Archive for September, 2014

Meeker.  It’s a small town in the north east of Colorado.  One of the three locations I had to visit before the expedition.

I stood on the platform, a crowd of people around me.  My power was overflowing and spreading like a mist through the town, weaving through the crowds as I expended more and more of my power.  A space of myself consumed all and the crowd thinned out as I did so.

Maybe they expected a tingling feeling or something? I thought.

“Ryan, you’ve reached the limits, you can stop now.”

Agent Morris.  A fat man who recently joined the NHN during my three years absence, and whose presence unwillingly serves to remind me that the world changed while I was locked up.  While I was peeling fingernails, Derek was bleeding out, constantly jumping between the moment the shrapnel tore open his neck and his failing attempts to stop the bleeding.

Maxine told me that due to his powers, he was able to at least say goodbye.

I shook my head and stopped from creating more space, relaxing.  My powers served as a nullifier for anyone inside my space who used powers I was aware of or understood, and the space I created was stronger.

No powers will ever work in my space, ever.

I looked at Agent Morris. “Yeah, I’m done.”

He gave a nod and gestured away, the crowd almost entirely gone except a few important locals.

A truly fat man was waiting for me, his balding hair and wrinkled yet pudgy face was reminiscent of Santa Claus in the way it disarmed me.  He walked up and grabbed my hand, shaking it with both of his.

“So you are the wonderful kid behind all this commotion, right?”  he said, a grin beaming on his face.

I took a second and responded, waiting for him to stop shaking my hand.  “Yes.  I’m Ryan Anderson, by the way.  Mayor…”

“Mayor Alexander Warren,”  he replied, finally letting go to clap his hands and rub them. “Pleasure to meet you.”

I smiled back, lowering my hand.

“We are glad you allowed us to try something like this, Mayor Warren,”  said Agent Morris.  “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me,”  the mayor said, waving his hand out at the street.  “Thank the town. I put it up to a vote and they approved, especially since we have no NHN building and several rogue metahumans.”

“No NHN, what happened?”  I asked.

“Some villain called Trauma passed through, a week later the only two NHN capes went crazy and killed each other.  Starshifter and Anorak I think.”

“I see.”

Taker struck my back with the whip, stinging the flesh on my shoulder.  I turned my head around.

Agent Morris was standing there, his hand on my shoulder.  “Ryan, you should go.”

I nodded and said my goodbyes, leaving for the other NHN agents.  Morris started to talk to the mayor as I left the stage and I could overhear the words ‘itchy subject’ and ‘best not mention it’ by the time I hit the last step.

***

I was irked as I began to walk back to the caravans and various other transports provided by the NHN, and if I said it wasn’t because of my coincidental inability to escape Trauma’s presence I’d be lying.

She seemed to be leaving a trail and for the strangest reason I keep following it, even if I wished to avoid her.

I shook my head and opened the door to my caravan, lifting the visor on my helmet.  It’s been a while since I wore a costume.  I lost the last one during the war, so they had to replace it. It still looks the same, but I no longer wield a large riot shield but a smaller, more compact retractable one that forms the shape of a large teardrop when extended.  I no longer wield any batons, since I lost them early every time I fought.

Apart from that my costume is the same as before; a set of re-purposed swat gear provided by the NHN.

Annoyingly, instead of ‘riot’ or ‘police’ printed in bold letters printed on my body armour, I have ‘Blocker’ attached instead.  I dislike the name, but it clearly stuck, and my absence hasn’t given my any chance to fight it.

I took a few steps, turned on the television hanging off the left wall and sat on the couch on the opposite side, my right arm rested on the table that served as a worktop for the small kitchen.  Rivets held the iron shackle down as Fractal slowly took the pliers and a knocking on the door shook me out of my daze.

“Ryan? You in?”

The TV was showing only static.  I quickly grabbed the remote off the couch and hit a button to turn it off, and opened the door to let Morris in.

“Hey,”  I said, sighing.  “What’s up?”

Morris took a few steps in the cramped stairs leading into the caravan with an apologetic face.

“I’m sorry about the may-”

“It’s fine,”  I reassured him.  “I’m not upset over this, it was just an unpleasant surprise.”

Morris gave me a worried glare.  He didn’t believe me.

I gave a fake smile and shrugged, walking over to the kettle.  “Tea? Coffee?”

“You know the crap we got is awful, there’s a coffee house in town we can go to,”  he scoffed casually.

He was right.  The tea was bland, the coffee was dull, and the sugar was practically metallic.

“Really? where is it?”

“A few streets away,”  Morris said, slouching on the couch.  “Wanna go?”

I wordlessly dumped the tea into the sink and opened the door, gesturing him to lead the way out.

“It’ll be my pleasure, I haven’t eaten good food in days,”  I joked, checking to make sure I still had some money on me.

Agent Morris stepped out of the caravan and I locked it behind him.

“Don’t get your hopes up, Ry.  I never said the food wasn’t shit, just the drinks.”

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9 | 4 : Re-education

Posted: 09/14/2014 in Re-education
Tags: , ,

It has only been a day since I collapsed, and I spent the whole day thinking.  The whole day reflecting on what I had become.

The last three years changed me.  I admitted that.  I felt distant from the world and the world felt bleak.  The sound of metal clinking on metal disturbed me, not being able to see the sky made me unseasy.

This wasn’t what I was like when I left, but I think I understand.  It was Taker’s final insult; a final torture.

He was letting me remember, slowly.  Each memory that showed me how pathetic I was in front of him, how weak I became before hot irons and spikes.  Every now and then It hit me.  Another horrid nightmare that was all too real.

Today I remembered being patched up.  He said that I ‘didn’t need a single painkiller’.  I remember begging as the machine set bone and made incisions, pumping fluid to allow rapid growth of ruptured lungs and torn tendons.

I sat there looking at the glass of water on the table before me, thinking about it.

“Ryan, are you able to answer my question?” repeated Dr. Meadows.

“Sorry,”  I replied.  “I forgot.”

Dr. Meadows frowned a little, and restated her question.  “Do you wish to continue?”

I thought about the expedition I was tasked to go on.

“I can, can’t I?”

She smiled.  “Mental health isn’t something the higher ups really care about, but I wish you would reconsider.”

I took that a clearly worded disapproval in my plans.  The only disapproval at all.  I’d been cleared for hypnosis, being a sleeper agent or anything thanks to a check up by some psychic or mind reader of some sort.  I felt as though I could do away with the trip, but at the same time it was part of a larger deal.  I’d have to do it if I wanted to further my own goals.

Taking the plunge, I looked at her in the eyes.

“I’m doing it.  I’ll go,”  I said, standing up.  “I think I can do it, I have support.”

I said my goodbyes and left, looking for Maxine.  I have one last thing to do.

 

***

 

I got lost almost instantly, seeing as I’d been restricted in where I could freely wander for the longest time, and I spent most of it reading books.  The hallway I found myself in was surprisingly bright, but not relevant at all to where I was wishing to go as it was filled with visitors of all kinds.

The sounds of chatter filled my ears.

“-om, I want an ‘Unpers-”

“-aw ‘Galactic’ in fra-”

“-ot my fault, had wor-”

I turned back, looking for actual staff.  Receptionists at desks filled with visitors are not allowed to divulge info on who is out or not.  I read a case on that being used to plan a murder of a cape known as ‘Ogre’ in the eighty’s.  I remember reading that, that stood out.

Nobody noticed me as I returned to the hallways and finally approached a NHN unit member as he walks about with paperwork.

“I’m looking for Maxine, have you seen her?”

He takes a quick look, realizes who I am and points me in the general direction.  “Capes like you at the top floor, Blocker.”

I found my way with the aid of an elevator, and caught Maxine in normal gear as she left her room.

“Hey,”  she said, slightly surprised at my sudden appearance.

“Hey,”  I replied, waving a hand.  “I’m after a favour.”

Maxine gave me a glance. “…Yeah?”

“I want to see Derek’s grave, if it’s okay with you.”

“Ryan,” she began. “You can visit it any time you like.  I was heading out anyway so I’ll take you, okay?”

I nodded, a little worried I put a negative mood in her day by saying what I did.

I followed her back to the elevator.

“I figured you’d want to see him,”  Maxine said.

“Really?”  I asked, intrigued at what her insight on me could be.

“Yeah, you’ve always had a hard time letting things go.”

“Y-yeah,”  I replied, a little shocked at the comment as we entered the elevator.  “I do, don’t I?”

The elevator opened at the ground floor, and we walked out down the hallways.

Maxine parted more words.  “Trying to fight for what you want is good, Ryan.  You tried.”

Trying doesn’t amount to anything when you lose so much.  I lost Derek, Ellen was a lost cause.  Michael and Ricky are miles away.  Samantha and Margaret underwent nasty changes, and re-triggered several times.

“Trying ain’t enough,”  I said to myself.  I have to succeed, not try.  “Nobody famous tried.  They won all the way until the very end, and in their final moments?  That’s where they tried.”

Maxine sighed, pushing past reporters.  Taker’s blowtorch shone in my face, making me take a step back before realizing it was a camera flash.  I ducked my head down and powered outside, waving off the reporters.  They don’t chase far and very few were there.  I just had bad luck with a boisterous one.

I pushed my way in front of her and turned to see her wave her hand at me, a final reporter changing his mind about giving chase and leaving for the NHN building, looking at his camera.

“How’d the vultures get tamed?”  I joked, making an elbow gesture.

“NHN gives them what they want and they don’t go hungry,”  explained Maxine, walking ahead of my on the roads.

We reached the gravestone.  It was chipped, which was odd for such a new stone.  Maybe the fact it was a cape gravestone gave it value?  Maxine walked up and touched the grave.

“Hey, we got Ryan back,”  muttered Maxine.  “Now all we need is…”

“Maxine,”  I said as she trailed off.  “I’d like some time alone, please.”

She looked back at me as she knelt over the grave and nodded, heading off.

“Good luck with it,”  she said, a final parting.

“Yeah,” I replied, still looking at the grave.

Only one thing ran through my head.  I have three friends left.

 

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“Trauma, you should put down the phone and listen already,”  said the Kaleidoscope Man, holding his head in his left hand and a glass of wine in his left. “I’m your senior, show a little respect.”

Trauma smiled, placing the small device on the table as she looked at him.

“Apologies,”  she shrugged.  “I was talking to a new friend in Europe.”

“Europe?”

“Why not?  Can’t I have friends?  Will you lock me away in a cage on June the sev-”

“Enough,”  interrupted Richter, his fist cracking the table as it rests.  “Kaleidoscope man, stop provoking the newbie.  Trauma, learn your place.”

Trauma sighed, dangling her legs under the chair and patting down the skirt of her dress.  She chose her new outfit carefully.  Nobody can resist a young girl.  Mothers and fathers want to protect, children want to be friends and Handyman, the fourth member of this round table of evil…

Some things are left better unsaid.  Handyman wouldn’t stop staring anyway, so leaving it unsaid is merely leaving the elephant in the room.

“Now,”  Richter finally said.  “I’m sure you all understand the goal of this meeting?”

“Plan methods to bring chaos to the NHN and promote your group over it?”  suggested Handyman, raising a hand.

“Correct,”  replied Richter, almost moving a little.  “But that’s our long term goals.”

“So there’s a complication, right?”  asked Kaleidoscope man, picking his left nostril with his top hand.

“Yes.  Trauma?”

Trauma coughed and stood.  “The NHN has a trump card, and one I’d like to get my hands on,”  she said, standing straight.  “A nullifier, and one that can create permanent fields.”

The fifth member of the group, Cosmos, spoke through his visor.  “What, that kid you knew, Blocker?”

“Yes, my irradiated Russian!  That guy.  We need him.”

Handyman scoffed at the notion.  “Why? Why do we need him?”

“Because he is a promised gift from my benefactor, Handyman.  I can assure you, good things will come to pass.”

Richter smirked, his crimson cape floating behind his armour, his face unprotected as a beard of brown sprouts forth valiantly, and his head of hair flows long.

“I must gave thanks to Taker, who did this to me,”  said Richter, taking the attention of his fellow members.  “Without this power I would be nothing, but now I can have everything.”

The table shattered as he stood, marble splintering as if an impressive weight broke it.  However, the cause for such an impressive display of destruction was not a weight of incredible mass, but the tap of Richter’s fingers as they drummed against it.

Trauma rolled her eyes at her new comrades as the meeting adjourned.

 

***

 

“Olympian, any words on your fight with Chasser?”

Olympian was wading through a crowd of reporters, each for different news papers. French, English, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese voices called out, overriding each other.

“Olympian! Olympian!”

Olympian sighed as she disappeared into the sky with a whoosh, shocking the reporters and press.  She hovered, her golden hair draping across her silver cape in calm air, her magnificence seen only to those who look up. She wore a White skintight suit, with an O in clear red covering the front of her body. Her gloves and boots were coloured the exact same as the O.

Her phone beeped, and she took a look inside.  As much as being as powerful was easy, it was hard.  Every day, every conversation, every second was emotionally taxing.  No true friends to rely on as you were the backbone for so many, no chance to rest or break down.  These are normal problems for capes as famous as Olympian, but Olympian has been at it for centuries.  Her current name?  A homage to her former friends, whom she once talked and argued with many moons ago.  Friends and allies she watched wither to bones and dust as she lived on.

Her only true friend is a girl she contacted online about a year ago, somebody who seemed so sweet and nice to talk to.  She was actually happy she had a friend as nice as Ellie Grey.  She was caring, she listened, and they helped each other with their own personal problems.  Ellie was an absolute stranger but had that sort of naivety and joy that made you trust her like family.

Ellie Grey was a great friend, and was a light in the darkness of eternity.  Sadly, ‘was’ is the word to emphasise here as Ellie hadn’t called in weeks, and this was the first text since she left.

The message stood out in Olympian’s mind as she read it, and the history:

 

“Ill b going now!  Im taking a drive 2 the campsite so Ill b out of range because of my phone.  Will call l8r I promise

“I can’t wait!  Lets talk about our weekend soon.  😀  p.s.  I was wondering if I could visit soon, that would be great.”

“rlly? Can’t wait.”

Then the next message.

 

“ellies mom here.  police told me she crashed her car txting a message.  saw the history and figured it was you.  sorry but i dont think shell be able to see you again shes in intensive care and may not make it. had to tell you but they sed she may not live.  accidents happen im sorry. i dont want to outlive my own daughter.”

 

For the strangest reason, the odd timing of the message never disturbed Olympian.  The contents however, the contents stood out.

“Outlive… It was me…”

Somehow, the words clicked.  They found a way into her vast memories of the olden days and dragged deep, personal scenes and thoughts into the front of her mind.

All that came to her was ‘I killed her’ followed by ‘it was me’.

“I-I didn’t…”

Olympian dropped the phone, letting it plummet and smash off a parked car below.

“Why can’t I have someone stay beside me?”

Olympian cried out for the first time in six hundred years, and found a new purpose in life.  Meanwhile, Trauma smiled as she left the meeting hall, holding a small cellphone.  She opened it and tossed the SIM card away, the purpose it was taken for served.