Evo-lved Citizens: The Rise of Heolstor

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 6 (v.1) - Noble Sacrifice

Submitted: August 14, 2019

Reads: 13

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Submitted: August 14, 2019

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It all happened so fast. The Rogue, that had moments ago pinned Dani against the broken sidewalk, erupted into a fiery maelstrom! It was then that Dani understood. She was the person the Rogue had been trying to kill this whole time. After years of being told that she should be prepared for a Rogue’s interest in using her powerful chemical manipulation Evo, this wasn’t what she’d expected. She did her best to brace for impact, imagining that these were her final moments on Earth.

“Dani!” yelled Kai.

“Dani, no! Stop!” screamed Gideon hysterically.

Suddenly, everything was very still. The heat remained nearly unbearable, but the swirling, thick ash strewn air fell away while the fire flew out to either side of where Dani lay. She raised her head slowly and glanced around her. This wasn’t her Evo, but it was definitely someone’s. Dani’s eyes shifted to Kai’s, who looked just as surprised as she was. Gideon, on the other hand, had thrown his arms out to either side of him, his brow furrowed and his eyes shut, almost like he was using all of his strength to try to hold back what was about to happen to Dani.

“Gideon?” questioned Dani.

Dani’s first thought was that Gideon really was the one holding the Rogue back, but that couldn’t be possible. He was Evoless, wasn’t he? Dani looked around her, and through the momentary standstill smokescreen of volcanic ash to the Rogue above. He seemed to be sneering excitedly, his gleaming red eyes flickering at Gideon.

“Dani!”

A sharp pain pierced Dani’s back right side as she was pushed sideways. The unforgiving cobbled sidewalk collided with her left elbow, sending a new wave of pain across her body and Dani heard herself cry out! Dani gripped the uneven rounded stones on the ground, steadying herself as she whipped her head behind her to see who had shoved her aside. It was Kai. He made eye contact with her in that moment, his hazel eyes almost green against the soot on his face, and then, he was engulfed in the hellfire that was meant for Dani.

“Kai!” screeched Dani.

She clawed her way to her feet, choking, once again, on the fine particles swirling around her. Out of the corner of her eye, Dani could see Gideon pause in startled confusion.

“You idiot!” yelled Dani, “Kai!”

Dani rushed to his side, sticking her hands into the fire and smoke that imprisoned her friend. The searing pain caused Dani to immediately retract her hands, as they blistered from the heat. But Dani wasn’t about to give up! She was going to get Kai out of there!

“Hang on, Kai!” reassured Dani.

She tried to initiate an endothermic reaction, but the Rogue’s Evo was too strong!

“No, no, no!” cried out Dani desperately, “Come on!”

Dani gritted her teeth in frustration and then peered in through where the Rogue held Kai. She caught a glimpse of him struggling, and she knew he didn’t have a lot of time left by the way his flailing limbs started falling faster and faster. Her mind raced as she tried to find a solution to save her friend, but the pain interrupted her thoughts from where her arms had been burned, preventing her from thinking as clearly as she needed to. What could she do!? Dani knew she had to find a way to ignore the pain, to think through the pain! Just what could she do!?

Chemical reactions she had studied over the last few years zipped across her mind, and she watched electrons interrupt bonds to form new molecules as she considered the possibilities around her as quickly as possible. Just as she decided on a chemical reaction that would have undoubtedly had dangerous repercussions, a similar event to what happened earlier occurred and the Rogue’s Evo was cleared completely by a singular path of wind. Dani felt her hair pushed back by the gentle breeze as her eyes fell on a young man in his late-twenties. His golden brown hair was wavy and fell to his shoulders, and his amber eyes reflected brilliantly despite the layered tones of gray around them. The man was tall and thin, almost gangly, even though his reputation preceded him as one of the most prominent Exemplars of the age.

“Zephyr,” muttered the Rogue behind Dani.

“Let that boy go,” demanded Zephyr.

The air around Dani quivered, similar to when atmospheric pressure shifts before a raging thunderstorm, and Dani’s skin tingled with equal anticipation as she watched Zephyr approach her.

“Let that boy go,” repeated Zephyr.

His tone shifted, introducing a dangerous edge that even Dani felt compelled to obey, but the Rogue simply sneered. What happened next was nothing short of shocking. Kai’s body suddenly went rigid, and then it was limp. Dani watched from where she was, her mind processing what she witnessed in some sort of slow motion time lapse that seemed to go on forever.

“Kai?” asked Dani quietly.

His body fell to the ground, lifeless, and Kai didn’t shift. Dani stared ahead, her vision blurred with hot, wet tears that streaked her dirty face as she considered the worst possible outcome. Kai couldn’t be…. It was supposed to be her!

“No!” yelled Zephyr.

Typhoon-like winds swept the immediate area, and Dani was blown away from where Kai lay, all by himself and at the mercy of that Rogue!

“Agh! Kai! No, Kai!” screeched Dani wildly.

She had to get to him! She had so much she had yet to say! Like how wrong she was about him! After all, he was the one who had risked his life! Not just for her, but for Gideon, who was Evoless! Kai had actually sacrificed himself for someone Dani never thought Kai was capable of saving, and then he went ahead and saved her too! Even though she had said all of those awful things to him earlier that day! How could she have been so insensitive! She didn’t know anything! She had been so wrong about him! Kai couldn’t leave now, not when she had so much to say to him!

Dani was grabbed in midair by something hard and rough. It felt like stone pieces that were fused together, and when Dani turned to see what it was, she saw that it was Atlas. He was in his Evo form, which was withstanding the high wind speeds around them.

“Hang on!” yelled Atlas, “I’m gonna get you guys out of here! It’s too dangerous!”

Atlas was going to what? Wait, that couldn’t happen! Not without them getting to Kai! Dani started to struggle, willing herself to have enough strength to loosen the grip that Atlas had around her waist so that she could rescue Kai! She couldn’t just leave him in a place like that! Not when it should’ve been her that had died!

Much to her surprise, Dani wasn’t the only one who felt that way. On the side of Atlas, Dani caught a glimpse of someone else who was kicking and screaming to get away as well. Upon second glance, Dani realized it was Gideon! The fierce wind swept his dark tousled hair to one side, and his soot-covered face was streaked where tears had carved paths through the ash.

“No-ooo! Kai! Kai!!!!” screamed Gideon, “Let me go, Kai!”

“You can’t do anything for him now!” yelled back Atlas, “Let Zephyr handle this! I have to get you to safety, young man, or you could die!”

An eerie moan swept through the area then, and Dani shifted her attention back to where Zephyr was fighting the Rogue that had moments ago claimed Kai’s life. The Rogue had grown at least twenty feet in height and was filled with smoke so black, Dani felt she could be sucked into it. For a second, everything went silent, and then the Rogue’s insides erupted into a spiraling hell fire that spewed from his mouth a moment later. The blast was aimed for Zephyr, but the Exemplar dispelled it easily with an invisible barrier of what Dani imagined was a tightly circulated ball of wind.

Some of the dispersed attack found its way over to where Atlas was in the process of trying to remove Dani and Gideon from the area. Atlas threw Dani and Gideon onto the ground, and then threw his body over them to protect them from the scalding wind. It was just the opportunity that Dani needed to head back towards where Kai was, but much to Dani’s surprise, she wasn’t the one who acted first. Gideon beat her to it. He rushed back to where Kai was, and Atlas chased after him, urging Dani to stay put. Dani hesitated. It’s not that she didn’t want to get to Kai, because she did, but wouldn’t she just be getting in the way? The whole reason this happened to begin with was because of her. If only she had done what she was told to do, and if only she had stopped herself from revealing her Evo back in gym class on the first day of school, then none of this would have happened! A Rogue wouldn’t have been alerted to her Evo, and he wouldn’t have wanted to go after her! To kill her!

“Arghhhh!” screamed Gideon.

Dani shifted her attention to where Gideon had fallen to his knees a few feet ahead of where she stood. Atlas was trying to pull him to his feet, but Gideon seemed to be having a nervous breakdown. He was holding his head between his hands, rocking back and forth, while he was screaming. Around him, debris seemed to shift as if it was slowly being repelled away from where he knelt on the ground, and Dani noticed the Rogue’s eyes shifting between where Gideon was and Dani stood. Zephyr was in front of the Rogue, doing everything he could to hold the devil monster back while minimizing damage to the surrounding area.

It was impulsive, but Dani couldn’t let anything happen to her remaining friend. She ran away from the battle, towards a building at the edge of the shopping district, and as she rushed back, she could hear Atlas call after her. Dani felt her feet pull from underneath her as the wind tugged at her body, but she kept moving, praying she wouldn’t become flying debris. With her own sheer will and by some miracle of heaven, Dani made it to the edge of an engineering building. There, in a large fifty-pound bag, was the salt she needed. Dani grabbed the bag of heavy salt and heaved it along the ground with both hands. The weight of the bag seemed to help stabilize her from the wind as Dani inched closer to where Zephyr was battling the Rogue. Dani knew she couldn’t get in Zephyr’s way while he dealt with the Rogue, so she stopped between Zephyr and where Gideon and Atlas were, spilling the bag of salt in a semicircle around the battle. As she anticipated, the wind from Zephyr’s Evo picked up the salt and it flew around the Rogue. When Dani was done, she glanced back at Atlas, who still had his hands full with Gideon, and Dani knew she was in the clear for what she was about to do next.

She had never done what she was about to do, but she had an idea of how it worked. The endothermic reaction she had performed on herself earlier was propelled beyond the limits of her own body and into the surrounding air. It was catalyzed by Dani’s Evo and reacted with the salt flying around her. The water vapor condensed and ice crystals formed. The surrounding temperature dropped significantly, as the Rogue’s internal flame dulled from the effects of the swirling ice inside his Evo form, and he lost an edge in using his power. Dani saw Zephyr turn back to see who had been responsible for weakening the Rogue and her eyes locked with his for a second, but the strain of the expansive reaction wasn’t easy for Dani to control. This was the first time Dani had attempted a chemical reaction of this magnitude and the strain on her body became apparent very quickly.

Her knees buckled and her legs gave way quickly, causing Dani to fall to the ground. She noticed her breathing labored and she began to sweat, even with the cool ice settling on her burnt skin, forming a temporary release from the heat she had been enduring up to that point. But Dani kept her arms extended, willing herself to control the expansive reaction she committed herself too. There was no telling how far it would go if she relinquished it to the surrounding environment now that it had been catalyzed to the extent she willed it to. So, Dani had no choice but to keep it up until the reactions had run their course.

Ahead of her, Dani watched Zephyr return to his fight. He seemed to understand the weakened state of the Rogue because his battle tactics had changed. Rather than be on the defensive with occasional attacks, Zephyr committed entirely to an offensive strategy. The wind he had parted the smoke and soot with swept up into a major cyclone. The pressure in the air shifted and clouds formed overhead quickly, while lightning crackled. It was a bit terrifying to see such raw power and Dani understood at that moment why Zephyr was recognized as one of the best Exemplars of the age. There was no way the Rogue would be able to get out of this, and he seemed to be aware of that too.

“Ze-Zephyr!” roared the Rogue in defeat.

The cyclone imprisoned the Rogue, sucking in ash, soot, fire, and smoke so that it resembled a twisted cone of what could only be described as hell on Earth. Zephyr then directed the cyclone over the canal water, dousing the entire Rogue and effectively stopping the Rogue’s Evo until nothing but green canal water spun counterclockwise where the Rogue’s Evo form once was. It was then that Zephyr relinquished the Rogue from the cyclone, and with the wind, scooped the Rogue up and out of the water, onto the sidewalk. The Rogue collapsed, coughing and choking up water.

From where Dani knelt, she could hardly recognize the man that had moments ago been engulfed in his own smoky form. His skin was cracked, black volcanic rock that glowed orange from the embers glowing hot beneath his skin, and he was bald with the same red eyes that glinted wherever he looked. It was odd to see that he would have a completely human figure beneath his normal Evo form, but in a way, it made Dani see him as more of a person than a monster in that moment. It was something she felt conflicted about given how many people he had injured and killed that day, one of which was her friend.

Kai. Dani searched around the base of where Zephyr and the Rogue had fought, desperately, until her eyes finally fell on her friend’s body on the ground. Beside Kai was Zephyr. The Exemplar seemed to be yelling at Kai to wake up, while waving his hand above Kai’s head and upper torso. It then dawned on Dani that Zephyr might be actively trying to revive Kai with his Evo, while his Exemplar Alliance team rushed in to arrest the Rogue their leader had defeated.

“Kai!”

Gideon ran past Dani and skidded to a halt by Kai’s side. His eyes were red from crying and his face was even more starkly contrasted with soot and tear-stained marks running parallel down his cheeks and chin. It surprised Dani that Gideon was this worked up over Kai, given that they didn’t exactly get along in school, and it made her wonder why this would be so difficult for Gideon. But before she could dwell on that thought, the slight pressure of a hand on her right shoulder snapped her out of her thoughts.

“It’s over now,” reassured Atlas kindly.

He knelt beside Dani, and Dani’s arms relaxed. She hesitated to bring them down, though, afraid to disengage her Evo. What if the reaction spiraled out beyond the perimeter? Had the salt reacted thoroughly with the water vapor?

“I’m not much of a scientist,” continued Atlas, “But I haven’t seen much more of that ice you made earlier. I think it’s safe to release your Evo.”

Dani looked around her. What Atlas said was true. There wasn’t much in the way of ice formation around them anymore, so Dani stopped her Evo. Her arms fell to her side, twitching from the strain of holding them up for so long while engaged with her Evo. But that didn’t stop her from rushing to Kai’s side.

“Kai!” yelled Dani.

She, too, skidded to a halt beside Kai, and the first thing Dani noticed was that he was in pretty bad shape. His skin had a number of severe burns, and the soot clung to his skin, making him almost charred and broken. It didn’t look like this was even Kai that Dani was seeing, and tears welled up in her eyes, her vision blurring. Kai’s chest rose and fell as Zephyr swept wind in and out of his nose and mouth, extracting layer upon layer of soot that prevented Kai from breathing.

“Come on, Kai,” insisted Zephyr, “You aren’t leaving us like this, kid.”

Dani glanced at Zephyr quizzically. Zephyr knew Kai’s name? Did that mean that Zephyr knew who Kai was? How!?

“Kai, please,” wept Gideon, “Wake up!”

Dani looked over Kai’s face, pushing back some of his ash-blonde hair over his eyes. A layer of sooty dust fell away and Dani’s lip trembled. It all came back to her in that moment. How he had been the only one to actively stand up for her when her Evo had been revealed at school, how he had become her friend when she was shunned and alone, and how, today, he had willingly sacrificed himself to save her when she was at death’s door. It didn’t make any sense to her. Why would he go so far, for her?

“Kai, you idiot,” cried Dani, “What were you thinking!? Why did you do that!? Why did you save me, even after I admonished you!? Are you stupid!?”

Kai didn’t respond. He remained as motionless as ever, and the possibility that Kai would never open his eyes settled heavily on Dani in that moment.

“Hey!” yelled Dani, “Did you hear me!? Do you really think I’ll let you go like this when I still have so much to say to you, you jerk!? When I realized I was completely and pathetically wrong about you! Open your eyes, Kai! Wake up! I won’t forgive you, ever, if you don’t!”

As if responding to her on cue, Kai suddenly jerked awake! He woke up sputtering and coughing, as he heaved what soot remained in his throat.

“I…. I can’t. I can’t breathe!” wheezed Kai.

“Kai!” yelled Dani and Gideon at once.

Gideon cried even harder in his relief, while Dani rubbed Kai’s back, resisting the urge to hug him in that moment. Relief washed over her, and a new wave of fresh tears stung her eyes while she grinned in excessive happiness. Kai was alive!

“Wh-at was, wh-at was th-at exa-ctly?” coughed Kai, “You wo-n’t forgive who no-w?”

Kai’s eyes met Dani’s and there was a flicker of humor reflected there. Dani smirked back, and hurriedly wiped away the tears that were speeding their way down her cheeks and under her chin.

“That’s only if you were stupid enough to actually die on me, idiot,” teased Dani.

Across from Dani, she noticed Zephyr gesture over to on-call medical crews that had gotten the go-ahead to come in. Kai was immediately attended to. An oxygen mask was fixed to his face as a team of medical personnel examined him for potential injuries and to see if it would be safe enough to move him to an ambulance. Other than the fact that Kai had been temporarily smothered by the smoke from the Rogue, nothing else seemed to be terribly wrong with him and he was taken away.

Dani watched him leave painfully. This whole thing had been her fault after all, and she didn’t quite know how she would face Kai again in the near future. As she pushed that thought from her mind, Dani glanced over at Zephyr. He was also watching Kai get loaded into the ambulance, and he seemed contemplative, with his long arms crossed and a stern, concerned expression locked on his face. She figured the right thing to do would be to apologize to him, since she felt guilty for drawing the attention of the Rogue in the first place.

“I’m sorry,” apologized Dani.

Zephyr looked down at her, and her heart leapt into her throat. It dawned on her in that moment that she was speaking to one of the best Exemplars of the age, which was incredibly intimidating. Not only that, but she technically had no legal right to assist Zephyr in a battle against a Rogue, which led her to realize that there were bound to be repercussions of that. But rather than admonish her, Zephyr unexpectedly smiled.

“You did nothing wrong,” reassured Zephyr.

“If I hadn’t carelessly gotten ahead of myself in gym class, the Rogue wouldn’t have sought me out,” admitted Dani, “And I shouldn’t have assisted you in battle. I acted recklessly, but I just couldn’t let anyone else get hurt.”

Zephyr stuck out his bottom lip as if he was considering very seriously what Dani had said. It made her nervous, like she had just handed an Exemplar the right to arrest her for her wrongdoings or something. Once again, though, Zephyr just smirked.

“Evo’s are hard to control when we are younger,” explained Zephyr, “We don’t always know how to control them or hold back. It’s even harder when someone is forced to hide an Evo they have. The thing is, I’ve been made aware of your situation through my Exemplar Alliance team, and your choice to defend yourself in class was reasonable. It led to an unfortunate consequence, but not one that we haven’t dealt with before. It all boils down to the fact that you have a great Evo. If you had a mediocre one, no one would care. Does that make sense?”

Dani nodded.

“As far as what you did today,” shifted Zephyr, “That’s a little different. You acted in the service of a friend, or rather, two friends. I can relate to your wish to want to help them, but you should have stayed out of the way. You interfered with Atlas’ job to protect you, while intentionally endangering yourself. I also might have harmed you with my Evo. Therefore, what you did was reckless and against the law, so I must sternly advocate that you never do it again.”

Dani’s eyes lowered to the ground, accepting the admonishment she was receiving. Beside her, Atlas watched apprehensively and she noticed his hand twitching as if he was a school boy itching to interrupt a teacher’s punishment.

“That being said,” continued Zephyr, “Had you not assisted me the way you did, I’m not sure Kai would be with us right now. Not only do you have an exceptionally gifted Evo, but you are calculated and thoughtful in battle. What you did today is not short of what professional SciTechs do in the wake of their own conflicts against Rogues. For that, I thank you for your precise and measured assistance.”

Dani wasn’t expecting such praise. She stared ahead at Zephyr, her mouth slightly agape in surprise while the kind words he congratulated her with washed over her. Zephyr, the Exemplar Zephyr, actually thought she was on the same level as other SciTechs!? That was the best compliment Dani could have received, not just in that moment, but ever! A wide smile spread across Dani’s face, which she tried to suppress, and she noticed Atlas grinning in approval as well.

“Keep it up, future SciTech,” expressed Atlas.

He patted her shoulder and then walked towards the canal where the rest of his team was. Dani watched the Rogue get loaded into what appeared to be a solid metal container the size of a ten-foot human. The container was something Dani had seen before on television, and they were only used for Rogues with particularly dangerous Evo’s. Known as T.R.A.E.T.S., or The Rogue Anit-Evo Transportation Shuttles, the solid containers suppress Evo’s by being imbued with the Evo of the person they are transporting. At first, it seemed counterintuitive to Dani that this would be the way to hold back powerful Rogues, but when she thought about it, the concept was kind of genius. Every Evo-lved citizen has a weakness, but where do you find a weakness if what you have to face is your own Evo? Not that the containers had the ability to use the Evo’s, but they were imbued with the characteristics of a person’s Evo. So, for the Rogue they fought today, his high temperatures, fire, and exceptionally dangerous ash would become apart of the T.R.A.E.T.S., making it impossible for the Rogue to break free of a normal container unable to hold such extreme temperatures and elements.

“Excuse me, Ms. Payton?”

A medical rescue technician approached Dani for a full assessment. No doubt, Dani expected to be sent to the hospital after Kai, and Gideon was probably headed that way himself. Dani looked around her as she took a seat on parched pavement, which still felt hot from everything that had happened that afternoon. She caught a glimpse of Gideon talking to Zephyr, who patted Gideon on the shoulder before walking away to deal with the pressing media. To Dani’s left, cameras flashed and eager newscasters talked hysterically about the events that had occurred here today. Behind her, Dani wished she hadn’t looked. The clean bright colored shopping district that was a favorite of hers to visit for ice cream and coffee as well as for antique shopping was almost unrecognizable. The buildings burned while firefighters worked to put out the hungry, unforgiving flames and lying beneath the tall shops were at least fifty corpses. There were women and men, and children, stretched out with the last moments of terrified agony clearly displayed on their asphyxiated and charred faces. Dani turned around quickly, choking from the sudden onset of panic and the strain of holding back her tears.

“You’re all right now,” reassured the paramedic attending to Dani, “Just look at me, okay?”

Dani nodded, but her body trembled as she grappled with the true horror of what had really happened here today. In fighting for her own life and for her friends, Dani had remained nearly oblivious to the extent of what the Rogue did and she remembered painfully the moment she had briefly seen the victims of the Rogue trying to get away when she had used her Evo to blast herself away from the man out to get her. At the very least, emergency crews were blocking the media from taking pictures while they set up large white, opaque screens. Dani was grateful for that, not wanting the victims to be shown on the news for some public display. It wasn’t respectful for prying eyes to see the suffering of what these people had endured that day. 

 


© Copyright 2019 D.L. Dreher. All rights reserved.

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