Brendan woke thinking that his leg itched. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed to actually be burning. Then, just in case he was left in any doubt his leg hurt, something touched it. He jerked his leg away and then felt pain searing his entire leg. Brendan bit down on his lip. Still, a sound escaped that was somewhere between a whimper and a scream. Brendan struggled to sit up without moving his leg. It didn’t work, and he bit his lip harder. It hurt worse than any injury he’d ever had before.
“Sorry! Sorry! I tried to be careful, but with burns like these, it’s kind of hard not to touch something….. sorry.” Brendan’s pain finally receded enough for him to realize that his leg was bandaged all the way up over his knee, his jeans were singed and ruined. “I’m sorry, but can you move your leg back down? It’s going to hurt, but you need to, okay? Sorry.” Brendan inched his leg back down onto the white sheet, teeth gritte. “Good! Perfect!” Brendan finally managed to look at the person talking to him. She turned out to be a young black girl, eight or nine. She had huge brown eyes and her hair was in a million tiny braids cascading from a ponytail on top of her head. She picked up a pair of scissors from the table next to the bed Brendon was on and carefully started cutting through the bandages.
“I’m Jiva, by the way.” She said cheerfully as she gently started pulling the bandages away. In places they’d gotten stuck and Brendan had to bite his lip again as they were pulled off. “Don’t worry. I know I’m young, but I know what I’m doing.” Jiva promised. Brendan found that hard to believe. Even if she had been older, Jiva was painfully thin and the sweater she was wearing was so stretched it hung entirely off one shoulder. That sweater might have been red once, but it had faded into dull orange and it was unraveling at the edges. Brendan was in too much pain to care much though. She could shoot him for all he cared as long as the pain went away. “Okay. It still looks good, you got lucky. I’ll just clean it off and you’ll be okay for a while.” Jiva smiled as she gathered up the bandages. Brendan felt like he was going to be sick.
The lower half of his leg was an open red wound that was seeping god knows what. His foot and the upper half of his leg was a blistered and bleeding mess. Brendan dropped his head back against the pillow. He decided to ignore his leg. If he was lucky, he’d stop feeling like he was going to throw up every time he thought about it. “Where am I?” He asked. Jiva walked up to his head and looked thoughtful. “Hmmmmm. I don’t really know anymore. Somewhere on the East coast of North America, I think anyway.” She turned to drop the bloody bandages into a basket by the bed. Her rust colored wings rustled as she moved them. Everything suddenly made sense. Brendan stared, numb disbelief and horror flooding through him. Evangelon. Anger replaced his fear. Jiva turned back towards him, arms piled high with bandages. She set them down on the bed near his feet and went back again with a wash cloth. Brendan watched her, waiting for her to move, boiling with anger.
Whatever happened, he was ready. These things might have him here, but no way in hell was he giving up without a fight. “I have to clean off your wound. I’m sorry, but it’s going to hurt.” She reached towards Brendan’s leg. Brendan pulled his leg away, horror and anger killing the pain this time. “Don’t touch me!” He snapped. Jiva stopped, her eyes widening in shock and filling with hurt. Then her huge brown eyes filled with tears. Jiva turned her head away and her hair fell across her face. Brendan tried to keep a lid on the thoughts rushing through his head but they kept slipping into the front of his mind, demanding attention.
Why was he here? Why was he still alive? Who was this freak really? What did you she want from him? Why was that curtain strung across the room? What was on the other side? He didn’t have the answers and it was driving him crazy. He didn’t even know what to do anymore.
“Lay back down.” Someone literally pushed him back down on the bed. Brendan tried to push the hand off, but it was like iron and didn’t give any. “She’s a nine year old girl. She’s not going to hurt you.” Brendan shifted his glare to the man holding him down. Then felt his anger melt away under fear unlike anything he’d felt before. This was a real Evangelon. The kind who could kill him with the flick of a hand. The stories where true. These things, these mutations, they weren’t humans. Brendan could see that in his eyes. He was tall with dark hair and eyes. Italian, maybe. His face betrayed no emotion, and somehow, that only made it worse. “You’re lucky it isn’t Mara. She likes to play with her food. Especially humans.” The voice came from behind the sheet pinned across the room. The man’s hand left his shoulder and his blank expression turned into something resembling mild annoyance.
“Screw you! I might play with my food, but I don’t have stitches on my butt!” The second voice was slightly accented and sounded really pissed. “Yeah, just in your face.” The first voice snapped back again. The Evangelon man left, squeezing Jiva’s shoulder lightly as he passed her. He disappeared around the edge of the sheet. “I thought I told you both to rest. That meant in your room, Mara.” He said. “Piss off!” Mara replied, but there wasn’t much heart in it. Brendan could see one of the voices through the space the man had made going through the curtain. She was an Evangelon with dark red wings, though one was bandaged and taped down to her shoulder. She turned to look at him briefly. Suddenly, Brendan was sure he knew her. Those eyes seemed so familiar, those cold, hard pits, deep as oceans and emerald green. He felt like he was drowning just looking at them. The scar was familiar too, barely visible, silvery and old across her forehead. All of it was. Brendan felt like he should know who she was.
She looked away again. “Rain, your wing will never heal if you won’t sleep.” The man said. Rain. That was her name. More familiar. It was right there, he knew her, he was sure. But it wouldn’t come. He couldn’t remember who she was. Rain met his eyes again. He felt another icy shiver of recognition. “Tch.” She muttered and rolled over, her back to him. The man brushed the sheet and it fell back into place again. Jiva turned back to him, her face the same as the others had been. The face of an Evangelon, cold, empty and hard. Brendan tried to move his leg away again, but Jiva clamped her hand down on his leg. Brendan yelped and tried to pull it away from her. Jiva was stronger than he was. Much stronger. She didn’t say a word to him.
Jiva redid his bandages quickly then she went on to the bed next to Brendan’s, leaving Brendan confused and shocked. She hadn’t done anything to him at all. He still didn’t know what these things where doing with him. He turned to look at the other bed, finally really looking at it. The lump in it was apparently another person. He had red hair, there had been a mercenary on his father’s ship with hair like that, so maybe he’d survived too? Jiva reached for his arm slowly. It shot out and grabbed Jiva’s ponytail, pulling her towards him. He pressed a knife to her throat. Jiva raised her hands slowly. The man slowly sat up with a smirk on his face, yanking Jiva closer to him. “I thought Evangelon where supposed to be scary. But you’re not scary are you, little girl?” He sneered. “No.” Jiva said, barely even whispering.
Before Brendan could have even blinked Jiva twisted the man’s hand and slammed it into the metal side table by his bed with a loud crack. The man screamed. Jiva pressed the man’s knife against his throat. “Jiva, are you okay?” The Evangelon man asked from the other half of the room. “Fine.” Jiva said. She slid the man’s knife into the back of her belt. She noticed Brendan staring and met his eyes for half a second, then she turned away again. Her fists clenched tightly and Brendan heard her whisper, “I’m not a moster.” But Brendan told himself he’d imagined it. Evangelon were monsters. And they were scary. He knew that.
“Ugggghh.” I dropped my head onto the table in frustration. “Rain! You are not helping!” Willow snapped in a frustrated voice. “That’s because what you’re planning is suicide.” Fox said quietly. We were at an impass. Selena was with Willow on one side of the table, Fox was with me on the other, literally and figuratively. Pyro hadn’t shown up. Probably still working on the human with the broken wrist. Willow sighed and leaned against the wall, rubbing her temples. I knew this choice was hard for her but that didn’t make it a good one. Whatever she’d been thinking when she’d given the order to pick up the humans was just not right. “I think we should just take them all and leave them in the middle of nowhere and forget about all of this.” Fox said. He stood behind me, leaning against the wall.
“And that would be fine!” Willow said, “But what will that change for us? We’re dying here and we all know it!” Willow shook her head angrily and went back to pacing the room. “Spring is over and we don’t have enough to last us the next month, let alone the next eleven!” She looked at me. I bit back a curse and replaced it with a sigh. Lately I’d been in charge of keeping track of the supplies since Aya’s death. “Less than a month,” I supplied, “Barely two weeks if we’re lucky, and that was before the humans, with them, I’d say we have a week. At best. All the more reason to get rid of them.”
Willow ignored the last part. “See!” Willow snapped. “Everything’s gone, picked clean. If we try looking farther away, Tempest will pick us off, one by one. If we move, in three years it’ll be the same, that is, if Tempest will let us go. Which she won’t. There is no future here.” I stood up. “It’s not like there’s a future up there!” I snapped. “And how do you know that? How do you know they won’t let us in for that man in there? How do you know what he’s worth to them?” Willow demanded, pointing towards the makeshift infirmary. “Because whatever he’s worth, it will never be enough! Because all humans would rather die than suffer one of us to live with them! To them, we’re monsters! Mutants! Freaks and murderers! Willow, if you think this will work, you’ve gone completely insane!” I yelled slapping my hands down on the table. Willow whirled around, eyes blazing. The room was silent, the kind that threatened to suffocate you.
“I’m not insane, Rain. In fact, I was thinking of you too, when I made this decision.” Willow said calmly. Too calmly. “What!? There is nothing the humans have that I want!” I yelled. Willow locked eyes with me. She was utterly calm. It was going to drive me insane. “Yeah? They’ve got everything, food, medicine, heat, surgeons. They can fix your wing.” Silence. I could feel their eyes on me. My wing was taped firmly to my back, throbbing with pain and with firm instructions not to move it. The bullet had shattered the joint connecting my wing to my body. The sharp fragments had embedded themselves in the remaining ligaments, in the muscles around the joint and around the artery in my wing. If my wing was moved, even a little I would disconnect my wind entirely, slice through more muscle or bleed out. Or, I could do all three at once. It would hurt too. A lot.
That was what Willow was getting at. Pyro couldn’t fix it here, we had no real surgical tools. No one on Earth did, the only place left was Haven. “Do not bring my wing into this. I have nothing to do with this decision.” I said firmly as I could. Willow raised her eyebrows. “No? If you can’t fly, you can’t keep up, you can’t fight. And as a result of that, you could very likely end up dead if we get into a serious battle. If and when that happens we lose our only defense against Tempest. There would be no one left strong enough to stop her. We would all die or be chased off our territory and be mostly dead. You have everything to do with this, Rain. You’re more important than you think, and more than that you’re my friend. I will not let you, or anyone else die. Not here on this godforsaken rock.”
I shoved my emotions aside. This was not about me. No matter what Willow thought. “Well then I’m clearly not what you think I am. Tempest could have killed me any time up until now. And don’t think I’m alive out of familial affection; Tempest doesn’t give a damn about me. It’s only because I’m entertaining and as soon as she gets bored, I’m dead!” I snapped. “And disregarding all of this, supposing we somehow got all the way to Haven, there’s every chance they would just shoot us.” Fox added. Tension crackled. Silence fell again. I was so tense it was hard to stand still.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance in this… matter” The strange voice started coughing violently. A man stood in the doorway. A human man. His arm was in a makeshift sling and his other side was badly burned. Everyone’s hands flew to their guns. “Wait! Wait!” He coughed again. He couldn’t seem to stop. I kept my hand on my gun. Whatever this guy was doing here it wasn’t good, and clearly, he’d been listening. I didn’t like him at all, which is to say I though he should go back to wherever the hell he’d come from before I managed to shoot him. “Look, if safety is really all you’re really looking for, I can help you do that.” Willow folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “How is that?” She asked angrily, accusingly. The man flinched under Willow’s gaze and fidgeted nervously. Good. He didn’t belong here, not anywhere near us. I hated humans. All of them. They where the real monsters.
“I’m an important man on Haven. I can get you a building to yourselves, body guards, whatever you need.” The man said hurriedly before he started his coughing again. This was wrong. Really wrong. This was complete, total and utter crap. “And why are you going to do all this?” Willow asked in that calm voice again. Selena sat down on the table and watched the man. Fox tapped his foot beside me and I watched and waited. For what, I didn’t know. The man shifted nervously again and stifled another cough. Silence stretched. I hated his guts, everything about him pissed me off for some reason. Then after a long pause, he finally spoke. “You rescued us….. and there’s another reason… My daughters.” He said finally. “I…… My wife had a close friend who…… passed away. We took in her children, and I grew to love the girls as my own. But soon they became very sick, a genetic illness of some kind, untreatable. One was a baby, only a few months old. When a man came to us saying he could cure them, we gave them to him eagerly. We should have known better, even in the early days of the war no one did research of the kind needed to develop a cure for a disease like that anymore. They disappeared. I later found out they’d been taken into the Evangelon program.” He started coughing loudly again.
“Pretty story.” Selena said finally. Despite the fact his story was utterly ridiculous it was also setting off some serious mental alarms. His story was all wrong, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. It was too sweet, but there was truth in it somewhere, yet it seemed like a lie too. A man, who seemingly wasn’t afraid of Evangelon, willing to help us for some long lost adoptive daughters. That was about as likely as Mara braiding daisy chains and picking flowers at dawn. While highly amusing as a mental image, it was never going to happen. Mara was a member of our clan and a friend, and that was all that was stopping me from being scared shitless of her.
She was a five foot seven Pilipino Evangelon who was about eighteen. She had the black Hawk tattooed at the base of her neck and was the only surviving member of the Evangelon assassination corps I’d ever personally met. Mara was angry and bitter, her black eyes burning with hellfire. On her bad days she made Tempest look like a kid with a squirt gun. Under all that was a good person, somewhere. But if I ever saw her touch a flower, willingly or not, I’d acknowledge that this really was Armageddon, shoot myself and never look back.
Which was exactly how I’d feel if this guy’s story was true. What was he playing at, and what did he really want? This was just wrong.
“And who are you exactly?” Willow asked the human. “My name is Jackson Lucien,” he said almost instantly, “I’m one of the Command Syndicate on Haven. I run the hospital and I’m well respected. I don’t mean any harm. My daughters were just babies. All of the Evangelon where. I only want to apologize for what I’ve done, even a little.” He managed to get that all in before he surrendered to more coughing. When silence finally fell again, Willow unfolded her arms and rested them on her hips. “You were injured, and obviously, you still are. I think you should go back to the infirmary now, Selena and Fox will show you the way.” It was not even a bad imitation of a suggestion.
He blanched then started coughing. “N-no. I know the way.” Jackson Lucien said. Selena smiled brightly. Not a smile I’d trust, but then I knew her. “We just want to help, to make up for what we’ve done, if only a little.” Fox rolled his eyes and stepped around me to open the door. They all left, Selena still smiling helpfully and the human still coughing violently. Which left me alone with Willow. The door snapped shut and I sighed and stretched my good arm. “Well, that was a waste of time. All we learned from him is that he’s insane.” I said as I got up to leave. Willow was looking at me. I didn’t know what she wanted to talk to me about, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it. So I was being diplomatic and leaving. “He’s probably just some sort of government paid spy or something, checking to see how close to death we all are. Good for them, they’ll be getting an earful.”
There were more than a few holes in that theory, but why not? It was small talk while I got to the door. I had the door open before I looked back at Willow, sitting on the table now, brooding. “You’re not actually buying his story are you?” I asked into the silence. She didn’t look up at me, just drew her eyebrows together and frowned. “Of course not.” She muttered. But I knew her too well for that, there was speculation in her eyes, tainted by disbelief and desperation, but still there. A plan was starting to form in her head. One that hinged on the fact there was the tiniest chance the man’s story was true. I was beginning to fear that Willow would try out some scheme to get us onto Haven and I knew I’d have to choose between her and safety here. But I already knew I’d choose her.
I wasn’t sure why. Maybe because she was our leader, maybe because of everything I owed her, and maybe because she was one of the few friends I had. I’d try to talk her out of it, but my choice was made. I dug my nails into my palms. It was my choice, whether I liked it or not. And I didn’t like it. Not at all.
His leg wasn’t healing very quickly. This wasn’t Haven. You healed the old fashioned way here. Brendan had already learned the hard way he could walk on his leg, but it made it burn. It was agonizing even to move it, walking was hell. So he was still in his bed in the makeshift infirmary. Still waiting for something to happen, still waiting to know why he was here. After spending a lot of time looking around and thinking, he’d decided it had been a kitchen. The huge, shiny industrial kind there were in big restaurants. But it hadn’t been used for that in a long time. Some medical supplies where arranged neatly on a counter near the only still working sink. What they had was pitiful but considering where they where, it was an amazing feat.
A day ago the two surviving mercenaries, one named J.T. who’d only had cuts, bruises and burns and one named Lance who had broken ribs and a badly shattered wrist had been more or less discharged. They where now living in a room off the infirmary. They stayed there for the most part and only came out to use the bathroom. Brendan’s father had survived as well, he was in a bed on the other side of the room. He slept for the most part. He had a head injury of some kind and some pretty bad burns, definitely worse off then the rest but he was alive. That was better than most of the people who’d come down with them. He’d heard from Lance that the others had been killed in the explosion or shot in the next few minuets. Which made Brendan want to know why they where still alive even more, why they’d been spared. But there was no way in hell he was asking. No telling what the tall Evangelon would do if he was pissed off.
His name was Pyro, obviously coming from the fact he was a low level fire Talent. Pyro was in charge, Jiva it seemed, was his apprentice. There was one other person permanently in the infirmary. An Evangelon they where keeping unconscious with what little drugs they had. She seemed like she was in pretty bad shape. Probably wouldn’t live. Other Evangelon came and went with various personalities and injuries. They kept talking about ambushes, fighting and someone named Tempest but Brendan couldn’t always hear the details. The one named Mara was there a lot more than the others and she always had a little girl named Yuki with her. But there was no one there now.
Brendan looked around. Pyro was pacing, an angry look on his face. It was getting late, the sun was setting outside the one window. Pyro sent Jiva to bed. Normally, Pyro would light the candle by the Evangelon’s bed and stay up keeping watch on her. She was really sick, from what Brendan could tell, she was fighting some sort of fever or infection on top of wounds she’d already had before. She needed constant attention, she’d woken up screaming twice.
But for some reason, tonight was different. Pyro was waiting for something. Brendan would normally have been asleep by now, but tonight he wanted to see what was going to happen. “Damn it, Rain.” Pyro muttered. He sat down in the chair next to Evy. He was pissed and, Brendan couldn’t believe it, he looked worried. For a long time, nothing happened. Brendan was almost asleep when the door opened.
Rain walked in. It had taken Brendan a long time before he finally remembered who she was. Rain was the Talent from his father’s files. She was about five foot nine now, much older too, about fifteen, maybe sixteen. Her hair was shorter but her eyes where the same, maybe harder, if that was even possible. Snow was melting on her destroyed leather jacket and tattered cargo pants. She rubbed her right hand absently. Brendan saw relief flicker over Pyro’s face. “I didn’t think you’d come.” Pyro said. “Willow had me up on watch. It’s all I’m good for these days.” Rain said, sounding slightly pissed. Pyro sighed and stood up. “How’s the hand?” Pyro asked. Rain stopped rubbing her hand abruptly and stuck it into her jacket pocket. “My hand is fine. Now can we get this over with?”
Pyro sighed and motioned toward an empty bed. Rain pulled her jacket off and dropped it onto the sheets as she sat down on the bed’s edge. She had her back to Brendan and he could see her move one of her wings into a better position while the other was still taped into place. Blood was seeping through the bandages. “How’s Evy?” Rain asked. Pyro frowned. “The infection is spreading, she needs medicine, real medicine.” Rain sighed. Pyro used scissors to slice through the bandages on Rain’s shoulder. “How does your shoulder feel?” Pyro asked as he inspected the hole in the front of her shoulder. “Like shit.” Rain snapped. Pyro gave an exasperated sigh as he stepped away. He rubbed his head like he had a headache. “Well, it seems to be healing well. No sign of infection. You should try not to move it for a bit longer, but it should heal completely.” Pyro re-bandaged it quickly than moved around to her back.
“Rain, I’m going to need you to hold onto your wing while I do this.” Rain grabbed it and held on as Pyro pulled away the bandages. He looked at it for a long time without saying anything. “It’s not getting any better.” Rain said. Pyro didn’t answer. “Take them out. All of them.” Rain commanded. Pyro started bandaging it again. “No.” He said firmly. “There’s got to be some way, just do it. I’ll be fine!” Rain demanded angrily. “There’s not. You know that.”
“Damn it! Don’t tell me that! I will not be made useless by something like this!” Rain whirled to face Pyro, her wing was ripped from his hands. Pyro grabbed for it, but it was too late. Brendan watched as Rain’s face contorted in pain. She didn’t say anything, didn’t even make a sound. Rain just bit her lip until blood started to well. Pyro on the other hand did, loudly. “Rain. Don’t move. Just don’t move.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.” Rain said through clenched teeth. Pyro eventually got Rain to lay on her stomach while he examined her wing. When he pulled his hands away, they where dripping with blood. He swore and rushed around the room grabbing supplies. Rain still didn’t speak, but her hand was clenched in the sheets, crushing them in her fist. Pyro came back and started cleaning off blood, but it looked like he was fighting a losing battle. “How bad is it?” Rain asked calmly and evenly. That was a little scary, only an Evangelon could have be so calm in so much pain. “I’ll tell you when I stop you from bleeding out.” Pyro snapped. Rain didn’t say anything else.
Brendan couldn’t see what Pyro was doing but from the way he was moving, Brendan could guess this wasn’t the first time he’d treated this kind of wound. Brendan watched with mingled horror and fascination as Pyro worked. The amount of blood amazed him. Finally, Pyro’s face morphed into something very close to defeat, then with agonizing slowness, Pyro pulled something from the wound.
Rain made a sound that was almost a choked whimper and tightened her death grip on the sheets. Pyro held a sliver of something, thin, about two inches long. Pyro tossed it away but not before Brendan saw the white spots revealed where Pyro’s fingers had touched it. It was bone. Brendan couldn’t help feeling pity. There was no way that didn’t hurt like hell. It had to be agony. Finally, with a look of deep sorrow on his face, Pyro bandaged the wound twice as tightly. “Well?” Rain asked, breaking the silence. Pyro washed the blood off his hands; there was a lot of it. Then he finally answered. “I managed to stop the bleeding, but if there ever was a chance of using that wing again it’s gone now. I can’t let you move it again, ever. If I hadn’t been here, you would have died.” There was a heavy silence. “I’m sorry, Rain.”
“Yeah well, we all are, aren’t we?” She left. Brendan didn’t sleep for a long time.
I lowered myself down, hanging from my right arm, and dropped the rest of the way to the ground. I still couldn’t really use my left arm. Seven days. Seven days since my life had moved to a lower level of hell. And hell it was, all my life no matter what happened, I could fight back. Now, I couldn’t and I was useless, a liability. It was killing me. I wasn’t able to do even the smallest thing on my own, I couldn’t take it anymore. Not one more second. I turned and slammed my fist into the wall as hard as I could. It didn’t help, it only made me feel more useless, more angry. All I’d done was stain the wall with blood from knuckles that had punched one too many walls. Uselessly. Suddenly, I wanted the wall dead. I wanted, no, needed to prove I could do something. Anything. Anything to prove I wasn’t useless.
I slammed my other fist into the wall. I felt scabs crack as my shoulder screamed. Not good enough. I flattened both my hands against the wall and let all my anger and frustration boil out. Snow hissed and boiled. It surged up around me, wreathing violently and hissing as it boiled. I slammed it into the wall again and again. Concrete shattered and bit into my face. I kept going and going. I didn’t know why I was doing this, but I couldn’t stop. It felt good. I didn’t have to think for this. Only destroy. Only hate.
Then, finally, it was over. All my anger was gone, I’d used all of it up. In its place was a deep agonizing silence. Pain. Agony. Emptiness. Useless. Completely useless. No way to go forward. I felt something suspiciously like tears burning at the back of my eyes. Reflex took hold. No way in hell I was going to cry. If nothing else, I wasn’t weak. My anger returned again, a comforting, familiar feeling. It was better than feeling pain. I forced myself back off the floor where I’d fallen once exhaustion had driven me to my knees. I should go find Mara, she always wanted to fight and I needed something to do. Anything. Maybe I’d finally beat her this time. Maybe she’d hit me hard enough so that I’d never have to think again.
“Rain.” I looked up. Willow was standing in the door to my room, looking sad. She beckoned for me to follow her and disappeared into my room. I followed her. She led me into the bathroom and handed me a towel. I took it from her and despite my anger and exhaustion I was a little amused. Honestly, I was beginning to think they smuggled these things in. “Clean up your hands.” Willow commanded. I did. The faucet screeched as I turned it and then I stuck my hands into the icy water. I could have heated it with my Talent, but I didn’t want to. Willow sat on the tiny counter and leaned her head back against the mirror. Her eyes slid shut and I could see pale purple circles under them. She looked exhausted and vulnerable, something I’d never seen from her before. I turned off the faucet and leaned on the counter next to her. I knew she had something to say but I wasn’t in the mood to talk. I figured it would be better to just let her say what she had to say without a fight.
Willow sighed and dropped her head onto a raised knee. “I’m so tired, so sick of this. So sick of this planet. This life. Most days, I think that that day is the last one I can take. I’m so scared always. I’m scared that someone else will die. I wake up every morning wondering if someone died while I was sleeping.” She stopped speaking with an angry sigh. I stood next to her silently, taking it all in. There was no need to digest what she’d said, we all felt it, the death constantly looming over our heads. But how she was acting, that was new. Evangelon never revealed vulnerability to others, it made us weak and showed a potential threat, a chink in your armor. It meant trusting someone else with a part of yourself. We didn’t do that down here, not unless we wanted to die. Or you just didn’t care anymore.
“I know. I know my plan could very well get us all killed. But staying here is a death sentence all the same. We have to get out. I’ve already talked to the others. Fox has decided to do it. Mara does what’s best for Yuki, she’ll come too if it’s to give Yuki a better chance at a life. That leaves you, Rain. If you decide not to go and leave our clan, others will go with you.” I snapped my eyes to Willow’s face. She nodded gravely. “They trust you, and your judgment, Rain. Whatever else has happened since you came here, you’ve become one of us. I know if you oppose me, at least some of the others will decide to stay with you. You, here, is the safer choice. The easier one.” She fell silent again for a moment. “If we’re going to do this, we’ll need all of us together.”
“You’ve decided then? You’re really doing this?” I asked Willow. “….Yes.” She answered with another tired sigh. I hesitated for a little while, watching as the bruises grew on my damaged knuckles. Was I sure I wanted to do this? Yes. I didn’t think there was a chance this would work, but I saw Willow’s logic and a little irrational part of me was hoping like hell we could pull it off. I guess I was sick of death too, enough to sacrifice my life for a long shot at peace. “Willow.” She looked up at last. “I’m in.” I said. We let the silence settle for a long time. “You’re sure?” Willow asked quietly. I thought of Evy, lying broken and bleeding, Marks and Aya, who had never gotten the chance to rest, even after surviving the war. Yuki, Mara’s adopted daughter, only six, she’d never spoken and she was doomed to this hell. I turned and met Willow’s eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
Willow nodded and slid off the counter. She opened the door and then stopped. She turned back. “Rain?”
“Yeah?” I asked. She seemed to hesitate for a long time then smiled, face briefly showing her relief with the smallest upturn of her lips. “Thank you, Rain.” She left, shutting the door behind her. I leaned my head against the mirror. So this was it. We were going to do it. Haven, the last refuge of the humans. If Willow thought we had a chance, we just might. But I knew this was little more than a deathtrap. But if it did work….. I lifted my hand to my left wing. But I just couldn’t think about it anymore. Time to find Mara. I looked up at the sky through the tiny, frosted window. Heavy gray snow clouds were rolling in again. Third time this week. It was getting dark too, it was late.
Mara was probably in her room by now. I walked out into the hall and a massive snowflake hit my face. I cringed as I stepped into the ankle deep slush lining the hall. If Willow was dragging me on this suicide mission, Haven had better have grass. The real kind. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen the stuff, but hell, why shouldn’t I at least get to see some before I died? Willow was right, at least part of me would rather die there than here. It would be a hard slap to the human’s faces and it would be warm. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been warm. It would be a small victory, and it would probably be quicker too, I thought with a small laugh. I shook my head and went to find Mara.
“You’re absolutely certain?” Willow asked him, deathly serious. “Yes. If you say you’ve taken me hostage, they’ll do whatever you say.” The man with the clearance said. His name was Jameson or Jackson or something. I didn’t quite remember and frankly, I didn’t care. “All of our conditions, to the letter?” Selena asked intently, “Are you totally certain? If you’re lying, they may manage to kill us but we’ll take you with us, be certain of that.” He blanched. “Yes, yes, they’ll do it. It’s the way these things work. If they all sign the contract they won’t go back on it. They’ll be risking their careers, no one trusts someone who can’t follow a contract, even if it is to kill Evangelon.” The man said hurriedly. “Oh no, whatever will they all do without their precious careers? And I thought I had problems.” I snapped bitterly. Willow shot me a warning glare, I returned it. “I think this is just too convenient for us, here you are, all eager to play hostage for us because you want to be ‘redeemed’ for your ‘daughters’ lives? Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right.” I sneered, letting my anger seep into my voice.
“Well, sorry to ruin your crazy-man fantasies, but we’re not actually stupid. No one is sorry for what they did to us. They’ve had six years to be sorry and they’ve done nothing. Our parents sold us for a pile of money, then turned around and hated us, called us monsters for becoming something we couldn’t change! Does that sound sorry to you? No one of you is sorry. So spill the real reason you want to help us or get the hell out.” He flinched hard. “It’s true!” He insisted. “Anything I can do to repay in part what I did to those girls. Everything you said is true, but what should I have done, what could I have done? It wasn’t in my hands. That girl, the one in the infirmary, the really young one? She’s not going to make it, is she? After seeing that how could I leave her to suffer here? It’s wrong, just like what I did to my daughters, I won’t let it happen again.” He was lying, just a little. It was driving me insane. I couldn’t even begin to believe him until he told the whole truth. The most infuriating part was I couldn’t seem to separate the truth from his lies. He was a very good liar, rival to any one of us.
But what he said about Evy was true. Her infection was spreading, getting worse, the wounds weren’t healing right. Pyro didn’t have the medicine he needed. It was tearing him apart, killing him. It was wrong to let Evy suffer and die, but I wasn’t about to let this guy change the subject.
“How do we know all this is true, how do we know you’re who you say you are? How do we know they won’t just blow us up? A caring guy like you would make a sacrifice for his people wouldn’t he, sixteen of the monsters for his life? To protect them from the world below?” I asked, adopting the cool, calm voice I’d learned from Willow. The man mumbled something. Fox spoke over him. “I had Sipher look over the badge we found on him. He says it’s real or the most amazing forgery he’s ever seen.” I nodded at Fox, I hadn’t thought of asking Sipher to look at it, forger and hacker that he was. That had been stupid of me, but Fox had so it didn’t matter now. I turned back to the man. “So what’s your explanation? What’s keeping you from telling them to sacrifice yourself to save your comrades from the Evangelon?”
I planted my hands on the table and leaned across towards him. “Well?” He mumbled again and got cut off by choking coughs. I raised my eyebrows and waited. Willow’s silent glare was digging into my back, she wanted diplomacy. She wanted to start on friendly terms with the humans. That was ridiculous. I was moving things along faster as it was. Diplomacy and humans was like oil and vinegar. Diplomacy had never gotten us anything before, and it never would.
He finally looked up and cleared his throat. He swallowed twice before speaking. “My son is here too, by accident. That’s why I won’t have them blow up the ship.” His son? Now that I actually thought about it, the dark haired boy was way too young to be a mercenary. Most of them were holdovers from the war, boys who’d joined up young and didn’t know anything else. But that particular boy had been too young. On top of that, he obviously didn’t know how to shoot. So that was his son, a very useful peace of information. If we needed to, we could use that to keep Jackson Lucien here in line. This guy was an idiot. That was definitely in our favor. “And what exactly do you do on Haven that’s so damn important?” We had already asked that, but I wanted more details, more time to try to sort out his lies from what was the truth. “I’m a doctor, a highly skilled and respected one. I run Haven’s hospital and I serve on the Command Syndicate as the medical advisor.” He stated confidently, glad to be back on firm ground. He was telling the complete and total truth, for once. I felt my eyes narrow.
“And what was a doctor doing on a ship full of mercenaries?” I asked. Then the front doors crashed open. “Get Pyro!” Sipher’s voice echoed down the hall. The scavenging party was back, and if they needed Pyro, it wasn’t good. Shit. I glanced at the man. But I had to leave him for later.
I was in the hall first, it was already a bloody mess. They’d been attacked. Shit. Mara stumbled into me, drenching me in blood, she forced something into my arms then slid to the floor. That made my blood run cold with horror. If they’d managed to take down Mara, there was no telling what they’d done to the rest of our clan. I looked around, but everyone was there. The thing Mara had put in my arms moved. I looked down and realized it was Yuki, she was covered in blood but she seemed fine, it was probably all Mara’s. I wasn’t surprised, Mara would die before she let anyone touch Yuki, and she’d come way too close tonight.
I whirled around and found Fox. I shoved Yuki into his arms. “Take her to her room, get her cleaned up.” I ordered, then I fought my way back into the mess. Selena brushed by me, half carrying Reza who was only half conscious and had blood everywhere. There was a dark red hole in his shoulder, he’d been shot, probably more than once. I found Mara by the door, she’d managed to prop herself up but it wasn’t going to last much longer. Not with the amount of blood that was flowing onto the floor around her. I dragged her to her feet and slung her good arm over my shoulder and grabbed her belt with my other hand. My still healing shoulder screamed in agony. I forced it to take her weight. Though it would have been easier to wrap my arm around her waist I was afraid to touch that side of her body, it was shredded. Blood started to trickle across my fingers. I held on the best that I could and started towards the infirmary. Mara stumbled and we almost both fell. Mara managed to get herself straight again, but I could tell blood loss was taking its toll.
We made it into the dinning room and Mara croaked something. I realized she was trying to speak. I stopped for a minute. Mara licked her lips and tried again. “Yuki?” She finally managed to ask. I started forward again. “She’s fine.” I told Mara as I dragged her into the infirmary. I looked around but almost every bed was filled. Pyro was busy with Sipher, and as I watched popped Sipher’s arm back into its socket. No help was coming from over there. I got Mara onto an empty bed and she finally let herself pass out. I’m not a doctor by a long shot, but I was pretty sure what I was seeing wasn’t good. I snagged Jiva as she ran by. She shoved some bandages and a bottle of water into my hands. “Clean her up, I’ll get over to you when I can.” She ran off again. Great. Flippin great. Like I knew how to do this. But luckily for me, or maybe not, I’d know if I screwed up. Mara would tell me, probably loudly with lots of nasty words. I did have my Talent though, and that at least was solidly in my favor.
I unscrewed the cap on the water bottle and pulled the water out before dropping the empty bottle on the bed. Everything was bleeding so I just started at the top. She had a cut on her temple that was bleeding a lot. I brought the water down and swept it over the blood as gently as I could. I lifted the water back up and separated the blood out. I left it floating over the bed, I didn’t have time to figure out where Pyro wanted it. Mara’s wounds where more serious than I’d thought. None of the cuts and slashes where so deep that they where life threatening on their own, but Mara had so many that she was bleeding out. The white sheet was getting stained crimson.
I didn’t have time to bandage every cut, I knew enough to be sure of that. I made a decision. Blood was already welling in the cut on her head again. I froze it in the cut. I didn’t know if that was smart or it would make things worse but it was already melting. I ignored it and started working my way down, freezing the cuts over her neck and cleaning her up as much as I could as I went. The worst damage was to her left shoulder, it looked like she’d run into something with very large claws, not an Evangelon with a gun. I did her shoulder carefully as I could but I knew Pyro was going to have to look at this. I finished up and moved down. Her side wasn’t in much better shape. “How did you do this?” I asked, freezing another wound shut.
I was surprised when I got an answer. “Mik was there. Shot at Yuki.” Damn. Mara must have taken off after him, leaving the others behind and unguarded. But at least that explained the insane wounds. “Idiot” I muttered. Mara hissed as another slash froze over. This was particularly deep. “What the hell are you doing?” She snapped as I did another one. “Saving your life, now shut up!” And for once, she did. I cleaned the last wound on her leg. One left.
It was a stab wound in her right shoulder Mara had tied with a length of ripped cloth. “Did you kill him?” I asked as I used Mara’s knife to slice through the bandages. Mara grunted as I swept the blood away and then smirked. “Oh Yeah.” I froze that last wound and ignored Mara as she swore at me. I made her lift her head so I could bandage the slash on her head. It had started bleeding again. So Mara’s battle was finally over, it almost seemed wrong.
Mik and Mara had some really bad blood between them. It surprised me a little that they’d finally finished it after all these years. Once I’d managed to get Mara to tell me about him, with the aid of some strong pain killers Pyro had given to her for a smashed arm, the injury given to her by the very same Mik. Once upon a time they’d been in the same platoon and they’d been ahead running recon. The rest of their platoon had been captured and when Mik and Mara turned back to help them, the last living two had surrendered. After rescuing them, Mik shot them for surrendering. Mara never forgave him. As if that wasn’t enough they’d been made into Special Forces partners. That didn’t last long, Mik left Mara for dead the first chance he got. Mara got out on her own; only to find out Mik had reported her killed in action. He’d already been promoted to Hawk. Mara was moved into the Hawks as well, probably to keep her from killing Mik. Humans didn’t give a shit whether we lived or died personally, but they liked to keep their good assassins alive as long as possible.
Jiva tapped me shoulder and took over for me. I dropped the blood into a bucket she held out. I left and went out into the dinning room. I decided I really hated playing doctor and I wasn’t going to do it again if I had a choice. Willow, Selena and Fox were already out there as well, as usual, Pyro was busy. I surveyed the pile of supplies in the corner automatically. We had enough for three weeks now, thank to a lucky find the day before. It would have been over a month without the humans. We got by on a lot less than them, our bodies where more efficient, we ate less and healed faster. The infirmary door swung open again. Sipher walked out, limping a little. He was the least injured and had apparently gotten kicked out. He took a look at us and sighed. He knew what we where waiting for. Sipher sighed and pulled a chair out from an unused table and flipped it around before sitting backwards on it, arms folded over the top. Sipher took off his dark sunglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his other hand. He didn’t need us to ask him to tell us what happened.
“It was starting to get late and we hadn’t found anything. Not anything. It was picked completely clean. Mara made the call, but we were all thinking it. We went up to the port.” The port was up north on the hazy borderline between our clan’s territory and Tempest’s. It was a risk to go there, one I was surprised they’d taken. “We didn’t see anyone, and believe me, we checked. They got us the minute we landed. One of those goddamned rockets hit a truck. Oil tanker or something. Tore us to pieces.” He shook his head and slid his glasses back onto his thin nose. “We made a run for it, we caught a few bullets but they didn’t seem to wanna chase us. If they had, they would have killed one of us at least, probably more, maybe all of us. Mara disappeared, but she caught up about halfway home. You know the rest.” Sipher waited. Willow nodded slowly. “Go get some rest, Sipher.” She said softly.
Sipher stood up and left. I collapsed into his chair and put my feet up on the table in front of me. “Shit.” I muttered to no one in particular. “I second that.” Selena muttered. Then she turned and kicked the table I had my legs on across the room. It shattered against the wall. The anger in the room was almost tangible. Even Fox, normally calm and collected, was struggling for control. I wanted to scream, to destroy something, anything. For god’s sake! This was my own sister! How had things spun this far out of control? I wanted to make her pay. As if walking out on me wasn’t enough she’d decided to kill me and my whole clan, the only family I’d ever known. And the hardest part of all that? The hardest part was knowing there was nothing I could do. She’d won. Once and for all, Tempest had finally defeated me.
“Most of the them are going to be out of commission for a couple of days.” Fox said, looking towards the door of the infirmary. “No shit.” I muttered through clenched teeth. “Damn. If only Tempest wasn’t so strong. Her clan is smaller, but she’s got better fighters. The ones who like to fight. The ones who aren’t afraid to die.” Willow gripped the back of one of the brittle chairs so hard it started to crack. “Don’t lie to yourself, Willow. All she’s got are the psychopaths, like her. The ones who’ve let their minds go.” I said angrily. “What you call them doesn’t change it. She’s got us in a corner. I’d have us run, but she’d follow us. Wherever we go.” The chair groaned as she tightened her grip even more. I leaned forward and hung my head. Then sighed.
“Do it.” I said. Tempest might have beaten me but there was one last insane way for me to strike back. One way to get everyone out alive. I looked up into Willow’s gold flecked eyes, watching me curiously. “Take us to Haven. Soon.”
It two weeks to finalize all the plans. During that time no one left the hotel. We went over every inch of the plan. Every member of the clan chewed over every last detail. Still, it hardly seemed real, this insane plan of ours. We’d done our best to ensure our safety, made sure to leave a way back to Earth if things went bad. Then again, there was no way Haven was close to as bad as here. The problem was, at least here, we knew what to expect. But what the hell, if humans were more un-predictable, humans where easier to kill if it came to that. The first step, obviously, was to contact Haven with our demands. Jackson Lucien had told us where he thought an old military outpost was one that probably had a radio we could use to contact Haven. He’d given a pathetic excuse for how he knew that. He claimed he’s served as a medic on the front here, but one look was enough to tell this man had never been anywhere near a battle before. He’d passed out when he saw some of the wounds from the last time Tempest’d attacked us. It was suspicious, but it didn’t change anything, whatever he really was doing wouldn’t affect the plan. Not if we kept an eye on him.
We were all in the dinning room. The two human mercenaries had their hands tied and would be walking separately, we already knew they were trouble. They were gagged too. They sat in the corner with the other two humans while Nikk and Cole watched them. I wasn’t worried they’d try to escape. They’d never survive a week without our help and they all knew that. But it did give Nikk and Cole something to do, which helped the rest of us. We’d sorted and divided all that was left of our food. We had about a week’s worth left. If this didn’t work we’d be pretty hungry for a while and there was no way we could keep the humans under those conditions. We wouldn’t have a reason to either.
“Everything ready?” Willow appeared from behind me. I glanced around again but I was certain we hadn’t left anything. Pyro had gotten all his medical supplies himself, our food hadn’t been really hard to divide up. Ammunition was given out. I didn’t have a whole lot left, even with the supplies from the shuttle and what little we’d had in the vault. “Yeah. That’s all of it.” I told her. She nodded then turned away again. “Finnish it up, we’re leaving!” She yelled at the group. Someone tapped my shoulder. I had a sinking feeling I knew who it was. I turned and saw Nikk and Cole behind me. I wasn’t sure which was which, but they typically did stuff together so it didn’t normally matter. “Where do you want us boss?” Nikk, or maybe Cole, asked. I was going with Nikk. “Nikk, get your brother and..”
“I’m Cole.” Cole/Nikk cut me off. I took a deep breath. “Okay. Cole, get Nikk and you two are gonna get Evy’s stretcher.” He and Nikk turned and started walked towards the back of the room. Then Cole turned back again.
“By the way, I AM Nikk.” I swear I felt my eye twitch. “Do you even know who you are?” I snapped. They looked at each other and shrugged. “No. Not really.” It was hard to believe these two where actually Evangelon. They where too pretty for it too, all blond hair and blue eyes. Yet somehow, I envied them. They stared our shithole life in the face and still managed to laugh. Out of all of us, they retained their happiness. I shook myself and tried to kill my jealousy. Happiness didn’t keep you alive. It was an unnecessary luxury, Nikk and Cole had been damn lucky to keep it.
I had a job to do. I could take care of this later. I was supposed to be watching Jackson Lucien. I couldn’t fly and Willow trusted me, so I was stuck with babysitting duty. I walked reluctantly to where the humans sat, trying to whisper. Not surprising, they hadn’t known about the move until a few moments ago, Except for Jackson, but we’d been keeping him separate. Jackson leaned against the wall in the same clothes he’d shown up in, now bloodied and torn and reeking. “Get up.” I commanded. He stumbled to his feet, apparently still week. I gave him another once over and I didn’t see anything, but something was still throwing me off about him. As I studied him, he glanced up and met my eyes. For a moment, he wasn’t the meek, broken prisoner he was pretending to be. Something was there, in his eyes. Then it was gone. He looked away again, the picture of a frightened hostage. I was filled with a bone deep unease. The kind you felt when something wasn’t right, when you where about to be attacked. The calm before a storm.
Jackson’s son looked up and I met his eyes. He was good at hiding his emotions in his face, I’d give him that. But his eyes were still broadcasting them full color. Helpless anger was flaring in the dark brown depths. I smirked. I couldn’t help enjoying seeing him suffering the same way we’d had to suffer for so long. Now he’d always know how it felt to never know what’s going to happen to you, that the people keeping you alive could change their minds at any moment and kill you. It burned. I knew it did. I was happy for that tiny piece of revenge. I could see he was getting angrier seeing the glee on my face, but still, he managed to keep his face still.
“Come on.” I turned and started walking towards the main lobby and the front of our small line. Already my happiness was fading, it was a hollow victory and seeing us all together like this was a painful reminder of what we’d lost in the past few weeks. Fox met my eyes from across the room. I could tell he wanted to know how much I trusted this, how much I believed this could work. I looked away. I didn’t have an answer, for him or myself. I’d agreed, true, but only in the heat of the moment, now I was having doubts. So for now I was following where Willow lead, with both eyes open and guns loaded. I kept walking, making sure I heard Jackson’s footsteps behind me.
Willow was waiting for me at the door. “Ready?” She asked. “Yeah.” I answered. Looking back at the line, everyone else was ready as well. Most of the Evangelon would be flying for recon as well as to spread us out a little more, make it harder for Tempest to figure out exactly where we where heading. The injured ones would be guarding the humans and carrying stretchers. This wasn’t safe by any means, and we all knew that. Some of us where going to get hurt. “Move out!” Willow ordered.
I went out first. It was snowing softly and dusk had just begun to set in. I walked to the edge of the village before turning back to watch. Selena sidestepped Jackson and stood next to me as we watched our clan fan out, abandoning our home. “Think we’ll get out without Tempest noticing?” I asked Selena. If Tempest found us like this we were wide open for an attack. Nightfall wouldn’t help us much. “No.” Selena said. Before I could stop it, a small angry sound escaped my lips. The last of our clan had left the hotel and Willow stood by the door, her hand clutching Pyro’s, as they went. “How long do you think we have until they find us?” Willow pulled her hand from Pyro’s and started to walk away. He put his arms around her and she buried her face in his shirt for a moment. “I’m not sure. Not long though. We’ve been acting too odd. She’s watching us.”
“Probably.” Willow reached up and kissed Pyro. Selena and I turned an