Tabula Rasa – Friend or Foe

The light was too bright and his eyes needed time to adjust. Asher sat up. A breeze cooled his sweat-soaked body. He felt naked and was able to confirm this once his eyes had acclimated. All he could see around him was dirt gradually rising in all directions. He was sitting in a crater, and he had no memory of how he got there or which planet he may now be stuck on.

Asher stood up and walked to the edge of the crater. He looked across the horizon hoping to see a town or somewhere he could get some clothes. Despite the dry heat, he was growing cold as the breeze gave no signs of stopping. All he found was more dirt. Seeing as there was really nothing else he could do, he started walking. The sweat he had woken with had dried and taken his warmth with it. The sun felt nice and the breeze grew bearable once it no longer had moisture to wick away from his body.

He walked for a few hours before a set of buildings interrupted the dead-even horizon. A few hours more and he was walking through its streets looking for a clothing or thrift store. Pedestrians watched him. Stared at him as he casually made his way through their town. Some even crossed the street to avoid him. None ever said a word. At least not to him. They murmured to each other, and he did see a few open their phones and make a call. He presumed at least one of those calls were to the local authorities and hoped that he would be able to acquire clothing before they arrived.

His hopes were realized when he found a donation center. He walked in and walked to the men’s section. He sifted through a rack of athletic shorts before finding a pair to his liking. He pulled them on then searched for a shirt. A few minutes later he walked out of the store wearing a hoodie, sporting a nearly new pair of tennis shoes, and feeling much better about his situation. Even as several soldiers with riot gear surrounded him.

“Halt.” The word came from an older gentleman who stepped between two of the riot shields. He had a white mustache, pristine uniform, and was in great shape for a man Asher guessed to be over sixty. The man’s badge read Greene.

“State your business,” Greene demanded.

“Look,” Asher said, raising his hands, “I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here.”

“State your business for returning to Proxima,” Greene repeated.

“Ah, so that’s where I am.” He smiled politely which drew a quizzical look from Greene. “I’ll happily leave once I figure out how I got here.”

“Colonel.” A female’s voice rang out. Asher followed Greene’s gaze to find a woman floating twenty feet above them. “Have your men stand down. I’ll take things from here.”

“I will leave him to you, Sparrow,” Greene said. The soldiers dispersed on his command.

Asher kept his eyes on the woman as she floated down a dozen feet. She wore a cape and hid her eyes behind a black bird-like mask.

“Leave Proxima at once,” she said, still floating above him.

“I was just saying to Greene here that I’ll leave. I just want to know how I got here.”

Sparrow started, then recomposed herself. “I am this planet’s designated hero. I will remove you by force if you do not comply.”

“I just need to know-”

He was unable to finish his sentence as, in less than one second, Sparrow appeared in front of him, grabbed him by his hoodie, and threw him into the air.

Asher’s instincts kicked in. He slowed his momentum and came to a halt near the outer atmosphere. He looked down to see Sparrow climbing to meet him. She was fast, but he saw her attack coming. He let her overextend then grabbed her arm and flung her away. She adjusted her trajectory into an arc that brought her quickly back to him.

He blocked her initial swing with his left arm. Her second he stopped with his right hand grabbing her wrist and twisting her around until he had her in an arm lock.

“Why are you fighting me?” he asked.

“Don’t play ignorant,” she said through a clenched jaw, “the Order is already tracking you Cinis. If you kill me, you’ll guarantee your own end.”

“You’ve made a mistake. I don’t even know who you’re talking about. If you agree to calm down, I’ll let you go. Okay?” He waited until she relaxed. Then he let her go. She drifted away then turned toward him.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“I woke up in a crater with no memory of how I got here.”

“Amnesia?” she said, more to herself than to him, “No. That wouldn’t change a personality like this. Who are you?”

“Asher.”

She tapped her forearm and a hologram appeared in front of her. She searched his name.

“What’s your hero name?”

“Don’t have one. I think.”

“But you are enhanced. Obviously. And you have experience. Last name?”

He shrugged.

She floated toward him and scanned his features. The hologram blinked red before producing an image. She held it next to his face and studied him closely. He could see the image as well and the name Cinis next to it.

“You aren’t him. Are you?”

“Nope.”

“Will you come with me?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not really.”

Asher sighed. “Where are we going?”

“The Council of Heroes should know how to handle this situation. There hasn’t been any unregistered heroes in centuries.” She tapped her forearm and the hologram disappeared. “Come on.”

“Can you guarantee my safety?” he asked, knowing it to be a rhetorical question. He did not feel in danger. If anything, he felt more than capable to take on even an army of heroes.

“I can, but only until we are before the Council. From there, I cannot interfere with their decision.”

He liked her answer. He would go with her to find out what the Council would allow him to be. He would be whatever he wanted anyway, but perhaps he could gleam some answers from them about how he ended up in this universe.

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