The convoy was a wreck.  Whatever Forget-me-not used to hit it, she hit it hard.  My trailer was ripped in two, a simmer of flame popping out from the hole.  Two of the three NHN cars were overturned, and the remaining trailers were unscathed but clearly affected by a shockwave, as all the broken glass can show.  I pushed my way into the scene, looking at the ambulance and firemen as they tried to calm the civilian crowd.

“Shit, she hit everyone,”  Agent Morris said, huffing out breaths as he looked at the scene.  “Where are my guys?”

I didn’t know.  They weren’t with the ambulance, or the firemen.  They could be dead, or maybe forget-me-not is using her technology again?

Morris began looking through his phone, dialling and texting and trying to get a response from his team.  No use.  Nothing.  I began looking for clues, for something among the wreckage.

“Fuck,”  finally said Morris, almost throwing his phone.  “No use!”

I was annoyed as much as he was.  We were busy enjoying coffee and food, and three streets away a maniac who can mess with perception kidnaps seven agents for the National Heroes Network.  This is the worst case scenario.

I groaned, rubbed the back of my hair, turned around to see the mayor and revised my statement.

This is the worst case scenario.  He was pissed, furious that my powers, the powers that the NHN insisted would keep his people safe failed, and they failed within an hour in spectacular fashion.

“You try to sell my town snake oil?”

God damn it.  He’s picking me out.

The crowd itself was agreeing with Warren.  I could hear murmurs and whispers of unity among the townspeople in the background.

“They said you’d prevent this happening,”  Warren said, jabbing me with a pudgy finger.  “Explain this.”

I took a breath to gather my thoughts.  “I don’t know what they said. I can prevent powers from working directly in any space I alter, but nothing prevents stuff already created from working.”

I took a glance at the wreckage and Morris.

“How can I protect my people when the supposed ‘ultimate protection’ fails an hour after it’s put up?  Tell me that!?”

Inspiration struck.

“You’ll be safe,”  I said.  “I can assure you of that.”

 

***

 

The convoy took a while but I managed to drive it out of the town slowly, bit by bit.  Morris took the cars and I took the trailers.  My trailer still drove even after being ripped apart, thankfully.  I should send thanks to whoever built or designed it.

We reached a part out of my range but with the town in sight, not far from it. Meeker had a river and a stream nearby, but the land was mostly flat.  Having this as data, I concluded that Forget-me-not didn’t have anything large on her.  At least, nothing like a vehicle.

I did a few small jumps to fight off the chill in the air.  Morris lit a cigarette, partially because of stress, partially because the lighter provided a little warmth.  We waited.

“Morris?”  I asked.

“Yeah?”  he responded.

“Where do you think you’d hold seven NHN agents? I mean, there isn’t many places to hide them.”

“Hmm,”  Morris thought, pondering the conversation.  “I’d hide them. This bitch does have stealth as her forte so she could easily lock em in a building and make people forget it exists.”

I nodded.  “That does seem like the obvious conclusion.  We’d have a map for Meeker, right?”

“You think we’d find it with a map?”

“I’ve seen memory alteration,”  I replied, thinking of Maxine’s powers.  “this ain’t it. We can beat it easy.”

“Then you tell me why ain’t she caught yet,”  said Morris, drawing a smoke from his cigarette.

“Well, I’m thinking it’s the reason she wasn’t caught this time,”  I replied.  “She’s putting her crimes in a bubble, or making it so that nobody is aware of what’s happening as she acts.”

“Hmm, that’s correct,”  replied Forget-me-not.

“So, I’m thinking if we wait out here she’ll attack us,”  I continued, scratching my head.

“Why wouldn’t I just go for the town?”

“Well, what reason is there to?  She’s the sole cape in Meeker, so I don’t think she needs to worry about them. the NHN on the other hand…”  I gestured, stepping towards Morris.

I didn’t get a reply, he’s out cold and Forget-me-not is there, right in front of me.  She’s dressed in green, a hobnob style of bits sewn together, mainly arranged to avoid a stray bullet or survive a non-powered human playing hero.  Her mask is a simple motorbike helmet, cracked from a previous scuffle.  She wore a backpack, a faint blue aura emitting from it, giving her a slight glow.

She clicked the button on a small device, and her backpack stopped glowing.

“Ah, it appears you are in my range,”  I said.  “I see Morris is down.”

“Take what you did away or I’ll blow them up,”  the villain demanded.  I admired her frankness, oddly enough. Still, she got no reaction from me.  Forget-me-not hovered her thumb over a second button on her device.  Probably a trigger for a bomb.

“Go on.  You’ll upgrade from a small time crook to a threat if you blow seven people up, and bigger, larger people will come. It won’t be two capes who are born here, it’ll be people looking for you.  Roamers are usually the worst.”

“I can alwa-”

I laughed, not the smartest choice.  She looked at me oddly.

“Always what?”  I asked with venom in my tone.  “Run away? Fight them off?”

She backed up, nearly stepping out of my range.  I followed, not wanting her to get the drop on me, closing the gap.

“You think you can fight them off?”

Forget-me-not stumbled a little, stunned.  “I’ll press it, I swear to god I will.”

She wouldn’t.  She is to weak, too merciful.  She’s a wannabe bank robber who leaves no victims and specializes in hostages, but never kills anyone.  She’s the type who says they’ll kill themselves the fifth time and everyone would think ‘do it’ but say ‘don’t’.

I tackled her, and she pressed a button.

 

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“Shit, you’re right,”  I said, almost heaving after taking the first mouthful of my lunch.  “This food is awful.”

Morris chuckled as I spat out a mouthful of bacon back onto the plate.  How can you mess the texture of bacon up badly?

“I warned you,”  he smirked, wagging a finger.

“Isn’t there a place with good food here?”

“Other side of town,”  he explained.  “this is one of those diners where the food doesn’t need to be good.  It’s either eating here or starving.”

The emphasis was correct.  The diner wasn’t packed, there was a smell that I hoped wasn’t the food and the staff were clearly minimum wage or part time.  It didn’t take much to tell that the place let itself go because of the sheer monopoly it had on selling cooked food to eat.

I smiled at the idea of buying fish from the place.  Naivety only goes so far before it becomes stupidity, and buying a guaranteed dose of food poisoning is crossing that line.

“I see.”

The other guests weren’t much.  A man in a coat, sipping coffee.  Somebody driving across the country.  Some college goer abusing the free wi-fi with her boyfriend, who is actually eating food and not throwing up.  Still, it’s a diner that could serve thirty, and only has six people being served.

“So Ryan,”  began Morris.  “I hear you are going into Biohazard’s park, right?”

“Yeah,” I responded, taking a sip of coffee.

“Didn’t expect a vet like you to still risk your life.”

“Vet?”

Morris flinched and rubbed the back of his head breaking eye contact.  I noticed he had a bald spot.

“Sorry, old joke,”  he replied.

“What’s the joke?”

“Don’t want to say…”

“Come on,”  I pressed.  “I’m not going to bite.”

“Well it’s a saying in the police forces,”  he explained with a little hint of embarrassment.  “What’s a cape with PTSD called?  A veteran.  Everyone who used to be a cop or still is knows the joke, and thus you get capes called stuff like ‘vets’.”

I smirked at that.  It’s a funny joke.

“So it’s just cop lingo?”  I asked, followed by  “You used to be a cop?”

“That’s true.  I worked for about seven years before I quit and came here,”  Morris stated.  He took another sip.

“I don’t know why you’d quit one job and do the same thing but with capes.”

“Lots of NHN agents used to be cops.  Since capes started appearing, police got cuts globally whenever they get a chance to enforce the law legally.”

Morris took a moment to think.

“You should know this, Ryan.”

“I didn’t pay attention in school,”  I admitted, shrugging my shoulders.  “At least, not about capes.”

I remember that costing me from day one.  Considering how Sacrifice acted on my second meeting with her, we got off relatively lucky.  Well, at least Ricky, Michael and Maxine did, anyway.

“So I guess there’s some irritation about capes from cops, right?”

“Yeah, there is.  It’s like most cops think people randomly selected shouldn’t have power over others.  Actually, most people have those issues, remember the conscription debates in the UN?”

“I heard about it a little, but it was glossed over.”

Morris gave an inquisitive look, which I responded to with a shrug.  It was true.  Most negative things that aren’t related to civil rights are glossed over in schooling.

“Anyway Ryan, speaking of staying informed,”  Morris said.  “You did your homework on Biohazard, right?”

I did, but not enough.  The information on Biohazard and the park was surrounded by mystery and suspicion, and that’s from the NHN itself.  One story tells of tribes of monsters, another talking about giant robots.  The only thing that was consistent was that Biohazard was not alone in his park; he had an ally who was immune to his powers, somehow.

But that’s not why there is going to be an expedition.  The situation in Biohazard’s area has always been stable, but there is pressure from congress to reclaim it, especially after the near total victory against Texas.  The victory that was celebrated while I-

“Ryan?”  Morris repeated, looking a little concerned.

“Sorry,”  I replied.  “Sometimes I…”

I let the sentence drift off.  It’s become less of an issue.  I used to have complete flashbacks, vivid remembrances of those three years of hell I endured.  They’ve all but disappeared, hiding away in my dreams, or glimmers of my memories appearing, if only for a second.

God knows what’s happening with Samantha.

I sighed and downed the rest of my coffee in one gulp.  “We should be going.”

Morris groaned and got up as I did, following me as I left the diner.  We already payed for the terrible food and ok drinks at the till, and we had a schedule to keep.

“Don’t push yourself, Ryan,”  Morris lectured.  “You have the expedition, then two more towns to visit.”

“I know.”

The expedition.  The first time I’ll be part of a team in three years.  I thought about it intensely for a while as I walked back through the streets, noting more and more crowds as we hit the main street.  Morris’s phone beeped and he opened it up before shooting a look of concern.

“Morris?”  I asked.

“The convoy was hit.  Super tech.  It jammed our signals and was silent.”

We both took a second to stare at each other than ran for the trailers and cars.  It appears we were reminded why there were two capes in Meeker.  They were there to stop the local supervillain, who has technical powers.

“Shit, how’d we forget?”  I asked.

“It’s a cape called Forget-me-not,”  Morris explained, looking it up on his NHN issued phone.  “Anorak countered her powers, which is building stuff that alters awareness and memory.”

I dived around a small crowd and found my way next to Morris in the bustle, running as fast as he could.

“You mean that she went off the grid and we just forgot?”  I asked, realizing it was rhetorical.

I’ve dealt with this before, maybe she’s attacking because I smoked her out by accident.

“It’s only her, right? Nobody else?”  I asked Morris.

He checked his phone.  “No, just her.”

Good, I thought.  I can handle this.

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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.

Shower time.

I hate it.  Not out of some childish thoughts that my time was more important doing other things, but because I just didn’t like looking at my body anymore.  I’d never say that I used to be vain or self obsessed, but I did admit I felt somewhat confident of my body, with no real worries or issues before the incident in Norfolk.  The reasons why were simple; I was unfit before, and for the last three years I’d been deteriorating.  It showed.

I walked down the hallway with the items I’d been given by the guards to allow me to bathe.  The bathroom was bright, several shower stall separated by the cubicles you’d see in a public toilet.

You step into the closest one, placing the towel over the rack that was concerningly too close to the shower’s assumed stream of water.  I turned the knob and the cold hits me harder than any punch.  Not as hard as…

I shook my head, hands going through my hair and allowing me to get used to the cold.  I’m here.  Not in Texas.  I’m fine.

“Damn it,”  I muttered to myself, barely audible in the shower.  “Fuck.”

I slowly slid down with my back against the cubicle wall.  I could only feel it in patches here and there as my skin rubbed against it and I sat on the floor.

***

Three Years Ago: Kingdom of New Austin

“Didn’t you want revenge, Ryan?”  Taker mocked, smiling as he looked on the arena where I stood, exhausted.  “You did, didn’t you?”

I stood there, shaking and trying to keep my footing, fists clenched.

“Come on Ryan, do it!”

Sacrifice looked at me, her eyes empty.  Hollow.  She was strewn against a pillar in a daze.  A drugged up mess.  In contrast, I was there, the other side of the ring.  I was nothing but the punchline Taker’s sick shaggy dog joke.

“Go on, you can punch, can’t you?”

I could, but barely.  I’d been awake for three days.  I had to watch for three days.  Despair and pity were overpowering what was blind rage.

I gave in.  “I-I don’t want to,”  I said quietly.  “I didn’t want this.”

Taker laughed.  Barely refined spite and anger.

“You see that, Samantha!”  he bellowed, pointing at me from his stand.  “He’s pathetic!  He can’t even attack you!  What the hell did you see in him!?  Potential!?”

Sacrifice, no…  Samantha finally fell.  I charged a little too late and punched her face with the force of somebody falling asleep.  She didn’t even react.

“I didn’t want this,”  I mumbled, crying over her.  “I didn’t want this.”

***

I took so long in the shower guards came in to check if I was still alive.  Apparently, I had inhaled water in the shower when I lost my concentration and nearly drowned.  That wasn’t what worried them.

A knock at the door.  Maxine.

“Come in,” I said.

She entered the hospital room and placed some flowers on a table.

“I’d get you some chocolate but you…”  she trailed off, looking at my hands and feet.

I was chained to the bed after they saw.

“Do they hurt?”  she asked after too much silence.

“Yeah.”

“Does Ma-”

“No,”  I interrupted.  “No, she wasn’t what…  I don’t think so.”

Maxine sighed, looking at me.  I turned away, avoiding eye contact.

Maxine finally brought up something.  “Derek’s dead, you know.”

Great.

“He was caught in an explosion.  It uh…  They said it didn’t hurt.”

I could hear some sniffing.  Dammit.

“I was so mad at you when you came back, you weren’t even there at his funeral.  I thought you ran away or died or something.”

“Derek was a bit of an ass, but he had his heart in the right place,”  I replied.  “I remember one time he was late hanging out.  Turns out he took a detour to give this abandoned kid to the Information office of the mall in Norfolk.”

I chuckled a little.

“He didn’t want to be seen as soft so he made the most stupid excuse about a blonde chick in a bikini.”

Maxine added on to the story.  “Yeah, I think Micheal put him in a headlock for wandering about with strangers on his own.”

We spent some time in silence.

“I hate how everyone says I’ve changed, Max.  I didn’t want this.  I wanted things to go back to normal, or for it to be a dream.”

“That’s why you chased after them?”

“I-”  I stammered out the next part.  “I think deep down inside that I deserved it.  I think I had this happen because I wanted to much, I wanted something I’ll never get back.”

Maxine left without saying a word, or a goodbye.

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“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”  asked Dr. Meadows.

She was my shrink.  I only went because these meeting are mandatory.  It’s been a five days since I returned from the Kingdom of New Austin and this is my second meeting.

She sat across the table, legs crossed and two glasses of water in the middle.  She was giving me an inspection from her relaxed posture, her blue eyes scanning every minute reaction I had.

“I’m sure,” I replied.  “I can handle it.”

“Samantha can’t,”  she retorted firmly.  “You said she needs your help, I think you are unqualified.”

“I’m not,”  I responded, emphasising my disagreement.  “I can help her.”

“Like you could have helped Ellen?”

Those words hit me like a punch to the gut.

“…Not like that.  I wa-“

“You were wrong, Ryan,”  Meadows interrupted.  “We can help her more than you can.  Trust us.  Trust me.”

I couldn’t trust her, or I didn’t want to deep down.  I wanted to keep Samantha safe.  I could do that at the very least.

“I don’t want to.  I think s-  I think she’s gone throug-“

“Ryan, this isn’t about what happened or what crimes she committed,”  she tried to reassure.  “Things are different now, and all you need to worry about is that you, Margaret and Samantha get help.”

As much as she tried, it wasn’t all getting through to me.  I mean, Samantha still did what she did, right?  It’s only natural that people would want her arrested, even after those three years.

She started again, taking my silence as an urging to continue.

“You don’t seem to think about what you really want.”

“I do,”  I said.  “I want to protect Samantha and I want to help.”

She pulled out her notes.

“You said last time that you didn’t really know and you only came up with the Village project to appease the NHN.  You lied?”

“I-”  No use.  “I just want to protect Samantha.”

She sighed.

“That’s pretty possessive,”  she said.  “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yeah.  Yeah it is.”

An awkward silence filled the seconds nothing happened.

“I think we should focus more on that behaviour of yours,”  she finally said.  “Maybe if I can help you let go of this need to do…  To be so chivalrous all the time.  We can work on that first, and maybe if you start to trust me more, we’ll sort out any other issues you have.  Together.”

She had trouble finding the right words, constantly trying to be careful.  I didn’t react.

“How about this;  We’ll avoid talking about any possibility of Samantha being arrested for whatever crimes she had previously committed.  I promise I’ll try to see that nothing happens as long as both you and Samantha make progress with your recoveries, okay?”

“I’ll try,”  I said, somewhat unconvinced.  “I’m not sure I need it but I’ll try at the least.”

She smiled and took a note down on her paper.

“That’s good.”

 

***

Warm.  Baking warm dirt and sand.  It was too hot to breathe, let alone walk along the road.  Not that walking mattered at this moment.  There was nowhere to go.  Just road.  Endless road and tantalizing mirages on the horizon.

I looked at my hands.  I looked as flesh searing, drying up and peeling away as if I’m standing in the fallout of some nuclear blast, and the heat is just eating away at me.  Sweat boiled off my face and stung.

“Being alone hurts, doesn’t it.”

I turned around.  Nobody there.  Just me and the heat.  The sun.  It was purely a large and oppressive object, bearing down from above, dominating the sky.  Constantly assaulting me with no remorse.

“You want more.  You want something to hold onto, no?”

Still nobody.

“Who’s there?”  I asked, foolishly.  Impatiently.

“Just a nightmare,”  it replied.  “Look at your arms.”

I did.  The flesh was gone, burning away to charcoal.  Underneath the skin, piston replaced muscle, Wiring replacing nerves, piping replacing liquids and arteries.  A purely mechanical arm.  I should be shocked or concerned but I wasn’t.  I’d had been through too much to be surprised already.

I felt a pang of self pity as I tested out my new arm.  I should be reacting to this, not staring at it with borderline disappointment.

“What do you want?”  it asked.

What a stupid question.  I watched as more skin burned away, revealing more of my mechanical body underneath me.

“I’m not saying,”  I replied.

“Of course,”  it said, smugly.  “You don’t really say what you want much, do you?”

I moved my mechanical arm.  It felt normal, but painless.  Not like my remaining skin as it burned away.

“Who are you?”  I repeated my question.

“I’m just a Nightmare,”  it said.  “That’s all there is to it.”

Metal grinding.  A massive mass of scrap was grinding and tearing itself as it rose before me, forming an almost human shape.  An anchor here, a bit of car there.  I could see all the way through it in places, gaps where metal didn’t fit correctly.  It took a small bow, the sound of metal groaning in fatigue.

What was interesting, was the head was the most detailed part, heavily feminine, but still formed from scrap.  Cables and wires were arranged to create stray hairs of a fringe and sheets of metal bent around and twisted to form skin.  LED lights made for irises.

Not perfect, but good enough for me to tell it was a copy.  I was impressed, smiling as my face still felt pain from the heat, even as a massive shadow towered over where I stood.

“Dead Metal,”  the first voice said, tone changed to annoyance.  “You shouldn’t join in on my work.”

Ah.  Somebody is using powers over dreams on me.

As soon as I thought about it, I woke up, staring at the dark ceiling of the cold cell.  I raised my arm, looking at it in the minimal light afforded to me.  Flesh and blood.  Not metal.

I wonder who those two were.

 

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9 | 1 : Re-education

Posted: 08/12/2014 in Re-education
Tags: ,

I sat there, reading excerpts of ‘Awakening and You’ that were marked as important with highlighter.  It didn’t take long before the cross referencing got annoying, forcing me to eventually give up and start reading the ‘National Heroes Network Powers Classification Canual’ that sat next to me.

I gave the three other books on the desk in a pile a stare and sighed deeply.  The lawyer’s meetings were less boring than this.

Three knocks distracted me from my tedium.  Agent Williams.

“Ryan Anderson?”

“Come in,”  I said, putting the book down.  There was a printed copy of a supplemental report I was advised to read, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.

I was urged to read it if I was taking care of Sacrifice, according to the NHN.

Agent Williams closed the door and eventually found a chair to sat down on, with me turning to face him as he did so.

“You look different,”  he began.

“I am.  I’ve grown.  I’m eighteen, for a start.”

“That too,”  he said.

I took a pause.  He’s talking about the other thing.

“That’s isn’t growth,”  I said, placing my hand over my chest.  “You don’t grow from things like that.  I’m not any better of a person.”

“Yet you did.”

I don’t want to think I did.

“Is there anything important to discuss? Or is it all remarking about me?”

Agent Williams put the briefcase on his lap, opened it and handed over a few files.

“We said yes.  A trial period with voluntary members before accepting any more locations, and we agreed on three.”

“The three will be?”  I asked, looking at the details.  Logs of debate and expected costs; timescale; initial feasibility study; survey and population results; the actual allowed budget.

“Vermont, Mississippi and Colorado,”  he answered.  “You’ll be making them in a week.  You’ll also have to create two extra spaces for research and imprisonment.”

Three villages.  That’s more than I expected, but a lot of thinking and sensory capes probably would like to not have their powers dictate everything.

“… How many applicants?”

“At least seventeen families with members who have powers and eight members of the NHN.”

I nodded.  This was good.  It was worth it.

“I just have to serve out my time, right?”

“Yeah, that’s essentially it,”  replied Williams.  “Ah.  Before I forget:”

He pulled out a second file.

“A part of your sentence is to engage in an Expedition to Abio National Park.”

I took the file, skimming it.  Abio national park.  I knew that place well.  It was Biohazard’s residence.

“Why there?”  I asked.

“Well,”  he began.  “Biohazard isn’t a bad person.  He just can’t control his powers, like you or Unperson.  We think you could give him residence in your project.”

I see.  I’ll be giving the man to rendered half a state into an ecological nightmare in a day a home and shelter.  I couldn’t be mad at him, it was never his fault Ohio suffered as badly as it did.  I looked at the Expedition members.  Me, Alliance, Clawtail and Aim.

“I see.  These are copies?”  I pointed as the files.

“Yes, they are copies.  I’ll be going now.  Good luck with your recovery and rehabilitation.”

Agent Williams got up and opened the door.

“Before I forget, I’m sorry to hear about your parents.  We didn’t expect Trauma to encounter them.”

The closing and clicking of locks was relaxing.  Being alone was serene.

Damn, I should get to reading.

 

***

The copy of ‘Awakening and You’ was droll beyond comprehension, yet fascinating with its own naive charm, like a teacher invested in his subject as his students sit dumbfounded and bored.  As much as my own ignorance and boredom with the subject persisted I did gain a newly found appreciation for why this was taught in schools.  It wasn’t a case of teaching people how to name hydrocarbons or how to create macros in spreadsheet programs; it was more along the lines of teaching CPR and fire safety.

I’d already learned that you can’t avoid encounters with capes like you can with chemistry and computer science.  I put my head in the sand, and the little research I did do was too late to help.

I was in over my head three years ago and got punished for it.

Most of the stuff I was reading didn’t truly apply to me, but more towards Samantha who had gotten her powers from an awakening and thus could reawaken at any time.

Reawakening.  An event where one who previously had powers subconsciously alters them in high stress situations in an attempt to gain a beneficial power.  There is no assumed limit to the number of times one can reawaken, as the current record is the English hero Vector, at fifteen reawakenings.

I felt good, memorizing that.  Even if the book was outdated, I appreciated that Maxine gave me this stuff as reading material while I was in here at the NHN Rehabilitation Center.  I’ll thank her next time I see her.

Rehabilitation.  I guess I would have had to go through with it, considering that Margaret told Maxwell and Unperson the gist of what happened.  They insisted I needed it as much as Samantha and Margaret.  I couldn’t really make a convincing argument to the contrary, which I guess is a good reason to stay here for the time being.

Not all scars heal, but hopefully Samantha will have a few less after a while.

I put the book down again after placing a bookmark on it, looking at the two folders Williams gave me.  An expedition.  I smiled at the thought.  I’d be able to help Biohazard.  Maybe I’ll be able to help all the others who are effected by powers, or at the very least as many as I can.

I motioned to pick up one of the other three books, but I held myself back, opting to place them at the side of the desk on the floor instead, where they wouldn’t tempt me to read them too soon.  I was more interested in learning the basics of the super powered world, I’ll catch up on what happened while I was gone tomorrow.

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Samantha was unmoving, resting in a fetal position inside the sac, protected from the world.

“Please wake up,”  I cried, banging my hand off bone.  “I’m here for you!  It’s gone!”

No reaction.  The cocoon moved slightly, organs above shifting, providing nutrients.  I cut away at the side with the knife, forcing my way around the door and flesh.  Blood spilled everywhere as I fell into the room, on my knees before the mass of flesh.

I did what worked last time, and burst the sac with a stab.  Fluids poured out as I ripped away, reaching in fo-

A single eye the size of her face opened, moving to make eye contact with me as I reached for her.  Then one over her left breast, then her right forearm, her right shoulder and her left knee.  It was a decoy, meant to delay intruders.  A hand grabbed me, the eye on the back of it staring into my eyes.  Angry eyes.  I stabbed the eye with my knife, gouging it.

The many eyed child let go, beginning to climb out the sack as I backed up, giving her space.  Her hair, Samantha’s hair fell off and away as she climbed out. An eye opened at the calf of her right leg as I adjusted my grip on the knife.  Three more opened at the navel, looking up and down at me, blinking.

“One of Samantha’s protectors, I assume?”

It charged, reckless and violent.  I ducked under an overhead swing with the left arm and went for a stab at the ribs.

A mouth opened, nearly biting my hand off as I pulled away in surprise.

“That’s new,”  I said to the many eyed child.  It struggled a smirk, or what could be called one.

I charged in again, stabbing the three eye formation at the navel and ramming the right shoulder with my own, pushing her back into the ligament cage.  The many eyed child looked at my hand as I stabbed it in the face.  The eye exploded in vitreous, pouring down the neck as the many eyed child spasmed, dying.

“I’m the one who protects Samantha,”  I said.  “Not you.”

I walked out the room and began checking the birthing rooms more carefully, learning from my mistake.  Each room I checked had another monster of Samantha’s imagination, ready to challenge anyone who opened the door.  Another Many eyed child, staring through the door.  A belching screamer, creating a mess and laughing away.  A fingerface, unable to sit still.  A faceless mother and peekaboo child, trying to cooperate as they pulled at hair on the wall.

I wonder what those poor soldiers that were eaten will become?

The last room had Samantha.  It had to be.

It was normal. The only room that looked like a room and not a bouncy castle or some padded cell.  No skin floors with body hair rugs.  No eyes on the walls like security cameras, no traps.

A carpet, some walls and a ceiling were the confines of the room.  Even the door was normal, from when I approached it.  Inside contained nothing but a desk and two tables, with Samantha in the corner.

She had a coat over her cloak.  Another layer of armour.

I knocked, three times.

“Samantha?”  I asked, politely.

No response.  “I’m coming in, okay?”

I opened the door slowly.  Closing it, I looked at Samantha.

She hadn’t moved.

“S-shut up,”  she murmured, quietly enough that I could only catch it now.  “Not talking about it.  Shut up.”

“Samantha?  It’s me, Ryan.  You remember me, right?”

“I’m not like that.  Not like him.”

I took slow steps, trying to avoid her lashing out.  Eventually I got close enough and crouched down beside her.

“Samantha,”  I said, placing a hand on her shoulder.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t follow my promise to you.  I didn’t know they’d separate us so quickly, okay?”

Samantha was silent in response.

“I’ll take you out, and you’ll let it all be normal, right?  I assure you they won’t harm you.  I won’t let them.”

Samantha nodded. I barely picked her up and carried her in my arms back through the hallways as the rooms turned to normal, slowly.

Skin dried, shrivelled and gave way to carpet.  The bone doors slowly changed back to the painted blue wood,  Eye lens returning to glass.  Eyes fell away from the walls, rotting like umbilical cords.  One door opened.  A fingerface, his fingers wriggling in excitement.

“No,”  I said, ordering him.  “I’ve got her, she’s safe.”

He cocked his head, all but six fingers where his mouth should be laying flat against his skin.  An array of fingernails overlapped like scales.

“She’s safe,”  I repeated.  He backed away, waving dismissively behind me.

The peekaboo child was breaking inches away from my neck.  Blue eyes, scanning me from behind.

“She’s fine,”  I said, to reassure her, her protective beings and myself.

I had reason to.

***

One Year Ago: Kingdom of  New Austin

It hurts. It hurts.  Make it stop.

“Ryan,”  taker teased, sitting before me.  “You should give up.”

Make it stop.

“No,”  I strained.

Taker waved to his men, and another tink of metal sounded as a winch was pulled, the mechanism suspending me moving a little more in response.  Pain shot through my body.  My knees broke hours ago, it’s the only way to explain how I felt my legs bent against the drum.  My arms were next.  One more click, then-

Tink. It hurt so much.  I could almost faint.

“Just say it.  Beg me to let you down.  I’ll be nice, I’ll treat you like an important part of the family,”  he smiled, sipping some glass of alcoholic drink.

“I’ve always wanted a family pet.  I’ll adopt you from Sacrifi-”

“No,”  I interrupted, in pain from the act of moving when I shouted.  “I won’t.  She isn’t like that, she isn’t like y-”

Tink.

I woke up god knows how many hours later, all healed and healthy.  Sacrifice was right there, the cell across from me, still chained up.  She’d all but given up.

“Ryan, I’m sorry,”  she muttered, in the throes of a nightmare.  “Ryan, I’m sorry.”

I shifted, chains clinking.  I could move my knees and elbows, thankfully.  The one mercy we were given was that New Austin had some very good doctors.  Unfortunately, we had some very good doctors.

“Ryan, I’m sorry.”

I’m getting tired of the repetition.

“Hey, Sacrifice!”  I called out.

No response.

“Hey, Samantha!”

She roused awake, looked around, and sighed.

“I’m still here,”  she said to herself, audible only in the pure silence that had been our home for the last two years.  It was dark, but not too dark.  Stone were the walls and ceiling.  A thin layer of dirt covering the stone below was the flooring.  Metal bars separated each cell, and an array of shackles and chains as decoration.  “Fuck.”

Sacrifice looked miserable.

“Hey,”  I said, trying to create a conversation.

“What is it?”  she asked, looking at the floor.

“You were having that dream again, right?”

She hesitated.

“Don’t apologize.  He’d have done it anyway,”  I added.

She looked away.

I tried to get her to respond.  “Sacrifi-”

“Shut up,”  she finally spoke.  “Just shut up.  I want to sleep.  I want to lie down.”

“Sleeping all the time won’t work,”  I said, my voice louder.  “We have to keep sane minds!  We ha-”

“Sane minds!?  Sane minds!?”  She was shaking, crying in rage.  “He’s been fucking with ours!  Have you wondered how many times you wanted to give up but nearly didn’t?”

Too many to count.

“You did give up!  You did fucking cave in!  Every time, we let him win and he puts us back to square one and grinds us down again!”  She was shouting at the top of her voice now.

I sighed.  I feared this too.  He just wanted to play with us, and is holding up his agreement just because it was Trauma.

“I-I thought that too.  I wouldn’t dwe-”

“I saw you!”  she screamed, furious.  “I saw him fucking break your legs and make you beg him to stop!  And then he broke your fucking arms anyway!”

Wait, what just happened to me?

“He’s been making me watch, every time I was free he made me watch and now he’s just fucking letting me remember because it’s the last year!”

“Look, Samantha, Lis-”

It didn’t work.  She thrashed, angry and terrified at the world, her chains rattling like mad.

She glowed in the magnificence of powers being born and reborn, and chains turned to intestines, tied like knots.  The ground and the room slowly changed to human flesh.  She’d re-awoken her powers again; she’d reached the twelfth stage.

***

“I’ll protect her,”  I said to the many eyed child, heading for the outside.  Only Samantha’s beasts were left.  The parodies of the friends she had to kill.  The family she was tricked into murdering.  “I’ll protect her, Druggie.”

The many eyed child is surprisingly receptive to the name Druggie, just like how the peekaboo child responds to Bloodwitch.  Homunculi; perverted and insane representations of others.

I walked out, Unperson, Maxwell, the new cape and Margaret standing in a circle, talking.

Maxwell turned to me.  They knew.  Margaret must have told them.

“There are a few things in there that you should kill,”  I said.  “They aren’t that hard to fight, but they are human-ish.”

Unperson looked sick.  I stunk of various fluids.  I needed a wash.

“Ryan,”  started Maxwell, softer now.  “You must talk.  We can take care o-”

“You can’t,”  I said.  “You know who she is, and you know what happened.  What should be done, and what will be done are complete and utter opposites, and she’s already…”

I choked.

“I’m going to take her away.  Not to the City, the city is a hell hole.  I’ll make my own place, I can do it.”

Unperson looked confused, but stopped Maxwell from interrupting me.

“The city isn’t good enough.  Too many people get thrown in, regardless of how good they are.”

Unperson spoke up.  “She’s not go-”

“That doesn’t matter!”  I shot back.  “She paid for that more than anyone else ever will!  I don’t think a single criminal or fugitive or whatever out there paid for what they did in their entire lives as much as she did in a year!”

“Ryan, she’ll just do thi-”

“I can make spaces, and you know they don’t go away until I wish so.  There is only the City, that’s all there is to stop powers from activating,”  I explained.

Guards finished off the last monster in the now normal building.

“I can make whole villages to aid others who can’t, just let me take care of her myself.”

Maxwell looked at Unperson.  She was partially convinced, but not enough.  He looked at Margaret.

“He can do it,”  she said.  “And Maxwell;  I didn’t get it as bad as she did.  Nobody did.”

Maxwell growled under his breath, cooling the air.

“Fine,”  he relented after too long.  “It’ll be under contract with the NHN Ryan.  That is if the higher ups agree with it.”

He turned to the unnamed cape.  “Aim, go report this to Alliance and crew.”

Aim smiled, and set off in the air.  His green spandex didn’t suit him at all.  Sacrifice rested, not stirring as I barely held her up in my arms.

I need to put her down somewhere.

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This panic was unreal.  I’m just a normal guy.  My powers make super powered people normal when I think of them.

It took several seconds before I realized they were running towards something.  Something that I assumed was called Samantha.

I followed, running as fast as I could to the building they all surrounded.  She’d used her powers.  I knew it.  There was no way there would be such a panic if she hadn’t.

I’m easily beaten, I know that.  When I fight, I bring people down to my level and try and fight them one on one, or overpower them with whatever advantages I have.

Margaret is rather easy to handle.  She makes prisons to hold people as long as she likes, but she needs a line of sight.

Samantha is a different beast.  While I have had no extra powers due to my unusual origins and Margaret has had hers tailor into the best protection from an attacker, Samantha’s power became warped.

I saw the building.  Samantha was definitely in there.

“What the fu-”

A stray comment from a guard as I walked up the the building that held Samantha.  It was clear that the building has been influenced by powers.  The glass bent, wet.  The doors and windows lost their corners.  The ground around it faded into a new colour, pinkish.  The building stunk, even from where I stood, behind a crowd of soldiers.

The guards were backed up.  Maxwell stood outside, closer.  Next to him, Margaret and a third cape I didn’t recognize.

They made Samantha upset.  I knew it.

I barged past the guards as they barely noticed me, engrossed in the sight.

Maxwell saw me first.

“Unperson, why is Ryan here?”  he asked, looking behind me as I turned around.  Unperson smiled.

“I followed him when he freaked out over a question.  I was going to subdue him but there were bigger issues, boss.”

Maxwell looked cross.  “…We’ll talk about this later.”

I walked up to the doors, ignoring the commotion.  They let me.  Did they trust me, or…

I turned around to face Margaret.  She must have told them.

I turned back at the building and nearly placed my hand on the door handle before it moved, snapping teeth going for my fingers.

“Nice try, Samantha,”  I muttered, kicking the door with a boot.  The inside hit me with a wave of stench as the hallway dripped with all forms of liquids.  Bone and cartilage held the new interior up, as mucus, pus and other wonderful liquids dripped from above.  I took a step inside, the soft warm dampness soaking my sandal and touching my bare foot.  Reddish brown.  Gross.

“Samantha?”  I called out, taking more steps inside an stroking the walls gently, like last time.  “It’s me, Ryan.”

No response.  Only the sounds of dripping piss and vaginal juices from somewhere above as it splashed into a puddle on the hallway floor responded.  I smiled at the use of body hair for a rug as I looked at the sight inside.  Clever.

An eye failed to close in time as I turned, looking at the first door in the former hallway.  Two soldiers floating in amniotic fluid, given freedom to breathe with airway umbilical cords.  One saw my and beat on the window a few times trying to scream for help.  At least she’s playing nice, I thought.

The next door wasn’t as nice.  It was stomach acid instead.  They were still fighting, pulling away at the bone door, banging at the windows for dear life.  I moved on, quietly.

“Samantha, I’m here to help,”  I said, moving slowly down the hallway.

A scream from behind.  I turned around, quickly.  “You promised to make it okay!”

The mouth, lungs and and throat belched out a nasty smell that nearly floored me.  I took a step back into something that grabbed my foot.

“Samantha, I won’t hurt you!”  I yelled, pulling my leg out.  Teeth and bone shot out, filling the hole with shit stained spikes.  I sped up after regaining my balance.  She was hiding.  More doors, more soldiers.  I’d help them by helping Samantha, I thought.

A mass of muscle blocked my path as it contracted.  Blood seeped from it, slowly.  She was in the room behind it.  I turned to a Bone door and kicked with all my might, piss pouring out and nearly washing me away.  One soldier scrambled to his feet, panicked.  I grabbed him, trying to calm him down as he tore off the amniotic breathing mask covering his have.  He stunk of fecal matter and dried blood.

“Wha- wha- what,”  he repeated, shocked.

“Calm down.  Just stay here and don’t move,”  I said, petting him.

He lashed out, knocking me on my back and ran down the hallway.  He never even reached the door before a large bone swung out, ripping wall and slicing his feet off at the ankles.  I turned to the wall, ignoring his screams.  I warned him.

The wall in the office was soft, soft enough to could cut open easily if I had a knife.  I saw that the other soldier was dead, drowned in urine.  It didn’t take long before I had a knife in my hand from looting the man’s corpse, and I began tearing my way through the walls, like it was a jungle bush and I had a machete.

I broke through, covered in various liquids as I cut a tube pumping a mixture of liquids and it sprayed me.  The bone was easy to get past.  Kick it down, hard.

“I’m sorry, Samantha,”  I said.  No liquids filling this office.  It was a pit trap into more stomach acid, smooth, oily skin serving to lead victims in.  I opted to just cut my way into the hallway, slicing flesh and organs away.  A bone spike shot at me from inside the wall, but I dodged it, having it only clip my hood.  I grabbed it and cut the hood off, unhindered by Samantha.

She was there, in a room surrounded by a cage of bone, an amniotic sack suspended by a mass of tendons and ligaments.

“Samantha!”  I shouted from behind the door.  “Wake up!”

 

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