Chapter 2: Cameron

They arrived at the grove and settled inside a small clearing. Ashur spent the next hour commanding the nanites inside of him to spin several hundred feet of microscopic razor wires. He set up a perimeter around the clearing, stretching the razor wire from tree to tree like spider web. Though Ashur could make the wire so thin they would all but invisible, he thickened the strand enough that they caught the light, shimmering in the afternoon light like threads of silver. He left only one opening between two trees free of the wire, making it the only way in and out of the clearing.

"Ok, guys, pay attention," Ashur said to his family after all was said and done. They had been watching him curiously as he went about his work. "These wires are going to be our preliminary line of defense for the next ten to fifteen days."

He held up a stone the size of his fist and hurled it into the tree. The stone hit one of the wires, and it went through the stone like a knife through a block of tofu, the surface as smooth as glass. Ashur's family stared at the two stones which used to be one, completely stunned.

"As you can see, the wires are very sharp," Ashur continued. "So do not touch them." He gesture at the area without wire. "That's the only entrance to this clearing so remember it well." He turned to his brother and sister. "For the immediate future, try not to wander about at night. I don't want to wake up to find you two in pieces on the ground."

Lia paled at the idea and pulled her two children closer, holding them both tightly by their arms.

Ashur held up his right hand and a small silvery puddle formed in his palm. He dropped it onto the ground where it slowly began to grown an expanded.

It was a colony of nanites, working under his order to form a large tent of nanite-fiber for his family. Winter was very near, and considering the fact that Kingdom of Lira was located in the deep in the northern hemisphere of Devin, the temperature dropped very low at night. To spend the night out in the open could be lethal. Thankfully, he could expend a couple of Quantum Energy to create a temporary shelter.

Quantum Energy was the lifeblood of the Terran; it was the real life equivalent to minerals and vespene gas in the game. When he awoke, whoever had bestowed him the Terran also gave him a reserve of one thousand QE. The nanites inside of him could also absorb the ambient energy in the atmosphere and converted it into Quantum Energy. His rang was only about a dozen yard, which only yield about a hundred QE per day. So far, the nanites inside of him had converted about a dozen QE.

A nanite-fabric tent cost ten QE, a very small price considering the fact that such a tent would be more advance than the most sophisticated building on earth. Once formed, the nanite-fabric would be tough enough to withstand the heaviest of bombardment, even to the point of being able to protect those inside from small nukes. The fabric would be able to absorb sunlight and electricity and convert it into energy. The fabric would also be able to absorb or generate heat as needed. It also neutralized pollens, absorbed radiations and pollutions, drawing in carbon and releasing oxygen. The tent itself would be able to maintain a stable climate, independent of its surrounding. All of these functions were just a small part of the nanite-fabric's arsenal.

It was the nanites. Nanite-fabric were, as its name suggested, fabric form from nanites, and the nanites that Ashur commanded could work together to do anything. They were more or less godlike. As a matter of fact, the eventual evolution of the Terran was a pure nanites civilization, one governed by Ashur's will. The only reason that the earlier stages of the Terran were not pure nanites was due to cost.

When it came to nanites, it was all about mass. According to the database, for Ashur to create a Crucio Siege Tank, which weight over eighty tons, he would need an amount of nanites of equal weights, and the cost of eighty tons of nanites was over half a billion QE. If he wanted to form a massive complex like the Terran Command Center, the cost was so high that it made him want to puke.

It was simply more cost effective to make a regular, albeit obscenely advanced, building.

Of course, Ashur could use the Quantum Energy available to him to 'grow' a Command Center. Unfortunately, unlike in the game, it would take nearly ten days for the nanites to build a Command Center, and even then, he couldn't be sure how the Command Center's defense would fare against the Gifted of Devin.

It was a lack of information; he had no data on the combat abilities of the Gifted. What little he knew of them was from the memories of his childhood, and to the eyes of a child, the powers of the Gifted were simply godlike.

As tough as a Command Center was suppose to be, it was a complex designed for construction and there was a chance it might not be able to hold off Master-class Warrior. The most prudent course of action at the moment was to build a super weapon for protection. The Command Center would be delayed but it would be safer.

Ashur left the clearing and went into the forest. When he was far enough away that his family could not see, he formed another pool of nanites in his hand and deposited it on the ground. The nanites would multiply and formed into the weapon he needed in a few hours.

It was for his family's peace of mind that he did this out of sight. It was one thing for his nanites for weave a tent; it was something else entirely for them to see the nanites create a person. He felt that it would better for them to have a bit of time to adjust.

Ashur and Kanus spent the rest of the afternoon gathering provisions. Thought the grove did not have many fruit trees and it was close to winter, they managed to gather a little bit of fruits. Ashur even managed to capture a fowling, a chicken-like creature with no wings and four legs.

Just before the sun set, Ashur went to the river. He cut opened the fowling and removed its intestine but left the feathers. Though they didn't get a chance to take any utensil with them when they were forced out of Vina, it was a simple matter for him to for a small blade with his nanites. After washing the creature out, he peeled the fruits, cut it into small chunks and stuffed the creature. After it was done, he encased the fowling with the cleanest clay he could find. He had the nanites create a large silvery pitcher for the price of one one-thousandth of a unit of Quantum Energy and filled it with water.

With everything ready, he returned to the clearing. By the time of his return, the tent was finished, covering an area of ground a hundred feet in diameter. His family was milling about, staring at the silvery tent in wonder. Lia and Kanus were hovering near Namus and Ana. While Lia gazed upon the tent with interest, there was quite a bit of worry and fear in her eyes. None of them had entered the tent, mainly because the tent was all encasing and had no entrance, not until Ashur order the nanites to part and create an opening.

When he appeared, they all turned to him. Namus and Ana stared at him in admiration. Lia, on the hand, looked worried, but then, she was a mom; worrying seemed to be her natural state. Kanus was stoic.

"Where's the food?" Namus said. As captivated as the ten-year-old was the appearance of the tent, for the moment, he was more interested in food.

Ashur held up the block of clay. "In here. Go get some firewood—a lot of firewood."

Namus was more than eager and disappeared into the trees. He came back a bit later with an armful of twigs and small branches.

Ashur glanced at his brother. "Put that on the ground and go get some large logs."

It had been perfectly reasonable for Namus to gather smaller pieces of wood. Cooking in the wild, it was impractical to use big logs; they took too long to catch fire and burn for too long afterward. More than that, it was easier to control the heat in a small-twigs fire; you could add twigs or wait for a couple to burn out. In a log fire, once the flames burn, you were more or less committed.

In little time, they gathered enough wood. Ashur built a base with the smaller branches, placed the clay block onto it, and surrounded it with wood. He touched an index finger to one of the larger log and sent a spark of Quantum Energy into and the entire thing burst into flame, starling everyone.

Ashur sat down by the fire and beckoned his family. After a moment hesitation, they joined him around the fire, glancing between him and the fire. Ana was the first to speak.

"Are you a wizard?" she asked.

Ashur glanced at the eight-year-old from across the fire. It was not difficult for him to hear the note of hope in her voice. To the children of Devin—and more than a few adults—Magic was…well….magical. For Ana, if her big brother could wield Magic would simply be wondrous. She had no concept of how Magic would improve their status and their quality of life. She wanted Magic as she would want a colorful toy or candies.

"No, little sister." Ashur laughed softly. "I'm nothing so pedestrian."

Shocked silent answered him. Magic was a mark of nobility. A Radiance user had to be at least an Elite to acquire a knighthood, but as soon as it was determined that a child possessed the gift of Magic he/she was immediately given a title of nobility. A wizard was the Devin's equivalent to artillery. In time of war, a wizard behind a line of soldier could wreak havoc, and there was no shortage of war on this planet. To make them even more valuable, only one in every one hundred thousand people possessed the spark of Magic, compared to the one in every three hundred for Radiance wielder.

In any case, Magic wielders were more or less the ruling class of Devin, holding a very lofty social position in the planet's society. To hear anyone referred to a wizard as pedestrian was very close to blasphemy.

The silent dragged on. Ana seemed disappointed by his answer. Namus didn't care all that much. As for Kanus and Lia, they didn't know what to say to their eldest child.

None of them understood the import of his words, and Ashur didn't try to explain himself. His family would understand the wonder of the Terran in time.

"Why are we baking clay?" Namus said, breaking the silent.

"It's a special dish," Ashur said, stoking the fire with a branch. "It's called 'beggar fowling'. The story is, a long time ago in a faraway kingdom, there was a beggar who happened to come upon a fowling." He hesitated. "Ok, fine. He stole a fowling. Anyway, having no pot or utensil, he encased it in mud and baked it. Maybe he planned it; maybe it was dumb luck. In any case, it turned out to be delicious. A few years later, the dish was presented to the king, and he liked it so much, he summoned the beggar into his presence. So impressed by his creativity, the king rewarded him with considerable wealth and the beggar was able to live the rest of his life in comfort."

The story of a tale of ancient China, with the word 'chicken' replaced with 'fowling' of course. Ashur wasn't much of a storyteller but his family had little experience in term of entertainment so they were relatively captivated by the tale and was quite excited when he declared that the fowling was ready.

Ashur hesitated but decided to try something. He heard his mother gasped in horror when he reached his hand into the fire. In the next moment, the tongues of flames swirled around his fingers for a second before being absorbed.

The energy from the fire was negligible, but it proved his theory. Just as his nanites could emit energy, the flow could be reversed and they could absorb energy.

He said nothing to his gaping family. They had had no contact with technologies until him. Devin was a civilization fueled by Magic and Radiance; they were all his family knew. Explaining technologies, especially technologies as advanced as the Terran, would mean forcefully shifting their entire perspective of the universe in one go. A human mind might break under that kind of strain. It was better to let them make their own assumptions, saturated their lives with technologies, wait for them to accept it, and then explain everything.

It was like a frog in a pot of water. If the water was hot, it would jump out the moment you put it in, but if you put it in and slowly heat the water, it would bake without realizing. A morbid comparison but apt.

Ashur brushed the clay block clean of wood fragment. He split the block, and the clay shell fell away, taking the feathers with it. The aroma released made everyone's mouth watered. The fowling was everything Ashur's story promised and more. The fowling's meat was so tender that it all but fall apart in their hands. Most of the oil in its flesh had been forced out, while the juices in the fruits, having been contained within a closed shell, the heat and pressure had forced the juices out. The meat had then absorbed the juice, giving it a succulent sweetness that simply spilled onto the tongue when bitten.

His family couldn't eat the creature fast enough. Lia and Kanus were able to somewhat control themselves, but the fury with which Ana and Namus attacked the creature would give any Zerg a run for their money.

When the fowling was gone, Ashur's family was full but not even remotely satisfied. Smiling, he walked through the tent and sent out a mental command. The fabric in front of him shifted and parted, making an entrance. He also gave an order to the nanites in that particular section to part whenever one of his family members stood in front of them.

The interior of the tent was very spacious and segregated. Six different 'rooms' surrounded a main chamber through six entrance that would open and reseal itself to allow people access. The tent was all-encompassing so there was a layer of nanite-fabric over the ground; they wouldn't have to sleep on the dirt floor. The nanite-fabric was emitting light, keeping the interior of the tent softly lit.

Ashur initially planned for each of them to have a room of their own, but his mother refused, demanding that they stayed together. Ashur didn't argue. While the people of Devin revered Magic, the common people also feared it; it was very similar to how the people of medieval time on Earth treat religion. The creation of the tent was all but mystical to them, and they were a bit nervous to be in it. His mother wanted to keep them together for reassurance.

Since they were going to share the same section, Ashur dissolved the separating fabric, turning the inside of the tent into one massive area. With the separating fabric gone, they were able to see the four 'windows' of the tent. The windows were large patches where the nanites had become transparent. The vision through the windows were very good; the patches were more translucent the cleanest of glass.

With nothing else to do, Ashur dimmed the light and everyone settled down and prepared for sleep. Ana and Namus spent a few minutes looking through the windows at the wood outside. They were in a foreign area and everything was a novelty to them. Ashur didn't see a reason to stop them, and Lia didn't mind since they were within sight.

Ashur chose a spot at random and lied down. The ground had been perfectly flattened by the nanites and the fabric molded itself to fit the shape of anyone lying on them, automatically supporting just the right spot, making them more comfortable then the most advanced mattresses on Earth.

They had had quite a long day so even Namus and Ana didn't stay up for too long. They nestled against their mother and father, and everyone quickly fell into slumber.

Deep into the night, Ashur was awakened by a signal only he could hear. He sat up and glanced at his family before leaving the tent without making a sound.

Outside, a figure was waiting for him. It was a young woman with long brown hair and stood at five foot six. She looked every part of a dainty teenager saved for the fact that she was standing alone in a night at the edge of a clearing in the middle of nowhere.

She showed no fear. She showed nothing. Her expression were without any emotion, as cold as steel.

"Whoa." Ashur flinched the moment he saw her.

Her appearance did not catch him by surprise. He knew she was there. What surprised him was the fact that she was completely naked. He knew what she was; he knew she wasn't human. He also knew that she would obey any and every order he gave, and he was very tempted to take advantage of that fact. Human or not all the parts were there, and they were all perky and flawless. His enhanced sight, which allowed him to see flawlessly in the dark, could detect no flaw anywhere on her glorious, petite body. She was perfection incarnate.

Still, it would be wrong, or would it?

In a moment, his nanite-enhanced mind asked that question a billion times.

"Commander," the woman said, her voice cold, almost robotic.

He sighed. "Could you…" He couldn't finish the request. It was almost painful.

Still, she understood his thought. Her skin rippled ever so slightly and a black, sleeve-less outfit formed over her body.

Ashur sighed again, thought a bit wistfully this time. He examined her again. She was the weapon he had ordered his nanites to construct, the most advance technology that the Terran was capable of, something that did not exist in the game. She was a creation of pure nanites who had linked together into a matrix capable of unimaginable power. Her might was only limited by the amount of Quantum Energy he allotted her. Give her a million or two and she could crush a god outright.

She was a Quantum Avatar.

The Quantum Avatars were the royal guards of the entire civilization; they were meant to be the personal bodyguards and aides to the Terran's Supreme Commander.

Even without any Quantum Energy in her reserve, the petite teenager was still lethal, a remorseless machine who would follow Ashur's orders to the letter.

Though Ashur's Earth self, Sky, had been Chinese, he had been captivated by American television, and thanks to the internet, he was able to gain access to a great many television shows and movies. It was thank to them that his score had never been lower than a five in any of his English classes (Chinese grading scale consisted of number instead of letter with five being the highest and two being failing). He was especially enthralled by American's science-fiction culture. All the Stargates series, Andromeda, Firefly, a good chunk of the Star Trek franchise, and so on.

Though, physiologically, the Quantum Avatars were closer to the Stargate Atlantis' depiction of the Replicators, according to the database, their personality was closer to that of Terminators. As such, Ashur had modeled his first Quantum Avatar after a terminator, specifically, the T-900 model depicted by Summer Glau in The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

He even gave the Quantum Avatar the same designation: Cameron.

He suddenly felt a touch of glee. He had his own terminator. It was every geek's wet dream.

"Ashur?" Lia said from behind him, stepping out of the tent. She froze when she saw Cameron's dark figure.

"Mother," Ashur said, turning to look at her.

"Who's…" she began but didn't finish. There was something about the woman. She was too still, almost inhumanly so. It made her nervous. Too many strange things had happened this day. She felt a little lost.

"This is Cameron," Ashur said. "She is my personal assistant and protector." He turned to Cameron. "She was also supposed to be Vina's salvation."

"Supposed to be?"

"They abandoned us, mother. It's only fair that I expend the same courtesy." He turned to Cameron. "Go get us some provision: fruits, vegetables, maybe a Fiend."

It seemed that evolution was about balance. Just as the humans of Devin had learned to wield the power of Radiance and Magic, the animals of this world had evolved to give their species a fighting chance. In the written history of Devin, there had been records of a type of wild beasts known as Fiends who rule the forests of the planet; they were the nobles of the beast race. To a one, they all possessed supernatural abilities; a few even possessed near apocalyptic power.

"Yes, commander," Cameron said and disappeared into the night with a fluid grace that no machine should possessed.

"Are you still my son?" Lia whispered. She was so afraid of the answer that she held her breath. He felt like her son but since his resurrection, he had felt a bit far away. When she looked at him, she felt as though he was one of the stars in the night sky, that he belonged up there, staring down at this mortal world.

Ashur hugged his mother. "I am of your flesh and of your blood. Nothing can change that."

It took a moment for his words to sink in, but once it did, she nearly cried in relief. She didn't want to lose her son; no mother did. She did not resist when he led her back into the tent.

"Go back to sleep, mother. You have had a long day," he whispered.

Lia didn't argue. She lay down next to her daughter and husband and closed her eyes. Within two breaths she was out.

The rest of the night was uneventful.

In the morning, when they rose and stepped from the tent, Cameron was waiting for them, standing motionless like an ever vigilant sentinel. On the ground between them was a massive creature. It looked like a fury bull with the head that resembled that of a wolf and six legs. His eyes analyzed the creature and revealed a considerable amount of energy. Next to the creature was a massive silvery sack filled with several dozen kinds of fruits. The sack was made of nanites-fabric.

Like him, the Quantum Avatars were capable of absorbing the ambiance energy in the atmosphere and convert it to Quantum Energy. They could also command their nanites to produce virtually anything. It made Ashur felt that his existence was somewhat superfluous beyond the creation of Cameron.

"A Fiend," Ashur muttered and turned to Cameron. "You take everything literally, don't you?"

His statement last night had been in jest but Cameron had gone out and killed a Fiend. From the record of the battle, the Fiend didn't even have a chance. Cameron had transformed her right hand and forearm into a large blade and plunged it into the creature's head. She had been standing directly in front of the Fiend and yet her speed was such that the creature didn't even have time to react. It was a considerable testament to the might of a Quantum Avatar. The weakest Fiend was as strong as a high level Elite.

"She killed a Fiend?" Lia breathed.

For commoners, a Fiend was death incarnate. That Ashur's supposed protector killed one was shocking.

"She's not just a little girl, mother," Ashur said.

Lia breathing trembled slightly. Behind her, Kanus looked just as worried and more than a bit nervous. Namus and Ana, on the other hand, were fascinated by the creature before their tent. Ana was running her hand through the beast's fur, mesmerized by the sensation.

Ashur's parent spent breakfast in relatively shock silent. He prepared them a breakfast of mostly fruit. He knew that a breakfast of meat was not all that good for a digestion, but the flesh of a Fiend was quite a special treat. Though he had no experience with Fiend, it was not difficult to analyze the creature's structure and chose the softest, easiest to digest section of meat. He simply roasted the flesh, using a spark of Quantum Energy to disintegrate what little tendons and sinews there, making it even more tender and easy to digest.

The next two days were the laziest Ashur had ever had. When they were living with his birth father, both him and his mother had been worked like animals. Things improved when they fled to Vina but not by much. Peasant life was anything but easy, labors were plentiful. Hunting, foraging, cleaning and dressing your kill, food preservation, hide tanning, repairs to the village's battlement or your own house were required virtually every other day, for every job you finished, there seemed to be three more waiting for you.

There was no chore in the grove. The nanite-tent was self-cleaning and self-repair. Cameron could get them more food than they could use. Until he gathered enough energy for a Command Center, there wasn't anything to do.

He spent the first day weaving clothes for his family since they left all their worldly possessions in Vina. Devin's fashion was remarkable similar that of the medieval western world of Earth: mostly poofy clothes, pants for men, dressed for women. This was mainly due to the fact that commoner couldn't really afford personal tailor, and peasants mostly only have basic tailoring skill. As such peasant clothes were mostly one size fit all.

Ashur had his nanites wove half dozen outfits for each of his family member. He wanted something futuristic so he made the suits to resemble the outfits in the movie TRON: Legacy; one-piece suit made of a leather-like synthetic polymer with luminous bands that highlighted the structure of the outfit. He had a few alterations to maximized comfort.

Of course, the suits he commissioned were more than fabric stitched together. Each of the suit was a very advanced piece of technologies. They were tough enough to stand up to even the Marine's Gauss Rifle, at least for a short time. The suit could also maintain a stable temperature and was self-cleaning. It would also allow interfacing with other computers through touch. The suit also act as a key, granting the wearer access to the various Terran complex and technologies.

For his father and brother, he ordered a few nanite-fabric long coats to be worn over the suit. For his mother and sister, he ordered cloaks. This would add an additional layer of protection for his family.

His younger siblings seemed fascinated by the zippers in their new clothes; they both spent half an hour just zipping and unzipping their outfit.

Once that was finished, there was nothing to do. Ana and Namus amused themselves easily enough, climbing tree, racing each other, even playing hide-and-seek. Ashur found it a bit interesting that this particular game also existed on Devin, but then, it was a simple game without any equipment needed.

Ashur's parents divided their time between watching their children and taking walked around the grove. Any remotely dangerous wildlife had been removed by Cameron, making the grove the safest place for miles. Leisure time was quite a novelty for them.

Their days of peace were interrupted on the third day when Cameron spotted a sizable force moving toward Vina. Ashur guessed that they were the Blood Talon. He was more than willing to ignore them but he made the mistake of mentioning it to his mother.

"We have to help them," Lia said. They were in their tent. Ashur had limited his family to the clearing until the Blood Talon leave. His parents did not argue.

"I don't think we do," Ashur responded.

"Ashur, they will all be killed."

"Oh, don't be so pessimistic mother. I'm sure the Blood Talon will take many of them as slaves. One or two might even escape."

Lia gaped at him. "How could you be so heartless?"

"I'm not heartless, mother. I am petty and vengeful, there's a difference."

A moment of silent passed before she said, "You weren't like this…before."

"Of course I was. Situation like this just didn't occurred. Do you have any idea how many times I've dream about killing every man, woman, and child in my birth father's house? I promise you, if I have had the chance, I would not hesitate."

Lia inhaled deeply, conceding his point, before returning to her original argument. "You have to save Vina."

"Mother—"

"Please," Lia said, cutting him off, "for me."

Ashur grimaced. He really didn't want to assist Vina. Part of him even wanted to go to the village and watch them die. Still, as pissed as he was about the village, he couldn't deny a direct request from his mother.

"Fine," Ashur said through his teeth. He stood up and stepped toward the entrance of the tent. "I'll seal the clearing. It shouldn't take too long."

With Cameron by his side, he left the grove and headed for Vina. As much as he would like to take a languished pace and simply tell his mother that he got there too late, but he didn't want to let her down.

Still, by the time they arrived, the battle was in full swing. Using the wooden wall of the village, Vina was doing a decent job of defending itself. Of course, by Ashur's calculation, Vina's defense would only be able to hold out for about half an hour—twenty-four to twenty-six minutes to be exact. The villagers were like inexperienced runners, starting strong right out of the gate but leaving no reserve for the rest of the race. He couldn't really blame them though, they were fighting for their lives; there wasn't really a point in holding anything back.

"Go on," Ashur said to Cameron.

"Yes, commander," Cameron said and shot forward.

A few of the bandits saw her coming and was more than a little surprise to see such a beautiful teenager running toward them. Dozens of them turned to meet her, licking their lips as she drew closer. They had no plan to kill her; to a one, they were already imagining her naked beneath them.

Cameron gave no reaction to the lewd looks in their eyes. The moment she reached them, her right hand and forehand instantaneously transformed into a blade. Cameron dashed forward, ducked down, and swept out with her blade. The three men standing within the reach of her blade were immediately sliced into six parts.

She flipped over the next men. As she was inverted above him, her blade reached down and split his upper body into two. As she landed, her left hand reached out, fingers curling into hooks. A claw-hand latched onto the throat of one bandit. A twist and his neck severed with a crack that could not be heard in the tumult of the battle. With a flick of her arm, she hurled the body at the nearby bandits, boring them to the ground, and she cut their throats as she flashed by.

Ashur watched her from afar. He didn't have the time to full look at her programming so he was a bit surprised. He had expected her style of fighting to be similar to that the Replicators, a strong-arm tactic where she simply ignored the attacks aimed at her, depending upon her all-but-indestructible nanite body to absorb attacks, focusing everything on attacking.

Instead, she was using martial-art, a style all her own. Left claw-hand worked in conjunction right blade-arm. She pushed, pulled, and sometimes hurled bandits into each other's weapons. At the same time, her blade reached out, slipping through any and every opening the bandits presented to part flesh and sever bones.

To his eyes, it looked as though she was dancing. Though she was surrounded on all sides, no one could touch her, a figure of grace amid a field of chaos. He knew that her path was the result of millions upon millions of calculations per second. Analyses, calculations, predictions, all melding into a path of least resistance, a path that carried her through the battlefield, oftentimes dodging blades coming at her by mere centimeters. As she flowed through the battlefield, her blade-arm reached out to harvest the lives around her. Within ten minutes, a hundred men had fallen before her.

From within the Blood Talon horde, a large man with more facial hair than any man should have and not nearly enough hair on his head barreled toward Cameron, knocking down anyone in his path, oftentimes stepping on his own men to get to get to the petite teenager cutting a bloody path through the battlefield. A dark red bubble of radiance exploded from his body. It was a Radiance barrier, the mark of a Master.

When he was three steps from her, Cameron turned. Her blade-arm shot toward the man. The nano-edge blade punched straight through the dark red barrier and pierced the man's heart.

Cameron did not add the man's look of shock into her calculation. She simply pulled her blade from his body and turned to the next target. That the man was a Master was irrelevant. She did not know his name or why he chose to lead a group of bandits when he could have easily gotten a noble title and even a city of his own.

She cared neither for him nor this kingdom. She cared not for nobles or peasants. All she cared about was her Commander's order. By the order of the Supreme Commander, all members of the Blood Talons were her targets, Master or otherwise.

The killing continued. With the fall of their leader, the blood talon's morale sank like a stone and the death rate surged. Another fifteen minutes passed and half the Blood Talon was dead. The ground was soaked and still Cameron showed no sign of stopping. She would never stop, not until the mission she finished the mission she was given.

When another one hundred and fifty fell, what remained the Blood Talon turned and fled. Cameron made to pursue them but Ashur called her back. The rest of the Blood Talons were irrelevant to him. They had save Vina as his mother asked. If the remnant of the bandits returned and burned the village once they were gone, all the better. Next time, he would keep his mouth shut and not say anything to his mother.

With Cameron by his side, Ashur walked to the gate of Vina. Under his silent command, Cameron cut apart the wooden gate. Climbing through the opening, Ashur glanced at the villagers. They tittered around him, keeping their distance, seemingly unsure of whether or not to train their weapons at him.

He stood before them without saying a word. He had save them as his mother had requested and given the option, he would have made the same decision. Still, part of him regretted saving them.

His silent weighted upon the villagers. They grew uneasy, and agitated.

"I had wanted to leave all of you to die," he said. "I was going to head into the city, get some wine, and toasted the destruction of this village, maybe dance a little over your ashes. It petty, I know, but there it is. Unfortunately, my mother, in her boundless mercy, had requested that I save you, and so I have." His tone turned cold. "I assure you, it will not happen again. Now, I wished to retrieve a few affects from my house. While they are little, they possess significant sentimental values to my parents. Some of you have probably taken some items from my home. You will return them, or I will send her to retrieve it." He indicated Cameron. "I promise you, she will not be nice about it."

He did not wait for their response and headed straight for his former home. The villagers made a path for them. As he walked past them, he saw that a few of them look chastised, and some had regret on their faces. He didn't care. Their decision had severed their ties with his family, and their chance to go with him to the stars.

Author's Message: This is another plug of my book. I'll be doing this every couple of chapters. Please try to suppress your annoyance, and buy my book. The links are in my author's profile. Please tell your friends, family, coworkers, and/or strangers you meet on the street.