Empire Interlude 1

A Short Story: Blood Forge #8: The Broker

“Tiver and Henderson?” The receptionist called.

“Um,” Henderson replied. “It’s Henderson and Tiver. Not Tiver and Henderson. Very important.”

Tiver rose to his defense boyh physically and vocally. “I object!”

“Over ruled!” Henderson said, slamming his palms against the armrest.

“But sir, this court must sustain my argument-!” Tiver continued.

“Nay! You will be held in contempt of court if you continue…” Henderson raised an eyebrow, beckoning the young man to challenge him.

Tiver sat back down, pouting, but the receptionist came to his aide. In a formal display, she lowered her head appealed to the prejudice judge.

“Your Honor, please hear what this man has to say. He only wants to do what is right for the defendant.” With a flutter of her eye lashes, Henderson broke.

“Well…if you insist, continue Tiver. But tread carefully. My feelings are on the line,” Henderson spoke, feigning frail composure.

“Thank you, Your Honor.” Tiver stood once again, offering the receptionist his seat. She took it graciously. Tiver paced before the two, rubbing the wiry, brown scruff of beard on his face. Buying time to think of a suitable defense.

“Well! Spit it out. They’ll come for us any moment now,” Henderson bayed.

Tiver began. “Your Honor, there is nothing the defense can do about the charges for they are whole heartedly true! We plea guilt.”

The seated spectators gasped.

“Nay!” Henderson booed. “That’s not even allowed!”

“Yay! For the trial was bullshit anyways,” Tiver pronounced. “For our lady decided that ‘Tiver and Henderson’ sounds better than ‘Henderson and Tiver.’ Sorry, old friend, but you’ve lost. And I,” Tiver’s lip quivered, his many uears in his collegiate drama club surfacing. “Have lost a dear friend?”

Henderson deflated entirely. The receptionist patted Henderson on the shoulder with care.

But don’t worry,” Tiver voiced, holding out a hand. “Think of all the money this deal is getting us!”

Henderson’s eyes lit up at the mention of the law firms new headquarters in Chicago. He jumped up, rejuvenated, clasping Tivers hand.

“Yes!” Henderson exclaimed, noticing the completely silent secretary standing at the far end of the lounge. “You’re quite right! I do enjoy the business she brings! And the company.”

The secretary approached the two gentlemen. She cleared her throat before addressing them.

“Henderson and Tiver?”

“Haha!” Henderson exclaimed. Tiver slapped his forehead comically.

“I jest. The Broker would like to see you now.”

The two mens demeanors hardened with the mention of The Broker. The time for jokes had ended. The menial banter could wait until after their meeting.

Tiver offered the receptionist his hand, assisting her in rising to her eight inch heels. Their eyes met and youthful longing shown forth, blinding Henderson.

“It was a pleasure as always, Shelly.”

Shelly smiled thinly, but her true emotions lay staunched in light of their situation. She turned, returning to her desk. Tiver watched her go, a longing in his eyes. Henderson elbowed him firmly.

“Yes, I know,” Tiver said, trying to placate his worried partner.

“Then you’d better cease and desist, before you get hurt. Our business partner does not remain largely anonymous by allowing too many leaks.”

Tiver had no idea how the receptionist felt, but to him, she was a cool, refreshing breeze. Meek to a fault and expedient in her work. All irreplaceable facets of her character. His heart yearned for some sort of connection with her. She captured his heart on first sight and the man knew of no greater good.

But the Broker would never allow such a union. She ran a tight ship with no leaks. He watched her go, but the receptionist didn’t glance back once.

Tiver turn and followed his partner out of the lounge.

The mens high-end, leather shoes clicked on the marbel floors. The secretary made no sound which always disturbed Henderson, dating back to his first visit to this place. Henderson leaned toward Tiver.

“Alright, all we’ve gotta do is put the usual charm on her and nothing else okay. I’ve got a bad feeling in my bones. And wipe that look off your face. You might fool everyone else, but I know that look. Don’t. Do it. Whatever you’re thinking.”

Tiver smiled thinly. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

Henderson couldn’t believe him. They’d been partners for years, since law school, and this bastard was fixing to throw away for a love interest?

Henderson thought back to the odd start to their relationship. Henderson had finally saved up enough money for law school and he’d decided to attend Chicago Municipal. Though he was nearly 35, the older man had bunked with the 18 or 19 year old buck and they’d hit it off.

Tiver was Henderson’s kind of people. Jolly, light-hearted, and comedic to a fault, which had lead to them keeping in touch. But Tiver attended college on the graces of his wealthy family. Though he didn’t lack talent, he lacked ambition. A death nell for a wealthy family.

It broke Henderson’s heart to see such a young one suffer, so he aided him in his studies, getting the fool to graduation safely. But Tiver still had no idea what it was like to suffer in poverty. A feeling Henderson could not swiftly forget.

It had been 20 years since, then and Henderson was approaching his old age not so gracefullly.

The group rounded the last corner and came to a stop in front of two large, white door. Two guards, big men with automatic rifles, starred down at Henderson and Tiver. Tiver was taller than Henderson by a couple of inches, standing over six feet tall, but these men dwarfed Tiver in height and size.

“H7839869208:$&%#%_JL.” The secretary recited.

The guards froze, guns leveled at the two men. Time passed and Henderson became quite intimate with the gun barrels dark interior, as if he stared into death itself. The guards unfroze, turning to heave the doors open wide, bearing a pitch black room to the gentleman.

The secretary entered without hesitation and Henderson followed close behind. This would be Tiver’s second time entering this room, but he did not seem intimidated in the least.

“Stop here,” the secretary directed. The group halted, and the doors closed behind the Tiver and Henderson, sealing them in.

A light blasted on, cast from high above over a mahogany desk and a large-backed chair, displaying the ominous figure in question. Though the light showed the females clothing and exterior in vividly, a deep shadow hid her face from view. Long hair hung around her face, deepening the shadow to ghoulish proportions, proving a stark contrast of light and dark.

Henderson assumed, if they got much closer and glimpsed her face, they may not ever be released from this place. Something was different.

“Sit,” the Broker commanded, voice echoing off the walls.

Henderson’s heart pounded. She’d never spoken, directly to the gentlemen. Henderson recalled his other visits and an aide usually broadcast the Broker’s will in her place.

Henderson glanced around, taken aback, but he remembered the Broker’s command. He searched for a chair, but saw none. Front and center, the secretary made her way to the ground with difficulty. He did the same. Tiver did not.

“How much for the receptionist?”

Henderson reached up to grab Tiver’s wrist, but Tiver withdrew his wrist out of Henderson’s reach.

Tiver looked down at him with a shine to his eyes, then averted them in favor for the Broker. The Broker remained silent.

“I know that most of your employees never venture tol far from your grasp. I know that you’re the type of person to offer a deal for something you want, we’re partners after all.”

The Broker remained silent.

“I don’t want to buy her as a prostitute or something of that nature. I want her hand in marriage. Or, at least, a chance at a healthy relationship, and God knows I’ll never get a fighting chance without your consent.”

Tiver’s voice echoed across the dark marble and died. The Broker tilted her head, ever so slightly, as if considering his offer. She snapped her fingers and Tiver flew back into the darkness.

A great gust of wind sent Henderson sliding to the side leaving him sprawled, steeped in darkness. He jumped up and started toward his friends aide, but the Broker’s voice stopped him.

“Stop!” The Broker yelled, loud and commanding. Fear got the better of Henderson and he obeyed. If he died here…

“If you come any closer, you’ll see my face. And I know you dont want that.”

Henderson swallowed, hard. “You didn’t have to do that.”

The Broker took a moment as if thinking, “…I’ve indoctrinated him into our organization. Out of pity.”

“Pity!” Henderson voice rose. “If you pitied him, you’d let us go! Ignore his plea. Turn him away, but you-”

“Silence.” Henderson recognized that tone. The low hiss before someone died. “Henderson, we allow you to live on the outside with a measure of freedom. He will do the same. Do not forget your place in all this.” There was nothing but darkness all around and Henderson saw that fit the organizations modus operandi perfectly.

“It’s miniscule and irrelevant enough, but WE have nothing to do with anything of your other endeavors.” Henderson dropped to his knees. “Please, he doesn’t understand anything about our deal.”

The Broker’s shadowy face locked on Henderson. He lowered his head, trembling uncontrollably. He knew the payment for such a settlement and Tiver would never be able to except it. He would strain against the Broker’s control and die in a horrible manner or worse…

A pair of bunny slippers shuffled into the corner of his vision. Alarmed, he began to raise his head, but a delicate touch halted his progress.

“For you, I will make an acception. You’ve served us well,” a familiar voice soothed.

Tears burst forth from Henderson’s eyes. “I’ll take responsibility. We’ll be looking forward to the grand opening your new construction in Chicago?” He choked through gasping breaths.

“Emily-,” Henderson gasped.

“Good.”

Henderson held in the horrible sadness that an insect might experience, when trapped in a spiders web. He’d lost this fight due to his greed and ambition, falling further and further beneath the Broker’s boot.

The slippers left his view and padded away. He stood and walked to his unconscious friend, dreading the days to come.

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Empire 4

Blood Forge #7: Chicago P.2

The elevator ascended swiftly: smooth, efficient, and luxurious. I couldn’t help, but appreciate the craftsmanship put into a work so simple. The sliding doors reflected a distorted version of our party’s faces. People trapped within walls of gold forever disfigured, at least to us. Maybe we were the abominations in their eyes.

Liddia and Bastion stood to my right, leaning against the ornate railing. Bastion’s head rested against the elevator’s ornate interior, eyes drooping from exhaustion. Liddia stood arms crossed, eyes scanning the elevator endlessly. Our eyes met for a moment and I got an irritated feeling in my gut. I dismissed it. Carl stood facing the sliding doors. His stood close enough to the doors that I could see his eyes. And he’d changed.

He started out a stuttering nobody, a person of menial intellect whom we kidnapped. His interactions with clerk and I earlier either, revealed something about his character. No one ever changed so quickly, unless they had something to hide.

Another rogue feeling stabbed my heart. Eyes misting, I looked to the roof, giving them the opportunity to recede. As I brought my hands to my face, foreign eyes pried at my exterior. I looked at Bastion and Liddia. They returned to their former positions, droopy and oblivious. Fake, but I appreciated the gesture.

I’d been weak enough to ask Liddia to become out de facto leader. Asking her to shoulder such responsibility as my junior, as someone less experienced than me was irresponsible.

The elevator doors opened, revealing a massive water park. Now that I could see all corners of the roof, the building took the shape of a massive hexagon. The roof remained open to the deep blue sky far above. I became increasingly aware of my fragile clothing.

Though the bulletholes functioned as mini-exhaust vents. An anxious moment descended on our group as we walked before a third of the hotel. If anyone noticed our alarming garb, they showd now signs, fast walking across the heated concrete to the next slide or attraction withiut giving us a second thought. The crowds fast walked back and forth, so invloved with the attractions they hardly noticed the people they bumped into.

A toddler bounded toward the edge of the roof, uncontested. Sooner than I could raise a hand, she made an abrupt U-turn, hussling back toward the pool. I opened my mouth, but Carl was prepared to explain.

“Great, right? Makes it so you can’t physically get too close to the edge by influencing your mind. Inverts your perspective leading you back on course.”

“That’s…” I had no words to convey what a danger such technology posed to human rights, but surprise robbed me of words.

Carl shrugged. “They got the permits, so it’s on them if someone takes an unfortunate dive off the roof. Nothing comes without risk.”

His eyes seemed weary, so I didn’t push on the subject. He seemed just as apprehensive as I was.

The child ran into her fathers arms and I shuddered. My parents would’ve…

We reached the opposite side of the roof and another elevator appeared. More luxurious than the last. Completely see through, glass and gold lit our path. This included the elevator shaft. If this elevator wasn’t air conditioned I might have to just turn off my senses. Draw backs for living in a seventy degree bubble for too long.

As the elevator arrived, I noticed amount of air seperating elevator and shaft, but Carl offered no explanation. He pushed the button the highest elevator button. I resisted the urge to ask how the elevator knew which guests were permitted beyond this point. Carl read my mind this time.

“Only the rooms remain inaccessible to certain guests. If you reside in the first tower, you still have access to the second and third towers. They contain fewer, but bigger rooms and more entertainment options. For people here living situations are first come and first served.”

“So you’re saying everyone here is rich enough to afford any room in this complex?”

“Of course, the rooms are cheap because the entertainment is—” Carl forsook a word and gestured, rubbing his first two fingers and thumb together.

“Hm. Nice.”

“Yeah. She wants a fair society more than anything. At least, that’s the message. Pitting the rich against each other for scraps. Extremely expensive scraps. The owners could charge however much they desire at this point. The demand is there, but—”

The elevator arrived at our destination and we got out. Carl prattled on about principles and ethic-missionary stuff-but I didn’t care for self justification or freedom fighting. Everyone’s a freedom fighter at some point for their own cause.

Liddia seemed to lose her nervous heart and began asking questions of her own. Things I couldn’t understand, about people I didn’t know.

Our room in the third tower exemplified luxury, to say the least. Upon entry, I could smell the craftsmanship oozing from the walls. Fresh cedar, spices, and a comforting temperature greeted us as we traversed the entry corridor. Though an expert could make a better assessment, the architects clearly had ‘post-modern’ in mind when arranging it. The room maintained a similar square footage of a medium sized suburban house, yet opened up enough to prevent newcomers from getting lost in its bowels.

The entry floor contained the entry hall, kitchen, dining room, and three other rooms with beds and walk-in closets. The main living area raised three steps up from the level we stood on, giving the room an inert sense of consumption.

At the far end of the space, stairs lead to a second floor bedroom, overlooking entry and living area. The stairs lead further up, but I couldn’t tell exactly to where they led. Retractable glass walls boxed in the area. For the time being, I left them retracted in the ceiling. They also maintained a shade function, where the glass would darken in tint, hiding the room from prying eyes. According to Liddia, it wasn’t enough to truely hide ones figure. The first three bedrooms on the first floor shared a massive bathroom with three shower heads and a 10×5 bathtub. The bath was already filled with temperate water. The room upstairs only had a walk-in shower and closet with see-through glass, but it was a room unto itself, laying adjacent to the bedroom.

Liddia called the upstairs. I felt the need to fight her for it, but she was the only girl among us currently. My mind collapsed in on itself deciding, debating in between past and present values.

“You’re making a weird face,” Liddia pointed out.

“I’m—are you sure you want the upstairs?” You can definitely tell if someone was changing up there.

“Please.” She placed her hands on her hips and fluttered her dark eyelashes.

With the space Endeavor gave us, there wasn’t much room for privacy. Girls and guys changing out in the open was a common occurrence. But values unknown to me found their way back into my heart. Feelings I couldn’t control. The look on my face must have said it all because Liddia put her hands up in surrender.

“Fine….but no one uses the upstairs bathroom, ‘kay? That’s mine if I wanna use it.”

I looked to Bastion and Carl for back up, but Bastion was already headed for his room and Carl seemed to be inspecting his shoes with immense scrutiny.

“Fine, but guys get the bath first. There’s only three shower heads anyways.”

Liddia gave me a look, but conceded by walking away to her room. I followed her until the stair case. The third room was seperated from the other by the stair case, but seemed to connect to the shared bath in some manner. I felt relieved that Bastion and Carl had taken the other rooms before hand.

I sat on a chair at the corner of the room, becoming increasingly conscious of my dirty exterior, compared to my surrounding. Sitting gingerly on the edge of the chair, I peeled off the Endeavor jumpsuit.

Looking over the dark, bullet riddled, polyurethane fabric, I felt a twing of longing. It was good material. Did not attract a scent easily and fit well. Reliable yet oppressive. My eyelids drooped, nearly over come with sleep deprevation, though I’d only been awake for the last thirty minutes. I remembered the bone fragments and focused for a moment. There were still hundreds left. It would take me hours of conscious effort to remove them. I didn’t have the focus for that. Not yet. A bath could assist me in removing the annoyances permanently. Then we’ll, rest and figure out what to do after.

I entered through Bastion’s room, in consideration for Carl’s possible objection to me walking in one him naked. The room was empty of possessions, save for Bastion’s Endeavor jumpsuit. I continued through the carved, wood door into the expansive rear bathroom.

Carl sat in the bathtub adjacent to Bastion, discomfort edged deep in his forehead; Bastion seemed his usual oblivious self. Usually, it took quite a feat to get a reaction from Bastion, but his shoulders slouched slightly lower, his jaw more resolute. He wore no town and sat on the edgr of the bath rather than within it. I showered off thoroughly and entered the bath gingerly.

The bathroom reminded me of baths from japanese anime I’d watched as a kid. The only difference was the clarity our baths water. Judging from the anime, you would think such bathrooms were common among japanese people, but I never got around to looking up any facts. I always wanted such a massive bathroom and tub. My family had been poor for such extravagent means.

My mind reached an impass and I stopped remembering. Letting my head fall back and sighing loudly, I attempted to break the silence.

“So,” I stabbed. “How’s everything with you two? Basti—“

“Umm…!” Bastion raised a hand, but reconsidered.

“Speak up?”

“Call me Bast. Bastion is too long and it grinds on my ears.”

The boy sat there, an anxious expression cracked his usual facade. I couldn’t read him, but Bast certainly halved the syllables. A vague memory drew on the image of a cat and a book I read in my lower teens.

“Sure, we will.” I eyed Carl and he nodded.

“Yeah! Of course, man.”

After measuring Bastion—Bast’s relief, I continued. “So, ugh, Carl. I know that in the end, we’re a bunch of strangers.” He nodded. “And we may have forced you into a corner back at that gas station, but you humored us. You’ve willingly got us this far.” He nodded slower. “But we barely know anything about you. It’s suspicious, you see?” I leaned forward. Water formed tiny waves in response, splashing against the interior of the massive bath. Carl didn’t cause a ripple. “Let’s get to the truth. I’m not stupid enough to believe in you so blindly, so why don’t you just tell us who you really are? We get to know each other a little better. Really quick.”

Bast looked back and forth between Carl and I. Had he not noticed? Maybe I’d jumped the gun and let my suspicions get the better of me. But a small voice whispered deep in my heart that things didn’t add up. I would call his bluff.

“W—wha, what do ya mean,” Carl stammered, eyes sparkling. “Man I’m just—“

“Shut up.”

He closed his mouth. Face contorted with fear, but his eyes ready. Analyzing for alternative endings to our conversation.

“I want you to tell me what’s really going on, Carl. There’s no way you’re just some rich boy from Louisiana, who can drop everything to drive three strangers to Chicago for no reason. Because if you don’t tell the truth, I’ll know…”

I let that statement hang in the air and focused on breaking through his facade. Our eyes met and I starred back with all my might, broadcasting over and over that I could tell if he decided to bullshit me. And when he did their’d be consequences.

Carl’s face contorted fractionally, then he sighed. “You got me.”

I leaned against the edge of the bath, enjoying a fair amount of relief.

“Thank you, Carl. I’m glad we can get past all this.”

“Well, you might not like what I have to say and I’m afraid if I say my true intentions, you’ll hate me anyways.”

I relaxed further. “Carl, I’m just relieved you aren’t going to hide any shit from me. Go ahead. I promise I won’t kick your ass for no good reason.”

“Well, that’s fantastic,” Carl breathed.

Bast interjected without looking up. “That doesn’t mean he won’t kick your ass for no bad reasons.”

“Bast, please-”

“No,” Carl said. “He’s right. You really aren’t going to like my reasons.”

I cocked my head, his words irritating me slightly. After all the effort I’d out in he wouldn’t even trust us?

“Carl-”

The bath exploded and water surged forward, striking me hard in the face. I flew until I reached the opposite wall, head cracking against the mirror and bouncing off the sink below. I came to rest for at on the floor fifteen feet away.

My vision swam and the room tilted at odd angles making my stomach and body hurt. A lump began to swell where the water bludgeoned my face moments ago.

“Carl,” I tried feebly. “What…the fuck.”

I reached into my mind and flicked the auto-heal switch into the on position. My vision immediately began to right itself, reducing from tens to threes and finally ones of every object in the room. My power told me I had suffered a mild head trauma, similar to that of being hit in the head with a hammer. What I saw did not please me, at all.

Bast and Carl dueled with wind and water from opposite ends of the tub. Carl had erected a wall of water and continually shot tendrals of water the size of fists at Bast, while Bast flew about, tearing them appart with a raging gale strong enough to disintegrate the high pressure shots. Though I couldn’t see Bast’s defenses, it was obvious he could not defend against every shot.

One shot flew past Bast’s head as he adjusted its course rather than disintegrating it. Another struck him in the hip and his face contorted in pain. Air rushed out from him, but weak air only made ripples against the shell of water protecting Carl.

I approached the water shell from behind and stuck my hand in, resulting in it immediately being knocked away. The water shell flowed around Carl, using the current to deflect incoming forces. I admired the ease of which he maintained this defensive and offensive power. But it still had one glaring weakness. The force was too weak to repel me.

I crouched down onto all fours, plunging my feet ankle deep into the floor. The slick tiles broke easily beneath my strength and I reached a hand into the vortex.

The further I crawled, the more my error in judgement became apparent. I had crawled a long way, meticulously conserving my strength for the moment I would come fave to face with the hydrokinetic Carl. Each movement as if fighting the tides themselves. Every swing of my arms and feet, strong enough to pierce the floor, required greater force every thrust. The closer I grew to the center, to Carl, the faster the current. I could feel the last of the oxygen in my lungs draining away. I began to panic.

Even though I knew the consequences of panicing in this situation, my mind filled with the doubts and then the fear of death.

I imagined it a hundred times over, my unconscious body floating forever in the current. Even if my powers kicked in to save me, without food or oxygen, I would die like any other human.

In that moment fear, as I clung to the tiled floor, the entire room turned crimson, and the water around me began to boil.

I let out a cry in surprise, exhausting the last of my air reserves, and inhaling water. I lost the custom grips with my hands and feet, and spiraled into the flowing waters.

Empire 3

Blood Forge #6: Chicago

My heart dropped, dumbfounded. 20 years…that would make me nearly 40 years old! None of it made sense. Every neuron fired at once, looking for a possible solutions.

Eyebrow squeezed tight, eyes closed, I bit into my lower lip, and my knees felt weak. I’d been taken from the hospital by Endeavor after some sort of injury, within the same day, to that freezing cold place. If this lined up, that had been 20 years ago; 15 years longer than Sebastion or Liddia. But I’d been at the same facility for a shorter duration than them. I’d been the last person to enter according to every person who’d been there. A thought of Whimper rose out of the broiling depths of thought. I’d never spoken to him, but he’d probably know that everyday he sat there on his bed, knowing how to escape. Assuming he did, what kept him from escaping? Surely Endeavor had figured out his power after all those years of experimentation. I thought back to the girl who’s head stuck out of the wall and a more grevious issue flowed forth from the depths. A seemingly random, but valid thought of a girl in that test room who I’d refused an immediate reprieve from her sickness. I’d planted something in her that would bloom when least expected, as the disease reached its height. Though she’d suffer more the delay would protect me as well. Maybe someday she would lift her hands to God in thanks to me for saving her life. All I knew was how it benefited me, of course, but I liked thinking I’d been merciful. Maybe Whimper felt the same way. Liddia gently slapped the side of my face. I opened my eyes, rather suddenly because she finched, retracting her hand to her side.

I opened my mouth, attempting to voice my thoughts but more images clouded my vision. Laying in the Quad, someone’s arm across my chest. I had a slight erection, surprisingly. The feeling of disguised attraction and a confusion, sexual confusion? Confused about our relationship.

“College,” I blurted out, everyone present turned. “It was the first year of college. 2017.” The numbers and words came faster than I recognized the information. They came from my subconscious. This time I reached, deeper than I’d ever reached and I knew what I wanted. A name. “Cassie McGregor. Wow! I’m remebering all this stuff, but—“ I stopped again, Carl’s mouth had reached a whole new leveled up to ‘gapping abyss.’

“You gotta control that,” I continued, gesturing to my mouth. He ignored me.

“Y-your talking about THAT Cassie…graduated from California Municipal? Short, brunette, with freckles and green-eyes? Oh! And don’t forget,” he smirk, raising one hand over and one under his pectorals. I suppressed a grin.

“Yeah.” We grinned at each other until I noticed Liddia looking back and forth. “Wait. She started in Alabama Municipal, though,” Carl’s eyes widened at that. “So, you know her?”

“Know her?! Well, not personally, but who doesn’t I suppose. She graduated college and took the business community by storm. But she did it from the economics side of things, starting as a broker on Wall Street. She was so good, the FBI is still looking for something to charge her with! Crazy right? Anyways, she made money of her own as well. Buying shares of companies, wuit her job as a broker and began playing the system herself. Now, she’s the most powerful person on the planet. Not as rich as Bill Gates, but she stand head and shoulders above any businessman in influence.” He gasped for air.

“Okay, great,” I grasped his shoulders. “How do I find her. Also I need a mirror.”

“What? No! No way! There’s no way we could FIND her. No one knows where she is,” he ignored my request for a mirror.

“Why?”

“Because! No one knows. Jeez. She’s incognito, undercover, out of the public eye. After all, she’s probably the target of more assassination attempts than the president.”

“Well,” that sort of intimidated me. I thought we were hunted. “She must have a physical base of operations. We could go visit that and maybe she’ll recognize me or something.”

“Well—“

“Wait!” I had to stop him. “Okay. Please before you continue, bring me that mirror.” He went to speak, but Liddia pulled him away. I needed to think or panic would retake me. I was still remembering more and more by the second; remembering more of who I once was.

I’d been despicable. Just the Eclipse memory alone made me want to vomit. The womanizing, narcissistic, jealous, greedy, selfish asshole I’d become during high school. I’d been accepted to one of the most prestigious schools on the planet and I still wasn’t satisfied? Demanding attention with underhanded tactics and giving girls a hard time because of my failed relationships with my female family members. They weren’t even that bad! I pounded a fist against the glass of the freezer. It cracked and splintered, rewarding me with a few small cuts. Loneliness and sadness bubbled up. Lost emotions that weren’t mine anymore. Something akin to self loathing and depression. I hated what I’d become, but felt powerless to stop myself. Carl, Sebastion, and Liddia spoke quietly at the opposite end of the gas station. Upon meeting my eyes, Carl gestured. Inviting me to join them. Sorting through my lost memories would need to come later.

“There’s a mirror in the bathroom. They didn’t allow you guys mirrors?” His face scrunched together the more he spoke, probably disturbed bed.

“Naw.” I strode through the entrance.

The interior of the bathroom reflected cleanliness and there was a feeling of relief. The reflective surface clung to the wall above the faucet in the furthest corner of the room. I walked in front of it. I backed away from the mirror and exited the bathroom.

“So—“

“I look the same. I should be a lot older. I walked out the front doors of the gas station.” The other followed me out.

“Hey Carl’s been talking and he says that we should probably go.”

“Do you look the same too.” I turned on her. She tried to hide it, but her face said it all. I turned back looking up, directly at the Sun. I didn’t know why I was crying, but if I did this it would dry my tears.

“Look, Mesh,” Liddia started again. “We’ve gotta go. Carl says there are security cameras in the gas station and that we probably won’t be safe here for much longer. They’ll find us.” That convinced me. I realized why I was crying. I hated—still hated—being so powerless in the face of great danger. That I couldn’t protect the people who needed me to protection, who trusted me, and that slowly I was being uprooted, unhinged by internal conflict. And I couldn’t deal with it. The people who could help me—who under normal circumstances— I leaned on without hesitation, felt like strangers I was too proud to lean on them! Honesty.

“Liddia…I’m—not the same. Memories that I can’t control are being revived in my head right now,” she opened her mouth and reached out to comfort me, but I held up a hand. She halted. “I’m changing, very rapidly, because of these memories…it’s disorienting to say the least. So I need you to take charge. Take care of Sebastion and I while I’m like this.” I placed both hands on her shoulders. “I trust you with my life.”

I couldn’t worry about her right now. Memories appeared in droves, overwhelming coherent thought.

“Carl!” He jumped. “Get me in your…car…and—drive us to that place.” My head felt like it was being filled with confetti. I hadn’t even know that existed until five seconds ago. Carl seemed to sense my urgency and ushered us to his car. Without any other words, we began driving to God knows where.

I spent the drive being over run with new information. Imagine suddenly remembering where you left something 100 times in half a second. The sensations of stress then relief repeated rapidly, over, and over again.. I couldn’t get comfortable and, worst of all, I was getting car sick. A memory of a younger version of me throwing up on the side of the road. An older version throwing up in a storm drain close to a football field. Sensory information, thoughts, feelings rolling over me like tidal waves.

The sensation fell by degrees with time. 200, 100, 50, 10, and finally two memories clear as day. The first of Cassie hugging my chest in a field of grass, my roommate, and the red-head seated nearby. The explosion of pain in my chest, the cold creeping into my body. Everything faded to black. Then, the last memory played.

I felt the ice cold wind shredding my skin as two men dragged me across the frozen tundra. Head raises, taking note of the ‘Endeavor and Ass.’ sign high above. A woman stands by the double doors leading in the building.

“Another survivor,” stated a voice from behind.

“Good,” the woman said. “A Jem? Or simply chaff?”

“Jem.”

“Oh my. Quite unique. And why would the main branch trust us to research such an important specimen,” she cood the words.

“Because,” the man’s voice was stained. “He is the chaff of a Shard. His power is strong, but too high maintenance and uncontrollable. In the interest of the Conglomerate, we want something more.” He emphasized the last words.

The woman noticed my eyes were open. “Well, hello there, young man. We’ll be looking after you for the remainder of your life, so be sure to get comfortable with your new friends.” Her chipper tone didn’t suit the situation. Was she crazy? To be honest, I didn’t really care all that much. She waved and the men dragged me inside. Giving me a tap on the head for good measure.

I snapped awake, reflexively throwing myself forward. A small lump on the back of my head began to throb, swelling larger by the second. My heart raced and adrenaline pumped causing my body to shake restlessly. I wondered how much of that encounter would prove reality or fiction. It had been a dream, after all.

It appeared my nose had grown accustom to the odd smell of Carl’s car. My mind remained groggy as I rubbed the remants of dried mucus from my eyes. Carl glanced at me through his rear-view mirror for a moment, swiftly switching focus back to the highway. Cars flew by outside my window, I obswrved they were speeding, possibly ten or fifteen miles per hour over Carl’s pace. My chest tightened in a controlled mix of annoyance and anger. The feeling went away after seconds, but I still felt shaken. Something like this making me annoyed? I’d lost a couple screws in the past days, but these unfamiliar, involuntary feelings caught me by surprise. I dismissed it, a lesser symptom of the past resurfacing. No need to worry over something so trivial, though discounting the irrational emotions remained at the aft of my focus. To worry and to prepare were two different. One governed by emotion and the other by necessity.

My hand found the knot forming on the back of my head and within seconds it began to recede; shrinking to a minuscule blemish. I leaned my head back in my seat trying to adjust My positioning. I moved forward, but something restrained me. In a moment of panic, I flailed grabbing for leverage. Finding nothing, I arched my back. A grinding sound filled the air; metal tearing and plastic breaking away from its anchor. A jolting force removed me from my position of leverage, I fell forward, and the car grew hot. I remembered where I was. Liddia sat in the front passenger seat of the car, barely contained annoyance on her face. Heat rolled off her skin. Carl had stopped the car on the side of the road. He looked me up and down, then pointed a quivering finger. I looked at the broken seat belt in my lap. For some reason I didn’t care too much. I shrigged my shoulders at him.

“Bad dream.”

“That’s-That’s fine…” his voice trailed off. Still couldn’t get a read on his character.

I turned to the window and I became overwhelmed with despair. Tears formed at my eyes, bringing more memories of the past to mind. At this point, I couldn’t tell whether the wmotions came from the me now or from the memories. Outside the window it rained and silent tears slipped from my eyes to the window, mingling with the rain drops. I reminded myself it wasn’t raining and drifted back to sleep.

Someone woke me from the darkness. Bastion shook my shoulders violently. I slapped at his hands, but he slapped back. I peaked through one eye and he pointed. Where the finger gestured skyscrapers began, towering over us. The car passed over a bridge and I glimpsed ferries of people in canals snaking between buildings.

“Carl,” I said. “Where are we?”

“Chicago! Home of the deep dish and base of Cassie McGregor. At least, one of her associates official offices.”

I frowned, “Associate? That’s—”

“Hey! I know, but hear me out.”

I sat back and waited.

“Okay. So, today is a very special day. And you guys are especially lucky. Had you not escaped any later—“

I met his eyes in the rear-view mirror, doing my best to convey my contempt.

He sighed, “Ms. McGregor has never missed the opening of any of her branch locations.”

I reached to my memories vocabulary for a moment. “Yeah, sure,” I sat forward. “But how are we going to get close? No way someone, so important would allow some nobody she knew from college—let alone some nobody who’s disappeared for 20 years—an where near her. Security and all. And I’d prefer not to take too many bullets. Still healing from the last in counter.”

To demonstrate, I spat a chunk that had surfaced in my mouth in my hand and held it up. His eyes widdened, but he continued.

“No no no, don’t worry about that,” he exclaimed. He pulled the car three lanes over, parking on the side of the road, horns and people screaming in annoyance. He turned in his seat to address us. “You see, I’m a huge fan of Ms. McGregor’s. So I’ve done a lot of research on her and her activities.”

He saw the look on my face and winced. “Come on man don’t be like that. I’m in a fan club and I attend NOW, New Orleans Municipal, so she’s an idol of anyone seeking to enter a municipal college.” I repaxed and he continued. “The reason this is going to be so easy is because their not going to be expecting US. The building is a hotel, man! Getting close will be easy! Then, with a little elbow grease, you guys can get close. You’ve got freakin super powers for fucksake! McGregor is rumored to be staying in the penthouse of Tiver and Henderson.”

“Okay,” Liddia chimed in. “What do we do, Mr. McGregor?” He blushed.

“Security will be tight, of course, but there’s bound to be blind spots. Places they can’t put people or cameras or turrets. And the best part is that we’ve got time.”

“How long?”

“One month!”

I turned this all in my head. I looked at Bastion and Liddia just to realize they were looking to me. This was probably the most normal I’d acted in a while. Being out of commission for so long, Liddia had taken charge, but now that I could speak coherently they needed me again.

“I like it. But two questions. Why a hotel?”

“Oh,” Carl nearly jumped out of his seat, like he’d hit the buzzer on time. “That’s an easy one! Cassie isn’t know for being wastful. Tiver and Henderson are a massive law firm and as such they get clients from all over. All sorts of people need their services so, when their clients fly-in for business, they also provide lodgings. It’s expensive as fuck though. I think it was 700 per night?”

“Yeah like I thought. So second question: how the fuck are we paying for this?”

Carl grinned. “Well, that’s easy. With my allowance,” he pulled out his wallet, displaying a glossy black card. “I’ll front you guys in exchange for this adventure.”

“Carl,” I said, astonished. “Who’s is that?”

He rolled his eyes. “Dude, it’s mine. Well, techniqually my parents, but who cares, not like they check anyways. Fuck parents am I—,” he stopped remembering our circumstances, but my mind was elsewhere. Carl was rich as fuck? He’d been working at a gas station for Christ’s sake. My head worked furiously to figure out some flaw in his expression, some in dication of dishonesty, but he grinned like it was nothing. He was good. Fuck it. If he was lying I’d kill him later, but right now I had nowhere else to go. WE had no where to go. I look at Liddia, and she seemed about as confused as I was. Sebastion had his typical indifference about him.

“So,” I started. “When were tou going to tell us?”

“About what?”

“About these ties of yours. That tou were a rich motherfucker. Are you even going to Municipal on scholarship?”

Carl shrugged. “Well, it didn’t come up until just now. And you should know, no one goes to Municipal unless their on scholarship.”

Again everything checked out, but he was steering the conversation away from his past. Hiding things from us. These things probably weren’t important, but they were to him. Maybe he was ashamed? Hurt? Angry? My brain hurt so bad I didn’t care anymore.

“Fine. But we’re gonna have an intervention one of these days. And when it comes, you’re gonna spill everything.”

“I assure you,” he placed a hand over his heart, raising the other. “When you’re ready, I will be ready.”

I changed the topic, “So when are we gonna get to the hotel?”

“Oh, we’ve been here.” He pointed out the windshield.

I stooped forward to get a clear view of the massive structure. It stood out in the middle of the steel and concrete jungle. The building was golden and black, covering a massive span that contained the width of three of its neighbors then some. I imagined the joy three realistate owners would experience upon receiving their 10% of revenue from the total sum. The base of the structure was covered with grass and concrete. Three seperate drive-ins encircled the building compass, opening to every street available. The rear faced the Chicago River and Lake Superior. Three seperate building extended from the ground, the next taller than the last. The first connected via some sort of skybridge at the top; the first extending to the second and the second to the third. The final, tallest building stood closest the the Chicago River, seeming to peer down the canal out to the endless, watery horizon.

“Hmm,” I admonished. Couldn’t help admiring such a feat of engineering.

“‘Hmm’, indeed,” Carl said. He pointed to the peak of the third. “And Ms. McGregor is staying there.”

“So you’re in a fan club?”

“Duuude, please.” Carl clasped his hands to his ears, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Fine. Come on, Richie Rich. Let’s get there.”

He grimaced, “Such an old reference.”

We exited the car and approached the golden towers.

The lobby was surprisingly thin for such a well known establishment. Massive chandlers hung from the ceiling. Seating mapped half of the room like a labyrinth, but there was scarcely a soul to be found; I counted a sum total of two. One on a phone and the other glancing around nervously. Carl lead our group to the clerks table and even he was ornately decorated, flashy hat and expensive looking butler wear.

“‘Scuse me, but we would like to arrange a room?”

The clerk gave us a quick glance , but apparently, decided to humor us.

“Um, yes, yes sir, I would do this for you, but it appears that our policy requires advance pay and advance registration. We rarely have any foot traffic, after all, and it would be unfair to those who follow our policies.”

He eyes us. A very polite way of saying get lost. The clerks hand drifted from the desktop keyboard to the underside of his desk. No doubt that would mean trouble for us. I wasn’t in the mood for trouble. Carl held up a hand, pulling his wallet free of his rear pocket.

“Ah, lemme see. Ah! Here,” he handed the card to the clerk. “Four bedrooms, four baths, and a large living space, please. We don’t have any luggage, but please send someone to collect room service. Im starving.”

Carl had already begun walking away from the desk, deeper into the hotel. I remained standing there. Liddia and Bastion remained looked to me, confused or quizzical. I, instead, watched the clerk. The clerks eyes widened a fraction and he swiped the card in his terminal. Without looking up he called out, “Shall I have your card returned?”

“Keep it,” Carl replied, unwavering. “We might need something later.”

The clerk didn’t respond, but he looked busy all of a sudden. I decided to walk after Carl and Liddia and Bastion followed, admiring the building along the way. Carl slowed his pace slightly for us to catch up.

“You’re an interesting guy, Carl. He didn’t even ask how long we were staying.”

He chuckled, “You gotta realize two things about the wealthy, Mesh. When you throw money at something everything becomes more simple and with that simplicity, an undeniable truth. That time is the only thing that we actually spend.” He wagged a finger knowingly.

My heart dropped at his words. If so, I thought, what are you spending your precious time on, Richie?

Empire 2 (Edited Edits)

Blood Forge #5.2: Rest Stop (Edited Edits) Now that I’ve learned how to copy and paste no one can stop me…

Liddia didn’t seem to mind me laying on top of her. She snored blissfully and, for a moment, I wished for that sort of ignorance. To shuffle the responsibility off to someone else. My position was to precarious to deal with.

The guards stood in tactically valid positions, making it hard for me to rise and execute any of them. One guard stood with his back to us while another stood behind me, keeping a watchful eye on Sebastion, Liddia, and I. The third roamed constantly around our group. I grit my teeth. The problem wasn’t there positioning, it was me.

I’d probably have to take their lives, but I couldn’t muster any hatred. I’d never fought against automatic weapons or tested out the strength I’d accumulated, thanks to my power. That didn’t even account for Liddia and Sebastion. They would easily become hostages the moment I made a move. And I couldn’t—wouldn’t trust my power if they got injured. There was only so much a harpoon through the brain could do. My power had a glaring limitation. The risk was beyond the reward. Or was it? Freedom or death? Which did I prefer more. Before I could decide my body shifted slightly beneath Sebastion. I froze, listening closely. The guard behind me shifted.

“Aye, Max,” the rear guard called. “One of ‘em moved.”

“Don’t shit yerself,” the front guard, a hint of agitation in his voice. They had different accents, one with a twang and the other with slang. “Their asleep, some people rock in their sleep.”

“These aren’t just sleep drugs, Max. Their supposed to be paralyzed too.”

The front guard paused, being very still. “One of them’s a regenerater. Check ‘em.”

I cursed myself once more and steeled my resolve. The front guard was turned toward me now; roamer stood still. Perfect. The rear guard approached. Before he reached half distance I acted, throwing Sebastion in his face. I could see the front guards face now and I’d made a serious miscalculation. He wasn’t surprised at all. Bullets explosed from his rifle. I crossed my arms over my face and closed the distance at a dead sprint. His expression changed at the last minute between shock, outrage, and to realization as I grabbed his gun. I only had time to grin as I ripped the gun from his grasp and kicked his knee, hard. His screams filled the air as I turned on the roamer, deliberately avoiding looking at the man’s leg. He’d already set to firing, but he wasn’t that great of a shot. Of his entire magazine only six shots landed. Enough to take down a regular human, but too little for me. Leveling the sights with my eye, cheek pressed tight against the stock, I pressed the trigger. After five shots, I increased my hold on the gun. The next ten ripped through his center of mass and two found his head. The last guard rose to his feet and yelled something. My head roared, my temper flared, and I threw the gun as hard as I could at him. The gun struck him, probably in his kevlar vest, but it knocking him on his ass. I sprinted for him. He lifted his gun, firing stray bullets over my head wildly, before I reached him. I kneed him hard in the chin and he dropped, clutching his chin. Hesitation gripped me as he rolled on his back, I grabbed his arms bringing them behind his back, proceeding to break them at the elbows. After noting his writhing movements slowing, I turned to Liddia and Sebastion. I moved toward them and was yanked off my feet. Sprawled on the ground, mud caked in my back, a four guard appeared from the brush. He held in his hands a slim, black wire. My eyes traced its length ending in my peripheral vision. Reaching out, I grabbed the string and found the end. The string passed through my skull and ended in the base of a harpoon. The harpoon imbedded deep in the wood where sap oozed free was twenty feet away. It occured to me this was a weakness of my powers. To forget an injury like this should prove fatal, but this guard had draw my attention to it so cockily. He still stood by the tree smirking, a measure of self assurance in his composure. I grinned back, teeth bared, hoping channel some of that crazy I felt moments ago. His smirk faultered and I took that chance to push my advantage. I stood and grabbed the shorter length of cord—the cord between me and the tree—yanking the harpoon free. The harpoon landed at my feet. I picked it up. Reaching behind my head, my fingers wrapped around the cord and pulled. The harpoon slapped against my face. The cord was attached near the base, meaning it would need a little help going back through. My good eye caught the look of horror on the guards face. I leveled the harpoon with eye socket and guided it back through my cranium. Flesh ripping, bone breaking, blood coating my hands.

Time slowed again, but this time, I was ready. Focusing on the task at hand, I directed my attention away from the harpoon and onto the guard. I looked him the the eyes, analyzing his expression. Watching the creases for around his mouth deepen, his eyes water, his eyebrows raise, and his hands raise to his mouth. He was okay with imprisoning and experiment on young people with powers, but couldn’t stomach me pulling a harpoon through my head? He’d shot me through the head with a harpoon and then yanked on the string, probably not knowing about my ability to turn off my nerve endings. The former pissed me off a great deal more. His body turned. My brain healed the hemeraging nearly immediately. The guard ran gagging into the swamp.

My gaze surveyed the area around me for the second time. A significant amount of blood covered most of the small clearing. Looking at the ground, I observed white pieces, pinkish and purplish bits of me everywhere near my feet. I sniffed, then took a deep inhalation and realized I couldn’t smell anything either. It was probably for the best. I looked down at my shredded jump suit. Blood had stopped absorbing into the jump suit and ran over my bare feet, coloring the swamp water. I’d need to take a note of my current injures so I didn’t forget again, like I’d forgotten about the harpoon through my head. Now that I thought about it, my brain would require more protection. What if I got my head smashed one day? Would that kill me? The brain processes everything that you body does, my conscious and subconscious processes. If someone smashed my head would my powers still kick in and heal me? Even Endeavor had never gone so far to assign a test involving anything like that. Maybe they were hust as much in the dark as we were. Thoughts and plans for a later date.

Liddia stilll lay prone and Sebastion did the same in an awkward position at my feet. The sun beat down high above. I’d never seen it before, but my brain recalled its name so readily. I slung Liddia and Sebastion pver my shoulders and ran through the swamp. Straight toward the Sun.

My shoulders began slumping as I ran. I moved the two bodies underneath my arms and continued running. Though my body couldn’t feel I guess it still would suffer wear and tear. That didn’t really matter anyways cause I was definitely bleeding to death. I’dhad no time to sit and focus on my wounds. A road appeared from beyond the shrubbery and I began following it. Mindlessly, I ran. Hours, days maybe? I won’t ever know, but inevitably I came across a building. I seemed familiar enough. Oddly shaped. Most of it remained open with strange structures lingering outside. The indoor remained partly open to the outdoor, with walls ascending halfway to the roof. Light flooded out, illminating the surrounding area. I attempted to move forward and fell to one knee. I looked at it, but it refused to move. For long seconds I willed it. Growing tired I allowed the pain in. I cried out loudly into the night, but the sudden jolt allowed me the room to surpass my limits. I walked around the side of the building, collapsing once more. The walks extended all the way to the roof here and it was dark and quiet. Sleep beckoning to me, I fell for its temptations, slipping into darkness.

Every inch of my body hurt. The pain reached deep into my stomach and intestines. My mouth tasted filthy. My skin burned as if I’d been slow cooked recently, on a low flame.

“Holy shit…”

The voice had come from above, in front, but I was having trouble opening my eyes. They were too dry. Light burned my corneas and I found it an impossible task to open them even a fraction.

“Told you.” Liddia’s voice cood from my left smug and self assured. “You owe me 20 bucks.”

I cracked my lips, peeling them appart. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Even after that, my vocal cords failed me. Finally, I managed the word.

“~Water~”

Liddia and the other voice gasped.

“Bastion!”

Sebastion tilted the bottle just too far forward and I spluttered. Water flowing over my lips, up my nostrils, and down my chest. He apologized profusely. I lifted my hand a couple inches off the ground and let it drop. He didn’t see the attempt and kept apologizing. I tried words.

“~It’s fine~”

I supposed he understood that because he stopped apologizing and continued to feed the water. After another two minutes, I’d consumed seven liter-bottles and I could feel the moisture filling every nook in my body. My bones and muscles still groaned, but I felt as if I could continue living.

“P-protein and vitamins—,“ a coughing fit shook me. “And one more bottle.”

“God damn.” I lifted my eye lids and they slid back into my skull. I turned my gaze to the unfamiliar voice. Even my eyes seemed to squeak with little movements.

He wasn’t very tall, he stood a couple inches over Liddia making him under six feet tall. His shoulders turned inward and he clasped his hands in front of his penis like he was afraid someone would take a shot at it. I thought of my own abd checked. I sighed thankfully, unleashing another coughing fit. At my gaze he wavered, like a leaf in a strong breeze. Liddia stepped forward and kicked my leg. The leg rotated, I felt my hip and spine twinge causing copious amount of pain. I cried out.

“You good?” You good? Fuck no.

“Yeh, I’m feeling better,” hoping the sarcasm oozed from every word.

“You never told me about this part of your power,” Her tone accusing.

“Did I need to?” She kicked me again. “Agh! Okay! Yeh! It…” My voice stopped working and I almost passed out. My head slamming against brick shook me back to life. My head lolled to the right, showing Bastion round the corner of the building, shiny things in his hands.

“What the fuck is that??” I couldn’t contain my animosity toward the new things.

“That is cuisine of the outside world, my friend,” the man said, holding up his arms. His smile genuine. For some reason, I relaxed a little. He reminded me of the others. I tried to relax a bit. He reached out and grabbed two orange and red pouches from Bastion. “And these,” he grinned. “Are the foods of the gods!” Liddia elbowed him in the ribs. He dropped the packages and gripped his side, managing laughter through coughs. Maybe he’d laughed too hard?

Liddias reached for a hand full of extremely long, slim packages. She peeled back one and held out one for me. I shook my head. She stuck it in my mouth. I chewed. Flavor exploding in my mouth.

“Mmmmmmmm!”

“This is protein,” she admonished, looking pleased with herself.

“Mmmmmmmmm.”

I consumed every pack they offered until I felt my body returning to normal. She then held up a white bottle. On the front read ‘Vitamins A-Z.’ I grabbed the bottle and practically ate it whole, pouring the chewables into my mouth. I could feel my skin bubbling and my muscles mending. Small twinges of pain flashed. Strange.

“Calcium,” I said, rolling on my side. Trying again to stand. Liddia moved to intercept, but I held up a hand. I needed to move every bit like normal. More for my pride and image than anything. My bones creaked, but I made it up.

I leaned against the wall reapeating myself, “Calcium.”

The man looked to Liddia for guidance, but she wasn’t looking at him. I looked him in the eyes. They widened.

“We—we got milk inside. Can you make it?”

“Yeah.” We headed around to the outdoor areas.

A gas station. A menial means of obtaining food and rest after traveling for a long distance. To unfold ones legs and allow blood to flow forth, freely, through the body. They had plenty of milk.

Most of the bones in my body had been chipped or fractured. Fragments floated in fluid or rested in skin or muscle strands throughout my body. Some smaller particles scraped the interiors of my ventrical system, also revealing themselves upon the entry of capillaries causing minor heart attacks. One plugged my urethra. The calcium would mend, but I wouldn’t get the bone fragments out of me. Damn this power! It reminded me of a computer, it was only as smart as I was, and it relied heavily on consistant updates. Another carton disappeared before I could focus on the next step. Though, none the less, that was my fault.

Powers came in varients: physical or mental, tangible or intangible, external or internal, etc. Some prople manefested extra senses to cope with the extra abilities. The resistance to fire with the ability to breath it from ones mouth. My power overlapped through many of these categories. An intangible sense aided me with discovering wounds or illness. I could focus on an area afflicted me, visualize and feel, then physically remedy whatever issue present itself, internal or external. This also increased the speed of my healing. But there lay limitations in every step of the process. If I didn’t focus, the injuries would heal at a normal pace and not all injuries can be healed at a normal pace.

Theoretically, if I couldn’t meet these conditions until it was too late, if a sickness plagued me, it would need to develope physical symptoms for me to feel it. My body did not automatically cure or heal itself without my conscious recognition of the problem. What if I were knocked unconscious or my head was severed from my body or I sustained so much damage that there would be too much for me to recognise or so little to recognise that I wouldn’t notice the damage until it killed me outright? Too many weaknesses to poison, being crushed, decapitated, or worse. So I addressed the situation the only way I’d learned how. By organizing and simplifying. Imagining a way to make the process of healing automatic to begin. So I imagined a computer. Of the few memories I retained from before Endeavor, I knew of computers. Not enough to be one, but rnough to function properly. For every injury I endured, I mentally inscribed a code—an instruction to my brain—carved in my subconscious to replicate the speed of healing my conscious mind could accomplish. Memorize the process of healing and stick it to my subconscious. After all, if anything, I would compare the process to the Berlin Wall. Lots of men guarding it day and night, mines and spotlights and check points, but it would always be one city. The freeside and the oppressed. But there was a problem. I couldn’t get the message across because of my fault over complicated computer approach to understanding my powers. After all, computers crash.

I opened my eyes.

“What,” Liddia demanded. I looked up at her. “What?”

“It’s going to take too long.”

“What is?”

“My power. There are bone fragments all over my body, in places I can’t reach, but it’s going to take more time than we have for me to remove them.”

Liddia rolled her head, closing and opening her eyes, thinking. “What is the problem then?”

I frowned. “Don’t look at me like that!” I sighed. “Don’t do that either!” She looked offended.

“Fine,” I snapped, I punched myself inwardly. It wasn’t her fault I’d under prepared for our escape. I’d never done maintenance like this on the fly and, despite how many times I’d programmed, I’d never done it under this sort of stress. I didn’t know where I was. I’d killed three, maybe four people—how many days ago? I felt adrenaline flow up my spine into my blood stream. A subconscious reaction. Their eyes. So dimly lit—

“Mesh!”

I jumped at Liddia’s voice. I looked up at her, her eyes filled with concern. The broken vitamin containers’ plastic ripped into my palm. I was crashing.

“I—“ my voice wouldn’t work, my chest clenched. Tears threatened. I’d thought I could do it. “I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not—“

“I’m fine!” I raised my voice. Everything was quiet. “I’m sorry…I’m underprepared. I’m under informed,” I kept my eyes on my naked feet. “I’m too slow. I’ve got bone fragments all over my body hindering my movement, threatening my life, and after all that time spent inside that place—,” my voice broke. “I still haven’t learned a damn thing. Or at least not enough to survive. I don’t even know how many cycles it is been or how many—“

“I—It’s Thursday,” the man interrupted. Our eyes met, but with the contact came strength. “You’ve been here for a day and a half.” I couldn’t speak after that, as tears rolled down my face. Liddia muttered something under her breath and the man’s feet shifted. I’d hoped she wasn’t giving him a hard time because he’d said exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you!” I looked up. The stranger met my eyes again. “Thank you. What are you called? I don’t know you’re name.”

His expression shifted from apprehension to something I couldn’t read. Something light and content. “It’s Carl, Carl McDavin.” I smiled. “Yeah,” he started. “I know it’s a weird name—“

“No. It’s nice to meet you.”

His eyes lit up. I struggled to stand. Liddia reached for my arm, but I held up my hand.

“We’ve been here for too long. Endeavor will eventually find us and I have no idea how expansive their search will reach.”

“Endeavor?” Liddia crossed her arms. “Endeavor?” Carl said, echoing Liddia.

I held up my hand. “Questions for later. Believe me, I have more, but right now we have to find somewhere safe. Somewhere the place that imprisoned us—” I emphasized imprisoned. “—can’t reach.”

Carl looked back and forth between Liddia and I. “Your leaving? To go where? To do what? You said Endeavor? I’ve never heard of such a place.”

“We have too. There’s no way I got very far before passing out. Let’s be honest here. And there’s no way Endeavor has wasted the last day and a half. You’re in danger too, Carl.”

Carl sighed. “I guess you’re right.” He turned to walk away. I reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“And you’re coming with us!”

“W—are you serious? There’s no way.”

“Why not?”

“Because—family, job—“

“Evil company, enslaved superhumans plus you helped us. They’re bound to find and question and/or kill you to keep their secrets. Also all that food you gave me…”

He pursed his lips together, a conflicted look on his face.

“You’re lucky you were filled with bullet holes or else I might not have believed you,” he crossed his arms. “You’re also lucky I’m a decent human being and that I probably lost my job giving you all that food. I don’t know how long you guys have been imprisoned, but maybe we can figure that out.”

“How?” Liddia and I said at the same time.

“Well its easy. Just give me a significant event that happened in your past and we can figure out, roughly, how old you guys are. Or at least hoe long you were captured.”

Liddia and I looked at each other. Her face was a swirl pool of emotions. It seemed to question me. I raised an eyebrow, beckoning her to go first. She tilted her head down, pleading. I frowned. An idea popped into my head.

“Sebastion,” I called. I poked his head around the end of the aisle. Bags of chips and candy drifted behind him, held aloft by his aerokinesis. “Tell me, what’s the last thing you remember before being imprisoned?”

He frowned, eyebrows drawn together, looking up and to the right. “Let me rephrase, gave you been having a recurring dream? Some event that you know is important, but that you can’t recall—“

“No. I remember a major event.” I couldn’t help being surprised. “When I was young, it was the first term of a president. Older guy. White. He came right after the black guy. Everything was smaller then.”

“Ah ha!” Carl exclaimed. “Trump! Donald Trump! His fifth term just ended. That was three years ago,” he nodded his head sagely. “That fits. His second term ended two years ago.”

“Sebastion, how much do you remember,” I asked, still astonished. I’d assumed no one else remembered anything from their past.

“Pretty much everything. Somethings are a little faded though, but I remember Mom and Dad, and I had a brother and a little sister. She was a baby. I was as tall as mom almost.” He trailed off, using his aerokinesis to float a red thing into his mouth from one of the bright orange bags.

I turned to Liddia, “Do you remember anything.” Her head was down cast and she stood very still. Warning bells clanged. “Liddia?” Little flames flickered in her hands. Her posture was too erect, her breaths too shallow. I grabbed her and wrapped my arms around her. She tried to push away, torching my underbelly. I held on tight until she relaxed. Her arms dropped to her sides and I began repairing the damage to my stomach.

“You okay,” I sneered as best I could. She looked up eyes shimmering. Though her temper was formidable.

“Sorry.”

“No prob.” I don’t consider myself good with sappy situations and yet I’d always been the one to calm down kids at Endeavor. Even now. Though it was probably mostly because I could survive whatever punishment the victim could dish out. “You okay,” I reiterated. She nodded.

Wiping an arm across her eyes she started, “I—I remember the iPhone X3. My parents got me a new one…For my birthday.” She clutched her arms across her waist. Clearly uncomfortable.

Carl stepped around the corner of the nearest aisle. He’d probably taken cover there. He seemed unfazed so maybe this wasn’t his first time seeing Liddia’s temper flare. “That’s fine, Liddia,” his voice radiated a calm understanding. “That was around five or six years ago.” He turned to me, “And you?”

“Um, well, I don’t remember anything. Just one memory—well, it’s more like a dream—,” I paused. I realized that I’d never shared this with anyone.

“It’s an eclipse—“ I stopped, Carl’s mouth lay on the floor, agape. “What? You look surprised.”

“Mesh,” he took a moment to compose himself. “The last eclipse was twenty years ago…”

Author’s Update:

Im starting off slow, but I’m picking up steam! Growing in power! Immense power flowing through me, in my nostrils and out of my loins-I mean-fingers!! Are you enjoying A Short Story? Do you have a better title suggestion or a sleezy comment about my questionable character!! Well, GOOOD! You can leave it below. More entries on the way as well as polished edits of the Prologue and Empire 1 so stay tuned please!! I’ll do a flip or something??!

❤️❤️❤️broughtfromxp❤️❤️❤️

Empire 2 (Edited)

Blood Forge #5.1: Rest Stop (Edited)

Liddia didn’t seem to mind me laying on top of her. She snored blissfully and for a moment I wished for that sort of ignorance. To shuffle the responsibility off to someone else. My position was to precarious to deal with.

The guards stood in tactically sound positions, making it hard for me to rise and execute. On guard stood with his back to us while another stood behind me, keeping a watchful eye on Sebastion, Liddia and I. The third roamed constantly around our group. I grit my teeth. The problem wasn’t there positioning, it was me.

I’d never taken a life before. I’d never fought against automatic weapons or tested out the strength I’d accumulated, thanks to my power. That didn’t even account for Liddia and Sebastion. They would easily become hostages as soon as I made a move. And I couldn’t—wouldn’t trust my power if they got injured. There was inly so much a harpoon through the brain could do. My power had a glaring limitation. The risk was beyond the reward. Or was it? Freedom or death? I shifted slightly beneath Sebastion and listened closely. The guard behind me shifted.

“Aye, Max,” the rear guard called. “One of ‘em moved.”

“Don’t shit yerself,” the front guard, a hint of agitation in his voice. “Their asleep, some people rock in their sleep.”

“These are sleep drugs, Max. Their supposed to be paralyzed too.”

The front guard paused, being very still. “Check ‘em.”

I cursed myself once more and steeled my resolve. The front guard was turned toward me now; roamer stood still. Perfect. The rear guard approached. Before he reached half distance I acted, throwing Sebastion in his face. I could see the front guards face now and I’d made a serious miscalculation. He wasn’t surprised at all. Bullets explosed from his rifle. I crossed my arms over my face and closed the distance at a dead sprint. His expression changed at the last minute between shock, outrage, and to realization as I grabbed his gun. I only had time to grin as I ripped the gun from his grasp and kicked his knee. His screams filled the air as I turned on the roamer. He’d already set to firing, but he wasn’t that great of a shot. Leveling the sights with my eye, cheek pressed tight against the stock, I firmly pressed the trigger firmly. After five shots, I increased my hold on the gun. The next ten ripped through his center of mass and two found his head. The last guard rose to his feet and yelled something. My head roared, my temper flared and I threw the gun as hard as I could at him. The gun struck him, knocking him on his ass. I sprinted for him. He lifted his gun, firing stray bullets over my head before I reached him. I kneed him hard in the chin and he dropped, clutching his chin. Hesitation gripped me as he rolled on his back. After noting his writhing movements, I turned to Liddia and Sebastion. I moved toward them and was yanked off my feet. Sprawled on the ground, mud caked in my back, a four guard appeared from the brush. He held in his hands a slim, black string. As my eyes traced its length ending in my peripheral vision. Reaching out, I grabbed the string and found the end. The string passed through my skull and ended in the base of a harpoon. The harpoon imbedded deep in the wood where sap oozed free. It occured to me this was a weakness of my powers. To forget an injury like this should prove faithful, but this guard had draw my attention to it so cockily. He still stood by the tree smirking at me, a measure of self assurance in his composure. I grinned back, teeth bared, hoping channel some of that crazy I felt. His smirk faultered and I took that moment to push my advantage. I stood and grabbed the shorter length of cord—the cord between me and the tree—yanking thr harpoon free. The harpoon landed at my feet. I picked it up. Reaching behind my head, my fingers wrapped around the cord and pulled. Thr harpoon slapped against my face. The cord was attached near the base, meaning it would need a little help going back through.

My good eye caught the look of horror on the guards face. I leveled the harpoon with eye socket and guided it back through my cranium.

Time slowed again, but this time, I was ready. Focusing on the task at hand, I directed my attention away from the harpoon and onto thr guard. I looked him the the eyes, analyzing his expression. Watching the creases for around his mouth, his eyes water, his eyebrows raise and his hands raise to his mouth. He was okay with imprisoning and experiment on young people with power, but couldn’t stomach me pulling a harpoon through my head? He’d shot me through the head with a harpoon and then yanked on the string, probably not knowing about my ability to turn off my nerve endings. The former pissed me off a great deal more. His body turned. My brain healed the hemeraging nearly immediately. The guard ran gagging into the swamp.

My gaze surveyed the area around me for the second time. A significant amount of blood covered a good but of the small clearing. Looking at the ground, I observed white pieces, pinkish and purplish bits of me everywhere. I sniffed, then took a deep inhalation and realized I couldn’t smell anything either. It was probably for the best. I looked down at my shredded jump suit. Blood had stopped absorbing into the jump suit and ran over my bare feet, soaking the swamp floor. I’d need to take a note of my current injures so I didn’t forget again, like I’d forgotten about the harpoon my head. Now that I thought about it, my brain would need required more protection. What if I got my head smashed one day? Would that kill me? The brain processes everything that you body does, my conscious and subconscious processes. If someone smashed my head would my powers still kick in and heal me? Even the Endeavor had never gone so far to assign a test involving anything like that. Maybe they were hust as much in the dark as we were.

Liddia stilll lay prone and Sebastion did the same in an awkward position at my feet. The sun beat doen high above. I’d never seen it before, but my brain recalled its nsme so readily. I slung Liddia and Sebastion pver my shoulders and ran through the swamp. Straight toward the Sun.

My shoulders began slumping as I ran. I shifted the two bodies underneath my arms and continued running. Though my body couldn’t feel I guess it still would feel wear and tear. That didn’t really matter anyways cause I was definitely bleeding to death anyways. A road appeared from beyond the shrubbery and I began following it. Mindlessly, I ran. Hours, days maybe? I won’t ever know, but inevitably I came across a building. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything like it. Oddly shaped. Most of it remained open with strange structures lingering outside. The indoor remained partly open to the outdoor, with walls ascending halfway to the roof. Light flooded out, ilmuminating the surrounding area. I attempted to move forward and fell to one knee. I looked at it, but it refused to move. For long seconds I willed it. Growing tired I allowed the pain in. I cried out loudly into the night, but the sudden jolt allowed me the room to surpass my limits. I walked around the side of the building, collapsing once more. The walks extended all the way to the roof here and it was dark and quiet. Sleep beckoning to me, I fell for its temptations, slipping into darkness.

Every inch of my body hurt. The pain reached deep into my stomach and intestanse and my mouth tasted filthy. My skin burned as if I’d been slow cooked recently, on a low flame.

“Holy shit.”

The voice had come from above, in front, but I was having trouble opening my eyes. They too were dry. Light burned my corneas and I found it an impossible task to open them even a fraction.

“Told you.” Liddia’s voice cood from my left smug and self assured. “You owe me 20 bucks.”

I cracked my lips, peeling them appart. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Even after that, my vocal cords failed me. Finally, I managed the word.

“~Water~”

Liddia and the other voice gasped.

“Bastion!”

Sebastion tilted the bottle just too far forward and I spluttered. Water flowing over my lips, up my nostrils, and down my chest. He apologized profusely. I lifted my hand a couple inches off the ground and let it drop. He didn’t see the attempt and kept apologizing. I tried words.

“~It’s fine~”

I supposed he understood that because he stopped apologizing and continued to feed the water past my lips. After another two minutes, I’d consumed 7 liter-bottles and I could feel the moisture filling every nook in my body. My bones and muscles still growned, but I felt as if I could walk.

“P-protein and vitamins—,“ a coughing fit shook me. “And one more bottle.”

“God damn.” I lifted my eye lids and they slid back into my skull. Weird feeling. I turned my gaze to the unfamiliar voice. Even my eyes seemed to squeak with little movements.

He wasn’t very tall, he stood a couple inches over Liddia making him under six feet tall. His shoulders turned inward and he clasped his hands in front of his penis like he was afraid someone would take a shot at it. At my gaze he wavered, like a leaf in a strong breeze. Liddia stepped forward and kicked my leg. The leg rotated, I felt my hip and spine twinge causing copious amount of pain. I cried out.

“You good?” You good? Fuck no.

“Yeh, I’m feeling better,” hoping the sarcasm oozed from every word.

“You never told me about this part of your power,” Her tone accusing.

“Did I need to?” She kicked me again. “Agh! Okay! Yeh! It…” My voice stopped working and I almost passed out. My head slamming against brick shook me back to life. My head lolled to the right, showing Bastion round the corner of the building, shiny things in his hands.

“What the fuck is that??” I couldn’t contain my animosity toward the new things.

“That is cuisine of the outside world, my friend,” the man said, holding up his arms. His smile genuine. For some reason, I relaxed a little. He reminded me of the others. I tried to relax a bit. He reached out and grabbed two orange and red pouches from Bastion. “And these,” he grinned. “Are the foods of the gods!” Liddia elbowed him in the ribs. He dropped the packages and gripped his side, managing laughter through coughs.

Liddias reached for a hand full of extremely long, slim packages. She peeled back one and held out for me. I shook my head. She stuck it in my mouth. I chewed. Flavor exploding in my mouth.

“Mmmmmmmm!”

“This is protein,” she admonished, looking pleased with herself.

“Mmmmmmmmm.”

I consumed every pack they offered until I felt my body returning to normal. She then held up a white bottle. On the front read ‘Vitamins A-Z.’ I grabbed the bottle and practically ate it whole, pouring the chewables into my mouth. I could feel my skin bubbling and my muscles mending.

“Calcium,” I said, rolling on my side. Trying again to stand. Liddia moved to intercept, but I held up a hand. I needed to move every bit like normal. More for my pride and image than anything. My bones creaked, but I made it up.

I leaned against the wall reapeating myself, “Calcium.”

The man looked to Liddia for guidance, but she wasn’t looking at him. I looked him in the eyes. They widened.

“We—we got milk inside. Can you make it?”

“Yeah.” We headed around to the outdoor areas.

A gas station. A menial means of obtaining food and rest after traveling for a long distance. To unfold ones legs and allow blood to flow forth, freely, through the body. They had plenty of milk.

The most of the bones in my body had been chipped or fractured. Fragments floated in fluid or rested in skin and muscle strands throughout my body. Some even smaller particles scraped the interiors of my ventrical system, also revealing themselves upon the entry of capillaries causing minor heart attacks. One plugged in my urethra. The calcium would mend, but I wouldn’t get the bome fragments out of me. Damn this power! It reminded me pf a computer, it was only as smart as I was, and it relied heavily on consistant updates. Another carton disappeared before I could focus on the next step.

Powers came in varients: physical or mental, tangible or intangible, external or internal. Some prople manefested extra senses to cope with the extra abilities. The resistance to fire with the ability to breath it from ones mouth. My power overlapped through many of these categories. An intangible sense aided me with discovering wounds or illness. I could focus on an area of my body, visualize and feel, then physically remedy whatever issue present itself. This also increased the speed of my healing. But there lay limitations in every step of the process. If I didn’t focus, the injuries would heal at a normal pace.

Sometime I couldn’t meet these conditions until it was too late. If a sickness plagued me, it would need to develope physical symptoms for me to feel it. My body did not automatically cure or heal itself without my conscious recognition of the problem. At least, it didn’t. What if I were knocked unconscious or my head was severed from my body or I sustained so much damage that there would be too much for me to recognise or so little to recognise that I wouldn’t notice the damage until it killed me outright? Too many weaknesses to poison, being crushed, decapitated, or worse so I addressed the situation the only way I’d learned how. By organizing and simplifying. Imagine a way to make the process of healing automatic. So I imagined a computer. Of the few memories I retained from before Endeavor, I knew of computers. Not enough to be one, but rnough to function properly. For every injury I endured, I mentally inscribed a code—an instruction to my brain—carved in my subconscious to replicate the speed of healing my conscious mind could accomplish. Memorize the process of healing and stick it to my subconscious. After all, if anything, I would compare the process to the Berlin Wall. Lots of men guarding it day and night, mines and spotlights and check points, but it would always be one city. The freeside and the oppressed. But there was a problem. I couldn’t get the message across.

I opened my eyes.

“What,” Liddia demanded. I looked up at her. “What?”

“It’s going to take too much time.”

“What is?”

“My power. There are bone fragments all over my body, in places I can’t reach, but it’s going to take more time than we have for me to remove them.”

Liddia rolled her head, closing and opening her eyes, thinking. “What is the problem then?”

I frowned. “Don’t look at me like that!” I sighed. “Don’t do that either!”

“Fine,” I snapped, I punched myself inwardly. It wasn’t her fault I’d under prepared for our escape. I’d never done maintenance like this on the fly and, despite how many times I’d programmed, I’d never done it under this sort of stress. I didn’tknow where I was. I’d killed three, maybe four people—how many days ago? I felt adrenaline flow up my spine into my blood stream. A subconscious reaction. Their eyes. So dimly lit—

“Mesh!”

I jumped at Liddia’s voice. I looked up at her, her eyes filled with concern. The broken vitamin containers’ plastic ripped into my palm.

“I—“ my voice wouldn’t work, my chest clenched. I’d thought I could do it. “I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not—“

“I’m fine!” I raised my voice. Everything was quiet. “I’m sorry…I’m underprepared. I’m under informed,” I kept my eyes on my naked feet. “I’m too slow. I’ve got bone fragments all over my body hindering my movement, threatening my life, and after all that time spent inside that place—” my boice cracked. “I still haven’t learned a damn thing. Or at least not enough to survive. I don’t even know how many cycles it is been or how many—“

“I—It’s Thursday,” the man interrupted. Our eyes met, but with the contact came strength. “You’ve been here for one day.” I couldn’t speak after that, as tears rolled down my face. Liddia muttered something under her breath and the man’s feet shifted. I’d hoped she wasn’t giving him a hard time because he’d said exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you.” I looked up. The stranger met my eyes again. “What are you called?”

His expression shifted from apprehension to something I couldn’t read. “It’s Carl, Carl McDavin.” I smiled. “Yeah,” he started. “I know it’s a weird name—“

“No. It’s nice to meet you.”

His eyes lit up. I struggled to stand. Liddia reached for my arm, but I held up my hand.

“We’ve been here for too long. Endeavor will eventually find us and I have no idea how expansive their search will reach.”

“Endeavor?” Liddia crossed her arms.

I held up my hand. “Questions for later. Believe me, I have more, but right now we have to find somewhere safe. Somewhere the place that imprisoned us can’t reach.”

Carl looked back and forth between Liddia and I. “Your leaving??”

“We have too. There’s no way I got very far before passing out. Let’s be honest here.”

Carl sighed. “I guess you’re right.” He turned to walk away. I reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“And you’re coming with us!”

“W—are you serious? There’s no way.”

“Why not?”

“Because—family, job—“

“Evil company, enslaved superhumans plus you helped us. They’re bound to find and question and/or kill you to keep their secrets.”

He pursed his lips together, a conflicted look on his face.

“You’re lucky you were filled with bullet holes or else I might not have believed you,” he crossed his arms. “I don’t know how long you guys have been imprisoned, but maybe we can figure that out.”

“How?” Liddia and I said at the same time.

“Well its easy. Just give me a significant event that happened in your past and we can figure out, roughly, how old you guys are.”

Liddia and I looked at each other. Her face was a swirl pool of emotions. It seemed to question me. I raised an eyebrow, beckoning her to go first. She tilted her head down, pleeing. I frowned. An idea popped into my head.

“Sebastion,” I called. I poked his head around the end of the aisle. Bags of chips and candy drifted behind him, held aloft by his aerokinesis. “Tell me, what’s the last thing you remember before being imprisoned?”

He frowned, eyebrows drawn together, looking up and to the right. “Let me rephrase, gave you been having a recurring dream? Some event that you know is important, but that you can’t recall—“

“No. I remember a major event.” I couldn’t help being surprised. “When I was young, it was the first term of a president. Older guy. White. He came right after the black guy. Everything was smaller then.”

“Ah ha!” Carl exclaimed. “Trump! Donald Trump! That was three years ago,” he nodded his head sagely. “That fits. His second term ended two years ago.”

“Sebastion, how much do you remember,” I asked, still astonished. I’d assumed no one else remembered anything from their past.

“Pretty much everything. Somethings are a little faded though, but I remember Mom and Dad, and I had a brother and a little sister. She was a baby. I was as tall as mom almost.” He trailed off.

I turned to Liddia, “Do you remember anything.” Her head was down cast and she stood very still. Warning bells clanged. “Liddia?” Little flames flickered in her hands. Her posture was too erect, her breaths too shallow. I grabbed her and wrapped my arms around her. She tried to push away, torching my underbelly. I held on tight until she relaxed. Her arms dropped to her sides and I began repairing the damage to my stomach.

“You okay,” I sneered as best I could. She looked up eyes shimmering.

“Sorry.”

“No prob.” I don’t consider myself good with sappy situations and yet I’d always been the one to calm down prople at Endeavor. Even now. Though it was probably mote because I could survive whatever the victim could dish out. “You okay,” I reiterated. She nodded.

Whipping an arm across her eyes she started, “I—I remember the iPhone 6. My parents got me a new one…For my birthday.” She clutched her arms across her waist. Clearly uncomfortable.

Carl stepped around the corner of the nearest aisle. He’d probably taken cover there. He seemed unfazed so maybe this wasn’t his first time seeing Liddia’s temper flare. “That’s fine, Liddia,” his voice radiated a calm understanding. “That was around seven or eight years ago.” He turned to me, “And you?”

“Um, well, I don’t remember anything. Just one memory—well, it’s more like a dream—,” I paused. I realized that I’d never shared this with anyone.

“It’s an eclipse—“ I stopped, Carl’s mouth lay on the floor, agape. “What? You look surprised.”

“Mesh,” he took a moment to compose himself. “The last eclipse was twenty-five years ago

Empire 2

Blood Forge #5: Rest Stop

Liddia didn’t seem to mind me laying on top of her. She snored blissfully and for a moment I wished for that sort of ignorance. To shuffle the responsibility off to someone else. My position was to precarious to deal with.

The guards stood in tactically sound positions, making it hard for me to rise and execute. On guard stood with his back to us while another stood behind me, keeping a watchful eye on Sebastion, Liddia and I. The third roamed constantly around our group. I grit my teeth. The problem wasn’t there positioning, it was me.

I’d never taken a life before. I’d never fought against automatic weapons or tested out the strength I’d accumulated, thanks to my power. That didn’t even account for Liddia and Sebastion. They would easily become hostages as soon as I made a move. And I couldn’t—wouldn’t trust my power if they got injured. There was inly so much a harpoon through the brain could do. My power had a glaring limitation. The risk was beyond the reward. Or was it? Freedom or death? I shifted slightly beneath Sebastion and listened closely. The guard behind me shifted.

“Aye, Max,” the rear guard called. “One of ‘em moved.”

“Don’t shit yerself,” the front guard, a hint of agitation in his voice. “Their asleep, some people rock in their sleep.”

“These are sleep drugs, Max. Their supposed to be paralyzed too.”

The front guard paused, being very still. “Check ‘em.”

I cursed myself once more and steeled my resolve. The front guard was turned toward me now; roamer stood still. Perfect. The rear guard approached. Before he reached half distance I acted, throwing Sebastion in his face. I could see the front guards face now and I’d made a serious miscalculation. He wasn’t surprised at all. Bullets explosed from his rifle. I crossed my arms over my face and closed the distance at a dead sprint. His expression changed at the last minute between shock, outrage, and to realization as I grabbed his gun. I only had time to grin as I ripped the gun from his grasp and kicked his knee. His screams filled the air as I turned on the roamer. He’d already set to firing, but he wasn’t that great of a shot. Leveling the sights with my eye, cheek pressed tight against the stock, I firmly pressed the trigger firmly. After five shots, I increased my hold on the gun. The next ten ripped through his center of mass and two found his head. The last guard rose to his feet and yelled something. My head roared, my temper flared and I threw the gun as hard as I could at him. The gun struck him, knocking him on his ass. I sprinted for him. He lifted his gun, firing stray bullets over my head before I reached him. I kneed him hard in the chin and he dropped, clutching his chin. Hesitation gripped me as he rolled on his back. After noting his writhing movements, I turned to Liddia and Sebastion. I moved toward them and was yanked off my feet. Sprawled on the ground, mud caked in my back, a four guard appeared from the brush. He held in his hands a slim, black string. As my eyes traced its length ending in my peripheral vision. Reaching out, I grabbed the string and found the end. The string passed through my skull and ended in the base of a harpoon. The harpoon imbedded deep in the wood where sap oozed free. It occured to me this was a weakness of my powers. To forget an injury like this should prove faithful, but this guard had draw my attention to it so cockily. He still stood by the tree smirking at me, a measure of self assurance in his composure. I grinned back, teeth bared, hoping channel some of that crazy I felt. His smirk faultered and I took that moment to push my advantage. I stood and grabbed the shorter length of cord—the cord between me and the tree—yanking thr harpoon free. The harpoon landed at my feet. I picked it up. Reaching behind my head, my fingers wrapped around the cord and pulled. Thr harpoon slapped against my face. The cord was attached near the base, meaning it would need a little help going back through.

My good eye caught the look of horror on the guards face. I leveled the harpoon with eye socket and guided it back through my cranium.

Time slowed again, but this time, I was ready. Focusing on the task at hand, I directed my attention away from the harpoon and onto thr guard. I looked him the the eyes, analyzing his expression. Watching the creases for around his mouth, his eyes water, his eyebrows raise and his hands raise to his mouth. He was okay with imprisoning and experiment on young people with power, but couldn’t stomach me pulling a harpoon through my head? He’d shot me through the head with a harpoon and then yanked on the string, probably not knowing about my ability to turn off my nerve endings. The former pissed me off a great deal more. His body turned. My brain healed the hemeraging nearly immediately. The guard ran gagging into the swamp.

My gaze surveyed the area around me for the second time. A significant amount of blood covered a good but of the small clearing. Looking at the ground, I observed white pieces, pinkish and purplish bits of me everywhere. I sniffed, then took a deep inhalation and realized I couldn’t smell anything either. It was probably for the best. I looked down at my shredded jump suit. Blood had stopped absorbing into the jump suit and ran over my bare feet, soaking the swamp floor. I’d need to take a note of my current injures so I didn’t forget again, like I’d forgotten about the harpoon my head. Now that I thought about it, my brain would need required more protection. What if I got my head smashed one day? Would that kill me? The brain processes everything that you body does, my conscious and subconscious processes. If someone smashed my head would my powers still kick in and heal me? Even the Endeavor had never gone so far to assign a test involving anything like that. Maybe they were hust as much in the dark as we were.

Liddia stilll lay prone and Sebastion did the same in an awkward position at my feet. The sun beat doen high above. I’d never seen it before, but my brain recalled its nsme so readily. I slung Liddia and Sebastion pver my shoulders and ran through the swamp. Straight toward the Sun.

My shoulders began slumping as I ran. I shifted the two bodies underneath my arms and continued running. Though my body couldn’t feel I guess it still would feel wear and tear. That didn’t really matter anyways cause I was definitely bleeding to death anyways. A road appeared from beyond the shrubbery and I began following it. Mindlessly, I ran. Hours, days maybe? I won’t ever know, but inevitably I came across a building. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything like it. Oddly shaped. Most of it remained open with strange structures lingering outside. The indoor remained partly open to the outdoor, with walls ascending halfway to the roof. Light flooded out, ilmuminating the surrounding area. I attempted to move forward and fell to one knee. I looked at it, but it refused to move. For long seconds I willed it. Growing tired I allowed the pain in. I cried out loudly into the night, but the sudden jolt allowed me the room to surpass my limits. I walked around the side of the building, collapsing once more. The walks extended all the way to the roof here and it was dark and quiet. Sleep beckoning to me, I fell for its temptations, slipping into darkness.

Every inch of my body hurt. The pain reached deep into my stomach and intestanse and my mouth tasted filthy. My skin burned as if I’d been slow cooked recently, on a low flame.

“Holy shit.”

The voice had come from above, in front, but I was having trouble opening my eyes. They too were dry. Light burned my corneas and I found it an impossible task to open them even a fraction.

“Told you.” Liddia’s voice cood from my left smug and self assured. “You owe me 20 bucks.”

I cracked my lips, peeling them appart. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Even after that, my vocal cords failed me. Finally, I managed the word.

“~Water~”

Liddia and the other voice gasped.

“Bastion!”

Sebastion tilted the bottle just too far forward and I spluttered. Water flowing over my lips, up my nostrils, and down my chest. He apologized profusely. I lifted my hand a couple inches off the ground and let it drop. He didn’t see the attempt and kept apologizing. I tried words.

“~It’s fine~”

I supposed he understood that because he stopped apologizing and continued to feed the water past my lips. After another two minutes, I’d consumed 7 liter-bottles and I could feel the moisture filling every nook in my body. My bones and muscles still growned, but I felt as if I could walk.

“P-protein and vitamins—,“ a coughing fit shook me. “And one more bottle.”

“God damn.” I lifted my eye lids and they slid back into my skull. Weird feeling. I turned my gaze to the unfamiliar voice. Even my eyes seemed to squeak with little movements.

He wasn’t very tall, he stood a couple inches over Liddia making him under six feet tall. His shoulders turned inward and he clasped his hands in front of his penis like he was afraid someone would take a shot at it. At my gaze he wavered, like a leaf in a strong breeze. Liddia stepped forward and kicked my leg. The leg rotated, I felt my hip and spine twinge causing copious amount of pain. I cried out.

“You good?” You good? Fuck no.

“Yeh, I’m feeling better,” hoping the sarcasm oozed from every word.

“You never told me about this part of your power,” Her tone accusing.

“Did I need to?” She kicked me again. “Agh! Okay! Yeh! It…” My voice stopped working and I almost passed out. My head slamming against brick shook me back to life. My head lolled to the right, showing Bastion round the corner of the building, shiny things in his hands.

“What the fuck is that??” I couldn’t contain my animosity toward the new things.

“That is cuisine of the outside world, my friend,” the man said, holding up his arms. His smile genuine. For some reason, I relaxed a little. He reminded me of the others. I tried to relax a bit. He reached out and grabbed two orange and red pouches from Bastion. “And these,” he grinned. “Are the foods of the gods!” Liddia elbowed him in the ribs. He dropped the packages and gripped his side, managing laughter through coughs.

Liddias reached for a hand full of extremely long, slim packages. She peeled back one and held out for me. I shook my head. She stuck it in my mouth. I chewed. Flavor exploding in my mouth.

“Mmmmmmmm!”

“This is protein,” she admonished, looking pleased with herself.

“Mmmmmmmmm.”

I consumed every pack they offered until I felt my body returning to normal. She then held up a white bottle. On the front read ‘Vitamins A-Z.’ I grabbed the bottle and practically ate it whole, pouring the chewables into my mouth. I could feel my skin bubbling and my muscles mending.

“Calcium,” I said, rolling on my side. Trying again to stand. Liddia moved to intercept, but I held up a hand. I needed to move every bit like normal. More for my pride and image than anything. My bones creaked, but I made it up.

I leaned against the wall reapeating myself, “Calcium.”

The man looked to Liddia for guidance, but she wasn’t looking at him. I looked him in the eyes. They widened.

“We—we got milk inside. Can you make it?”

“Yeah.” We headed around to the outdoor areas.

A gas station. A menial means of obtaining food and rest after traveling for a long distance. To unfold ones legs and allow blood to flow forth, freely, through the body. They had plenty of milk.

The most of the bones in my body had been chipped or fractured. Fragments floated in fluid or rested in skin and muscle strands throughout my body. Some even smaller particles scraped the interiors of my ventrical system, also revealing themselves upon the entry of capillaries causing minor heart attacks. One plugged in my urethra. The calcium would mend, but I wouldn’t get the bome fragments out of me. Damn this power! It reminded me pf a computer, it was only as smart as I was, and it relied heavily on consistant updates. Another carton disappeared before I could focus on the next step.

Powers came in varients: physical or mental, tangible or intangible, external or internal. Some prople manefested extra senses to cope with the extra abilities. The resistance to fire with the ability to breath it from ones mouth. My power overlapped through many of these categories. An intangible sense aided me with discovering wounds or illness. I could focus on an area of my body, visualize and feel, then physically remedy whatever issue present itself. This also increased the speed of my healing. But there lay limitations in every step of the process. If I didn’t focus, the injuries would heal at a normal pace.

Sometime I couldn’t meet these conditions until it was too late. If a sickness plagued me, it would need to develope physical symptoms for me to feel it. My body did not automatically cure or heal itself without my conscious recognition of the problem. At least, it didn’t. What if I were knocked unconscious or my head was severed from my body or I sustained so much damage that there would be too much for me to recognise or so little to recognise that I wouldn’t notice the damage until it killed me outright? Too many weaknesses to poison, being crushed, decapitated, or worse so I addressed the situation the only way I’d learned how. By organizing and simplifying. Imagine a way to make the process of healing automatic. So I imagined a computer. Of the few memories I retained from before Endeavor, I knew of computers. Not enough to be one, but rnough to function properly. For every injury I endured, I mentally inscribed a code—an instruction to my brain—carved in my subconscious to replicate the speed of healing my conscious mind could accomplish. Memorize the process of healing and stick it to my subconscious. After all, if anything, I would compare the process to the Berlin Wall. Lots of men guarding it day and night, mines and spotlights and check points, but it would always be one city. The freeside and the oppressed. But there was a problem. I couldn’t get the message across.

I opened my eyes.

“What,” Liddia demanded. I looked up at her. “What?”

“It’s going to take too much time.”

“What is?”

“My power. There are bone fragments all over my body, in places I can’t reach, but it’s going to take more time than we have for me to remove them.”

Liddia rolled her head, closing and opening her eyes, thinking. “What is the problem then?”

I frowned. “Don’t look at me like that!” I sighed. “Don’t do that either!”

“Fine,” I snapped, I punched myself inwardly. It wasn’t her fault I’d under prepared for our escape. I’d never done maintenance like this on the fly and, despite how many times I’d programmed, I’d never done it under this sort of stress. I didn’tknow where I was. I’d killed three, maybe four people—how many days ago? I felt adrenaline flow up my spine into my blood stream. A subconscious reaction. Their eyes. So dimly lit—

“Mesh!”

I jumped at Liddia’s voice. I looked up at her, her eyes filled with concern. The broken vitamin containers’ plastic ripped into my palm.

“I—“ my voice wouldn’t work, my chest clenched. I’d thought I could do it. “I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not—“

“I’m fine!” I raised my voice. Everything was quiet. “I’m sorry…I’m underprepared. I’m under informed,” I kept my eyes on my naked feet. “I’m too slow. I’ve got bone fragments all over my body hindering my movement, threatening my life, and after all that time spent inside that place—” my boice cracked. “I still haven’t learned a damn thing. Or at least not enough to survive. I don’t even know how many cycles it is been or how many—“

“I—It’s Thursday,” the man interrupted. Our eyes met, but with the contact came strength. “You’ve been here for one day.” I couldn’t speak after that, as tears rolled down my face. Liddia muttered something under her breath and the man’s feet shifted. I’d hoped she wasn’t giving him a hard time because he’d said exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you.” I looked up. The stranger met my eyes again. “What are you called?”

His expression shifted from apprehension to something I couldn’t read. “It’s Carl, Carl McDavin.” I smiled. “Yeah,” he started. “I know it’s a weird name—“

“No. It’s nice to meet you.”

His eyes lit up. I struggled to stand. Liddia reached for my arm, but I held up my hand.

“We’ve been here for too long. Endeavor will eventually find us and I have no idea how expansive their search will reach.”

“Endeavor?” Liddia crossed her arms.

I held up my hand. “Questions for later. Believe me, I have more, but right now we have to find somewhere safe. Somewhere the place that imprisoned us can’t reach.”

Carl looked back and forth between Liddia and I. “Your leaving??”

“We have too. There’s no way I got very far before passing out. Let’s be honest here.”

Carl sighed. “I guess you’re right.” He turned to walk away. I reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“And you’re coming with us!”

“W—are you serious? There’s no way.”

“Why not?”

“Because—family, job—“

“Evil company, enslaved superhumans plus you helped us. They’re bound to find and question and/or kill you to keep their secrets.”

He pursed his lips together, a conflicted look on his face.

“You’re lucky you were filled with bullet holes or else I might not have believed you,” he crossed his arms. “I don’t know how long you guys have been imprisoned, but maybe we can figure that out.”

“How?” Liddia and I said at the same time.

“Well its easy. Just give me a significant event that happened in your past and we can figure out, roughly, how old you guys are.”

Liddia and I looked at each other. Her face was a swirl pool of emotions. It seemed to question me. I raised an eyebrow, beckoning her to go first. She tilted her head down, pleeing. I frowned. An idea popped into my head.

“Sebastion,” I called. I poked his head around the end of the aisle. Bags of chips and candy drifted behind him, held aloft by his aerokinesis. “Tell me, what’s the last thing you remember before being imprisoned?”

He frowned, eyebrows drawn together, looking up and to the right. “Let me rephrase, gave you been having a recurring dream? Some event that you know is important, but that you can’t recall—“

“No. I remember a major event.” I couldn’t help being surprised. “When I was young, it was the first term of a president. Older guy. White. He came right after the black guy. Everything was smaller then.”

“Ah ha!” Carl exclaimed. “Trump! Donald Trump! That was three years ago,” he nodded his head sagely. “That fits. His second term ended two years ago.”

“Sebastion, how much do you remember,” I asked, still astonished. I’d assumed no one else remembered anything from their past.

“Pretty much everything. Somethings are a little faded though, but I remember Mom and Dad, and I had a brother and a little sister. She was a baby. I was as tall as mom almost.” He trailed off.

I turned to Liddia, “Do you remember anything.” Her head was down cast and she stood very still. Warning bells clanged. “Liddia?” Little flames flickered in her hands. Her posture was too erect, her breaths too shallow. I grabbed her and wrapped my arms around her. She tried to push away, torching my underbelly. I held on tight until she relaxed. Her arms dropped to her sides and I began repairing the damage to my stomach.

“You okay,” I sneered as best I could. She looked up eyes shimmering.

“Sorry.”

“No prob.” I don’t consider myself good with sappy situations and yet I’d always been the one to calm down prople at Endeavor. Even now. Though it was probably mote because I could survive whatever the victim could dish out. “You okay,” I reiterated. She nodded.

Whipping an arm across her eyes she started, “I—I remember the iPhone 6. My parents got me a new one…For my birthday.” She clutched her arms across her waist. Clearly uncomfortable.

Carl stepped around the corner of the nearest aisle. He’d probably taken cover there. He seemed unfazed so maybe this wasn’t his first time seeing Liddia’s temper flare. “That’s fine, Liddia,” his voice radiated a calm understanding. “That was around seven or eight years ago.” He turned to me, “And you?”

“Um, well, I don’t remember anything. Just one memory—well, it’s more like a dream—,” I paused. I realized that I’d never shared this with anyone.

“It’s an eclipse—“ I stopped, Carl’s mouth lay on the floor, agape. “What? You look surprised.”

“Mesh,” he took a moment to compose himself. “The last eclipse was twenty-five years ago…”