Posts Tagged ‘Taker’

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

Taker turned to me, explaining away.

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

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

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

Sacrifice was staring down Merly as he listened, curious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was crying tears of pride.

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

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

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

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

“Setting the stage,”  Sacrifice responded.

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

“Not so fast.”

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

“Don’t damage it,”  interrupted Bloodwitch.

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

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

Merly became invisible again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice killed Merly easily.  How could I kill her?

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

“One for One?”  repeated Sacrifice.

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

Sacrifice righted the overturned van.

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

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

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

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

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

The silence was apparent.

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

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

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

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

“I’m not tal-”

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

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

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

“Stop struggling,”  she murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”  I said, shocked.

“Did Taker look suspicious to yo-”

I cut her off, laughing.

“Let me fin-”

I laughed harder, facing her.

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

She slapped me across the face, hard.

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

That got my attention.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Sacrifice eased up.

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

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

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

Glutton opened the back door.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice picked herself up first, along with Ellen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She followed me and got caught.  I turned away.

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

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

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

“No,” I murmured, “I don’t ne-”

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

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

“Start thinking, now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck, don’t as-”

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

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

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

“Good, good,”  she replied, smiling.

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

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

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

“Lock that ball down.”

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

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

Event Horizon reacted before she could finish.

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

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

“It’s pulling hard,”  she complained.

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

“Show yourself!  You can do it!”

No response.

“We’ll fight honestly!  Come on!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taker took a step back, turning towards the door.

“Then you know who would win, right?”

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

“Phoenix, I had an appointment.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelpie looked away, walking to the door.

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

Kelpie turned her head around, opening the door.

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

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

Quiet.  Silent.  Everything was Nothing and she was alone with her thoughts.  Who would want to talk to you?  It’s all your fault.  You’re going to cause nothing but misery, forever.  It’s all your fault.  You deserve this.

Ellen’s mind raced, and it could only hurt her.  She was not allowed to talk to anyone, not after what she did.  The guards were blocked from even seeing her, she was that horrific.  Confined to a nearly impossible degree, with gags, blindfolds, chains, cuffs and straight-jackets all supported with a complex metal contraption suspending her in place.  All that was was all her thoughts; all her thoughts were all that was.  She waited and hoped for the occasional jolt of the van as it took her to the city kept her awake. Anything to make the Ellen in her mind go away, or be distracted for a moment.

You don’t deserve to live. You killed them.

Ellen couldn’t escape her own thoughts for even a single second.  It hurt.

Did it feel good?  Having her die because you didn’t want to hear me for just a little longer?

A thousand accusations, a thousand spiteful words pierced her with precision that proved to her it was her own mind doing this.  Her very soul was trying to drive her insane.

She loved you, and you said those filthy, evil words.

It was working.

And guess what?  You get to go free.  I’m sure Uncle Jonathon will be proud.

A violent jolt of the van changed her mind for a second.

Oh my.  It appears you’ve caused even more death.

Metal tearing, shouting, screaming, gunshots.  Nothing.

They had kids.  Both of them.

More metal being torn, louder, more pronounced.

And now it’s your turn.  You’ll spread misery forever, without fail.  You disgust me.

“This her?”  a ragged voice asked.

“Yeah, this is the one,”  answered what sounded like a young girl’s.  “Taker, take out the bits we don’t need once I’ve tapped her.”

Pain.

 

***

 

Ellen woke up to find herself alone.

No voice.  It was gone.  She got up and realized he was free.  She was free, and there wasn’t that constant voice in her head telling her how horrible she was every second she wasn’t near Ryan, and she could move and walk and speak and-

“So you took out her will to die?”

Ellen shot around and saw them. Seven Humanoid figures and a giant spider.  She’s seen weirder teams of capes before.  Unlike Ryan she actually bothered with reading cape news and gossip, rather than instinctively sneering and going for the remote.  She recognized them already.  The Hunting Party.  She was back in the clutches of the hunting party.

Sacrifice, Druggie, Fractal, Glutton and Jawbreaker stood in a group.  They were finished off by three of their other members whom the news reported as visiting Asia at the time they attacked Norfolk.  Taker, Bloodwitch and Kumo.

 

“Why are you here?”  she asked.  Or more correctly, that is what she meant to ask.  What she actually said was “Ahh, Munroe.  You think you can save this little girl, too?”

A brief moment of horror crossed Ellen’s face as Bloodwitch slapped her across the face, sending her across the room.

“Taker, she told you to take out all the bits we don’t need,”  Bloodwitch snarled at Taker, her veins visibly popping from her powers.

“Now now, I was only having a joke.  It’s not like you’d kill yourself anyway,”  replied Taker, adjusting his glasses.  “Though if you let me take something of similar value, I’d give you back your death…”

“Back off, you fucking creep,”  Bloodwitch replied, a spear of blood shooting out of her arm and touching Taker’s neck.

Glutton suddenly jumped and bit down on the blood spear, breaking it.  He shot a look at both of them and resumed eating his burger.

“Enough,”  ordered Sacrifice calmly.  “We have many experiments to run in the future.  Taker?  Take these things,” she handed Taker a note of paper.  He smiled while looking at the list and walked over to Ellen, who just managed to stand up.  Ellen turned to run and began to look for a door or a window.

“It’s no use, dear.”  said Taker, slowly walking towards her.  “I took away the exits.”

“Clara, help me!”  Ellen cried.  Bloodwitch clenched her fist and looked away.  “Don’t let it happen!  Don’t just stand there watching again!”

Taker got even closer.  Ellen tried to make another run for it but she froze.  She suddenly fell to her knees and put her hands behind her head.  Bloodwitch was using her powers on her.

Ellen panicked, struggling to speak.  “Clara, please!  I didn’t mean it! You said you’d prote-”

“You aren’t her!”  shouted Bloodwitch, visibly angered.  Ellen shut up, reduced to sobbing.

Taker reached her, and placed his and on her head.

“Loyalty to your friends, family and everyone else bar us.”

A surge of blood rushed through Ellen’s head.

“Please, Danny… It wasn’t their fault,”  she whispered to Taker.

“Your ability to use your power on us.”

Another surge of blood.

Ellen could actually say what she wanted to.  “Please, stop this.”

“Your ability to betray us or rebel against us in any form.”

Another surge of blood, heavier than the last.

“And finally, your will to leave us.”

It was done.  As the last pulses of blood ran through her head and she heard the tinnitus slowly pass by.  Even her thoughts changed.  Ellen was still scared, still frightened, but now she feels no need to escape, to try and run away.  She looked up at Taker as he took his hand away.

“Why?”

“We always take a new member from each experiment,”  smiled Sacrifice.  Ellen remembered a small detail about her; she used to be a well known metahuman researcher.  Her experiments have come to this?  Awful.

“It’s a way to keep on having fun.”

“I see.”  Ellen wasn’t disagreeing.  Only loyalty to the Hunting Party remained.  It pained her to admit so, just a little.

Sacrifice walked closer to her, wearing a bull’s head instead of the goat she last saw.  She placed her hand on Ellen’s shoulder.

“You are now Trauma,”  she said gently.  Ellen got up, allowed to move again.  Sacrifice turned to the rest of the Hunting Party. She clapped her hands and spun around in a mischievous manner.

“Who wants to see the current situation of Texas?” she asked.

Kumo was the first to reply.

“Why go Texas?”   the spider hissed.

“Because, Kumo, I want to study the Effects of Druggie’s formula on a Kingmaker victim.  The King of Texas is conveniently nearby, and he’s going to open up soon anyway.  Kingmakers need to wage wars and Texas hasn’t had one in 15 years,”  she replied.

Kumo didn’t respond.