The back hatch of the plane lowered, and the roaring sound of the jet engine was over powered by the rush of air out the back. His hair fluttered over his eyes, as Jarrod walked closer to the edge of the plane. His black armor plates extended out of nothingness, and the swirling, skin tight, bluish armor caused a tingling sensation on his finger tips. He raised his hand and looked at his fingers, stretching them out and then collapsing them into a fist. The swirling blue skin reacted to the people behind him, alerting him of movement. He could feel a shift in the blue skin as Jackson raised his hand and placed it on Jarrod's left shoulder.
“It's like a sixth sense,” Jackson said, standing next to Jarrod, gazing out at the dark clouds which looked full enough to walk on. “Learn to trust them, and you'll be fine.”
“It's like they're connected to my thoughts,” Jarrod looked out of the corner of his eyes, but kept his head focused straight. The armor extended over his face and head, covering him completely. At first, his heart raced, as if he couldn't shrug off the feeling of drowning. Then, he held his breath and let go. When he opened his eyes, everything was in full focus through the eye portals. The suit was able to filter everything which was in complete darkness, turn it into the same brightness as everything that was fully lit behind him in the plane, and put them together as a cohesive and visible unit. Images of whatever he wanted to focus on were beamed into his vision. The blue armor reacted to everything around him, and in turn, cast an image into his mind. “I can see everything, and in great detail.”
“Now you know why it's difficult to squash a fly,” Jackson took three steps towards the back hatch, looked down, and then walked back towards Oreios, who was chained to the floor.
The chilling air from the sky rushed over Jarrod's body, but he couldn't really feel it. The suit filtered out all extreme sensations, but instead delivered a signal to his brain explaining what it was he was he was supposed to feel. It was as though he could catch a single piping hot pin in a sea of falling pins, and the suit allowed his touch to be delicate enough to snatch it from the air, focused enough to find it, and shielded him from the heat in order to hold it. With each step he took around the plane, it was as though he was floating on air, but still able to discern every single crevasse of the floor.
“Don't tell me you're having second thoughts now,” Lian had to yell to get her voice over the loud swooshing sounds of the plane, but Jarrod's suit filtered out the unwanted noise and returned her voice to an appropriate level. She moved around his back - the suit shifting along with her - relaying her every move. She touched his arm, pointing at Jackson and Oreios. “If you were to bail out now, you'd leave me with the odd couple. I can't handle that.”
“That's not the plan,” he smiled, but she wasn't able to see it. He looked at her, noticing the detail of her skin tight black suit. His armor scanned her and told him how the many layers of interwoven fabric were placed together in order to allow her maximum mobility, but also increased protection. What the suit didn't tell him, but he noticed on his own, was how it fit the curves of her body nicely, and how shapely she actually was, at least compared to the baggy garb she wore back at base, which left her looking plain and shapeless. “This is quite different than your normal attire.”
“Do you like it?” she slightly blushed, tilting her head as she smiled.
“Yes,” he nodded.
“You'll need to put this on,” Jackson handed Lian two pieces of facial equipment. One was a pair of black goggles, and the other was a mask to put over her mouth and nose. Lian took them, confused. Jackson explained. “We're not landing. The goggles will not only help you see in the night, but they'll shield you from the rush of air into your eyes. The other mask will help you breathe, as falling from this height, at this speed, it will be next to impossible for you.”
“In that case, thank you very much. It's like Christmas,” she nodded, putting the items over her face.
“Where are mine?” Oreios laughed, smiling as he jingled his head side to side, batting his eye lashes. “Aren't you worried about me?”
“No,” Jackson replied, pulling Oreios from the floor and unchaining him. He tapped three times on the collar around Oreios' neck. “Get more than a thousand yards from me and you lose your head.”
“Duly noted,” Oreios saluted Jackson.
A red light illuminated the cabin, casting everything in a bloodlike filter. Jackson threw Oreios a chute and then grabbed Lian, turned her around, and strapped her to his body.
“Aren't you going to grab one of those too?” Lian asked, pointing at the parachute, nervously grinning.
“I don't need one,” Jackson held her off the floor and then jumped out of the back opening, soaring in a free fall dive.
“I bet she is freaking out right now,” Oreios looked out of the back of the plane and smiled, winking at Jarrod.
“Shouldn't you hurry up and follow him?” Jarrod flicked the collar around Oreios' neck three times. “What was it...a thousand yards?”
“Right,” Oreios nodded, jumping out.
Jarrod looked at Shah, who gave a thumbs up, and followed the group out of the plane. He put his arms to his sides and shredded through the clouds. The ground below was a sea of dark greens and ashy grays, illuminated only by the fingers of lightning which stretched across the horizon, as he made his way through the rain.
Each and every droplet was visible to him, unique in their own ways. The suit shielded his ears from the thunder that stomped around him as he looked with intent at a rain drop just to the right of his head. He studied it. The way it curved slightly, giving in to the resistance of air as it fell to its demise.
“Jarrod, the mountains are about two miles ahead. You need to tell your suit to glide to the coordinates I'm sending you,” Jackson's words entered Jarrod's thoughts. Then, as if he knew it all along, a spot on a ledge in the distance beckoned him.
“Tell it what now?” Jarrod shook his head, still spiraling towards the ground.
“And what if it doesn't?” Jarrod half-heartedly laughed.
“Do your legs collapse when you tell them to walk?” Jackson asked, his voice growing impatient. “Just spread your fingers, and extend your arms. Feel the air move through you.”
Jarrod's vision locked onto Jackson, watching as he soared in a different direction, adjusting his decent. Jarrod quickly shot past him, hurtling towards the ground. A bolt of lightning stretched out across the sky, expanding what appeared to be a full hundred-and-eighty degrees around. The cliffs ahead, their destination, was highlighted.
Jarrod spread his hands and the blue skin expanded, forming a flexible like fabric with the blue armor between his arms and body. He spun in circles before righting himself, heading towards the jagged range, just over the second snowcapped ridge. He shot through a split in the mountain; the tips of the trees seemed to reach for him. As if they were stretching from the ground, the tree tops got dangerously close to his feet until the tree line suddenly vanished when he soared over a massive rock lake.
Turning to his left, he made his way back towards the ridge, dipping his toe down into the snow. Jarrod pulled his arms in, landed on his right shoulder - the armor adjusting for his angle and speed of impact - and rolled in a controlled manner, five times, to a stop, before springing up in one fluid motion, drawing his side arm.
“I've landed,” his breathing deepened as the suit retreated from his face. The smell of rain and pine trees was a welcome sign that he was still alive.
Jackson and Lian landed delicately beside him. The three of them turned their focus to the sky as Oreios barreled towards the mountain in a free fall, with his parachute flying a good ten feet out of his grasp. He extended his one remaining arm towards the ground, and a funnel of rock, dirt, and snow shot up from the ground to meet him. The funnel swarmed around him, swallowing him up, and carried him safely to the ground. A plume of dust arose when Oreios landed. He walked towards them, swaying his shoulders back and forth like a cowboy entering a saloon.
“It's great to be back, doing what you love,” he smiled, winking at Lian. He knelt and swirled his hand above the loose dirt. “But first thing is first.”
Particles of clay, dust, and pebbles slowly tremored in the confined area in which he moved his hand. He moved his half arm over the rumbling debris and wafted his fingers over where his other arm used to be. The pebbles and dirt obeyed his command and reformed his arm, merging with the energy that still flowed through his phantom limb. He stood and flexed his newly formed arm and hand, though the various grains of pebbles and clay were still very much visible.
“It'll take a while for the skin to grow back. But until that time, I can do this,” suddenly, his hand formed into a small razor sharp hatchet, and then into a bulbous mallet, until returning back to the normal looking five digits. “Impressive, isn't it?”
“Find the rift,” Jackson dug his left fingers into Oreios' collar bone and squeezed, causing the mountain dweller to buckle at the knees. Jackson pushed him forward. “Do it now.”
“I think I am picking up something,” the wrist pad on Jarrod's arm started blinking. He pointed at it, showing Jackson. “What is it?”
“It's the drones,” Jackson looked at his own wrist pad and punched in a few keys. “I am picking them up too. They're not far, up ahead.”
The four started out in the direction of the signal, climbing up a steep incline, hearing the long drawn out tones of the drones beeping. Jarrod looked around the ledges and paths, taking careful notice of the chaotic footprints scattered about, and the weapons blasts which were carved into the rock in numerous places.
They reached the next landing and Lian pointed at the first drone, which was laying on its side, unharmed from the fray of battle. Jackson knelt beside the drone and opened a side compartment, to see what the problem was, and Oreios quickly put a hand to Jackson's shoulder, shaking his head.
“Don't do that,” Oreios' eyes quickly scanned around, unable to focus on any one thing for more than a brief second. “I think he is drawn to the signal they give off.”
“Who?” Lian asked, stepping closer.
“The ferryman,” he whispered, slowly swallowing. “We should leave.”
“Can anyone else see the faint pink trails of light?” Jarrod asked, quickly snaring the attention of Oreios. Jarrod leaned back, with an uncomfortable expression, as Oreios stuck his face close to Jarrod's and looked inside his eyes. “Excuse me, ever hear of personal space?”
“I don't see anything,” Lian shook her head, desperately looking everywhere trying to see what Jarrod was talking about.
“Describe the pink trails,” Oreios said.
“It's like a transparent pink vapor trail, much like one you'd see behind a jet plane,” Jarrod shrugged his shoulders, smirking. “You guys can't see it? It's freaking everywhere.”
“Yes, I can see,” Oreios nodded, stepping back. “But you shouldn't be able to.”
“I don't care who can see it,” Jackson stood, walking over and standing between the two. “I just want to know what it is.”
“It's the ferryman. The one responsible for bringing individuals in and out of reality,” Oreios turned and walked for the slope, away from the area. He pointed up another incline, which wrapped around a small cliff. “We aren't coming back if he doesn't want us to. Heading that way is a good way to just disappear, and I quite like walking around you mortals.”
“I am heading that way, and you'd be wise to follow along if you want to keep your head,” Jackson said.
“What's the point?” Oreios turned, chuckling as he shook his head and looked at the ground. “I lose it to you, or I lose it to them.”
“The chance to keep it...that's the point,” Jarrod said, following the trail. “It gets stronger over here.”
Oreios followed along and fell in line behind Jarrod, but in front of Jackson. They stood before a large wall-like section in the mountain, and Jarrod could see a hazy door floating along it.
“What is it?” Lian asked, confused.
“A door,” Oreios replied, taking position in the front of the line. “Do you want me to knock, or just open it?”
“Can you?” Jarrod looked at Oreios, wondering that, since he could see, if he would be able to open it as well.
“Of course I can, and I recommend us sneaking in before the welcome wagon realizes we're here,” Oreios looked at Jackson. “I just can't promise I can bring us back.”
“Can we bring the drones with us?” Jarrod walked past Oreios and looked at the drones on the ground.
“Yes, but why?” Oreios folded his arms and rolled his eyes. “They'd easily know the drones are present once they're activated.”
“Because once they know we're there, we'll need backup.” Jackson nodded in agreement with Jarrod and the two of them proceeded to collect the drones. Once they retrieved them, Oreios gave them a worried look and raised his hands, palms out, towards the door.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Do it,” Jackson said, his tone cold.
“Very well,” Oreios shrugged. He closed his eyes and a static charge ran through his bones, over his skin and then out his finger tips.
Jarrod could see the small particles in the air float along as time began to drag. Lian and Jackson flinched in slow motion as Jarrod and Oreios were still able to perceive reality at normal speed. Their eyes connected, as Oreios gave one more pondering look at the new black and blue agent, who wore colors he'd only heard stories of long ago.
Thin quick spurts of pink static connected everything Jarrod's eyes could see. He looked at Lian as her body glowed, and eventually became translucent. He looked at himself, and the same thing was happening. The suit told him the sensations he should be feeling, but left him unaffected. Oreios leaned forward, grabbed the hazy doors, and flung them open. The entire area was washed out in a great light, and the four of them vanished as the doorway shut behind them.
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