The Last Praetorian A'ko Story Part 2

Tales from days past, from days of Paragon City go here. This is a reminder of where we've been.

The Last Praetorian A'ko Story Part 2

Postby EikoMagami » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:16 pm

Praetorian A’ko: The Last A’ko Story

by Eiko Li Magami

“I just don’t understand any of this, Eiko.” Anbaric Amber remarked.

Amber stood in Praetorian A’ko’s bedroom with her hands on her hips while she surveyed boxes upon boxes of camping equipment, emergency rations, clothing, and other supplies. It had been expensive, of course, but the money was not the issue. Anbaric Amber had plenty of money, although technically the money didn’t belong to this particular time-displaced version of Amber. Nevertheless, A’ko still had access to the accounts.

“What’s there to understand?” A’ko shot back, her arms tight across her chest.

Anbaric Amber’s brown leather mask concealed most of her nonplussed expression but A’ko could detect her chaperone’s growing frustration.

“Don’t you find it just a little strange that all of a sudden you have some overwhelming urge to return to Praetoria?” Amber asked.

“To hear your friends talk, you barely gave your home world a second thought in the three years you’ve been here. Now I’m supposed to believe that you feel like you’re being called back? Called by who? By what?”

Ako’s eye narrowed. Amber had no room to talk about being called to anything. She was the one who actually believed she could talk to Zeus and that it was his power that funneled through her. Then again, that was the older Amber’s belief. It was terribly confusing to have so much contact with a much younger version of her adoptive mother. A’ko recognized a lot of what this Amber would eventually be. There was an obvious resemblance. But where her version was somewhat cool, distant, logical, and professional - this version was pretentious, moody, and far too willing to interfere with A’ko’s plans. The older Amber trusted A’ko or at least let her think she did. This young Amber second guessed everything. It was frustrating.

“It’s not for you to believe or not believe, Amber. What you think about it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

Amber sighed.

“Eiko, according to Elder Amber’s diary, you’ve had a history of being controlled by psychic forces. Couldn’t this be one of those times?”

“Not when I’m wearing this stupid tiara!,” Eiko complained while pointing at a silver headband that she was wearing across the top of her head instead of across her forehead as intended.

“And where did that tiara come from? The Project: A’ko materials were found in Mother Mayhem’s offices. The very woman who was so good at controlling your mind just happened to have the one device capable of blocking that power?”

“But Mother Mayhem is dead,” A’ko appealed.

“Is she? From everything I’ve read, there’s been no word on what happened to several of the Praetors after the bomb. They’ve been presumed killed but there are many other possibilities.”

A’ko huffed but didn’t have a response. Just like her own version of Amber, this Amber was good at pointing out flaws in her logic.

“Look,” A’ko began, “this is something that I have to do.”

“But why?” Amber asked.

“Because I...because of what I am.”

“And that is?”

A’ko closed her eyes for a moment before turning her head and looking out the large plate glass windows which dimly reflected the interior of her room like a dark mirror.

“A god,” A’ko whispered.

“What?” Amber asked.

“A god,” A’ko replied more firmly.

Amber smiled warmly as she pulled off her mask, and unbuckled her utility belt, slinging it over her right forearm.

“You’re pretty powerful, EIko. But you are not a god,” Amber countered as she turned towards the bedroom door, unfastening her amber-colored tunic.

“But we are,” a deeper version of A’ko’s voice called out.

Amber spun around, her fire shield springing up into place reflexively.

“Amaterasu, I presume?” Amber said cooly after she quickly regained her composure.

“Yes.” Amaterasu replied simply.

Amber latched her utility belt back into place, staring determinedly into Amaterasu’s eyes which appeared to turn completely black, covering the entire eye.

“Why show yourself to me?”

“To prove to you that your darling little Eiko is far more than she appears.”

“I see.”

Amber placed her mask back on her face.

“You do not,” Amaterasu cooed playfully. “But you will.”

Anbaric Amber took a step back, bracing herself with her right leg and brought her hands up in a defensive stance.

“I do not wish to fight you. But I will if you leave me no choice.” Amber warned confidently.

“So confident, young one. I have faced many such as you over thousands of your years.”

“I’m sure.”

“Why do you stand opposed to our return to Praetoria?”

“I don’t think she’s strong enough, skilled enough, or mature enough to take on the task she seeks alone. And I suspect that you are attempting to secure the Well of the Furies for yourself.”

Amaterasu smiled as she walked casually around Anbaric Amber, looking her up and down. Amber watched the figure of Praetorian A’ko’s body with her eyes but did not alter her stance. Her fire shield blazed in the oversized bedroom, filling it with amber light reflected in Amaterasu’s blackened eyes.

“Your future self sought that same power as did many of your peers. Your Marcus Cole had the power but couldn’t do what needed to be done with it.”

“And by some measure you believe your Cole was more successful?” Amber asked incredulously.

The reaction was immediate. Before Amber could react, she had bounced off the far wall of Eiko’s bedroom, crushing an underutilized bookshelf and scattering a number of collectibles and papers. If not for her shield, Amber would have been killed or seriously injured.

Immediately, Amber struck back raising her arms above her head and casting a cage of anbaric energy around Amaterasu. Dealt at this energy level, the cage was capable of holding back the most powerful minions of Arachnos, Malta, the Circle of Thorns, or Mot’s demons, but Amaterasu merely smiled and stepped through it.

Amber tested Amaterasu again and hurled powerful anbaric lightning at her, striking her in the center of her chest. But Amaterasu did not notice as she strolled casually towards Amber who allowed her resolve to flicker for just a second.

Bending down slightly and with a downward pulling motion with both hands Amber felt the tremor of energy erupt from her chest and cascade down her arms and out through her fingers. This was the most powerful burst she was capable of and was certain it would have done damage, but rather than taking the blast with her body, Amaterasu blocked it with A’ko’s armbands, deflecting it around the room and blowing out all the windows.

“Shit.” Amber remarked.

“My turn.” Amaterasu smiled broadly, pulling back her right fist.

Amber was left with no choice.

Wings of fire rose up around them and fiery claws grabbed Amaterasu roughly, surprising the entity with their strength. This was no power that either Eiko or Amaterasu had personally witnessed and she appeared stunned by their sudden use.

As soon as they appeared, the wings and claws had vanished, as had Eiko’s bedroom, St. James Tower, all of Atlas Park and indeed, all of Paragon City had vanished. They were still near the coastline but were surrounded by a dense and seemingly unpopulated forest.

“What?!” Amaterasu cried. “What is this? What have you done?”

Amaterasu moved toward Amber again but she took a quick defensive step backwards.

“Make one more move and I’ll send you back to the age of the dinosaurs and you can test out Eiko’s immortality for millions of years!” Amber threatened.

“Where are we?”

“We’re exactly where we were, just on the ground and some 100,000 years ago before humanity stepped foot on this continent. And I am COMPLETELY capable of leaving you here.”

“What are you? You are no mere Evolved.”

“The wings don’t give it away?” Amber sneered.

“I see.” Amaterasu said, swallowing hard.

“Talk to me, Amaterasu. What is your plan with Eiko?”

“There is no plan. What you and that mind-witch Crux Enigma or that blue cowboy fail to recognize is that I and Eiko are one and the same. There is no separation. There is no plan. Any division is a fallacy invented by Eiko herself.”

“Which of you is in control?”

“We are each in control. Neither of us is stronger. We only refer to each other as separate entities for the ease of explanation.”

“What are you?”

“The same as you. A force. A power. An entity in human form.”

“Where did you come from?”

“I have either always been or cannot recall where I am from. Can you?”

“No.”

Anbaric Amber took a couple of steps backward, ensuring the ease of her escape, if necessary. The movement was not unnoticed.

“You mean to leave us here?”

“The thought occurred to me. Tell me what you plan for Praetoria.”

“Eiko has already explained herself. We will find the Well of the Furies, accept the invitation to drink from the Well, and we will then become the Champion and use our power to destroy the Devouring Earth and Hamidon. We will restore Praetoria.”

“With you as its Champion? Or as it’s Emperor?”

Amaterasu sneered in offense.

“Unfortunately, Eiko has no will to power. She honestly wishes to restore Praetoria and I have no choice but to help her. She believes in democracy, republicanism, and liberty. I blame your older self and your Women of Justice for that. It’s not how she was raised.”

Anbaric Amber smiled.

“But what is your role? Your influence?” Amber asked.

“It’s not my influence that you should worry about. Your older self could explain to you the consequences of drinking from the Well. Power must be earned, not given.”

“How has Eiko earned it?”

“We ARE power.” Amaterasu replied causing the earth to quake.

Anbaric Amber merely levitated in response.

“You plan to shield Eiko from the influence of the Well? Like you’ve done with Mot?”

Amaterasu nodded, seemingly surprised that Amber knew about the protection from the demon’s influence.

“While Praetoria isn’t truly my world, no more so than Primal Earth is yours, Amber dear, it is the only world I can recall. It is the only world I have ever loved. I believed that Cole had the power to restore it. But he was corrupted by the Well and distracted by your world’s incursions. And now, your short-sighted heroic friends have doomed Praetoria’s people to extinction or assimilation.”

Amber crossed her arms and thought for a moment before speaking.

“So you’re arguing that you’ve been misunderstood this whole time and that you’re a benevolent

force who only seeks the restoration of her world?”

“I wouldn’t say that. But I am neither as dark nor as evil as I’ve been accused of being.”

“In another timeline you murdered my older self, kidnapped and brainwashed your daughter!” Amber countered.

“No, I eliminated what I thought was a pest, and attempted to undo the brainwashing that had been done to myself! Your Eiko and I are one and the same.”

“Then who is that woman in the Zig? Who is the Warrior Goddess?” Amber asked.

“An empty vessel, a Seer whose mind could not handle the conversion. I filled her with my spirit when my previous body grew weak.”

“How many bodies have you had?”

“I don’t know. Many. Since before recorded history. Most of them live exceptionally long lives thanks to my grace but there are always limits. That woman in the cell has been with me for 64 years so far. But not much longer if what you say about the future is true.”

Amber nodded.

Amaterasu smiled gamely in return and asked, “How many bodies have you had?”

“I am not like you. I do not inhabit a body. I am born and I die and I am then reborn. It is not a conscious effort and I am never the same. I have no idea how many times I have been reborn.”

“Are we not gods?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because a god simply is. They do not doubt it and do not need proof. It is self-evident. That you or I question it or demand that status from others means that we are not gods. Powerful beyond all reason, especially you, but not gods.”

Amaterasu nodded sadly and explained, “I was worshipped. For a long time. I once believed that I had created all of everything But it all feels like a dream now.”

Amber’s fiery wings exploded from around her back and again enveloped both her and Amaterasu. Around them, Paragon City appeared in a flash and for a very brief second there were two sets Ambers and Amaterasus standing in Eiko’s bedroom before one set vanished in an explosion of amber light.

Amaterasu looked around the room and assessed Anbaric Amber’s power.

“That is quite a gift. Could you not travel back and destroy my Hamidon before it gained power?”

“That’s not how it works,” Amber said with a long sigh.

“Of course. There are always rules. For instance, you could not have left me in the distant past as doing so would have changed the future. Your threats are idle and you have no true power over me.”

Amber gave Amaterasu a wry expression.

“I am not limited to one particular time-line or dimension, Eiko.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“I will. That is your true name. Who you choose to be.”

“I am Amaterasu!”

“NO YOU ARE NOT!” Anbaric Amber shouted.

“You put yourself into Eiko’s body as an infant. You were raised with her. You yourself said that you two are the same person. She is as much you as you are her!”

Amber lowered her fire shield, unlatched her utility belt, tore off her mask and began to pull off her tunic.

“What are you doing?” Amaterasu asked.

“Hit me, Eiko.”

“What?”

“Hit me!”

Amaterasu pulled back her right fist but without Amber’s fire shield, without her tunic, without her utility belt, she was just bone and meat. A single punch would kill Amber easily.

“Hit me!” Amber demanded and slapped Amaterasu across the face as hard as she could without risking injury to herself.

“I--I don’t....I...” Amaterasu stuttered nervously.

Amber reached down and picked up her utility belt off the floor, opened a pouch and pulled out her brass knuckles. After fitting them across her left fist, she belted Amaterasu across the face as hard as she was capable of.

“Amber stop!”

“Hit me, Eiko! Kill me! That’s what you want, isn’t it? That’s your little joke. Your dark humor. Now’s the chance. Hit me!”

Again and again, Amber punched Amaterasu across the face. With each punch, she demanded to be struck back and with each strike Amaterasu refused. Tears began to roll from Amaterasu’s eyes as the blackness drained from them, each tearful blink revealing more and more of Eiko’s startling blue eyes. Eiko blocked the last punch and whimpered.

“Stop. Please.”

Amber stood breathing heavily, physically exhausted from throwing so many punches against what felt to her like solid iron. The pain in her left hand was immense and she was certain that she had broken a bone or two.

“You’re right, Amber” Eiko sobbed. “She and I are the same, I just...never wanted to believe it or admit it.”

“It’s not entirely your fault. Amaterasu underestimated what it would be like to grow up from a child, instead of taking over a person or someone without a mind. And she did not understand the influence of parents or how much she herself had evolved within you. She underestimated her ability to protect herself from Mother Mayhem’s power. She’s grown up with you. She can still feel herself, what she was like, still is like in terms of the Warrior Goddess, but she’s not that person anymore. She is you. This is why she wants to help you return to Praetoria. It’s because that’s her home. It’s your home.”

Amber put down her right hand and Eiko very carefully allowed Amber to pull her up off the floor.

“I think we should put the shields up around the building before every villain in Paragon City decides to pay us a visit,” Amber advised.

“Bring them on, I could use a fight.” Eiko joked weakly.

“There’s going to be a lot of fighting in our future, I think.”

“So, you’re going to help me?” Eiko brightened.

“Absolutely.” Amber nodded.

“Ya know, Eiko. This could be the beginning of something wonderful.”

“So hey,” Eiko began familiarly, “did you mention something about your name really being Phoen--”

“Let’s talk about that some other time,” Amber cut her off putting her arm around the girl and leading her out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the headquarters of the Women of Justice.

They had a lot of packing to do.
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