Leaving Darkness: Part II

Leaving the Darkness: Part II

Part II: A New Reality

Mingulay used to be an uninhabited island in the Bishop of the Isles to the far north of Scotland. Older remains like castles had long ago been converted and made part of the large prison structure that now spans the island.

The metal is imbued with the only element known to dampen parahuman abilities, element zero. No one even knew the scientific compound of it, that’s how tightly controlled it is by the world governments. There were measures in place for other types of beings as well. It was one of the few of it’s kind scattered throughout the world.

The building stretched high before me, no doubt accommodating a good sixth of the world’s villains within its walls. As the gates rolled before me I tried to steady my breathing. I’d dealt with these types before. I’d spent time in juvenile, this would be no different, right? All the officers of the prison wore the latest in combat suit protection, the SecuriTech logo embossed on the chest plates.

“Get moving, you’ll have plenty of time to gawk at the place,” a male officer sneered before giving me a hard shove through the main doors. I knew on the other side of the building was a mirrored entrance for the female prisoners. Obviously the legion had been kind enough to send them everything they needed as processing didn’t take long at all. There hadn’t been much point fighting after Heppenheim had disappeared. The heroine with the domino mask had studied me curiously the whole time as I was handed to the police, and now just four hours later here I was.

“How long do you give him?” my ears flicked as I overheard the two officers behind the desk whispering as they worked. The second officer glanced my way, taking in my short 5’7 height and lithe build.

“Pretty sure they’ll kill him before he even reaches isolation,” the second guy snorted a reply. I felt my fists clench within the all-encompassing bonds the police had thrown on my hands and wrists.

Go eat more doughnuts,” I muttered in German as I was being pushed through another large gate.

A second gate straight ahead. I could see lockers on the wall and a shut door between, male faces watching curiously through the bars ahead. Oh no, they wouldn’t. The officer went to unlock my bonds, speaking in a bored voice as he recited the usual warnings of behaving myself. I was more concerned with what was about to happen.

“Remove all of your current clothing and get used to grey,” he muttered, dumping a set of prison clothing on the bench next to the lockers. “We’ll bag and tag your stuff in case you ever get out of here legally,” he added as an afterthought. Based on his tone that wasn’t something that was going to happen.

“Don’t suppose there’s somewhere more private for that?” I asked. He raised an eyebrow at me and made a derisive sound.

“Villains don’t deserve privacy.”

I gulped, aware that more guys were watching now. Obviously someone new joining the prison was the most exciting part of their day. I’d much rather not make it more exciting. I gritted my teeth and reached to pull up my T-shirt, aware that all eyes were staring at the old scars on my chest, some self-inflicted and others surgery related. My back was facing them and I could feel the malformed wings stretch slightly. I fought back a burning sensation in my eyes as I begun to undo my flies when a voice interrupted me.

“Hold up. Someone’s here to see him,” the second guy from the reception desk called. The guard with me rolled his eyes and motioned to my shirt on the floor. “Today Xeno,” he muttered.

I pulled it on quickly and wondered who had saved me as the cuffs were replaced around my hands. I followed both of them out the first gate and down side-corridors to a large break room. This must be where the prisoners meet visitors. They sat me down at a table and clipped my chains to a metal rod in the middle of the table and left. The only thing keeping me company was the low hum of vending machines and a small TV hanging in the corner of the room. The volume was turned down but there were subtitles below the reporter.

“… weeks on from the attack on club 618 and people are still wanting answers on the mystery hero who intervened. It’s such a rare precedence for no one to take responsibility for something this impressive. The Legion haven’t provided any statement either but we have sources that confirm Captain Thunder intervened and…” I rolled my eyes and looked away. More heroes being stupid. One last glance showed a blurry picture of a full body red and gold suit, sparks flying as bullets connected with it.

“You’re wondering how someone could be so crazy as to put their lives on the line like that, aren’t you?” I jumped at the intrusion. I hadn’t even noticed her walking in. Sentinel walked up to the chair opposite me and sat down, folding her hands in front of her. The domino mask was still on of courses so I had no way of guessing her ethnicity.

“There are better things to do with your time,” I shrugged.

“Such as smuggling illegal goods?” She countered.

“It’s better than being homeless and starving,” I replied. She made a noncommittal sound, her lips frowning slightly as she looked at the TV. The story had moved onto something new. I glanced to see images of a recent protest. Hate filled anti-alien signs filled the screen. I couldn’t help making a disgusted sound before looking away, to find Sentinel studying me again.

“Interesting,” she murmured. I cocked an eyebrow but she didn’t elaborate.

“Are you here for a particular reason lady?” I asked, not that I was in any rush to go back to public humiliation. She met my gaze head-on for a few moments before letting out a breath.

“Do you want to go to prison?” I blinked at the question.

“No. Who the hell ever does?” A soft laugh left her lips at my response.

“You’re a very blunt person. Can I assume you’ll be honest with me on any matter?” she asked.

“I guess,” I replied, unsure of this entire conversation.

“If there was a way to avoid prison. A chance at reform. A fresh start where you could do something far better with your life than running with some gang,” She paused for a moment to let the words sink in, “Would you take it?”

“Yes.” There wasn’t a second of hesitation between her question and my answer.

A large smile formed on her lips at the words. She reached into a bag and pushed a pamphlet across the table, the words ‘Ravenhold Academy’ yelling at the top of the cover. I vaguely knew the name from somewhere. It took me a while to figure out what it was about as it was written in English. When the penny dropped I looked up at Sentinel, expecting her to say this was all a joke.

“Well?” she asked, leaning back.

“You,” I began uncertainly, “want me to become a,” I couldn’t even utter the word without letting out a choked laugh.

“What does the news say about human chimera’s Jaeger?” she said, causing my laughter to die down abruptly. The muscles in my jaw and neck tensed immediately. “It’s never good, right? A lot of villains. I’m not going to make assumptions about your past but I can tell you that whatever it’s made of, it doesn’t have to be your future. You have the powers to be a great hero. The power to change public perception.” My lips parted but I couldn’t think of a response. Sentinel sighed, placing her palms flat on the table and standing up. “Figured it was worth a try,” she shrugged, turning to leave.

A thousand thoughts and questions raced through my mind as the distance between us grew. All boiling down to one final realisation; Heppenheim had abandoned me.

“Sentinel,” I called, standing up and causing the chains to rattle. She paused mid-step, her hair flicking as she looked over her shoulder. I shifted nervously, was I really going to do this?

“Sign me up.”

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Hunted: Part III

Hunted

Part III: Adjusting

I had a dream that night. I was standing in darkness, alone, naked and vulnerable. When I called out, not even my echo answered me. It was quiet and cold, numbingly so. It was like time didn’t exist seconds and hours become one and the same…

And then I could feel something, a presence just out of my reach, calling to me…

Reaching out to me…

That’s when I woke up.

I shot up in a panic and before I knew it, lightning danced between my fingers. Next to my bed I could see a big pair of lightly glowing blue eyes staring at me, belonging to a very familiar teeny orange person.

“Ahti?” I mumbled recognizing them. I absorbed the energy back and my hands went back to normal. “You scared the life out of me. Why are you here? What time is it?”

“I’m scared…” They said, looking at their feet. “Can I sleep with you?”

It took me a moment to process the situation, my brain still in defensive mode. I looked down and noticed Ahti was naked, their genital opening fully visible, which made me a bit uncomfortable. There was something about them that made me want to take care of them, in a way they were just as I was when Emma had to take care of me.

“Sure, but put some pants on first.”

“Okay…”

They left the room and came back a minute later with their pants on, carrying a large plush resembling a gecko with frills and bright colors on it’s back. I was pretty sure it was meant to be an Itharii animal.

I let them onto my bed and they lied down. I instinctively wrapped my arms around them, as if to protect them from the horrors of the night. Contrary to expectation, Itharii skin isn’t slimy or wet; instead being smooth and soft. Safe with me, Ahti fell asleep quickly and I followed suit soon after, but no dreams came to me this time.

When I woke up, they had already left. I found them in the common room sitting down on one of the couches, watching television and looking perplexed at the cartoons someone had put on. I checked up on them and made sure they were okay.

“About last night, were you okay?” I asked in a hushed tone so others wouldn’t hear. “You seemed a little panicky.”

“I’ve never slept alone before.” Ahti answered. I wasn’t an expert on Itharii facial expression but I had a feeling they were a bit ashamed. “I just got a little scared…”

“Really? You’ve never slept alone?”

They shook their head. “I share a bed with my clutchmate Kulaat at home and sometimes with my zuzuk. So when I get scared at night, they’re there for me.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Sometimes. I just wake up and my hearts are beating like crazy and I feel like there’s something out there… Kulaat thinks I’m a big baby because of it…”

“Hey, it’s okay to get scared a little. Beside, I’m sure you’re really brave in reality, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.” I answered, trying to comfort them.

“You really think so?”

“Of course I do.”

Ahti spontaneously wrapped their arms around me and I returned the attention.

“Alright, I better eat my breakfast and get ready before class starts.” I told him before letting go.

I stuffed my sandwich down my throat at record time and went back to my room to get dressed.

Our first day of school went by smoothly. Mr. Martin and Professor Apex gave us to introductory courses to their respective subjects; math and english for Mr. Martin and the Professor ran us through the big lines of parahuman history.

Although I couldn’t help but wonder why magic hadn’t been mentioned. Even as the world has become crazy with aliens and superpowers, nobody had noticed that magic was equally real. I’d been attacked by demons and nobody knew they existed.

During lunch, some of the other girls had hit upon the idea of a power reveal party in the backyard. A silly idea but I hadn’t objected, trying to be a normal teen for an evening seemed like the right thing after all the stress of the previous days. Okay, maybe it wasn’t such a normal thing, but it was the closest I had.

Two of the boys had come together as a group and I overheard Tyler speak of videogames to Sanjay who didn’t seem to know what to say. I joined them expecting some condescension, but Tyler seemed amazed to find a girl who could talk about the latest expansion pack of heroes of metropolis. I wasn’t a superhero geek, but the game was fun.

Once the last of us arrived, Allison whom I hadn’t had the chance to meet, had decided to take a nap,

One by one, we revealed our abilities to the others; Charlie the mini-raven with her boomerangs, Caroline who could control water, Ahti who could float and had a force field protecting him, Allison who could become living fire, Mace whose sword gave me a chill when he unleashed its fire powers, Tyler who was the invulnerable Orion, Amber who was super strong, Rowan who was equally strong.

I couldn’t help but notice how ashamed Yougen looked as she transformed and revealed her altered form, standing up from her wheelchair. It was as if she expected to be considered less than human.

“Are you alright?” I whispered to her when she changed back.

“I think so…”

I didn’t think and put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at me and gave me a slightly timid smile.

With the reveals done with, people scattered back into groups and getting to know each other. Tyler invited me in to go and play some games upstairs, the lounge there had a bunch of consoles, but I politely declined. I wasn’t really in the mood for it.

I went back to my room and hid within it. Just thinking over everything that had happened over the past few days. I shot a few text to my sister and my parents who were naturally worried so I took the time to calm them down.

When I emerged from my self imposed exile, night had fallen.

The evening was cool, but not so much that I was uncomfortable, so I went outside and sat on one of the lounging chairs by the pool. Ahti took the opportunity to go for a swim, having stripped down once again.

They were impressive underwater, gliding through it as if there was no resistance whatsoever and spending several minutes at a time submerged.

“Want to join me?” They asked, emerging in a splash of water.

“I would, but I didn’t pack a swimsuit.”

“Why do humans wear clothes when they swim? I don’t get it.”

“Because we don’t like to be naked.”

“What’s wrong with being naked?”

“We’re just not comfortable with it…”

“You’re weird.”

“That we are.”

Ahti returned to enjoying their workout for a while before they went back inside to get something to eat. Itharii might be small, but they were amazingly voracious.

“So, I see that you’ve made it.” Abraxas said from behind me.

I tensed, my whole body freezing in a state of panic.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that. How long have you been there?” I answered after a moment.

“Long enough.”

“Where did you even come from?”

“I took one of the ways to here and walked about a mile to get here. And just levitated above the hedge. ”

“The ways?”

“Long story, something I’ll have to show you when the time come.”

“You really need to teach me about this whole magic thing and how the hell I’m doing what I’m doing.”

“I would, but I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“Because I’m not like you Annabelle. You, you were chosen, granted the power of a mantle out of the blue. I wasn’t so lucky. Everything I do is based on the artifacts in my possession. Without them, I’m not any different from your average human being.”

“What’s a mantle?”

“It’s complicated, magic always is. You see, everyone can do magic, but only an exceptional few such as you, can do it well. Some people are born with that talent, some of them are given by some greater power and others take it for themselves.

There is truth in stories of magical lineages or cults. The power wants to survive and so it can be passed on; through apprentices or bloodline. That power we call a mantle, because only one person can bear it at a time, but many can be connected to it. One day, you’ll create those bonds; with your students or your children. But as a mantle bearer, you’ll always be more powerful than them. At least until you die or willingly pass on your power.”

“Are you telling me I can give powers to other people?”

“It’s not so simple, creating an apprentice is much more difficult than that. Simply teaching them the words and formulas won’t do until they are ready to accept the power. They have to be made so that reality isn’t so real anymore, that their thoughts and belief can mold it and then they have to be remade so that they aren’t lost in bedlam. I have gone through a failed initiation, I would not wish it on anyone.”

“I see…”

“I can show you some things; occult academia if you will. The who’s who of the magic world, the worlds beyond and their inhabitants, our protocols, our histories. But practical lessons are beyond my abilities.”

“When do we start?”

“Soon enough.”

“Why the wait?”

“There are things I have to take care of. Beside, you should take the time to settle in.”

Settling in was easier said than done; the clock was ticking and the sword of damocles ready to drop.

I was about to say something else when I noticed he’d disappeared.

He really was a superhero.

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Wayward: Part II

The Wayward Son

Part II: A New Leaf

As I’d predicted the company didn’t discipline me for my actions. If anything, they spun what I’d done as a new partnership between the Met and them for a safer metropolis that had been kept secret. It was a total lie, but people seemed to buy it. And giving away a few suits in the future was worth the PR.

The rest of the month passed by quickly and I managed to fix our modular system in time for the big demo. In front of hundreds of the world’s top military officers and private security magnate our pilot demonstrated the suit’s capability to change and and adapt to any situation, claiming to herald the end of the need for specialized units. It was pure bollocks, but they seemed impressed regardless. The demonstration over, I retreated to our prep area and began running a check up on the systems.

“Jay, my boy.” Mr. Samuel Wentworth said as he approached me, even though I’d told him a thousand time that my sisters only Sana and Vani could call me Jay. He wrapped an arm around me, trying to do the fatherly routine. I wasn’t fond of physical contact and I repressed the urge to shake him off. “Brilliant work on the Nandaka, you wowed the audience.”

“That’s good, because I quit.”

“What?” Was all he answered.

“I’m done. I checked, the suit fill all of the parameters my contract required it to. Consider this my two week notice.”

“Please Jay, I’m sure we can negotiate something. You know how much I value your help.”

I paused.

“I want a suit for my own personal use, freedom to use it as I please and my own lab in a location of my choosing.”

“I…”

“Think about it. It’s win-win. You get to keep me on board, I improve your weapons and you get valuable real-world data on its performance. Plus you can spin what I do however you please.”

“Is this because of what happened with your sister? I know, your father told me.”

“Doesn’t matter. You heard my terms, take them or leave them.”

“I’ll have to ask the board. I can’t make that kind of decision all by myself.”

“Call me when they say yes.”

I finished the diagnosis and went home in a cab. Home was a good hour and a half away so that left me plenty of time to think. Once I came in, I found Sana was waiting for me, babysitting little Vani by herself. My sisters and I were only half siblings in reality. Although we shared the same dad, I’d been the result of an adventure between my dad and one of his childhood friend whom had passed only a few months after my birth.

“How did it go?” She asked, keeping her eyes on our three years old sister as she ate. The moment she would look away, Vani would throw the plate away and make a mess.

“It went well… I’m thinking of quitting.”

“Wait, for real?” She turned my way and stopped paying attention for a second.

So Vani put her plate on as a hat, sending spaghetti everywhere. Vani thought it was the funniest thing ever and started giggling her lungs out. Sana on the other hand let out the most primordial howl of frustration ever heard in history.

I helped her clean it all up before setting Vani in the tub, which made her happy. She probably made messes all the time just so we’d have to give her a bath. Toddlers are devious like that, cute but devious.

“You’re seriously leaving? Like you’re not going to do what dad wants for once?”

“Yeah, I think it’s time for something new.”

“What are you going to do, go back to college?”

“I was thinking of something more physical.”

As I said that, my phone vibrated and I took it out; it was Mr. Wentworth.

> They said yes. Don’t fuck up.

I couldn’t help but smile. Only one was thing left to take care of.

***

The London office of the Legion wasn’t as impressive as its american counterpart but it was still impressive; A massive statue of it’s founding members stood in front of the buildings. Technically they shared it with the Parahuman Initiative of the Metropolis or the PIM, but nobody cared about that.

I walked into the large lobby, three floor in height of glass, steel and marble. People were walking about from one side to the other and there were even a few parahuman officers on duty; one of them easily recognizable by her glowing orange skin.

“Can I help you?” The receptionist asked.

“Uh, yeah.” I fumbled around my pocket and found the card the Captain had given me. “Captain Thunder told me to give you this.”

“You must be Sanjay.” She said picking up her phone.

“How do you know my name?”

“Captain Thunder has told us to you might come by some time ago.”

That didn’t really answer the question, I hadn’t told him my name. But then again the Legion wouldn’t have been as good as it was if it wasn’t able to find my name from SecuriTech’s employee database.

“Here’s your visitor badge. Please head to the waiting room ahead. The Captain is currently busy but should be available soon.”

I took the badge and she pointed me to the security gate. I let it scan my badge and it let me through.

The center of the lobby was like a miniature park with trees, bushes and flowers. Benches were scattered around and a few kiosk sold food to people. I got a falafel sandwich and sat down to wait for my rendezvous.

After about an hour, Captain Thunder came to meet me, although he was less spectacular this time, coming down the lift like anyone else would. Still, he had the stature of a Greek god and wore  his trademark costume; a black set of tights with a golden lightning emblem and a pristine white cape flowing over his shoulders. Capes didn’t look all that great, they’re big and awkward and really don’t look good on most people. But the Captain could pull it off.

“So you came.” He said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I did.”

“I expected you earlier.”

“I had things to finish.”

“And have they been taken care of?”

“They have. You said when I had decided to do something better with my life, to come and see you here. What for?”

“We’re always on the lookout for people with the right spirit. You qualify. And from what you did, you have the talent to back that up.”

“What did you have in mind?”

He walked over to an information booth and picked a pamphlet, handing it to me.

I read it; Ravenhold Academy, 2016.

“The superhero school?”

“I’ve got a voucher I haven’t used. It’s yours. Any questions?”

“When do I begin?”

“Three weeks from now. We’ll arrange transportation. But I have to ask; what about your suit, isn’t that going to be a problem?”

“I got that taken care of already.”

“Efficient. I like that. I’ll call you when it’s time.”

He walked me to the exit and left the building before flying away. I walked further down the street before I took my phone out. It rang a few times before I got an answer from the secretary who redirected me.

“Mr. Wentworth?” I asked.

“Yes, Jay. What can I do for you?”

“I’ve decided where I want my lab.”

“And where is that?”

“Priest Island, Maine. Make it a portable one. I’ll need it by early September.”

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Wayward: Part I

The Wayward Son

Part I: Emergency

Nine straight hours of work. Three fourths of the way through my daily routine. Everyday was the same; I came to the company and labored from sunup to sunset on my father’s magnum opus; the Nandaka armor. My father was a genius weapon designer, I’d followed his footsteps. Except I was even better.

“What’s up?” Someone asked from behind me.

I jumped a little. I turned up and saw my little half-sister Sana standing behind me. She was only two years younger than I was although we weren’t all that similar. She was slender and tall, with coppery skin and light brown hair. Although we shared similar skin tones, my hair was darker and my build the opposite; short but sturdy, I’d always been the odd one out of the children, although I was Tamil like them, I didn’t look all that similar which came from being from a different mother, the result of an affair by my father.

“Cheesh, Sana. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Didn’t sneak up, you were just so focused you didn’t hear me.”

“Right.”

“I brought you lunch. Mostly so the guards would let me in.” She gave me a paper bag, which I put down on my desk.

“Thanks.”

I got up and hugged her.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Good, but you’d know that if you were home more often.”

“Sorry, work’s been making me busy.” I examined her and noticed that she wore a short cocktail dress and had her makeup done.

“Going somewhere?”

“It’s Ashleigh’s birthday. We’re going to 618. And you’re coming with us.” She said, putting her index against my chest. 618 was one of the most popular club these days; really high end. At fifteen Sana wasn’t old enough to drink but I knew she could pass for an adult, plus with her richer than rich ceo-daughter BFF that didn’t matter a whole lot.

“I can’t.”

“Oh come on, you’ve been wrapped up in your work all week end, you can at least come and party with us.” She said. “Can’t you do something other than work for one night? That’s all you ever do…”

“Sorry, not tonight.”

“Fine, have a good night.”

She walked away and I was left to ponder her words. She was right; it was all I ever did. I wasn’t sure what else to do either. Graduating high school at ten and breezing through college in a few years hadn’t left me with any idea on what to do with my time. I sat back down and went back to work. I always liked to have some noise in the background when working, there was something about silence that made me uncomfortable so I turned the TV up.

The modular equipment was the thing giving me the most trouble. Just adding a slot where you could bolt or unbolt other pieces wasn’t hard, but making it dynamic and able to remove or replace equipment on the field unassisted without it being a structural weakness proved to be a challenge. After two hours I gave up. I wasn’t making any progress and my stomach was protesting any more work.

I reached for the paper bag Sana had left and opened it before looking at the content. There was a four compartment tupperware containing curd rice, tamarind rice, sambar, and vegetable curry.  A little taste of home just for me, all home cooked. It meant one thing; she had known I wouldn’t have come or she wouldn’t have worked so hard on it…

I took it to the employee kitchen downstairs and put it in the microwave. A crowd had gathered around the TV with worried whispers and it took me a moment to understand why…

Hostage crisis at 618

My heart sunk.

I didn’t think.

I ran upstairs.

The prototype we had was encased behind a glass case. I hit the release button and an alarm blared through the room. Security was warned that someone was accessing it. I didn’t have time to hesitate; I entered the override and booted the assembly sequence; scanners scanned me from all directions and soon after the mechanical arms built the armor around me, sealing it. The HUD booted just as corporate security stormed the room.

So I ran past them, the armor’s servos making it feel light. I passed the corridor and made my way to the stairs; going up rather than down. I kicked the door to the roof open, sending it off it’s hinges, and then ran toward the edge.

“Stop!” One of the security guard yelled.

“I can’t.” I answered in a whisper but the suit’s voice modulator amplified it.

I ran to the edge, jumped and prayed.

The ionic thrusters came to life and I glided through the air. It wasn’t a long way from SecuriTech to the 618, but it felt like it was.  From the air, I could see the police had surrounded the place, the Met’s firearm unit stood at the ready, awaiting their orders.  

I on the other hand couldn’t wait. I dove into the club, shattering the sky light.

My entry had resulted in a moment of confusion and I took the seconds it afforded me to case the place. Six men in cheap animal masks and guns stood in the club, hostages sat on the ground in the sides.

The first one to recover raised his gun at me and fired a few panicked shots, the bullets hitting my armor but harmlessly being stopped by the kinetic field. I didn’t let the others react before dealing with them. The smart targeting system let me hit him right in the shoulder of his gun-arm without any effort; my gauntlet-integrated weapons shooting him with a pulsed particle beam. 

He went down clutching his shoulder and screaming. The others unleashed a barrage at me. I resisted the urge to try to dodge; if they didn’t hit me, they risked hitting the hostages.

The kinetic shields thankfully handled the stress and I activated one of the armor’s secondary weapon. A pulse of kinetic force filled the club, sending them down. It wasn’t strong enough to knock them out but it let me deal with them. I ran to the closest one and punched him in the stomach hard enough for him to fold up like a clam and exhale all of the air in his lungs. A second got up and I shot him in the knee and then the arms.

The last three didn’t fare much better; they weren’t professionals so they panicked and didn’t think.

“Sana?!” I yelled, once the last one of them hit the ground.

“Jay?” She answered, getting up from the mass of frozen people still sat on the ground.

“You’re alright?”

“I am…” She answered breathlessly.

I didn’t have time to say anything else that the police stormed in the building. A half dozen officers surrounded us and aimed their firearms at us. I stepped up in front of them and shielded Sana.

“On the ground!” One of them shouted.

“I’m not a—”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence as Captain Thunder descended from the sky, coming through the same skylight I’d come out of, he was wrapped in lightning and eyes glowing with power. Despite being indoor, his pristine white and gold cape flowed through the air as if battered by wind.

“Calm down gentlemen.” He said in his naturally thunderous voice. “I’ll take this from here. Get the girl and the others to safety.”

The MET team scattered and returned to their duties. The MET and the Legion had a strange relationship; they sort of let each other handle their relevant business so long as the police got to handle any criminals that were caught.

“Walk with me.” The Captain said. It wasn’t a request. We walked through the building to a place without cameras or anyone watching.

“Do you have a name?”

“That wasn’t really one of my priorities.” I answered.

“It wasn’t? Normally wannabe capes can’t resist telling me the snazzy name they picked for themselves.”

“I’m not a wannabe.”

“Sure you aren’t. You just accidentally but in a hostage crisis.”

“My sister was in the crowd… I had to do something.”

“And you just happened to have a high tech suit of armor?”

“I was working on it at SecuriTech.”

“You work there?”

“Yes.”

“So is that what you want to do with your life? Design weapons for Direct Action or whoever else can afford it?”

“What? No I…” I shut up for a moment. “I don’t know what I want to do.” I admitted. “This is just what my father’s been pushing me to do.”

“And you’re happy with that?”

I didn’t have an answer for him.

He grabbed his cape, pulled it closer and put two fingers inside, revealing a hidden pocket. He took out a card which he chucked at me. It was Black with a white and gold insignia. His official Legion member card.

“When you’ve decided you want to do something better with your life, swing by our London office. Give them this.”

With that he left me alone. Apparently I wasn’t under arrest even though I’d just interfered in police business. Then again they could arrest me at my workplace when I wouldn’t be wearing armor. It wasn’t like my employer was going to be happy about what I’d done.

I flew back to the company and came in the same way I left. I couldn’t be with Sana like this and I needed to be there to remove the armor. I found my father talking to some corporate people in our lab.

“Could you leave us alone?” My father asked the others once he saw me. His voice barely containing his rage.

There was a moment of hesitation but the oldest of the corporate suit acquiesced to the request. They passed by me and I entered the suit assembler.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” He screamed at me when I came out.

“I saved Sana.” Was all I answered.

“You stole our secret prototype! Do you have any idea what the company is going to do to you?”

“Nothing. There’s only twenty nine days until our demo, if I don’t work their stock will take a hit because we won’t have delivered what we promised.”

My father stormed out, cursing under his breath in hindi; a language he’d never bothered to teach me or my sisters.

I got up and felt the business card in my pants. It was as if it had suddenly gained several pounds of weight…

When you’ve decided you want to do something better with your life, swing by our London office.

The words echoed through my mind.

Next

Leaving Darkness: Part I

Leaving the Darkness

Part I: Chimera Beasts

“Ugh, it smells disgusting in here,” Marcus muttered, covering his nose with one hand as we walked into the warehouse. I merely shrugged in response, what else did the guy expect in a lab area? Maybe I was just used to the smells though.

“I see you finally arrived,” Heppenheim said, appearing around a row of metal cages. The only view in was a small panel of closely gridlocked metal bars. Occasionally one of the boxes were shaken by it’s contents, and the box sizes varied of course. Heppenheim was wearing latex gloves stained with something questionable, similar stains covered his white lab coat.

“Sorry about that. We heard rumours that the Legion caught wind of this latest shipment. Kellen’s on it,” Marcus explained.

“I see,’” Heppenheim murmured, electronic whirring and clinking coming from his right eye as he analysed Marcus’ manner. He seemed satisfied there was no deception going on. “Just don’t be late next time or I might consider selling to Dr Vernichtung”. They both paused before laughing at the suggestion, I rolled my eyes.

We followed Heppenheim to the centre of the old warehouse tucked away in the Portsmouth docks. We’d been operating out of this place for a few months now and I admit I was starting to get nervous at Marcus’ words. We didn’t tend to stay in any one place for long but the Syndicate hadn’t yet been in touch with new location and route plans.

“What are this month’s numbers?” Marcus asked, looking through the flipchart Heppenheim handed him.

“Three less than last month. We had a bit of an issue getting some of the equipment. Your last ID didn’t pass inspection for me to get some of the higher tier chemicals required for the process,” Heppenheim said, looking more than a little disgruntled. Marcus’ gaze shot up, eyes widened.

“Why didn’t you report this to us sooner?” Marcus asked, putting the flipchart back on a nearby cage. The creature within hissed a protest but no one cared.

“Jaeger here managed to lead them all over the place before escaping, so there’s little chance anyone knows our location. I figured you had more important things to worry about. We did handle these situations before getting involved with your organisation keep in mind,” Heppenheim replied, irritation lacing his tone as he off-handedly motioned to me.

“We could’ve moved you sooner. No wonder the Legion are about. I need to call Kellen. We need to move this shipment ASAP.” I watched Marcus storm off, his communicator already out of his jacket pocket. Heppenheim was already back to work, muttering under his breath as he checked our stock. I decided I probably wasn’t needed for the time being and headed down through the corridor of cages. Aside from the panicked call currently in progress, the deal was going down same as usual.

“Jaeger,” I paused mid-step, my pointed ears flicking involuntarily as I turned to glance at Heppenheim.

“Yeah?” I replied, phasing it into a question.

“We need to go over your English later,” he said.

“Why?” I murmured, feeling the eye roll before I had a chance to stop it. Heppenheim watched me intently with his blue eyes, one a normal human shade and the other a too bright, unnatural shade. Not that either of us were exactly as nature intended. He reached forward, flicking my nose-leaf before I could react.

“Because I’m not spending five minutes deciphering your texts anymore,” he sighed, an almost affectionate sound.

I’ll send them in German then,” I shrugged, flowing easily back into our native tongue. Heppenheim sent me a dead-pan expression.

“Just go revise the language,” he sighed, turning back to go back to work. I stuck out my tongue at his back, he didn’t react but his eye was connected to the cameras so I know he saw it. Then he did stop, his movements freezing. I was ready to ask what was wrong when a loud crash echoed from the direction Marcus had disappeared too. Heppenheim cursed in German and turned, propelling me forward with him.

“The Legion are here,” he whispered. “Keep them distracted while I ready the teleporter,” he instructed in a hissed whisper.

I nodded, already yanking open a panel on the wall. I hit the all the breakers down at once and heard the metallic snap as all the chimeras were released. I watched Heppenheim disappear into a door before grabbing the nearest pipe and climbing upwards. The good thing about warehouses was that they had a lot of bare metal piping and walkways. It made it easy to move around and study the hero’s. I’d only heard about the Legion. We’d had the occasional hero trying to make a new name for him or herself turn up, but between me and the other chimeras we always managed to deal with it. I could see them underneath me now, emitting various animalistic growls and threatening noises.

The Legion hadn’t reached the room but that didn’t matter, the chimera were already seeking them out. And the warehouse was large with open doorways everywhere. I emitting a high pitched echo, shutting my eyes as I did. A different view of the building around me reached my ears. I could tell where the invaders were and their numbers. I paused when something else reached my ears. There was someone very close by. I ducked in time to avoid a punch. I spun and kicked upwards, propelling myself to the ground. It wasn’t the best of landings but I was able to withstand falls that would’ve knocked a human unconscious.

“Chimeras everywhere. We need to purge this place!” A male voice yelled from somewhere in the distance.

“Fuck,” I whispered. I had no idea if Heppenheim had enough time and based on the whimpers of pain the chimera numbers were dwindling fast. The person who had tried to attack me dropped to the floor a few feet from me, studying me curiously. I stood up quickly, crouched and ready to defend myself. It was difficult for me to make any discerning facial features as she was wearing a large domino mask. All I could see were dark, intense eyes and slightly parted lips. She was wearing a black and white armour body suit and an intricate gauntlet around her left wrist that felt alien in origin.

“You poor thing,” she whispered. I blinked at her, thrown. “We’ll bring justice to whoever did this to you,” she continued. I realised what she was talking about and felt my cheeks burn slightly.

“I don’t want any of your dumb pity. Now fight me unless you’re worried about losing to a chimera,” I said through gritted teeth. I didn’t give her a chance to reply, launching myself at her. It wasn’t my smartest move. She side-stepped and threw out an arm, punching me in the gut and winding me easily. I crumpled to the floor, clutching my stomach.

“You did well earlier, but now you’re letting your emotions take over,” she observed.

“Fuck you,” I muttered. What the hell was this chick’s deal? My ears flicked at more footsteps and I looked over my shoulder to see others were here. All wearing stupid brightly coloured outfits with some kind of symbol or initials, some even wearing capes. Just like Miss stereotypical hero next to me. I clenched my fists, trying to figure out how to deal with this many people. Idiotic looking or not they were Legion. Which meant fighting just one would be difficult. My hurting middle evidence of that.

Suddenly there was a crackle of blue-white energy around us and I froze. It lasted for about two seconds and then it was gone. Heppenheim had activated the teleporter and left.

Without me.

Scheiẞe

Next

 

Outland: Part III

The Human Outlands

Part III: Nightly Anxiety

I woke up in the middle of the night, my hearts beating. I reached out for Kulaat but she wasn’t there so I panicked. Only after a minute did I remember; she was on the other side of the world. I hesitantly took a peek outside of my covers; the room was dark, the blinds pulled all the way over the window and only the thinest crack of light passed under the door.

The only sound I could hear was that of Jaime’s breathing. I could see her on the other bed. She hadn’t hung out with us earlier, I didn’t know why. but I had the feeling she didn’t like me…  

I got out of bed, walking on my tippie toes to make sure nobody could hear me, and went out into the common room. There wasn’t any light on but the sky was clear and the moon wasn’t too small, basking everything in a zaru glow. Unlike humans who had really bad night vision, I could see well if the stars and moon were uncovered.

My spit gland were at the ready, waiting for potential predator to make their move. But there weren’t any.

I wasn’t sure what to do so I went for Annabelle’s room. The door was locked and I didn’t have my card with me. I didn’t even know if my card would have worked; it wasn’t my room…

I felt frustration build up inside; I was stuck…

It took me a minute to remember that I could always use my powers…

It took me a few tries but with them I moved the lock into an open position and the door unlocked, letting me in. Annabelle’s room was identical at it’s base. The two occupants hadn’t really added any decorations to it.

Although it was really dark, it was easy to find Annabelle; Yougen’s bed had a wheelchair next to it.

I snuck toward her and lightly shook her awake.

She got up abruptly and sparks began dancing between her fingers. Then her eyes settled on me and she visibly relaxed.

“Ahti? You scared the life out of me.” She whispered before she closed her hands and the sparks went away. “Why are you here? What time is it?”

I hadn’t checked but it was really late. Or early depending on your perception.

“I’m scared…” I said, looking down. “Can I sleep with you?”

She took a moment to answer, as if processing what I’d just said.

“Sure, but put some pants on first.”

“Okay…”

I wasn’t sure why, but humans are weird when it comes to be naked. It’s like it’s really scary for them.

I left her room, went back in mine and grabbed my pants and put them on before grabbing Mr Hopper, my plush, and going back to her room. She had sat down on her bed and opened the light on her bedside table.

“All set?”

I nodded, holding my plush tight against my chest. That seemed to make her smile.

“Alright, hop in.”

I sat down and laid down by the entrance side, she closed the light and lied down behind me, wrapping her arms around me protectively. It was kind of weird, she wore a shirt but her arms were uncovered and touching my bare skin, something I wasn’t used to. It was just so different from Itharii skin.

Still she was big and warm. So I felt comfortable sandwiched between Mr. Hopper and her, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

“Good night.” She mumbled.

“Night.” I answered.

Secure in her embrace my worries faded away and I fell back asleep quickly.

I woke up first, the sun had barely began rising over the horizon. I slipped out of Annabelle’s arms and left the room before sneaking back into my own, putting my plush back and getting dressed. Some of the others including Amber, Allison, Charlie and Caroline, most of whom I hadn’t really spoken to, were awake and making food.

I went to the kitchen counter and climbed onto the stool, which was really high.

“Morning Ahti. What do you eat for breakfast?” Caroline asked.

“Utza’i or narik, usually.” I answered. By the way Caroline looked at me, I guessed she didn’t know what either of those were. “Utza’i is a soup made with beaten zetz eggs and utz weeds. A nari is like a fried ball of dough covered in syrup.”

“Oh… I don’t think we have any Itharii ingredients in the fridge…”

“I can eat human food. Just no land meat it makes my belly hurt.”

“How about scrambled eggs? Chicken eggs.”

Chicken eggs were one of the human foods I ate often. Although we ate a lot of Itharii foods at home, production wasn’t that high yet so we used earth substitute; Rice was very similar to izatu grains so we made noodles with it or just at it as such.

“That works.” I said.

After a very quick cooking time, she gave me a plate along with some tea which was nice and I ate it really quickly before asking for another.

While she took care of that, I grabbed one of the fruit left in a bowl on the counter; it was big and orange. I bit into it and it tasted pretty foul. Amber however went to my rescue, taking the fruit and removing the skin without a word. The inside was made of sweet and juicy cells that split into wedges, which I really liked.

Once I was done, I left the counter and sat down on one of the couch. Mace had put television on so I watched that, not really understanding what the people were debating.

Annabelle was the last to wake up, she went for the counter but once she got a cup of tea and an egg sandwich, she came to me and sat down.

“About last night, were you okay?” She asked in a whisper. “You seemed a little panicky.”

“I’ve never slept alone before.” I answered, looking away. “I just got a little scared…”

“Really? You’ve never slept alone?”

I shook my head. “I share a bed with my clutchmate Kulaat at home and sometimes with my zuzuk. So when I get scared at night, they’re there for me.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Sometimes. I just wake up and my hearts are beating like crazy and I feel like there’s something out there… Kulaat thinks I’m a big baby because of it…”

“Hey, it’s okay to get scared a little. Beside, I’m sure you’re really brave in reality, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”

“You really think so?”

“Of course I do.”

I couldn’t help but hug her. In answer, she wrapped her arms around me.

“Alright, I better eat my breakfast and get ready before class starts.” She said, letting go after a minute.

“Okay.”

She came back a few minutes later, having changed into what I presumed were day clothes; a hooded jacket and those blue pants humans really love. As a group we left for our first day of class.

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Hunted: Part II

Hunted
Part II: Priest Island

The Bus ride went better than expected. My protective necklace remained intact, which left me with two protective charms, hopefully because the Shigeo-kai had assumed their first attempt at doing whatever had worked.

I sat down in a bench next to some girl in gothic regalia and waited for the bus to start. However a few minutes after that, some douchebag started harassing an Itharii who’d sat down front diagonal from me.

It wasn’t my first time seeing one; San Francisco had given them part of angel island for them to settle in and they’d become a fairly common sight around the city.

“Dude, keep it down, do you sell dust, you know your ‘pssh’” I heard the dude say, offering the Itharii a twenty.

Dust had a weird legal standing, although the government wasn’t too keen on drugs, outlawing dust was kind of like outlawing tears because someone could get high on it. So instead they’d made public solicitation forbidden and since being high in public even with legal substance wasn’t allowed that had mostly fixed the problem. Plus forcibly getting an Itharii to give you dust was just asking to be sprayed and spend your weekend in agonizing anxiety from overdose.

The Itharii looked rather uncomfortable and so I stepped in.

“Seriously? You’re harassing an Itharii for drugs here of all place?” I said, grabbing the guy by the collar and lifting him to his feet. He looked like he was going to start a fight but his gaze shifted around and noticed that the whole bus was staring. So he wised up, leaving after insulting me under his breath like a coward.

“Sorry for the jerkwad, I’m Annabelle Yeun.” I said, sitting beside the Itharii

“Ahti Tkara.”

The two of us shared some small talk; I learned that Ahti was okay with being called a they, a suggestion given to us by the mutated parahuman who sat behind us called Rowan. Eventually, Ahti fell asleep, leaning on my shoulder; giving kind of a light whistling snore. Something odd about Itharii; they smell salty, kind of like an ocean breeze.

I woke them up just as we arrived and we all got down.

Abraxas had been right about Priest Island, there was something in the air that felt strange and unearthly. Hopefully he was right about it hiding me from my enemies.

I followed the group to the gate, carrying my old bag on my shoulder and we were met by the second Raven who gave us a speech which I admittedly didn’t listen to before dividing us into class.

By chance or fate’s decree Rowan, Ahti and I ended up in the same class and heading for our new dorm. The dorm seemed nice, although it wasn’t luxury either. Thankfully someone had had the foresight to leave a bunch of pizza for us; I hadn’t eaten anything in ages and had thrown up my last lunch.

I introduced Ahti to the wonderful world of pizza and they seemed so absolutely amazed by it as they devoured four whole slices despite how tiny they were. Somehow they had a lot of place in that belly. To be fair; even bad pizza was nice and this one was pretty damn great.

As we ate we chatted some more. Apparently Ahti had lesbian moms which was pretty nice, apparently humans weren’t the only species who could be queer as hell. There weren’t a whole lot of lgbt folks in my family beside one of my cousin whom I mostly saw at christmas.

“Hey sorry to bother you. I’m Yougen, your roommate.” A girl said, wheeling toward me in her wheelchair. Despite her name she looked white which struck me as odd.

“I’m Annabelle Yeun. And don’t worry, it’s really nice to meet you.”

“I should check who I’m rooming with.” Ahti said before leaving us to talk.

“Want to go check our room?” I asked.

“Sure. Room one is right there.” She said pointing at the first door from the front.

Rooming with someone wasn’t anything new to me; I’d been in the same room as my twin Emma since we’d been born. Our new room was actually bigger than the one we had at home, it wasn’t huge but Emma and I’s room was a glorified shoe box.

I let Yougen in first and she chose one of the bed for herself. I took the other and unpacked my things, setting them quickly into the bed’s drawer. I did a check up and found a tablet in the bedside table which I took.

I took out my phone and texted Emma.

I made it. I’m safe. <

I waited for a few seconds, but didn’t get a reply. She’d probably just forgotten to charge her phone again. At least I hoped; I hadn’t thought about the possibility that the Shigeo-kai could hurt them.

I banished the thought from my mind as best I could; summoning images of fluffy criters to replace it.

When I turned around, Yougen seemed to struggle a bit with unpacking. Like me she didn’t have a whole lot, but she hadn’t finished.  

“Would you like some help?” I offered.

“Nah, I’ll be fine.”

“Alright. Call me if you need anything.”

She nodded and I went to the common room.

As I did I briefly checked the corkboard, it held the room assignment as well as other stuff; a paramorph support group, recruitment call for the school’s journal, invitation to the LGBT club, a note from the doctor’s office on sexual healthcare and service for trans students.

Nothing I needed.

“Anyone wanna watch a movie and maybe get to know each other?” One of the three guys asked, his name was Mace according to his tag.

“That sounds fun. Wait, has anyone seen Ahti? They’re the Itharii.” I answered.

“Fell asleep the moment it touched the bed.” A redheaded girl named Jaime said with a shrug.

Before I could politely correct her, Rowan snapped at her.

“Don’t call Ahti an ‘it’.” They said after correcting them. They probably didn’t mean to, but they bared their fangs at her.

Jaime however couldn’t have cared less, just giving another shrug before leaving to god knows where.

“So… Are we still doing the movie?” Mace asked.

“Sure, no need to spoil the evening.” Another girl, Caroline she was called said.

We all sat down except for a few; One of the girl I’d only seen briefly had also disappeared and Ahti was apparently sleeping.

I ended up sitting right next to Mace.

“What’s your name?” He asked, trying to be suave.

“It’s right there.” I said tapping my tag.

“Annabelle is a good name.”

“I guess so…”

I politely replied to the rest of his attention but I wasn’t really interested. All I cared about was getting an answer from Emma…

Beside, he really wasn’t my type… Mostly because my type was more like the cute brooding dark haired girl with cold gray eyes sitting on the other end of the couch. She wasn’t a model, actually she was a bit oddly proportioned but she pulled that ‘I don’t give a fuck’ kind of charm.

Only a few minutes after the credits of the first movie rolled, Ahti walked into the common room stretching their arms.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“Yeah, was just tired, spent all day on a plane and then a bus.”

So had I, but they’d gone from South Africa to New York, which was a much longer ride.

“Want to watch a movie with us little guy?” Mace asked them.

I let Ahti in between Mace and I and they acted as a buffer, which thankfully put a stop to the awkward flirting from the guy with the broken gaydar. I would have told him to stop but that would have required guts and I was kind of a coward…

The second movie got started but I didn’t pay anymore attention. Halfway through however my phone vibrated and I took it out.

> Sorry I didn’t answer earlier. I forgot my phone.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was alright.

At least for now…

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