Archive for July, 2014

6 | 1 : Wall

Posted: 07/31/2014 in Wall
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The drive was calmer than it should have been.  We were merely catching up with Taker’s group, driving by farms and empty streets.  I had the displeasure of seeing Sacrifice make a new mask out of a cow, tearing it apart with her bare hands and covering herself in the blood.

I also had the displeasure of throwing up at the smell.  She reeked of death.

The van stopped.  We got out, Sacrifice almost dragging me.  I’m glad my legs work again, she’d probably have done so anyway.

“We’re here,”  said Bloodwitch, looking up.

There was a massive, giant wall in our way.  There was also a message written in blood.

DOOR 3 MILES THAT WAY –>

YOURS TRULY,               

                          –TAKER

P.S  :  BOSS, WE’LL MEET IN NEW AUSTIN

 

Sacrifice sighed, pulling me back into the van.

We drove to the tunnel door in relative silence.  I had nobody to talk to apart from Ellen, and she only responded to members of the Hunting Party, for the most part.

We got out again, seeing the second van and the door, wide open.

“Trauma, check it,”  Ordered Sacrifice, pulling on me again.

She looked inside, felt around the door and turned around.

“Not many lights, boss.  It’s also a maze in there,”  she said, taking a step back.

“I see.  We should find a way through it,”  said Sacrifice.  “We’ll split up if we can’t find an exit.”

“We will go first,”  said Ellen, taking Bloodwitch by the hand.  She pulled her in, closing the door.

Sacrifice flinched.

“Ryan, tell me what you notice about this situation here,”  she said slowly.

“I’m being dragged around by a naked chick old enough to be my mother?”  I blurted out.

“Not that.  We got a message from taker, right?”

“Yeah, so?”  I looked at her and saw that she was clearly stressed.  The pressure of Taker’s betrayal has wormed its way into her.

“Why didn’t we get one here?”

She’s overthinking it.  “You’re overthinking it.”

I pulled her into the darkness of the wall, and turned to foll-

Sacrifice tugged back and pointed at one of the walls:

KI                          

                            ICE  

                      ER

 

I swallowed deeply, terrified.  Sacrifice was right.  Something was up.  She gave me a knowing look, glancing at the pair up ahead.

She began to speak.  “We sho-”

“Hurry up,”  shouted Trauma, interrupting her.  “We’ll lose sight of you two at this rate!”

 

***

 

The walk was tense.  We took turns, walked up and down stairs and entered several dead ends.  The sounds were mainly of our footsteps and the hum of lightbulbs.

Sacrifice provoked a mix between hate and fear.  I was scared because she had more experience than I did in everything, and she acted overtly like a predator.  She does horrible things casually, and she acts like she could kill me at any time.  I hated her for what she did, and I’m scared of her for what she might do.

This situation however, was different.  I was as scared as she was stressed; playing along when we both knew they’d kill her.  She also knew I’d never help her, even if she begged.

If I was a hostage out of the necessity of Sacrifice’s plans, then she was a hostage out Taker’s.  We were enemies in an inescapable trap.

“Hey Ryan,”  said Trauma, glancing back.

“Yeah?”

“I was wondering about that time a few years ago,”  she said.  Another left turn.

“What about it?”  I said.  Sacrifice tapped my arm.  Stress.

“Well,”  she began.  “You still like me, right?  Isn’t that why you ran away from Maxine and Derek?”

More taps, harder.

“What?”

“You ran, didn’t you,”  she sounded cross as she said it.  “You really shouldn’t abandon your friends.”

“Look, I could help,”  I explained, weakly.  “I can make spaces where yo-”

“At what cost?  That chick who followed you might die.  I bet that it was her blood that was used to write those messages.”

She admitted it.

“What do you mean, ‘messages’?  Was th-”

“It isn’t exactly like that!”  yelled Sacrifice with anger, interrupting me.

“Looks like you figured out, Ryan,”  said Trauma, turning around with a massive grin.

“Your powers, right?”

“No, I am her power. I’m that little voice that says ‘go on, do it’ over and over and over and over! And I never lie! It’s so great!”  she giggled.

Sacrifice charged as Bloodwitch took several steps forwards.

“Don’t listen to it! Ryan, stop her!”

I felt for my baton.

“Ryan, your powers don’t work properly,”  she said, taking a step away as Bloodwitch threw up a wall of blood.  Sacrifice punched it with all her might, creating a shockwave that knocked Bloodwitch over and down the hall.  Trauma ran down a side entrance.

“Maybe I’ll have a nice long conversation with Mom!  She’ll be glad to see me again!”  she laughed, growing fainter.

Sacrifice charged at Bloodwitch again, punching into the floor as she rolled away.  The lights went out.

Sacrifice yelled in the dark.  “Ryan, you know how to use your ac-”

“Yes!”  I interrupted.

I made a space, and began to envelop the hallway with ‘normalcy’.

The darkness was terrifying.  I spread it out more, filling wherever I could.  I could only picture a general shape, unable to picture who occupied it.

“Ryan?”  asked Sacrifice.

“I’m covering the who-”

“She’s gone,”  she interrupted me.  “They’ll attack us later.”

I fell to my knees.  I couldn’t bear it.  Ellen betrayed me again.  She tried to kill me.

“Fuck!”  I yelled, a futile gesture.  Tears welled up and ran down my face.  “This is all your fault.  I’m blaming you.”

Sacrifice didn’t react.  She got closer, as far as I could hear.

“Ryan,”  she began, slowly, calmly.  “We’ll die if we don’t put in our effort.”

“I don’t care anymore!  She was a friend and you bastards did that thing to her and changed her and she was taken away and she tried to kill me!”  I couldn’t hold it in anymore.  It hurt, everything about this hurt.  “Why would you do that to us!  We were just kids!”

I knew Sacrifice would give no sympathy.  Her reply was just as I expected from her.

“We didn’t do it to kids before.  I would have been interesting to see your development.”

Rage built up again.

“That’s why!?  To see what happens!?  Curiosity!?”  A lump in my throat formed.

“Yes,”  she replied with ice.  “It was exactly like that.”

She sat down.

“I think I should explain what Taker is trying to do.  What I was trying to do.”

“I’ll kill you,”  I muttered, under my breath.  “‘I’ll fucking kill you.”

“Help me and I’ll offer myself up on a silver platter,”  she said.  “I’ll let you kill me.”

 

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“You are taking the Motorbike? Why?”

Bloodwitch looked at Ellen and gave a massive grin.  “I loved these things back in the day.  Look, this bike has been modified to hell and back.  It’s all cape tech, and Texan cape tech, too.”

“That doesn’t answer why,”  replied Ellen, with dull inflection.

“It does. I want to try it, and I know how to ride it.  Ryan won’t do anything stupid, anyway.”

Sacrifice looked worried.  I loved it.  She was actually stressed, her usual confidence and her theatrics are gone.  Taker was nearly heroic in my eyes, but he was still scum like her.

“Bloodwitch, We sho-”

“We’ve delayed too long, Sacri-

 

***

 

I woke up, face in the wet dirt.  I motioned to stand.  I couldn’t feel my legs.  I figured that the dirt was probably soaked in blood.  I’m dying, and I don’t know why.  Ellen stumbled into my field of view.  She’d been hit by whatever it was too.  Maybe that kil-

Sacrifice walked into my peripheral vision from the other side, grabbing Ellen by the arm.  She pulled her away.

“Bloodwitch, check up on our little pet,”  said Sacrifice.

She was okay, Bloodwitch was okay.  Why do they get away with everything?  I hate this.

A pressure on my neck, then I was flipped over painfully.  I couldn’t stop myself from screaming.

“He’s crippled, I don’t think we can carry him,”  said Bloodwitch, looking at me.

She was smiling.  Why was she smiling?  I’m supposed to be necessary to Sacrifice’s plans?

Was Sacrifice being betrayed already?  This soon?

“Heal him,”  ordered Sacrifice.

“Can’t.”

“Fine, give me a second.”

Everything went black again.

 

***

 

I woke up, dazed in the back of the van again, laying on the floor, not seated.  Bloodwitch was driving, Ellen sat calmly in the passenger seat, bandaged up.  Sacrifice lay in the back, reading her book again.

“He wakens,”  said Sacrifice, not even bothering to look away from her book.

“What happened?”  I asked, still sore.  Correction; freshly sore.  The adrenaline and shock wore off, and Bloodwitch must have fixed me up while I was out.

“Merly’s bike was rigged to set off his toys.  His toys, if you didn’t realize by now, were small explosives.”

Ouch.  I must have been hit by shrapnel along with Ellen.

“Where’s Glutton?”  I asked, not seeing him anywhere.

“Dead.”

“And knocking me out?”

Sacrifice put her book down and leaned over.

“You read up on us.  We had to knock you out to work on you,”  she spoke.

I gave her a look.  What was I supposed to do, nothing?

“Don’t you ever fucking act like you did back there again, got it?”

I looked away, moving my head to the side.

She grabbed my chin and pulled my face back to hers, forcing me to look at her.  “Got it!?”

The pet remark she made was becoming really apparent.  All I’ve been doing is rebelling and hoping for a chance to do something, and all she does is punish me for it.

“Fine,”  I relented.  “I’ll behave.”

She let go.

“Good,”  she remarked.

The pause and quiet was unbearable.  I had to talk.

“Can I ask some questions?”  I said, swallowing my pride.

Sacrifice put her book down again.  “Go ahead, you can ask three.”

“I was in the van when I got hit, how was the van okay?”

“The bearings were secretly placed on our clothes, according to Trauma’s recollection.  She was hit by one nestled in the collar of her shirt.  Only I got away with no injuries because, well…”  she gestured to her lack of anything that could be called clothing.

“I see.”

“Two questions left.”

“What is Kingmaker’s powers, and what is it with all these kings and stuff?”

Sacrifice shot me a look of utter bemusement.  She barely held a laugh in.  “What?”  She asked, shaking her head slightly, thinking she didn’t hear.

“What is this Kangmaker and King of Texas thing all about?”  I repeated.  It was a good question that allows me to gauge what exactly the Hunting Party was or still is after.  If Taker had usurped Sacrifice in all but name I’d suspect they both are after the same thing, and maybe I could prevent them both from getting it.

“I don’t believe it.  How stupid are you?”  She said bluntly, bursting out in a fit of laughter.  Bloodwitch was also laughing from her seat in the van.

Ellen turned around.  “He’s not joking.  He actively ignored cape related stuff for years,”  she explained.  “He only knows that there is a Texas, a Scotland and a few more nations influenced by kingmaker, like the former Japan.”

Sacrifice wiped a tear off her face.  “I see,”  she said.

“Let me tell you a story.  Kingmaker was a low level cape on his own, but he had one of the strongest powers ever.  You see, Powers can be simple, like Bloodwitch’s and Undertow’s and that girl we caught with you, or they can be complex.  Complex can mean complex, here.  I’ve seen people whose powers work only under a full moon, or they dissipate if you say your name in french three times backwards.  I’ve actually encountered those capes,”  she said.

You probably killed them too,  I thought to myself.

“Kingmaker was the granddaddy of needlessly complex powers.  We still don’t know how they work, we just assume they work off a theme, like most powers.  Alliance needs friends and support, and he gets stronger.  That’s why he’s called Alliance.  I need to bathe in blood, as you’ve seen; thus my moniker.  Truama influences people to kill themselves as quickly as possible.”

She paused.

“Your powers punish your ignorance, leaving a very unfitting name there,”  she smiled at me.  She saw that news cast, too.  Hell, she might have seen it in person, lurking in Oklahoma, under my nose the whole time.

I wanted to hit her so badly for mocking me.  She was right, and I hated her for it.

“We don’t know how Kingmaker did this, but he created nations.  Nations where the king gains powers over his or her people, and they have invincible borders as long as they avoid war, and they can do many other things as well.  You know capes who become kings have their powers increase to godly levels,”  she said.

I figured it out, to my horror.

“You want to be a queen!?”  I blurted out.

“That’s three, and I-”  she paused, looking at Trauma who was watching her explain to me.  “Yes, I wish to be a queen.”

Liar.

“Can we get back to the second question?”  I asked,  trying my best to steer her away from giving up her counter-betrayal too soon.  Just you wait, I thought.  I’ll get you yet.

“Sure,”  she replied.  “Well, the guy who is the King of Texas is a former villain called ‘Contractor’.  His powers are complex, but the jist is he could teleport animals back to himself as long as he wrote their names in blood.  I don’t know what that says about naming things that can’t speak, but that happens with powers.”

I didn’t press the issue any further, I was actually tired, with the pain shooting throughout my body.

“I understand,”  I said.

 

 

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“What’s this all about?”  I had to ask.  It was confusing, seeing what felt like the Hunting Party play a game right in front of me.  Sacrifice and Taker had no concept of tension, apparently.  Event Horizon struggled to get up.

Taker turned to me, explaining away.

“Well, I thought we weren’t having any fun.  So I thought that maybe we should just deal with whatever powered capes we encounter one by one, starting with our dear leader, Sacrifice.”

He smiled a little, placing an arm on Event Horizon’s shoulder.  She looked dazed, like her energy was drained from holding Merly’s ball bearings while he struggled to move them.

“Make no mistake, You and her will not be involved in this game, right Sacrifice?”

Sacrifice was staring down Merly as he listened, curious.

“Yes.  I,”  She began, hesitating.  “Yes.  That’s what I decided.”

Merly cocked his head.  “A duel? in the middle of a war?”

“There are more of us than there are of you,”  replied Sacrifice, tense.

She was right.  Even if he attacked us, there was Bloodwitch, Fractal, Glutton and Ellen to deal with.  If it comes down to it, Even me and Event Horizon would end up fighting.  He can’t beat us all.

“Very well, a duel it is,”  said Merly, revving up his bike.

An instant later, he vanished, replaced by several floating ball bearings.  Sacrifice leapt backwards as they smashed into the ground around where she stood, nearly throwing her off balance.  the Rest of the Hunting party quickly backed away, with Bloodwitch grabbing me and Taker pulling on Event Horizon.

“Seems he has a lot of strength in his telekinesis,”  mumbled Bloodwitch, staring on.  “What do you think?”

I couldn’t care about this.  “Don’t treat me like a friend,”  I whispered harshly.

Merly came back into view behind Sacrifice, charging at her on his bike.  She dived out the way into the pot hole Merly created in the road.

“Dammit,”  Sacrifice, muttered, picking herself up.

Several ball bearings had removed and lifted one of the back doors for the van.  They floated along the sky, carrying the door in the air.  Sacrifice didn’t notice, She was busy avoiding falling over as more ball bearings burrowed and destroyed the ground below.

“How many do you think he’s using? I counted twenty balls,”  said Bloodwitch, again.

“I don’t want to talk,”  I said again, sternly.

“Hey, that’s unfair.  All I have for company are old coots and Trauma,”  she joked, acting as if everything was normal.

“Her name is Ellen,”  I growled, baring my teeth.

Sacrifice struggled to get a decent hit in, being led around with the ground breaking up constantly.  Merly had stopped using his motorbike or the cloaking ability he had.

“Don’t think I didn’t read up on you.  I know what you can do.  I’ll notice if you use your powers on me,”  I said, continuing my quiet rant.

Bloodwitch giggled, holding the red scarf around her neck to her mouth.

“I’d tell you the truth, but I’d have to kill you,”  she smiled.

The door fell.  Sacrifice didn’t even notice it as she dived backwards into its trajectory.  A satisfying thud and crunching filled the air.  I had a moment of joy, distracted by Bloodwitch’s threat.

“Yes!”  I shouted on instinct.  “You killed her, thank you!”

Merly looked at me, confused.  “You are not with her?”

“No, fuck her,”  I replied, smiling.  “Sh-”

She was alive.  Sacrifice got up, smiling deeply, clothed only in dirt, her own blood and the dried blood of the sheep’s head she wore.  She wore a deep cut from her chest to her pelvis, Rib bones showing and intestines clearly severed.

“There was a reason I hunted Bloodwitch down for three years,”  she said deeply, staring at me.  She was angry at me.  She was angry that I thought she’d die so easily, that I’d be free of her.  She was livid.  Bloodwitch squeezed my arm hard as her name was said, and I quickly glanced at her.

She was crying tears of pride.

“Do you want to see why, Ryan?  I’ll show you my secrets.”  she said, almost smiling.  Blood continued to pour from the gash in her body.

She raised her arm, and buried it in her chest.  I nearly threw up at the sight.  She mover her hand about, then took it out, forcing the other inside.  “Now then,”  she said, taking out her blood soaked hands.  “Let’s get fully prepared.”

She washed her feet in blood.  Even Merly was appalled.

“Dear God woman, what are you doing?”  he asked in horror.

“Setting the stage,”  Sacrifice responded.

She placed her feet down after ensuring they were totally caked in blood, and she leapt from my focus to about a foot away from Merly in a single bound.  Merly panicked and tried to accelerate on his bike, but Sacrifice was quicker.

“Not so fast.”

She grabbed the rear of it and squeezed, bending and crushing the seating with her bare hands.

“Don’t damage it,”  interrupted Bloodwitch.

“I’m trying,”  Sacrifice replied, frustrated.

Merly got off his bike and made a run for it, ball bearings tearing up the ground behind him.  Sacrifice seemed to ignore them, closing the distance in seconds.

Merly became invisible again.

“Dammit, I hate doing this,”  Said sacrifice, sticking her hand into her wounds yet again.  She poured the blood she cupped onto her face.  Her eyes, her nose, her mouth was all covered.  She removed her mask to make sure her ears were covered too.  I noticed she had short black hair.

“If you can’t tell, this is the reason she calls herself Sacrifice,”  said Bloodwitch.  “Any blood empowers her.  Drinking blood cures poisons, bathing in it restores youth and heals wounds.  Her legs move faster, her arms get stronger,”  she described, smiling with pride.  “She chose me because I can help her.  I’m not like the others, I’m necessary.”

This bitch is crazier than Sacrifice is, and she’s fondling her guts in public.

“I think that’s enough,”  said Sacrifice, rubbing her stomach and chest along her scars.  The gash appeared to begin healing, visibly dissapearing.

Sacrifice took a few seconds to look at the members of the Hunting Party.  Event Horizon was pale.  Her powers; my powers were nothing compared to that.

She turned around and grabbed the air, Holding it with both hands.  It took me a second to realize what happened.  She caught Merly while he was invisible.

“I win,”  she said, as blood gushed onto her chest and the sound of Merly’s skull being crushed filled the air.

Merly was still invisible, a silhouette of red.  She let go and he fell down, limp.  She did a small stretch, and knelt down, rummaging through his clothes.  She suddenly appeared as normal, but still dead.

“Anyone want the thing he was using for invisibility?”  she asked.  “Our guests exempt.”

Glutton raised his hand.  “I’ll take it.”

She tossed to Glutton while walking back to us, who caught it easily enough.

Sacrifice killed Merly easily.  How could I kill her?

“My boss,”  said Taker, rubbing his hands.  “I think that’s one for one, right?”

“One for One?”  repeated Sacrifice.

“Well, isn’t Jawbreaker down for the count?”

Sacrifice righted the overturned van.

“He’ll be okay,”  she said, pointing at the unconscious villain laying in his seat.

“Glutton, you drive.  I’ll put Jawbreaker with you, right Taker?”

Taker smiled.  “I’m thinking of having the young boy with us.  You can have Jawbreaker and Glutton.”

Sacrifice paused.  “I’m the leader of this group,”  she said quietly, almost to herself.  “We can’t have the two hostages working together.”

Taker smiled again, licked his lips and turned away.  “Right,”  he said, walking to the other van.  “I’m just a subordinate.”

The silence was apparent.

“Taker, take your group and go ahead.  I’ll need to do some repairs.”

Taker walked off, with Glutton following him, carrying Jawbreaker over his shoulder.  Druggie dragged Event Horizon behind him.  She didn’t resist, much.

The van drove off as Sacrifice knelt down, leaving only me, her, Ellen, Bloodwitch and Glutton in the road.

“Ryan,”  she said calmly.  “I’m going to have to have a private conversation.”

“I’m not tal-”

“You’ll fucking do it,”  she fumed.  “You’ll fucking listen to me and do as I say or I’ll swear I’ll turn your fucking friend here into a human fucking Pretzel and I’ll make you watch it.  Do you understand?”

I said nothing.  She got up and grabbed my arm, still wet with blood.  “Everyone else, keep watch,”  she barked.  Everyone but us moved away from the van, away from earshot.

In one swift motion she tossed me into the back of the van, and pinned me down, her hands tightly squeezing my arms.

“Stop struggling,”  she murmured.

“Get off me,”  I snapped back, writhing as hard as I can.  She squeezed so tight on me I was afraid she would break my arms.

“Listen to me,”  she said, harsher.  Sacrifice still dripped with blood.  Some dropped from her nose onto my face.  I turned away.

“If you wanted me to do what you say,”  I said, calmer now,  “You shouldn’t have kidnapped me.”

“You walked into that trap easy,”  she nearly laughed.  “you honestly deserve-”

“I meant the first time,”  I cut in, with a harsher tone.  “You ruined everything.”

I hate her.  Get off me and die.  Stop threatening Ellen, stop ruining lives, stop nearly dying and getting my hopes up.  Just stop.

“I don’t care,”  she said.  “This is more important.”

I tried to adjust myself, but she held me down with all her weight.

“Did you notice anything with Taker?”  she asked, after a lengthy pause.

“What?”  I said, shocked.

“Did Taker look suspicious to yo-”

I cut her off, laughing.

“Let me fin-”

I laughed harder, facing her.

“Taker usurped you, right?”  I said, stating what I realized all too late.  “The big bad wolf got her pack stolen from her?”

She slapped me across the face, hard.

“You and I are in real danger here,”  she whispered.  “That girl of yours in the van with him is in even more.”

That got my attention.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Sacrifice eased up.

“Taker, myself and many others lie about our powers.  It’s a common thing.”

“Cut to the chase.”  I said, impatient.  I earned another slap, harder.  I nearly started crying.

“I’m still in control, kid,”  she said, pausing.

Glutton opened the back door.

“You done with him? We need to catch up, boss.”

Sacrifice turned back to me.  “We’ll continue this later.”

 

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The trip made me feel miserable.  The drugs took their sweet time wearing off, and during the whole time they did I had to sit there, looking at the Hunting Party.  Bloodwitch, Sacrifice, Jawbreaker and Ellen were the only ones in the van with me.

Bloodwitch was in the back, leaning over into the passenger seat.  Sacrifice was busy reading a book, occasionally glancing at me, to see If I was trying anything funny.  Jawbreaker was driving, and Ellen sat in the passenger seat, looking out the window.

I had to do something.  I thought about my powers.  I took my sweet time and read up on their powers whenever I could.  I read everything I could about them.  The NHN Database, fan forums, Wikis and everywhere else.  I was convinced I could beat them.

Honestly, I was a fool.  I was younger and weaker than all of them except Bloodwitch and Ellen, and I didn’t want to fight Ellen at all.

The bleeding stopped a while ago, and I’d wiped everything off my face with the sleeve of my suit.  My helmet and my Shield lay next to me, freely sliding along the floor of the van as it took turn after turn.

A faint whizzing sound filled the air, distracting us all.

“Everyone get down!”  yelled Jawbreaker, Swerving the van.

A bullet penetrated the front window explosively.  Sacrifice toppled over, the shot just missing her.  When the van landed on its side and skidded uncomfortably along the road, stopping after several long seconds.

Sacrifice picked herself up first, along with Ellen.

“Wow, you look great up there,”  she laughed at me as I dangled from the side of the van in my bindings.  “A chandelier.”

“Let me down,”  I said sternly.  She gave a look and I added “Please.”

“One second.  Friends before foes,”  she replied.  “Jawbreaker, Bloodwitch!”

“JB is KO’d,”  replied Bloodwitch, checking up on Jawbreaker.  The airbags were deflating, slowly.

“Good, take this one down from here,”  said Sacrifice as Ellen opened the door.

“Truama, dearie?  You stay as a hostage.  I’ll need you.”

Bloodwitch roughly unbound me and let me fall too the floor.

“Up,”  she ordered.  I got up quickly, grabbing my helmet and shield.

I looked around and the sun hurt.  Another van was on the road, parked perfectly.  The rest of the Hunting Party was here, I assumed.

Sacrifice was quick to action.  “We have company, Guys! Get out!”

Fractal had already teleported Kumo, Glutton, Taker and Druggie out of the van, along with Event Horizon, who was in handcuffs.  She caught a glimpse of me, and her face told me what I didn’t want to know.

She followed me and got caught.  I turned away.

“Well, now we are all here,”  began Sacrifice,  “We should be taking cover, although it may not help at all.”

She turned to the tipped over van as another thud rumbled through it.  A ball bearing less than a centimetre in diameter stopped inches away from her mask.

“Ryan, use your powers,”  she ordered me.  I didn’t comply.

“No,” I murmured, “I don’t ne-”

“Your friends will die here,”  She interrupted as she turned her head.

She looked at me.  She looked deep into me.  The Ball bearing was so close.  If only it started moving again.

“Start thinking, now!”

I hate her.  I hate her so much it hurts.  I hate how she’s using them; using me.  Still, I have to do this.

“Fine,”  I said.  “It only attacked the van, and isn’t going for you.”

The ball bearing quickly darted towards me, striking my facemask that is attached to me helmet.  I fell backwards, stumbling.

“Ryan, no!”  shouted Event Horizon.  Nobody else moved, not even Ellen.

“Sounds like its owner was mad at hearing that,”  said Sacrifice.  “You think its owner is hiding or nearby?”

I didn’t care, blood dripped from a shard of plastic in my cheek.

“Fuck, don’t as-”

Sacrifice ran over and kicked me in the stomach.  “Answer me!”  she shouted.

This was a game to her.  Another way for her to assert her dominance.  She knew exactly what was going on.  I hate her so much.

“I think they are hiding or something!”  I shouted in response to her interrogations.

“Good, good,”  she replied, smiling.

I got up as she walked over to Event Horizon.  The ball bearing floated aggressively between her and Sacrifice.

“You were the team leader for the Juniors, weren’t you,”  she smiled, stroking EH’s hair back gently.

“I still am,”  she replied.  “Don’t touch me.”

“Lock that ball down.”

“Why should I?”  asked Event Horizon with a smug but scared look.

“Well, if you don’t I’ll just give a pledge to Texas here and now, and in about two hour-”

Event Horizon reacted before she could finish.

“Okay!”  she said, panicked at the thought of Sacrifice’s threat.  “I’ll do it!”

The ball bearing stopped moving.  Event Horizon winced a little.  Sacrifice walked away, into the open.

“It’s pulling hard,”  she complained.

“Suck it up, dearie,”  smiled Sacrifice.  She turned around to face us and yelled directly into the sky, arms outstretched and her body showing.

“Show yourself!  You can do it!”

No response.

“We’ll fight honestly!  Come on!”

Still no response.  Event Horizon’s foot dragged a little along the ground, prompting Bloodwitch to snigger.

“Fractal, get everyone but the leader in the van and dri-”  She was cut short with a loud fizzing sound behind her.

A young man with long, flowing golden hair stood right behind her, holding a motorcycle helmet in one hand with hos bike between his legs.

“I figured you’d have to show yourself if Event Horizon held onto your toy,”  gloated Sacrifice.  “Get lost or I’ll kill you.”

The young man smiled.  Event Horizon dropped to her knees in exhaustion as the ball bearing she held with her power fell to the ground.

“Don’t expect the King’s guard to be so pathetic,”  he smirked, sticking one hand into his pocket and placing his helmet on with the other.

Sacrifice was about to move, but Taker took control of the situation, much to my surprise.

“Sacrifice, don’t do that,”  he pleaded gently.  “It’s not fun that way.”

I looked at them and noticed that everyone was staring at Sacrifice, waiting.  Were they judging her?

Even Ellen did so.  I looked at Event Horizon as she groaned.  Our assailant huffed.

“War is not fun.  Protecting our King is a privilege.”  he stated with pride.

“Fine,”  said Sacrifice, after such a long stare down against what was the entirety of the Hunting Party.  “We’ll do it the fun way.”

She turned around, bowing.  “I bid you welcome, I am Sac-”

“Dear god woman! Put on some clothes!”  Interrupted the man, shocked.

“Who the fuck are you anyway?”  I finally asked, annoyed.  Just fucking kill her, or get out the way and let somebody else kill her.

He gave pause and looked at me, glad to be distracted from Sacrifice’s bosom.  Sacrifice gave me a nasty look.

“Why,”  said the man in full theatrics.  “I am a member of the king’s guard, Merly.”

 

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“Ellen! Ellen!”

Ellen turned around, giving one last look before running down the street.  I ran out the bedroom and bounded down the stairs after her.  She was faint in the distance but I was closing in as she ran away.  I can still catch her, I thought.

Ellen was nearly running out of breath as I finally caught up to her, grabbing her arm tightly and pulling to make her face me.  I caught Ellen.

“Ellen, it’s me,”  I said, barely audible as the rumbling increased around us.  “I can help, lis-”

Pain suddenly struck my neck both sharp and quick.  Ellen looked at me without a single flicker or any tell as I felt the metal of something pierce deeper into me.  I turned my eyes to look at what happened with care not to move my head too much, and I saw her slowly push the last few inches of a golden liquid into my veins via a syringe.  I knew exactly what happened.  Druggie’s formula pulsed through my veins yet again.  I looked on in horror as its effects hit me all at once, making me collapse to my knees with weakness.

Ellen caught me by the armpits, holding me up as I raised my head to face her.  I felt my vision blur slightly, with each heartbeat pounding in my chest painfully.

“-ot to follo-”

I couldn’t make out her words as the sounds became faded, distorted.  She looked nice from this angle.  I bet she was staying healthy.

“-at the he-”

Another voice.  Event Horizon.  I tried to raise my hand in an attempt to communicate, but it was no use.  I looked up at Ellen.  What was she saying?

“-ive this- -out he-”

More words, faint, barely audible.  Rumbling faded away with the finer details of Ellen’s face.  Ellen moved to my side, still holding me up.  I was nearly blind at this stage, the outside world was almost entirely gone.  The rumbling was a whisper, along with the faint sound of crying behind me.  I took a hesitant step into the blurry darkness, nearly falling over.  Ellen helped pick me up.

Wait, wasn’t Ellen kidnapped?  I soon took a turn somewhere, I think it was a left turn.  Was I still even on the pavement?  I hope Event Horizon if following me, I might need help.  Ellen needs help.

“Ellen,”  I murmured, dazed and confused.  “I missed you.  Derek missed you.”

Ellen continued walking me to somewhere.  Who was it that took her?  Did she leave?  My legs felt heavy, sluggish.  Everything seemed unreal as sounds came out heavily muffled and my vision distorted with each passing step.  A quick glance showed everything looking the same as I could only make out the sky due to the colours, and even that was difficult.

“I want to return, I hate this.”

I nearly tripped over rubble.  Ellen picked me back up, slowly.  She was gentle.  Our pace picked up.  More muffled talking.

“I want to go home, don’t you?”

A finger against my mouth silenced me.  I didn’t know if the words reached her.  I don’t know if I was even speaking, my body was numb.  My movements were rehearsed, less walking and more remembering how I would walk if this stuff wasn’t in me.  I need to ask her what that was.  I bumped against a wall as Ellen led me on.  Where was I?  I’ll find out later.

I finally stopped after a timeframe I can’t comprehend, and the weight of my body and my exhaustion made me fall over into softness.  I was unable to move.

What was I doing?

***

Still dazed, still weak.  I was moved to somewhere different from where I landed when Ellen let me go.  I took a moment to gather my bearings.  There were sounds, and it was dark.  Was I blindfolded?

“-kill her-”

“-fun tha-”

More muffled voices.  I could tell them apart.  The rumbling faded consistently.  I was being taken somewhere, quickly.  A car?  A train?  I tried to move my fingers.  No response.  I tried to speak.  No response.  Fuck.

“-ello, Ry-,”  said a familiar voice.  “-at’s your na-”

I let out a groan.

“Wow, -at stu- -as quite a – D-  -ook at -”  I could almost pin it down.

“Sacrifice?” I asked, dragging the ‘a’ and drooling over my chin.  I could feel my fingers, and move them.

“-ats out o- -ag now,”  she said, pulling my hood off.  I could smell the rancid stench of rotting meat.  My vision showed splotches of brown, red, peach, yellow and green, with red and black around me.  I assumed I was in a van, and the brown and peach was Sacrifice.

“Whats that phrase?  Fool me once? Fool me twice?”

Shame on me.

I tried to move my fingers.  Sacrifice grabbed both of my hands and brought them together in her lap.

“Listen here,”  she began.  I moved my head a little.  “you are going to help me and all my little buddies here, you understand?  Now, I’m not going to te-”

I spat on her face, straight through the mouth of the sheep’s head she was wearing.  It was hard not to smirk with my accuracy.

“That’s pretty dirty,”  she said, her tone changed.

“Fuck you,”  I replied.  “You ruined ev-”

I was struck in the face before I could finish.

“That’s dirty,”  she said again.

“Go fu-”

Another punch, harder, twice.  Blood trickled down my nose.  The softness of where I sat softened the blows.  Sacrifice got up, leaving me to realize I’m on the floor of a delivery truck.  I moved my arm to feel my face, but she stood on my hand as I raised it, twisting my fingers into the floor.

“Say that you are sorry,”  She said slowly and sternly.

“Fuck you, bi-”

This time she kicked me in the face.  My head hit the wall harder.  I spat out blood, and thankfully no teeth.  She walked across the van, away from me.

“Bloodwitch, over here,”  she said.  Bloodwitch stood up.

“Fuck you!”  I yelled, blood stopping me from articulating without spraying it everywhere.  “Fuck you, you fucking fuck!”

“When I give the order, kill Trauma.  Make is painful.”  Sacrifice ordered.

“Just when I was getting along, too.”  Bloodwitch remarked, sighing.

My heart sank.  I tugged at the belts tying my torso down.

“What!?  You can’t!”  I yelled in shock.

“Exactly. Say that you are sorry or I will kill her.”  Sacrifice hissed.

I paused, staring into her eyes.  They were a deep blue.

“Ten,”  she began.  “Nine, Eig-”

“Fine,”  I shouted, looking away.  “I-I am”  I hesitated.  Fuck this woman.

“I am what?”

“I’m Sorry.  There, I said it!”

“Not good enough,”  she replied.  “Seven, Si-”

“I’m sorry I spat in your face!”  I yelled, interrupting her.  I’m not losing a friend for this.  Not for her.

“Good,”  she said, smiling.  She brought my face up to look at hers.  “You now understand what your relationship truly is.”

She spat in my face and laughed, turning back to the others.

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Waiting was boring.  Screw that, waiting is boring.  I’ve been waiting for hours, tense as all hell.  War is going on out there, and we are supposed to just sit?  I groaned in frustration audibly.

“Christ, this is awful,”  said Stacker, still watching the news broadcasts as helicopters filmed the fights and newscasters pointed at diagrams of how the war is going.  The invasion was actually going nowhere, and Mexico was losing territory, fast.  “I don’t think there was a kingmaker war this bad before.”

“The first few were the worst,”  said Pivot, tinkering with a small thing made of metal, held together with a single metal wire.  “Especially Asia.”

I heard about it in World Politics. From the upper half of Australia to the southern Mongolian border was the largest, most dangerous Kingmaker nation ever.  When the Emperor of Asia was finally killed, many nations were irreparably altered.  Japan got it the worst.

“Ugh,”  said Unperson, figiting in her seat.  “Not a good thing to think about.”

Alliance was knocked off a Tower in the middle of nowhere.  A large wall constructed itself, leading to another tower that was being built nearby.

“Looks like the Texan capes are powerful,”  said Maxwell.  “What is that, it looks like that guy can make buildings out of nothing.”

Event Horizon sighed deeply.  The camera cut to another helicopter over the coastline.  A single Texan cape was holding back many others.  Jesus, these guys were stronger than I thought.

“So why are we even dressed up anyway,”  I finally asked, leaning back in my seat.

“The Seniors for the Oklahoma team are busy with the war effort,”  explained Event Horizon.  “Most capes are.”

“Doesn’t answer my question.”

“You think crime stops when the big guns go away? We are waiting for the first case of looting or whatever.”

“Shouldn’t we be patrolling at least?”  asked Unperson, mirroring my thoughts.

“It’s not just that. We are also reserves.  If too many capes die initially th-”

“They send us in as fodder, right?”  Latency said bluntly.

“Shit.  Yes,”  sighed Event Horizon, getting up.  “It’s fucking boring, but that’s the thing; we are too young and weak to be on the front lines.  Fuck, we are too weak to even be in this damn building.”

She paced across the room.  “God dammit, this is the worst.”

Pivot got up.  “If it’s about,”  she paused.  “Well, she’s okay.  Look.”  She showed Event Horizon the thing she was tinkering with.  It was a monitor, for a camera.  I thought about getting up to see what she was on about.

“She’s nowhere near the fight, see?”

“Family?”  asked Latency, getting up to see what they were crowding around.

“Yeah, I’m worried about her,”  replied Event Horizon, weaving her hands through her hair.  She quickly took a look at Pivot.  “Where is she, anyway?”

“She’s in the city, setting up barricades.”

“Why?”  asked Unperson.

“One of the Texan capes is coming towards us.”

Latency was shocked.  “And we are still dicking around in here? How the fuck would you know?”

“Cameras and news,” she replied, pointing at the screen.  A large bridge formed itself bit by bit as a single man ran across, carrying a metal spear in one hand.

The alerts turned on yet again.  “Attention all capable Junior Group members,”  the announcement began,  “The front-lines now cover Oklahoma City. You must aid in the evacuation and protection of the citizens of Oklahoma City at all costs.”

“Time to go,”  said Event Horizon.

 

***

 

We spread out throughout the town, directing civilians away from the fighting as it drew nearer.  The sound of rumbling was faint, but audible from the suburbs I stood in.

“Everyone head up north to the southwest expressway, then keep going.  There will be buses and other vehicles to help if you do not own a car,” I said, speaking into a megaphone.  A child tugged on my trousers.  “Who left the blonde haired boy with the green T-shirt and blue jeans?”

His mother ran across the street and picked him up in a single swoop, before apologizing and backing away slowly.   I felt a buzz in my ear from the earpieces Pivot gave us.

“Yeah?”  I asked, pressing it on.

“It’s me, E-H.  How’s the progress?”

“Not bad, a few more families to go.  This place is run down badly,”  I said, making sure the megaphone is off.

“Don’t whine about that.  Good luck, we’ll be done in an hour with the police helping us.”

“Ok, see ya.”  I said, letting the earpiece go.

I walked to the next area, a few streets away.  Run down buildings were guarded by unmown lawns.  A bike cassi lay in the middle of the street.  I couldn’t see many families, but so-

Ellen crossed the street in front of me.  Why was she here?  I walked up to her, reaching out instinctively.

“E-Ellen?”

She gave an aside glance, turning away and speeding up.  I followed her, my pace matching hers.  She quickly broke into a run and darted down an alley, myself following.

“Ellen, wait!”  I yelled.  She hopped over a garden fence, and another.  I ran round the other side of the alley.  There was a front door open in a nearby house, I charged into it hoping to cut Ellen off.  I burst through the door and saw Ellen perched on the fence.  She looked terrified.

“El-”

“Don’t follow me!”  she yelled.  I didn’t listen, reaching out to pull her down.  She jumped into the alley at the other side of the fence and broke into a run.  I climbed the fence, falling over into the alley before picking myself up.  I lost the earpiece, but it didn’t matter.  I could see Ellen again.

I ran in her direction, looking around.  The streets were all abandoned, the rumbling from the combat with Texas even louder than it was before.  A front door swung.  I ran into the house.  The back door was locked.

“Ellen!?”

A crashing sound upstairs.  I charged into the hallway, tripping over a wire for a plugged in lamp.

“Fuck,”  I muttered, picking myself up quickly and racing up the stairs.  I entered the main bedroom and began pulling open the cupboards.  She wasn’t there.  Why was she hiding?  I could help.  I could help her easy.  I wouldn’t let her go into the Cit-

The pitter patter of feet racing down the stairs.  I looked out the window and saw her running onto the road.

“Ellen!”  I screamed out the window.  “I can help!”

 

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Honestly, I found today the most relaxing in recent weeks.  I guess that’s the irony in this whole situation, with everyone tense enough as it is.

“One ham and cheese toastie, one 5 peice breakfast and one soup of the day,”  said the waiter.  I thanked him with a nod as he placed the food on the table where I, Maxine and Derek sat.

“Kinda miffed we can’t eat with the others outside,”  said Derek, blowing his spoonful of soup.  “I like Maxwell, he’s a cool dude.”

“It’s to be expected, seeing as how well we are known,”  Maxine replied.  I made a small glance and saw that attention was slightly directed towards us from a few random tables.  “I mean, all of the people like us are.  You know, people who were caught by the Hu-”

“Anyway let’s change the subject,”  I interrupted a little louder than I should.  Maxine gave me a glance and I noticed I put too much pressure on my toastie, crushing it a little.  I wiped my hands on a napkin that wrapped my cutlery.  “We should maybe try and call Micheal and Ricky.  They’d like that, and they haven’t talked to us at all yet.”

Maxine and Derek relaxed a little.  I stopped tensing up.

“I mean,”  I continued,  “I’m pretty curious to as how they are doing right now, aren’t you?”

Derek swallowed a spoonful of soup and put the spoon down, before pointing at me.  “You know, you are right about this.  I’m actually missing Ricky.”

“They might get homesick, or we might get homesick,”  said Maxine, interjecting as she cut a fried egg open.  “I’d check up on the news, first.”

“You know where they are stationed?”  I asked.

“They fucking told us you moron,”  said Derek, kicking my shin from under the table.  “They are in New York, how’d you forget that?”

I thought for a moment in between chews of ham and cheese.  “Fuck me,”  I said.  “I actually forgot.”

We continued talking about irrelevant things, both to distract ourselves and because we hadn’t done so properly in a long time.

“So, about what happens soon,”  said Maxine, interrupting my daze.  “I mean, The Holidays ends in a week, what do you think?”

“Maybe we have a deal cut in with a nearby school?”  Suggested Derek with a little too much optimism for my tastes.

“I don’t think so,”  said Maxine.  “I’m thinking private tutoring, if we are lucky.”

“I don’t think we will stay here actually,”  I said.  “I mean, Pivot said to me we were only here because of the kingmaker thing. Once this blows over, We’ll all go home.”

Derek took a last spoonful of soup.  It was cold by now.  “Most of us.”

Right.  I forgot.  Ellen.

“Let’s check up on Ricky and Micheal,” said Maxine.  We paid, tipped and left.

 

***

 

“Bullshit,”  I said to everyone.  “This is bullshit.”

“Relax Ryan, you are too stressed lat-”

I interjected, louder.  “That’s total fucking BS, what the fuck!”

“Don’t swear so much, you sound like a thug,”  said Maxine.

“Yeah, but it’s totally unfair!”  I said again, pointing at the screen.

“That’s how things go,”  said Derek, trying to keep a grin hidden away behind his hand.

“Fuck that! Gimmie a phone or something!”  I looked around the desk for a mobile, tossing papers aside from the desk.  They looked like blueprints from Pivot.

“Hey!”  called out Maxine, bending over to pick them up.

I walked into my room, remembering my old cellphone.  I found it in a drawer, untouched.  I rummaged through the contacts list and put it on speakerphone.  Ricky answered as I walked back to Maxine and Derek, who has keeled over laughing by the time I got back.

“Hey there, Captain Cockblock!”  said Ricky in a rehearsed deadpan.

“Fuck you man,”  I replied, trying to hold in my own laughter.  “I could have lost an arm, and all you do is give me a shit name!”

Laughing occurred in the background.  Micheal was there.

“And fuck Micheal too.  Take turns, go fuck each other.”

“Dammit Ryan, let me speak,”  said Derek, taking the cellphone and placing it down.  “Sup, Maxine’s here too by the way.”

“Hey there!”  Maxine said.

“Sup Maxie.  How are you all anyway?”

“Blocker is mad cause he tried to block a car last month, Maxine’s alright and I’m fine.”  replied Derek, before grunting as I jabbed him in the side with an elbow.

“How are you guys doing?”  interrupted Maxine, pushing in between me and Derek.

“Hey darlings!”  yelled Micheal over the phone.  “I’m fantastic!  They have this amazing Pizza place three blocks away, and a cinema!”

I was great to hear them, I was right.  “We miss you all,”  said Ricky, quieter than before.  “Visit us soon.”

“We will.”

“Goodby,”  said Micheal.  “Thing came up.  Some cape thing.”

“See ya,”  replied Derek.

“Visit soon,”  I said.

The phone turned off.  I picked it up and turned it off, turning to Maxine and Derek.

“That was great,”  I said, smiling while shaking my head.  “Remind me to punch that asshole.”

“Remind me to give him a hi-five,”  replied Maxine.

A siren interrupted our fun.

“God damn it,”  I said, heading to my room to put the phone away.  I tossed it in the drawer, opening my closet and taking my costume out.  It was new, the old one was ripped when my arm broke.  After putting it on, returned to see Unperson and Latency sitting in chairs, already dressed.  Pivot and Stacker had entered in the meantime while I and the others changed.  Maxwell walked out of his room, fully geared.  Event Horizon entered last of all.

“It’s Texas.  The borders have opened,”  she said grimly.  “We are at war.”

“So we do what?”  asked Stacker, before Unperson could raise her hand.

Event Horizon pointed at one of the walls in the room.  It was actually a screen, embedded and hidden away so that it did not distract people, I assumed.  The contents were more important than what was used to create and embed a screen behind the wall.  We saw the view of the Texan army, descending on Mexico.  Capes and soldiers clashed on the battlefield in a flurry of fire and many other colours and shapes.

“We do nothing, Mexico is the country in trouble,”  said Event Horizon.

“What about them?”  asked Unperson.

“The NHN is already en-route.  They’ll attack from behind with the aid of a few other factions in an attempt to assist Mexico.”

And take whatever technology they can find, I thought to myself.

 

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Sacrifice sat at the mold-ridden desk, feasting on stolen food while figiting with one of her new projects.  The outskirts of Oklahoma City had become a den for drug addicts, the homeless and other unsavory denizens with the sheer volume of derelict buildings and the cripplingly small police force, making it perfect to hide in.  Their only issue was not being reported on by civilian, supervillain or even superhero.  Most problems could be solved easily enough, with heavy hitters like Glutton, Jawbreaker and Kumo on the team, but sometimes she needed the oomph only she herself could provide.

She prodded the dissected brain with another electrode.  A spark flew out and struck a ruined chair nearby, leaving a singe on the exposed stuffing poking out.

“Not good, I missed the correct spot,” she muttered to herself, picking up a pen and taking more notes.  ‘Another failure, this time caused because of human error’  she wrote down, before taking a moment to think and rewrote her note.  ‘Human error, and unsatisfactory working conditions.’

The door knocked, and Taker entered the room.  He was one of the few un-costumed members of the Hunting Party, along with Trauma and Kumo.  He had long, greasy hair and a pair of thin glasses he always wore on his face.  His clothing was stolen from wherever he could find it.  It wasn’t like he could go and buy from stores with his reputation.

“Sacrifice,”  he began.  “Apologies for my intrusion.”

“It’s fine,” she said, tossing the brain across the room and out a broken window.  It audibly landed in a bush.  “I can’t work with this stuff here anyway.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  The electrodes are too thick and rusty, my hand is too shaky and this area of town is filthy.  I hate this.”

Taker rubbed his hands and pressed his glasses to his face.  “Maybe Texas will have a solution in there, after yo-”

Before he could finish, Sacrifice was inches away from his face, almost touching him.

“I don’t like it when you do that, you scheming liar.”  she snarled.

Taker smiled, unmoving.   “I have no idea what you mean,”  he said confidently.

“Your powers, for a start. I know the truth.”

Taker took a step back, turning towards the door.

“Then you know who would win, right?”

He closed the door quietly, as to not disturb any of the other members of the Hunting Party as they slept.

 

***

 

A young man walked down the streets of New Austin, Texas.  He walked along the centre of the road, and all the residents gave way, stepping to the sides of the road onto the pavement as he passed, mostly out of respect.  There were no cars in Texas, only four trains that looped from town to town in different directions.  The roads were merely ceremonial at best, made for the men and women of the army of Texas to march during parades.  Vine looked up at the castle before him as he strode; the castle where the King of Texas prepared for war.

The throne room had a massive, circular table.  The king sat on his throne, and seven others sat on benches, robed and hooded.  Vine pulled his hood over his head and sat down, looking at the small scale replica of Texas that covered the table.

“Late again, Vine,”  said one voice.  A girl.

“Phoenix, I had an appointment.”

“So you are saying the King is less to you than yourself?”

The king shifted to the side in his throne.  He loved this.  He loved watching his eight generals bicker and argue, and he rarely stepped in.

“No, the king is above any man and all gods.  You know this.  You also know how important I am to the war effort.”

Phoenix shut up, growling under her breath.  The king smiled and began to speak.

“This is our second last meeting before he war.  I expect all eight of you generals to fight with the vigor and strength that I expect from my eight personal guards,”  he stated proudly.

“Phoenix, you will guard the far north in Dumas.  Vine, cover Fort Wichita.  Aim, go to Sabine City.  Kelpie will watch the coast.  Brownsville will be covered by Ester.  Our armies will invade the south led by me, so you five are our defensive forces during the war.”

Phoenix, Vine, and three other hooded figures bowed in agreement.

“You may leave,”  said the King.  They got up and left.

Vine picked up his pace significantly, He didn’t like any of the other seven generals, let alone the Kings personal guard.  He reached the front door and was pulled back instantly, falling over.

“Don’t fucking disrespect out king!”  shrieked Phoenix.  Her robe was cast aside and her flaming body, ensnared in chains floated off the ground.  Kelpie, Ester and Aim backed away.

“I have no time for this!”  shouted Vine. He smacked his hand on the ground below Phoenix and she darted away, as a small, intricate building rose from the ground, patterned like the mosaic on the floor.

“You are this weak and you still insult the king!  How dare you!”

A bell tower formed at the tip of the dollhouse sized tower, wrapping around the chain she held that bound Vine.  Phoenix cocked her head to the side.

Ester interfered.  He walked up to Phoenix and pulled on the chain wrapped around Vine, pulling her into and through the tower.

“You shouldn’t say that, when you both attack another in the beautiful King’s castle and even bring your weapon to a meeting,”  he said sternly.  “The royal guards should kill you for this.”

He turned to Vine, who was picking himself up as phoenix released the chain, which no longer burned.  His robe was singed.   “You too are disgusting.  Do not disrespect our King again.”

“My apologies,”  said Vine.  “It was my mistake.”  He quickly bowed, and left the castle.

Phoenix picked herself up.  She patted away the dust and rubble on her body, before picking up her robes.

Kelpie looked away, walking to the door.

“What about you, Kelpie?  Why so silent?”

Kelpie turned her head around, opening the door.

“He’s not my type.”  she said, letting the doors close behind her.

Aim sighed, following behind her.  “I hate violence,”  he muttered to himself.

4 | 2 : Problems

Posted: 07/20/2014 in Problems
Tags: , , , ,

I sat down next to pivot and watched as Gunsmith continued his lecture with Maxine and Derek.  I wasn’t really invested in what they were doing, as I knew they’d be fine.  I’m the one who finds it hard to learn, not them.

“So, Pivot,” I began, passing time.

“Yeah?”

“We still actually don’t know much about this whole Oklahoma thing.  I mean, there’s us, the rioters, there is that issue with Texas and that’s it.  What else is there?”

Pivot thought for a second, glancing at Gunsmith and Maxine.  They were busy talking about Actives.

“There isn’t much,”

I looked dumbfounded.  “Not much? Like just us and the rioters?”

“Yeah.  There are three more minor gangs laying around that’s it for the big groups.  Most people moved out since there are more capes working for companies and such here, and a few UN capes too, because of Texas,”  she said, shifting in her seat.

“Why?”

“Kingmaker’s powers have a weird timer for each war.  Three weeks from now, and the borders open.  We’ve basically been conscripted for a war against the king of Texas,”  she looked down while saying it, avoiding eye contact.  There was no doubt in my mind that this was the reason as to why there were recent openings in the junior group roster.

“Damn,”  I said to myself.  “Are we the front lines or is it not that bad?”

Pivot looked up at me.  “If the borders open, they’ll open everywhere. Mexico, USA, plenty of companies and whoelse will probably be involved.  It’s not like a real war in that regard,”  she explained.

“Not like a real war?”

“Well, the Kingmaker nations that have opened up and got ‘conquered’ for lack of a better term had a lot of interesting technology and other things inside.  It seems to be a passive effect of the borders, because everything gets mucked up like ecology, and stuff like special strains of crops and such are made to fix those issues,”  she took a pause, calmer now.  “They say a Kingmaker war could end world hunger, if it wasn’t for all the politics with the EU, UN and other groups trying to take it all for themselves.  It’s sad, really.  There is a lot of good that could happen but politicians still want everything the can get.”

She looked a little tense.  I decided to interrupt and cut the conversation down before anything happens.  That and she was beginning to distract Derek, who was glancing at us with Event Horizon.

“So it’s a scramble, then?”  I asked.

“Yeah, it is.”

I got up.  “I’m going to get a drink, Maxine and Derek can handle themselves better than me to be honest,”  I said.  Pivot relaxed even more.

“Yeah, whatever.  Do what you want.”  she said.

Honestly, Oklahoma seemed boring.  I wondered how Micheal and Ricky were doing.  I also wondered about Ellen.

 

***

 

“Ryan,”  said a voice.

“Yeah?”  I replied.

What was this dream again?

“You didn’t have to give me your jacket,”  said Ellen, standing beside me.

Oh, now I remember.

“It’s raining though, You’d not want to catch a cold.”

Ha ha, how stupid of me to forget this.  This was a year ago.  My stupid mistake.  Honestly, I couldn’t remember what I said at the time, mostly out of sheer embarrassment.  At least it didn’t ruin my friendship with her, I think.

There was a pause, a long heart rendering pause in time between us.

“You like me, don’t you?”  she said.

I looked at her and saw Sacrifice, wearing my jacket.  She was naked, smiling up at me through the mask she had made of Ellen’s face.  Blood trickled down her neck and over her breasts. I took a step back and she approached me at the same pace.

“Don’t lie, Ryan.  I like you too.”  she said.

I woke up in a sweat, wiping my forehead with my arm while contemplating seeing a shrink.  It was 6 AM.  Too early.  I looked around and the room I was given was bare as it was the day I got here.  I’m starting to hate Oklahoma.

I got up and walked over to the desk next to my bed, picking up my toothbrush and toothpaste.  I walked over to the bathroom in a sleep deprived daze.  Three knocks, no response.  I opened the door and walked over to the sink, splashing my face in cold water and beginning to brush my teeth.

God, I really hate mornings.

Once I was done, I put everything back in my room and looked about for a towel of some sort, and walked to the male shower room once I found one.  Stacker was busy in there.

“Hey, Blocker,”  he joked, massaging his golden, curly hair.

“Don’t call me that, I have enough problems as it is,”  I replied with a yawn.

“Yeah, but still.  I’m sure people warned you.”

I smiled at that.  I hadn’t smiled in a while at anything, really.

“Yeah, they did.  Better than what I could ever come up with,”  I said, starting to wash my hair.

“What would you have chosen?”

“I don’t know, Equalizer?  I’m sure most of the good names are taken anyway.”

“Yeah, that was taken.  Us poor newbies have to deal with legacy names or shit,”  Stacker said, turning off his shower.  “See you later.”

I think I forgot that guy’s actual name.

 

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I’d only been with the Oklahoma City Nation Heroes Network and I’d already noticed that there were glaring issues with the entire team, from the juniors to the seniors.  Me, Derek and Maxine had been thrown into the juniors to recuperate the numbers they had lost and all we did was get our asses whooped and cause property damage.

I guess another cause was the fact that not only is the Junior group lacking, but so is the Senior group.

My evidence?  It was Gunsmith.

He lacked in every quality a leader required, let alone the leader of a team of superheroes.

He wasn’t charismatic, he wasn’t confident and worst of all;  he wasn’t strong.

I felt a pang of pity for they guy as I saw him in his suit, his stringbean arms polishing a rifle far too complex a fragile for use in a fight.

“I see,”  he said to Event Horizon who had just finished explaining the situation.  “You do know risks are involved.  I wouldn’t want to have to deal with anything too troubling.”

Event Horizon was firm in her response.  “I understand, sir.”

“Very well then,”  he said.  “Let’s start with this.  Okay?”

The three of us nodded.

“Good.  You should know that your powers fit the same state.  They are incontinent.  There is however, a second effect.  You should be able to leave a space where your power will have its effects linger,”  said Gunsmith, gesturing as his rifle sat on his lap and he held a greased up cloth in his left hand.  “This is your ‘active’.”

Nobody said a thing as gunsmith took a small pause, a resumed his lecture.

“I’ll give you one important detail you must not forget;  wherever you crate a space with your active will be permanent.  Only you can dispel your own active space.  Otherwise, it’ll be there even after you die.”

“Really?  How would my power work?”  asked Maxine.

Gunsmith gave it some thought.  “You are probably thinking about how your powers don’t work via proximity, right?”

“Yeah,”  replied Maxine.  “I’m not sure if I can do what you are asking.”

Gunsmith looked at me.  “How about we have Ryan try first, then?  He won’t do too much damage if he messes up, and his ability has easily observable effects.”

I shrugged.  “Okay. I’ll go first,”  I said.

Gunsmith stood up, placing his rifle and polishing cloth on the chair.  “Good,”  he said, smiling.  He took several small steps towards me.

“Event Horizon, use your power on my gun.”

She complied.  Event Horizon placed out a hand and stood still. then she took a step back, and Gunsmith’s rifle flew off the chair in the direction she stepped.  Telekinesis?  No, it still obeyed gravity.

“You should explain for the new recruits,”  said Gunsmith when she was finished with her display.

“It’s not telekinesis,”  began Event Horizon.  “It’s more accurate to call it telestasis.  Anything or anyone I focus on will no longer be able to gain any distance from me.  I’ve also got a few minor enhancements to my balance and stuff so I don’t get dragged around instead.”

“I see.”  said Derek.

Gunsmith looked at me.  “Reach your arms out.”

I did so, slowly.

“Think about your powers.  What do you feel when they are working?”

I thought about it.  I thought about being with everyone at the mall, I thought about how ignorant I am of the world of superheroes.  I thought about when the Hunting Party came.  I felt safe with my power.  Not truly safe, but safe as I could be.  I imagined myself as something that supported Maxine when her powers affected Ricky.  I imagined being with Derek, and how he rarely leaves my side now.  I thought about Ellen.

I could feel it.

“I feel it.  I feel like everyone is safer,”  I said.  “Everyone but me.  I don’t feel safe at all. I feel angry.”

Gunsmith waited a few seconds.  “Good,”  he said.  “Focus it on the space between your hands.”

I did so, and after several seconds, I could feel it.  My power.  I stooped and it stayed there, completely invisible and intangible, but there all the same.  I waved an arm through it.  It stayed.

“I did it, sir.”

“Good,”  he said.  “Can you move it?  Try thinking about your power and tugging at it, or something.”

He wasn’t working off a script.  This was him mostly bullshitting me from what he does know, and trying to see what works.  Whatever, as long as it helps.  I stuck my hand in and moved it about, thinking about the mall, thinking about Ellen.  I could feel it move between my fingers, like floating imaginary jelly.

I pulled on it and I could sense it’s form change.  Letting go, it stayed as I left it.  I tried again with a quick, simple sweep through it, moving it to the movements of my arm.  It felt like I left claw marks on reality.

“Yeah, I can move it.”

“Now try getting rid of it, Ryan.”

No hints this time.  He doesn’t know how.  I guess that means that anyone who can create spaces like this haven’t removed them, but claim they can?  Or maybe they haven’t documented it well?  I’m unsure.

“I don’t thi-”  I stopped.  This wasn’t about me.  This was about Maxine and Derek.  Maybe I should think of taking it all back?

I put my hand in my space.  I thought about my powers, but this time I thought about not having them. I thought about where I would be right now.  Today, I’d be with Derek, Micheal, Ellen, Maxine and Ricky.  We’d all have fun, not having a single worry about this world we’ve been dragged into.

The space I created was gone.  I looked around, Derek was still normal, behind me at the edge of my range.  I did it, I did it easily.

“Yeah, it’s gone now.”

Gunsmith smiled.  “Okay, I guess that was a good demonstration,”  he said.  I glanced at Derek and she looked nervously at him. Maxine was the same.

“Honestly, I’m not sure how your powers would work. maybe you’d create an area where people are forgotten, or everyone has your powers.  Maybe your space has it’s own memories separated from outside the space, giving anyone amnesia while inside.  You’ll figure it out sooner or later.  The important thing is that Ryan can help fix anything you or Derek do, be it accidental or not.  Your mistakes aren’t unsolvable, so don’t panic or worry.  I’m sure you’ll help each other.”

If it wasn’t for Ellen, I’d agree with his speech.

 

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