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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2248555
A hero origin story for a contest entry requiring superpowers and a mask.

“Now entering the outer thermosphere. Friction rising,” he heard, a vaguely familiar voice stirring his mind as he fell. “Sam, you have to wake up,” she said, fading to a memory…

“Why this one?” a heavy shadowy figure huffed.

“Who ever knows?” a second voice replied, lighter in tone. “The mask chooses…”

“...the hero, I know. ‘Selected for their strengths and enhancing their weaknesses.’ But why this one? He just seems so measly and pathetic.”

“Why are any of them chosen? And is any other Initiate really so different?”

“Hmph,” his deep voice grumble. “But can he do the job?”

“He’ll have to, if his Earth hopes to survive.”

Blackness became fire.

“Sam, you just passed fifty kilometers. Atmospheric friction is easing. Entering the stratosphere and approaching terminal velocity. C’mon, wake up.”

Blackness returned.

A nearby explosion, and alarms blared. Sam Hallock was tossed from the table, landing weakly on all fours. The floor shuddered – eruptions and screaming in the distance. He staggered lightheaded for the door, glimpsing himself in the window across the hall. Beyond it was empty space. His reflection stared back, donning a dull grey mask, his body fit with a similarly drab jumpsuit, just a bit too snug. Sam ran his fingers ran along the edge of the mask and it glistened unexpectedly at his touch.

“Hello, Sam.”

“Who…?” Still dazed, he turned anxious circles but found no one.

“Don’t be afraid.”

“Where am I?” he asked frantically.

“Aboard the Support Ship Noscalene,” the ghostly voice replied. “We are currently under attack.”

“Where are you?”

“Inside your mind, Sam.”

Then, he rediscovered his reflection in the corridor, the suit shifting from gray to deep blue with glowing accents. “What’d you do to me?”

Blackness, then the rushing of air.

“Passing thirty thousand meters. Estimated impact radius, one mile.”

The deck-plates rumbled.

“You’ve been chosen as Earth’s Warden, a great honor. I’m you’re A.I., Tess.”

“Artificial intelligence?”

“Exactly,” hints of joy in her response, “the interface built into your mask, and I’m pleased to say that I have completed your physical reconditioning. Your genetic code has been successfully enhanced for exceptional potential. Each new ability is based upon your own genetic makeup, meant to strengthen those areas where you’re weakest. Lucky for you, humans are particularly unremarkable.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

“You’re now much more than human. Your inventory of modifications include supersonic flight, thickened dermis, plasma energy projection, heightened…”

“This is a joke right?”

“The level of enhancement reflects weakness of the host.”

“So, you’re a parasite?”

“Paras…? I am the collective pinnacle of achievement of the greatest minds in the galaxy!” Tess took offense.

“And, these abilities?”

“Frankly, your species is so weak,” she said sarcastically, “that your enhancements are especially formidable. Your task is to defend the Earth.”

“From what?” he asked, the corridor suddenly drifting into shadow.

“Well, today…that,” she replied as the decking rumbled again. “The Korlin Terminus.”

Sam marveled at the ominous ship looming just past the window, its pitch black hull drowning out the stars. Suddenly, a hatchway slid wide and a hulking beast lumbered in, four eyes scowling. “Fantastic!” it grinned. “You’re awake! They’re headed this way…”

A sudden blast and the alien toppled forward dead, its back smoking.

“Shit!” Sam panicked and bolted back into the room.

Puzzled, Tess remarked, “Don’t worry, Sam. This one’s easy.” His vision changed and he saw through the walls. Two slithering monsters lurked the hallway outside, weapons drawn. “Are you ready?”

“For what?”

“Orientation. I’ll take you through this first time.”

Sam lurched awkwardly into the hall, surprising the two Korlins who studied him in bewilderment. “Hey,” he grinned nervously.

“Just relax,” Tess advised.

In a flash, he dodged between them, knocking the rearmost creature back the full length of the corridor with a flat-handed impact. Then, he deftly evaded a plasma bolt before turning the creature’s weapon upon itself as it fired.

Stunned, Sam paused to process what had just happened. “That…that was amazing!”

“And there’s so much more to…”

The bulkhead unexpectedly exploded and he was vacuumed into space.

Blackness again then light.

“Ten thousand meters. Five, four, three…Sam!”

“I’m here!” He slammed to an abrupt stop just feet above the ground. “Whoa! How am I doing this?”

“Like I said, enhancements.”

“So, what now?”

“The Noscalene has been destroyed and the Korlin are about to invade your world.”

“What can we do?”

“Defend your people. Become their champion.”
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