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About Traditional Art / Professional Nathaniel Scott23/Male/United States Group :iconmarvel-blackcat-fans: Marvel-BlackCat-Fans
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"These are a few of my favorite things..."



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.

The air was crisp and cool.
At least, that's what Alan's humidity and temperature gauges read on his control panel.  The pilot didn't like the outdoors very much, especially in the city.  
It was how Squadron Lieutenant Alan Ferdinanz liked to spend his weekend nights, even if his officer friends were out drinking or going to the clubs.  Their partying grew repetitious and involved lots of alcohol, which Alan wasn't fond of.  More likely than not, they would be left with a hangover, unable to recall much of what was done the night before.  Alan liked to be in full control of everything, and his mind was no exception.
The quiet, peaceful nights were definitely worth the training, the studying, tests and exams, and especially discipline.  While every other Enforcer had ground patrol routes, facing the danger of being stabbed, shot, or killed, Alan remained safe in the air.  He couldn't keep track of how often his comrades would tease him of being too cautious and careful.  Of course, Lieutenant Ferdinanz, the heli thrusters were cleared out very well, even to your specifications, or, Quit worrying about the stabilizer, it hasn't failed yet has it?  His focus on detail, however, saved his life and those in the heli he commanded.
The same couldn't be said about other members of the Enforcer Aerial Division, who were not as thorough.
He looked up at the mapping panel.  His route was coming to a close, and he would be able to turn back and turn in for the night.  He checked and double-checked the controls and gages, making sure there would be no mistakes on the last leg of his route.
A few weeks ago, he had a shot at bagging a costumed Hy-Bred.  Afraid he was too far out, he stalked about the area the perpetrator was located.  After about fifteen minutes, an Enforcer ground patrol squad eventually took the outlaw down, everyone getting medals and recognition.  In reality, Alan could have had him in five minutes.  Truthfully, dealing with a Hy-Bred was the last thing on his mind.
He never was an outgoing guy.  Every test he would prepare exhaustively, every trip and vacation meticulously planned out, and every option stressed against every pro and con.  He was rarely unprepared for anything, so he always had a level head in nearly every situation he came across.  Without fail, Alan always knew what to do before other Enforcers could identify the problem.  That is, until he ventured into the unknown territory of instant action.  Any split-second decision, any situation that was unplanned for and without protocol, Alan fear the most.
However, he knew that his luck would eventually run out, and he would have to face his fears.
The comm. panel buzzed to life with an incoming message from HQ.  More notably, the Admiral Commander of the Enforcer Aerial Division.
"Lieutenant Ferdinanz, a rogue Hy-Bred has been spotted by our surveillance team in sector 734.  Since your craft is the closest, I would advise you to take measures in taking care of the target."
Alan was less than eager to take a direct order from his superior.  Though most would jump on an opportunity like this, it didn't have the same appeal to him.  He would get full honors, TV recognition for taking down a Hy-Bred, and bragging rights to all his friends.  All of that was on top of a highly recommended letter of promotion.
He gave an excuse instead.
"Sir, if it's a ground target, I believe a patrol unit would be best suited for the job.  Not to mention they aren't of high rank, and their morale could use a—"
"No, Alan," the admiral cut him off, using his first name.  "It's a very dangerous target, making its way fast up to the rooftops.  It's that we get our finest air support to keep it from harming civilians and disrupting our communications tower in that sector.  It was last spotted near Times Square Church."
"With all due respect, sir, would you want to lose your finest?"  Alan was running out of options.  "I'm not prepared for this, and my patrol route is—"
A sigh came over the audio transmitter.
"Alan, I want you to handle it.  Do not disappoint me."
The comm. receiver went dead.
Alan sighed as well, and strained his options as he always did to face the least amount of resistance at such short notice.  He started a new course for sector 734, the Northern Square district.
He honesty wasn't totally against the mission, but he definitely wasn't for hunting Hy-Breds.  He was frightened of the stories he had heard; of those that were dismembered on scouting missions in the ghettos; of those that barely made it through their daily patrols, having their whole squad all but massacred; of the rampages that took place in high traffic pedestrian areas.  He was terrified to take on a Hy-Bred in general, much less one that was closer to his airspace.  Unfortunately, it was the whole reason why he was assigned to deal with the particular target.
Just thinking about Hy-Breds unnerved Alan.  Hy-Breds, a play off of "Highly Bred," were a strange thing, a phenom.  According to the Enforcers, they were experimented humans, the real guinea pigs of science.  It all took place nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, under the Old Military regime, when talks of aliens and communist plots roamed free across North America.  Things like Roswell, UFOs, and other strange happenings were all cover-ups done by the US government to keep the peace in the country.  They were meant to be the next step humanity was to take, a being of higher breed.  Instead, they were out of control freaks and destructive monsters.
It was said that the ones that were experimented all died, and if not during the experiments, then by execution to tie up any loose ends.  But some escaped the "research" facilities, and started normal lives.  They were unaffected by their treatment and contact to harsh chemicals, new drugs, and various types of energy sources.  Strange to think the freaks were peaceful for so long.
That is, until as of late.
In the 2050s, evidence of strange abilities started to surface, from lightening speed to metal manipulation.  As the cases grew more and more common, people feared for the worse, and genetically altered individuals were kept under lock and key.  Those that were able to hide their powers lived normally.  However, anyone suspected of being a Hy-Bred due to genetic inspections for employment could be turned in to the Enforcers and were rewarded handsomely.
Not all employers chose to hire the pricey regulators the Enforcers set up for the public's safety, and faked or wrote off employee genetic tests.  It became apparent that they were still around, and they were abusing their powers or being hired to use them for criminal agendas.
Alan still had doubts as he made his way north.  He wanted something, anything, to pull him out of the situation he was being thrown into.  He was almost crossing into Sector 734, and he started to compulsively check and recheck the systems and their readings.
Why am I doing this if I hate it?  He liked to have back-up, or even back people up, but tonight he didn't have that luxury.  Other than calling in an emergency medic crew so late in the night, he was on his own and there wasn't any excuse he could give now.
"This is Luke Peters, relaying to any Enforcers in Sector 009, over," a sudden and random transmission sounded over the intercom.  
The transmission hit Alan like a club over the head.  He remembered Luke from the academy's testing sessions.  He remembered all the times Luke asked for help and clarification on the upcoming tests and exams.  Mostly, he remembered the times he spent with his good friend, training and meeting up during their recreational breaks.  You gotta cut loose eventually, Alan, Luke would say.  The parties aren't all bad.  There's nothing in those books you'll ever find out here.  Come out with the guys, man.  What do you say?  Alan's response would always go, 'There'll always be tomorrow, Luke.  I'll go next week.'
He froze before answering the call, determining what course of action he should take.  No matter the case, Luke was a good friend, and his commander's order could wait.
"Sector 009, this is Alan Ferdinanz with heli-troop 702, over," Alan voiced over, giving his number.  "Luke, what's going on?!"
Without hesitation, he got a quick answer.
"Man, it's great to hear your voice, Alan!  Listen, I'm in trouble.  Can you read any Enforcer vitals besides mine down here?"
The thought of being reprimanded for his inability to tackle the Hy-Bred mission crossed his mind and he panicked.  He was in sector 009, right?  That could only mean he patrolled a vital but deserted area or an essential part of the Enforcer grid.  
"Luke, I'm sorry, but I really have to push the question: what's going on?"  It was the only thing he could say at a split-second's notice.
"Alan, I'm all alone out here.  Can you please tell me if you're picking up any other heat signatures in the area?"
Alan put his head in his hands, letting autopilot take over for the moment.  What's wrong with me?  He was terrified of that question.  He was terrified of the unknown and even more terrified of failure.
A different comm. signature came in, this time from the city, sector 734.
"This is Chad Millans of Sector 734, do you copy?"
Another fellow graduate, Alan knew Chad as a high performer in the physical training and tests the Enforcers went through.
Maybe there was another option to all this.
"Chad, I read you.  I'm sorry I can't talk now, but there's been a report of a rogue Hy-Bred on the loose."
Maybe he could get him to take care of his Hy-Bred situation.
"Alan, what's that got to do with Luke?  Is he okay?"  Chad seemed eager to get back to the problem with Luke.  How he knew was beyond Alan, although he didn't care.
"It's in your area," Alan avoided the question.  He tried to sound like he was giving an order, something he wasn't used to doing despite his high rank and Chad's subordinate position.  "I'll take care of Luke, just get on that Hy-Bred.  He was spotted by Times Square Church last, probably heading for a main comm. tower in the area.  Alan out."
The stray comm. link was cut off.  It became Chad's problem.
He pulled up the schedule of basic mission status objectives in Sector 009.  Luke's squad was in charge of the communications tower.  Not an important job, but several of the other sectors would off-line if that tower went down.  What was strange was where he was at: the Quarantined Zone.
He buzzed in.  "What's the status of your mission's progress, Luke?  Mission command says your squad was supposed to check up on the communications tower in the vicinity.  What became of the mission?"
There was a pause.  Alan felt like he struck a chord, and a bad one at that.
"Luke, do you copy?"  Now he was worried.  He slowed the heli's flight to a lower speed, listening intently to his relay speaker.
"Yeah, yeah," Luke responded.  "Alan, we were ambushed by a pack of mutant reptile creatures, probably Hy-Breds.  We never made it to the tower.  I'm not that far from the site where we were attacked."  His voice seemed to crack a little.  "Alan, I don't care about stupid protocol.  I'm almost dead and I need to know one thing: can you pick up any vitals from my squad in the area?"
Alan turned off the auto relay system.  He started to feel guilty as he thought of how stupid he was for trying to turn his guilt on Luke so he didn't have to own up and follow orders.  He choked, fighting back tears of guilt laced with his own cowardice.
"Alan, c'mon!  I can't hang on forever!  If you can get any readings, tell me NOW!"  Luke's one-way retort had some bite to it, giving Alan what he deserved.
Alan regained his composure.  He had to decide if he would help a fellow Enforcer and friend or go along with his mission.  He reopened the comm. link.
"Luke, I'm closing in on your coordinates, but I'm too far out to read anything on you accurately."  He tried to offer Luke something that would calm him down.  "Now, if the communication tower is down–''
"I don't care about the damn tower.  Spit it out, Ferdinanz!"
"Private Peters, I'm still over a kilometer away," Alan began, which was partially true, though he was about double that distance. "But I can't get any vitals or readings.  Hold your position, I'm picking you up.  Heli-troop 702 out."
Leaving Luke alone in the Quarantined Zone would be standard according to System protocol.  A Warbird was worth much more to the Enforcers than one lone trooper, but Luke was his friend, and Alan couldn't bring himself to leave him abandoned.  He opened another relay channel open, and motioned for his closest comrade in arms.
"This is Timothy Bronze, what can I getcha?"
"Tim, this is Alan.  Meet me at the south outpost of Sector 009, we've got a medical situation."
"Copy.  Be there in five."
Alan sped over to Luke's position going totally past the Hy-Bred's last posted location.
He only hoped he was making the right decision.
Branded Preview: Chapter 4
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.

"…New York, New York… I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps!"
An old tourist tune played from the speakers of one of the better kept up shops on 51st street as Chad continued his evening route.  The song seemed ancient to him, but, as a New Yorker, he knew the song.  It was one of the many tributes to their city, the greatest city on earth.
Most nights held little excitement for Chad.  After the Second Civil War, the brief clashes with the Old Military rebels were all the Enforcers had to deal with and even that ended quickly.  A major battle in the Grand Canyon ended the insurrection not four months after the resistance movement started against the newly installed Enforcer government.  The president elect and recently elected President White even approved the turnover of departments to the Enforcer Community, stating that, "The old ways of doing things could no longer meet the needs of modern American threats, both foreign and domestic."
Chad remembered watching the turnover on TV with his mother and siblings.  The poor conditions in their ill-maintained apartment made Chad remember how much hope he saw in the eyes of the crowd as the camera panned over them.  The American people finally felt secure and safe.  They didn't have to go to war with foreign nations, playing global policeman.  They didn't have to endanger their young men and women on frontlines fighting over distant political clashes and feuds against the citizens of other nations.  They finally got to keep their sons at home, defending their own land, their way of life, and their streets.  It was a dream long sought for.
Chad continued on, met a fellow Enforcer on the street, and saw himself in the reflection of the helmet's visor.  Chad gave a nod and received one back.  Enforcers started to wear helmets to protect their identities as well as their physical safety.  Despite the new regime change, many citizens didn't like the fact that they were safer at the cost of higher surveillance.
When the Grand Canyon Massacre ended, the Old Military came up on top.  Though the Enforcers outnumbered the Old Military three to one, they didn't have the skill or knowledge of the terrain that their opponents had.  Their fancy new weapons were outmatched by the enemy's experience and marksmanship.  Their new heli-Warbirds were shot out of the sky by veteran jet pilots, blasting away billions in funding.  The Enforcer's desire of accountability and unity was overshadowed by the enemy's ruthlessness and lack of fear, something the new recruits were not able to compete with.
What always puzzled Chad and the Enforcer Community was why the Old Military disbanded after the battle.  The public support was evenly split between the war hero Colonel Holt and the new Enforcers.  After the battle, however, many western states preferred Holt's traditional military and pleaded with their representatives to take action to support him.  Holt, however, was never heard from again.  It was rumored that he was training small militia groups in the Northwest and the Rockies, where Enforcer control was having trouble taking root.
Chad scoffed at the idea that those rebels actually bested the Global Enforcers.  Europe had witnessed the worst eruption of wars in the Balkans that spilled over across the Mediterranean since the Second World War.  The Balkan nations weren't content with the boarders the European Union set up, and fought each other.  This was addressed with sanctions, trade embargos, and eventually (after a year) military action.  Within one year, the whole crisis was stopped as soon as it started as the Enforcer troops moved in to settle the dispute.  The famed 81st division took on the brunt of the Macedonian army corps.  The result ended with much of the opposing military forces in shambles, and one by one the disputing nations surrendered.  The faction of the old American military shouldn't have been so different.
He continued moving his heavy frame down the sidewalk, checking for any signs of criminal activity, which there wasn't any.
Chad started as an Enforcer looking forward to the excitement the ads and recruiters promised, as well as a chance to support his younger brothers and sisters at home.  Two years after his training, and still nothing was more exciting than donning his body armor and helmet in the mornings and afternoon at the barracks.  The potential of actually using his spotless gun for his patrol felt useless, though he still buffed and cleaned it.
In hindsight, he often wondered how things would have turned out if he took the football scholarship he was offered in Florida, but he always worried over his mother and siblings.  They took ultimate priority over his ambitions.  Still, he only hoped something would happen while he was on patrol.
"Hey, stranger."
Chad turned around to see a friendly Enforcer face, which was dangerous because Enforcers were required to wear their helmets on patrol.
"Jakki, hey!" Chad said to his comrade.  He pointed at the top of her head as several onlookers gawked at his fellow Enforcer's unmasked face.  "Helmet."
"Right, right," Jakki said, putting her helmet back on.  "Look at you, telling me how to follow protocol."
"Someone's got to," he nudged her.  "I'm almost done with patrol."
"Care if I join?"
"Yeah, come on."
Chad was grateful to have his friend on his route.  More often then not, city patrols were run individually rather than in pairs.  An Enforcer was well trained and highly armed, so full squads of four only went around less secure sectors.  Nevertheless, Chad was happy to have his comrade and girlfriend by his side.
"I didn't know you had this route."  Chad was puzzled.
"I always have this sector.  You're just too busy looking for an adventure to notice," she nudged him as they walked.
"Sorry, I just expected more from all this, y'know?  I don't know, Jakki.  Sometimes I just want something to happen around here."
He soon got his wish.
A quick jolt from his comm. receiver made him flinch, his hand flew up to his helmet so fast it hit him square in the face.  More than a few in the crowded street looked at him, and even Jakki busted up laughing.
"Nice," Jakki snickered.
How professional… he thought, embarrassed at what just happened.
"… is Luke Peters, relaying… any Enforcers in… 009, over…"  The message was choppy but Chad made out what he could.
Luke Peters, Luke Peters… Chad knew the guy.  He was a buddy of his in the academy, graduated with high marks and was placed in the more dangerous sectors of the city.  Chad wished he got the same opportunity, but he didn't put in the time to earn higher ranks in the knowledge tests as him.  
Lucky punk.  If only I had the chance to actually go somewhere dangerous.
"Luke," he replied.  "This is Chad Millans, over.  What's your status?"
There was only silence.  Obviously he was far out.  Chad was stationed in Sector 734, one of the more secure areas in the city.  The first two numbers meant the strength of the Enforcer presence in the area and the last digit was the area's importance.  Four was like being in charge of high civilian presence; nine was usually a highly classified zone.  The message probably carried over past its communications tower, explaining the static and cutting out.
"Who's relaying in?  Why are you talking to Luke?"
Another message came in, answering the first one only a moment later, this one from a patrol copter.
"Sector 009, this is Alan with heli-troop 702, over.  Luke, what's going on?!"
Chad stopped.  Alan was definitely a familiar voice.  He was valedictorian in his class, a year before Luke and Chad graduated.  He was very high up in rank compared to his cohorts, and some wondered why he still hung around the lower ranked regulars instead of other commanding officers.  Then again, Alan was always an odd duck.  He was a heli squadron commander that could have three other helicopter Warbirds at his disposal if needed, but would always ask if he could eat lunch with Jakki or Chad back at the barracks.
There was some garble, then, "Luke, I'm sorry, but I really have to push the question: what's going on?"  Alan was much clearer, so his position must have been closer.
A more distressed tone came from the other side.
"Alan… you picking… What's wrong?"
Not knowing what to do, Chad jumped in, trying to communicate.
"This is Chad Millans of Sector 734, do you copy?"
A quick reply came with Alan's relay code on it.
"Chad, I read you.  I'm sorry, but there's been a report of a rogue Hy-Bred on the loose."
"Chad…" Jakki started to get worried.  "Is Luke okay?"
Chad was excited, but he tried to clear up the conversation.
"Alan, what's that got to do with Luke?  Is he okay?"
"It's in your area."  Alan sounded different, grimmer, and possibly tired.  "I'll take care of this, just get on that Hy-Bred.  He was spotted by Times Square Church last, probably heading for a main comm. tower in Central Park.  Alan out."
The stray comm. link was cut, and Chad could no longer hear their conversation.  He turned to Jakki, only to see her ready her rifle.
"What did you hear, Chad?"
"Something is going on over by the Times Square Church.  A Hy-Bred freak is destroying the comm. tower."
"And Luke?"  Her increased concern for Luke annoyed him.  They all went into the academy together as strangers, but Chad and Jakki got out the closest.  While they all remained friends, Luke got on Chad's nerve whenever he talked to Jakki.  He was even more pissed off when the opposite happened.  Chad was confident in their relationship, but possessive.  They were beginning their second year patrolling in Enforcers, and had been together for a year.  
"What about him?" Chad cut.
"Is he going to be okay?"
"Yeah," Chad replied, disgruntled.  "Alan's overreacting again.  C'mon, let's head over to the church.  We got a freak to put down."
Chad double-timed it toward the old church with as much speed as he could muster, shadowed by a heli Warbird passing by.
BRANDED Preview: Chapter 3
I decided to make Branded easier to check out by posting some chapters on 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.

Raindrops rippled lightly upon puddles before a foot disturbed its peace.
Rikknel Ezzlin exhaled as he dodged an irradiated fist from one of the most dangerous super-powered criminals of the twenty-second century.  Of all nights, Ricky was lucky enough to be where Atom, a nuclear-powered mercenary, was trying to assassinate a local crime boss, Alfonse del Toro, for a rival gang lord.  
Normally, Ricky wouldn't do anything about such an act, as the city could do without another crime boss running an illegal cable of drugs, human trafficking, and robberies.  But Atom wasn't going to just kill his target.  He was all too theatrical to kill just one man.  More than once, Atom's hits involved a lot of collateral damage, often bringing whole blocks to ruin.
Ricky wasn't going to let that happen.  While Atom wasn't your average hired gun, Ricky wasn't your average citizen.  Clad in black and faded gold, Rikknel Ezzlin was Black Shield, New York's guardian.
In a split second, he side stepped to the left and connected a heavy right into Atom's unarmored stomach, sending the man, a hundred times his own power, several meters back before hitting the pavement.
"You're not going to get out of here that easy, Atom," Ricky said, blocking the most direct route of escape.  Most of the civilians and targets had left and were long gone, so it was just Ricky and Atom.  There was plenty of space for his opponent to run for, but they both knew who was faster.  Ricky straightened up, and extended two energy shields from reinforced graphene gauntlets.  "You're not going anywhere.  Stand down."
"Are you kidding me, man?" His opponent scoffed.  "I'm raw nuclear power!  Out of my way!"
A bolt raced toward Ricky, and exploded in a direct hit sending smoke and rubble everywhere.  But after the dust settled, it was clear the fight was far from over.
"You can't think that was it, right?" Ricky said with his shields still up.  He dug into the ground as several more blasts hit his shields, each one forcing him farther back than the last.  Ricky strafed to the right, dodging Atom's barrage of attacks.  "We've done this tango way too many times, Atom!  You know how it goes.  Why don't you just give up?"
"What can I say, Shield?  I'm more of a gambler than a dancer.  And right now…"  Atom stopped his barrage and changed directions.  "I'm feeling pretty lucky."
A wild shot hurled angrily towards a couple on the opposite end of the crossfire.  Ricky was fast, but his momentum was already moving him in the opposite direction.  By the time he stopped and turned around, all he could do was look on as horror and fear washed over them.  Desperate, he screamed out in rage.
The ground shook as a hundred megawatts slammed into a corner market and sent countless pieces of debris and shattered glass everywhere.  It was hard to focus against all the screaming and horns blaring as he moved toward the spot he last saw them.  The rain started to die down, which only allowed the smoke and dust to linger longer in the air.
This couldn't be happening again…
A sudden blast hit him square in the chest, sending him skipping across the pavement.  An old-style deli shop shook as it absorbed the kinetic energy he was carrying with him.  He craned his neck to see another oncoming blast headed his way.  In one motion, he held his arms above his head as his shields flickered to life just in time to catch his doom.
Ricky leapt to his feet and ducked under another bolt before he dove for Atom, tackling him hard into the ground.  From previous encounters, he was familiar with Atom's equipment and plan of attack.  Acting fast, he whipped a quick backhand across his enemy's face, connecting an armored hand with cloth, skin, and bone.  Ricky knew if he could keep his enemy's concentration off, Atom would be defenseless and out of commission in minutes.
He just hoped he hadn't learned any new tricks since their last encounter.
"You friggen piece of trash!"  Fists flew faster than the words he was speaking.  Ricky's brute force broke ribs through guarded metal, bruised organs through hazy vision, and destroyed any of his transformers.  "They weren't part of this!  This is between YOU and ME!"
Atom's metal mouth ventilator was left in pieces, allowing him to spit up the pool of blood spewing from his mouth.  He coughed up a smile along with chunks of flesh and teeth, bringing up laughter bubbling to the surface.
"You think this is funny?"  Ricky demanded through the guise of Black Shield, his dark gold visor stained with dirt and scuffed up from rock and asphalt.  He drew Atom's swollen face closer to his dark mask while raising a fist lined with a narrow blade of energy.  "You think this is funny, you monster!?"
"Relax, kid, your adoring public is fine.  No thanks to your little friend…"
Slamming his shield into Atom's face and forcing him into the broken street, Ricky turned to see the two pedestrians shaken up and frightened, but not harmed.  Beside them stood another masked figure telling them to get out of the area, which they eagerly heeded.
"Not the 'hero' image you were looking for, huh?"  Atom wormed another smile between bloody cuts and knocked out teeth.  "Beating the bad guy to death in public really boosts that knight-in-shining-armor look, doesn't it?  Don't guys like you have some kind of rule about never killing your villains off?"
"I swear, this is the wrong freaking week to piss me off, man."  Ricky dropped him back to the ground.  The distant Enforcers sirens grew more audible, placing the nearest surveillance drone less than two blocks away, and the nearest physical squad not far behind that.  Ricky's enhanced hearing easily picked up their hushed tone, which was only heard by those directly in the Enforcer's line of sight, getting pedestrians out of the way and keeping criminals from fleeing the scene too early.
"Shield, we gotta get out of here," his partner said, looking around her surroundings for incoming Enforcers.  Her hearing was equally as sharp, if not better, and picked up the muted sirens as well.  
"All right Jaguar, scout a safe route out of here," Ricky replied, using her alias.  Still furious, he turned back to Atom, bearing a pointed shield from his right gauntlet.  "You're lucky I think an Enforcer prison block is worse than killing you right now, because—"
"BLACK SHIELD, c'mon!" Jaguar demanded.  Enforcer ground patrols were already closing off eastern exits, and it wouldn't be long until 48th Street would be crawling with helmets and rifles.  There wasn't any time to talk tough.
The soles of his boots slapped the pavement as he ran off to meet up with his partner, hiding in the shadows.  Within seconds, he became completely invisible in the darkness the alleyway created.
"You need to show me how to do that," Jaguar said as she started to lift up her mask, spitting on the ground.  
"You okay?"
"Yeah, it's just this place.  Seattle's weather doesn't have as much… diversity in the air."
"Our pollutants carry their own special charm," he joked.  His hand coaxed her shoulder lightly to keep moving as the footsteps of heavy Enforcer patrol units surrounded the area.  Their time was quicker than before, which meant they increased the number of active units on the ground.  "We need to get to higher ground.  It's getting crowded fast."  
Their escape wasn't an issue.  It was how they were to stay hidden that remained their biggest problem.  The quiet hum of drone motors whizzed overhead, not stopping to comb through the shadows of the buildings that masked the two vigilantes.
Jaguar, Ricky's cohort, threw a barrage of steel daggers through the drone's plastic and metal frame, shattering it into hundreds of pieces.  She had fantastic reflexes and strength, as well as augmented sight and smell.  But it was her uncanny aim with small metal shards she dubbed her "iron claws" which made her so deadly.  Her small blades lined a protective corset around her ribs as well as her forearms and thighs.  Doubling in utility, they allowed her to climb around the concrete jungle of the city with ease while they were hounded by Enforcer patrols.
Ricky never asked her where she got her powers, but that hardly mattered at the moment.  The black sky rose endlessly above him as he looked up at the final stretch of brick to scale.  Launching himself backward and up, he flipped onto the roof, only to find his friend had beat him there.  She was smiling wide with her arms crossed.  Her thick, wavy ponytail was picked up slightly by the wind.
"You're welcome, by the way," she said, looking straight at him.
"Thank you?"  He was unsure what she meant.
"For rescuing those two people back there before Atom turned them to ash?"  She examined her claws lazily.  "I mean, you're the one with the shields, but I guess I can help out, too…"
"Oh, yeah, duh.  Thanks."  While she had already done a great job clearing out most of the civilians off the street, he was still relived that no one was hurt.  Strangely, it included the mobster Atom was after, no matter how much he deserved it.  He would have to deal with Alfonse and his trafficking cabal later.  "You did a great job out there."
"Don't you just wish you had real super powers?"
"Like super-speed?  Yeah, sometimes.  But more recently than usual, Jess."
"Yeah, I know," she replied softly, cutting the humor out of the conversation.  They had both been through a whirlwind of events together.
Jessica Sanders was an old friend from high school, and the closest friend he had at the moment.  Her present alias as Jaguar, another costumed Hy-Bred, was totally new to him, as he lost contact with her for years after she moved to Seattle.  Since her visit barely two weeks prior, he found out she had super powers like her sister and his roommate, Sarah Matthews.  Though they were twins and shared the same powers, Jessica retained her mother's maiden name after her parents divorced while the sisters were in high school.  Sarah, closer with her father, kept her last name the same.
Two weeks ago, Jessie arrived from Seattle, paying a strange but welcomed visit to Ricky and Sarah.  In costume, Ricky and Sarah had uncovered a plot within a criminal cabal that involved the release of a deadly virus that transformed infected humans into giant reptilian killing machines.  During their discoveries, they ran into Jaguar, who was found out later to be Jessie.  Unfortunately, their combined effort was unable to stop the virus from breaking out in the poorer sections of the city.  In the end, Sarah was infected and was later shot on sight by an Enforcer task squad.
She was his closest and dearest friend.  And now she was dead.
Ricky's visor slid into his mask as he peeled it over his head.  Jessica was hard to read, but as his vision adjusted, he could see it unmistakably.  Sympathy was all that was read on the face that was covered by hair and faked strength.
"Ricky, are you… all right?" Jessie asked, trying to comfort him.
"Yeah, I'll be okay."
"Well, that was convincing.  Be honest with me."
"I feel a little lost right now, that's all.  Something about how Sarah died didn't seem right."
"Ricky, please don't do this to yourself…"  Jessie touched his right arm, dropping hers down to his elbow.
"Why was there so little ash?"  He started to think out loud as he paced, disregarding her touch.  "I could smell the burned clothes she wore, but not charred flesh or burnt hair."
"Maybe the new weapons totally vaporized her," Jessie shrugged.  "Don't look too far into it, Ricky.  It's tearing you apart."
"There's one more thing that doesn't make any sense, though."  Ricky's voice was troubled and distant.  He cradled a thin cord in his hand.  "I gave her this necklace that would store her new nanite costume.  It was linked to her genetic signature, so she would be the only one able to access and use it, and also served as a tracer if she was ever captured or kidnapped."
"Where are you going with this?"
"The device is still trying to trace her location.  That means she could still be alive."
"And what if it's defective?"
"I… It can't be wrong, Jess.  I can't be wrong.  It shouldn't try to scan the area for her if she was dead…"
"Look, you know Sarah and I were more rivals than sisters, but I cared for her, too.  Right now, neither of us can do anything about what's been done," she said calmly.  Ricky looked up at her.  Her soft brown eyes could always lighten up his mood.  She could pry secrets from a Russian spy with her eyes.  "C'mon hero, you need some sleep."
"You're right," Ricky said, his head back down, staring at the city's skyline.  "Maybe I just need a break.  I can't let my emotions get the better of me, especially in a fight.  Honestly, I don't know if I can keep it together much longer."
"I'm guessing that's why you went overboard on Atom, huh?"
"Yeah, I kind of lost control.  Thanks for catching me back there.  I needed that."
"So did he," she said, peering over the edge of the building.  Enforcer troops swarmed the area, already wheeling the broken man away into an armored transport.  "He's no saint, and trust me, I'd gladly finish him off given the chance.  But that's not you."
"I almost thought I was turning into Flank for a minute there."
"You're not," she consoled him.  "He may have shown you how to fight and turned you into the perfect warrior you are now and all that good stuff, but there's more to you than a guy in a black onesie that punches people.  You're better than whatever he wanted you to become."
Ricky remembered his time spent with his former Hy-Bred teacher, Nicolas Flank.  For two years, he trained Ricky physically, mentally, and martially.  A former Enforcer himself, his hulking, former mentor was a terrible and harsh master.  His training was grueling, but effective, enabling him to go toe-to-toe with several opponents at once.
Ricky's greatest edge was his speed and his adrenaline-fueled strikes.  During his training, Nicolas Flank taught Ricky how to control his adrenaline, calling upon his adrenal reserves at will.  While he wasn't as strong as Jessie or his old mentor, he was able to amplify his strength tenfold by tapping into his adrenaline on command.
Ricky was often tasked with assassination and infiltration missions, targeting crime bosses to low-level gangsters.  Gradually, his missions would involve the permanent disbandment of certain Enforcer squads that were especially cruel.  It wasn't long before Ricky denounced the constant bloodshed, and left his former master.  However, it wasn't without a fight, and the pupil and teacher cut their ties bitterly.
"I'll always be haunted by everything I did when I trained with him.  That much spilled blood is hard to wash off."  He paced around, breathing deep.  "Thanks, though.  I needed that."
They began to walk over to the other end of the roof, towards his apartment.  He longed to sleep for who knew how long.  Twelve hours didn't seem like enough time, and it may easily turn into sixteen if he let himself shut out any desire for food or human contact.
"Ricky…" Jessie stopped him, as if she could read his mind.  "I can tell you're still turning what happened to Sarah over and over in your head.  All they saw were Hy-Breds.  You know their orders."
"That doesn't help at all," Ricky nearly laughed, but he couldn't get it out of him.
"I'm not trying to justify their actions, but I know it wasn't personal."
"So Sarah and I ran into a specific Hy-Bred Hunter squad on our own?  That makes me even more worried.  Have you noticed any surveillance drones around my place lately?"  Ricky checked the skies.
"Point is, that beam they used would have been set to kill.  There wasn't supposed to be a body or anything left."
He remained silent.  His jaw tightened up.
Jessie realized how awful she sounded and uncrossed her arms.
"Look, I'm sorry.  I'm not trying to be such a… me, I guess," Jessie fumbled over her words again as she reached for him.  "I can't let you torture yourself like this any longer, though."
"No, you're right, Jess," Ricky smiled, withdrawing himself from her and continuing to walk on.  "I just don't know what to do.  I mean, you're going to head back to Seattle eventually, raptors roam the streets, and it's only a matter of time before Enforcer drones piece together the times they see Black Shield reappearing out from my apartment and trace the public surveillance footage back to me."
Jessie offered a smile, grabbing his arm again.  He didn't fight it this time, and caught her looking square at him.
"I just lost my best friend and the woman I loved, Jess," he said as she enclosed his strong torso in her embrace.  "I feel… lost right now.  There's no other way to describe it."
"I know, I know.  But we'll get through it, together."  She backed away from him, turning to the city.  "You've been evading and beating the Enforcers for years now.  You just stopped Atom from doing a whole lot more damage than he would've done.  What if you weren't here?"  
She let the din of the city fill in the gap as she looked closely at him.
"New York is strong, and so are you.  I'm sure it'll keep the Enforcers on their toes and off of yours.  The raptors, the gangs, the real criminals, they'll keep the System busy while you take that break you're talking about.  Not everything can be your priority."
"The city is my priority.  Sarah helped me see that the wellbeing of others was paramount.  It sounds cheesy, but I didn't ever take this whole superhero thing seriously until I met her."
"Well, handsome," she began, cooing endearingly at him they way she used to when they were together.  "Don't take it too seriously."
"Thanks, Jess," he said.  Ricky nudged her and jumped off to the next building.
"Ricky, you can't live normally, not after all this."  Jessie remained serious, following closely behind.  "Was it ever this exciting?  Was it this ever real before?  We're jumping off of buildings right now.  You know how much normal people pay to do stuff like this?"
Ricky looked across the skyline of the city as they made their way from rooftop to façade to rooftop again.  Its bright lights always made him feel so small in such a large metropolis.  As much as he had his doubts, Jessie was right.  Every light in every building in the city represented another life that needed a guardian.  He had to keep fighting, if only for those that couldn't.
"You're right," Ricky said, disturbing a soft area of gravel with his feet before standing up.  "I just… don't want to see you hurt."
"That's sweet," Jessie smiled.  "But if I can't go down dressed like this, you might as well turn me in to the Enforcers right now."
BRANDED Preview: Chapter 2
I decided to make Branded easier to check out by posting some chapters on 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.


AUGUST 11, 2100 AD

Luke was wounded, lying in the doorway of death.
Lying on the rubble and residue of the battle, he let his mind space out for a moment.  So this is how it's going to be? he thought.  He felt heat emanate from his wounds despite the chilly nights of the Bronx.  He grit his teeth and closed his mind to the pain that spiked all over his body.  Granted, he wanted a bit of excitement on his patrol, but what he received was more than he bargained for.
At least it gives me something to tell the boys back at the barracks.  He smiled and almost laughed.  Or something to put on my epitaph.
Obviously, the rumors of new rodents in the city had more truth to them.  Even worse, they weren't actually rodents.  Humanoid lizard creatures were a rumor in New York, like alligators in the sewers or Old Military ghosts in the old Statue of Liberty.  Unfortunately, news of the raptor-like creatures were all too true, evidenced by the ambush of reptilian creatures Luke was narrowly able to fend off.  They'd be back, though.  The packs the beasts travelled in wouldn't let potential prey slip through their razor-sharp claws.
Intense pain wracked his body as he reached for his pack of equipment, which was knocked off his body during the fight.  Frantically, he dug around the pouch until he found his last remaining pressure detonator.  He chucked it over to the doorway, the last place he saw them run off to.  It detonated inside on impact, giving Luke no time to fully shield his face from the oncoming shrapnel.  Debris and shards of glass flew all around him, grazing his arm.
As his surroundings settled down, he surveyed the damage done.  It was a good thing he was in a secluded alleyway that was rarely traveled, or the collateral damage would have been taken out of his next few paychecks.  The caved in entryway spewed dust and sent the smell of rotting bodies past the walls that were riddled with gunfire.
Luke rested his head on the inviting pavement.  Just a minute, a quick break.  The world can wait.  His time, whether it was one minute or an hour, was cut short.  A faint growl was heard from the opposite entrance of the alley.
"No-no-no-NO!"  Luke panicked.  He fumbled around in the darkness for his rifle, shoving himself away from the noise with his feet.  Horrified, he realized it wasn't there, and frantically scanned the ground.  Nothing.  The noise he heard from the alley only grew louder and louder.  In fact, it wasn't alone, and soon a solo song became a duet, accompanied by what seemed to be more and more growls and gnashing of teeth.
He bruised his leg on something.  Out of its holster, Luke spotted his pistol, the grip of the gun rubbing against his thigh.  He snatched it up, almost dropping it.  Flicking the safety off, he pointed it at the darkness hiding his enemy.  The night was very silent, eerie, and unnerving.  The only sound was Luke's hurried breaths and his boots scraping against the ill-kept pavement, still inching away.  
Suddenly, a flash of scales emerged out of the shadows, green and faded.  Luke squeezed off three shots into its head and two more for good measure into its chest.  He stood up as another lunged toward him.  He shot, but wasn't as lucky the second time around.  Before he knew it, the raptor was on him and his pistol out of his hands, skipping across the ground like a rock on a lake.  The wild snarl of a violent raptor was in his face, saliva spewing from its jaws.  Luke couldn't wrestle with it for long, but he wouldn't go down without a fight.
He threw his hands in the beast's jaws, keeping them from clamping off his face.  Straining, he watched the blood pour out of his palms, more blood then he had ever seen before.  The pain was too great, and he had to think fast.  He threw the raptor's head to the right, and thrust his lower half up, catapulting it up into the air.  The raptor was jolted, confused, and landed on its back.  Luke rolled to his left, picking up his pistol in the process.  He leapt backwards shooting the downed raptor, landing on his tailbone and skidding on his back.
He got up quickly and checked the raptor at a distance to see if it was breathing, unnerved by the quick set of events that had just transpired.  It appeared to be dead, but it still managed to wheeze out of a shot-up neck.
He readied his finger to send another bullet into it.  He stopped at the sound of a voice, barely audible, whispering lightly from the creature against his own heavy breathing.  He couldn't understand it and pointed the gun at the skull of the raptor.  It weakly put up a hand in submission and surrender.
"Please," it managed.  "Don't shoot…"
"Y-you can talk?"  Luke was curious more than anything, but remained alert.  He had no idea that they could speak.  Edging closer, his kept his side arm trained on its mark.
"This… this is your doing.  Your Enforcer administration… caused this.  Please… don't kill us…"  It could hardly make out the words.  Luke figured it had little time to live.
Hesitating momentarily, he let his aim fall off his target.
"Why on earth would the Enforcers cause this?"  Luke held the grip tighter and raised his weapon to meet the creature properly.  A pool of blood began to form around the wounded raptor, forcing his boots to retreat.  "I'm... I'm taking you in.  The barricade is less than two blocks away, we'll question you there."
"You won't have the chance…"  The voice seemed to be female, soft and light like a mother.  "I… can fight the hunger… for now.  But I'm afraid… it will overcome me.  Go...  NOW.  I can't fight it off for long."
"No, you're coming with me!"  Luke started to get angry, impatient, and worried all at once.  Could these creatures really be human beings, mutated or transformed?  He would have to find out later.  "This is Private Peters to Sector 009 outpost.  Do you read me?"
"No!"  The raptor seemed to regain strength out of now where, a jolt of energy after being on the brink of death.  It scurried to its feet, but backed away, as if Luke held all the power.  "You can't remain here!  Get out of here… while I have some control over this disease.  More will come!  GO!"  It doubled over, as if it was struck in the stomach.  It heaved and fought to breathe, but was managing its wound well.  "Leave!  I can't stay in control of this much longer!  You have to get out of here before I can't fight it off anymore!"
Luke didn't know what to say.  "I said stay down!"  He started backing up, tapping his helmet to broadcast another message.  "This is private Peters, come in—"
"No!  You'll just…"  It fell to the ground, on all fours now.  Shrieking, it writhed in pain until it finally lunged at him.  "Send them to their death!"
Luke watched in disbelief as it shot straight toward him.  It wasn't as fast, but for taking several hits, it seemed to shrug off its wounds easily.  He felt remorse and anguish as he pulled the trigger on the monster.  It twisted onto a shot leg and fell, but not before bashing him several meters out in a charge.  He landed on the asphalt, ready to fight hand-to-hand while still on his back.
But it didn't leap at him.  Staggering backward, it watched him.  A screaming, groaning sound came from its mouth, as if it was wrestling with something.  It turned heel, smacking his pistol back in his direction with its tail.  He grabbed his weapon, and pointed at where it was, but all that was left was darkness.
He sighed; relieved it was all over and yet empty and full of sorrow.  It had a voice and emotions.  They viciously tore through his squad, but a piece of humanity shone through.  Whatever those creatures became didn't erase all of the host's humanity.  He didn't know what to do.
On his feet, he managed to walk back toward the nearest perimeter outpost.  He had only travelled a few steps when his legs gave way.  The fatigue and wounds he sustained began to take their toll on him heavily.  On his side, he forced himself to keep crawling, but couldn't.  Rolling on his back, he turned on his communications relay in the inside of his helmet.
"This is Luke Peters," he sighed, expecting no reply.  "Relaying to any Enforcers in Sector 009, over."
No reply came back.  He wheezed heavily.  Luke didn't know how long he could last out in the deserted sector.  Any of the sectors with the beginning of "00" had minimal Enforcer presence.  Sector 009 was quiet, dirty, and very polluted, the muck and garbage frequently being dumped illegally.  The area was still not rebuilt from the Terror-Forces War several years back.  And 009 wasn't even that bad.  The worst was when there was clusters of human squatters huddled around the old supermarkets and abandoned public buildings.  They tended to also be very violent.
Luke lay there and sighed.  This couldn't be what the Enforcers had come to, sending their rookies to the worst parts, seeing if they survive, and then put them in a more pleasant position elsewhere.  They were the gladiators of the twenty-second century.  If you survive the coliseum of the city, you fight again and again until you gain enough prestige to be out on safer patrols.  If only there were people watching Luke right now.  It would give him the motivation to fight, the cry of the spectators bellowing over the deafening screams of violence.
The mic buzzed twice, letting him know a reply message was being sent.
"Sector 009, this is Alan with heli-troop 702, over.  Luke, what's going on?!"  A familiar voice was on the other end.  Alan was a fellow cadet-in-training at the academy, who graduated a year before he did.  Luke smiled, almost in tears.
"Man, it's great to hear your voice, Alan!"  Luke still couldn't believe it.  "Listen, I'm in trouble.  Can you read any Enforcer vitals besides mine down here?"
"Luke, I'm sorry, but I really have to push the question: what's going on?"  The seriousness in Alan's voice shattered Luke's relief like a bullet through glass.
"Alan, I'm all alone out here.  Can you please tell me if you're picking up any other heat signatures in the area?"
A brief pause worried Luke. Suddenly, the mic buzzed to life again.
"What's the status of your mission's progress, Luke?  Mission command says your squad was supposed to check up on the communications tower in the vicinity. We have to follow System protocol, no matter what.  That's priority number one.  What became of the mission?"
Luke didn't know what to say.  For weeks, his squad usually just made sure it was standing, often not even checking the sensors and gauges for their status.  But today was different; before his squad even was able to reach it, they were ambushed.  Luke still hadn't fully grasped the fact that his whole team could be dead.
"Luke, do you copy?"
"Yeah, yeah."
How would he word their past blunders without being deducted pay or having to face the consequences?  After all, the comm. tower could be off for all he knew, and he was picking up signal from another tower.  "Alan, we were ambushed by a pack of mutant reptile creatures, probably Hy-Bred humans.  We never made it to the tower.  I'm not that far from the site where we were attacked."  The feeling was setting in now.  What if he was the only one left in his squad?  "Alan, I don't care about the stupid rules.  I'm almost dead and I need to know one thing: can you pick up any vitals from my squad in the area?"
Another pause.
"Alan, c'mon!  I can't hang on forever!  If you can get any readings, tell me NOW!"
That seemed to get his attention.
"Luke, I'm closing in on your coordinates, but I am too far out to read anything on you accurately.  Now, if the communication tower is down–''
"I don't care about the damn tower.  Spit it out, Ferdinanz!"
"Private Peters, I'm still over a kilometer away but I can't get any vitals or readings.  Hold your position, I'm picking you up.  Heli-troop 702 out."
Luke tried to relax, but was far too tense.  If his squad was dead, he couldn't do anything more.  So he waited, and questioned himself.  Did the Enforcers really not care about the welfare of their men?
Light rain splashed on his visor and helmet, bringing Luke back to reality.
He couldn't find an answer.  He could barely concentrate.
The last thing he remembered were boots landing by him, orders being given, and the fading sensation of G-forces working on his wracked body.
BRANDED Preview: Chapter 1
Hey all!  I decided to make Branded easier to check out by posting some chapters on 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!
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pazlowq 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.
pazlowq 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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