By Sean McDonald

“We go left from here.”
“I say we go right. I see some guards over there.”

It wasn’t the first argument I had with my armor, and it wouldn’t be the last. The spirit trapped within inaudibly replied to me, “And why, pray tell, do we want to get ourselves into trouble with them?”
“They wouldn’t post guards there if there weren’t something there to guard. That’s probably where they keep the central computer.”
“Very well. Right it is, then.”
I walked up to the door. The two guards didn’t see me until I was right on top of them. Most minions I’ve faced were buffoons and Countess Crey’s were no exception. Their first sign of my presence was the red glow that reduced them to staggering around like they had too much to drink at the last product launch party. There are few things that amuse me more than suits showing their true selves. With them stunned, there was no more need for stealth, so I reverted back to my more visible form. The armor did its part. Now it was time for me to do mine.

I drew my sword. The first vigilant went down with a single massive blow to the head. The other one managed to stagger away, but no matter. I gathered some of the armor’s negative energy and hurled it at him. It hit hard, but it snapped him out of his stupor. He looked over and saw the black and blue shrouded knight before him. It was a sight Crey’s employees had learned to hate. “This is a restricted area! Get lost, Spectreblade!” The suit-clad guard let out an un-suitlike yell as he came charging at me at full speed. Minions always charge at me. It never works. This particular minion found himself flying through the air thanks to an upward slice hitting him right in the chin.
“Goons,” I sighed indignantly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a day to save.” I walked past their unconscious bodies and opened the door.

As I strolled through the lonely blue corridor on the other side, I struck up a mental conversation with the armor. “Blue seems to be such a popular color with villains. I mean, how many labs with blue walls have we been in?”
The armor’s voice echoed in my mind “I lost count at six score”
As I tried to convert that to modern numbers, I continued to project my thoughts to the armor. “You’d think at least once we’d run into one with red walls, or even that stupid shade of green they use in schools and hospitals and stuff.”
It was a mistake to let our minds wander. Someone shouted “You’re gonna be as black and blue as that armor of yours when I’m done with you!” I turned and saw another pair of suits. This time one of them was a suit of high-tech armor. It was a metallic white with blue shoulders that identified it as a Crey Cryo Tank. I wasn’t afraid. I’d heard countless threats like theirs before. Besides, my own armor was more than just iron. Dark clouds and haloes began to form around me to shield me from their attacks as we braced ourselves for battle.

We shot a piercing glare at the tank’s unarmored little helper and froze him where he stood so we could concentrate on the more powerful foe. That more powerful foe attacked with some freezing of his own. I felt the cold blast hit me, but I had felt worse. The ice that formed on my armor slowed me down, but I kept moving toward him. Once I was right in front of the cryo tank, the negative energy that had pooled around my feet went to work, eroding my foe’s metal shell. We started trading blows. At first I was just scratching the armor, then my slashing started to show more substantial results as my death shroud continued to corrode the cryo tank. My gleaming steel sword shone brightly amidst the darkness surrounding me as I sliced a gash in the weakened armor. A cold, white fog poured from the fissure and onto the floor. I followed up with more strikes, carving more outlets for the chilling mist. Realizing his suit was now nothing but scrap metal, he ran for the exit. I hit him with a dark blast as he fled, shattering what was left of his body armor and causing him to collapse onto the floor. My attention turned to the straggler I paralyzed and saw him face-down on the floor surrounded by the corrosive dark energy. “So much for that goon,” I thought to myself.

The central computer was in sight. I just had to put the disk my contact gave me in the drive and wait for the virus to upload. With the activation of the virus, Crey’s latest corporate scheme would unravel before its eyes. I walked up to the terminal and inserted the disk. A bar appeared on the screen to track its progress. As the bar slowly filled, I heard a strangely flat voice.
“Do you really think you can stop the Countess?” The voice came from a helmeted man in blue and yellow spandex. The emotionless monotone continued. “Resistance is pointless. Give yourself up.”
“You first,” I responded. The shell of a man standing in front of me was the ultimate suit. This exemplar of faceless conformity was one of the Paragon Protectors, Crey Industries’ very own brand of generic “heroes”. I was in for a fight.

All Paragon Protectors wear the exact same costume as this one. The only differences between them were their attack methods. I was hoping this particular one was a claw or quill pattern Protector so my armor wouldn’t have to work as hard to shield me. The glow emanating from his hands showed me he wasn’t. He fired a power blast at me. I leapt out of the way and threw a blast of my own as I dove for cover. Then I charged at him. We fought intensely as the progress bar on the terminal continued to fill. The battle was a spectacle of shimmering energy, metal, and shadow, but I had gotten the upper hand. Then he raised his fist into the air and yelled. As anyone who has ever dealt with the Protectors will tell you, it is not good when one of them puts a fist into the air. The heightened state he put himself in made attacking him all but useless. I looked at the timer. There was still another minute to go. I just had to hang in there a little longer.

I knew when he was done with his power trip he would be an exhausted pushover, so I stalled for time. The armor disappeared and in its place a veil of wispy shadows formed. I was difficult to see in this state. The powered-up Protector would have to find me to beat me. When he could no longer see me, he spoke again with what little feeling he could call forth. “It is pointless to hide from me.” Then he showed me why. He began walking over to the computer to stop the countdown. I had to blow my cover.


I jumped out and took a swing at him. It missed. No surprise there. The fight was on again. I was hard to get a bead on, but I still took heavy damage from the few blasts that hit their mark.


Then I took a devastating energy punch that knocked me to the floor.


The Protector stood over me, about to finish me off when a voice from the computer interrupted him.


“Virus upload complete. Have a nice day.”

The Paragon Protector’s moment of glory was over. I had won. My now depleted foe attempted one last attack and was met by a helmet-cracking strike from my blade. The hit was like that from my armor’s knighting ceremony all those centuries ago, but painful.

“I dub thee Sir Doofus,” I quipped as I stepped over him to leave.
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