6:02 A.M. The sun had barely begun to rise, even on an island floating high in the sky. Few were awake at this time, and even less were active. Ekajra however was wide-awake, sitting up on the couch where he spent his nights. He was bent over, his head in his hand, and his breathing was haggard. Moments earlier he’d been waken from his sleep by frightful images, and now he sat there trying to figure it out.
He had been surrounded by blackness, just floating there. Suddenly he felt his feet touch ground, as a white spot appeared beneath him. Off in the blackness, two red lights appeared, their shape blurry at first. Slowly they had begun to sharpen, till they began to look like eyes. Ekajra had snapped awake, just as maniacal laughter filled his ears.
“Man, that was really funked up,” he said quietly, sitting up fully. “Those eyes, and laughter kind of sounded like…” He shook himself. “No, no, that can‘t be right. It‘s probably just something I ate,” Ekajra assured himself as he stood up. He walked to the kitchen and grabbed some breakfast, the whole time being silent as a ninja. He had gotten good at that. Alerak wasn’t exactly a morning a person.
After eating he watched some T.V. quietly, mostly sticking to news. It wasn’t the most exciting thing in the morning, but Ekajra liked to keep up on news from around the island. Made it easier to avoid the Chaotix next time they might need him to do their dirty work. Thinking about that reminded him of Mighty, and how he’d said he’d let Ekajra come over whenever he wanted for some training. That reminded him of how he’d said he was gonna head over there today.
He stood up, looking at the clock. It was still early in the morning, and Ekajra didn’t feel like bothering to use his cloaking device. But he grabbed it anyway and pocketed it, figuring he’d probably need it when he returned home. With that he stepped to the door, and walked outside.
Ekajra looked around for a moment, enjoying the coolness of the early morning. The sun was now just above the horizon, it’s light make long but soft shadows around him. He smiled, taking in a deep breath, and ran off for a quick jog through the city. Or, over, rather, as he quickly jumped up a series of low buildings, taking to the rooftops. It was easier to go about unnoticed, was quicker, and made for good exercise. And it made him feel cool.
He soon arrived in Mighty’s neighborhood, and, looking around again for working echidnas out and about, he jumped down and walked over to Mighty’s house. He stepped up to the door, and was about to ring the doorbell when he saw a note taped to the door;
“”Hey Ekajra. The Chaotix went out on a mission today.
Key is in the usual place.
Ekajra read the note and ripped it off the door. He walked around to the back of the house and scaled the wall. Attached to the gutter was a small magnetic box, inside of which was a small key. Ekajra took it out and pulled himself onto the roof. He walked over to a panel with a lock on it. He unlocked it, pulled the hatch open, and jumped in, closing the hatch as he did so.
He felt around for a light switch, immediately flipping it on as he found it. He winced, blinking as he looked around in the sudden brightness. It was bad enough that the room was completely dark, but Ekajra was also somewhat photosensitive. As his eyes readjusted he could make out the shapes of the living room, and walked off towards the training area.
Ekajra looked around at all of Mighty’s equipment, debating where to get started first today. He started doing some simple stretches and running around in circles for a while to get his blood flowing. After warming-up and grabbing some water bottles, Ekajra stepped over to a metal bar digging into the walls in one corner of the room. He grasped onto them with the tips of his fingers, then hopped, grabbing onto the bar fully. He began to do a series of chin-ups.
This was followed by hanging from the bar by his legs and pulling his upper body up. After completing this he flipped off and moved onto the weight bench. He started with a single hand weight using his right arm, before doing bench pressing. He took a short break after this, before doing a few sets of crunches, alternating with one-armed pushups. Naturally they were one armed, because it’s not like exercise could improve his cybernetic arm.
Finally, it was time for the fun one. The training dummies. Mighty had a large amount of them. The most basic, and most numerous, were little straw dummies, which Ekajra had found earlier when he’d first been here. But he got when Mighty gave him the official tour was a special wooden one. It had robotics in it, and you could program it to do different fighting styles and training sessions.
Ekajra powered it up and scrolled through the menu on its back. “Hmm, I think I‘ll start with basic hand to hand combat today,” he said, pressing a button as he highlighted the training mode he wanted. He quickly stepped around to the front of the wooden dummy as it came to life.
For a while they just stood there. Ekajra had done this program before, and had learned the hard way to let the robot make the first move. Eventually one of its arms surged forward, and Ekajra stepped to the side, dodging it. Immediately he began to swing his fist, and caught the dummy in one of its damage point areas. The small panel in the center of its chest slid inward, popping back out as Ekajra pulled his fist away.
The robot was ready, and swung another punch towards Ekajra. He stepped back out of its swinging range, and then came forward with both his fists, slamming them into each of the training dummy’s shoulder joints. The dummy teetered back and forth for a moment, then on a suddenly quicker forward motion it repeated Ekajra’s move, with even greater force.
Ekajra fell onto his back, but quickly sprang back to his feet, getting into a fighting position. “Huh, that’s a new one. So, you wanna play rough, eh? Alright, let’s do this.” Ekajra made a straight punch for the dummy’s head, but it blocked the attack with the side of its arm. Ekajra spread his hand and wrapped his fingers around the cylinder that made up the robot’s forearm, and twisted around the dummy. He wrenched the dummy’s arm up behind it, while it desperately tried to reach him with it’s other arm. “Heheh, I gotcha now. Let’s move on to a different mode.”
Ekajra began to scroll through the modes, eventually coming to one he liked. “Some knife training wouldn’t hurt I guess,” he said as he selected “Bladed Combat.” He released the training dummy and stepped around to the front of it. The arm Ekajra had wrenched back spun around a few times before locking back into place. Its arm panels slid open, and a long thin blade extended from each.
“En Guard,” a digitized voice, coming from the robot, said. It crossed its blades into an “X”.
Ekajra smirked and held his left arm in front of him. “Get ready for a quick fight,” he said, drawing his knife. Suddenly a jolt of pain shot through his head. Ekajra yelled out some random jumble of words as he fell to one knee, grasping his head. He snapped out of the pain as he felt cold metal touch the top of his head.
“You are defeated,” the robotic voice said. Ekajra looked up to see the dummy resting one of its blades gently on Ekajra. It pulled its arms back into the “X” formation as Ekajra stood up, brushing a dread away from his face. “Let’s try that one again. Stupid headaches…” Ekajra said, muttering to himself at the end, as he got ready to fight.
* * * * *
Later on that day, Ekajra walked down the crowded sidewalk slowly, his hands in his pockets. His was throbbing like someone had just hit him with a sledgehammer, and he was trying to ignore it. The headache from earlier had subsided somewhat at first. But this one had sprung up to replace it. Not only that, but it felt different than his usual headaches. And the noise from the people around him and the cars speeding by wasn’t helping.
He soon reached his neighborhood, his head feeling like it was going to explode. He trudged up to his house, walking inside. Alerak was standing there at his latest creation, which was producing it’s own noises to aggravate Ekajra even more. A strange, digital roar came from the machine as Ekajra closed the front door. “Oh, hey Ekajra, guess what? I finally finished the arcade machine! It’s only got a handful of games on it, but if I put it together right I should be able to program it with just about any game,” Alerak said, turning around for a moment.
“Run, run, run!” a voice from the game called. Ekajra cringed as the digitized voice blasted into his ears.
“Yeah, that’s awesome dude. I’d play, but I’ve got this really bad headache. I think I’m just gonna lay down for a bit,” Ekajra said, pulling off his hologram device.
Alerak flipped off the machine just as another roar was beginning. “Okay, sure. I was dieing too much anyway. I’ll go work on something else. Good luck with the headache,” he said, walking into his room.
“Thanks man,” Ekajra called as he lay down on the couch, his natural hand over his forehead. As he lay there, staring at the ceiling, an image seemed to flash before his eyes. It seemed familiar, but Ekajra didn’t feel like thinking so just ignored it. He turned off the light and tried to get some rest.
* * * * *
Ekajra jolted to a sitting position, sweating all over. He breathing was hard, and he had a look of terror on his face. Then his headache caught up to him and he bent forward, grasping the sides of his head. “Aghh, I should probably take some aspirin,” he muttered, shakily getting off the couch. He began walking to the bathroom, but fell to his knees as another blast of extreme pain jolted through him. Ekajra cried out in agony as he bent forward, eyes tightly shut.
However, he slowly opened them as he felt something weird on his chest. He pulled his body up and glanced to his left side. The surface seemed to be moving, and a silver stream was flowing across his chest from his shoulder, spreading throughout his body. Ekajra recognized it instantly. “No…. no, this can’t be happening!” he yelled, trying to get rid of the small nanobots slowly spreading over him.
“Oh, it’s all too possible host. I told you that you wouldn’t be able to keep me down!” a dark voice rang throughout his head, jolting him with more pain.
“I’ve gotta… get out of here,” Ekajra said, forcing himself to his feet. He stumbled to the door, crashing into shelves and tearing up the carpet as he did so. The nanobots had almost completely taken over Ekajra’s body as he crashed through the door, leaving deep claw marks on it.
Outside he fell to the ground again. The nanobots were coming towards his face, spreading up along his dreads. Ekajra yelled again as they began to cover his face, and slowly the yell of pain turned into maniacal laughter of victory.
Slowly, the silver being stood up, still laughing. He began to move different parts of his body, flexing his clawed fingers as he seemingly talked to himself. “Haha, I must hand it to you host, this body of yours is quite magnificent. It will be perfect for my purposes. Why don’t we go try it out?” He began to laugh again before dashing off towards the forest, crashing through the trees.