The only thing between a man and nobility is himself.
|Bill didn’t want his honeymoon to end. It wasn’t due to his new wife, though she was as beautiful as the dawn and sweeter still. No, that would remain. He wasn’t afraid of loss, he was afraid of gain, afraid of his new responsibilities. Responsibilities were nothing new to him, he had been legal council to the Trade Guild a week and an eternity of bliss ago.
But his wife was a noblewoman, and nobles, by blood or marriage, owed military service to the Crown of the Federal Hegemony. He was no soldier, and he was always afraid that he’d never live up to his expectations. His wife was supportive, assuring him that it wasn’t that bad. She’d been through the training, obviously, but she’d also been deployed, and she assured him their presence meant more than their weapons. Somehow, it was everyone else’s weapons that worried Bill.
And standing before the great doors of the Guild Armory, he never felt so frightened. The statues flanking the door, the great heroes of the war, were ten feet tall, clad in armor, and impossibly noble. His feet carried him towards the reception desk before he could think of an excuse to put everything off.
Less than ten minutes later, a pretty blonde was leading him down a series of corridors to a door marked only with a number and the bold words “No Admittance.” She let him in the room and left. There was no escape now. The room held a technician and the gaping maw of his Harness.
He knew it was coming. He was a noble now, they had taken measurements, and even made a full-body mold. It shouldn’t have surprised him. It shouldn’t have scared him. But the great black suit, inches taller than him, head removed, chest flayed open like an autopsy . . . it scared him.
He felt himself being led to the armor, and didn’t hear a word that was said to him. He could only imagine the crushing black inside the suit. The pressure pushing back on him, the slow, painful movements, the feeling of being forever trapped inside a steel coffin, but forced to fight on anyway, dead but fighting, afraid but trapped, banging against the inside of a tin can, praying that it just all be over.
He always felt sorry when he saw nobles in Harness. They always kept their chins up, but were always grave, and assuredly as uncomfortable as a man at attention in the desert.
And now, he was in one.
And the Harness closed. He was immobile, trapped, with only his head exposed. He couldn’t even find the sanity to protest as the helm was lowered and secured. He was alone and trapped. He couldn’t move. The suit was a coffin. The display blinked and the suspension system began to inflate. He felt it pushing against him, and he thought it was the end . . . Then it stopped.
Bill realized his eyes were closed. He opened them to see a visor full of information, and his view was overlaid by faint colors to show heat. He could actually see the technician’s body heat. He looked around and felt the helmet turn effortlessly. He hazarded taking a step, and it felt like he wasn’t wearing anything. The pressure on him was almost comforting . . . He knew it was there, and he knew it would protect him . . . He looked at his armored hands in disbelief, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. He heard a voice to his left and turned to look.
Hell stared back. A monster in black, seven feet tall, wider than a gorilla, limbs like trees, and a deathly stare. The demon looked back at him and he screamed, he cringed like an ashamed puppy.
The demon cringed.
Bill stood up and so did the demon. He waved his hand and so did the demon. He placed his hand on the mirror, and so did the demon.
Baron Wilhelm lowered his hand and knew. He had no fear, he had only pride. He had no malice, he had only honor. In being the Demon, he could be everything he wanted to be, everything he needed to be, and in taking on his second skin, he could finally be what he needed to be, and what only he held himself back from.