Paladin deals with many suggestive and dark themes. So if you have sick stomach then this isn't for you. This is your only warning.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Whether it be the circumstance of wealth, power or life it's always the same. These words don't speak truer than Ben Stan. He is a leader of a faction of the NRA. We have strong evidence to believe that he illegally sent a cargo plane full of military grade weaponry towards a group of Cuban terrorists that have been staging a "rebellion" for weeks. Naturally, it was nearly impossible to catch him in the act and this wasn't his rodeo with the law either. So it was all up to me. As I watched over is penthouse my partner James was playing lookout seeing what I had to deal with.
"Huh, you may have your work cut out for you. I count at least 20 men, and of course, there are cameras, but the Gearheads already have them on loop. You sure you don't need me?"
"I'm sure I need to sneak in not break in. I'll be fine."
And just like that, I was off. It took me 5 minutes but I arrived in Stan's office just in time for him to come back to it. Before he even could turn on the lights I have him in a headlock with a sai to his throat.
"I'm a licensed medical practitioner. Tell me everything about the weapons you sold or else I will make sure that you die by a thousand cuts."
I honestly expected a lot of things from this encounter: sadness, pleading even urination but he merely said one sentence.
"Can you stop with the theatrics and help me already?"
Adrenaline filled my body as I partially avoid a strange liquid from hitting me. The liquid quickly burned a hole in the floor as I saw a dark figure on the ceiling. I have to take off my gauntlet before it burns. In quick response, I fire a small volley of bullets from my silenced pistol as I dodged more ooze. The figure quickly moved towards Ben's desk while it held its shoulder in pain. It was by that time I finally got a look at him. He looked like as if a psycho and cosplayer had a baby. My new playmate had a tight full body grey suit with claws and a spider emblem on his chest. It also had glowing green lines throughout his arm and shoulders with green eye contacts. The goods news, he had a bullet wound in his upper left shoulder. Despite the pain, he decided to drone on.
"I see your skills are worthy of your title."
"I'm glad I made your expectations, but I suggest you surrender before I show you the full extent of them."
"I honestly wish I could, but you troubled one of our assets. I can't leave well enough alone now Paladin."
"You know my name, but I simply don't know yours."
"Archane: the last name you'll ever hear."
Ben then merely responded by saying.
"Can you stop talking and fight each other already? I'm paying by the hour here."
"Your skating on fragile ice as it is Ben I suggest you shut up." He turned to me, "Sorry some people don't know how much work it takes to banter with two people who are trying to kill each other. You know?"
"Look, man, I understand completely. Please continue."
"Now where was I? Oh right, killing you."
He then fired a couple of weird balls of a strange substance. I managed to twist back and pull out my bo staff that crackled with electricity. By twisting my staff I deflect them all and swung at him. I hit is torso but before I could deliver another swing he flipped off the wall and dodged another swing. He then shot a thick string of sticky stuff to lift himself and put me in a stranglehold using my staff. However, I pushed a button on the staff to contract it. I then hit him with a palm strike to the stomach while stealing it back. As he recoiled in pain I saw that he had a glint in his eyes. He then crashed through the window and shot another thick string of sticky stuff at my shirt. The weight instantly sends me careening out of a window!
I'm barely able to shoot my grapnel gun into a wall. Once I got myself situated I saw that Archane was somehow stuck to the wall. He quickly went up to the broken window. I didn't bother going after him. I knew that by the time I got up there he would be gone. I instead headed back to James.
"I saw the whole thing. Are you mad?"
"More frustrated. He'll be scattered to the winds in hours."
"Don't worry as my grandpappy always said there is more than one way to skin a cat. You know with a crappy mission like this I guess there is only one thing we can do?"
"You mean the thing we always do after a crappy mission?"
"Exactly. We're going to Mama's," he said enthusiastically.
"Fine, let's go back to Titan, "I admitted begrudgingly
Titan is hard to describe. I mean where can you begin? I guess from the beginning. Titan was first initiated in 1955 by many of the United Nations at the time. They decided that the world needed a group that could hold up the very sky if it fell, to do what needed to be done and most importantly to stands the test of time. Titan was soon created as a way to deal with the evil of the world covertly and proactively. It's been almost a year since I joined. I'd say I was used to it but that would be a lie. There always seem to be some new place that I never heard of.
As we went to our base, we discussed all of the critical issues at the time.
"Okay, so you mean to tell me that Dragonball is not your favorite anime?"
"Look, James, I already hear enough screaming when I interrogate someone I don't want to watch five episodes of it. Besides Gurren Lagan is way better."
"While I do always appreciate your opinion, Sarah, your wrong."
Along the way, every agent that passed us thanked him or said hi. Everyone else either ran away from me or awkwardly left. We finally made our way to Mamas. Mama's is a sort of like a mess hall of Titan. They were all chain restaurants of sorts that was run by a woman called Chloe Berenson a.k.a. Mama. She has been labeled a legend among Titan for 20 years. Their food is to die for. If Titan ever fell I swear to every god out there, I will keep it safe is. We were lucky enough to have her on the same base as us. As we waited in line, we finally got to see the grand woman herself. She was a short African American woman with her braids in a hair net. She looked at James with utter delight.
"Hi, James! I'm guessing you and your friend want your usual?"
"Of course Mama. I would be happy to."
I then responded.
"I would appreciate it a lot, Chloe."
"Coming right up."
James was soon eating spaghetti and meatballs. I was eating the same with broccoli with a small plate and five sliders with a soda. What can I say? Gluttony is my sin among many others. After we finished, James continued.
"Look while I do appreciate the universal and inspiring message of Gurren Lagan and the impact it had on the people. However, I view Dragonball as more over the top and has a more heartfelt message."
"James as much as love to discuss anime that mission was a long stakeout. I need some sleep."
"Sorry I'll see you tomorrow I guess."
After dinner, I went to my home to greet the only man I ever loved. As I opened the door, a black Labrador retriever that makes my heart swell up with love greeted me. This was my dog, Brutus. I found him alone in an old apartment building. I asked all the occupants and said that his previous owner was a veteran who had a heart attack. He didn't have any immediate family, so the dog just decided to stay near the building out of loyalty. I couldn't leave well enough alone. It took me five days of feeding and taking care of him until he came home with me. We've been staying together for almost five months now. Brutus always knew how to appreciate a moment. We curled up on the couch watching TV until I fell asleep.
I awoke to see myself surrounded in blackness. I realized what was about to come, but I did not falter. The darkness swirled around to form a figure of a woman covered in shadow with demonic red eyes. I knew exactly who she was. Sure it was a bit of a dramatic representation but accurate. She was a monster, a person that deserved to die in the most painful way imaginable. Her name was Sarah Walters: my sins brought to life. A person I used to be in a different life. She is a person who I will spend the rest of my life hopelessly trying to redeem. The women approached with a smile on her face as my ears were ringing with separate voices.
"You've failed us! You killed us! Made us suffer! How could you? How can such a pathetic piece of trash like you even live with yourself?"
I knew who every single one of them was. They were innocents that I killed indirectly or otherwise. They were good people that had far more reason to outlive me than I. Every night and even a little during the day I would have the same vision. Sarah approached me.
"You think that you can deny who you are? Admit it Paladin, doesn't matter how much good you do you'll always be a monster. Your past will always define you. Everything you touch dies. I'm the only ally you will ever have."
The voices grew louder and louder until I honestly awake covered in sweat and my hand shaking. I didn't have long to think as I found 20 notifications on my phone. As I managed to read them out, I paralyzed with fear. Crap and a half! In minutes I'm out the door clean and filed with that strange thing called makeup. I wore my most beautiful casual as I head into the Titan base running as fast as possible. I finally made it to where I was supposed to go to meet 'him."
Titan has had many grand leaders in its decades of history. However, it's the most significant leader was its current one: Morgan Daniels known far and wide as the Dragoon. He was how I was able to join Titan. Of course, because of my checkered past, we came to an arrangement. I would become a high-ranking agent at Titan with all the sizeable benefits while he keeps me under constant watch. He also briefs me on my missions. Naturally, our relationship is complicated. I try to keep my interaction with him short and sweet. There was always a tension in his words. A feeling that no matter how hard I tried he could completely crush me. Appearing 30 minutes late didn't help. As I rocketed off, I managed to get to his office and give a strict salute with James snickering in response.
I finally got a good look at him. Psychically Morgan was nothing too much to look at. He was around a 60-year-old African American man with a scar near his temple. Still even with his softened eyes had a fire in them. I instantly saluted.
"At ease soldier."
"This is me at ease sir. Sorry, I'm late sir, I will never do it again."
"It's alright Sarah we all have our late days."
He then motioned on and explained what he told James.
"Anyways after that little hiccup with Ben, he will probably in hiding. The only way we can convict him of anything is if we capture the terrorist in the act. Maybe we can convince him to rat out his partner. Luckily we have just found out where their hideout is. I want to send a strike team over there ASAP. In the meantime, your number one fan is waiting for you with some upgrades. You and James are some of my best agents, so I trust you to care about things."
He then looked towards James.
"By the way did Margaret enjoy the quiche I made?"
"It was delicious sir her and Lily ate it up."
'That is fantastic to hear. I've been experimenting with cooking for a while you know? If little Lily has requested, I'll make it."
"Thank you, sir, it would be an honor."
All the while, I was signaling how much of a kiss-ass he was being. After that, we just left one towards my...ugh, "biggest fan." The way people treat me at Titan comes in 3 flavors. Vanilla agents usually leave me alone. Chocolate agents generally berate or try to date me. However, the strawberries are essentially my fan club or people who I've saved and want to return the favor. I honestly don't need the extra attention. I'm a lot of things but never a hero. No strawberry was worse than Wiz: leader of the science of division of Titan aka the Gearheads. As we make our way there, Wiz instantly ambushes me through a hug. She was attractive. Wiz had medium length hair that was highlighted pink. She was also gleaming earrings and glasses and was almost as tall as I was. It was easy to say that she was excited as her eyes shined with that unpredictable nature that made me scared.
"Hi, Sarah! Glad you came over here. I have some good news and bad news. Based on what you described from this guy, he must have quite the chemical set up. The acid he used ruined your suit, so we decided to give you an overhaul! Your suit now has more armor, and we replaced some of your weapons with more upgraded versions for you. Take a look!"
I looked at a small rack of weaponry. When I worked with Titan, I got a free pass on whatever weapon I wanted. My sai was a must they were precious to me. I only allowed a modified staff, grapple gun, and several smoke and stun bombs. However, what I saw was very nice. I saw a new set of bomb called glue (probably used from the silk from Archane). My grapple gun was much more massive the size of an actual rifle. Also, a new gun laid before me. I was completely amazed.
"I don't know what to say. Thank you. I'll make it up to you."
"Hey as long as you're safe then I'm fine."
Damn it all why do such decent people surround me? I put on the new suit it fits like a glove. I looked in the mirror to see it. It was black pants, shoes a shirt and long-sleeved jacket with a white sword symbol on the sign. The significant difference now is that I had armor on my shoulders forearms, kneepads and soles they were gauntlets too. The mask was comfortable. Also, the new weapons were terrific. I fired a few shots of the new gun and quickly realized it shot lasers! The extra-sized grapple gun also was mighty and could do some serious damage. I could drop a lot of bodies with this. In hours we head towards Cuba.
In 5, we manage to get towards the base with a small strike team with James at the front. James is known far and wide as a legend among Titan with appearance alone. He towered over most with being "6,03" and 250 lbs. He also, for the most part, had grey eyes with messy light brown hair and pale skin. However, that was the tip of the iceberg. He was officially dubbed "The Knight" when he joined Titan's bulletproof assault team: The Artillery. I don't know what happened, but James is the only member I've seen. I try not to get him to open up. After all, he doesn't even know my past. Even though I'd rather die than admit, he was all right to be around. James motioned.
"Ready to make an explosive entrance?"
He threw a grenade that turns the wall towards us into powder. We strike fast and hard like a sledgehammer as we quickly take out each man non-lethally. In minutes James and I spread from the rest of the group to finally look upon the terrorist's leader. James lifted him with one hand and said in a practically adorable voice.
"Tell us where you got these military weapons and maybe you can get time off your sentence."
The leader responded, "Why would I do that?"
"I'll, um break your arm?"
I instantly responded," And I will break the other one and your legs and your spine, and by then, I'll just go crazy."
"Okay! I'll talk."
He didn't talk for much longer as a splash of acid soon covered both James and the leader. For half a minute, I heard the of them scream in agony as I saw the leader's faces sizzle like bacon. Great now, I was disgusted and hungry.
"Aw, it burns! It. Doesn't hurt at all," James cried.
What did hurt was the compressed ball of super silk that knocks him down to the floor? I turn to see Archane. He merely waved Hi and then pulled out his claws. I pulled out my sai's as we engage in battle. Archane ran up the wall and stabbed the ground where I quickly leaped back. He then slashed my sai to press on with a claw to my face. I'm barely able to block Arachne claws with my sai as I kick his abdomen. Before I could quickly respond, he flipped back and stood atop the wall. He avoided a stab from my sai but countered with a kick to the head. I blocked it, but Arachne slingshotted himself towards me and knocked me on my butt. He then dusted himself off and raised his gauntlets.
"I'm ever so sorry Paladin but as they say parting is such sweet sorrow."
He would have probably scarred me for life if James hadn't intervened with a thrown machete. Archane deflected it. James pulled out his shotgun, but it's muzzle get covered in silk. Still, the distance was covered. James ran over and delivered a flurry of punches that sounded like thunder. He ended with a judo throw that made him land several feet away from me. He helped me up as Archane soon recovered. He raised his gauntlets in a fury, but at the last moment, I threw a glue grenade. Archane screamed with chilling agony as his hands turned to bubbling grease. James then finished him off with a lariat.
Two days pass by and were finally able to get him talking. He lost his left hand, and his right was badly injured. Over time we ran him through facial recognition and traced him back towards about 40 killings five years ago. We know nothing he did during the last few years. We drugged him with truth serum to get him talking. I don't try using it because I like to make a more direct impression on people. Anyways James and I waited outside of the interrogation room with a microphone up and ready. Archane droned on with an aggressive edge.
"You think that was the extent of my superior's plans? You fools have no idea the true extent what's coming. For decades you had the power to change the world and all it's only gotten worse. When Titan dies the corpse, it is we will not going to follow your mistakes."
Morgan answered, "Who are your superiors? What your intentions?"
"We call ourselves the Pantheon and were trying to save the world the same as you. Were simply just not as patient as you are."
He was soon carried away with his deadly threat leaning over. After all, is said and done, I was ready for some sleep being intercepted by James.
"Where are you going?"
"Cuddling my dog, watching TV the usual."
"You're not going to celebrate."
"Celebrate the fact we have just gone to war with some secret organization?"
"How about celebrating the fact we're alive, and we put some bad people in jail. I think it's important to enjoy the small victories. Especially in our line of work. Don't you agree?"
I can't help but remember what Sarah said in my dream. How I destroy everything, I touch. Every time I have that nightmare I'm afraid, I will return to who I was in my past: a killer without remorse. My past will forever burden me, but maybe for once, I should live for the future.
We then walked off together to get ourselves another dose of Mamas.