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"These are a few of my favorite things..."


A Very Branded Christmas by youryaleness
A Very Branded Christmas
Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!  Can you spot the changes from the original?

Remember, you can support the book by purchasing BRANDEDavailable on Amazon Kindle (and its apps)!

You can also follow BRANDED updates and future books( like BRANDED's sequel, BROKEN) on Twitter!

Characters and writing copyright © Nathaniel Scott.

Chad raced down 51st street, pumping his arms and legs as fast as he could manage.
Finally, all the excitement he was looking for became a reality, a real chance at locking up a Hy-Bred for good.  There were plenty of success stories that told of courageous acts from common Enforcers standing defiant against the renegade super-powered outlaws.  Full raises, medals, and promotions were readily awarded.  The victorious stories always drowned out the failed attempts to nab the convicts, so the supply of anxious Enforcers never seemed to run out.
Fear and doubt crossed Chad's mind.  He was about to go against a Hy-Bred, something more dangerous than anything he had ever trained against.  He started to slow, which Jakki, who seemed to easily keep up with him, noticed immediately.
"You okay, babe?"
He couldn't afford to think like that.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Yeah, I'll be okay.  Don't worry.  Let's keep moving."
Chad pressed on, pumping his arms more, pacing his stride and shoving pedestrians out of his way, though most got out of the way of the wide framed Enforcer leading the charge.  They spat their objections, cursing as they went on.  There seemed to be more resistance from them than any criminal he had tried to apprehend.  A stray foot poked out of the crowd.  Chad jumped over to avoid it, only to clip a street vendor's cart.
"Look what you did, Enforcer pig!"  The gruff, hairy owner screamed.  "You gonna pay for this?"
"Back off, citizen," Jakki sneered, helping Chad up, who shook her off as soon as he got his bearings.  "There's a Hy-Bred on the loose.  Do not go anywhere past 6th Avenue, we're making a perimeter now."
Some started to panic and head further down the street while others kept to their routine.  It didn't matter.  If any of them broke through the perimeter, they would be forced back.  It was for their own good.
Chad cursed under his breath.  He was glad he had a helmet to protect his identity.  A brief thought flew by in his mind.  Is being an Enforcer worth all this?
"Threaten me all you want, lady.  Somebody's gotta pay for this!"  The vendor shouted.  Chad ignored him along with the rest of the jeers and insults they received. "Hey!  Get back here!"
He started out again, turning a hard left onto the coordinates he was given via his Virtual Imaging System (VImS) on his visor's screen.  He focused back to the path he was set out towards and slowed his steps, slapping his heels against the cement sidewalk.
The communications tower was located two buildings over from the church.  It provided significant signal-radius to a number of important Enforcer installments and businesses in the surrounding area.  This made it a prime target for anyone looking to disrupt the flow of communications between military and civilians alike.  The problem was most likely a Terror-Forces skirmish that spilled out into the streets, rival gangs trying to test each other's mettle.
His training kicked in, and Chad remembered the first order of business was to get the area clear of civilians.  Jakki, ever the egghead, was already on it, helping several pedestrians who where already fleeing from the direction of the church.  According to his VImS in his helmet, they were already well away from any significant collateral damage.
"Jakki, c'mon, let's move in.  These people are fine."
They moved their way past the continued screams and shrieks as a crowd of people spilled over their way.  The look of terror in their eyes gave Chad an ominous sense of confidence knowing that no matter how much the public hated the Enforcers, they would always need them.  Chad and Jakki pressed on, wading through the throngs of bodies.
"There he is, at the top of the tower!  Open fire!"
A commanding Enforcer's order broke rang over the cries and screams of terror.  A squad ahead of him broke off a few shots at the comm. tower's base, stationed right next to the A & R building.  Flashes of bright light lit up the night sky, nearly blinding him.  The crowds of cars were unusually sparse, which the Enforcers used as cover and took aim with their weapons steadied on the hoods.  The remainder of the citizens started running out towards the perimeter, but there were always the risky ones that believed they could get some real Enforcer/Hy-Bred firefight footage to post on the Net or sell to the news broadcasters.
Chad grabbed one teen with his camera by the arm.
"What do you think you're doing?!  Get out of here!"  Chad tried to shove him out of the way.
"Lay off me, pig!"  He jerked his arm out of his grasp.  "You can't touch me!"
Chad's face twisted in disgust, though the boy couldn't see it.  If he still held on to his arm, he would have ripped it out of the socket and beat him with it.  Chad held his temper, and gritted his teeth instead.
"I said 'Leave'!"  Chad edged closer to him, a whole head taller than the adolescent.  His broad chest and body armor started to push him backward.
"Get offa me, you piece of trash!  I'll do what I want!"
He swung at Chad's helmet with his free hand, the other holding onto a mobile.  Chad moved, letting it fly by him and caught it fully outstretched.  Moving it to the side and up, he flipped the kid over on his front, facing the ground.
"Listen, you little punk!"  Chad had his knee in his back.  "I don't care if you're a street rat trying to make a buck or a spoiled suburban loser getting a video to show to all your stupid friends."  He tightened his grip on the teen's hands, the phone's surface scratching on the ground.  "I have a job to do, and you are not going to get in the way of that.  Do you understand?"
Silence hit Chad's ears.
"Yes!  Yes!"  The kid's voice was shrill and whiny, with none of the defiance in his tone that Chad heard earlier.
Chad got the boy up to his feet and shoved him back toward the sidewalk.  Jakki looked over at him, impressed with how he handled the situation.  He replied with a shrug.  His composure changed as he darted behind a car, pulling Jakki with him, right before a streak of lightning struck their position.  Chad smiled as he turned back to the firefight.
"Is this the kind of action you were looking for?" Jakki screamed past the gunfire and noise.
"No!" Chad replied loudly.  "It's way better!"
More greifers were heard ricocheting off of the steel supports of the comm. tower.
"What are you doing, you morons?!  Don't damage the comm. tower or we aren't going to get any air support down here!" the captain barked pushing the barrel of a patrolman's gun down.  The stray shot almost was sent into another Enforcer's back.
"Sir," Chad rushed over toward the commander in charge with Jakki right behind.  "What's the status?  What are we up against?"
"Have you secured the perimeter yet, Private?"  His abruptness took Chad aback.  The captain's focus was still hung up on the comm. tower.
"Yes sir, we've already helped those get out of range.  What is the range of what we're dealing with, sir?"
"I gave you orders, son!  Now follow orders and make a sweep of the perimeter again."
Chad didn't like how things were starting off.
"Sir, it's impossible to clear this block of civilians entirely, but most of the people have already gotten out of danger.  We're here to help you and your squad anyway we can.  Can you please tell me what we are up against?"  Chad's voice was quite loud despite the commotion around them and was on edge of demanding answers from a superior officer.
The commander's temper faded.  He took a deep breath.
"We already lost three whole squads to this bastard in a couple of months.  My squads.  Men I was in charge of," his voice was absolutely solemn.  "I'm not going to have a two other patrollers out for glory get massacred by him.  Get back with your squad."
"Captain, your men are the only squad I see out here.  This is our sector, and we're going to defend it, alongside you and your men.  So what are we up against?"

Ricky's visor display read 3:06 AM, and he was more than tired.
Jessie noticed it too.  His steps and leaps from the last couple of buildings they cleared were less sure and agile than at the start of the night.  Nevertheless, he had to mask it.  Strength is what they both needed, no matter how artificial and forced it was.
Ricky tried to get past his grief in the best way he knew how: drowning out a million sorrows in deep slumber.  Sleep, however, was elusive, so he wore himself down by going out on a crime patrol.  After the brief and chaotic fistfight with Atom, though, Ricky felt exhaustion wear on him.  He wanted sleep more than ever, or at least something to distract him.  He hoped he could escape in a myriad of dreams.  In fact, he couldn't remember the last time a dream played around in his mind…
"RICKY!"  Jessie screamed in shock, waking Ricky from his daydreaming.
"Wha-What's wrong!?"  He asked, but realized how close his answer was.  Jessie's claws were digging into his arm as he hung from a ledge.
"You didn't clear the gap," she said, heaving him up on the rooftop.  "Didn't you notice you didn't have anything below your feet?"
"Um, no, I guess I didn't," Ricky replied, rubbing his temples through his mask.  "Sorry.  I think I'm running on autopilot right now."
"Well, get control.  We're almost at your place," she walked on, starting up a jog to get enough momentum to leap to the next roof.
"That normal life we're talking about is sounding fantastic right about now…" Ricky whispered under his breath.

It was on a similar night that brought him to remember the first time he met Sarah in costume as Panther.  He was out masquerading as Black Shield, getting an adrenaline rush after a near-death-experience with Enforcers that spiced up his otherwise study-packed evenings.  After an hour of fighting several patrols, he escaped the danger of capture as more units fell in to take a shot at the exceptionally high bounty on his head.
It was the first night he ran into another Hy-Bred he didn't have to stop from committing a crime.  Ricky was surprised.  That first encounter would be the start of a long journey for them both.  And it happened on the very rooftop Jessie and Ricky ran across.
He remembered he had just squeezed past two Enforcer squads, losing them by getting on a rooftop as usual.  He always thought Enforcers with jetpacks would make his escapes more difficult, but thankfully, Enforcer High Command was never willing to spend too much on extra equipment.
As he hoisted himself up, he saw a beautiful silhouette standing on the opposite side.  The moon was particularly bright and light reflected off her suit all over, sliding down the sides of her figure.  She turned to face him and Ricky almost melted into a puddle of Hy-Bred mush.
"Uhhh, boo?" Ricky nearly asked.  He scolded himself for not knowing what to say.
"So," her voice was warm but it had bite to it.  "I finally get to meet the infamous Black Shield.  You're…"
"Charming and utterly good-looking?" he remarked with a curtsey-like bow.
She chuckled; something Ricky could still hear echoing throughout his ears.
"No," she finished laughing.  "You're not carrying a black shield.  And your costume is yellow and black.  You sure you thought through your name selection?"
"That's funny you should mention it, cause it's actually a kind of hornet.  See, they have this triangle thing on their back…"  Ricky turned around and pointed to the top his back.
"Is that the only reason why you called yourself that?  You could've went with the Human Hornet, or Triangle Guy?"  
"Well no, I have these energy shields—"
"Which aren't black."
Ricky sighed in frustration.
"I'm supposed to be the protector of people, 'cause of the shields I got on my wrists…"  Ricky knew he wasn't making it anywhere explaining his costume and name choice with her.  "You don't see me making fun of your poor name choice."
"That's because 'Panther' fits the costume and the powers," she walked to Ricky's left, staying on her toes and keeping her distance wide enough as she circled him.  On her heels hung pearl white claws that ran down her legs and scratched over the concrete rooftop.  In a split second, she pounced on him.  With razor-sharp claws walking across his neck, she continued.  "What powers do you even have, anyway?"
Ricky acted like his gauntlets were being forced together by her weight.  As soon as they touched, a sudden spike of bright light flashed out and ran through her chest, sending her flying back.
"Just a few tricks up my sleeve," Ricky said, flipping back up.  "Don't worry, that was a low energy ion spike.  It'll take the wind right out of you, but there's no real damage."
"You just… might live up to… what the Enforcer posts are saying on… the Net," she said between breaths.  Panther recovered and got to her feet, not letting her guard down.  "What brings you out to this part of the city, anyway?  You feel like you've made it to the big leagues and are ready to take on Terror-Forces and lunatic mercenaries?"
He cheated out to face her, ready for another foray.  It was late, but he was hardly ready to turn in.  If he had encountered a male, he would've immediately been on the offensive, but seeing her was a treat for him.  There weren't very many female crime-fighters, or criminals for that matter.
She was different, and in more ways than one.
"It's just routine.  Enforcers here, gangs there, maybe a couple of goons that discovered how to manipulate glass and ice over there…"  He began to pace opposite of the circle she created, shields on.  It was like a slow, deadly dance, one that could have ended either of their lives that night.  "But you're certainly a step-up from the usual."
"Oh, I'm anything but the usual," she turned to face Black Shield, bearing razor sharp claws.

Lightning spread out like roots across the hazy, polluted sky.
"Jess!  Did you see that?"  Ricky called out, startled and alert again.
"I wish I didn't," she snorted.  Clearly, Jessie wanted to get back inside and out of the cold.  She stopped and turned around, fully processing what he was asking.  "Waiiiiiiit… see what, exactly?"  
"That light, it's where the Worldwide Plaza is."
"Atom didn't get away did he?"
"No, he wouldn't have been able to do that with his suit in ribbons.  If he doesn't make it to his containment cell as a vegetable, I'd be surprised.  That looks more like…"
"Surge," she finished for him.  Jessie looked over at him, her voice edgy and bare.  "What the hell is he trying to do..?"
"I… think this one is on me, Jess," his voice was grave.
Jessie frowned, confused.
"What do you mean?'"  She knew something was up, but feared to know the answer.  "What did you do?"

You can still take care of this, you coward.  Alan wrestled with himself.
He clicked the cargo camera on, checking in on Luke.  When he met up with Timothy across the Quarantined Zone, Luke was already stabilizing.  Timothy was a great medic, but even Alan was surprised at the speed and availability his friend was on such short notice.  He envied him for his blind courage.
Luke began to move about on the cot he was resting on, coming to, past all the stimulants and painkillers that were circulating through his body.  Alan was grateful, but knew his day wasn't over.  The words of his father pranced about in his mind, taunting him and echoing throughout the caverns of his consciousness.  The Hy-Bred was still about, and it was something that needed to be dealt with, once and for all.
Eventually, Alan would have to rush headlong into a situation he didn't know about, taking a risk despite all fears.  Luke did it all the time, not knowing what he would be walking into on each and every one of his patrols.  Timothy, who didn't count on being called in at three o'clock in the morning, didn't hesitate to fly out to help an Enforcer he didn't even know.  Alan let out a sigh, flicked the cargo camera off, and rechecked his coordinates.
He changed the course toward the Times Square Church skirmish, fighting back bile rising in his throat.

The sound of steel twisting and turning filled Chad's ears.
Whatever was on top of the building was breaking off the tower's support.  It started to sway back and forth drunkenly.  From above, heavy clangs of metal sounded as steel beams rocketed down all about them, driving deep into the concrete street.  The Enforcer groups started to break formation.  Jakki was to his right, doing her best to shoot the Hy-Bred freak back away from the edge.  All it did was drive him further toward the base of the tower.
The front line of the assault team under Captain O'Donnell fell back as bolts of electricity blew their cover all over the street.  Two of the Enforcers were knocked down by the blast of the explosion and another was grounded by a large piece of metal lodged in his side.  A patrol-medic rushed to his side, only to get hit by another current of electricity.
"Hold your ground!  Hold!" the commander yelled, turning his head to his men as he slammed up against a vehicle for cover.  "You're Enforcers, not cowards!"  They continued to fan out, giving into fear and abandoning their practiced tactics and formations to save themselves.
Chad looked around.  They weren't ready for this; none of them were. They were fresh recruits and weren't used to their sector's relative safety in chaos.  From their armor to their mettle, they couldn't stand up against a foe that wielded almost ultimate power, and they certainly weren't going to try, either.
But Chad wasn't going to let the chaotic situation keep him from what he always wanted.  It would only make the story more incredible when he told it.
"Get some cover!" Chad yelled back to his comrades, rushing forward.  He was probably a subordinate to half the men present but he could care less.  They weren't acting their rank.  Jakki responded with a burst of covering fire.
Diving for one of the cars, he rolled and shoved his back against the rear door.  The Hy-Bred had a superb advantage; he was much higher than the ones he was trying to target, seeing the whole battlefield and their players.  Chad wouldn't necessarily be covered any better than the others, but he just needed some sort of protection between the Hy-Bred and himself.  If his plan worked, the rest of the squad members could finish the Hy-Bred off.  He peered over the car's hood and fired, commanding the Hy-Bred's full attention.
Rolling inward to the center of the banged-up sedan, he gained more cover from the roof.  Looking up, he spotted the top of a gray generator for the building, close to their enemy.  Switching out his standard non-lethal riot ammunition to a magazine of explosive greifer rounds, he took aim and shot.  They voiced direct hits as a ting of metal rang out followed by an explosion from the generator.  Their target stumbled back to the other side of the building, out of sight.
"NOW!  Rush the insides while he's down!  Get up to that roof!" Chad ordered.  Several of the men obeyed, as the area of combat had a reprieve in action.
The captain looked at the bold move, impressed.  He moved up a little closer and squeezed off a few bursts to keep his men covered.
"Come on, you heard the man!"  He motioned forward.  "Take point and secure the bottom floor, damn it!"
A small cluster of men on his right released some fire on the comm. tower.  The Hy-Bred remained out of their line of vision, back further toward the middle of the building.  Their bursts of automatic rounds eventually ceased, creating an empty silence.
The regrouped Enforcers let out a victorious cheer, seeing the Hy-Bred's momentary retreat as a sign of victory.  Some of the others poured in to fill sniper positions, others tossing hydro-cooling canisters into the burning cars and debris.  The few medics attended to the wounded or fallen comrades, dragging them to safety closer to the opposite side of the street.  Smoke and the smell of gasoline swam around them as the Enforcers continued their damage control of the area.
Chad exhaled in relief, his head still craned toward the comm. tower siege.  He turned at the sound of boots headed in his direction, smooth in stride atop the cracked pavement.
"Captain," he saluted, his right hand flat and jutting out to the sky.  He stayed behind his cover, refraining from standing.
"At ease, soldier," he said, ignoring the formality and helping Chad to his feet.  The other men staved off the immediate threat for the moment.  "You did a hell of a thing today.  Rushing that line when everyone else stayed back.  A fine job, son, very courageous."
"Thank you, sir," Chad replied, still antsy about the Hy-Bred criminal.
"When we get out of this, I am setting you up for a promotion," he said.  Chad was startled, even a little shocked.  "I don't care who I have to talk to, I'll make sure it'll happen."
"Thank you, sir.  I was only carrying out my responsibilities as an Enforcer…"
"Good," replied the captain.  "Now let's regroup and take care of that piece of filth once and for all."
"Captain," one of the other Enforcers shouted.  "We aren't receiving any relays from our map men back at base."
A rough, tearing screech echoed throughout the street.  Chad and the captain looked up in time to see the entire comm. tower tipping over into the road, clinging on to its last bolt.  Chad pushed the captain to move but they were still held in the descending tower's shadow.  Faster and faster it fell upon them, like an inevitable fate they couldn't escape.  They were almost completely away from the area of impact when Chad looked over his shoulder to see if there were any others.  He could see that they were already running, but couldn't see in front of him.
The captain was hit in the arm by a shock of electricity that flung him to the ground.  Chad turned in time to see him scramble to his feet, only to fall again.  The little body armor the Enforcers received was more weight than protection.  Chad doubled-back to reach him, but was knocked down by another shockwave from an exploding car.  The patrol units scattered, while marksmen further back fired in response.
Shrapnel wrenched his body suit, and he was sure he had a couple fractured ribs.  He grit his teeth in pain, and thought how useless his body padding was.  Still, he hoisted himself up and continued to get the captain up and out of there.
Then, the last ground support bolt busted out from its base.  The tower was in free fall.
"Get out of here, soldier!"  The captain's violent scream was so powerful it made Chad hesitate to continue.  As he did, he noticed the dark shadow of the steel structure continuing to narrow on the pavement.  "I'm down!  GO!"
"I'm not—!"
Chad was tackled from the side, barely missing a beam from the comm. tower's heavy collapse.  He landed hard, but was on his feet sooner than he realized to rush over to the crushed captain's side, running hard as if he alone could save him.  He hurdled over the crossbeams and metal supports that were tangled everywhere, finally catching a glimpse of the downed officer.
"SIR!"  Chad yelled.  "Sir!  Are you alright?!  I'm going to get you out of this!"
Vainly, he tried to lift one of the steel pieces off of him, but he felt a hand shove his arm away.
"It's okay, Private," the captain coughed, blood splattering on some of the broken up pieces of rubble.  "You did an excellent job today.  High Command is going to be very proud of you.  You've done the System a great deal of good tonight."
"No!  Come on, we'll get you out of here!"
"You aren't listening, son," he pushed his hands off of the comm. tower's beams.  "Go.  Finish the bastard off.  You're in command of the squad, not by rank, but by authority."
He paused, grunting up some more blood, but not spitting it out.
"You'll need to take him out.  Put him down.  No prisoners.  Promise me."
"Yes sir."
"No, promise me: Put that runt down like a dog"  The dying man spewed more blood, splattering down onto his own visor.  "I can't have him… harming anymore of my men."
"You have my word, sir.  I promise."
The captain rested his head on the unforgiving ground, torn up by the chaos around them.  He relaxed, and then let go of his last breath from his body willingly.
Chad got up, weapon in hand, not even recognizing his comrade that tackled him out of the way and saved him.  He headed directly over to the building.  Jakki could wait.  Chad had a score to settle.

The cabin shook with rough turbulence, hitting Luke's head against the metal floor.
He cradled his head in his hands, not knowing where he was or what was happening.  A faint set of dim blue lights lined the sides of the room he was in.  It was familiar to him.  In his training days, he would be transported around in compartments like this.  The ridges engraved in the floor should have given it away sooner.
Luke figured that he was in the cargo bay of a heli War-Bird.
He groaned and struggled to get up.  The broken ribs and bruised limbs were still throbbing from the previous assault, but a wave of relief washed over him like cool water on a hot day.  Then he realized his arms had IVs in them, his hands bandaged, and few medical supplies and stimulus injection grams were at the foot of the bench.
Resting on the walls of the heli, he let out a sigh, putting his head back.  This night is too long.
"Are you okay in there, Luke?"  The intercom sounded, startling Luke out of his trance.  "Glad to see you're up at least."
Luke turned to the speaker, though it wouldn't have mattered, as the sound would have been picked up loud and clear.
"Hey," he began weakly.  "You showed up."
"Yeah, but you should really thank Corporal Bronze for patching you up.  He met up with me from one of the outposts around the barricaded zones.  He's in the heli following us."
"Hiya, Peters!" Corporal Timothy Bronze said over the intercom.
"It's been a while, Bronze.  Hey, Alan, can you close the channel for a sec?"
"Sure thing, Luke," Alan replied, keeping the communications open only between the cargo hold and the cockpit.
A heavy silence lingered after his request.
"Why were you in the Quarantined Zone anyway?" Alan asked.  He knew right after that it was a terrible idea and scolded himself for it.
"Doesn't your 'All-Knowing System' have that answered for you?" Luke scoffed.
Alan felt guilty, Luke was angry, and both had no idea what to say to each other.  So Alan took the initiative.
"We're en route to headquarters to get you patched up, but…" Alan didn't know if he should say anymore.  "I'm taking us on a detour."
"Is it faster?  I mean, I don't plan on tonight to be my last.  If it is, I'm getting hyped up on those stimulus grams right now…"
"There's a first aid pack on the wall to your right.  There are a few grams of different painkillers and some hormone-stimulants to take the edge off the fatigue left from Bronze.  Just go easy, okay?"
"Why didn't you just leave me with him?  He is a medic."
"I… it was easier this way.  I mean, I already had you in my Warbird, we just left you here."
"Rest easy, we'll be there before—"
Alan's reassurance dropped off as the aircraft leaned to the left, almost turning over in flight.  Luke braced himself as he started to slide with it, grimacing hard to keep from screaming in pain.  The cabin rocked again as something else hit it.
"Hang on, we're in some kind of…" Alan looked down below, a figure surrounded by strands of electricity.  "We're in the middle of a firefight.  I'm engaging."
"Are you serious!?"  Luke felt like he was dying, but he could hardly notice, overcome with a mixture of rage and fear.  "I just tried to get away from danger, don't put both of us back into that situation!"
"It'll just be support!  I need to—"
The heli banked hard to the right, shifting Luke back to where he was before.  He started to get airsick from all the sudden movements.  Going limp, he just allowed himself to be set on his stomach.  Wincing at the pressure it created on his cracked ribs, he rolled over, regretting he ever thought of such a thing.
In the cockpit, Alan was doing his best to outmaneuver electrical charges heading his way.
"How is this guy doing this?" Alan said aloud.  The coordinates on the mapping panel showed where he was, Sector 734.  He was right in the line of fire, right where he feared most, but it was right where he needed to be.
"Squadron Commander Ferdinanz, you're in the way of a Level-4 Hy-Bred," Bronze informed Alan of what he already knew.  His relay was filled with static and barely audible.  "I suggest you let ground patrol handle it after they get some more support."
"Bronze," Alan started, circling wide back around to his wingman.  "We ARE the support."
"No, you're patrolling your sector bringing back one of our wounded and I'm… that decided it'd be a good idea to tag along."  The static worsened.  "Go wide… follow me back to HQ."  
"N-no.  We have to help our guys out," he said, switching his weapons panel on.  "We'll stay at a distance, out of range."
"ALAN!  Freaking listen to him!  You need to get this Warbird and me out of danger!" Luke yelled from the intercom.  "I swear, if I die because of this crazy ride, I'm gonna come back to life and put you into—!"
The aircraft shuddered around violently.  Luke slammed hard into one of the benches, his rant cut short as well as his breath.  He lay there, not wanting to rise up again, weary of the constant instability.
"All surrounding units," an incoming message buzzed over, worse than Bronze's.  "We… a fenced perimeter around the 734 comm. tower.  A high-level threat… Hy-Bred is destroying one of the communications… citizens at high risk.  All available units converge on the 734 comm. tower by… immediately."
"A Hy-Bred!?"  Luke screamed, hysterical.  "Wait—!"
Alan flipped the cargo intercom to off.

Six pairs of heavy boots pounded up the stairs toward the top.
Chad finished the fourth floor, going on to the fifth leading his new squad.  Some were of much higher rank, but seeing his last feat of bravery, they bowed in to his authority.  But it wasn't his newfound courage that helped him surge up the stairs, past the bruised ribs and dazed feeling that filled his skull.  He was determined to plant a piece of steel in the skull of the Hy-Bred scum for the murder of an Enforcer officer, as well as the other dead and wounded strewn all over the street outside.
"Chad!  CHAD!" Jakki shrieked over his vengeful thoughts.  He turned around and saw his savior.  "Slow down and think this through.  You're rushing into this!"
The building rumbled and several Enforcers lost their balance, some falling down several steps.  Chad grabbed for the railing up the stairwell and caught his girlfriend who fell on him.  He propped both up as he got his footing.
"We don't have any time for protocol or plans, corporal," he half stopped, continuing as the words leapt from his mouth.  "We get up there and gut that monster.  End of discussion."

Smoke and fire reflected off the cloudy sky, all from atop the World Plaza building.
Jessie looked at Ricky.  Although she had her mask on, he could tell she was more than upset.  She squatted down and turned away from him, trying to look farther in the distance and avoiding all eye contact with him at the same time.
"I can't believe you told him."
"Jessie, I didn't know what to say.  Look—"
"NO!" she snapped at him, holding a razor sharp iron claw in his face.  "You told Sarah's father!  MY father!  He hates the Enforcers more than anything, more than anyone!  And the last thing you want to do is give him something to set him off on a rampage, especially if it has anything to do with his precious daughter!"
He twisted his head the other way, facing the apartment complex that housed the TRIdon Institute students.  He could see it from the building they were on.  It was only two, maybe three blocks away, max.  The bedroom light was left on, and he could pick out the furniture through the big windows in the living room.  He wanted to be back home.  He wanted to go back in time to where he didn't say a word about Sarah's death.  He wished that he could go back and keep Sarah from getting killed, but none of his desires would ever come to fruition.
All he really wanted was for things not go from worse to catastrophic, but his frequent run-ins with bad luck told him otherwise.
"Jess, head back, I'll deal with this."
"Oh, no," she crossed her arms across her chest, defiant in her stance.  "There's no way I'm letting you ruin things anymore.  But you are right; you're going to deal with this."
She moved back and leapt off the building to the next high-rise, graceful yet tense and ridged.
Ricky sighed. He leapt off the ledge with her, hoping it would collapse and swallow him whole, taking him away from the mess that he had gotten himself into.
Branded Preview: Chapter 5
Branded's easier than ever to check out with chapters online here!  I'll be adding the first five on here for all to read!  If you like it, support the book by purchasing BRANDEDavailable on Amazon Kindle (and its apps)!

You can also follow BRANDED updates and future books( like BRANDED's sequel, BROKEN) on Twitter!

Characters and writing copyright © Nathaniel Scott.
Hey all!  Just wanted to post on here that I got my first book online!  You can get it on Amazon Kindle whenever you fancy for the same price as a Big Mac!  It has something for everyone, and you can check out the first five chapters for free, too!…

"The year is 2100 and the costumed vigilante, Black Shield, is hunted ruthlessly by the new government’s lawmen, the Enforcers. When citizens suddenly mutate into feral, raptor-like monsters, he must band together with his super-human ex-lover and the Enforcers to stop the raptor scourge before it ravages the Eastern Seaboard."

In other news, I've moved most of my new work onto Adobe's Behance website.  I'll still post some on Deviant, but most of my good stuff is in the back.  In Behance.

Stay fly like a pelican, everyone!


youryaleness's Profile Picture
Nathaniel Scott
Artist | Professional | Traditional Art
United States
Current Residence: Pacific Northwest
Favourite genre of music: Blues, House, Electronic, Rock
Favourite photographer: Peter Parker
Favourite style of art: Western comic art
Operating System: OSX
Shell of choice: Turtle
Skin of choice: Bulletproof, ideally
Favourite cartoon character: Spider-man, Invincible.

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DarkMatterNat Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey happy birthday!!! :cake:
youryaleness Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Oh thanks, haha!  Not for another month, but it's coming!
DarkMatterNat Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
oh, haha my bad!
youryaleness Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
It's all good, you're exactly one month away!
(1 Reply)
spartan-locke Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2014   Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday!
youryaleness Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks, man!  Appreciate it.
carnifex125 Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2014
youryaleness Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you, Buntilda!  Can you point me to the nearest bus stamp?
carnifex125 Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2014
oh maaann.... you might paste away if you Dinty Moore....
youryaleness Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Ohhggghhh.  I should... eat a pony.
spartan-locke Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013   Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday!
youryaleness Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks man!
carnifex125 Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013
eugghhh... happeh bursday lake twenty.......
youryaleness Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks, Jimmathy!
SheldonGoh Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2013
Thanks for all the favs. :)
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