presently to womp Mike with a bear hug and a stunning smile. Kristen Yorkshire, Mike’s girlfriend and Allen’s good friend, was a pretty petite blonde with long hair and a squeaky personality. Her appearance, like her boyfriend’s, belied a cold and quick intelligence as well as dazzling artistic talent and as too many boys had learned the hard way a mean left hook.Elated to find themselves the only ones in the breakfast line, the young men ordered their usual courses: a cinnamon roll with milk for Allen and a bagel with orange juice for Mike. It made Allen think suddenly about some of the peace treaties he had negotiated; both sides always had so much to argue about, so many fingers to point and differences to uncover. But there was always something, just one little thing, that was there to tie them together: a common history, family values, religious beliefs (rare), and most of all a desire for what was "right” for their people. As for Allen and Mike, it was love of a hot breakfast.There being only one microwave, however, made this last a bit of a challenge. Thus, the daily race from the line to the oven began. Which Allen would have won again, had he not collided with a still-standing Mike. “Whoa, dude, what the hey?! Almost knocked my bre… um, where is everybody?”“Exactly what I was thinking, dude”, said a very confused-looking Mike. Kristen piped in, “Are we late or something? Is there some pre-class assembly we don’t know about?” Indeed, the cafeteria was entirely devoid of life. Forgetting about breakfast, the three wandered, peering deeper into the eerily silent cafeteria. “Hey, check it out! What the hell…?” At his friend’s urging, Allen rushed to join him in front of the large windows looking out onto the athletic fields. The sight made his heart turn to ice and his stomach into stone as he finally realized…Thousands of people, mostly students, were standing in a tightly packed group across the entire track and football field. Kristen, wedging between the two boys, let out a small gasp. They were all looking and pointing to something above the school… Allen sucked in a huge breath, his heart coming violently to life as a glowing red message typed itself over his vision://^REQUEST FOR COMM., prior. ALPHA:::COMM. AUTO-INITIATE, LINKUP=30 SECONDS…^//“Uuuh, hey, Mike! I need you guys to, uh, go to the computer lab!”“Huh? Why?”Allen began to backpedal, desperately looking for an excuse to keep his friends inside the building, “Um, to, uh… look this up on the news, right? Duh, of course! Okay, see you in a sec, Igottagothanks!” Legs pumping as fast as he can urge them, he dashes madly to the nearest empty classroom. Not fast enough, not as fast as he wants to go. Not as fast as he could go… Taking a deep breath, he focuses on the mental switch and transforms again.A sleek black uniform replaces his school clothes, green insignia shining against the inky black t-shirt in the center of his chest. He feels a glowing warmth in his left hand and a heavy coldness in his right, as his shoes morph to encompass his tri-clawed reptilian feet. Hyper-sensitive sensory scales form along the length of his nose, giving him a fierce, hard brow. His eyes glowing lightning-blue with the internal energies, the transformation concludes to the familiar hum of the mental communicator.“Allen Avery.” The voice, familiar and maddeningly calm, is that of Guardian Delta. The entity that had for almost a year been guiding Allen along the path of heroism, supplying information on critical missions and offering advice during training exercises, now seemed subtly irritated. “What do you have for me, Delta?” Allen quips as he streaks to the same back door he entered from.

“See for yourself, oh belligerent one.”

Rolling his eyes, Greenstorm throws open the heavy steel doors, being careful not to leave dents – this time. A quick step up to the two-story roof beheld a view that left his empty stomach full of ice once again. The entire school, maybe the entire neighborhood, was gathered in the fields and parking lot, staring at the enormous spectacle in the sky. Gleaming like a rusted nail in the autumn sunlight, an enormous and sinister shape crept slowly- ever slowly- across the sky. Looking for the entire world like a mangled and menacing skyscraper laying on its side, the behemoth simply left him feeling…“…stunned, overwhelmed, and baffled by this massive UFO sighting. Government and military representatives refuse to offer any official statements, urging everyone to go about their normal business and above all, to remain calm. Channel Nine News will continue to provide updated coverage as this unbelievable event unfolds. Rick?”“Thanks, Cindy, we certainly will. In other news, it seems Greenstorm has done it again! Government leaders in Sudan have successfully negotiated a permanent cease-fire with the rebel leaders in the south, thanks to the superhero’s intervention in the escalating military conflict this past week. The Sudanese government stated that they hope for further peaceful agreements in the future, and there are reports of former refugees returning home to rebuild their lives. Speaking of heroes, the recent string of exploits by Greenstorm has sparked reports and rumors of vigilantism worldwide, including many here in the United States. In San Francisco, for example…”Click.“Great, just what we need, ordinary people thinking they can push their brand of justice on everyone else. Just ’cause one weirdo space punk starts stirring up trouble…” “Okay, Dad, we get it! No offense, but we’ve all heard this little anti-superhero sermon more than a few times; it gets a lil’ old after a while, no?” Allen’s father harrumphed and headed upstairs with his dinner plate. “Doesn’t make it untrue, no matter how many times I say it”, he called down the stairs. Allen frowned, sighed, then closed his eyes and chuckled. “If the guy only knew… if he only freakin’ knew.”Snatching up the remote, he turned the channel to cartoons, much to the delight of the younger siblings. He hoped it would be distracting, but his mind could not erase the image burned there, of what he knew was a monolith of destruction. He alone knew what the ship was, what it was capable of, and what the beings on board intended to do. What they could do, and would do with greatest ease, was conquer Earth. The Earth, the whole Earth, and nothing but the Earth, so help us God. The fact that “it” had done nothing but slowly trace the 40-degree latitude all day while he was at school did nothing to ease his mind.Not that the school day had been very long; various levels of administration had given up on keeping any façade of order in the few classes that still had attendees. And since the government had issued no official statements, the school staff ultimately decided to let the kids go home. Allen had done very little since lunchtime but brood in front of the television until the parents came home, his father giving endless tirades against ‘vigilantism’ and ‘useless heroics’. Allen did his best to ignore the ranting and focus on the mental images and data being uploaded from the Guardians into his background thoughts.The invaders, it seemed, were biding their time on purpose. Aside from needing time to scout the planet’s defenses from orbit, the aliens also felt the need to let apprehension and fear build in the populace below. Countless centuries of invasion and conquest had taught them great patience, especially when encountering an unpredictable, albeit primitive, race. The purpose of circling a preset upper latitude over a planet was to prepare a “crown of conquest” on the surface. After reconnaissance was complete, the warship would drop massive invasion towers, evenly spaced, to plant themselves on the ground at this latitude.These towers, once secured, would serve as forward bases and shelters for the alien’s infantry, aircraft, and all manner of invasion vehicles. Well-shielded and with superior tracking sensors, these towers would be almost impregnable targets. But Allen could see little chance of victory without destroying these towers, since they could replenish and repair any destroyed or damaged forces they spawned. If they were avoided altogether, human forces would take massive casualties trying to deplete enemy forces, and in the end the alien ship would call in reinforcements to obliterate the pests.The more data Allen read, the more disheartened he became. Sure, he had more power than a thousand men and a fusion reactor combined, but this… this was so much, so much, so much power. Until now his abilities had never been truly tested; all he had fought was fellow humans and man-made machines. His biggest problem until now had just been minimizing casualties. Now he was being called upon to let loose: to kill, to demolish and destroy, and to lead humanity to a total and permanent victory. If anything less occurred, he and his loved ones would perish and the pathetic remnants of humanity would be slaves eternally.¬First, logical worries came to mind: How can I do this?Then self-doubt: Do I really have enough strength for this? What if all my powers really aren’t enough for the job?Then came frustration, anger: Why do I have to be the only one? Why can’t somebody else do this? Or at least help me out here?

At last, fear sunk in: Are they honestly gonna make me beat all these guys…by myself? Alone? Alone…

Interrupting his thoughts, his younger brother took advantage of his sibling’s blank stare by nabbing a dinner roll off Allen’s plate. Scowling and snatching the food back, Allen took a huge bite off the roll and tried to focus on the cartoons, the dinner, anything instead of his dark inner thoughts.To rub some alcohol into his frustration, his youngest sister began whining about wanting to “watch the scary space-sip on the news”, with ample concurrence from his younger brother. Grudgingly flipping back to the news channel, he grabbed his plate and headed, stomping, up the stairs. Stopping halfway, he turned to look at the chilling images one more time. It’s up to me, then, he thought. Just like it’s always been up to me… whether I like it or not.

Part Two

As many people may be aware, a teenage boy has a tendency to…damage things when he is frustrated or upset. Kicking, shoving, and punching a fence or two are perfectly normal and healthy ways to release stress and ease tension in these situations. But when the teenager in question can throw a man from Denver to London faster than overnight airmail, there are few fences quite up to the task of calming him down. Greenstorm had long considered a certain section of the Great Wall of China, but he had moral issues with turning national monuments into powder. And since Arizona was a few leaps away, he snuck out a few hours before dawn to take his anger out on a few harmless rocks here and there.The young hero leapt from one rock formation to another, rending chunks of sandstone from massive cliff faces with his fists. Each terrific blow was punctuated by a huff of rage and despair. After deconstructing a small section of the desert in the least delicate manner possible, the young man finally hung his heavy head, wiped his angry tears, and took a deep and ragged breath. Head still hanging, he performed a light back flip and perched atop a thousand foot mesa. Glaring into the light blue line on the eastern horizon, he contemplated the night’s events.He had just completed several private conversations with the President of the United States and other world leaders, trying to make them aware of the immense danger ahead. The few nations that seemed to heed his words were unable to do much more than take their people to secure locations and protect them with whatever meager means available; they would have to rely mostly on the larger powerful nations for real security, and he knew it. As for the other countries, they were either too fearful to do anything sensible or too confident in their military strength and emergency protocols.“Don’t judge them too harshly, Allen Avery. Fear is seeping into all of them whether they show it or not; courage and morale may be the one thing to save them in the days to come.” Delta broke the silence with a personal telepathic transmission. “Yeah sure, but isn’t that my job, Delta? To save the human race from extinction and all that? I don’t see anyone else with superpowers jumping up to help me here. From the looks of things, the non-freaks aren’t even eager to… meh. I’m just ranting now. Whatever.”“You must understand this, Allen Avery: the human race, all of humanity, is where your true power lies. You alone have the power to transcend borders, both between countries and minds. This is what gives you real might, real strength. All of your powers would be worthless if you could not relate to your fellow people, to find a friend in every man and woman. We Guardians knew from the beginning, as did you, that you could never defend this planet alone.”In response to his sudden pang of bitterness, Allen stood and loosed a scream into the desert sunrise. Beginning with a piercing, screeching howl that echoed off the desert stones for miles, it concluded to a growl so deep and powerful that the pebbles at the foot of the mesa trembled silently. Running his hands through his hair, he closed his eyes and loosed a soft, accepting sigh.“What if I can’t do it, Delta? I never wanted to ask it before but… what if I’m just the wrong dude for this? What if everything I do, even with everyone’s help, just isn’t enough?” “Then you should inform your fellow human beings to raise their hands and surrender. Now.” Delta’s tone was different now, cold and blunt like the rocks Allen sat upon. “If you are willing to accept that your efforts and your powers are insufficient, then the enemy has already won. Your planet has been defeated and you are no longer needed.”“Without all of humanity behind you, you will surely fail, and without you the many nations have but a slim chance of survival. Even if they succeed without you, the few that remain will never trust you again; you will be an outcast instead of a hero. They will also be weak and vulnerable against any other attack and you will have still doomed them all.”Sitting down hard, Allen rested his chin on his fist, letting his legs dangle over the precipice. He was in his normal clothes now: just a plain t-shirt, hoodie and jeans. Although his body only required two or so hours of sleep to regenerate, even that small amount had been touch-and-go this night. For the first time since he had received his powers Allen felt genuinely scared. Unlike most guys, he did not run from his own feelings of fear or hide what he felt from himself. For now he closed his eyes and let the nighttime breeze ruffle his clothes and hair, soothing his mind.Delta’s voice returned, and once again it was calm and supportive. “Do not forget, young Earthling, that we are no strangers to death and destruction. When the time of fear arrives, all that one can do is give what one has, give it all, and give it well.” Allen’s head rose slowly, his brow creasing as these words sunk in. Fists clenched, he picked himself up and stood at the edge of the mesa facing eastward. He stared unblinking into the sunrise and let the energy of the new day course through his blood.The dawn slowly lit every stone on fire for miles around, leaving no grain of sand free from the sun’s golden glare. Allen looked around as the nearby buttes, like funeral pyres, stood sentinel over the gorgeous desert. His gaze now as fierce as the golden sands, he let a deep throated hiss escape from behind his razor sharp teeth. “I am ready. I am strong. I will show the world they have a fighting chance, I will show everyone what my powers can really do, and I’m gonna start by kicking some alien ass!”Following this last, he changed back into Greenstorm and threw back his head with a jubilated whoop that drove every coyote crazy for a hundred miles. His hands, outstretched, joined in his rejoicing. His right hand gleamed in the form of a metallic fist and his left hand exploded into a sparking jet of crimson plasma. Satisfied that his human student was sufficiently motivated, Delta quietly slipped from the mental link. Taking a flying leap from the mesa, Greenstorm turned north and let his feet fly him home.

Dawn Chronicles: Skies of Gray

Alex Moir

Denver, United States

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Edited often, so return often. Thanks for reading!!!

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