Woodland, Northern Vermont
Alan stirred from a deep sleep, everything in cat form was better, especially a cat nap which always demanded a good stretch afterwards. He’d noticed how food tasted so much more delightful as a cat, which reminded him, he’d need to hunt soon to keep his strength up.
He enjoyed being in cat form more than human, he could see further as a cat, smell - ahh smells, all the delectable scents each breath announced. Human senses just couldn’t compare to a Werecat's, although; opposable thumbs held merit.
Tracking those who had absconded with Cameron, keeping pace with the vehicle, had taken every bit of strength he possessed. When the cargo van finally stopped in front of the garage door set into a hillside Alan was ready to collapse. But he watched as Cameron was unloaded and taken inside, still unconscious.
The last stretch of road was nothing more than a couple dirt tracks running into the forest, plenty of ‘Keep Out’ and ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted to warn away any casual curious explorers, only a solitary faded old sign spoke of the final destination: Diablo Mining Company.
An exceptionally high fence, strung with ‘Danger’, “Do Not Enter’, and ‘Electric Fence’ signage indicated any unwanted presence was unwelcome. Not that any of those warnings mattered to Alan, nothing so mundane would prevent him from helping Cameron.
Armed guards entered the overhead door and then ensured the single entrance was closed and secured, latched shut. Alan’s fatigue and the gun placements stationed on either side of the bay door created a solidly defended perimeter. That little deterrent had the Were panther reconsider marching right up to the door and rescuing his friend.
It hadn’t taken long to find a tasty morsel for dinner, and in the fading light, Alan had scoped out the place, finding all the camera placements and calculating possible approaches to disable any guns. What he’d found out was that some of those guns turned out to be machine guns, others artillery. This place was a fortress!
What he couldn’t figure out was why? What purpose did it serve? There was next to no traffic to this site. The van he’d followed was still parked outside, but from the look of this place's door, the entrance appeared like a garage.
Alan had had to scramble over a monstrous slag pile while giving the area a once over. The amount of dumped material said this was a huge mine, with underground tunnels possibly reaching for miles.
His ears twitched, something was happening inside, Alan heard gunfire, that was what woke him, cat hearing and all that. The black panther remained motionless, camouflaged up in a tree, his vantage spot letting him see the main door and most of the gunnery ports.
It was night, so the flashes of light at one gun station attracted his attention, it was muzzle flashes, shots being fired, but aimed inside the pillbox not outside at him. Alan heard shouting and shrieks of agony, followed by more flashes of light, followed by an eerie sudden quiet.
It was only due to his cat sight that Alan noticed how a dark mass eked out through the small slit of an opening at a gun placement, he shuddered at the realization: a dark one.
Alan was revolted, to his core he shuddered, he’d seen more than enough of the corrupted, even fought them hand to hand. But he’d been overcome himself, it was a living death, the most vile thing imaginable. Every hair on his body stood on end, call it fear or loathing, this is the enemy. And it was making a bee-line towards him.
Whateley Academy, Teachers Lounge
Elizabeth Carson tipped the lever, letting the enticing dark brew pour into her oversized mug. The aroma promised an elixir to help ease her into yet another day. She’d tried that rat poison the Devisors concocted down in the tunnels; it tasted like powdered coal mixed with gasoline to her. Sure it had a kick like a mule, but coffee was meant to be savoured, each sip a gentle hug on the insides, so as to break a person slowly into the start of a new day.
Now Elizabeth looked over the dining area, scouting out a table. She needed a moment of quiet contemplation to let the dark elixir, her favourite blend, do it’s magic … and a blueberry muffin - damn if those didn’t look good too. So with her mug and a plated muffin the headmistress headed to an empty table near a window.
Mrs. Carson sat with her cup held near her mouth, not drinking yet, just breathing in the rich scent, letting her sense of smell be the first to awaken. She allowed the steam waft into her mind and slowly clear the mental fog left over from too little sleep due to the hectic day yesterday.
After so many years superheroing, Elizabeth had needed to ‘work’ nights since criminals favoured the cover of darkness, mornings still held a challenge for her, something after having a steady day job still remained unresolved.
“Good morning Elizabeth”
Oh no! A morning person. Hadn’t I asked Amelia to ban morning people until after 10 o’clock? Pondered the headmistress. She opened her eyes to look up at the interloper.
“Morning Candace,” was said in greeting. Good? Still a bit too early to tell.
“I hope you don’t mind sharing a table, I had wanted to ask you about the disappearance of a sculpture.”
“Hmmmm” vocalized Liz, a reaction to the warm coffee caressing her tastebuds as opposed to an acknowledgement of what had been said.
“I had been using it as an on-campus teaching aid for my students to draw.”
“Uhmmmm?” Again - coffee, thou mixed with a hint of curiosity.
“One of the harder things for an artist to accurately capture when drawing is depth, taking a 3D object and putting it onto a 2D page to depict angles. The sculpture was a six sided obelisk that I was using as a subject for my students to practise with.”
“Somebody nicked it?”
“I asked Ms. Hartford about the sculpture, she didn’t know what I was talking about … and don’t wag your eyebrows at me. I didn’t steal it.”
“Sorry, my eyebrows and I aren’t on speaking terms until at least my second cup of coffee.”
“How is it possible that you’re a morning person?”
“All part of being The Fabulous Imp: art thief extraordinaire, I can get by on as little as two hours sleep.”
“That’s just not fair,” grumbled Mrs. Carson.
“You could call it that.”
“So? Is it true?”
“That Whateley’s taking in escapee’s from mental institutes.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Well, lemme see. The headmistress arriving late into the night, with a car load of kids only wearing hospital gowns, none of them having sustained injuries but still wrapped up in bedsheets. Tell me if that doesn’t just yell of being your typical school outing. Plus they get squirrelled away in the guest cottage, not one of the student dorms, then you have security acting all ‘hush hush’. So, no, nothing to see here folks, nothing suspicious at all, everything’s copasetic.
“Drama queen much?”
“It’s in my blood, I’m an art teacher after all.”
“Fine, I’m helping a group to evade wrongful incarceration.”
“Sounds like my kind of fun.”
“Which, escaping from a mental institute or evading capture?”
“Both, come to think of it.”
“Perhaps you can help, I need to hide them for a time, just long enough to get them out of the country.”
“Ohhh! The plot thickens.”
“Are you willing to help or not?”
“It’s five teenagers from Canada, I’m thinking to hide them in plain sight at Whateley, having them blend in with the students. But they will need ID’s to get home.
“Are they wanted by the police?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Okay, In my professional opinion, go through proper channels to get their ID’s replaced, that kinda stuff gets lost or stolen all the time. It might take longer than alternate avenues, but won’t create suspicion later.”
“What about credit cards?”
“No, I recommend cash only, and driving across the border rather that flying.”
“It could take a while to get it everything arranged.”
“True, although it shouldn’t take more than a day or two to get passports made, the trick will be getting it all back to Whateley, If you’re crunched for time you can use special delivery instead of snail mail.”
“A Teleporter could get it to us within minutes, but it’s pricy.”
“Courier service in a couple days will do fine, I’d like these kids to see Whateley at it’s finest in the meantime.”
“So … I’m to be expecting some exchange students attend my classes for the next few days.”
“Not a bad idea.”
“I’ll have you know, The Fabulous Imp isn’t just some made up moniker, it’s all true.”
“I appreciate this.”
“Now about that missing sculpture?”
“Can’t you just use ole’ Noah Whateley until we get this sorted out.”
“Strangest thing that, he’s got this pink hue to him, I’ve never seen a bronze casting look like that before.”
“Long story. Would you be willing to oversee acquiring some art to spruce up Whateley?”
“In my professional capacity?”
“As an art expert, naturally.”
“Naturally, Now that I think about it, I spotted a really nice piece in New York.”
“Did you see it at an art gallery?”
“Sure, we can call it that.”
Arkham Research Centre
The mild sedative used to subdue Marcus and Ken had finally worn off leaving a paste like taste in their mouths. Al had to suffer the indignity of having a hood placed over his head, but true to his word, Roche had not attempted to resist. The adults concern over the youth in their charge didn’t allow their actions to jeopardize the kids.
That’s not to say that all three of the men watched in delight when the bags placed into adjacent cells got similar attention as given to all the other prisoners. The three men broke into uproarious laughter whenever they saw the silly faces etched onto the bags and especially the watermelon drawn with its tongue sticking out.
The confused look upon the porters seeing what was actually happening was telling: Rachelle’s work. To not break the compulsion, each of the men began speaking to their supposed companions, reinforcing the mirage upon the minds of their captors. It was difficult for the grown-ups to carry on one sided conversations with the fakes, but it made the day pass with a chuckle.
It was nearly impossible for the men to restrain laughter whenever the doctors came to interview the teenagers imposters. Marcus had to bury his face into his pillow. Only Ken had the wherefore-all of character to sit and watch the professionals psychoanalyze fruit, a sack of pots, or bags of rice or flour.
Al Koenig had tried multiple times prying open his cell, it had been built with Bricks in mind, he couldn’t budge it. So, instead, Marcus had begun to sing and serenade all those wrongfully held. Red Section was gifted with beautiful vocal performances, many joined in with known songs, others seeking to learn how to sing.
John sat with his head buried into his hands, his breathing sounding almost like sobs. He had his hopes dashed, when the two avatars left without them, he saw his best chance of escape disappear.
Cameron was busy looking at the mess, the shafts entrance was entirely choked up with rock, debris from the explosives left the shaft blocked, an effective way to ensure nobody escaped. Despite the obvious, Cameron hadn’t succumbed to the futility of the situation, yet.
“John, When you said you could look at a mutant, and see what their power was, can you read their mind telepathically, or do you see something physical about their appearance?”
“I guess you could describe it as each mutant gives off a radiance, the size of glow around someone say’s how powerful they are, while the colour indicates the type of mutation.”
“What do you see, when you look at me?”
“You don’t have any colour around you that I can tell, but your eyes glow gold … what are you?”
“You weren’t much of a friend to Pascal and Bobo - whoever they were.”
“You have a point, but, you see, for a wraith to inhabit a body it is given permission. So those two made the poor choice of granting entry, unfortunately bad choices have consequences, for some it results in a very bad ending.”
“They died because they made a mistake?”
“Yes, life can be harsh, people die everyday from mistakes, inattentive driving, ignoring danger signs. Once started down the wrong path it is hard to step back over onto the right way.”
“Is that what you’re doing, correcting people’s choices?”
“No. I can’t interfere with peoples free will. People will choose what they choose, and must face the aftermath. It has been given to others; the task of pointing out bad from good. I am only to expose what is hidden - and with that - maybe, it will help people make sound decisions.
“Why can’t a person just live as they want?”
“Existence is dependant upon basic rules.”
“If you want to keep living, you need to breath. If you put yourself into a situation where there is no air, that is a poor decision on your part.”
“Okay, so here we are, we are running out of oxygen because someone else put us down here.”
“Good point. Our deaths would then fall upon the shoulders of those who endangered us. Everyone has the right to life, taking a life must be answered for.”
“So, when we die down here, somebodies gotta pay for it?”
“I never said we were gonna die, I was trying to paint a picture about accountability.”
“I see, so when are we going to start climbing?”
“I was waiting for the dust to settle. Here, put this on”
Cameron handed the baffled man a harness, is consisted of straps and buckles, a short tether with a ring hook. As John was trying to get into the harness, he noticed Cameron was donning a large belt with suspenders and braces.
“What is that?”
“This is a levitation belt, I made it for a dance contest, if I push enough energy into it, It should get us most of the way up the shaft.”
“Um, yeah, if you’re sure.”
“I’ve only got 34 percent charge in my battery, after clearing out the entrance I might have 30 %. I would like to keep 10% in my battery for what we might face up-top, so I estimate we won’t make it all the way out and will need to climb the remainder.”
“If you say so, how can I help?”
“Lets try moving some of the rock out of the way first. Every bit of energy I can save gets us further up.
The two began digging at the entrance, the rock was sharp with jagged edges. Slowly a small opening was created, the rock tumbling out when assisted by the two who moved it away from the shafts entrance. The open was enlarged to make room for John to squeeze through.
John and Cameron both had to wiggle into the mine shaft and stood upon the topmost of the rock deposit. Cameron clasped John’s tether onto his belt, he would dangle just below Cameron’s feet.
Cameron checked his battery: 34 %, by his calculation, it was going to be close.
Cameron looked up, and regretted it, he swooned at the height. John grabbed hold of him asking: “You alright?”
“I don’t like heights.”
“Vertigo. Are you sure about this?”
“If I just look at the walls, it should be okay. We have just over 1100 feet to the top.”
“Would you make it, if it was just you?”
“Not an option John. You deserve to live just as much as I do.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Use your hands to guide yourself to prevent from bouncing against the walls, try not to hold onto the walls as it will slow us down.”
“Do we need a count down?”
“Just say ready when you’re set.”
Rachelle, Timothy, and Charlotte sat together at one of the tables in the cottages dining area. The room was empty aside from an attendant who had asked if they wanted something to eat. It was too late for breakfast, they had all slept in too soundly after arriving last night, each groggy teen having stumbled into the provided rooms and diving into bed.
The girls had been billeted into the same room, with Timothy across the hall in a single. R.E.D. and Lynn shared the room next to Rachelle and Charlotte but so far not a peep out of them. The teens sat quietly drinking orange juice and eating some of the fruit from the basket on the counter.
After a short while, and an empty fruit bowl later, Lynn and R.E.D. made an appearance. They too still only had the pyjama’s from ARC to wear, not how one wishes to be attired in public, tends to be a poor first impression.
Lynn was hungry, she prowled the small kitchen and came back to the table with a bowl of cereal sans milk. As she ate, a newcomer entered and set down a box on a nearby table.
“Hello, I’m Ms. Claire. The headmistress asked me to bring you some clothing, I’ve brought you an assortment of undergarments, along with a selection of clothing from our lost and found bin. Next I’ll be taking you to our campus store, you each are being provided preloaded credit cards so you can purchase personal items, and additional clothing as needed.”
“Afterwards, I will be showing you our collection of donated school uniforms, these clothes are from past students or those who have outgrown them. While you are on campus, it would be advisable to blend in as best as possible, so adhering to this schools dress code will help to not draw attention. Questions?”
“Who’s paying for all this?” Pondered Rachelle.
“I have been told to apply all expenses to Outlook’s account, until I hear otherwise. If there’s nothing else, we’ll be returning here later so you can get cleaned up and dressed, and then we’ll head to the school’s office to assign you temporary student passes. Do you all have code names?”
“Most of us.” Responded Timothy
“Very good, those without code names please give finding one consideration. Let’s meet back here in ten minutes.”
The shopping trip was fruitful, everyone found clothes that fit, pretty well. R.E.D. was hard to find clothes for, at six foot five inches she didn’t have many school uniforms to choose from but managed to get some that were close to her size. One uniform set even had a label stating it was fire resistant, that would undoubtedly be put to the test.
The group of teens reconvened in the guest cottages dining area, each of them cleaned up nicely and looked pristine, just like picture day at your typical school - if everyone wore uniforms, and went to an upper class private school, and had that ‘deer in the headlights’ expression new students always wore.
The student ID’s needed a current photo to be affixed to the laminated card, on the cards back was a barcode for a laser scanner, it also had a chip implanted to open doors to classrooms and dorms, to areas of the school you were allowed to access, otherwise your card was declined.
That’s what Ms. Hartford, the Assistant Headmistress, told them when she issued the student cards, warning them not to lose or damage the cards. She was a stern lady, not the sort of person you could warm up to, if you needed her help you just knew she would berate you for the sheer pleasure it afforded her.
Lynn looked at her card, it was too big to slip into a pocket, and she carried no purse, as a Were it would get easily lost when she shifted. She watched Timothy hook his card to a buttonhole on the inside of his uniform jacket, and followed suit.
Charlotte moved beside the Werecat while the others finished getting organized.
“Did you settle on a code name?”
“I still don’t see the need, but when in Rome. I picked: Aware.”
“Like, because you’re A Were.”
“I suppose that works too, it’s cause I’m a PreCog, so I’m aware of what’s happening.”
“Pardon me Ms. Hartford,” sought R.E.D. “I should like to call my family, how might I arrange this?”
“There is a payphone at your cottage, the house parent can instruct you on how to use your student card to make a call and have it billed to your account.”
“Has there been any word about Outlook?” Sought Charlotte.
“Once we hear anything about his whereabouts, you will be duly notified.”
Ms. Claire gathered them together and pointed them down the hallway. “If we hurry, you’ll be able to enjoy lunch at Crystal Hall.” Upon entering the huge cafeteria, Ms. Claire bid them an enjoyable lunch, saying she would collect afterwards and to remain at Crystal Hall until then.
The promise of food, the smell of fresh bread, charbroiled hamburgers, soups, salads, and at least three types of pasta … it’s more than a half starved teenager could resist. Once the heavily laden platters of food had been assembled, a suitable table was found. It had eight seats, surprising how many of the tables had seating for large groups.
Lynn had amassed a heaping plate, it consisted mostly of meat, anything available at the buffet, on the side was a tiny plate with a small leafy salad and some pickles. But before digging in she reached over to the tables ornamental centrepiece, a couple of fake flowers in a vase, and crushed an insect. She then pushed her chair back and looked under the table, taking a shoe off she used it to smack something before returning to her food.
“I’m afraid this school has a problem with bugs,” Lynn announced.
“Spiders freak me out,” exclaimed Charlotte.
“Cockroaches, nasty little things,” affirmed R.E.D.
“I think she meant listening devices,” noted Rachelle, receiving an affirmative nod from Lynn. “I think you guys should know, when Ms. Hartford mentioned Cameron, she was lying, she doesn’t know exactly where Cameron is, but she has a good idea what’s happened to him.”
“What do we do?” Wondered Timothy.
“Did she orchestrate his abduction?” Asked Flambe.
“No. It’s more like she’s keeping a secret, and doesn’t want to share it.”
“Is she trustworthy?” Was Timothy’s question, but all nodded that they too worried about the same thing.
“Definitely not. Granted, she cares about Whateley, but her loyalties belong elsewhere. Have any of you ever heard of the Syndicate?”
“I’ve seen some futures that bounced around the Syndicate, nothing good ever came of them.” Supplied Lynn, around a mouthful of shrimp scampi.
“Again, what do we do?” Asked Timothy.
“I’m still not seeing anything dangerous about being at Whateley. I’ll let you know if that changes.” Offered Lynn as she looked unfocused across the room. “I'll try calling Cameron later, see how he’s doing."
“It seems we’re today’s hot topic, everyones curious about the new kids in town.” Confided Rachelle.
“Anything dangerous?” Questioned Timothy feeling exposed, being the center of attention in a open space.
“Oh, there’s a few girls upset about competition, and a few curious guys checking out the new ‘babes’. R.E.D.s hair is drawing a lot of attention.” Supplied Rachelle.
“So the usual rubbernecking tourist stuff,” assumed R.E.D.
“There’s a table of jerks next level up, I’d say they're overdosing on testosterone and are goading each other into some type of stupidity,” cautioned Rachelle.
“Jerks or Jocks?” Asked Charlotte, as she peeked over Rachelle at the table her sister had identified.
“Whats the difference?” Added R.E.D.
“Not much. Looks like we have a Weiner,” warned Timothy of a student coming down the escalator.
“Ain’t you that girl who burnt my bud Unstoppables hand?” Asked a large brute of a boy who’d taken a position standing behind R.E.D as she sat at the table eating.
“Big guy, dumb as a post, tried to run me over in the hallway near the office?”
“You put him in the hospital, that wasn’t very smart.”
“He got all touchy feely and paid the price. He was both rude and inconsiderate, he broached common decency by putting his hand on me,” explained R.E.D.
“Nobody cares. You burnt him, we protect our own. You need to learn who your betters are.”
“You imply you are up to that task?”
“You better believe it! Dump Truck always gets the job done,” he said giving his chest a thump to prove a point.
“You can’t be serious, that’s your name? What did you do, sit on the curb until a vehicle drove by? What would you have done if a septic truck went past first?”
“You dissing my name? You’re just begging for it,” fumed Dump Truck.
“I think not, I was taught it was dishonourable to engage in an unfair fight.”
“Hardly, I merely implied that you and your friends aren’t up to the challenge. However, it must be nice that you’ve found each other and formed a club, being mentally handicapped in a school such as this would be difficult without a support group.”
“We ain’t dumb.”
“Then you must be a club of closet homosexuals for you to feel the need to protect each other, perhaps it is not wise to reveal your secret in such a public fashion.”
“No! You have it all wrong.”
“No? One wonders. Anyway, I fail to see how protecting your own is a concern of mine?”
“You hurt one of us, we hurt you, call it reiteration.”
“No, I’d call that retaliation. If you’d like an example of reiteration: your club must consist of mentally handicapped homosexuals, no wonder you’re so sensitive.”
That remark rang loud throughout Crystal Hall, all other conversation had halted so all could listen into the exchange. The large dome carried sound, but for a moment it was quiet as tension increased between the two, instead of a pin dropping, sounds of chairs getting pushed back turned attention over to a table on the second floor, all those at that table rose, moving to stand at the railing overlooking the floor below.
A dispersion cast upon their manliness could not be tolerated, six angry man-boys glared down from above. The leader made a motion, drawing a hand across his throat, the hand not wrapped in a bandage. The message was received resulting in an evil smirk settling upon the confrontations aggressors face.
“You should learn to keep your big mouth shut.”
“Is this when you volunteer to close it for me? Such is the conduct of a bully when he is outmatched and doesn’t get his way, when the brain fails, you resort to brawn. You must get into a lot of fights.”
Charlotte jumped up seeing the escalating scene: “Flambé, let me hold onto your jacket, you just had it cleaned and pressed, no point ruining it.” The younger girl made certain to give her friend a little boost when touching her hand. “How about you Mister, need me to hold onto your jacket?” At which she reached out and discretely touched him on the arm.
“Get away from me,” complained Dump Truck.
R.E.D. took a stance, legs bent with her right foot leading, her hands held down but out to the sides, in a heartbeat her hands glowed orange and her eyes took on a scarlet hue as her hair began to pulse rapidly.
For his part, the big lump took on a smug look while folding his arms across his chest, his face became surprised to then assumed a look of shock, saying: “I can’t get it up!”
“Save it for your friends, no one here is interested in your issues with erectile disfunction.”
“I don’t understand.” Stated a bewildered Dump Truck.
“You two, back off! There will be no fighting in the Crystal Hall,” shouted a uniformed Security officer as he rushed up to head off the building conflict.
“I did not instigate this, I shall not be bullied or intimidated by the likes of him,” addressed Flambé, her intensity climbing.
“I did no such thing! She started it, acting all weird and shit,” accused Dump Truck.
“I only sought a peaceful lunch with my friends, this jackanapes found it necessary to assert his ignorance and proved it thoroughly.
“Dump Truck: What have you to say for yourself?” Sought the Security man.
“I was just extending a greeting to the newbies.”
“Your welcome was most ungracious, and conveyed without dignity. Is this the conduct we should expect from this school?”
“Back away you two, if this escalates in any way it’ll be detention.”
“How in keeping, no wonder Outlook is so disgusted with Whateley, you malign the guilty and the innocent equally.”
“Shut it firecracker, one more word from you and you’re taking a trip to Kane Hall.”
Rachelle piped up: “Officer, please don’t touch Flambé. She’s too hot to handle right now.”
“A Rager huh? I don’t see an ultra-violent armband, you can’t be outside without wearing it.”
“I am not a Rager.”
“Let me see you student ID.”
R.E.D. reached for the plastic card hung on her belt and unclipped it, in the time it took to hand it to the security officer, it had melted into a hot glob of oozing liquid that the officer eyed warily.
“You think you’re funny! Hands up front where I can see them.”
The Security officer slapped a pair of exemplar rated handcuffs onto R.E.D., they began to glow red and drip as the metal melted where it contacted her flesh, within seconds the cuffs fell off and clanked on the floor at the girls feet. At which the officer drew his sidearm in panic and pointed it at her.
“Don’t you dare move, I’m putting you under arrest.”
“I am not resisting,” expressed R.E.D. as she put her hands up, crossing them behind her head. “Shall you be arresting the fool also?”
“He didn’t threaten me.”
“Nor did I.”
Security’s office in Kane Hall had a pretty large size holding room, they had no trouble fitting all five of the ‘visiting’ teens into it. It was only R.E.D. who had been arrested, but the rest of her friends left Crystal Hall with her, to show solidarity.
It was good that they had been left to cool down, it afforded R.E.D some time to bring her temperature back to a more manageable level, her breathing exercises calming her anxiety. Although current circumstances didn’t help.
Rachelle sat beside her sister Charlotte giving her a curious look.
“What?” Exclaimed the younger sister frustrated by the scrutiny.
“What did you do to the big galoot when you touched him?”
“Him? Well, I had been thinking about how Grace can heat and cool with her ability, and wondered if I could limit someones powers instead of just boosting them.”
“And?” Waited Rachelle for more details.
“When I touch you guys I think: up or more, with him I thought: down and less. From his reaction I’m guessing it worked.”
“You scare me sometimes Sis. That’s a huge risk to take without telling anyone,” admonished Timothy.
“Yeah, but, the way I see it, if someone finds out what I can do, and they want more power, they’d force me to boost them. If I can drop their powers they wouldn’t like that so they’d not try anything.”
“A good defence builds a strong offence. You’re very clever,” assessed R.E.D. “Thanks for having my back.”
A knock on the door announced entrance of someone. A young attractive woman stepped in to the room, a blonde in her early twenties with a sternness that didn’t compliment her pretty face.
“I’m Admiral Samantha Everhart. I’ve been handed an arrest report saying you resisted arrest when disrupted from open brawling in Crystal Hall.”
“So fighting is allowed at Whateley, as long as it’s not in the open.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“It is what you imply when saying open brawling.”
“So you don’t deny engaging in a fight.”
“I was prepared to defend myself after being threatened. Does Whateley expect people to wilt without resistance when being bullied?”
“The report doesn’t mention anything about bullying.”
“The altercation today was in retribution for an early encounter, a bozo named Unstoppable had touched me inappropriately, if I hadn’t stopped him I believe he was attempting to feel me up. Is this the correct expression?”
“Did you file a complaint?”
“He was sent to the hospital with burns, I felt that should be enough of a lesson.”
“Ah, so you decided to go after his friends too.”
“No, they accosted me. Threatened me, and if I understood the context, my friends as well.”
“I’ll be retrieving video from Crystal Hall, if it checks out, we’ll see how this incident will play out. In the meantime, each of you will need to write a witness statement.”
“Is this when we get assigned detention, to never see the light of day again?” Asked Charlotte in anticipation of the worst, like Cameron.
Mrs. Claire scanned the eating areas of Crystal Hall, each floor was now empty aside from a few kitchen staff cleaning up the cafeteria now that classes had resumed.
Where were they? She had told them to wait here. This wasn’t good.
Picking up the school phone, she activated the intercom feature: “The following students are to report to Mrs. Claire at Administration immediately, Flambé, Excelle, Perspicacious, Swift, and Aware.”
Claire set a fast pace to the office, she walked but at nearly a run. Moving quickly towards Admin, maybe they had decided to wait for her there, her hopes were unfulfilled as none of her charges was found at Admin.
The administrative assistant waited outside the school’s office, she had already paced the hall in a fret, she’d even received an empathetic smile from Ms. Hartford for her troubles. Did they get lost, kidnapped - again, runaway? She had been assigned to keep an eye on them, told it was critical they be taken care of.
As Mrs. Carson explained it, these kids could be key to solving some of the schools legal woes.
Each time Cameron made a large energy transfer, he felt exhausted. Back at Whateley, before the battle, his battery was at its highest charge ever at 80%, but he had expended so much powering up his friends, there came a point where he couldn’t help but pass out.
Now, after having infused his levitation belt, lifting himself and John up in the mine shaft, he felt drained, like after a heavy workout or a long run. Cameron hadn’t been able to look up, and he daren’t look down, rather he’d focused on the walls as they climbed up. They had risen in a slow corkscrew trying not to bounce into the walls, these were not smooth but had jagged edges which could rip and tear if impacted.
Cameron focused on his battery during the ascent, he did’t want to let it get too low, but also knew that it would be easier going now than to have to climb up later. That’s why he let his reserve drop to 8% before ceasing the transfer to his belt.
Constructing a platform across the shaft with metal supports and a wood surface, Cameron set John down before allowing himself to settle onto the deck, dropping down onto his butt leaning against the rock wall, exhausted.
“Are you alright?”
“Just tired, I’m gonna need a few minutes to catch my breath.”
“How far up do you think we are?”
Being on a solid platform Cameron risked looking up, his vertigo being an issue whenever he was at heights.
“Just shy of two hundred feet to go.”
“I had hoped for better.”
“Nonsense, look at how far we’ve come.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Right, gotcha. I meant we’re so much further ahead than a couple minutes ago.”
“Thanks, hope you don’t mind if I close my eyes for a few minutes.”
“Go ahead, I’ll rest up too.”
Cameron’s internal clock might be out of sync, but it was around a half hour later that he stirred. John was waiting patiently for the boy.
“I’ve been checking the walls, this rock isn’t very good for handholds, it’s going to be a difficult climb.”
“I was thinking of using rungs like a ladder.”
“You can do that?”
“If I set them over a foot apart, so our backs are against the wall, there will be less likelihood we’d fall.”
“And if we need to rest, we can lean back. Good thinking.”
“As long as I’m close, it won’t take much energy to secure them.”
“I suggest we keep a rope tied between us, to be safe. I’ll lead - if you’re okay with that?”
“Just a sec, I’ll get a light for you so I don’t have to keep looking up.”
Cameron handed John a flashlight he’d bought ages back when shopping with Lynn and her Mom, the type that John could wear on his head. Once prepared Cameron began fixing metal rods to the walls, they spanned a corner of the rough hewn shaft leaving just enough room for the two to climb the impromptu ladder.
John started up with Cameron following, Cameron would implant more rungs just ahead of John and remove them once past. The going was methodical, one hand reaching for the next rung with a foot pushing the body up. A rhythm was set, not too fast, but progress was made nonetheless.
Cameron asked for a break, resulting in the two leaning back against the rock wall. The small point of light that was their destination had grown larger. John was getting excited. Cameron took the time to look up at what was above, he was close enough now to see faintly into the first - lowest level of the complex.
There was movement within the tunnel, as best he could determine a group of armed men were engaged in a struggle against powered individuals. Gunshots didn’t seem to be a deterrent, so a Brick must be present, checking the signature it wasn’t Roche.
The armed men were getting overwhelmed, getting pushed back nearer to the shafts upper entrance. Amidst the fighting a spotlight was shone down the shaft, illuminating the two climbers. Cameron saw three ball like objects get tossed down: Grenades!
The hand grenades speed past them, exploding a short distance below them. Rock was blasted from the walls falling down the shaft, soon to impact the platform Cameron had left behind, breaking it apart. The explosions were deafening in the small space, leaving the two climbers with ringing ears. Cameron absorbed some of the shock but still, the blast caused a minor cave in as dislodged rock crumbled away, descended in a rockfall into the inky black depths below.
Noise above them drew the attention of the disoriented climbers, they heard screams, followed by the light above being obscured, it was bodies being cast into the shaft. Cameron watched as three men, some of the commandos he’d identified earlier, fell downward.
They bounced off the walls, flailing wildly in the dark abyss. The first missed John and Cameron as he passed, his wail a long piercing scream. The second commando impacted the highest most rung and careened off, the force sending him into the far wall with a hard thump that silenced his scream. The third man managed to latch onto a rung halfway between John and Cameron, his grunt indicated injury from the strain of stopping his free-fall, he held onto the rung like a drowning man hugging a life preserver.
Cameron closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable thump when flesh hit bottom, the sickening sound came and when it did the boy sighed sorrowfully.
Cameron climbed up the ladder to be face to face with the man clinging to the outside of his steps.
“Hello Hector, it seems circumstances dictate we meet.”
“I require information, you supply that, and you’ll be helped.”
“If I say anything, they’ll kill me.”
“Do you imagine I’d do less?”
“You’re supposed be a good guy.”
“My my, that sounds like an admission to being a bad guy, considering how we were left to die it is fitting. How does one sleep at night knowing they are evil?”
“I was just doing my job.”
“Yet you knew it was wrong, and did it anyway. That adds to your guilt, not excuse it.”
“We are trying to save the world.”
“By preserving world order.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere. Who’s pulling your strings? Who makes up this world order?”
“I was hired by the Syndicate, they have a seat at the Coalitions table.”
“I don’t know who makes up the Coalition, I’m just a low level grunt. All I’ve heard are rumours.”
“MCO for sure, NATO, most Churches, maybe even the United Nations.”
“One last question, who tossed you down here?”
“The mutants we had in holding, after that black devil busted loose they managed to get free.”
“Thank you Hector. I’ve strapped a harness around you and hooked it to that metal rung, you won’t fall. Let’s go John.”
Upward movement soon had the two climbers a couple feet above the dangling man.
“You can’t leave me here!”
“My arms are hurt, I can’t climb. You said you’d help me.”
“And I did, you won’t fall. You only asked for help, not to be saved.”
“It’s what I meant.”
“Yet your actions tell a different story, you showed no remorse when leaving us to die down there. I am not obliged to go beyond how you yourself treated others.”
“That’s not fair!”
“No, it isn’t. It’s balance. Although bad always seems to outweigh good.”
“Today or tomorrow, it’s inevitable, everything dies. At least you’ll have time to make peace with whatever god you worship.”
“I’m an atheist.”
“Then you’ll have opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life.”
Progress up was steady, taking one step at a time John and Cameron could now start to feel fresh air, it invigorated them and made them press on. After a while John stopped and looked at Cameron.
“You were pretty harsh back there.”
“True, I fear I’m running out of human kindness, it’s hard to continually rise above hatred when that is all man shows.”
“If it was up me, I’d likely have pushed him off.”
“Would that have made you feel better?”
“Probably not, maybe for a few seconds, but I think I’d regret it later.”
“Then you have a conscience, something Hector lost a long time ago. Something I’m needing to fight to hang onto.”
The shaft now had slight illumination from the open hatch, a large spool was positioned above the door, the baskets cable wound around the spool with the basket recessed above the opening. The activity Cameron had seen before had moved on, the shaft was unattended.
John carefully peeked over the lip of the shaft, he then whispered: “All clear” before he made the last few steps up and crawled out. Cameron followed as quickly as he could, sprawling onto the floor at the shafts entrance, panting from the exertion.
There was sound coming from the far end of this tunnel, but nothing nearby. John rested with his back against the wall, Cameron lay on the floor, assessing his new surroundings. He spotted the next level up, it wasn’t directly overhead since it would have followed the gold, but it was near.
Looking down the tunnel Cameron identified six mutants, three had stayed by the elevator at the other end, while three were heading towards he and John. These three were checking each holding cell that lined the tunnel.
Cameron donned his visor, he had learned long ago that his eyes scared people, no point heightening a tense situation, he whispered to John: “Company is coming.”
John unhooked the rope between them, and struggled to remove the harness he wore. Cameron dissipated the evidence that suggested they had climbed out of that hole.
The tunnel had a bend in it, and until the three mutants rounded the corner Cameron and John had not been visible. Once in sight the three panicked ducking into one of the open cells.
“Who are you?” Was shouted.
“I’m Cameron, and this is John. Who are you?”
The pause was telling, but came the reply: “We don’t know.”
“I picked John as a name, I don’t know who I am either.”
“Where did you come from?” They asked.
“We’ve been held prisoner and broke out. What happened here?” Replied John.
“We were asleep, but got woken by this god awful screaming. I watched as the kid in the cell across from me started to get covered by this oily black slime, he had all these tendrils start coming out of him until he fell down and exploded. It was gross.”
John shouted to them, “How did you get out of those cells?”
“Somebody turned the magnetic door locks off, when the guards showed up we surprised them.” Returned the same voice.
Another voice added, “That was me, in all the confusion I found could teleport again, so I jumped over to the control panels, I opened the cell doors but noticed another box was already smashed, once the guards figured it out it was too late.”
“Can you access the surface?” Sought Cameron.
“No, the elevators have been disabled, and the guards are shooting anything that moves, we can’t get up to the next level.” The first voice said as they showed themselves.
“Could you teleport up?” Wondered John.
“I can’t, I need to see where I teleport to, or have it memorized, and - well, I don’t remember anything.” Admitted the Teleporter, a short dark haired boy that concealed himself behind a large tall boy with a wide chest.
“How about you?” Asked John of the third mutant, a girl who stood behind the Teleporter.
“I’m an Exemplar, I don’t remember anything either, even though I have an eidetic memory.”
“Leaving the big guy who’s a Brick, nice to meet you all,” assured Cameron.
“What are we gonna do? If we can’t move, the guards will put us under lock and key again,” worried the Exemplar girl.
“We need another way out,” summarized the Brick.
“I haven’t seen another route out, we could make a tunnel up to the next level, that would increase our chances,” pondered Cameron.
“Good idea, but how are we going to make a tunnel?” Wondered the Exemplar.
“I can move matter, I don’t have lots of energy left, but I should be able to make a small opening. Looks to me like the two tunnels are closest back near this tunnel’s corner.”
Cameron lead the group to the open cell the three had taken refuge in, he approached the far wall and looked intently up, he placed his hands on the rock with it turning a shade of pale blue, as the light faded in place of the rock was now a small circular opening climbing upward at an angle.
“Sorry it’s so small, I can’t expend too much energy just now. I’m thinking that if the Teleporter climbs up, sorry, is it okay if I call you Albert?”
“If you get named alphabetically, it will keep us organized, you were the first one out of your cell, so you are A.”
“Once Albert has scouted the situation, he can come back and take others up.”
Albert, the young Teleporter agreed and he scampered up the new tunnel, he returned back down the tunnel a few minutes later to report.
“The next level up is still in lockdown, our tunnel comes out in the hallway beside a locked cell, I explained our situation to the girl in that cell, she said she’d help.”
“What’s the plan?” Asked John.
“I recommend we break everyone out in the next level, bring them back here and get ourselves organized,” recommended Cameron
“All right, how do you want to proceed?” Offered John looking to encourage participation.
“I saw the hallway so I can blip us up there once the … whatchamacallit is disabled,” assured Albert.
“I’ll crawl up and see if I can throw a wangdoodle into the doomahickey,” suggested Cameron, as he squirmed into the little tunnel. Remaining within the tunnel at the next level Cameron felt an electric field dance over his skin, this must be what robbed the mutants of their abilities, he reached for it and began to pull, it resisted at first but soon enough faded away and didn’t return. Cameron asked Albert to go back up and see if he could teleport.
Albert returned after a few minutes bringing with him a prisoner from the cell across the hall, saying: “I can blip around up there, I’ll start bringing prisoners back to our tunnel, until I’ve emptied all the cells.” Explained Albert excited to see how his teleportation could be used.
Soon it was a steady stream of escapee’s descending the small tunnel and joining the growing number. John had taken up naming the newcomers and was at J already. He would state what power set each had, but refused to say what level.
Cameron was looking at their surroundings, assessing options, looking for an escape route. He found the location of the third level, while the second level tunnel ran to the left, the third level took a different course and was off to the far right from the lowest level.
Cameron checked his battery, 4% left, it would take time to let his collectors in the Sunroom build up his reserve, time he simply didn’t have. The energy available down here was minimal, he didn’t have another source to tap into, if his battery got too low he wouldn’t be able to keep his protective mental barriers up.
From John’s description there was plenty of Psychics up here ready to do a mind wipe, something Cameron was not willing to be a victim of. He cherished the precious memories of his family, to lose those would be tantamount to letting them die again. No, Cameron wasn’t going to forget his loved ones.
After observing the third level through solid rock, he chose the shortest distance to make a tunnel to it. Cameron wasn’t able to discern the exact situation, the distance wasn’t such that his vision would be cloudy, yet he couldn’t see completely, like his vision was refracted somehow.
He decided to make a sloped tunnel with a smooth bottom and handholds on the roof, he’d be able to pull himself up on his back and slide down if needed. Also, by keeping himself close to the front wall of the new tunnel it’d take less energy.
The tunnel would be tight quarters, barely enough space for Cameron, he couldn’t spare the energy to make it bigger. Of the freed prisoners only two could fit in the tight space, a couple girls, a Psychic named Heather and a Gadgeteer named Gidget. When Cameron explained his idea to the growing group, these two volunteered to come.
Among the group was an Energizer named Don, he could create an electric field between his hands that could shock people or short out electronics, he built up a charge and gave it to Cameron. 1% was added to his battery, at 5% Cameron began to bore into the rock.
Cameron applied a small amount of plastic to the tunnels bottom so it would make dragging himself along easier, by putting his feet into the handholds on the roof he didn’t slip, and told his companions to do the same.
To prevent fatigue Cameron took frequent breaks, by pacing himself the draw on his battery was slowed, still he watched his energy level drop which worried him deeply, it was like a man in the desert with only a few drops of water left in a canteen.
Heather called up: “John wants to let you know he’s at Q, Albert pulled the last prisoner out of level two, he’s named Quentin.”
“That’s a lot of mouths to fed.”
“It’s not lunch time.”
“Just saying everybody’s counting on us to find a way out.”
“Then why didn’t you say that in the first place?”
“It’s an old expression, I didn’t want to have to admit that should I fail, I’ve let so many down.”
“Win or lose, I’m thankful that I didn’t just rollover. You’ve given us hope, maybe I’ve lost my past but because of you the future isn’t as bleak.”
“Did you know that you were going to be sold as slaves?”
“The guards loved taunting us, told us that we’d be getting experimented on everyday.”
“The evil within a human heart astonishes me.”
“I don’t know, you seem nice.”
“How do you know I’m human?”
“John told us, said you were one of the good guys, but didn’t explain how come you’ve got powers.”
“I’m one of the gifted.”
“How many are there?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never meet any of the others. I was given a specific job, I imagine the others have their own assignments.”
“What’s you assignment?”
“To uncover that which is hidden.”
“So, does breaking us out of this hellhole fit into exposing what’s hidden?”
“I suppose it does. Thanks, I hadn’t looked at it from that angle. I feel better about our chances at success.”
“Is it much further?”
“Not much further. I’m going to rest a minute and look around.”
Being closer Cameron could now see through the haze with greater definition, the remaining few feet of rock was nearly transparent, and Outlook could live up to his name. At the far end of level 3, where the elevator shaft ran, a contingent of armed guards had secured that access to below and above.
A large open space was between the elevator and where Cameron’s tunnel would open onto, a seriously big room was likely where the auctions are held. The tunnel he was building would enter into a mid size room beside the big arena, if anything, it appeared to be a greeting area. This ancillary room had strong lighting and was well furnished, on the walls hung tapestries, or false walls were used to hide the rock and make it so it didn't look like an underground dungeon.
A small raised platform stymied Cameron for a moment, a portal pad! Buyers arrived by portal, taking their latest slave acquisitions out the same way. This abandoned gold mine could be absolutely anywhere, and nobody would be the wiser.
It also meant that a second access to the surface was unlikely, but Cameron looked anyway, and came up empty, something was interfering with his sight.
The other end of the third level must be the Psychics rooms John had described, Cameron layered his vision, being able to count eight heat signatures, nothing about powers, it left the boy without firm details of what waited for them.
“Heather, can you guard your thoughts from other Psychics?”
“If I could do that they wouldn’t have been able to erase my memories.”
“Right, I’m sorry. But I’m worried you two will give our position away, I’m going to try and distract the guards at the elevator. Can you let the others below know.”
Heather and Gidget slide back down, Cameron checked his battery: 2%.
Cameron open the last section of tunnel, crawling out he pushed aside the curtain and stood. He opened himself up and drew in electricity from the rooms lights, it didn’t account for much but it was something. Creeping along in the empty room, Cameron noticed a large door stretched across this levels main tunnel, it cut off the Psychics from the rest of the facility, Cameron ensured it was locked and would remain closed.
Cameron spotted a mess on the arrival rooms floor, wet spots and entrails stuck between the floors tiles, it was the telltale remains of someone contaminated by a Voodoo Wolf.
Cameron stepped out into the corridor and walked the short distance to the large auction room, hugging a wall to be inconspicuous. The space was circular with a twenty foot high ceiling, set into the walls were raised viewing seats, in the rooms center was a pedestal with spotlights trained on it. It reminded Cameron of a small Roman arena, like what Whateley has for its gladiatorial contests.
Cameron could see the guards across the room pointing guns down into the elevator shaft, waiting for a target to show themselves. The elevator opened directly onto the arena, there was no way to sneak up on the men, unless!
Cameron began to pull electricity into himself, the lights dimmed before flickering and winking out. Cameron ran across the arenas floor, the guards confusion wouldn’t last. He had only passed the rooms central pedestal before the first guard donned his night vision goggles.
The bullets began to slam into his velocity robbing force field, as more guards joined the fray they spread further apart, Cameron couldn’t expand the fields width to compensate so needed to withdraw, to keep from being outflanked. He backed up with slow steady steps, to draw attention for as long as possible.
Each bullet hitting his force field imparted a small amount of energy into the boy as inertia was dampened until the bullet stopped. Cameron collected all the expended lead bullets as material for future use.
Cameron returned to the arrival room, he was out of the sight until the guards moved in on his position, he looked at his battery: 1%, all that weapons fire had been as much an energy drain as he’d gathered up.
Moving to the tiny tunnel, Cameron entered it, making a quick cover and setting it like a cork in a bottle, Cameron slid down to the bottom level.
John welcomed Cameron back, asking how it went. That it was bad news disappointed the hopeful group.
“How many Psychics did they keep on hand?”
“I counted eight up there, I spotted a mess on the floor, I’m guessing they lost a few people when the black goop covered guy escaped.”
“We tried to climb up, but the guards have the elevator too well defended,” announced Bob the Brick.
“We’re stuck,” moaned Carla the Exemplar.
Cameron looked downcast for a moment, before he’d settled upon a solution, so many were looking to him as their saviour, he felt the weight sitting on his shoulders.
“Time for drastic measures, Everyone needs to move as far away as possible, the second level would be best. I’m going to try something risky, and I don’t want anyone hurt. Nobody come back this way until I say otherwise.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m gonna go nuclear.”
Alan sat on the log he had placed near the fire he’d built down behind the river bank, it had taken some effort to spark two stones to get the fire lit. He’d decided to set up camp down by the river, it was out of view from the old mine site, he’d managed to construct a lean-to to keep the kid warm.
When Alan had been up in the tree as a panther scouting things, the dark encased warrior had zero’d in on him without wavering and began climbing up to attack. Alan shifted and used the black balls Ella had told him to carry, he dropped them onto the encroaching enemy, it took three balls before it made any impact.
When the last of the black goop finally relented and released its captive, Alan was left with a young brave, maybe fourteen, too young if truth be told, especially for the horrors that being overwhelmed brought.
Alan carried the unconscious youth away from danger, and tried to tend to his needs, making shelter and finding food. Cooking on a flat rock were three fish he’d caught from the river, Alan watched the boy rest, remembering how exhausted he’d felt after being freed.
The gentle crackle as the wood burned was the only sound, it was a faint scent on the wind that told him he had company. Without looking up Alan said:
“This is what you call stalking an adversary?”
“No, I call this helping a fallen friend.”
“That’s not Cameron.”
“Really! Wow, I’d never have figured that out without your keen observation.”
“Who is he?”
“A recently freed Were, he crawled out of the hole they’re keeping Cameron in.”
“Has he said anything?”
“Not yet, I needed to use four balls on him to break the darks hold.”
“Is he hurt?”
“He has bullet wounds, he looked like a pin cushion at first, but he’s healing. Where’s your father?”
“He’ll be along, he was taking the high ground.”
“They have Cameron in an old mine, I’d say it’s deep. They don’t use the road much, the van Cameron was taken in might be the first vehicle traffic in here for a month.”
“How many people?”
“Too many scents to tell, more that twenty, I lost track after that. The entrance is heavily fortified, I thought it best to let a tactician come up with a plan.”
“Dad will be thrilled.”
“What has my daughter taken and voluntold me into?”
“The entrance to an old mine is that-away across a creek and a couple hundred feet beyond, it has a single garage door entrance set into a hillside, surrounded by gun placements, I didn’t find any other openings. My guest here crawled out of one of the gun ports.”
“I’ll check it out. Ella, I came across a flock of pheasants five minutes back, we should eat and three little fishes won’t cut it.”
“Oh sure, have the woman look after the food.”
“Ella, you’re a better hunter than I am, and you have been for many years, I just never wanted to admit it.”
“I’m proud of you Ella, I might not have said it often enough, but you make an amazing Oberon.”
“Here here,” concurred Alan.
“Let an old war fox offer something worthwhile. Before you run circles around me.”
“All right, Pheasant it is.”
“If you come across any wild onions?”
“Not you too.”
“Hey, I’m volunteering to cook em. Just asking if you’d look for a little seasoning is all.”
Camron waited for the lower level to clear out, he was going to try something he’d only speculated about before, exciting molecules to the point when the bonds holding matter together break, then skimming electrons off, the whole idea scared him.
Risky didn’t really cover the potential for an accident, he could set off an uncontrolled nuclear reaction, releasing untold amounts of radiation. It sounded good when describing his plan, just like it might on paper, but thinking it over, Cameron couldn’t reconcile how far South this might turn on him.
He chose Lead and his fuel, he brought out twenty pounds from Warehouse, shaped it into a sphere. He stood within the empty cell nearest the Pit’s shaft, it had a narrow opening to limit radiation exposure, he faced the rock wall to begin exciting matter. The Lead started to glow faintly until it burst into a brilliant blue, Cameron felt the energy pouring out of it, he absorbed the abundant release like a starving wolf attacking a carcass.
Peeling the electrons away, Cameron felt the energy course through him, the energy he consumed was directed into his depleted battery, the battery quickly came alive, the tiny little ember he started with soon grew into a raging fire, checking the batteries gauge it climbed rapidly: 40, 50, 60 percent.
For the first time in a long while Cameron felt warm, the cold of this prison’s depths no longer crept into his bones.
Cameron calmed the molecules, bringing the excited atoms back from the edge of complete disintegration, cooling them by absorbing the extreme heat generated. Once stable Cameron drew in all the radiation that had been released, cleansing the tunnel walls which had been exposed to the danger, a disaster just barely contained.
Looking at his battery it sat at 87%, he was at a new peak and he felt fantastic. He looked down at the ball in his hand, it was now a highly reflective yellow as it shined in the light from his eyes. He’d transformed Lead into Gold, well that’s an interesting side effect to be sure, however, not one he ever wished to be repeating.
Enough kibitzing around, Cameron got busy and began to build up the biggest charge in his life, a huge one, on a scale large enough to dissipate all the rock between him and freedom.
Ulrich Oberon sat on his haunches as he looked down over the landscape, he was sitting above the mines main door, perched atop the two gun ports located overtop the door. The approach to the mine was a no-mans-land, wide open flat land from the creek up to the hillside’s face, it had been levelled to house a worker’s camp when it was being mined, now it was a barren wasteland without anything to hide behind.
The gun placements had an unimpeded view making it impossible to get close without getting noticed. Not only was there people watching, but sensors and cameras were set to alert any movement, even a sly old fox couldn’t find a hole to exploit.
Once the sun hit a spot in the sky in the morning, some of the gunners visibility would be blinded, but with all the electronic surveillance, a morning attack only improved the odds slightly. As nuts went, this one would be tough to crack.
To Ulrich’s surprise the ground in front of the mine entrance took on a strange blue hue, the area stretched across the open space and beyond the creek, it was at least three hundred feet across. The van parked in front of the main door was engulfed in the light, as were several of the gun placements, either fully or partially. Ulrich ran to avoid being engulfed.
The blue light grew in intensity until it flashed, when Ulrich stopped running and looked again he couldn’t believe his eyes. A huge hole stretched from what had been the rough hewn mine entrance all the way across the defended space, past the creek he’d crossed. In fact, the creek was now spilling down into the hole and disappearing into a dark cave at the bottom.
As the wary fox moved to a better location, he noticed another opening in the newly created hole’s walls, the second hole was up forty feet. A young man exited the bottom most cave and clambered up the rock wall to the second opening.
“John! Heather! Bring everyone this way, we’ve got a way out now,” he shouted into the darkness.
Soon a large number of young humans could be seen at the second cave’s exit, their excited voices a mix of shock and awe. The rock walls were fairly steep but it was possible to climb out without rope, the entire hole looked to have forty-five degree slopes originating at the bottom most cave.
Ulrich ran to the new holes edge, to a location away from any guns sight, he motioned the youngsters to come towards him. Those below hesitated briefly but began to climb up, having to cross the cascade of water coming down. Meanwhile, Ella and Alan came to investigate the shouting to find a changed landscape, and took advantage of the opportunity presented.
Considering the large pile of slag Ulrich had found, the caves must be part of the mine, the amount of water flowing into the hole wasn’t filling the bottom so it must be going into the mine. The Oberon in him was glad that he didn’t attempt a forced entry, getting in was one thing, trying to get into the deep recesses of an underground mine would be tenfold worse.
The Were watched as seventeen humans climbed towards him, he grabbed the hand of the first to the edge and helped hoist him up over the holes lip. He was a middle aged man, the eldest among them.
“Cameron said you were okay. I’m John by the way.”
“Ulrich, which of you is Cameron?”
“He’s the guy working his way around the hole, said he wanted to see what was happening in the other two levels.”
“There’s more of you?”
“We’re the escapee’s, the other levels house the guards.”
Cameron spotted the man waving his arms at them, a Were with a near identical signature to Ella. Cameron directed John to lead the escaped Mutants to him. The water flowed almost directly down into the pit John and he had climbed out of, once that filled the mine itself would get flooded.
Once everyone had left the second level Cameron put a set of prison cell bars across the opening, to prevent anyone from coming up from behind them. The amount of rock between him and the two upper levels shouldn’t have been enough to obscure his sight, so Cameron climbed higher to get closer and remove the veil.
Stopping in a patch of sunshine, Cameron brought out his satellite phone, the one Smith had given him back when leaving RCMP’s Special Investigations headquarters.
“Pamela, it’s Cameron calling. I’m hoping you could help me.”
“What do you need?”
“First up, can you tell me where I am? Secondly, does the RCMP have anyone they trust close by my position in the States?”
“Who do you mean, a person, or an organization?”
“How about somebody in a trustworthy organization?”
“I’ll ask Ray, he might know someone, gimme a sec.” The song “When You Say Nothing At All” played over the connection. “Cameron, I have Ray on the line.”
“Hello Cameron, what’s this I hear about needing someone to trust?”
“I have uncovered a slavery ring, selling mutants to the highest bidder. I don’t know who to hand this mess over too.”
“The MCO deal with most mutant issues.”
“I have reason to believe the MCO are involved with selling people.”
“Ouch, that’s serious! How many are we talking about?”
“I’ve rescued seventeen, and so far I have some twenty of their captors holed up.”
“You don’t believe in being discrete, do you kid?”
“Aren’t you the one who said: ‘Go big, or go home’?”
“Doesn’t sound like something I’d say. Nevertheless, I’m guessing State police might not be the right folks to get involved, if the stakes are as high as you believe. How about the FBI?”
“As I recall the FBI handles kidnapping and extortion, it might be hard to prove that.”
“There’s a group in the States called DARPA, their mandate is Paranormal Affairs.”
“Do you have a contact with them? Someone you trust?”
“I met a guy a little while ago: Nicholas Riley. How about I give him a call, sound him out. If he checks out, I’ll pass on what you’ve told me.”
“Thanks Ray, you too Pam.”
Cameron scouted the third level, at the elevator a team was preparing to descend by force into the lower reaches. The Arena was still defended by a dozen guards, while technicians worked to open the door to free the Psychics he’d sealed up.
Looking down to the hole’s bottom, the creek’s water had filled the Pit, and was now rising up into the long deep shaft. Cameron decided a watery grave was a suitable conclusion to this wretched place. Looking above he drilled a bore hole over into the nearby river, increasing the flow of water coming in.
Cameron approached the spot closest to the end of the third levels tunnels, from his earlier foray at the third level, he knew that the tunnel looked like a dog-bone, the tunnel split into two nubs as the miners hunted for more gold when the vein played out. Cameron estimated that one of the nubs should be just a short distance away from the gapping hole he’d created.
But that was the problem, it should be here. His sight should have been able to penetrate the relatively thin amount of rock, he should be able to see the void of the tunnel. It was bizarre, when he focused his vision upon that area it would get fuzzy and redirected - most curious.
Walking back a distance Cameron sized up the situation, then walked beyond the mysterious gap, he calculated it to be a sphere roughly thirty feet across. The hidden area left some portions of the tunnel exposed, the sphere of influence had moved allowing Cameron to see part of the tunnels nub, where he had thought it to be.
It took little effort to make a narrow opening, Cameron made it just big enough for his small frame to squeeze through. However, getting closer didn’t correct the glitch in his sight, there was going to be only a slim sliver of space he could accurately see in before the blanked out area started.
Stepping into that tunnel’s terminus and hugging the wall, Cameron looked around at the little bit visible to him, this nub looked to be partitioned into living quarters. In front of him was a shimmering wall, it had the appearance of rippling water the colour of silver. Cycling through his vision it was all impeded except the thermal spectrum, he could detect people present, heat signatures alerted him to their presence.
Cameron’s arrival placed him into view of these people which immediately set them into a frenzy. His presence had disrupted them while performing a ritual, it was a shock to them because he seemingly appeared out of nowhere, but mostly since none of them had detected Cameron coming. Not the first time Psychics had reacted that way.
Those of the Psychic’s present, who didn’t runaway and hide in the next section over, cowered in fear behind furniture. Soon enough however, most of the telepaths were marshalled into plaguing Cameron with a mental assault. Cameron felt pressure at his temples but his mental blocks held them at bay.
It was the strangest thing, he could only see warm bodies, he couldn’t detect any other physical characteristics, he had nothing abilities and power ratings wise to assess danger or threat. He hadn’t as yet moved but was able to determine the single point from which this dead zone radiated out from, a heat signature. As that heat signature moved so too did the boundary of interference.
Ulrich pointed out to the seventeen strangers who climbed out of the big hole where to find safety, and cautioned them as to where danger lay. The newly exposed rock face that had just a few minutes before represented an impossible / impenetrable fortification, had now become a hive of panic. Most of the secure gunnery positions had been within the blue light and had now become exposed, instead of being protected behind the rock they had been opened up like a can of sardines, except for the two farthest most outlying posts on either side of the bay door.
The hillside looked like an anthill that had been kicked, the men retreated taking what guns and ammunition they could while scurrying to find shelter within the lower depths of the mine. Ulrich was taken aback to see what all had been waiting for them inside the bay, a tank, a monstrously huge tracked behemoth with a rotating turret and gun.
The tank’s main gun looked to be shorter than it normally should, it too was caught in the disappearing act. However, it couldn’t drive forward as it would fall down the steep incline of the hole.
His call had drawn Ella and Alan away from camp, they too looked at the unanticipated change of circumstances with big eyes and jaws hung open. Ulrich used long practised hand signals to coordinate an assault, push the advantage presented and drive the humans back, keeping them on the run.
The Were dropped down into the new hole, using the steep slope so as to stay out of sight of the men, then, it was a fast dash up and into the garage bay, using the belly of the tank to keep hidden until springing on the unwary foe of six unprepared men.
The Were’s movements happened so fast the humans couldn’t track them, with quick slashes and nips from a pair of foxes resulted in the men being disarmed and disoriented. It happened so rapidly that the men didn’t know what hit them, but it was the act of having the snarling maw of a huge black panther right in your face that made a few of the men lose bladder control.
The Were attack set the men on the run, those close enough jumped through the open elevator doors, soon followed by loud splashes and shouting. The tanks turret rotated but couldn’t turn past the bay’s walls, even with its shortened gun barrel the opening was too narrow, so the machine gun mounted on the turret beside the main gun wasn’t going to be an issue.
Three men had been incapacitated and surrendered, Ella ferreted out the lone man down at the far right gun placement, tight quarters and a wild fox - the guy didn’t stand a chance, and had the scars to prove it. The far left position was already abandoned.
Ulrich stepped near the open elevator doors, the shaft only ran down from here, he sniffed, drawing in a deep breath, then repeated the process. His short yip said it all: Twelve men, eight women.
Cameron was uncertain how to proceed, the silver wall moved, coming closer, Cameron backed against the tunnels rock face, holding his breath as the watery sheen neared, until it touched him, it pressed against his chest and the tip of his nose but it didn’t envelope him.
Reaching out Outlook touched the silver water, it rippled like touching a pool as waves radiated outward, it looked very much like a mirror but he didn’t see his reflection. The liquid wall withdrew to the extent that Cameron needed to take a step forward to remain in contact with it.
It isn’t that energy has a taste, nor would it be correct to say it has a feel, but when Cameron touched the silver wall it had a familiarity to it, it wasn’t raw energy, rather it had been filtered - given an application, a purpose. It was magic.
He counted it a blessing that nobody had decided to attack him so far, but Cameron layered on as many shields as he could to protect himself. Cameron felt naked, he didn’t carry a gun - never thought he’d need an offensive weapon, not when he could render anyone he saw unconscious. As it was, all he saw was their temperature, what was he to do? Make them cold?
A stray thought struck the boy, Smith had built into her phones a Taser feature, Cameron had watched Ken test his out, but his own phone’s Taser had never been enabled. The Taser’s principle was simple enough, send out a strong enough electrical charge and Wham-O, the target gets zapped.
But herein lay the problem, Cameron could easily deliver an electrical zap that could fry somebody, but he just wanted to incapacitate - not kill, he didn’t know how much juice it would take. He needed something else.
It was crude but fitting in a way, from his Warehouse he released the knock-out gas that had been used on him down in the Pit. It dispersing into the air unhindered by the silver water, magic it seems had its limitations and let gasses through. All the heat signatures lay sprawled on the floor.
Cameron placed both his hands on the silver water and pushed it, the wall receded, being so close it wasn’t easily discernible that the sphere was shrinking, not until it had dropped in size by over half. Cameron pressed on, soon the silver water ball had shrunk down so a pair of legs stuck out of it.
Continuing to move in Cameron found the magic’s source to be an amulet hung around a woman’s neck, it was gaudy - a large faux gold piece of jewelry with four stones set into it. The stones looked precious, like emeralds and rubies but were only crystals. It looked tacky, the amulet was six inches across and its chain was made with big link loops, it made quite the fashion statement.
Now that he could see again, Cameron inspected the trove of Psychic’s, two were men, the rest female, he could determine the abilities with most ranging from two’s to a five. The odd thing was that the one women didn’t register, the one wearing the dreadful looking amulet. Cameron touched the amulet and the crystals cracked.
The woman jolted as if she’d been given a shock, the effects of the knockout gas nullified so she slowly gathered her senses, her eyes registered fear when she saw who sat cross legged in front of her with shining eyes.
“Who’s in charge here?” Asked Cameron, his voice echoing inside the tunnel.
“You’re not supposed to be here.”
“Are you trying to hurt my feelings?”
“Tammuz ordered your death. You were locked up down in Hell.”
“Yet here I am, makes a person stop and wonder doesn’t it.”
“He’s a god, no one disobeys his command.”
“No one, really? Why’s that?”
“He can kill with a touch. I’ve seen it myself, he reaches into a person and pulls their soul out.”
“Sounds nasty, what does a soul look like?”
“It’s a wisp, like a puff of smoke. It has shape but no substance.”
Cameron smirked, then asked “What’s your name?”
“What is it you do Shannon?”
“I’m a Psychic, my job is to silence the minds of dissension.”
“How do you do that?”
“We remove from people’s minds that which gives them individuality, their memories. It makes them pliable and complacent.”
“Is there a way to restore a persons memories?”
“No, the mind is wiped clean of useless thoughts. Nothing remains of their past selfs, it’s of no value.”
“Says you. Tell me, how precious are your memories, how would you feel about having them taken from you?”
“I have no memories of my childhood, they weren’t needed. I was bought and trained by the Syndicate.”
Something about her struck a cord, she looked familiar somehow, then it dawned on the boy.
“You were with Doctor Brentwood, when he interviewed me.”
“He was to distract you while I searched your mind.”
“What did you find?”
“I couldn’t get in.”
“Good. Why didn’t you register as a mutant?”
“It’s the amulet Tammuz gave me, it masks the bearer.”
“Why would you be favoured with such a gift?”
“I oversee the Psychics at Delta.”
“Does that mean there are Alpha and Beta sites?"
“Up to Gamma.”
“Does the Syndicate run these?”
“It’s a Coalition, run under the auspices of those like Tammuz. Each member organization provides services as part of their obligation to the Coalition. The Syndicate supplies security personnel, technical advisors, and powered individuals such as myself.”
“How does the MCO fit into this organization?”
“They send technicians, mostly they’re the ones who corral Mutants by driving a wedge between them and their families once manifested, plus they are instrumental in fanning the flames of angst in society over Mutants. They then funnel Mutants to processing centres for equitable distribution to interested parties.”
“Is that what you call this place, a processing centre?”
“Yes, we provide a placement service ensuring Mutants receive gainful employment to benefit society.”
“What’s scary is you actually believe that. Sorry to burst your bubble but in truth: You’re running a slave trade, profiting off the misery you inflict onto others.”
“You make it sound like that’s a bad thing.”
“Slavery is about the worst thing you can do to someone, stealing their free will. If you had a conscience you’d understand.”
“Free will is overrated, people need to be led, we’re lost without strong leaders to follow, those like Tammuz.”
“Free will is God’s gift to every man, woman, and child. Nobody has the right to take it, especially not some would be imposter like Tammuz. However, you bear heavy guilt for your crime of destroying lives.”
“Ha! And who do you suppose is going to judge me? I’m helping sustain this world order, there isn’t a government on earth that would dare interfere with the Coalition and put me on trial.”
“Who said anything about a trial. With such blatant disregard for the sanctity of life as you’ve demonstrated, you deserve death. I’d be free of bloodguilt in executing you.”
“I was following orders.”
“Did you enjoy hurting others?”
“How can that be relevant?”
“It has everything to do with it. Tell me Shannon, did you enjoy hurting others?”
“Even with your memories striped, you still had free will to obey or disobey, I’ve met those who’ve made right choices. You however chose to obey orders because it suited your heart. Every choice has consequences.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“That’s the first indication of intelligence you’ve shown me. So no, I’m not going to kill you, I haven’t decided what I should do with you yet. In the meantime, where do I find Tammuz?”
“Next floor up, blue level. He’s twelve feet tall and shines like gold, you can’t miss him.”
“Nothing like being obvious. Who else is part of this Coalition?”
“We’ve sold Mutants to most government agencies, especially the military - they pay top dollar for Bricks and Exemplars. Industry, Scientific Institutions, Churches. Anyone who buys from us needs to become a member - we patterned ourselves after Costco.”
He’d heard enough, so at that Cameron stopped her mind, she slumped to the floor unconscious.
Cameron walked back outside noticing that the water was building up in the basin he’d created, the Pit and the lowest level had filled with water, and it was continuing up to the second level. Cameron waved over to his companions on the far bank, shouting: “Send Albert!”
A minute later Albert the young Teleporter arrived by Cameron’s side, along with another newly freed youth named Paul - also a Teleporter.
“I have eight unconscious people inside, can you take them to safety? The mine is going to fill with water soon.”
The two Teleporters entered the tunnel, following Cameron’s lead fortunately they were still young and could fit into the tight passage Cameron had made.
“These are Psychics, likely the ones who erased your memories. Bind them and put them a safe distance away from everyone else in case they wake up.”
Leaving Albert and Paul to the task at hand, Cameron climbed higher up on the embankment nearing the upper lip of the hole where he spotted gun placements - or what remained of them. Some closest to the edge only had a crawl space remaining, while others had been sheared in half leaving them completely exposed.
The gun’s pillboxes had been carved into the hillside, bunkers hollowed out from behind and only accessible from a tunnel that ran parallel to the hillside, it was a tight little tunnel that might have been the original mine. The elevator shaft to the lower levels intersected with this tunnel at the back of a vehicle bay.
Scanning through the rock Cameron observed the activity within the fourth floor, blue level. He recognized some of the security guards from before, and Nick the technician from down in the Pit. He counted nine in total running about in barely orchestrated mayhem as they attempted to re-organize and fortify their position.
Off the fourth level’s main tunnel was a large antechamber, someone was busy working at a computer terminal while another occupied a very large chair, it was made such that it looked like a throne: Tammuz no doubt. Since he was so tall - and the only Avatar.
What was interesting was the escape passage, a secret tunnel ran up to the fifth level hidden behind a camouflaged entrance. The first rule of being a ruler: always cover your butt. This could work to Cameron’s advantage.
Looking at the hillside above him, Cameron noticed how the mines main entrance had been constructed, with the facilities core elevator being the focal point, the access for each level.
:Inside the main entrance bay sat a tank, it was an impressive piece of hardware, thick armour and sporting a huge gun. It had barely escaped being within Cameron’s dispersion area, still the tank wouldn’t be going anywhere, a mere foot ahead was a sharp drop off - the lip of the big hole getting filled with water.
With the bay getting exposed during Cameron’s massive outburst, Ella, Alan, and her father had been granted unhindered entrance to the mine. They had been wrecking a special kind of havoc upon the guards remaining at that level and prevented any others from trying to come up the elevator shaft.
Perfect, those inside can’t go up, and soon won’t be able to go down, to be trapped like rats, Cameron smiled - for the first time in a long while.
Returning his attention to Tammuz, Cameron tried to figure out a way to bring this showdown to a quick conclusion. Unfortunately, the big guy was never left alone, one of his attendants was always present. His room it seemed, was the base’s control centre, computers and monitors occupied much of a huge corner desk, with his minions coming to him in a steady stream.
Cameron climbed the remaining distance up - getting himself out of the hole, he used the tank as a handhold to step up into the bay. The tank turret rotated slightly to bring the machine gun to bear, but it slowed in its motion, stopping completely before the boy was fully sighted. The tank took on a blue hue, to then wink out of existence. The three men who had been inside looked around puzzled as to how they ended up sitting in the dirt with no tank to be found.
The men reached for their sidearms, a reaction to having a young boy with shining eyes standing before them, only to discover that their holsters were empty, as the men took stock of the situation a red fox darted between them, biting and slashing them with claws, they surrendered without a fight.
Cameron procured some rope, with which Ella began to restrain them, as they lay face down she bound their feet to then fashion a noose around their necks. The mens hands were raised behind their neck and tied together while holding loops of rope. When Ella was done, each man had to pull their feet towards their back so they could breath.
Stepping up beside the black panther, it was hunkered down in a crouch waiting to pounce upon the next security guard foolish enough to show themselves climbing up the elevator shaft. A fox was doing the same at the other elevator door.
“Eh, what’s up Doc?” Asked Cameron.
The Werecat turned in shock to see just who had approached him so quietly that he’d not heard them.
“Cameron!” Shouted Alan in joy, after shifting and standing, embracing the youth in a hug.
“It’s good to see you, how is everyone?”
“I’m here with Ella and her father Ulrich, Lynn and the gang got taken to Arkham, they’re being held.”
“Better there than here. What’s the plan?”
“Ulrich and Ella had looked for a way to storm the lower level.”
“No need, the water is rising, soon everyone below will be scrambling up for safety, we just need to wait.”
“The shaft is difficult to defend, too many soldiers could climb up at once.” Added Ulrich Oberon, as he joined the conversation.
“It is truth,” concurred Ella, her smile a story of friendship and relief.
“All right, what we need is a pinch point, so only one person can come up at a time,” decided Cameron.
Cameron had a wealth of stone in holding inside his Warehouse, he fashioned a thick floor inside the elevator opening adhering the rock to the shafts walls. Inset into the floor was a small circle, positioned over the shafts service ladder, around the ladder was a small diameter pipe that a person would have to struggle through to reach the surface.
The opening was so small that it would be a tight squeeze for just a person to fit into, they wouldn’t be able to carry anything with them if they wanted to get through the opening. Shots could be heard, the men below unsettled by the change and testing to see how solid the new barrier was.
“Now for the back door,” stated Cameron, as he moved towards the middle of the bay.
“There is only the single access,” countered Ulrich. “We found no other way down.”
“Would you let yourself be caught in a situation without having an escape route?”
“Certainly not,” conceded the crafty fox, seeing the validity in the boys assessment.
“Tammuz may not care about his men, but he’ll have a secret passageway for himself.”
“Where is it?”
“For it to be a secret, it has to have been well hidden.” Assured Cameron, as he conducted a full 360 degree survey. “Ahh! Sneaky.”
Cameron approached the large fuel storage area of the bay, a metal tank lay on its side with markings cautioning that it held combustibles. However one end of the large container was a false door with stairs leading down. Cameron found the latch to open it and looked down.
The staircase was dimly lit, a rail for a chair ran along one side of the steps. Cameron was raising his foot to enter.
“You would risk yourself, entering into the lions den?” Sought the elder Oberon.
“Better to cut off the head of the snake, than be distracted by the tail.”
“Will you accept me as your sword and shield?”
“You would sacrifice yourself to protect me?”
“I would give my life if it meant saving yours.”
“I would never ask that of anyone.”
“All the more reason for me to offer it.”
“I welcome you Ulrich as my Oberon and friend, as I have done with your daughter.”
Ella and Alan remained above, to ensure anyone who came up from below was not going to create a problem and give resistance.
Ulrich and Cameron slowly crept down the stairs, the air was stale and a layer of dust covered the stairs treads, the passageway didn’t get much use. A good secret is only kept if few know it. At the bottom of the stairs was a landing with a locked door to the side, it was Tammuz’s treasury chocked full of gold and gemstones and large piles of cash.
Ahead of them was blocked by a wood wall, it had a pivot in the middle so it rotated once a latch was triggered, it was a set of three pressure switches that needed to be pressed in the correct sequence.
The two waited for the right moment to strike, formulating a plan and making priorities.
Time to move, while Tammuz had only a single attendant in the room. She was monitoring computer screens. Cameron and Ulrich entered the room, Ulrich moved to the right to close the door to the room, Cameron stood by the hidden exit. They had debated about the computer, it might hold valuable data about what went on here, so Cameron’s first objective was to have the computer disappear into a blue cloud, the Exemplar attendant exclaimed a ‘Wha…” in surprise and stood to see the cause.
Tammuz turned on his throne to observe who dared to interfere, the tall and well muscled Exemplar moved towards Cameron, the woman drew a short sword from a sheath on her hip and positioned herself between the intruder and her master.
“You are nothing but an annoying gnat, dispose of him,” dismissed Tammuz, although he himself moved over to the now blocked door, and the Were who stood in his way.
“I was thinking the same thing, imagine that.” Retorted Cameron as he dodged a parry, the Exemplar telegraphed her thrust with the sword, she meant to skewer the much smaller boy.
The sword struck the rock wall behind Cameron, Cameron softened that rock causing the blade to become imbedded into the rock, then just as quickly the rock solidified holding the weapon fast.
“Need I say ‘only if you be worthy, shall the sword be withdrawn?’ - and you ain’t worthy.” Cameron couldn’t help toss out a taunt.
The strong woman managed to get a hold of Cameron by trapping him between her arms, she pushed him against the rock, holding him there with one arm as she pulled back the other arm to strike him. In the last second Cameron slipped out of her grasp, but not before her fist skimmed off his shield so it hit the rock with a loud crack. This time it was her arm that sunk into the rock, midway up to her elbow, well past the metal bracelet she wore, then she struggled to remove her hand, but it too like the sword was held fast.
The Exemplar used her other hand as leverage on the rock wall to try and pull her stuck hand out. Cameron had that hand also sink into the softened rock wall to have it also solidify, entrapping it.
“You’re not too quick on the draw are you?”
The woman let fly a scream of frustration, pressing against him she sought to bite Cameron. Cameron sighed at her single-mindedness and melded her boots into the floor, as a way to quieten her down he bonded her teeth together, she couldn’t open her jaw. In sympathy he placed a large lemon drop hard candy in her mouth, something to keep her occupied.
Escaping from the woman’s embrace Cameron saw Tammuz was battling Ulrich, they had each acquired swords which had adorned the rooms walls. Ulrich was far more skilled in the use of the weapon, but Tammuz stood head and shoulders above the Were, an advantage that thwarted his attacks leaving him only able to defend blows.
Tammuz wore a short toga with sandals that laced up to his knees, he wasn’t golden but bronze in colour, a body paint that gave him a sheen. Tammuz kept striking at Ulrich, trying to overcome the resistance the unrelenting Werefox offered. Even though Tammuz stood at twice a normal man’s height, he couldn’t break through with his barrage of swings and jabs, Ulrich had him stymied.
“Now Tammy old bean, how about we settle our differences without creating a fuss,” spoke Cameron as he got some distance from the struggling Exemplar.
“How dare you accost a god!” Tammuz said as he turned and sneered viscously.
“You call yourself a god, but are nothing more than a thief, hiding inside a human no less. Why don’t you let the poor fellow go?”
“You have no right to interfere. He granted permission!” Refuted Tammuz, as he lowered his sword. Ulrich stayed ready but didn’t attack letting the two verbally parry.
“Right or wrong isn’t at issue. You have usurped a persons life, conjoining is forbidden and punishable, regardless of having permission. And what of enslavement? Striping peoples identities, stealing free will. You’ve been naughty.”
“Ha! What of it? Earth is a no interference zone, what are you doing here?”
“This world is my home. You’re the invader, you’re the one interfering. I’ve been asked to keep an eye on things, as a watcher. And my oh my! Would you look at what I found.”
“Am I supposed to be scared? Of you?” Laughed Tammuz.
“I’m curious, why hadn’t you fled at the first sign of trouble? Your sort don’t like to be held accountable.”
“One of the Dark Warlords stinking pets killed my Portal Master, and my Teleporter. And the Cook! Did you set it loose?”
“It escaped of its own initiative, I only granted it some room to move.”
“All the more reason to kill you.”
“Always in such a hurry to spill blood, no attempt to bargain or ask leniency.”
“Would you offer such?”
“No, but where’s the harm in seeing you squirm?”
“I’m a god, I grovel to no man - or boy. You should bow before me, begging my forgiveness.”
“You forsook your proper place and were banished, but keep showing up on Earth, why?”
“If we can’t rule Earth, then it shall burn.”
“Then you have much to answer for.”
“You can’t imprison me, it isn’t time.”
“Oh sure I can, I might not be allowed to kill you, but putting your kind into holding is well within my purview. Granted it might not be as cosy as null space, but escape is less likely.” Confided Cameron. “Now be obliging and step out of that poor fellow.”
“We are merged, there is no separating us.”
“Oh please, we both know that’s a lie, propaganda your kind spreads cause you don’t like giving up a meal ticket.”
“I won’t, you can’t make me.” Tammuz made his move, he’d positioned Cameron so the boy couldn’t evade an advance. Tammuz threw his sword at Ulrich while he rushed at Cameron.
Cameron was caught and hoisted up getting slammed onto the ceiling, smashing the lights sending shattered glass and plastic everywhere. Tammuz pointed his hand like a blade thrusting it into Camerons chest.
End of Part 4.