So, yeah, missed it by a day again. Back on the job hunt and goofing off so I lost track of the days. Sorry.
“Welcome to all of you!” a voice called across the courtyard. Everyone’s eyes were drawn to three people who had appeared of the main building. The one on the left was clearly a scientist; a tall, thin man in a once white lab coat that was now stained with chemicals of various colors. His bald head was shiny with sweat and he was constantly fiddling with his glasses or coat. On the right was a man in an army uniform. His thick, square build and gleaming badges made him an impressive figure, but Luke’s eyes were drawn to the speaker in the center. He did not seem imposing at first glance, just a normal guy in a plain suit. But something about him seemed… intimidating. His hair was fairly long and a lustrous blonde, it was almost as though it was glowing. Actually, Luke thought focusing It could just be the sun… Luke’s eyes widened as he realized what he was seeing. It couldn’t be the sun that was hanging directly over the courtyard, so it had to be the man’s aura. It was staggering; the intensity of the glow, most people in the courtyard barely had a quarter of it. A shadowless light that swallowed the aura of those near it. Luke immediately knew that this man was the biggest threat in this compound. The man continued to speak, his melodic voice flowing over and around the crowd of teens. The funny thing was Luke couldn’t see any speakers or a microphone.
“I extend my deepest apologies to you for your rough treatment over the past few weeks. As most of you have noticed, you have all developed superhuman abilities. We have brought you to our little base city to determine not only what these abilities are and how you got them, but in what way they could best… be put to use. We, of course, would also seek to cure any of you who so desire. But all of this is still months off according to our lead researcher.” The man gestured to the scientist on his left. “I have been informed that to accelerate this process we should let you spread out into the city instead of remaining in this complex. My chief of Security and right-hand man, General Green,” the man gestured to the man standing on his right, “disagrees. He says that his men have no way of controlling you if you go berserk or some such thing. He is, of course, being overly modest. Now that we have an understanding of your capabilities, it would be no great strain to neutralize any one of you. Also, as you know, the world believes you are all dead; that means that only my men and you will know if one of you should meet with… unfortunate circumstances. So let us not do anything rash like an escape or assault on my office, agreed?”
The man stopped talking; Luke shook himself awake in confusion. He tried to remember the last few minutes, but there was no vision or smell just the sound of that man’s mellifluous vice echoing inside him. Luke felt despair well up inside him, not only from the casual way his captor had ripped all hopes from them, but from the sheer genius and power he held. There would be no uprisings, no escapes, because everyone knew they would be mercilessly killed if they tried. There was no answer, no escape; it was impossible, just impossible. Impossible, impossible… impossible. Impos- NO! Luke snarled ripping away from the spiral of despair; It won’t end, not like this! I will not simply roll over and die because this man says so! Nothing is impossible as long as the will to continue exists!! Luke grappled with the vortex of despair and hopelessness, caught it and fed it to the embers of his anger. A roaring furnace of rage engulfed him, cleansing him of doubt and despair. Then he seized the flame and forced it deep, deeper, and deeper still within himself; until it was a glowing ember, a spark waiting to be fed tinder and erupt once more. As Luke finished his mental struggle, the speaker began once more. His voice somehow seemed less sweet to Luke, as if he had pulled away a veil of honey and sugar meant to hide the poison.
“Everyone will be divided into two groups; we shall of course try and keep family and friends together, no sense in putting enemies next door. That simply would not do. Also, since we all understand the current situation, I will have my men remove the inhibitors as you leave. For those whom the inhibitor was a chemical serum, that will wear off by tomorrow. Now each group shall live in and control, so to speak, either the east or west sections of the city. You can change anything you like and live anywhere you like, but you can not leave without checking with the sentries I will post on the borders. Now then, I have one last matter to finish up. To prevent confusion and streamline information I shall be selecting a representative for each group. They will deal with the day-to-day problems and, if necessary, talk to me personally. May Mr. Luke Rockwell and Mr. Jack Tate please step forward.”
Luke suddenly found himself standing next to Jack; he silently berated himself for being caught by Gale’s voice again as they were surrounded by soldiers.
“My men will escort you to my office so we can talk. To the rest of you I bid adieu.” The three men turned and walked back into the building, and the soldiers forced Jack and Luke to follow. Luke snuck a glance of Jack as they were led down a different hallway and to a nearby elevator. He looked half-asleep; glazed eyes and a stumbling walk, Luke felt sorry for him. That is until he remembered the night on the hill, then he felt whatever had happened Jack deserved it. Even as seemingly cut-off from the world as he was, Jack still emanated hatred and rage in waves. Obviously, he remembered the fight on the hill as well. Luke just prayed Gale, for who else could that have been talking with such authority, would be too unobservant to take advantage of it. Might as well pray for the sun to rise in the West while I’m at it. Luke thought wryly. Suddenly, the sky appeared around them and sunlight sparkled before Luke’s eyes. It wasn’t until the doors opened that Luke realized that the room was completely transparent, 360 degrees of amazing scenery. The soldiers shoved Jack and an awed Luke into the room and the elevator disappeared back into the floor. Luke stared around him; the view was perfect, stretching to all horizons. Only one thing ruined the natural beauty before him, knowledge of what it meant. Before him stretched a limitless expanse of sand and scrub, a huge desert with waves of heat boiling in the distance. Or maybe… that didn’t look like a heat mirage; it went too high covering the sky and sun as well.
Luke heard a faint grunt behind him. Spinning around he caught sight of a knife flying towards him. Reacting with speed he didn’t know he had Luke twisted out of the way of the serrated blade. He looked for the source of the attack, and saw Jack. Sweat was pouring down his flushed face and he was making wide gestures with his hands. Oh crap! Luke thought, throwing himself to the side as the heavy blade rushed past him once more, He’s telekinetic! He must be fighting through whatever they gave him. Fine, two can play this game. As Luke dodged, spun, and twisted out of the way of the deadly blade he called upon all the power at his command. Instead of releasing it though, he focused that power to his left hand. He shoved it against the barrier created by the device on his right arm. Energy crackled along his hand, leaping among his fingers. Once more Jack’s blade leapt at Luke, the edge glinting in the blazing sun. Luke’s lightning enshrouded hand intercepted the knife, and sliced straight through the carbon steel. With an animalistic growl, Jack lumbered towards Luke as the burnt and twisted metal tumbled to the ground. The air came alive as the two powerful boys forced out every ounce of power they could muster. Luke leapt forward to intercept Jack; they were going to bring this to an end before it caused further problems.
Then the world was a torrent of sound; movement and vision ceased as a jarring tone cascaded over them. When Luke could move again he found himself lying against a wall. Opening his eyes Luke saw Jack lying nearby, still stunned by whatever had hit them. Moving his gaze tot the elevator Luke saw Gale. The mysterious man had a look of supreme self-satisfaction; like a predator toying with its prey, letting it know it was already caught. Luke couldn’t wait till he could wipe that look off of his face
“Well,” Gale said looking from Luke to Jack “It seems I was correct about you two. You are obviously more powerful than many of the others here, or maybe it is just will power. I find it so hard to tell the difference.”
“Whah hih mee.” Jack slurred as he came to.
“Oh, that is my little secret. I cannot risk you knowing everything. Now why did I bring… Ah yes. I have a proposition for you fine specimens.” Gale turned to face the left wall and motioned with his hand. The wall darkened as a holographic panel appeared in the air before him. One flurry of typing and some groans later Luke and Jack stood in front of a map. Luke was cradling his left hand, it was completely numb from the power surge earlier. “Now like I mentioned before I need two people to lead our detainees. As you have probably guessed I have selected you two to be those leaders.”
“So.” Jack said slowly sounding like he was mostly asleep “Who. Are. We. Lead-ing.”
“I will have the lists brought to you later, along with information to allow you to contact me or my people. I do suspect, however, that most of your people will be in your group Mr. Tate, if that was what you were asking.”
A chill flew down Luke’s spine, with what Gale had just said Luke realized he would be badly outnumbered. Even if Gale wanted a peaceful arrangement, which seemed more and more unlikely, with the majority of the kids under Jack’s control he would attack them every chance he got. That would help Gale even more than peace; how better to see the military applications for their powers than to put them in a war-like situation. Also, it would be much easier to handle two opposing forces than a united one.
“How did you know?” Luke asked, “How did you know about all of this so quickly?”
“Come now” Gale replied patronizingly “We both know that is not what you wish to know. Ask your real question.”
“Why?” Luke whispered, “Why are you doing this to us? You have plenty of power; you certainly had little difficulty in making almost one hundred kids vanish from the face of the Earth. What could you need us for? What are you planning that requires this much power?”
“Would you believe it is money? How about world domination? No? You are right; it is nothing so petty that I seek. As to what that is, well, you will just have to figure that out for yourself.” Behind them, the elevator rose from the floor and their escort stepped out. “Thank you for this informative little chat. You may leave now.”
“You never answered my first question.” Luke said as he stepped into the elevator. Gale smiled; a small, cold smile that filled Luke with dread.
“I know” he said “I never planned to.” Gale’s smile became even more chilling “I think you should go and visit your sister, Amelia I believe her name was, I think she could use a… pick-me up.”
Gale laughed to himself as the doors shut off the boy’s murderous glare. What was it these humans said…? “If looks could kill”, yes then he might have been in trouble. Gale turned back to the desert outside his private room. These two were perfect for his plans. Not only did they loathe each other, but it would be, what was that term, “Child’s play” to manipulate them. Oh, Luke would know what was happening, but he would do anything to protect these children. Jack would require more finesse, especially with him trying to read his mind. He would not succeed, but it was trying to block him. He must persevere though; this was just another step towards realizing their ultimate goal. He must turn Earth’s protectors into her greatest threat.
When the guards released them all Luke could think about was finding Amelia. She had to be alive, but from what Gale said, she was in some kind of trouble. The search would go quicker with more people; so while Jack plodded off in search of his lackeys, Luke went to find Robert. Maybe he had already met up with Amelia, and Gale was just trying to rattle him, hopefully. Luke found Robert sitting near the entrance to the courtyard; no Amelia in sight, just a lone guard patrolling the yard.
“Any sign of Amelia?” Luke asked finally shaking the pins and needles out of his hand.
“No” Robert replied, his hands trembling.
“Hey, are you okay?” Luke asked worry coloring his voice.
“The symbols are back.” The young man answered with a strained smile, “The floor’s concrete and there isn’t even a speck of dust around here, if I don’t get something to write with- I think I’ll go insane.”
“Hey!” Luke called to the guard “Can you get us something to draw with. My friend needs it. Now!”
“Sorry kid,” he said walking up “We are under strict orders not to allow this one to draw anything. We can’t risk him becoming a threat.”
“Right now he is in agony. This could destroy him, then what would your boss say?” the soldier hesitated.
“What if he used those cursed pictures of his against us? A lot of people could be hurt if he went on a rampage.”
“Listen, I’ll take full responsibility. Gale put me in charge of some of these patients and I’m claiming this one as my charge. I will confiscate the drawing immediately so it cannot be used. Deal?”
“I want to help you.” The guard said glancing around nervously “I really do, but I can’t risk it. No one disobeys Mr. Gale. I’m sorry, truly I am, I have a couple of kids of my own, but there isn’t anything I can do.” He turned away and started to resume his patrol. During the exchange Robert had started moaning, now with a cry of desperation he threw himself at the guard. His taped hands fumbling over the startled guard’s belt. By the time the mercenary had turned back around Robert had taken his combat knife.
“Don’t make me hurt you, kid” the guard said drawing his pistol. Robert just gave him a pained grin and raised the knife over his head. Luke raced forward as the dagger began its downward arc, he knew Robert wasn’t attacking the guard… he was going to stab himself! As the adrenaline pounded through him time seemed to slow. The blade caught the sunlight, blazing with a thirsty light. His hand shot out, closing around Robert’s wrist, the knife mere inches from his friends arm. The mercenary grabbed the blade and replaced it in its sheath, still shocked by what he had just seen.
“I didn’t th-think something like that would happen here,” he muttered “I thought you kids would be rude and annoying, but not violent, not that desperate.”
“I told you,” Luke said forcing Robert to sit against the wall; he was whimpering and clutching his head with both hands, as if to hold his world together. “If he can’t draw he will find a way to do so, he can’t help himself. It’s a compulsion that’s now ingrained into his very being. Please just lend me some paper and a pencil; no harm will come of it.”
“Here,” the guard said tossing a pad and pencil next to Robert, “I don’t think I could write any reports today anyways.” The lanky youth immediately jumped onto his prize, his salvation; drawing what looked like meaningless scribbles unto the first page.
“Thanks…” Luke started, turning back to the guard, but he had already moved on. Probably not wanting to be seen by his superiors… or to face the children they were holding captive. “Are you okay now?” Luke asked Robert.
“Yea… Thanks for that Luke” He replied slowly standing up; the pad clutched in one hand and the pencil in another.
“You’d better pocket those so that the guards don’t take them. Might be useful later on.”
“Here take this,” Robert said, tearing out the drawing.
“You told that guard you’d take whatever I drew. Besides I have a feeling that it will protect you.”
“Thanks.” Luke stared at the drawing. Even though Robert had spent less than a minute on it, it was breathtaking. It seemed simple, but upon closer examination, Luke could see an extremely complex pattern. It was a ball, but each line was made of many minute, interconnecting designs. If this picture was any indication Robert’s power was much more complex than the others Luke had seen, and much more dangerous as well.
“So Luke,” Robert said snapping the other boy out of his musings, “What was that about you being responsible for some of us?”
“That’s why Gale asked to see me and Jack; we’re the representatives he was talking about.” Robert let out a wry chuckle. “I know. The thought idea of putting the two of us in charge together… Either Gale is clueless, which I highly doubt, or he wants us fighting each other.”
“So what are Jack’s thoughts about this arrangement?” Robert asked pocketing his new pad.
“He tried to kill me. He’s telekinetic at least; I bet he’s actually a full-fledged psychic with all the bells and whistles. He might even be able to read and control people’s minds so we’ll have to be cautious until we know more.”
“Luke! I found Amelia!” Dawn’s voice called from the air in front of them.
“Dawn? How did- Why?” Luke sputtered as she faded into view.
“Well,” she started, staring at her feet and blushing “I didn’t really run that far into the crowd. I heard you and Robert talking and thought I could help. Most of the guards aren’t wearing their masks anymore, so they can’t see me. Anyway,” she continued looking up. “I found Amelia in cell #77.”
“That’s great!” Luke shouted heading off towards the cell block.
“There is one problem,” Dawn continued, her voice stopping Luke in his tracks. “She… She isn’t quite herself at the moment.”
“I don’t care.” Luke replied staring down the darkened hall. “Please Dawn, take me to her.”
“Okay, but be prepared.”