A half-naked man lay on a table, surrounded by gleaming metal devices. The room was filled with soft beeps as the devices monitored the condition of the still-unconscious man. A portable EKG began to click loudly as it detected the brainwave patterns starting to increase.
A red light flashed on the desk of an Asian woman in a room nearby. She ran her hand through her rumpled hair before rising. She picked up a small vanilla folder and went to the room where the man lay. She checked the devices first, then stood near the man.
The man opened his eyes to look curiously around the room. His gaze settled on the Asian woman standing next to him before he attempted to speak. An unearthly language filled the air as the man asked several questions that the woman didn’t understand.
“You need to speak English, Mr. Shelley. I know you have many questions to ask, but you must ask them in English. My name is Dr. Yokito Oka, and my employer has asked that I watch over you until you have recovered.” The woman named Dr. Yokito Oka smiled reassuringly at the man she called Shelley.
The man blinked his eyes before speaking in perfect English to the doctor. “I do not remember anything. Who am I? What is this place? How long have I been sick?”
Oka placed a hand on the table before starting to answer. “Your real name is Mitch Shelley. You are in a protected area built by my employer. You have been in a deep coma for several months. I have a report for you to read that should answer most of your questions.”
Dr. Oka handed Shelley the vanilla folder before stepping back from the table. Shelley flipped through the folder with a keen curiosity while the good doctor waited patiently for him to finish. Shelley shook his head several times before finally completing his perusal of the folder.
“None of it sounds real to me. Maybe if I heard a human voice tell me what the report says, it would strike a chord in my absent memories.” Shelley rose from the table with considerable grace for a man who had been in a coma for months.
“If you think it would help you recover your memories, I will summarize what’s in the report.” Dr. Yokito Oka gently removed the report from the hand of Shelley before opening to read from the report.
“You were a research scientist working for a government organization under another scientist named Dr. Myron Mazursky. Mazursky was obsessed with discovering what he later named the meta-gene. In 1939, while waiting for a shipment of chemicals at a warehouse in Gotham City, a man fell from the sky. The impact injured him severely. You and Dr. Mazursky went to aid the man when you discovered that his wounds were healing almost instantly. A decision was made to capture the man and study what made him tick.
“The project was code-named Resurrection Man by Mazursky. A serum was made from the blood of the man, but unfortunately the only way to test the effectiveness of it was to injure the recipients. None of the test subjects showed any signs of the same healing factor as the original. The prospects of the Resurrection Man Project continued to look bleak. You decided to inject yourself with a re-engineered formula, but in your case the formula worked. This was close to two years after the original capture of the man from another world. The re-engineered formula also gave you an eerie mental link with the captured man. You decided to free him and take him back to the place he fell from the sky.
“The escape went as planned. With no one the wiser, you made your way to Gotham City, where an incident took place. You decided to go with the man to his other world, so the both of you went into the gateway. The theory is that, because of the mental link, his memories and link to the sword transferred to you while in this gateway. Your real memories as Mitch Shelley were either displaced or erased entirely. You fell back to Earth, believing that you were this mystery-man called Paladin of Light. Mazursky determined that attempting to capture you at that time would attract too much attention.
“You were very active during this time, working with the All-Star Squadron as well as the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Then you vanished. The government was relieved by your disappearance because of your active and vocal protests about the internment camps. The reports indicate that you sacrificed your life to save the world from an extra-dimensional invasion. Eventually, after several decades, you reappeared, which attracted the attention of the modern incarnation of the government bureau that you had worked for. The DEO tried to discover where you were but was unsuccessful at first. Some sort of trick was used to lure you away from civilization, where the DEO attacked you. They decided that, in the event that capture was impossible, a full assault to destroy you would happen.
“The assault did take place, destroying the sword and nearly killing you. The sword unleashed a massive amount of energy that destroyed the attackers. The explosions attracted the attention of a Coast Guard patrol. They found your unconscious form and took you to a hospital. A doctor at that facility managed to shield you from the DEO for a short while before they discovered that you were still alive. The doctor smuggled you out of the hospital to this place. Then I took over monitoring your health, waiting for you to recover.” Oka closed the report and moved very close to Shelley.
Mitch Shelley still looked puzzled by the whole situation as he noticed for the first time how attractive Dr. Oka was. He jumped up from the table and quickly stepped away from the doctor. “So why don’t I remember any of this?”
“I think they tried to erase your memory as a last-ditch effort to find a way to control you. The process left your language skills intact for some reason.” Oka looked satisfied by Shelley’s reaction to her as he once more stepped back. She reached into a pocket and pulled out a man’s ring made in an old-fashioned style. She tossed the ring to Shelley, who caught it out of reflex.
He looked at the ring, then at Oka. “What’s this?”
Dr. Oka instructed the puzzled Shelley about the ring. “Put it on and then picture a suit in your mind. Concentrate on the suit, and see what happens.”
Shelley slipped the ring on his finger, which fit perfectly. On a subconscious level, the ring on his finger felt right. “Could you show me a picture of a suit? I know what it means, but I can’t recall what a suit looks like.”
Oka chuckled slightly before going to a computer console. She tapped on a couple of keys that activated several devices. A flickering, three-dimensional image of a blank-faced man appeared in the air. A variety of garments appeared to clothe the man. Oka looked over at the fascinated Shelley. “Does that help you any?”
A brief smile appeared on Shelley’s face as he watched the image. “It is perfect.” Shelley pictured one of the suits in his mind and concentrated on the image. A flash of light came from the ring as a suit enveloped him. A laugh escaped his mouth, realizing he was successful in using the ring.
Oka clapped at the delight written across Shelley’s face. “Well done. Now, if you are interested in trying something else, I will take you to a training facility.”
“Sure thing, Dr. Oka. You can call me Mitch, though.” A somewhat shy smile appeared on Shelley’s face this time.
“Only if you agree to call me Yokito. After all, we will be working closely together if you decide to accept my employer’s offer.” Yokito offered her arm for Mitch to take as she moved next to him.
“It’s a deal.” Mitch took Yokito’s arm with obvious pleasure.
The two moved through the base, with Shelley taking a keen interest in everything as they finally stopped in front of a door that read Advance Training Area. Yokito pulled out a green pass card that she swiped down an electronic card reader. The door swung open, and the two entered the room, which turned out to be much bigger than it appeared on the outside. Shelley gazed with wonder at the size of the auditorium.
“It’s a tesseract created from the theories of a scientist on this world. A small, clean nuclear device powers the tesseract. This whole area is a special training area for the boss’s daughter and now for you as well, if you wish. Would you like to try it out?” Yokito waited for Mitch’s answer.
“I would love to try it out, if you think I should,” Mitch answered, a hidden eagerness in his voice.
“Good. I will enter the control room and activate the lowest level of the training program. If that proves to be too easy, I will crank it up until you tell me to stop.” Yokito entered a small elevator that moved upward to the control room. She entered the control and set up the training program.
Mitch Shelley waited for something to happen, unconsciously slipping into a martial stance of readiness. A robotic form emerged from the wall and attacked. Shelley, acting on instinct, dodged the attack before lashing out with a blow of his own. The well-placed blow knocked the metallic form off its feet. Shelley grinned up at the control room, delighted with his success.
A loudspeaker boomed from the wall in Yokito’s voice. “I am going up three levels, so be prepared for a challenge.”
The robotic form on the ground rose as several other robotic forms emerged from the walls. The robots shimmered, and three-dimensional human images covered them. A snake symbol appeared on the costumes that the now-human-looking robots wore. The robots pulled out fierce-looking martial weapons and surrounded Shelley. The robots shouted, “For the glory of Kobra!” as they moved in to attack. A wild frenzy of blows struck out at the unarmed Shelley. Somehow Shelley deflected or dodged the blows as his body moved instinctively. He power-kicked one of the robots, clearing a path out of the attacking mechanical machines’ deadly circle of steel, and dived clear.
Subconsciously, this too felt right as he picked up the falling machine’s sword and spun it around in his hand. The sound of steel hitting steel rang through the air as the blade in Shelley’s hand weaved an impenetrable barrier around him. A pleased grin was on his face as he switched from defense to an astonishing offense. With several swift and powerful blows from Shelley’s borrowed blade, the robots weapons were knocked from their hands. Shelley then dropped his sword to the ground and attacked the mechanical men with his body.
Yokito Oka, amazed by the display of swordsmanship, was even more impressed by the display of martial skill that Shelley put on as he disposed of the mechanical men almost effortlessly. Oka then thought that even her father’s guardian would be hard pressed to defeat the man standing down below. Activating the speaker system, she asked Shelley, “Do you want to continue?”
You mean there’s more? Shelley thought for a moment before asking a question. “What’s the highest level that this place can do?”
Oka’s eyes opened wide with astonishment. “You want to try the highest level? Not even our employer’s daughter is that foolish. This place will rip you to shreds if I activate that level.”
Shelley’s eyes were fearless as he looked up at the booth where Oka was. “So you think it’s a bad idea, then?”
“I could set it for the standard training level that she uses, if you wish to try it.” Yokito began to input the new program level as the area altered into a city setting.
Shelley watched all of the changes with a curiosity before asking a question. “What’s the purpose of this exercise?”
“She says it’s to test her ability to improvise against opponents,” Yokito answered with a touch of distaste in her voice.
A holographic image appeared, both in the control room and main area, of an Asian man with green eyes. “Our guest is awake, I see. If it would not be a burden on you, Dr. Oka, could you guide him to my office? I think it’s time for us to be introduced.” The holographic image then disappeared as abruptly as it had materialized.