Posts Tagged ‘Ryan’

“Heal you?”  she asked.

“Yes. Heal me,”  I replied.  “Look at me.  I’m charred.”  I tried my hardest to emphasise how badly wounded I was.  I’m not sure if it worked, my vision was getting hazy now.

God, if I die before I even get a chance to finish…

Sacrifice shook her head.  “Sorry.”

“Sorry?”  I asked a little weakly.

“I can only return you to your peak, and only if I have a memory of you,”  she said.

Dead Metal shifted, or there was movement in the blotchy area that she stood.  The fact that Samantha’s power considered the Sacrifice from the Hunting Party as ‘Peak’ was  a huge part of the discomfort.

It was for me at least.

“Don’t care,”  I replied.  “Do something.”

“Look, I don’t even know you,”  Sacrifice complained.  “You might be a vil-”

“I’m dying here,”  I said, a little louder than I could manage.  “Please?”

I winced as pain raked my neck again.  I felt pretty pathetic, talking loudly hurt me, and I couldn’t afford to lose any concentration at all.

Sacrifice stood for a few moments and finally moved over to me.

“Okay… I’ll help.”

Thank god.

“Your peak is how I remember you, so I can’t remove the burns,”  she said,  “but I can stabilize you instead.  You’ll have to look elsewhere for further aid.”

She placed her hands on me, and I quickly drifted off.

 

***

 

I was drowning in bliss.  My clothing stuck to me and my skin felt pure rejuvenation.

“-ty people died because of that form-”

The world was blurry, and I floated in the liquid as it filled my lungs.  Strangely, I wasn’t drowning at all.  Strange.

“-an’t remember any of th-”

People were talking outside of my…  Room?  Womb?  Cage?  It was most likely the Hunting Party and Event Horizon.   What were they arguing about?

Why was I in this anyway? Did Taker do something already?

“If you-”

I moved a little, reaching out.  Was it me they were arguing over?  It didn’t matter, they were getting louder.  That wasn’t good at all.

“-ow could you remo-”

The walls were too hard.  I couldn’t break free with my hands.  I needed help to escape.  I swam to he edge where everyone was, maybe they’d help if they saw me?

“-don’t kno-”

I banged over and over.  No use.  The liquid surrounding me was too thick, the membrane holding me and the liquid in was too elastic.

The talking stopped and somebody acted, coming over.  The membrane was cut and I was forced out with the liquid.  I couldn’t see straight, opting to cough out the liquid in my lungs.

Nobody moved, they just waited me to finish and get my bearings.

I got of my knees and saw Sacrifice.  There was two people I didn’t recognize.

The ground, the walls, the ceiling… it was weird.  Alien.

The taller figure leaned in close.  He was completely black and had a cane in his hand.  “Are you feeling better, my boy?”

I nodded, and then looked up at him.  “Thanks, but…  Who are you?”

There was a telling silence.  I started casting my powers through the area, making it safe.  It may have been to late, but it was a good idea anyway.  The ground started turning to normal.

“Ah,”  the man in black said, stepping back.  “t seems your memories have had an alteration.”

He turned to Sacrifice.  “See? Amnesia.”

I got onto my feet.

“Amnesia?”  I asked.

“Well, some form of it.”

What?  What does he mean?

I turned to Sacrifice.  She looked very different than usual.  Her pose was… reserved.  She was upset about something, but it wasn’t something she could solve easily.  Like the Taker thing.  She needs my help to fight Taker, right?

“Sacrifice?”

She turned away.

“Christ.  I-I killed people.”

I didn’t get it.  Why is she upset about what she did before?  She wasn’t remorseful before we enter…

Wait.  Why was I in that vat anyway?

The man in the black costume changed the subject.

“Okay,”  he said.  “Here is the story.  You both have amnesia, because you,”  he pointed at Sacrifice “Give people a form of it when you heal them.”

He pointed at me.  “You are an unfortunate victim turned into a hero.”

He pointed as Sacrifice. “Former vigilante tricked into being a monster from a psychic.”

I wanted to say I understood, but I didn’t.

How long had passed? Did we beat Taker? What about Event Horizon or Ellen or Maxine and Derek?  What happened during the war with Texas?

Sacrifice wasn’t going to tell me, it’s implied she can’t even remember me or what she did to me.  What she did to my friends.

“Dammit,”  I murmured while moving my hand through my hair.  “I can’t stand this.”

I meant that.  The last valid thing I remember was reaching the final doors, ready to kill the king of Texas and stop Taker.  Now I’m here, with a sacrifice who doesn’t remember me or what she did and two strangers.

Why the hell is this place a wreck anyway?

I turned to the adult and child.

“Who the hell are you anyway?”

The black man took a moment to look at me and bowed.

“My deepest apologies,”  he said.  “I am Nightmare.  My friend here is Dead Metal.”

He pointed to the girl in the metal mask.

“We came here to meet you in person.  Our boss has heard about you and took an interest.  He is actually arriving here in a few minutes to greet you in person.”

Sacrifice looked up from the ground where she sat.  “Boss?”

“Yes.  You know him as Biohazard.”

That wasn’t good at all.  He shouldn’t be moving.  He never moves.  This place – even if it is fucked up with the walls made of skin and the smell – is not in Biohazard’s territory.

“H-He left his park?”  I stammered.  Sacrifice glanced at me.  She didn’t know, did she?  She didn’t know the monster she and her gang made years ago.

“Why he is indeed,”  smiled Nightmare deceptively.  “He has an interest in you and… her.”

As Nightmare all but snarled at Sacrifice I started casting my power as wide and as fast I could.  Biohazard was coming.

 

 

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Samantha was here.  She was safe.  Well, safe as her power allowed her, anyway.  There was still the issue of escaping and the more pressing issue of calming her down, but everything was perfect.

Now, to find a staircase.

I turned to the Fingerface.

“Any stairs?”  I asked.

The Fingerface walked past me, towards the area covered in fire and ice.

I followed it and after a brief pause to look at each other, so did Nightmare and Dead Metal.

The staircase up was made of mostly bone rather than flesh.  It was a clear attempt to maintain some form of structural integrity as Samantha’s power spread throughout the area.

Dead Metal ran ahead up the stairs, leaving me and Nightmare alone.

Climbing it was… painful.  My burns were still fresh and exhaustion kicked in halfway up the stairs.  Thank god for railings, I mused.

I limped up the second half of the stairway, holding down a desperate need to cry as Nightmare aided me for the last few steps by propping my bad arm over his shoulder.

It was a slow,

Dead Metal was standing at the top of the steps.

She spoke her first words in my company.  “It’s her.”

I could feel the contempt dripping off her as she said that.  Nightmare gave a quizzical look.

“Are you sure?”

We reached the last step.

“I know.  She looks exactly like she did that year.  Sacrifice, the bitch.”

I gulped a little, and Nightmare looked at me like I’d insulted him.

“That’s the girl you were after?”

He got out from under my arm and stepped back.  I gripped the railing a little tighter.  I could see the thoughts running through his head.  Kill her.  Kill her and kill him, too.  The silence was thick.

“Just do it, Nightmare.”  Taker said gently into his ear.  “Go on.”

Taker wasn’t real.  He’s busy, safe and happy after putting me through hell.

“Just push him down the stairs and finish her off,”  he sneered.  “After all, she ruined everything.”

I closed my eyes and took a breath.

“Taker was the leader, not Sacrifice.”

Dead Metal took a step forwards, but Nightmare stopped her with his cane.

“Explain,” he said, anger seeping into his tone.

I did.  I explained the three years, what Sacrifice told me, what Taker could do, what he did do.  What he did to Sacrifice.

He didn’t say anything until I finished.

“Ryan, my boy.”

I looked at him.

“If Sacrifice is supposedly fine,”  he said, stepping to the side.  “Why is she dressed like that?”

Samantha walked around the corner, slowly.  Naked, covered in blood.  The goat skull mask was affixed to her head again.

Even the pose was reminiscent of Sacrifice.  Samantha was always on edge, worried.  Expecting the worst.

Sacrifice didn’t worry at all.  She relished her own presence, trusting her powers.

Apparently, she had fine control of bodily fluids.  Blood, sweat, hormones…  even the fluid within the cells themselves.  She could reinforce herself to ignore a stab wound or break bones with ease, or alter hormones to induce sleep.  Luckily, she needed physical contact to alter the fluids of others.

She took a step forwards and reached her hand out to me, ignoring Nightmare and Dead Metal entirely.

“Samantha?”

Sacrifice stopped and lowered her hand for just a moment.  I internally breathed a sigh of relief.

Then she lept at me.

She hit like a truck, winding me and sending the both of us down the stairs.  I still held the railings; they snapped off.  It didn’t matter since the pain of impacting the ground made me drop the bone railing anyway.

Nightmare and Dead Metal moved to follow us, but Sacrifice turned and literally snarled at both of them.  They stopped in their tracks two steps down and backed away.

She turned to me.

“H-hey Samantha,”  I stammered.  “It’s me, Ry-”

“Shut up,”  she answered.

I sighed in frustration as she stared at me.  Stared through me.

“How do you know my name?”  She asked.

“You told me.”

“Where am I?”

“An asylum for people who don’t have a handle on their powers and their sanity.”

She took a second to think.  “That figures.  What about my powers?”

“Because you had a re-awakening,”  I replied, pausing to catch my breath.  “Several.”

“Several?”

“Twelve.”

She got up, still sitting on top of me.  “Twelve?”

I nodded as much as I could.  “Twelve,”  I assured.

“How?”

“You don’t remember?”

“I don’t.”

That was a dangerous answer for me.  Up until the war with Texas Sacrifice was firmly on the side of ‘sociopathic serial killer’, even if it was because of Taker’s influence.  Worst case, she remembers Norfolk and nothing after. Best case?  She remembers the war.  Anything before Norfolk? Almost as bad.

“Do you remember the war?”  I asked.

“What war?”

“The Kingmaker war.”

“Congo?”

“No,”  I paused.  “Texas.”

She turned up to Dead Metal and Nightmare, then back at me.  They didn’t move from the top of the stairs, mixed between looking for an escape from Sacrifice and wanting to listen to my conversation with her.

“I don’t remember that.”

I took the plunge.  “W-what do you remember?”

She didn’t say.  I could understand that, there was a real reason not to trust me.

“It’s May,”  I said.  “2015.  What date do you remember?”

“19… 1997.”

A gap of roughly eighteen years separated me and Sacrifice.  Me and Samantha.  I felt a pang of sadness, then my side flared up.  Sacrifice quickly got off me.

She turned to Nightmare and Dead Metal.

“What the hell are you waiting for, help me help hi-”

“Murderer,”  Dead Metal called out.

Sacrifice looked taken aback.

“…What?”

“You murdered people all the way up to 2012, Sacrifice.”

Oh, I see.  Her group never formed until 1999.  In her current state, the Hunting Party doesn’t exist to her knowledge.  That’s slightly better than what I feared.  Still, Nightmare and Dead Metal have a serious grudge with Sacrifice.  Victims?  Probably.

Sacrifice alternated between looking at Dead Metal, Nightmare and me.

“I…  I what?”

“Before we go through the history you’ve somehow forgotten,”  I interrupted.  “Can you heal me first?”

 

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Nightmare was constantly prodding at my awareness, trying to keep me lucid.  It was helping me more than I would like to admit.

Then again I was almost paralysed with pain and possibly dying so I had no real reason to complain about the guy making sure I wasn’t going to fall into a coma, or worse.

The hallway was changing as we progressed down it, occasionally breaking down a wall or two.  The face worked as a shield and protected us from the debris that came down as we essentially ploughed through a building.

“Hold on, we have some disturbance here.”

I moved a little to try and see ahead of us from behind the shield and regretted it instantly.  It was apparent that my burned skin did not like to even have a gentle breeze over it.

I winced and moved to hold my side but stopped.  I could see the disturbance.

The hallway condensed a little as a small but obvious black pinprick hovered in the air, creating a clear event horizon around it that blocked the hall.  It looked like a wormhole.

“Dead Metal, be prepared to back up,”  Nightmare said.  He dropped his act and was more focused now, even his voice was a little changed.  “I don’t like the look of that thing.  We’ll have to go around and hope it isn’t hostile.”

Just before our ride reversed the wormhole un-collapsed and an almost entirely black silhouette of a man unfolded so that he was standing in the hallway.  He wasn’t entirely black, as he looked more like an empty spot in the world.  He had stars and galaxies cover him in the way the sky would be covered, and as I moved my head, wincing I could see that the stars changed depending on his position.  He was what I would be looking at if the earth and the sky wasn’t there, a living window into space.

Nightmare grunted in irritation.  “Dead Metal?”

Wordlessly, Dead Metal fired something at the Wormhole making man before us.  He recollapsed and took the hit in his black hole form, then decompressed.  The rocket was growing smaller inside him.  I smirked internally, I was right to assume he was a wormhole.

He charged right at us.

“Back up, back up!”

Dead Metal followed Nightmare’s order and moved into reverse immediately, stopping the patient from closing the gap as he tried to approach.

It was no use.  We were losing the ground we covered.  I tugged on Nightmare’s shoulder.

“I’ll counter him,”  I said weakly, at the limits of staying awake.

Nightmare looked at me, studying my resolve with a gaze.  Whatever face I was making was good enough, because he nodded.

“Dead Metal, Stop.  Our new friend would like to aid us on our quest.”

The vehicle stopped, and the patient who I’ve dubbed Wormhole followed. He cocked his head to the side and shrunk down, pulling pebbles of rubble into himself.

I slowly hopped off and limped to Wormhole.  I knew his power, he was functioning as a one way trip to outer space.  One that I wasn’t going on.

I reached my range and the Wormhole folded in on itself before vanishing.  No distortion of light, no nothing.  Wormhole was gone as soon as I walked towards him.

A brief thought of an absolutely normal person floating in the middle of space flashed in my mind, and I nearly fell over.

Nightmare caught me.

“That was interesting, pray tell us how you were able to defeat such a man without touching him?”

“I stop powers from… From working,” I explained, my breathing even heavier.

Nightmare nodded and dragged me back  onto Dead Metal’s vehicle.  I wondered why there aren’t any seats since I was essentially laying on the top of the hood of a very, very small tank.

And it was very, very painful.  Every jolt, every bit of rubble we drove over and every wall we crashed into was distracting.

Now that I thought about it, this facility was improbably large for psychiatric uses, even if many of the patients had powers.

“It’s taking a while,”  I said to Nightmare.  He nodded at that, glad that I’m making an effort to stay awake.

“This building has a unique feature dwelling within it’s walls,”  he said.  “It is larger than it appears.”

“I guess it has to be, with people like Wendigo,”  I paused for breath. “And the Wormhole guy back there.”

“Indeed, my boy.”

We got closer to Samantha.  The walls were fading into a skin like colour, the sharpness of the corners disappearing.  An eye opened up on the ceiling, looking at us as we drove by.

Even the cells and doors changed, exactly like last time.  The rooms filled with stomach acid, trying to digest the occupants.

The only problem was that most of the occupants were trained for this and the rest had powers.  We stopped again.

The ground became too soft, too fleshy.  We were caught in a puddle of blood, piss and flesh.  The tracks only ripped away more skin at the ground and let it bleed even more.

“Unfortunate,”  grumbled Nightmare.  “Dead Metal, this ground is too dangerous, we-”

“It’s safe-ish,”  I said, stumbling of and yelling in pain on my soft landing.  “Fuck!  It’s fine.  Samantha’s doing this.”

“I see,”  replied Nightmare, walking around the vehicle.  Dead Metal popped out of the hatch.  “I can see why she could help your predicament, with this… power.”

That, and if I was going to die, I want to at least say goodbye to somebody.  I’d have chosen Michael or Ricky or Derek or Maxine any day, or even Ellen if she wasn’t…

Right now, I only have Samantha.

I was braced against Nightmare, struggling down the putrid halls.  I could see fights of all types and hear them.  The rumbling and burning of flesh, Wendigo laughing as he snuck down a hallway, freezing three guards who had guns levelled at him.  The last one tried to get out the way too late and his foot broke off with the momentum.  He fell like a statue.

Luckily, Wendigo was too obsessed over his own art to notice us, and turned into the corner behind the three guards.

Metal spikes erupted from the floor, puncturing a converted pipe that began to leak fecal matter.

“C’est -”  Nightmare muttered something but I didn’t quite catch it.  It sounded foreign.  French?

It didn’t matter.  He picked up the pace as we got to more patients and guards.  This time it was one former patient protecting a few guards from a second.

The second patient walked away without a fight once one of the guards stepped forwards.  Lovecraft.

Now that I think about it, Lovecraft wasn’t a common name at all.  Was she a metahuman, too?

“So any clue on your friends location?”  asked Nightmare.

“She was in her cell last time,”  I said, grunting as I stepped into a softer bit of the flesh floor.  “She’ll be in one this time too.  Suspended in a cocoon.”

Nightmare nodded.  “Dead Metal, Check the cel-”

“No,”  I blurted out.  “She makes things, traps.  bone spike pits, drowning pits, even guards.  I’ll guide you.”

Dead Metal looked up at Nightmare, then me.  An unspoken agreement was made and Nightmare dragged me to the cells from the hallway.

We took a pause every two or three cells to look around for anyone who would attack us – be it the staff or the numerous powered and clearly insane patients – as we progressed from cell to cell.  We eventually saw our first womb room.

Dead Metal stepped forwards.

“Be careful,”  I said, making her pause mid step.  “She makes guards.”

Just as she was about to resume I saw Firespitter run around the corner, screaming.  He was back up.

Nightmare gracefully swerved us out of the way as he fired a flaming ball of liquid at us from his trunk.  It went wide and I turned to look at what he fired at.

Two Fingerfaces stood nearby.  Dammit.

“Nightmare, let me go!”

He complied, and charged Firespitter before stopping.  A wall of icicles sprouted from the ground.

Wendigo must have been Firespitter’s ally.  No wonder he left me for dead, I thought.

One of the Fingerfaces charged, pointing with many indexes, middles and rings.  I was weaker than last time; I didn’t have a knife.

Still, I had to fight.  Hands outreached, no less than fifty small fingers stretched like tentacles of a squid.  I stepped to the side, grabbed at the shoulder and put my foot out.

Momentum guided it into the door.  A door that was lined with spiked of bone, leaning outwards.

The second Fingerface wasn’t as stupid, and tackled me as the first died.  I landed on my good side, but it hit me in my burned hip.

I screamed out and punched its head repeatedly.  Four, five, six times.  No use.

I shot a brief glance up.

Wendigo and Firespitter were a team with surprising synergy.  They created impassible terrain each time they attacked anyone and missed, they always created splash damage, and most importantly, they were able to fire nearly constantly together.  They did so perfectly.  Wendigo freezing ground, launching icicles.  Firespitter lobbing balls of flame, burning the flesh on the ground.

Nightmare and Dead Metal were already separated, with Firespitter and Wendigo creating a deep gash of fire and ice in the middle of the hallway.

That’s when the Belching Screamer threw up over them from an upper walkway.

I could hear the anger from Firespitter, covered in something that was purely rancid.  “Dammit.”

He wiped some off of his clothes with his hand.  Then he saw that it was eating through the cloth.

“Wendigo, Freeze me!”

Wendigo turned and Nightmare tackled him down in the short time he exposed himself.  Firespitter shot a blast out as Nightmare tumbled, holding onto Wendigo.  Wendigo took the brunt of the blast.

Nightmare then kicked Wendigo back as a maw opened in the few unburned and unfrozen patches of floor.  It ate Wendigo as he stumbled, then froze.

Firespitter was already gone by the time I turned to look at him.  His clothing was discarded, burning from chemicals.

“This reminds me of our employer,”  remarked Nightmare, patting out a small singe in his clothing as he stood up and walked over to me.

The Fingerface stopped moving and was mostly limp now, but it still held onto me and I struggled to shove it off.

“Dammit,”  I muttered.  “I’m here for Samantha.”

It looked up.

A second later it let go and got up.

“Where is she?” I asked.

It pointed at where the Belching Screamer was.

Okay.  She was on the second floor.

I could meet her.  Then I can deal with Trauma.

 

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11 | 3 : Machine

Posted: 11/27/2014 in Machine
Tags: , , ,

If I didn’t get out of this hunk of Ice, I’ll die.  I knew that.  The frozen flames affixed me to the spot, and I coud barely move at all, however.  A part of me curses my lack of thinking.  I should have gotten up and away instead of letting Firespitter attack, even if I thought I knew how his powers worked.

Still, I have priorities right now.

“W-Wendig-go?”

“Yes?” he answered.

“I’m just-t if you c-could f-f-free me?” I asked him.  I think I lost a few words and my teeth were chattering like crazy, but I think he got the message.

He pondered the request for a few moments, then walked around behind me.  I was freezing, and in pain.  The fires that thoroughly wrapped themselves around my body were frozen solid and my burns were being licked by ice.

“No, you look fine where you are, American boy.”

God damn it.

He walked off and as soon as he was out of range of my hearing (which I admit wasn’t clear due to all the rumbling and scraping of metal) I redoubled my efforts to not freeze to death.

No use.  My only hope was somebody less crazy decided to help me, which was unlikely with the emptyness of the hallway.  Just me and Wiles.

The metal sound grew louder to deafening levels, prompting a moment of panic.  I imagined a giant monster of metal rampaging down the hall, shattering Wiles’ corpse and crushing me with the ice.

I could hear the thumping grow louder, and a metallic roar.  I closed my eyes as the walls broke apart under the force of something not at all human.

***

The ice around me was broken, but I lived.  I was actually laying down, and a combination of a human face and a small tank made from scrap looked at me.

“We came to pick you up instead, since you were unable to contact us.”

The voice of my saviour walked out from behind the vehicle and looked at me.  He was dressed in all black. Black cloak, black shoes, black trousers, black mask, black hat.  Even the cane in his right hand was black.

Corvus,  I thought.  He looked exactly like him, but without the bird theme.

I nearly threw up.

“Hey,”  he said, running over to me.   “Are you alright? You seemed to have a close encounter with two nasty extremes, my boy.”

I waved him off with my right arm and grimaced as the pain came back.

“Let go!”  I said.

The man in black took a step back.

I asked two questions.  “Who are you?  Why are you after me?”

The man and black took a bow, removing his top hat and giving an exaggerated bow.

“I am known and revered as the mighty and powerful Nightmare, my boy,”  he said.  I shot him a look that was a mix of ‘that’s not a name anyone good would use’ and ‘why do I attract the people who go all out with the crazy’.

“Fret not!  I am here to assist you!”

I held out a hand.  I needed an ally right now,  and Sacrifice was probably pre-occupied with both the guards and other patients until I can find her.  That, and the only patients I’ve seen so far have been hostile. One tried to kill me and another left me for dead.

Nightmare took it and pulled me up, painfully.

“You seem hurt, dear boy.”

“For a friend, you don’t use names much,”  I said as I limped towards the vehicle.  “You never even asked m- ahh.”

Pain from my body didn’t even let me finish my sentence.  I keeled over and grabbed the metal face with my good hand, shaking in agony.

“Dead Metal, we need to take the boy and find someone who can procure medical assistance!”

A hatch on the vehicle opened up and a young girl clawed her way out.  She was wearing a dress that was stained with oil and grease.

It hit me.  These two are from the nightmare I had.

Dead Metal looked at me from her metal mask that covered her face.  The mask itself had the appearance of an older, more feminine woman.

Nightmare picked me up by my good side.

“Anything you wish to do before we leave?”

This was it.  I could see Samantha.

“There’s a friend here,”  I panted out.  “Want to see her.”

Nightmare nodded as Dead Metal jumped back into the vehicle, and after her hatch closed it began to move again, tearing through walls like they were paper as it turned and drove down the hallway.

The same direction as Wendigo ran, I noticed.

“There is a lot of regenerative and organic based power holders this way, my boy.”

I didn’t want to talk, I was in too much pain from being both burned and frozen in the span of a minute.  I wonder if any of the guards had those two patients attack them?

No.  It’s not working.

I groaned as the vehicle jolted, irritating my burned side, and by irritating I mean agonizing.  I seriously was going to die soon without medical help.

Nightmare thankfully noticed my situation as we rode the vehicle, protected by the giant metal face acting as a shield.  “Stay awake and talk to me, boy.”

“There’s a person,”  I mumbled.  “Samantha, she’ll help.”

“Are you sure?  I don’t want you to die without seeing your friend because you thought somebody can heal you,”  Nightmare said with obvious concern.

“The healer…”  I paused to catch a shallow breath.  “…my friend.”

Nightmare gave a curious look, before getting it.  “I see.  And your friend’s other name, perhaps?”

I didn’t want to say.  He wouldn’t understand that Sacrifice was good now, or at least trying.  She wasn’t evil from the start, it was all Taker’s fault.  He manipulated her, and the rest into thinking it was their idea.  He used his powers to control them like puppets, to do everything while he sat on the sidelines and saw her worm her way into a worse and worse fate, and then when he found the chance he spent three years getting slow and painful revenge on her every day for some perceived slight.

“… I can’t say.”

Nightmare nodded.  “I understand.  She didn’t get one.”

I was about to correct him, but I didn’t.  I just hoped that he wasn’t going to get mad.

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11 | 2 : Machine

Posted: 11/25/2014 in Machine
Tags: , , ,

Talking to or even having a chance of seeing Samantha would be hard.  I was a recent allowance into the facility, with powers that interfered with other patients.  Patients who could become unpredictable if their powers were suddenly revoked and returned due to my presence.

“Ryan, Dr. Wiles is here to see you,”  said a guard.  The door opened up anyway, letting the therapist in.

“Thank you Lovecraft,”  said Dr. Wiles as the guard closed he door behind him.

He sat down on a chair.

“It’ll be pretty hard at first,”  he said softly.  “I don’t think you’ll truly get used to it here.”

I didn’t react to him.

“You know, you’ve seem to have come about a change from our last conversation.  Was it something I said?”

I almost said something.  He sighed and put the clip holder down on his lap.

“Ryan?”

“Yes,”  I replied.

“We can’t undergo treatment if you are unwilling,”  Dr. Wiles said.

“Doesn’t matter.  You can’t treat me anyway, didn’t you already say that?”  I asked with irritation seeping into my voice.

Dr Wiles smiled and sat back.

“What?”

“We recently employed a long range psychic, Ryan.  Normally he’d be unavailable due to checks and procedures to make sure he’s not doing stuff, but we’ve found the limits of his power along with other things and concluded that he’s fit to work on cases like yours,”  Dr Wiles explained.  “He’ll be arriving tomorrow to see if there are any imprints from Taker.”

“…If you can’t find any?”  I asked.

“Well, if we can’t find any obvious markers, that’s how things go.  It is unlikely that your terms of confinement will change because of the results of the test.”

I nodded approval.  I also felt stifled.  Ever since the Hunting Party came, I’d spent a significant amount of time talking to professionals in fields I didn’t care for.  If anything, I began to miss the education I was supposed to have.  Nobody mentioned it at all, yet.  I wanted to ask why, but that was on the back burner.

It wasn’t like I’d ever really retain some normalcy in my life, anyway.  All my living friends were either in the Junior Group or Villains.  The conversation ended with relief, relief that was put at the back of my mind.  I had more pressing issues to deal with and I was sticking to them.

A soft rumble filled the air.  Something I didn’t expect.  Maybe somebody’s powers were acting up?

I got off the chair I was in and so did Wiles.  We looked at each other.

“What was that?”  I asked.

He smiled and patted me on a shoulder.  “It’s most likely a patient acting up.  Don’t worry about it. You’ll most likely be fine.”

I shrugged.  I was technically the safest person here who didn’t have super strength of some sort.

“So…” I said, sitting back down as a second, louder rumble hit.  “You want to leave or stay?”

Footsteps, shouting.

Wiles shook his head, tense.  There was too much noise for this to be anything but trouble.  How many powers here, all under their own forms of confinement?  What happens if something sets them off, makes them react?

How dangerous is this situation? I could still hear the panicked guards as-

Wiles jumped off his seat and away from me in fright.

“Ryan, the wall beside you!”

I could already feel it, the heat.  Something was melting the wall, and then it stopped.  I guessed a melting touch, and I was correct.

“I figured it out, he won’t be able to attack.”

Wiles face turned from worry to anger and then a mix of both pity and panic.

“No you idiot!  That patient spits a flaming oil!”

I felt an intense burning as he said that.  I was hit dead on, almost my entire right side covered.  I didn’t even have a chance to get up.

“Fuck! Argh!”

I got up and grabbed the back of the chair, turning while I was still on fire.  Wiles already backed up as far as he could, in the doorway.

My attacker was the next cell over.  He was climbing through the cell, his face partially masked by something that should have stopped him spitting whatever it was.  The tube that extracted the source of his powers was ripped out, hanging off his face like a trunk.  He was looking through the hole and tried to climb through.

Tried. I knocked him out with a swing of the chair to his face.  More liquid poured out the mask and ignited the floor.

I dropped the chair since the fires consuming me partially were obscuring my vision and the pain was beginning to show.  It landed in the pool and ignited.  A grim sight.

I turned and saw Wiles already opened the door, and was looking at me.  A rumbling crash filled the air.

“Fuck,” I said, feeling the flames burn me.  I was going to be disfigured by the end of this; that was a fact.

I ran out the room, taking my clothes off and screaming incoherently as the pain reached breaking point before the hallway turned white and I felt a new kind of agony; cold.

The flames that hugged by body were ice, and I was frozen to the floor.

I couldn’t even scream any more.  My breath was taken away by the cold, the ice crushing my naked chest.

“Hey,”  said a voice.  “You are new, right?”

I couldn’t see who it was.  I knew it was a guy by the voice however.

A tear leaked from my face.  Tears of pain.

“Wait, how’d your ears not get frozen?”

The cold was distracting me.  How I was still awake was a mystery.

Still, I shivered out my response.  “Nu-nu-null-lific-ca-ca-cation.”

He was blue, head to toe. His eyes, the whites in them, his hair, his teeth, his skin.  All blue.  I looked to mt left, where Wiles was.  He was dead. Frozen mid step as he tried to run away, as the frost and stiffness of his body could tell me.

The man with the freezing powers stood before me, before looking into my cell behind me and back at my face.

“Wow,” he smiled.  “You got Firespitter.”

I blinked, the cold was driving me crazy.

“I’m Wendigo.”

 

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11 | 1 : Machine

Posted: 10/22/2014 in Machine
Tags: , ,

An hour later and everyone was saved.  Forget-me-not was detained and NHN agents were called to take her away.  The town still had resentment to what the mayor easily described as “a false product”, and the schedule was altered but no casualties were created.

However, I’d gotten in trouble.

Alliance, Aim and Vortex were the agents sent to take Forget-me-not, and Alliance was not happy at how I handled the situation.  I can understand that.

“…sing NHN agents as hostages the a reckless and irresponsible move, Ryan!”  Alliance finished.

I didn’t quite catch that, but I understood the point he was making.

“We’ve been bending our backs trying to help you, and you not only take advantage of it, but do something like this?  Hold on, let me list what we’ve done for you.  The Sacrifice situation;  you  and I agree on that, she’s unfit for trial.  The war incident three years ago is still yet to be resolved, but until today we were looking at an official pardon for you!”

He was flustered.  I didn’t say a thing.

“Finally, there is the three villages project and the Expedition.  You’ve already fucked up this by doing the worst thing ever, and now I’m seriously considering cancelling your partic- no.  I’m considering heading to the board to incarcerate you.”

I didn’t answer to his comments.  Somehow, the only thing that was going through my head was the fact I hadn’t done the worst thing. I could have pressed the button at any time.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t?” Alliance asked, his tone more calm now.

“There isn’t,”  I replied.  “I don’t have a reason or an excuse, sir.”

“Then why do it?”

I thought, opened my mouth to speak, closed it and tried again.  Nothing.

“I… I don’t have a reason.”

“Ryan,”  I could hear the fatigue draining in the sigh that followed my name.  “This is the sort of thing that we were worried about,”  said Alliance.

I had a clue what he meant.  The masked man looked unlike his PR photos;  he was tired here, not triumphant.  There were no mounds to stand on with his short cape flowing behind him, no babies to hold.

“I’m not a sleeper agent,”  I said.  “I’m not.”

Alliance took a breath.  “Then what are you, Ryan?”

I didn’t say anything, which was worse than what I could have said.  I guess I fucked up again.

***

Alliance… Didn’t do anything.  I don’t know why.  I was taken off the expedition team and sent away for rehabilitation.  There was a risk, they said.  They already were worried that I was a sleeper agent, and the distinctive scar on my chest isn’t helping.  That and my almost murder of seven people.

I wished I was.  Then everything could be explained away and it would all be normal, I’d be back as me.  I could actually grieve over my parents without feeling like it’s a hollow chore, or I could face Michael and Ri- No.

No.  I’m just hiding behind my faults again.

I sighed and slumped back in my chair.  Jackson Correctional Facility had a few staff, but the wait for one to see me was getting irritating.  After shifting my position again, almost getting out of my seat the door opened and somebody finally came in.

“Apologies for the wait Mr Anderson, one of the patients was acting dangerously.”

I thought about spreading my power, but didn’t.

The staff member was a guy with short hair.  His uniform was reminiscent of the scrubs surgeons wear than a trained ward.

“Hey,”  I said.

He sat down, opposite me.  The folder was thin, but I knew what it had.  I’d grown accustomed to seeing my existence held on a clipboard or file.

“It seems as though you were doing fine up until recently,”  he said, clicking a pen and pulling out a notepad.

“Things don’t go perfectly,”  I responded.

“You are right, but that’s still understating what you did.”

Some part of me thought it was amusing how the NHN were so negligent at some things and so strict with others.  Maybe that’s the result of government sponsorship?  Maybe the fact that the army, the police force and many other government institutions felt as though capes were taking over, the only supported avenue was crippled in very specific places?

Actually, nevermind that, I’m here for a reason.

“Can we get to the important part…”  I left my sentence hanging, prompting his name.

“Dr. Wiles.  Call me Dr. Wiles.”

“Okay, I can do that,”  I said.

“Okay.  You understand why you are here right?”

I understood clearly.  Even if I didn’t want to admit it, every now and then thoughts would pop up, asking me questions.  Why don’t I tell them about why I have the scar on my chest?  I ask myself.  Why do I neglect to tell anyone that New Austin will open up soon?

“Because I’m a sleeper agent,”  I finally admitted.  “I’ve got something in my head that’s hiding away, and it’s subtle enough that I don’t notice it.  There are these rules and commands I’m following, but not hearing.”

Dr. Wiles nodded at me to continue, writing down what I said on the notepad.

“I um…  I guess I had an idea, but I put it off.  I didn’t think about it, or avoided the subject.”

“You didn’t want to consider the idea?”  Dr. Wiles clarified.

“I still don’t,”  I responded.  “The idea that he still has a hold over me, I don’t…”

The words drifted off and out of my mind.  Dammit.

“What can you do?”  I finally asked after a long silence.

Dr. Wiles was stoic.  “With your powers?  Nothing legal.”

Ah.  My awareness.  Taker bypassed that, and I can’t nullify it while being aware due to the fact he’s not easily accessible.  Any mind tinkering that they’d do here is a no go, due to the fact that my required consent means I’d be aware for the most part.

No, that’s not right, I still have range limits, right?

“What do you mean?  I still have range limits on my powers, right? Just create a distance?”

“We’ve actually tried accessing your mind already.  It seems Taker has specialities in creating nearly impossible to remove psychic suggestions, not without his help, or help from…”  He caused to consider his next words.  “More dangerous sources of aid.”

“There’s nothing, right?”

“We are trying to trigger it in a controlled environment. Most sleeper agent triggers are built around one time activations, especially when the victim is unaware they exist.”

I was dumbfounded. “You’re saying what I need to do is actually set it off?”  I asked.

“No,”  Dr. Wiled answered.  “We need to set it off, in a place you cannot do harm.”

“How long would that take?”  I asked, taking my hands off my chest and putting them on the table.

“It could take years.”

I looked away and smirked.  “Damn,”  I said.

Dr. Wiles gave a nod and left, gesturing to let me leave the room and collect my stuff.  I was thinking of leaving the building and fixing myself the fast way, but there are things that need to happen first.

I need to see Samantha.

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Forget-me-not stumbled and dropped the transmitter into the grass as her head bashed against the bumper of a car, her helmet taking the blow.  I got up as she put her hand against the car to stabilise herself, and kicked her in the gut., stumbling back as she rolled across the front of the parked car.

She scrambled for the transmitter on all fours. I brought my shield down, hard.  Luckily for her the grass was soft and the dirt muddy.  I could have chopped four fingers off in any other situation.

“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath, seething with pain.  I quickly gave her a hard kick as I pulled up my shield out of the mud, freeing her hand and allowing her to fall to her side.

I walked over and picked up the remote while she nursed her fingers, covered in mud and clearly cut.

“I win.”  I stated, looking right at her as I lightly shook the remote in my hand, smiling behind my visor.

She scowled at me.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”  she said.  “You don’t fucking tackle someone with the trigger to a bomb!”

“Well, I don’t think the bomb has gone off,”  I replied, walking over to another car and leaning on the front.  “You don’t seem to act like one went off, and I don’t have any indication there was an explosion.”

She got up and marched over to me.  “That’s because the explosion is silent, you fucking asshole.”

I sighed and put my finger over the button.  She stopped in her tracks.

“Wait,”  she said, looking at my expression and the trigger.  “You wouldn’t.”

“I would,”  I replied.  “I know you wouldn’t.  Did my research.”

She followed my hand as I waved my arm from side to side and pulled out a phone from my pocket.  I pressed a few buttons to bring up Forget-me-not on the internet, and pointed the screen at her.  Forget-me-not alternated between looking at my face, the screen and the trigger.

“I know you’ve never had a murder, and you’ve even had autographs.  I don’t think you’d blow up seven guys.  Hell, you should have killed them then and there.  You had the power to.”

She gulped, taking a step back.  I turned the phone off and smiled.  The situation had changed completely.

“We’ve got to see if you actually did kill seven people,”  I said with an all too friendly tone in my voice.  “Go on, show me where they are.  I’ll follow.”

She clenched her fist, shaking in anger.  I sighed and waved the remote, finger gently resting on the button.

“You’re a fucking maniac, how the hell are you a he-”

“I’m not a hero,”  I interrupted, getting off the car.  “I’m not going to play nice, or coddle you, or give two fucks about those men.  The only place this ends is with you being shipped off into a one way trip to the city, and all you can do about it is decide how many people die before then, okay?”

She turned and led the way, walking into the woods next to the convoy.

“Get moving, and don’t stop.”  I finished.

***

The woods were tranquil and calm.  Light didn’t bother to permeate the trees and there was a lack of sound that wasn’t the crushing of detritus underfoot.  Forget-me-not was a few paces ahead, holding the hand I crushed with my shield.  She had occasionally turned back to see if I was following, but stopped when I waved at her and pointed at the device when she turned for a third time.

We were getting nowhere.  A few minutes of walking decided it for me.

“Hey, if you are leading me in circles I’ll press the damn thing,”  I said.

“Don’t, we’ll be there in five mins!”  she said as she turned around and looked at me, a frightened tone creeping into her voice.

I groaned, tossing and catching the trigger in the air as Forget-me-not gasped in shock.  I wondered how Margaret and Samantha were doing.  Samantha was cooped up in a cape psychiatry ward and Margaret was back in Oklahoma, with Maxine, Gunsmith and a few other adult capes in the National Heroes Network.  Michael and Ricky crossed my mind as well; I’d been trapped in Texas for three years, days before I was going to meet them with Derek and Maxine.

“Hey,”  asked Forget-me-not.  “why’d we stop?”

I shook my head and groaned in frustration.  “Fucking Texas,”  I mumbled.  “Why?”

Forget-me-not shot an odd look my way as I walked over to a tree and placed my had against it.  She almost walked over before she caught a fresh glimpse of the device in my hand.  Long, painful seconds passed as I thought about Ellen, Derek, Texas, Samantha and Taker.

“You m-mentioned Texas,”  she said with a stammer, finally breaking the silence, maybe buying time to try something.  “Y-you were there, right?”

“Yup,” I replied, feeling the memory version of a headache.

“You fought the Texans?  Kelpie and Wendigo and Aim?”

“Not them, but I fought a few,”  I replied, thinking of Corvus.  I actually killed someone. How could I forget that?

“They are in the NHN you know,”  said Forget-me-not.  Even minor crooks keep up to date on this stuff?  Really?  I never did and I want to go back to those days.  Those days where me and Michael and Derek and Ellen and Maxine and Ricky woul-

“You were in the city?”  she asked, the cogs finally clicking.  “That one area that got blocked off? How?”

“Stop talking,”  I barely managed to myself, let alone her.  I can’t do this.

I heard her creep closer as the leaves underneath slowly crunched.  I turned to her with the trigger out.

“Stop.  I’ll make sure they get blown to kingdom come,”  I barely managed to say, still leaning against the tree.  There’s only one person here, the forest is empty!  Why do I want space to myself when she’s so far away?

“We’re here anyway,”  she said, trying to trick me or something.  I can’t trust her, not like this.  The crunch of leaves underfoot made me react.

“Stay back,”  I ordered again.  “Shut up and stay back.”

She took a step back, hands in the air.  She pointed in the direction, and I turned to look, seeing a metal door.  A bunker in the woods.

“A bunker?”  I asked.

“For worst case scenarios.  Stuff like metahuman tech malfunctions or stuff, Kingmaker events, Great Lords, Fae, The Hunting Par-”

“Shut up,”  I said again.  A third time.  “Open it and let them out.”

“J-just don’t press the button.”

There must be an indicator that tells her if the bombs or whatever have gone off.  Maybe the fact the door was still on its hinges was a sign, or the lack of smoke, or something.  That doesn’t matter, Forget-me-not was already pulling on the metal door embedded in the mound with a foot against the dirt next to it for leverage.  The door swung open and she went inside.

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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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