Posts Tagged ‘Sacrifice’

“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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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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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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Samantha stood next to me and Margaret.  She shivered, looking at the great red forcefield that separated us from the world.  The wall that held New Austin back.

“I’m scared,”  she murmured, rubbing her arms.  The single piece cloaks and sandals were not suited for such cool weather.  “I mean, what if he lied about the Exile?”

I looked at her, and smiled.  “He promised her.  Even if he lied, would you want to go back?”

Samantha flinched at the thought, before turning back to the forcefield, her blue eyes scanning the wall.

The Exile.  A gift that allows us to pass through the borders of New Austin once.  A chance to leave.  We all took it without hesitation.  Margaret made a run for the borders, laughing.  She phased through with ease collapsing to her knees at the other side still happy.  Samantha followed, nearly tripping over in the dirt.  Her cloak hood blew down and her long black hair flew behind her as she regained her balance and made a beeline for it.

I walked to the border, placing my hand against it.  It was soft, kinder than whom it contained.

“Hurry, let’s go!”  yelled Samantha, bringing me out of my distracted daze.

I pressed my hand through first, and began my trek to the greater world as I slowly felt the softness crash through me in a single step, like a wave.

***

Less Than Three Years Ago: Kingdom of New Austin.

Taker sat there, telling me the tale of why he did this.  I wasn’t listening to him.  I didn’t want to.

“So I just altered her mind and made her think she was a maid!”  he laughed, sitting in his chair.  He pointed at a jar of water and a glass on the table in the middle.

“Help yourself.”

I shifted in my chair uncomfortably, the chains giving little leeway and rattling.  Taker smiled to himself, his own little joke amusing him.

“So it has only been a single week so far, you know,”  Taker said, leaning over to drink from his own glass as my eyes followed his movements.  “I’m glad we could chat.  See your progress so far.”

“You bastard,”  I countered.

“Well, that’s enough speaking from you.  Quiet.”

I shut up, unable to defy the King.

“So how are things anyway?  Are the cracks already showing?  Are you still angry at Sacrifice?”

I was, but…

“I should check up on her progress.  She should be further along, after all.”

…I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy.  I’m glad I don’t have any super-healing or super-durability at all.  If I did; if Event Horizon did, I’m positive Taker would go all out on us, too.

“I must admit, the medical technology in here is pretty good anyway.  I was actually surprised when they said that you wouldn’t die from shock!”

He laughed, wiping a tear from his eye.

“You know, that’s a pretty fun face you made there.  You are still so angry at the world.”

***

I didn’t need to walk far before my first encounter with the world I was taken from happened.  New Austin was small enough that a perimeter was easily built around it, thanks to the efforts of my companion and I, over three years ago.  Chain-link fences formed a wall in the distance, and there was an occasional station with guards and turrets of all shapes and sizes lingering about.  A gate with sand bag fortifications stood before me, Samantha and Margaret.

Samantha hesitated, seeing so many people.  I caught up with her and Margaret as they stopped at the gates.

“Halt,”  boomed a soldier holding a megaphone from the other side.  I figured we’d have to deal with this sort of problem at some point.

I raised a hand, a gesture.  Seconds passed.

“Somebody will be sent to see you,”  said the soldier.

Somebody did.

Maxwell.  He was still blue, cold and frigid as the air around me began to chill.  I huffed out a visible breath as he approached, towering over me, still.

“Greetings,”  he said.  “I am Maxwell.  I’ll be the emba-“

“I know that,”  I said, impatient.  I had too few clothes to deal with the cold, and any more reminders for Samantha that she was separated from people by only two layers of cloth hiding away her body would do no good for having her help me at all.

Maxwell raised an eyebrow, looking at me as I stood there, my hood still covering my head.

“We’ll start by asking you to remove your hood,”  Maxwell said.  “It’s suspicious when three hooded figures show up by leaving the border of a country run by a known…  Well, I’ll let you imagine.”

Those pronoun changes were enough to convince me.

I took off the hood slowly.  “Hello, Unperson.  Can you stop?”

Unperson walked into my view, surprised.  She’d changed.  Her hair was longer, her costume was different.  She was wearing body armour, evidently enhanced by something, as the glow lines indicated.  Her eyes were still covered, but the goggles were newer.

“Ryan?  I thought you died!?”  she exclaimed, a little too unprofessional for my liking.

I smiled back at her an Maxwell.  “Not exactly wrong.”

Samantha moved behind me, peering over my left shoulder, staring at Maxwell and Unperson with suspicious eyes.  I turned to look at her as she tugged on my hood.

“D-Do I know them?”  She asked, figiting in perceived safety.

I smiled and patted Samantha gently on the head in response.  “Yes, but not like how I did.”

Maxwell looked at me, her and Margaret.

“So, Ryan and…”  he prompted me to finish.

“Margaret is your old leader.  Sorry,”  I said, looking and pointing at Margaret as she smiled and waved, finally taking her hood off.

Maxwell looked at Margaret, surprised.  Three years change people.  Three terrible years change people even more.

“And the big softie behind you?”  asked Unperson, looking at Samantha.

Samantha whimpered slightly.

Dammit.

“I don’t want to say,”  I replied.  “It’s a long story.”

“I’m okay with stories, Ryan,”  said Unperson, crossing her arms.  “You’ll need to tell us one anyway.  It’s not often that you see peo-“

“I told you I don’t want to say,”  I emphasised, harsher.  Unperson didn’t react.  She took a step closer, making Samantha pull me by the hood as she took a step backwards, still clinging tightly to me.

“Ryan, things have changed,”  she said.  “I don’t know how you enjoyed the last three years but out here it’s been hell.  We’ve had worse things than a fucking wa-“

Margaret cut Unperson’s ranting off with a wave of her hand.  A cage of energy, holding her down with a mask covering her eyes, binding her to the spot with chains.

“Hey,”  Unperson exclaimed, surprised.  I was shocked too.

I gave Margaret a look.  “Stop.”

She let Unperson go, allowing her to feel her face for the mask that disappeared and the bindings that left.  Maxwell looked shocked most of all.

“What the hell happened for her to get to the second stage, Ryan?”  He asked, the air becoming deathly chill.  Samantha rubbed herself, her clothes too thin to help with the cold.

Margaret answered first.  “I’m not at the second stage, dumbass.”

“I’m at the seventh.”

That statement did nothing to calm Maxwell down.  He looked at me, blamed me.  I did too.

“Ryan, what the fuck happened?”  asked Unperson, serious.

“I fucked up,”  I replied.  “I fucked up and got everyone hurt.”

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7 | 4 : Ambush

Posted: 08/06/2014 in Ambush
Tags: , , , ,

“It feels good to be king,”  said Taker, sitting there like he was a king.  He was a king.  “Doesn’t it, Sacrifice?”

Sacrifice clenched her fit and got up, standing.  She was shivering noticeably from where I stood.  Anger.  Resentment.  Disgust.

“Taker,”  she said slowly.  “Why?”

Taker looked at her, pretending to be offended.

“For fun,”  he said, exaggerating his mock offence with gestures and faces as he stood up.  “Isn’t that my only motiv-”

He stopped, standing normally but not quite.  “I can’t do this pretend stuff anymore,”  he sighed.

Taker took several strides towards us quickly and lifted Sacrifice’s chin as soon as he had reach, making her look at him with level eyes.  “Bet you didn’t know I could fuck with your head.”

Sacrifice slapped his arm away, scowling.  “What the fuck do you mean by that?”

Taker smiled, backing off with his arms stretched wide and a massive shit eating grin painted onto his face.  “Who’s the daddy?”

Sacrifice leapt for Taker, reeling her fist back for a punch.

Taker was unimpressed.  “Stop, peasant.”

Sacrifice froze.  She froze in the air, immobile.  I took a double take.

“Wow, this king thing is great!”  said Taker, surprised and happy at his newly found power.  “Ryan, come over to your king.”

My legs moved on their own.  I couldn’t struggle or control myself as I walked over to Taker.

“H-Hey!”  I said, approaching Taker while dragging the cocoon behind me still.  “What the hell!”

“Stand right here,”  he ordered pointed just in front of where Sacrifice was.  I saw her looking at me, still in the air.  “Facing her.  Don’t move from there or speak.”

Everything felt slow as I slowly walked to where Sacrifice was aiming for before she paused.

Event Horizon stirred.  “Mmm,”  she mumbled, mouth covered.

Taker untied her from the impromptu harness I made with the silk and pulled her away.

“So Ryan,”  he began as Event Horizon began to realize where she was, struggling with futility against the cocoon.  “You wanted to kill Sacrifice, right?”

I said nothing.  Couldn’t.  My eyes darted between Taker and Sacrifice, as did hers.

“Changed your mind?  She has a habit of doing that.  She did it pretty well back in the day,”  he said, gesturing to Fractal.

He held the cocoon up, forcing Event Horizon to face us.

“Anyway, you know exactly how strong she is, right?  You think she’s telling the truth?  Do you trust her?”

He smiled.

“You could die.  You could be smashed like a melon if you are wrong and I say the magic words.”

She wouldn’t lie to m-

She already did.  She has, several times before.  That was irrelevant.

“You know, that little girl you were after was really fun to talk to.  She offered me a bet, or a deal.  I keep you for three years.  Three years.  You, Sacrifice and this little dear here,”  he revealed, stroking Event Horizon’s chin,  “Are all mine to play with.  Have fun with.  She’ll be busy bringing her own plans to fruition, and I get a free pass after three years.”

Free pass?

“You see, she wants to give me a gift after I gave her a chance to move freely, without that human side interfering.  I break you three down; she gives me the gift I seek,”  Taker walked over to Sacrifice.  “Sacrifice dear, will you tell Ryan every lie you’ve told him that don’t relate to how your powers work?”

Sacrifice looked at me, her face horrified.

“I-” she choked.  “I lied about my past.  I was good, once.  I changed after a while, and things progressed.  Most of my teammates stayed with me.  Glutton. Fractal.  Jawbreaker.  Taker was a villain.  It sorta happened when Druggie came by, we were just teens looking for thrills.  I-”

I knew that.  I did the research and found a summary of your back story.

“I lied about what I was doing with Kingmaker.  I didn’t want to be queen.  I wanted some medicines, and surgery equipment.  M-”  Sacrifice paused, her face was miserable, spilling out her secrets like this.  “I had a father who was sick.  H-He was going to die.  I uh, somebody came by and I tried to get help.  I did the things you know trying to figure out how powers work.  It was sort of relevant when I-”

She looked terrible, telling me this.  It was if she was exposing her true self, exposing her body for all to see.

“It’s why I was so wanted, I think.  Knowing stuff.”

I don’t care.  That wasn’t important.

“I lied about the promise.  I wouldn’t hold it up when we were done.  I’d have killed you or run away or something.”

She didn’t elaborate on why.  She didn’t need to.  I trusted her based solely on the fact I’d have a chance to avenge the hell I was being put through and she crushed it, if I wanted to go through with it.  Our whole relationship, the reason I was okay at the back of my mind with her eating my fucking flesh, it was ruined in an instant.  The promise was a lie.

I wanted to scream.  Scream in anguish, hate, pain, betrayal.  I wanted to cry.

“That’s it,”  Sacrifice finished, exhausted.  “I’ve finished.”

“Good job, not shut up,”  said Taker, turning away from Sacrifice and looking at me from.  “Well, Ryan?  You ready to take the hit?  If you want to live, just say three magic words;  ‘I give up’.  Say them and you’ll get a reward.  One that will make the next three years bearable.”

I could move my lips.  Sacrifice’s reaction said it all, as she saw my face contorted into pure unfiltered contempt.

“I give up,”  I said, staring her down, still immobile.  Taker smiled.

“Good, good,”  he cheered, patting me on the back as I stood there, unmoving.  Unable to.  “I think you’ll like this reward.”

He walked off, slowly, still in my sight.  “You see, I looked into Sacrifice’s mind.  It was easy, really.  Hell, she even thought that I couldn’t, because of all the little false memories I made.”

For the next three years, I regretted this decision every day.

 

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I dragged Event Horizon along with me, making sure not to wake her.  The softness and lightness of the cocoon Kumo made meant I could easily drag her along without waking her up at all.  I actually tied some around myself, freeing up my hands as I dragged her along the multiple hallways that were separated by doors.

The trip was quiet this time.  Sacrifice was concentrated, and so was I.  Taker had to die; this was an unspoken agreement.  Anything after that was not meaningful at all.  I didn’t care about the promise right now.  We might not live through this.

My thoughts were interrupted by a familiar face.  A face I saw many times, smiling behind the surgeon’s mask as he jabbed me with the needle.

“Druggie!”  yelled Sacrifice, serene.

This was unusual, seeing her so calm, so concentrated.  The current look she gave made every action she took before look exaggerated, as if every act was part of a theatrical play.  Druggie looked at her, his eyes declaring nothing but fury.  Four syringes, one between each finger of his right hand, each a different colour.  I gulped a little.

He took the green one between his pinky and his ring finger, and stuck it into his neck, walking towards us.  I moved back and Sacrifice walked a little forwards.

Druggie forced it into his veins, taking the red one that was between his ring and middle fingers as he discarded the now empty syringe he used to the side.  Sacrifice sped up to a sprint, and so did Druggie.  They met in the middle of the hallway.

The sound of the impact was intense.  Wind blew me off my feet.

Sacrifice was lucky to be partially in blood from her frequent skirmishes.  She was red and bloodied, standing there as dust blew past her.

Druggie injected both the yellow and blue formulae that remained into his neck at the same time.

“Sacrifice,”  he said.  “You’ll pay.”

Sacrifice looked almost confused as she suddenly shot down the hallway at blinding speed, missing me by inches.

The crashing noise confirmed that she was smashed through a wall somewhere behind me.  I turned around to see Druggie there already, moving faster than I could see.  He was holding Sacrifice by the ankles, hammering her body against the pillars.  One by one, each broke with the force of the impact as her flesh connected with stone.

“I figured cutting and stabbing and drugging you wouldn’t work at all, you bitch.”

He used her limp body to crater the marble floor with a downward swing, still holding her by the ankles.  The pillars and floor were ruined.

“The fact you killed her disgusts me,”  he said, tossing her into the ceiling.  She fell down after a few seconds with no grace.

Druggie dashed to Sacrifice as she fell, punching her with incredible force.

“I’ll just fucking pummel you till you can’t get up, then I’ll take you to Dad.”

I was horrified, watching this.  The whole time I was with Sacrifice she was more competent and anyone I knew, she was fast, powerful, intelligent.  Right now, she’s being beaten half to death before my very eyes.  She’s being overwhelmed.

Druggie grabbed the back of her head and brought it for a knee to the face.  It sounded painful from where I was.

The beating continued, her body covered in bruises.  Druggie avoided attacking the bruises, as they seemed to form an impromptu armour on her body.

After one minute, Sacrifice got the first decent hit in.  Druggie mistimed a kick and sacrifice was able to strike his leg with her right arm.  I noticed that her wrist was broken.  She must be in complete agony.

Druggie lost balance and hopped back, but sacrifice followed up with another hit, this time to the temple.  He tumbled to his side as he dashed an impossible distance for any human.

“What? Going into withdrawal?”  chuckled Sacrifice, her body visibly beaten.  She’d die if her powers weren’t active, clearly.

Druggie was sweating.  He charged again, a relentless assault, unending and unreadable to me.  Punches, kicks, elbows, knees.  The only moves I was able to see were the grabs and throws, and just barely.

Finally, he stopped.  He tossed her hard into the cracked and broken marble floor from a decent height.  His clothes were worn out, frayed at the ends.  His face mask was gone, his hair a mess.

He grabbed Sacrifice by the ankles and looked at me.  I was too terrified to refuse.

I followed him down the hallway, keeping back to make sure I didn’t let Sacrifice into my range.  If I shut her powers off, I’d kill her.

Her hand twitched.

“Boy. You take her,”  he said, pointing at me as Sacrifice slowly moved her arm to his right leg.

“I have Event Horizon, I can’t take her,”  I stalled, glancing as she moved her arm to his ankle.  He stared at me intensely, making me look back at him, holding my hands in the air in submission.

Sacrifice crushed his ankle as I stared him in the eyes.  His scream was blood-curdling.

She got up, showing me that her bones had healed. Unfortunately, nearly every bone broke,  and many healed while they were in the wrong place.  Her legs were bow shaped, her ribs and hands has stray bones sticking out, her jaw was misplaced.  She was black and blue and yellow from head to toe, and her left foot was bent into a fist.

She stood, twisted and malformed, almost grinning as three teeth fell out.

“I eedig,”  she said, unable to speak properly. “You ose.”

Blood sprayed me and Event Horizon as Druggie was beaten to a pulp against the marble floor of the hallway.

 

***

 

 

Sacrifice spent an hour breaking herself, putting everything back to where it should be.  I took the time to vomit behind one of the few remaining pillars as she did so, somewhat horrified at the sound.

I finally looked at her when she was done, and she looked human again.

“So,”  I began,  “Why the wait?”

“Waiting for his drugs to wear off,”  she said, holding a bit of foot in the air.  “He nearly knocked me out, I just came back at the right time.”

She got up and we continued out trek to the throne room.

The doors to the throne room were large and wooden in texture, but solid metal from how they felt.  Sacrifice pushed them with all her might, and fell over to her knees as the doors finally gave way.

I checked to see if she was okay, and I saw the worst situation possible as I glanced into the room.

Taker sat at a round table before the throne.  The King sat at his throne, a spear protruding from his head, a flow of blood dripped off the end of the spear and his wide eyes stared at nothing.  The crown was in Fractal’s hands as he stood behind Taker.

“Good to see you could make it,”  said Taker softly as the crown was placed on his head.  “Long live the king.”

I turned to look at Sacrifice, and I saw it.

I saw despair.

 

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Kumo’s legs regrew, twitching occasionally as I stared at him.  Sacrifice wasn’t interested; he was dealt with in her eyes and wasn’t a problem anymore.

“We have to get to the throne room,”  she said, grabbing my de-thumbed hand and walking down a street briskly, dragging me along.  “The King needs to declare his victory while he can, and the fact we killed three of his personal guards already means he’s going to have to downsize instead of taking Brazil.”

Apparently we saved Brazil.  Who knew?

“Wait, we can beat the King?”

“That was part of the original plan.  Beat him, take throne, abuse the Immigration and Exile powers to move allies about, have a small nation at your control with supertech built by geniuses.”

I was in awe.  “Is that why you kept your knowledge secret?  To avoid anyone getting the same idea?”

“Not exactly.  Think about it, Ryan.  If everyone knew there was a way to become an absolute, undisputed ruler with no way of being stopped or killed that doesn’t come down to being a complete moron and waging war or some shit, do you think there would be a non-kingmaker nation left?”

I paused to think, putting the knife in the back of my belt due to the lack of pockets I had.

She continued with an amendment.  “Do you think there wouldn’t be a world war three?  Or some other disaster?”

I didn’t need to think hard.

“No,”  I said.  The castle was up ahead, large and imposing.  How did sh-

I was launched into the air, almost taking Sacrifice with me.

Another one of the King’s men.  Sacrifice Didn’t waste any time.  I fell down, getting my bearings.  She already killed whoever attacked in seconds.

We made it to the castle where the king should be; where Taker lay waiting.  All were gone in the city but the occasional pedestrian, hiding away but trying to get a glimpse of us.

We were winning so far.  Bloodwitch; dead.  Jawbreaker; dead.  Glutton; dead.  Trauma was stuck in a maze.  Kumo was pinned down.

That left Fractal, Druggie and Taker.  I’d assume Druggie was killed already.  He was a chemical-oriented super-genius, and Jawbreaker was killed easily by the king.  No, We don’t know how many men the king has.  We counted three killed, maybe Taker’s group killed one too?  Also, Event Horizon.  She’s still alive.

Sacrifice opened the door, peering in.

Nothing.  The hall was empty.

We walked in, anxious.  Itching for the next fight.

 

***

 

The castle was big.  Bigger on the inside?  No, don’t be silly.  The insides of the castle cheated, though.  It was larger than you’d think.

“Ryan,”  said Sacrifice quietly as we walked down another empty corridor,  “Do you want to hear the plan now?”

“Yes,”  I replied, happier than I should have been.

“Good, because we are going to have to break everything inside.”

“Break stuff?”  I asked, confused.  “Why not kill the king?”

“Kingmaker is an enchantment type metahuman.  Anyone can be a king if you have an item he enchanted.  That’s the big secret; the big problem.”

I took a moment to digest that.  I could be a king, if my powers didn’t interfere.  Anyone could.  That’s a scary thought, suddenly having yourself lorded over my a complete stranger because they got lucky.

“I know you lied,”  I said, not thinking.  Sacrifice stopped.

“I don’t like talking about my past,”  she said, a little taken aback.  “That’s another thumb when we’ve finished.”

I deserved it.

“I understand,”  I said, starting to walk with her again.  I stopped, Sacrifice walked ahead and paused.

“Ryan?”

“I’m stuck,”  I replied.  “It’s Event Horizon.”

Sacrifice looked around.  Nothing in sight, as far as her reaction gave.  She gave me a little push here and there to gauge what she was holding.

“She’s gotten stronger,”  said Sacrifice, both impressed and annoyed.  “Taker’s work, I presume.”

“Don’t kill her,”  I begged softly.  “She’s weak, you ca-”

“I’ll kill her because she’s weak,”  she shot back at me. “I’ll kill her and save her the trouble of wishing she was dead when she gets caught by another group of villains who have guys who can’t handle their urges, unlike my former teammates.”

Cold.  I felt a chill as she said it.

“Not that I can trust them when they have Taker fucking about in there, anyway,”  she muttered, looking harder.

She checked everywhere.  She nearly checked behind every pillar when it hit me.

I looked up, and was disgusted.  Webbing covered the ceiling above me, barely noticeable with the architecture above.  A web ensnared Event Horizon.  She was cacooned; a human booby trap.

I had to get help somehow.  Sacrifice would kill her.  I couldn’t move.  King wouldn’t help.  Taker was the enemy.  I was alone.

“Sacrifice, above me!”  I cried.  She came over and saw the webs in the ceiling, smirking at the trap Taker made for us.

“Good boy,” she said, walking over.  She looked about my clothing for something, anything.  I still had the bloody knife.  She took it from me, practicing her throw a few times.

“Close your eyes, Ryan.”

No.  Don’t do this.  Don’t kill her.

“Sacrifice, you shouldn’t.  You can knock her out, like you do to me, or something!”  My panicked voice told no lies.  I didn’t want to see her die.  She was innocent.  A victim.

“I don’t know what tricks Taker has up his slee-”

“You can take as many fingers as you want,”I interrupted, shouting. “Just please don’t kill her! Please!”

Sacrifice gave a large grin.  Wait, was she tric-

She ran up the pillar at lightning speed, ignoring all conventions of gravity.  She tore Event Horizon out of the web and fell back to earth, cratering the ground beneath her.  Marble cracked like it was merely glass.

“It’s a promise,”  she said, holding her hand out for me to shake.  Event Horizon was okay. I could deal with that.

I could deal with Sacrifice’s acts, as long as she helped me.  As long as she was there.  I held out my good hand, shaking hers.

“Deal,”  I said, smiling in relief.  “I’m glad you saved her for me.”

 

 

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7 | 1 : Ambush

Posted: 08/02/2014 in Ambush
Tags: , , , ,

I ran, I ran as fast as I could, charging into the crowd that began to gather, following Sacrifice.  She reached an alley and we ducked into it, taking chaotic turns as the sounds of rubble being made and the booming voice of the King sounded.  I ran out of breath before sacrifice did, placing my hand on a wall when nobody was around.

Sacrifice turned around, catching her breath, too.

“This is the worst possible situation,”  she said, before correcting herself.  “No, this is better.  The King knows now, so we might be able to beat Taker while he’s distracted.”

I finally managed to speak.  “We are going to die, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we probably are.”

This did nothing for my confidence.  I didn’t want to die, not so soon.

Sacrifice continued.  “Best case scenario is we hide and let Taker and the King wear each oth-”

She didn’t get to finish as the King charged through the wall and struck her in the gut with his scepter.  I heard and felt the impact, and saw Sacrifice get launched down the alleyway away from me, creating a resounding thud as she crashed against a wall.

The King had his cape torn, and was covered by webbing across his arm.  He turned to face me, and I saw his furious expression, and the upper half of Jawbreaker, ripped in two.

“Oh fuck,”  was all I could say as he hurled the torso at me, knocking me down and winding me.

“How dare you,”  he said, a vile expression is his tone.  “You insult the King with a cheap attack?”  His slow hovering was ominous.  Even more so when he approached me.

I scrambled to buy time.  “Hey, I’m totally not with them,”  I said, raising my bandaged hand.  I saw the three fingers and remembered about Sacrifice as he looked bemused.  I pushed Jawbreaker’s corpse off of me and pointed in her direction.  She was starting to get up.  “She was with me, we are third parties in this thing that’s happening.  We aren’t enemies, please listen.”

Just as I finished, he turned around to see Kumo tackle Sacrifice out of view as she managed to stand upright.

“That beast killed my Royal Guard!”  he yelled, furious at the sight of Kumo.  The King pulled a parchment out.  “Merly!  Out now!”

Merly was dead wasn’t he? I thought to myself.  A pause as nothing happened.  “Merly!”

Nothing.  The sounds of crashing were distant.  An inhuman scream.  Kumo was hurt.

“Merly too?”  Asked the King rhetorically, throwing the parchment it away for another in his clothing.

“Corvus! I summon you!”  he boomed.

Darkness shot out from the corners of the alley, from the edges of my peripheral vision.  Even more from the corners facing away from me, the ledges of windows, underneath rubble and trash.  It gathered into a rough, barely-human shape.

“I’m here, my King,”  it said, kneeling.

“Kill all intruders except the naked girl and the wounded boy,”  demanded the King.  “Imprison them for later.”

Out of all possible outcomes, this was the worst.  I picked myself up and ran as Corvus made pursuit, creating space around me that filled the alley.  I needed to protect myself.

Corvus screeched, touching my safe zone and retreated, dissipating into every corner I couldn’t see, and every nook I’d never check.  He was looking for Kumo and Sacrifice.  The King left, more parchments in hand.  “Oculus,”  he said, reading one parchment out of view from me.

I was still in the open, I thought, looking around.  I bashed a window with my good hand, and crawled inside, making sure I was in the safe confines of my own ability.  I couldn’t trust my personal sphere, but the active space I could create works wonders.

Inside, there were cowering townspeople.  The mother held a kitchen knife, terrified.  I was too, but for different reasons.

“Upstairs, now!”  I barked, pointing at the staircase.  They backed away, slowly before rushing up  to the bedrooms.

I walked through the kitchen where I entered via window, looking for weapons.  My baton was lost at some point and my shield was a hindrance in travelling, I tossed that without thinking.

A frying pan and a steak knife came to me.  I didn’t want to linger about in a house filled with foreign sci-fi toys for too long.  I opened the front door, and saw Corvus waiting, fully fleshed out in a black robe with his effeminate, white face showing.  Maybe he was elsewhere when summoned and his powers make clones of shadow?  Why in person?

My thoughts were cut short as he pulled out a gun with way too many buttons.  I threw the Frying pan and dived back into the house, covering my ears as I heard a nothing and splinters scattered everywhere.  Fuck, I can’t stop that gun.  My safety was flawed.

Corvus walked into the house as I ran from the hallway to the living room to the kitchen, dodging blasts of energy as they ripped the building apart.  I could hear screaming from upstairs as the family felt the house shake.

“Stay still,”  he whispered, irritated at my luck in avoiding death.

I dived through the window I came in, one last shot barely grazing me as I scrambled down the alley.  I turned and didn’t see him.  He must be heading me off.

I put the knife into my good hand and stopped at a corner, expanding my space some more to give me decent cover.  Well, as much cover as could help, given the fact my opponent has gone to the ‘just shoot the fucker’ school of super powered combat.

His shadow paced around the corner, bursting into nothing as he hit the wall of my power.  He was testing it, looking to see if he could find me or lure me out.  I snaked further into the side alley, cautious of being caught or seen by Corvus and his gun.

I could probably fake a surrender and tackle him, I thought.  No, he’d make me drop my knife, and I’ve already fuzzed up the ‘innocent don’t attack’ bluff.

I scratched my head looking for a solution.  Maybe Corvus was attacking from elsewhere?

I doubled back, running as silently I could while taking a detour.  I was right, he was slowly walking to where I was,  In my space.  I waited for him to pass and ran at him, knife in hand.  He turned and I dived to the side, stabbing his stomach as I fell short.  He shot nothing and hit nothing, crying out in pain as I pulled down, gutting him alive.  He fell backwards and dropped the gun, and in the frantic rush I stabbed him again before he could grab the gun and shoot.

Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.

Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.

I was out of breath.

***

I saw Sacrifice and Kumo, after wandering about in a blood soaked daze, not seeing anybody as the townspeople hid from me.  It felt awful.  I’m the bad guy.  I’m a murderer.

Kumo was being held up against a wall as the blood drenched Sacrifice held a leg she ripped off his body.  He was regrowing limbs as she stood there, in the street.

I called out.  “Sac-”

She drove the leg through the wall, nailing Kumo against it.  Legging go, she snapped off another leg, and nailed Kumo more securely with that one, too.

“Stay down, Kumo,”  she ordered calmly.  How could she be?  She just casually ripped her former teammate apart and nailed him to the wall with his own legs.

“Daddy,”  muttered Kumo silently, barely struggling.

Sacrifice turned and saw me.  “Make a space or I’ll kill you.”

What?  She charged, nearly too quick for me to react.  I put my hands up and made a space as close to me as possible, covering my stomach and face. I felt a normal punch to the gut.

It still hurt, and I nearly threw up.

“Good, you are you,”  she said, uncaring about the fact she just hit me.  “That means I killed her, too.”

“Her?”  I just barely said, looking sick.

“Nevermind, just another delay.  Did you get attacked?”

I gave pause, dry heaving and winded.  “Corvus.  Shadow guy.  Big Gun.  Dead,”  I huffed out, confused and alone.

She smiled, standing me straight and patting me on the back.  “Good Job,”  she said, smiling.

I felt like I could understand her better.

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More wandering, but this time pointless.  I was told to walk ahead of Sacrifice, and she directed me where to go.  I turned around and caught a glance of her as she ordered me down a side corridor.

Killing Bloodwitch took more out of her than I thought.

“Stay,”  she said.  I heard a thump and knew she finally collapsed.

I turned to look at her.  She was a wreck.

“Christ,”  she muttered, tears streaming from her eyes.  “He did that.”

I had nothing to say.

“I think I know how you feel about Ellen,”  Sacrifice said.  Those words hurt me as she said them.  “I loved her like a daughter and he did things to her!  He forced his way into her life like that.”

She clenched her fists, shaking with rage.

“I have to stop him.”

I smirked a little, at the irony.  She deserves to know how I feel.  How I felt when she took everything important away from me.

“You think you’ll ever get your old life back?”  I recklessly asked.

“The answer will cost you a thumb,”  she said, looking right at me.

I was okay with that, I spoke out of turn, I thought as I held out my hand.  She came over and bit down on my thumb, hard.  My thumb was severed in one bite as bone crunched and I screamed in pain.

She swallowed it whole like the last time, and looked at me.

“No.  I was with them for too long,”  she said, blood dripping down her chin.  My blood dripping down her chin.

She was so different in person than the articles from the National Heroes Network said.  Sacrifice, the former vigilante who took her teammates and two local super villains on a cross country trip to cause inhuman acts on unwitting victims in the name of “science”.

This was the Sacrifice I knew.  She kidnapped me, does horrific acts and still turns around to save me over and over again.  It was confusing.

 

***

 

We continued to wander aimlessly.  I stuck close, hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with Trauma.  Ellen was gone, unless I could stop Taker, and even then it would be difficult; Everyone was more experienced with me, and my powers were surprisingly useless unless I concentrated.

“I’ve figured it out,”  said Sacrifice, jovially.  “This is a barracks.”

I gestured to my mouth.  “Can I-”

“Yes, I’m allowing it,” she cut in, turning to look at me.

“Why would a barracks become a labyrinth?”  I asked.

“Defenses.  Most people don’t plow through buildings, so having your city walls turn into a maze is a great solution for defense.”

I shrugged, accepting the explanation.

“They probably used Kumo to climb up.”

“Kumo,”  I repeated to myself.  “He’s the spider, right?”

She nodded.

“We can break out of here,” she finally said, getting up off the wall.  She punched through the hallway with her bloody hand after a few tries, and turned to me once she pulled at the wall enough to widen it.

“Close your eyes and turn around, Ryan.”

I did so, and yet again I was sent into slumber again.  I wonder what power she uses to do that?

 

***

 

I woke as I soared through the abyss.  It was dark, loud machines at work.  This was the true inside of the wall.  Texan technology.

“Sacrifice?”  I asked, rousing awake.

She was busy, landing on a room with a thud.  She put me down in a swift motion, letting me fall on my back.

“I was busy,”  she said.  “We need to get out.”

“I’m sorry, Sacrifice,”  I said, apologetic.

“It’s good,”  she replied, sitting down.  “We should talk again.  It keeps us sane.  My dad taught me that.”

“Okay,”  I said, nervous, looking away from her naked body.  “Sure.”

“Ask a question, go ahead.”

“How did you get your powers?”

Sacrifice rubbed her neck.  “Most people get them when they are exited,”  she said.  “Not in the good way, too.  It could be during a mugging, or in a panic attack, or anything, really.”

She looked at me, shrugging.

“I was lucky.  Mine was because of a discovery.”

“Discovery?”

“I was doing research on the medicinal properties of dried animal blood applied directly to the skin and well,”  she gestured at her body. “I got powers.”

“And you became a villain because of that?”

“No, I got my powers because of that.  The villain came later.  I think I started out as one.  Me, Jawbreaker, Taker, Druggie, Glutton and Fractal.  Kumo came later on and I picked up Bloodwitch when I and the others became famous.  I tried to be a hero but they didn’t think powers like mine were ‘Family Friendly’  I think,”  she meandered.

Lies.  You were a hero.  A good one, too.

“So, you are looking for a way out?”  I said once she finished.

She pointed behind me and I turned around.  There was a wall in the way, large and vast.  The wall to the outside.

I heard loud thumping as metal dented, Sacrifice working away at the room as she sat, legs crossed.  As she did so, I realized I could have escaped at any point.  I could have run away.  I chose to stay, for some inexplicable reason.

Sacrifice wasn’t quick enough.  She ducked as a room nearby swung low, missing her by inches.  The room we stood on was getting away from the wall, the labyrinth re-adjusting itself again as we sat.

“Fuck,”  Sacrifice muttered to herself.  She came over and picked me up, throwing me over her shoulder like a child and ran, jumping for a room.

We made the roof again, but barely.  She dropped me, and climbed onto the edge.  I heard a thud and crashing noise, and her hands fell away from the edge where I was.

“Ryan, climb down!”  she yelled after a moment of silence as I crept to per over the side into the deep darkness below.  “Hurry!”

I could jump, die and ruin her plans, I thought, climbing down.  She grabbed my waist and slowly pulled me in.  I thought for a moment about Trauma, trapped in there.  I felt relaxed knowing she was pre-occupied.

Sacrifice walked out and opened the door to the other side of the wall.

“Oh, this is just perfect,”  she spat, venomous sarcasm oozing out from her tone.

I followed behind her, wondering what she meant.  Kumo, Jawbreaker and Druggie stood at the door.

“You look sick,”  joked Druggie, fishing through his coat for syringes.  “Taken your shots?”

Kumo strafed to our left, I backed against the wall instinctively.

Jawbreaker cracked his knuckles.

“Ryan, I’ll need you to cooperate this time,”  said Sacrifice, slowly.  “We might die if we don’t work together, as a team.”

“Yeah,” I replied, noticing something in the sky far off.

Whatever it was, it approached, fast.  I caught a glimpse of the crown as it came close to us, stopping in the air as the backdraft swept over us.

“Halt, Spies!”  said the King of Texas.  He wore royal garbs, a red cape and crown.  His boots glowed at the soles; hoverboots.  He had a beard, and most obvious of all; he had many parchments of paper on him.

Jawbreaker, Druggie and Sacrifice turned up to look at him.  We were in the worst situation, outnumbered and under powered.

The King slowly reached for a scroll, unravelin-

Kumo show out a web, and Sacrifice pulled my arm away from him.  She ran, beckoning me to follow.

I turned tail and ran for the city as the King of Texas fought with the Hunting Party.

 

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