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Threat Level: E
Destructiveness: E
Killability: D
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Might: F
Survivability: E
Recovery: D
Mobility: E
Spark: D
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Powers: Enhanced Sight and Hearing, Sonic Blasts, Durable Arms, Metabolic Regeneration, Desert Jackal’s Reflexes
Classification: Bruiser/Stalker

The kitchen had closed for the night when Danny got home. Kaka sat in the apartment’s kitchen eating leftover lamb biryani and a new dish of chopped green beans, South Indian spices and coconut. The two didn’t go together, but their dinner mostly comprised leftovers from the restaurant. Kaka treated his staff well, letting them have first pick at the leftover ready-to-eat food. Most brought in containers and packed them with curries, rice, and the half-prepared tandoori chicken. On nights of exceptional sales with minimal waste, Kaka let them whip together meals with low-cost ingredients.

Even though Danny had already eaten dinner, when offered a plate, he didn’t say no. After bonding with Kabandha, he could eat endlessly, and lamb biryani was amongst his favourite dishes. After finishing his first serving, Danny waited until Kaka had his fill before indulging in a second. The saffron, black cardamom, and fried onion aromas were too delectable to resist.

While they ate, Danny told Kaka about the incident at Becca’s offices and how he handled the Freaks. Much to his surprise, his uncle didn’t comment on any of the information, including the intelligence regarding Power Merchant. Instead, they discussed Desert Jackal’s Reflexes.

“You should diversify your studies now that you know about who we are,” Kaka told him. “After I’m gone, it will be up to you to protect the relics we still have. They feature across several mythologies, often using different names. You might learn something about rift creatures, too. Knowledge regarding their capabilities might help understand their essences better.”

“Do you have books about the desert jackals?”

Kaka nodded. “Egyptian folklore features them often. They watch over the dead from embalming until their tomb falls. Some Keepers believe Anubites was based on a particularly powerful specimen. From personal experience, I can tell you that the desert jackals weren’t like speedsters. Instead, they faced their enemies head on and danced around all attacks. Rin would wait until the last second, waiting until her opponent almost hit her before blurring out of their way. She identified the attack and always found the perfect counter for it.”

“That’s what I don’t understand about the power. Its activation conditions feel inconsistent. There were several instances where I identified an incoming attack, but my perception of time didn’t change.”

“Perhaps it’s your aether—your magical energy. I reckon Kabandha feeds on most of it while transforming your physiology. Communicating with the eyes probably passively feeds on it, too. Then there are the sonic blasts, of course. Unless the hand-mouths connect to your lungs or have separate organs, the sonic blasts have to come from somewhere.”

“This magical energy—aether is the same reason I never awakened a meta gene?” Danny asked.

Kaka nodded. “To function, the aether needs a purpose or attunement. We have no natural sources of aether or attunements on Earth. You have only what your body can produce, and the purpose comes from the relics. Once you’re out of aether, your powers are spent as well.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Danny said. “The number of sonic blasts I can fire is increasing every day. I suppose my ability to produce aether is increasing.”

“Your body is getting used to the sonic blasts, too. It’s more likely improved efficiency than an increase in capacity, but you’re getting it.”

“So as I get used to Desert Jackal’s Reflexes, I’ll learn how to get more use out of it.” Danny paused, thinking about how he had changed over the past week and a half. “I suppose Metabolic Regeneration fuels itself with food, but what about my improved hearing, speed, strength, and durability? Will I lose them if I completely drain myself of aether?”

“I don’t think so,” Kaka answered. “Kabandha is likely weaving your aether with the consumed essences to make base physiological changes to your body, too. I think the strength, toughness, speed and hearing improvements function with no fuel besides calories. I could be wrong, of course, but my aether detection abilities make me think so.”

“That’s fascinating,” Danny commented, staring into his right hand-mouth.

The library under the restaurant would prove invaluable once Danny got used to his new body and life. He was sure that its secrets would teach him how to become a better hero.

“Kaka, do regular supers have essences?” Danny asked while they did the dishes. “I’m just wondering where I can find essences to continue growing. Given the rarity of rifts, I can’t rely on them—”

“That’s a dark train of thought,” Kaka said. “Are you really willing to kill people for essences?”

“No,” Danny answered. “However, if they fall in battle, I might have to push morals aside and feed Kabandha. I’m not saying that it’s a path that I want to follow—”

“I don’t have an answer for you. Neither for the moral quandary nor regarding meta gene users having essences. It’s something I have never had to think about. Your relationship with Kabandha puts you in a unique situation. It’s something you need to figure out for yourself. Be careful, though. The Asuran Veda drove your father mad. He had a good purpose, but the power changed him. ‘The end justifies the means,’ he told me when the League painted him as a super villain. His purpose was good, but as Rakshasa, he did things that your mother and I couldn’t stomach.”

“Killing Rin and feeding on her essence highlighted that for me. Seeking power through essences is a slippery slope. I do believe that certain villains don’t deserve to be spared regardless of whether or not the League puts kill orders on them. At the same time, I don’t want that to become an excuse for me to seek and kill powerful supers just so I can feed Kabandha their essence.”

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to keep you from the Asuran Veda.” Kaka sighed. “The Churel demands ritual sacrifice to grant power. The vampire would require you to drink blood for physiological boosts. You’d drain people, turning them into thralls. Despite what Kabandha says, the Veda is a prison. Not everybody is in there because they lost to the forces of supposed good.”

“If the Asuran Veda is a prison, Kaka, what is the Sur Veda?” Danny asked. “Does it house the likes of Ram or Vishnu? I imagine one of them gave Vish his chakrams.”

“The Sur Veda is an arsenal,” Kaka replied. “It contains weapons to contain the Asuran Veda in case its inhabitants corrupt mortals and guide them down a path of destruction. Vish perverted the tome’s purpose for his personal gain.”

“I suppose that’s why the Vedas believe the karmic balance is off.”

“Who knows what the relics want?” Kaka grumbled. “I’ve been tempted to shove them in a box and dump it in an ocean across a rift and forget about it.”

“Why don’t you do it then?” Danny asked.

“Some twisted sense of responsibility I suppose.” Kaka shrugged. “It’s my job to keep these things safe and ensure none fall into the wrong hands like with the Sur Veda. These relics can’t just wreck a world but entire universes. Until the Sur Veda is safely back in our hands, there will be no rest for us Keepers.”

Danny tried digging for more information about his Vish, his father, and the Vedas. Much to his annoyance, Kaka only discussed relics and the Vedas, refusing to delve into topics he desperately tried to ignore. Even though Kaka desired to resolve the issue with the ancient tomes, he refused to accept that Danny would need to get close to Vish to resolve it. Discussing, the superhero appeared to shut him down. Danny tried his best not to push the topic. The battle between Rakshasa and Vish had killed most of their family, after all.

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J Pal

  • London

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