Blades on Skates

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A group of friends with mismatched superpowers go on a rescue mission to save their friend. But the further they go the more they begin to question who is friend? And who is foe?

Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Blades on Skates

By David Grape

 

 

 

“This is Batarack. He makes holes.”

 The man in front of me was huge. Standing at least 7 feet tall, he was almost as wide. His wide, friendly face was wreathed in a short brown beard and topped with a mop of unruly hair that stuck out in all directions.  He looked ridiculous wearing a small white and red checked apron, but he didn’t seem embarrassed by it at all. Giving me a big grin he asked me how I liked my steak. “It’s my night to cook.”

 “Medium is fine.”  He nodded his head gamely, turning back to the stove. The small kitchen was cluttered but clean. Several steaks stood out on the sideboard, and next to the sink, a coffee pot was surrounded by the usual jumble of cups, creamer, sugar containers and dirty spoons. A minute window above the sink was cracked and taped back together with gray duct tape. I turned back to Buddy.

 “Holes?”

 “Yes, holes anywhere from 10 feet around to the size of a pinhead. It doesn’t matter what it is, he can put a hole in it. Useful for just about anything you can imagine.”

  He moved deeper into the room. “Over there are the Blades.”  He pointed to three identical twins who were sitting on a couch playing a video game and shouting at the top of their lungs. The coffee table in front of them was scattered with soda cans and candy wrappers. “Jonathan, Jacob and Justin.” He lowered his voice. “Usually we tell them apart by their hair.”  They all had black hair of varying lengths and were dressed in matching black t-shirts and blue jeans. They all had the physique of gymnasts with wide shoulders and narrow hips. Tattoos adorned their forearms in no particular pattern, but they were all black ink. No color.  “They can combine themselves to be one very strong man. But only twice a day, at 3:16 am or pm they can step into each other. They can separate whenever they want to, but they can only combine at those times.  They are perfectly normal separate, but together they have the combined strength of all three.” He sighed, “It is so nice when there is just one of them, they get so loud when they are split up.”

 “You mentioned something about Timber throwing things?”

 “Ah yes, Timber. He used to be able to summon anything on command and throw it with deadly accuracy. ” His face lit up as he spoke of him, but then fell as he continued. “But then he was hurt in a fight, took a blow to the head that almost killed him. Now he is somewhat-” He seemed at a loss for words, “Simple, I guess. He can still throw with deadly accuracy but it is not always the best thing to throw. It could be a knife, a bolt of lightning, liquid ice, or it could be a potted plant, a bowl of jelly, or a frozen chicken. He used to work with the Elite’s until his accident. Now he is just too unreliable.”

 “For them.”

 “Yes,” he agreed with me quietly. “For them. For us, he is part of our family. And we protect our own.” He was quiet for a moment but when he spoke again, the business like tone was back in his voice. “After his accident they were planning on, ‘decommissioning’ him. I found out, and managed, with the help of a few friends and a little luck, to get him back.”

 There was something he wasn’t telling me, but it was not my place to press for details.

 “Hey, Buddy!”

  We turned in unison as the door behind us opened.

 “Speak of the devil, Timber I want you to meet someone.”

 As Timber walked up to us, I noticed the huge scar that ran from the middle of his forehead up into his scalp then around to the left side of his head where it ended just above his ear. His short hair did little to hide it.  Timber looked young enough to be in high school, somewhat tall, and gangly, with long arms, but the thing that caught my attention immediately was his eyes. His eyes were such a bright green they seemed to glow, but when you looked into them you could sense his simplicity. His face was lit up with a big grin as he looked at Buddy, and before he shook my hand he flung his arms around Buddy and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

 “Hey!”

 “Missed you, Buddy!”

 “Well I missed you too, Timber!” Buddy was chuckling as he wiped the kiss off with the back of his hand.

 Timber turned to me and stuck out his hand, “Timber, who are you?”

 His handshake was gentle, but I could sense an underlying strength, he could crush my grip with just a slight squeeze.

 After the introduction he immediately turned and ran whooping into the room with the Blades and jumping on the one with the longest hair, causing the shouting to go up a notch.

 Buddy winced but he was smiling when he did it.

 “So this is your family?”

 He looked at me sharply and then relaxed, “Uh, yeah this is my family. You still haven’t met Grasshopper, but she won’t be back until later.”

 “Why is she called Grasshopper?”

 Buddy didn’t answer immediately, instead making his way to the back of the room where a folding card table was set up and took a seat. I sat down across from him in a rickety wooden chair and awaited his response. He was in no hurry to talk about Grasshopper it seemed.

 “Grasshopper is the only name she ever gave me.”  He finally dragged his eyes away from the ruckus in the front room and met my own. He seemed to be confiding in me at this point.

 “When she joined the crew, the others were unsure of whether we could trust her because she was so reclusive. She keeps her reasons for wanting to work with us to herself, but over time they have accepted her.” He was quiet for moment and I wasn’t sure if he would say any more, but then he continued, sounding as if he was speculating, “I think she gave herself the name Grasshopper to pre-empt anyone making fun of her.”

 At my questioning look he continued, “You know, when you have an insecurity you push it out in front of you, you put it on your sleeve and pretend that it is normal. If you try to hide it then people will realize you are embarrassed by it and use it against you.”

  “So Grasshopper…?” I trailed off not knowing how to ask the question.

 He was watching me with a smile playing around his lips, “She does look somewhat, ‘insect’ like. She can jump like her namesake and she has wings that allow her to fly for a short distance. Very useful on a job, great lookout and good for get-aways. And her eyes…”

 He stopped himself with a laugh, “Well, you’ll have to meet her.” He stood pushing back the metal chair with the back of his knees and sniffed appreciatively. “Wow! Batarack, those steaks smell-”

 At that moment, a horrendous crash sounded and the front of the building caved in. Batarack, closest to the front wall, was thrown tumbling backward deeper into the room as bright explosions flashed in my vision, I couldn’t see anything and staggered backwards bumping into my chair and falling, I heard cries of anger and yells, clouds of smoke began to fill the room and I began to choke on a familiar acrid scent. Fighting it was no use, but I tried regardless. My senses slowly shut down and the last thing I remember was the heartbreaking cry of Timber, “Buddy! Buddy!”

 

 

 I was tired.

 A deep yawning abyss of sleep opened cavernous below me and I wanted nothing more than to fall face first into sweet oblivion.

 I shook my head in an effort to awaken myself. It didn’t work.  I was so close to freedom, I could feel the fresh air on my face, wafting coolly across my brow like the soothing touch of a mother, nursing her child back to health.  I brought my head up with an effort that almost cost me my death grip on the handrail leading up the steps and stared bleary eyed up at the night sky.  A twisted grimace creased my face as I attempted to smile. Arbitrary thoughts that zoomed through my head like insane bats had settled for an instant on the beauty of the star studded sky and it struck me as humorous.

 Another effort and I straightened all the way, wobbled and fell forward onto the stairs. My head bounced crazily but I remained conscious, somehow. The grating of my teeth on the concrete as I turned my face, resonated into the back of my skull and sent unpleasant shivers down my spine. Inch by inch I began to drag myself forward. My left hand slipped in a slick puddle and I realized the gooey wetness beneath my left side was blood. I smelled it a second later and my stomach lurched.

 With an effort I summoned my power, but it only flickered like a wounded firefly and left me with a hollow feeling deep inside.

 I was dying.

 The urge to give up was strong, the chasm opening up blackly beneath me looked so inviting, but a inner coil of steel that kept me together allowed me to grasp at life once more and I put my hand forward again.

 One more step.

 One more….

 Each movement was slow but deliberate. Dirt and dust clung to my face and lips, I could feel the wound on my upper arm caked with a mixture of dirt and blood making a interesting version of mud. Hopefully that would slow the bleeding.

 I couldn’t remember how I had gotten hurt, nor could I remember where I was going. My world consisted of these stairs, and the freedom that lay at the top. A bothersome question tried to pierce my focus but I let it flutter at the edge of my consciousness without acknowledging it.

 One more step.

 One more.

 Reaching forward I felt…nothing!

 The relief at the realization I had reached the top, crumbled like a mud hut as the pesky question finally made its way to the forefront of my mind.

 Where to now?

 I rested, silently cursing the unkind hands of fate that had robbed me of my memory.

  My eyes snapped open. Had I slept? I raised my head. It was still dark. I didn’t understand the wash of relief I felt at this, but accepted it and slowly painfully began to move again.

 Thoughts that felt so familiar left me feeling more confused when I did not recognize them. For a second they were bright flashes of clarity, and then I forgot what they meant.

 Panic.

 It tastes coppery and slick.

 I looked for a point ahead of me and bent my mind to reaching it. Once again my world consisted of nothing more than one small little bush. I lied to myself. I had to reach it, once I reached it I would be safe. I believed the lie, knowing there would be another one to follow. I could make it. One lie at a time.

 

#

 

 I awaked with a start, my head pounding and my eyelids feeling as if they were made of sandpaper. Cautiously I moved my limbs checking for any major damage. Shuffling several chunks of sheetrock off of me I sat up and found myself staring into Timbers eyes. He did not look happy.

 “Where Buddy?”

 I said nothing, instead rising slowly to me feet and looking around. Two of the Blade twins were checking Batarack and the other was no where to be seen, as was Buddy.  The room was destroyed. I didn’t know what had happened after I blacked out, but it didn’t look good. The entire front of the building was now laying in chunks throughout the room. The sheetrock was scorched in several areas where the concussion grenades had gone off. The door in the back was jammed open with the stove Batarack had been cooking on, the frying pan long gone and there were more burn marks where the burners had caught the wood trim on fire. From the looks of it, they had crashed in with a large vehicle, popped a few stun grenades, a few Dark Wave grenades from the smell and taken what they wanted. Which was…

 “Buddy.”

 Why would they only take one?

 My mind snapped out of its reverie like a rubber band stretched to its breaking point and then released with no direction.

 “I’m sorry, Timber I don’t know. How long have I been out?”

 He didn’t seem satisfied with my response, but held up his hand with his fingers spread.

 “Five?” He nodded. “Five minutes?” Again a nod.

I moved quickly to where the two twins were bringing Batarack to a sitting position. They looked at me with the same black look that had shadowed Timbers face like an evil birth mark.

 “He’s fine man, back off.” The hostility in his voice stopped me.

 “What’s up, boys?” My voice had dropped into that neutral tone, dead of emotion. I knew what was next, but I didn’t relish it.

 The twin with the shortest hair came to his feet and spun into my face, hurling his words like bricks, “What’s up?  I’ll tell you what’s up. You come through that door, all pally pal with Buddy, five minutes later the Slaps show up and snatch him. I don‘t care what Buddy saw earlier, I don‘t believe in coincidences man, and you got them hangin’ all over you.”

 He was quivering with barely controlled rage and I knew one wrong word and it would not end well. His brother had risen to his feet and was standing off to the side, Timber was behind me somewhere, I could sense, but I couldn’t tell what he was doing. Nothing good I could be sure.  There was nothing I could say, and I was debating making a move when a dark shape thumped to the concrete in front of the destroyed warehouse. I couldn’t make out any features, but the voice that reached me was cold and flowed past my ears sinuously wrapping around us like silk wrapping around two naked lovers.

 “What have you got there, Justin?”

 “Hopper!” At least Timber sounded happy again

 Justin visibly relaxed and wiped his hand across his cheek brushing at bits of sheetrock and rubble that were clinging to the stubble on his face.

 “Buddy’s been taken, and this stiff walked in with him moments before it happened.” He stepped back. It was easy to see who ranked who. The other Blade, Jacob, (or was it Jonathan?) had already turned back to Batarack and was ignoring me. The deadly tension that had stood in the room like crackling ice had shattered and left no evidence on the faces surrounding me. I could still feel its ghostly touch writhing up and down my spine. I wasn’t clear by any means, if anything, judging from my contracting shoulder blades, things had taken a turn from dangerous to deadly.

 The dark form advanced into the room, and then slid sideways until she hovered at the edge of my peripherals, a looming uncertain force threatening my every move, should I foolishly decide to make one.

 “Tell me stranger, how much did they pay you?”

 As she spoke I was already moving, her tone had told me everything I needed to know. The venom in her voice could not be reasoned with, at least not from this position. I needed leverage, and as much as it tore at my guts, that leverage would be best provided by Timber. It was obvious everyone had a soft spot for him, and like it or not, soft spots were easy targets.

 I let my halo spark, and jumped. My jump carried me up and backwards. I tucked my chin down and flipped over landing behind Timber the same instant Hopper struck my previous position. My weapon was in my right hand, left hand on Timbers chin pulling him close to me. Steel flashed and I bared my teeth at the dark form across from me as she froze the same instant my hand stopped, hovering over Timbers exposed throat.

 The moment seemed to hang in time, a crystal sphere of hostility floating above the pond, halted in its inevitable plunge to join its brethren, waiting for a passerby to notice its beauty, and then it’s gone.

 Recovering from her missed strike, she straightened and I read uncertainty in her body language. That was what I was waiting for. I removed the steel from Timbers throat, let my halo dissipate and stepped out from behind him. My hands were empty and away from my body. I stood there while Timber shot me a dirty look and then scooted across the room and stood behind Hopper.

 “There went my ticket out of here, Hopper.” I kept my voice quiet. “Do you want to talk now, or do you want to get Buddy back? The longer we remain inactive the less chance we have of getting him back.”

 “Who are you?”

 I hesitated, “A loner.  A nobody. Until now I have not taken sides, however Buddy saved my life earlier today and I always repay my debts.”

 She could take that how she wanted.

She moved forward into the flickering light cast from the noiseless TV that somehow survived the attack.  She was wearing mirror aviator sunglasses,  but what I could see of her face was formed perfectly. Dark straight hair hung to her chin, high cheekbones and a turned up nose accented pouty lips which were tinted green.  She was wearing a white tank top and camo fatigues bloused above white sneakers. The tips of translucent wings quivered down behind her knees, and above her shoulders jutted the handles of her weapons.

 She had decided. She stuck out her hand, “Do you know where they might have taken him?”

 All business this one. I shook her hand and my head at the same time. “I’m not positive, but I have a few ideas.”

 Retaining her hold on my hand she turned it over and studied my palm. I let her look for a moment then withdrew my hand.

 “We don’t have time for all my secrets.”

 She flashed her teeth in what could have been a smile or a snarl and turned to Justin.

 “Where is Jacob?

  “He is on the roof keeping lookout until we can get out of here. Don’t want the Slaps coming back for us. How did they know where we were and that you weren’t here?”

 I locked that piece of information away for later consideration. The Slaps wouldn’t have come if Hopper had been here. They must know something about her.

 She ignored his question and sent him to retrieve Jacob.

 Batarack still looked shaky, so before anyone noticed me I moved to his side and helped him all the way to his feet.

 “Batarack, okay? Batarack?” Timber was on his other side straightening the red and white checkered apron..

 “Yeah, yeah,” Batarack turned away from me and stopped Timber from retying the apron. By the time he turned back I had already moved away and was making my way out into the parking lot in front of the demolished warehouse. A late night rain shower had filled the parking lot with glistening puddles and swept the night air somewhat clean. Hopper joined me and we looked out into the night silent for a moment.

She spoke first. “This is my family, and I-”

 “I know,” I cut her off. “Buddy told me about everybody. I got the feeling you all watch out for each other.”

 She turned towards me and I could sense she was studying me. “It’s more than that. Timber is Buddy’s real son.”

 I took this in and then moved on. No sense on dwelling on unpleasant thoughts when we had a job to do. At this point any emotions would hamper us.

 “Do you have any idea why the Slaps would want Buddy?”

 Again she gave me that look.  “What exactly did Buddy tell you about himself?”

 Before I could answer, Batarack, Timber and one of the Blades joined us.

 “We are ready, lets go.”

 I glanced back inside looking for the other Blades and then looked back. The Blade that stood in front of me looked somewhat blurry for a second and then became solid again. Raising an eyebrow but saying nothing, I turned back to Hopper.

 “Buddy told me nothing about himself other than he looked out for you guys. But they usually take civvies to the Cattle Pen.”

 Hopper was shaking her head already. “Lets move. We will talk later, we’re too exposed and all that noise is sure to have drawn some attention.”

 She led us down the alley that ran along the side of the warehouse and then took a turn into a dark street that was made up of more potholes than pavement.

 I fell in beside Hopper, who ignored me. We moved through the streets quietly. The orange streetlights reflected dimly off the wet pavement. A faint mist was now coating everything with small dewdrops that clung to everything and outlined all the lines of the gorgeous creature beside me. Her naked arms were soon running with rivulets of rainwater and her hair was soaked and sticking to the back of her neck. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes on the road ahead of me.

After twenty minutes of turns that would have lost an ordinary man, Batarack heaved up a storm drain and we descended into the tunnels below the street.

 The steady dripping of water and the echoing scuttling made by small creatures moving through the darkness, registered faintly on my heightened senses.  I was straining to hear anything out of the ordinary when Hopper put her hand on my shoulder to stop me and I jumped.

 She looked at me strangely as my halo flashed, “This is good for now. We need to know exactly where we are going before we move on anymore.”

 We were standing at the juncture of three tunnels, that led off into the dark.

 I turned to face all of them.  “What do they want Buddy for?”

 Timber let out a whimper at the sound of Buddy’s name and Batarack put his arm around him.

 Hopper sighed and slowly removed her sunglasses. She tucked them into a back pocket and the looked up, meeting my eyes. I met her gaze firmly and unflinching, even though I was startled. Her eyes had no pupils, they were pure black, almond shaped with no eyelashes. They, well, they looked like grasshopper eyes. She had green markings that crossed her forehead and dipped down in the center, before disappearing back into her hairline. But that is not what startled me. What caught me off guard was how beautiful she was! The eyes matched the cheekbones and the markings and green lips, her fair skin. It was stunning.

 I tried not to stare.

 “Buddy knows everything.”

 I nodded, “Everything about what?”
 She shook her head, “No, he knows everything.”

 I frowned, “Everything…I’m not getting it Hopper.”

 The Blades broke in, “He just knows everything, man. If he thinks about anything he just knows.”

 My mind reeled at the possibilities. Christ! No wonder the Slaps wanted him. All they needed were the right questions and he would have the right answers. About everything!

 Imagine. My mind whipped down a thousands paths only to come back and start again. He could…Suddenly I stopped.

 “Why haven’t they come for him before?”

 Timber jumped up and down clapping, “Hopper! Hopper! Hopper!”

 She smiled wanly at Timber, it was the first I had seen from her and it left me wanting more.

 “Yes, I have been protecting him ever since I ran across the group several years ago. Until recently I didn’t realize what his capabilities were, I thought they were after Timber, but after the last close call it was apparent who they really wanted.”

 “Yeah, that was when we showed up.” The Blades were nodding, right along with Batarack.

 “That was last year around this time. They must have been watching us pretty closely, I had stepped out for just a second and they snatched Buddy and left Timber unconscious on the floor. We would have lost him if it hadn’t been for Batarack and the Blades.” She looked at them smiling at the memory. “They happened by and, fun loving guys that they are, decided that whatever the Slaps were up to they needed disrupting.”

 Batarack looked embarrassed by the praise  but the Blades grinned at me. “It was awesome man! Batarack made a big hole in the road and dropped em’! Next thing you know, Bug Lady here lands on the roof of the van and ripped it completely off. Being the good Samaritan type that we are we couldn’t stand by and watch a fight without joining in, er I mean we couldn‘t let a fellow citizen  in distress…”

 Batarack broke in his voice a distant rumble of thunder, “Slaps never knew what hit em’.” There was a note of satisfaction in his voice and he was grinning like little kid at the memory.

 I glanced at Hopper who had been listening with a fond smile on her face, now it was fading, the light from her smile fading to a darkness that made me shiver. Whatever her agenda, it was not topped by her love of her adopted family. I pitied the Slaps she got her hands on when we retrieved Buddy.  Someone had once said, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Apparently they had never met a woman who had one of her family snatched.

 “Ok, Ok let me think.” I stepped away from them, scuffing my feet against the rat droppings and bits of refuse lying on the tunnel floor. My mind was whirling. I already had an idea of where they would take him, having been there once myself, but I needed a moment to consider the possibilities. The possibilities were incomprehensible. ‘Buddy knows everything.‘ No wonder the Slaps were going insane trying to get their hands on this guy. This was the Holy Grail of captures. Admittedly I was more than a little curious about talking to him myself. There were scores of questions I had about my past. Granted it would be difficult to voice questions like that, but if I could… I grimaced, ‘Getting a little bit ahead of ourselves aren’t we? Lets focus on the task at hand.’ My mind flicked to the connection between Timber and Buddy. It was easy to see the relation, even through their abilities. Buddy could summon the answer to any question, and Timber could summon anything he thought of to hand. Interesting. Physically they bore no striking resemblance, but that was nothing unusual.  Getting him out was going to be a real feat. For someone this important, they would have twice as much security. What made it even worse is they knew precisely what they had. They would waste no time, or expense making sure they kept him. Dammit! The odds weren’t looking good.  Five against possibly an entire army. However, if we could just get to Buddy it was possible he would be able to help us in a way no one else could. His gift might allow-”

  “Hey.”

  Hopper was standing behind me. She had her sunglasses back on. I had wandered about thirty feet from the junction. The rest of the crew were studiously examining the wall behind them and ignoring us.

 “I know where he is.” I smiled as I spoke, but she did not join the smile much to my disappointment. 

 “Good.” She paused and glanced back at the others.  “We want to know what it is  that your…” she faltered. “That you can…” she trailed off as I stared at her. I knew my eyes were beginning to turn gold, but couldn’t stop it. No one had ever affected me this way. “Never mind.” She started to turn away and I brought myself under control with a force of will and caught her arm.

 “No, it’s fine,  it’s just-, I haven’t been around others for a while.”

 She waited for a moment and asked again. “So what exactly does it do?”

“The simple explanation is that my ‘Halo’ makes me faster and stronger. The electrical signal that travels from my brain to my hand that tells it to move, takes a faster route outside my body through my halo.  To delve into the science of how it interacts with me at a cellular level would take a very long time.”

As her mouth opened to ask a question I held up my hand.

“Let me show you.”

 My halo flashed blue, time seemed to slow as I flicked my hand out, removed her sunglasses and slipped them on my face. I let my halo fade and time seemed to speed up as her hand moved halfway to her face before she realized what had happened.

 I removed the glasses and held them out, a small smile on my face.

 She just stared at me.  She looked at me for a long moment with her impenetrable eyes. As her look  started to burn smoking craters in my soul I felt something start to churn inside me and then she spoke, “Where does the light come from?”

 “The sun, artificial light also but it is not as strong as the sun. To much time spent in dark and I grow weak. Normal I suppose.”

 “And how does this make you stronger?”

 I chuckled, “I cant spill all my secrets! What about you? What is your power and where does it come from?”

 “We need to go.”

 

 An hour later we were outside the remains of the original city hall. It hunkered in the shadows of a tumbledown skyscraper that was intact only to the sixth or seventh floor where it disappeared into the sky in a twisted jumble of bent steel and broken glass. The mist had stopped and the wind had picked up scattering small clouds across the night sky blinking the moon light on and off like a dysfunctional nightlight. The high pitched squeals echoing out of the skyscraper where steel rubbed on steel, grated on my nerves and brought painful memories alive. Memories of human voices replicating squeals similar. Memories of my voice ripping out of my throat, icy hot pain lancing-

 “Now what?” The Blades voice brought me back to the present with a grateful shudder. Hopper was watching me, but I ignored her and pressed my mind on to the present dilemma.

 “The city hall is where they will be keeping him.”

 “But there is barely anything left of it.” Batarack’s voice rumbled quietly from my right.

 “Don’t worry, he’s in there. This is just the front door. There is  lot more underground.”

 I heard Hopper curse quietly behind me and I turned.

 She shook her head at me and pressed her lips into a hard line. “Not a fan of underground.”

  “So what is the plan?” The Blades were getting impatient.

 Sitting down with my back to the rusted out vehicle that hid us from sight I blew on my hands and rubbed them together. They squatted down next to me and I outlined the plan. Calling on old memories, that were surprisingly clear considering, I drew a rough map in the dirt next to me.

 “My main concern is finding him. I am not entirely sure where he will be held. It is possible he is in one of these wings.” I pointed to opposite sides of the map. “That is where the holding cells are,” I paused. “However, depending on who is in rotation as far as officers he might be here.” I pointed to the central room I had sketched that was located directly under the remains of the city hall building.

 “What is there?”

 I hesitated a moment before I answered. “That is where the interrogation rooms are.”

 I tried not to look at Timber, but from the corner of my eye I saw him duck his head into Batarack’s shoulder. Hopper put her hand on his arm and he raised his head and glared at me.

 “We get Buddy?”

 They were all staring at me fiercely awaiting my response to this simple question. I hated to give them false hope, but on the other hand if we failed more was lost than just a family member.

 I forced a smile, “Damn right, kid. Your old man will be outta there before you know it.”

 Forced bravado is a responsibility of those who lead. I had learned that a long time ago. It might not always be sincere or believable, but it was what the troops wanted.

 The rest of the crew flashed relieved smiles at me when Timber perked up and leaned in to inspect the map closer.

 I continued. “Once we locate him, we go in hard, fast and stick close together. We take out anything that moves leave nothing left to follow us. If anyone has a problem inflicting death on these Slaps let me know now.” Their faces were hard as I looked at each on individually.

 “Good.” I rose to a half crouch and looked again at the remnants of the building that hid the access to the vast complex below it.

 “Wait a second, how do we get out?”

 I looked back at Batarack. “That will be your department.”

 They all looked at Batarack comprehension dawning slowly on their faces.

 At the sound of a vehicle we all instinctively ducked.  The feeling of relief, almost overwhelmed me. The whole plan hinged on that vehicle. My plan required a soft entry, recon and information gathering, were impossible when you were busy killing people. 

 I looked at Hopper and the Blades. They met my eyes. The Blades were grinning, but the look on Hoppers face could have cut glass.

  I called upon my halo, blue light surrounding me and I felt the power flow through my veins. Before the vehicle made the last turn into the parking lot, we jumped. The wind rushed past me and then slowed as we reached the peak of our jump. I pulled my weapons, and caught the glint of steel as Hoppers slid into her hands. The Blades, wielding twin plasma torches, would not activate them until the last second. As we dropped silently towards the unsuspecting van, my vision sharpened and the landscape below me came into sharp focus glinting slightly golden at the edges of hard lines.

 We struck the van like revenging angels,  slashing as we came down. The plasma torches split the top of the van like an over ripe fruit.  As the metal pulled back like the petals on a destroyed flower, I landed on the driver. My weapon sank into his skull with a satisfying crunch. Grabbing the wheel with my left hand I spun the blade in my hand and backhanded it into the Slap riding shotgun. He never even cleared leather.

  Letting the van roll to a stop I turned at an unfamiliar noise.  The Slaps in the back of the van were as dead as the two in the front, sprawled in contorted stances only possible for corpses. Hopper was bending over one, her back to me, judging from the look on the Blades face though whatever she was doing was not something he was used to.

 “Hopper?”

 As she straitened from the body I realized what I had heard. The Slap lay in his grotesque sprawl, but the cause of death had not been her weapon. Four small holes in his neck leaked bright spots of crimson. She gave me a hard look, licking red off her lower lip and bent to the body again.

 I caught the Blades eyes and shook my head. Beginning to remove the uniforms of the dead Slaps I motioned for him to do the same. He turned to the task shooting small glances at Hopper every now and then.

By the time we finished stripping the Slaps, Hopper had finished feeding and had stripped her own.

 I drove the destroyed van behind a row of rotted out vehicles and began to gather up the clothes and weapons.

 It was impossible to look at Hopper the same after that. It was apparent that she had kept it from the rest of the crew and I didn’t want to ask her about it. But as we moved through the scrub growing around the junked out cars on our way back to Timber and Batarack  we inadvertently bumped shoulders several times and her nearness jolted through me like an electrical shock. I tried to shake off the image of her licking her bottom lip, hands fastened around the shoulders of her victim, meeting my gaze strongly and then turning back as if daring me to say something, but the scenario kept replaying in my mind like a broken recorder.  Forcing my mind on to the task at hand I looked through the assortment of gear we carried between us. We had enough uniforms to go around, several had small blood stains but no tears or rips. They had followed my instructions perfectly. The Slaps carried short assault rifles, but disdaining firearms we had left the ammo and extra clips in the van. We would carry the weapons for appearance sake, but beyond that I had no use for them.

 The problem with bullets is that after you fire them you cannot change their trajectory. Archaic and noisy, those of us with talents similar to ours preferred blades and the occasional plasma torch. In this destroyed remnant of a civilization we relied on nothing that was beyond our control, and bullets fell into that wide category.

 Arriving back with the rest of the crew we quickly outfitted ourselves, secured our own weapons underneath the uniforms and set out.

 As we crossed the parking lot towards the remains of the city hall building, it seemed to stretch into eternity, the slight wind blew a scattering of leaves and ragged bits of paper bouncing across the broken cement. The sound reminded me of cockroaches scurrying for the darkness when a light is turned on, and made me shiver inadvertently. Hopper caught the movement and smiled wryly at me probably thinking I was cold. 

 God, what that smile did to me!

 Why was I so affected by this woman? No, not woman, something else entirely. But that didn’t deter my response to her at all. Maybe it was the kinship of an alienated soul that was drawing me to her. Blasted emotions. I thought I had done those in along time ago. But no, I sighed to myself, here they were again, trying to get me killed.

 We neared the opposite side of the parking lot and I locked down my mind. Leaving only the animalistic side active. Basic instinct is all you run on in a fight, and that was all I needed.

 Expect nothing, and thus be ready for everything, a wise man had once told me. All thought of Hopper were slammed shut in a cage at the base of my mind and the prowling creature that laughed and cavorted when I dealt death, was loosed to roam the expanse of my mind.

 We entered the front door and were met by a wave of mildewed air that hung like pall. Broken glass crunched underfoot and the skeleton of a once regal interior sagged inward barely holding itself together. The others glanced at me and the surroundings, doubt showing plainly on their faces.

 Ignoring them I made for the back of the room where a tumbledown set of stairs crouched in the shadows. I motioned for them to join me and groped for the lever hidden under the eighth step. Finding it, I hesitated and then turned my soul over to the gods of fate.

 I pulled the lever.

 

 

  I awoke so violently if it hadn’t been for the straps holding me down I might have fallen off of the chair I was in. The pain inside my head was excruciating. My breathing was obstructed until I realized whatever was in my mouth was not secured and I spit it out.  I glanced around taking a quick assessment of my surroundings. I was enclosed in a room consisting entirely of steel. The walls and ceiling glistened brightly as if they had just been polished.

 A red haze of pain flickered in the back of my skull. It felt like I had been drinking for the last week. My stomach rolled uneasily and I fought the urge to vomit. I was naked and securely fasted to a chair the was canted backwards at a nasty angle that had the blood rushing to my head.

 Wait-

Maybe not securely, my right hand had a little play. I wasn’t sure if I was being watched or if they would be back to check on me anytime soon , but I was gong to make the most of any opportunity I had. My memory was so scrambled I couldn’t remember how I had gotten here. Trying to remember caused my vision to blur and fade out. Scared I fought my way back to consciousness and concentrated on my right hand. After struggling for a few minutes and achieving nothing, my anger peaked and I screamed my frustration to the empty room. Blue light fluttered briefly around me and memories came pouring back in.

 -Cantrille stands over me, “You will tell us everything we ask.” Screams loud enough to hurt my ears echo around me and with shock I realize they are my own.-

 -wires clipped into my head spark and pain beyond imagining flashes through my body. Arching as far as the restrains will allow, my muscles and tendons pop with the force of the electricity humming through me-

 -running through the darkness, lights flashing behind me, blue light surrounding me and the smooth wood handgrips of my weapons lending a false sense of security as the smell of Dark Wave gas clogs my mouth and nose. I jump-

 Shaking and sweating I awaken again in the steel room.

Why am I still strapped to this thing?

 Blue light glowed brilliant inside the steel chamber and then I was free. My feet touched the floor, cool but not cold, I stood. The feeling of power flowing through me like a river was raw and unchecked.

 What had they taken from me? A longing for someone- Someone! Where was she? The sudden anger forced me into motion, striding naked to the door I barely slowed as my foot blew it off of its hinges. Once through the door I stopped in confusion. A simple concrete stairwell faced me. Wooden handrails led pointed silently upwards into-

 I took the stairs two at a time and then stopped. Nothing. The stairwell led up to a deserted parking lot surrounded by small bushes. The city’s shattered skyline loomed through the darkness, off to my right.

 Where was I?

 Who was I?

And more importantly, where was she?

 She…my mind groped unsuccessfully for her name, for her face, but came up empty.

  I turned back to the stairwell and descended once more into the steel chamber I had awoken in. Tracing the walls with my bare hand I found nothing.

 The chair!

 I strode to it quickly and examined it where it attached to the floor. It was bolted with five large studs and then welded around the seam.

 Interesting.

 Why bolt and weld something unless you really did not want it to come off.

 Well, I was about to find out.

 I bent and slowly focused my power until it glowed a royal blue around me and then grasped the chair around it base. In a sudden heave I surged upwards pulling on the chair with all my might. My leg muscles quivered and my vision fuzzed around the edges.

 The chair didn’t budge.

I released it and stepped back, the blood flowing from my face and leaving me a little light headed.

 I walked around it once and then backed up. Taking several quick strides, I summoned my halo again and kicked the chair.

 It bent.

 Examining the base I found a hairline crack on the side I had kicked it. Elation flooded through me and I hurriedly moved back to kick it from the other side.

 After working it back and forth several times I had cracked most of the weld and was sure I had weakened the bolts somewhat.

Grasping it once more around the base I put everything I had into it and lifted.

For a moment nothing happened and I was frozen in position. I could feel my face filling with blood. My eyes felt as if they were about to burst, and sharp lances of pain were ripping through all my muscles, and then it gave.

 Heaving upwards with a screech of metal on metal, I staggered backwards elation flooding me  for split second, then the power cable encased within the chair base snapped and I felt a charge of electricity. My entire body flexed and I launched backwards out the door, the chair still cradled in my arms. Not a single thought crossed my mind as I felt my body impact on the stairs. There was no time.

 

 


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