by Martin Maenza
Shots rang out in the winter air as the twelve soldiers unleashed round after round from their rifles. The target of the attacks were the two men in the gray and red armor that hovered six feet off the ground across the way.
The armored men kept their position despite the attack. In fact, the two inside actually felt amusement after a few moments. The nucleo-sonic armor that they wore generated a sonic force-field of energy around them, making a barrier that would intercept the oncoming bullets. The projectiles exploded harmlessly off the field, keeping the men untouched.
Professor Szackas breathed a sigh of relief as the force-fields held. This was one of the newest advancements to the armor, and he was pleased to see it pass this first field test.
Cassandra watched with wide-eyed amazement. Never in her twenty-eight years had she seen something such as this, at least not this close up. She found it all exciting.
Sonar stood proudly, his chest puffed out.
After another few moments, Cassandra stood. “Enough!” she called out. The soldiers stopped firing their weapons upon her command. She turned to Andrei Szackas. “Professor, you should be pleased. Your creations hold up well to conventional weapons.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Szackas said with a bow.
Cassandra turned to Sonar. “But, I wonder,” she mused aloud. “How well would they fare against a greater opponent? Were we to outfit our entire army in such armor, they would possibly face stronger opposition than conventional firearms.”
“Hmmph!” Sonar let out a sound. “I think we can answer those questions for you!” From the holster attached to his belt, the man produced a special gun that had a tuning fork attached to the end. “I shall show you how the armored warriors will fare against a super-powered threat!” And with that, Sonar used the gun to take to the air, his red cape billowing behind him as he rose into the sky.
Cassandra smiled slightly and sat back on the bench. This should be interesting, she thought.
Sonar approached the two armored men. “My wife wishes a further demonstration,” he told them. “I will attack you, and you shall defend yourselves. Understood?” The two men in the armor nodded. “Good! Then we shall begin.”
Flying back away from them and picking up speed, Sonar then quickly cut back again and opened fire with his weapon. The gun produced a strong sonic beam that slammed into the men. “Ha-ha!” he laughed. “You need to stay on guard at all times!”
Sonar continued to attack the armored men with his weapon, keeping them busy dodging his blasts. It pleased him to be in action once more. How he missed using his weapons and sparing with others. One of his sonic blasts slammed into one of the armored men, knocking him backward. “Whoa-ho!” he yelped.
Cassandra De Granaco frowned slightly. She turned to Andrei Szackas. “Professor, what is that device in your hands?” she asked.
“It allows me to monitor the armor during the exercise,” he said.
“Can you also communicate with the men with it?” she inquired.
“I can,” Szackas said. The woman nodded, leaned closer and asked him to convey a message to the men for her.
Sonar swooped through the air, feeling quite proud of himself. The armor held up fairly well to his attacks, and he was able to channel out some of his aggressions. It had been a worthy test. The man in blue, orange, and red swung around toward the armored men. “Well done, men!” he said with a salute.
One of the men in armor gave a nod to the other. Then, both men raised their gloved fists and let fire a barrage of sonic energy toward Sonar.
“Whaaa–?” the black-haired man cried as he tumbled backward in the air. Sonar had not been expecting an attack and was caught off-guard by it. He somersaulted and tried to regain his balance when another round of attacks hit him squarely in the back.
Sonar plummeted face-first into a deep drift of snow.
Cassandra had to suppress her urge to laugh at this. She covered her mouth, faking an expression of concern instead.
Professor Szackas trudged through the snow to the drift. “Excellency, are you all right?” he called out.
Sonar poked his head out of the drift and shook it back and forth. His wet hair flopped to the side, even more of a mess than usual. “I am fine!” the villain spat. But the heated expression on his face told a far greater tale.
Andrei Szackas offered a hand to pull him from the snowdrift.
“Husband, are you hurt?” Cassandra asked as the two men approached her.
“I am fine!” Sonar reiterated. He brushed off his weapon and began to take to the air. “Tell your men I am ready, Szackas!”
Cassandra and Andrei looked at one another, surprised to see the man was ready for more.
Sonar took a defensive position in the air. “Come on!” he shouted to the armored men. “I am ready now! See how well you do against me without the element of surprise on your side!”
The two in their armor released another barrage, but this time the monarch was prepared. His sonic gun was capable of absorbing sonic energy directed toward him, as long as he was expecting it. Now Sonar hovered confidently in the air as the energy began to further charge his weapon. In a moment, an indicator told him that the weapon was ready to go.
Sonar leveled the gun at the first man and fired. “Take that!” he said. “See if you like your own attack sent back to you, one-hundredfold!” The armored man toppled backward toward a grove of snow-covered trees across the yard. When the man hit the trunk of one of the trees squarely, the vibration of the impact caused the snow piled above to drop down heavily.
“Yes!” Sonar laughed, feeling a bit of retribution.
The other armored man chose to fight him in another way. Using the armor’s telekinetic strength, the man hoisted into the air an old brick structure and hurled it directly toward Sonar.
The black-haired man whirled around in time to level his weapon at the projectile. With a shrill sonic blast, the gun was able to atomize the brick easily enough. The dust sprinkled down upon the snow-covered ground below, covering it with a reddish-black powder. “Nice try!” Sonar admitted, “But not good enough!”
Sonar dived after the man in the armor who fled, keeping the distance between them. The monarch’s pride had been hurt, and that clouded his judgment. “Come back and fight like a man!” Sonar barked.
“Enough!” Cassandra De Granaco shouted. She turned to Szackas to make sure he relayed the message. “I think we’ve seen enough today!”
Both Sonar and the nucleo-sonic armored men returned to the ground. But Cassandra was already returning back to the palace alone.
From the private journal of Andrei Szackas:
After reviewing the readings from this afternoon’s demonstration, I am very pleased with how the nucleo-sonic armor is performing. It held up well in both the planned exercises and the unexpected additional workout that it was given.
I was especially concerned about the force-field features, given that they were the most recent additions. My fears, luckily, were unfounded. I believe with a few adjustments to the amplification components, they will be able to hold back even stronger attacks.
That would certainly please His Excellency. I have seen Sonar’s temper in bits and pieces before, but today, seeing him in battle, was an entirely different thing. I think it best to keep on his good side, for my own personal well-being.
He is pleased with the current systems, though, and is very eager to step up the production. We have a half-dozen units complete so far. Sonar would like that number to be double digits by the middle of March and be in triple digits by June. How we get to that point boggles the mind!
I think, however, I shall leave that new work for the morning. For the first time in quite a long time, I am actually feeling as if I could get a good night’s sleep. It has been a while.
I welcome it.
From the diary of Cassandra De Granaco:
This afternoon was a bit enlightening.
For the first time, I have a feeling that Bito’s plans might actually come to fruition. The armor designed by Professor Szackas could have some practical applications in the defending of our nation. I even think there are possibilities in using it for expansion as well!
I also have new insights into Bito himself. Yes, he still exhibits the personality traits I’ve noted in him before:
Arrogant. Pompous. Impulsive. Single-minded. And yet…
And yet, I saw something more in him today as well.
I saw a drive in him, moreso than ever before. The burning in his eyes was not of madness but of motivation. After the armored warriors knocked him from the sky, he seemed even more determined in his actions. He refused to take defeat so easily.
It stirred something within me.
It echoed to my own passions and desires.
For the first time, I see a connection between us. Something more than this marriage of convenience.
Perhaps he can be more than a means to an end.
In a large tub sunk in the floor of the bathroom’s stone floor, Bito Wladon lay back as the hot steaming water washed over his skin. Aaah, the man thought to himself. This water soothes my aching muscles so. A slight twinge in his lower back reminded him of the trouncing he had taken earlier in the day.
Still, he thought, all for the cause. The end prize must always stay within sight. He raised his arm out of the water, dripping, and snatched at the air as if taking something that were invisible. The brass ring will be mine!
He returned his arm to the tub and closed his eyes for a moment. “There is much left to do. Men must be trained so that they will be capable of using the armor when it is complete. And I, too, must prepare, so that I will be ready to lead the troops in battle! For who else but I should lead them for the glory of Modora?”
Bito relaxed in the tub for another fifteen minutes until the water began to turn tepid. He then released the drain plug and rose from the tub. He wrapped himself in a large towel, one that had the Modoran crest imprinted upon it. He used a second one to dry his hair before stepping from the tub entirely.
After drying off his body, Bito put on his robe and walked toward his bed chambers. As he stepped into the doorway, he paused. “What have we here?” he asked curiously.
The room was lit by candles instead of the usual oil lamps. A dozen had been placed throughout the room to give it an ambient glow. Lying upon the large bed was Cassandra. The dark-haired beauty wore a sheer nightgown, and she sat propped up upon a few of the pillows.
“Just waiting for you to finish your long bath,” she said in a rather seductive way.
Bito felt a stirring.
Cassandra patted the bedside near her. “Come,” she invited. “Allow me to massage your sore muscles. You had a hard workout today, husband, and deserve to be pampered.”
The European monarch smiled and tried not to look too anxious as he made his way toward the bed.