The mass shifted at the end of the hallway, then shrunk into a recognizable form. Tom had heard of this kid, and made the connection, this was where all the missing heros and villains had gone. They met him.
Leap was one of the more recognizable rookies back in the day. Always following the larger groups, vying for a spot to get into their ranks. Each group however rejected his applications. He was too young, he was too weak, he could get hurt. Everyone got that feeling from him, that he was just too awkward, too wanting. But it was his smaller powers that made Tom’s skin shiver. It was based on frog abilities and the certain strain of a poisonous frog from the amazon. The frog itself would eat poisonous insects to stimulate its own poison glands.
It would take the abilities of others, and use it to stimulate its own.
“Who sent you? Amazak? There aren’t many left now… I don’t even recognize the last seven that came.” The voice burbled, fluctuating. Tom took a step back as he could hear four distinctive voices coming from the dark form.
“I’m on a job, but you aren’t it.” Tom said casually then twirled the sword around. “I’m going further in.”
“Then you will die.”
Tom was about to say something, but found himself slammed up against the wall. The drywall burst sending a cloud of dust into Toms eyes. He could feel it then, a hundred thousand pinpricks along his skin. the dark mass was wrapped in them. Tom could see flashes of the slain heros and villains reflected in the oily shine. Their faces stretched in final agony.
Tom flexed, the sword flashed and he rolled through the gap.
Leap paused and stopped. “I don’t understand, no one can break that hold. How can you…”
Tom felt the air shift, and Leap took a step back. “You, are just. A man.”
“Yeah, just a guy with a sword.”
“So how could you…”
The air shifted again, and Leap looked out the gaping hole in the wall. “That’s not-”
There was only a scared mid-teen boy in tattered grey costume there. Face blanched, Leap’s voice cracked, “You are going to die.”
“Not today.” Tom spoke to the empty broken room. He looked out the window. The macro storm had shifted away from the center of the Q-zone. Somewhere, alarms went off back at the compound. Something was on the move.
Tom exited the building, rolling his shoulders, working out the combat from his taught muscles. His skin that had been touched by Leap felt sunburned and starting to swell. The wind shifted again, and Tom felt his skin soothed. He coughed and the dark spittle surprised him. Coughing again, the dark ichor horrified him. He felt his lungs burning, then another wind shift and they eased.
Tom slung his sword and walked further into the zone. Buildings seemed more intact, there was a lack of rubble, and plants growing between cracks in the sidewalk. It looked…
“Maintained.” Tom murmured as he ran a finger across the hood of a car. No dust. “Think I like the broken version of the zone.”
Looking back over his shoulder, he could see there was a slight fog, a dusting in the air, that sharply divided the chaos and the maintained area.
“Yeah, broken version.”
He walked further down the street, noting that the traffic lights were working in the surrouding block. The windows on the office were polished. There were garbage cans, with litter in them. Fresh with todays newspaper from downtown. Tom shook his head dismissing the inquisitive idea of how the paper made it to deliver here, but no hero had ever returned.
Looking around, he reached inside his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, checking the map, he twisted it around, then spotted the street signs. Home.
“Yeah, the broken version is a lot better.” Tom slung his sword and rolled back his sleeve. The comm pad was still turned off, it wasn’t time to start it. Or if he would even need it.
The wind shifted again, and he felt the adrenaline crash. Confused, drained, he wet a finger and held it up. Something was moving the air. He looked to the west and checked the map one more time.
Sighing, he walked into the building. Finding it in some disarray. Papers and medical lab results were strewn on the floor. A dark brown stain on the walls, gunshots. Instinctively he walked to the elevators and pressed the up button. Shaking his head, he found the stairs and then began his ascent. Occasionally there was the oddly strewn labcoat and shoe.
Then he heard the singing. It was an old language from a small voice, young and girlish. There was a tinkling of metal on glass, and he glanced over to the door that was slightly open. On the floor, the mummified corpse of a man, dried from the decades of air conditioning.
“Hello! Who is there? Is papa there?”
“No, I’m here. What’s your name?”
There was giggling again. “Not saying. Can’t talk to strangers. Is uncle still lying down?”
“Yeah, is there anyone in there with you?”
“No. I’m all alone. I haven’t seen papa in such a long time. He told me to wait right here till he got back.”
“I’m… What’s Papa’s name?”
“Professor Park. I come a long way for him. He sent you here.”
Then the clues fell into place as he felt the air shift again. The smell of warm cookies being baked. The memory of his mother hugging him after coming in from the winter cold. His mouth alive with flavored sugar, and ice cold cola on a really hot day. The air cleared, and he wanted the feeling again. Tom shook his head and stepped back. Leaning back against the wall, he took deeper breaths.
“I stop the others from harming you.”
The winds stopping Leap, sensing something… more dangerous.
A larger predator. What would stop a series of threats from getting closer? Something more dangerous. Mice don’t make their burrows close to the predators or game trails. The lower parts of the food chain knew to stay away, instinctively. As a matter of survival.
Something that could affect a man, and want it back… like a drug. That was using him, or he was using it.
“Where did you come from?”
“Hard to say name, it is strange-” The girlish voice stopped and a mans voice spoke in broken russian.
Tom felt the ache across his bones, the air shifted again. He wanted to push open the door and go to the little girl. He could almost see her long blonde hair, dirty scuffed shoes. Suddenly, his memory was filled with a little sister, pushing her on the bike, wiping away the dirt and putting a bandaid on scratched knee. Then he noticed her eyes. Dark black pools, and the same small scar on the back of his hand.
“I don’t know those words sweetheart.”
“Papa sent you, I can smell it.”
Silver fumbled at his sleeve and hit the comm pad. The power would not come on. He jammed his hand hard, feeling his fingers almost sprain on the interface.
“Won’t you take me to him? Did he ask you to bring me to him?”
Tom fumbled and flipped the commpad over, he disconnected the battery and then reattached it. The comm pad activated. Jamming the big red button, the battery was drained. And he started running.
Down the street, he could see the macro storm pushing through the veil, and the back of his body tingled as he sensed the blast from the satellite. Tom looked back to the building, and then wet a finger holding it up. The air patterns stopped, the reeking smell of garbage and decay coming from the outer areas of the Q-zone.
Tom looked up, seeing the dark mass of Leap running to one of the buildings.
He turned back, going into the building. The staleness of the air hit him then. Tom went to the elevator, hit the button and jumped back as it sparked. Up the stairs again, he smelled the ozone. The hallway again, seemed darker, less polished.
He hesitated at the door, his body shivering feeling the warmth again.
Footsteps at the end of the hallway. Tom looked up the sight of a battle armor policeman.
“Goodstone. Tell me you have a biohazard team. I need a retrieval for my contract.” He leaned up against the wall, as the detective turned and spoke into his headset.
“Didn’t you bring one yourself?”
“All part of the variable plan.”
Goodstone wavered for a moment, he brought a hand up to his head. “There was a girl, I have no sister or- it was you. How did you get in my head?”
“That thing in there made the memory, made me want it. It manufactured the smell, then put it into the air, must be a lingering draft. It’s managed to be top of the biggest threats in the Q-zone, keeping it in check. But I stopped it. That makes me the top badass.” Tom unsheathed the sword and studied the edge. “Show me your badge Watson.”
The bearded man stopped and hesitated, more footsteps were coming up the stairs.
“You need help Leap.” Tom saw the movement, and brought up his sword reflexively. The shape of Goodstone melted into the young teen boy.
“They won’t ever… I’ll be put away forever.”
“Maybe not. If you get better, you won’t. Your choice.” Tom twirled the blade, then looked beyond the teen. Goodstone stood in battle armor, three other robotic companions flanked his position. “Things are going to be a lot different in the Q-zone. Lot of new resources they are going to fight for. You can try and fight, but someone is going to come along stronger than me. And they’ll find you.”
“I- I can’t- They’ll never-”
“Just give yourself up. It’s too hard to keep going. You need to let go, and get help.”
Tom suppressed the horrific thought, the kid had not slept for years now.
“Yeah, safely. Just head to the barrier, show them your real face. Ask to be arrested. That simple. I can visit you as soon as they will let me.”
The young teen turned to a dark mass and sped past Goodstone.
“You’ll find out. So, tell me you have a biohazard unit so I can get that thing in there for my contract.”
“Aren’t you even going to ask why or how I’m here?”
“That’s another day. Right now, I just want to get the russian fried robot in there and finish my contract.”
The charred small form lay on the desk. Tom sat back in the chair and studied the face of Mr.Park. There was a longing there, interspersed with flashes of mourning. Was it a parent mourning for a child? Or a junkie looking at the broken needle?
“Frankly speaking Mr. Park. The contract is complete. Your gift from your russian friend is here, I have brought it to you. The money from those budgets surprisingly dried up, but I made enough money off betting on myself.” Tom took his feet off the desk, and leaned forward.
“It’s ruined, it will never-”
“Oh yes it will.” Tom held up a comm pad. “What was whole, is in pieces. The programming matrix is in here.”
The mans eyes sparkled, “You are a bastard Silver.”
“Probably. But the Department of Defense, would absolutely love talking to you about your involvement with the Russians during the cold war. During the cuban missile crisis. During certain events with double agents in Paris. City hall is now acting on your instructions now to clean out the Q-Zone as Park Industries bought the entire area.” Tom leaned back and tucked the comm pad into his jacket. “The question is, what are you willing to give?”
The mans eyes flitted from the bulge in Tom’s pocket, to the robot on the desk. Back and forth, back and forth.
Tom nodded, then reached inside his shirt and ripped out the wire.
“You have two minutes to get out. But I will tell you this Mr.Park, you put me into the most dangerous place on the planet to retrieve your drug. I beat everything there. And I’m just a clever guy with a sword.” Tom unsheathed his sword and pointed to the door. “I’m giving you the choice I never got in the Q-Zone. Get out. Run.”
Tom didn’t even hesitate when he took the comm pad out of his pocket, and tossed it up into the air. The sword flashed and the comm pad fell to pieces across the room. He sat back down in the overstuffed leather chair, held his hand to the bridge of his nose. Trying not to remember the sister that never was. Tried to get away from his fake memory that brought him so much pleasure. But he couldn’t. No matter how hard he tried to run.
Tales of King City : The Run by Pearce Kilgour is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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But you should really ask him first… send someone to rub his neck, feed him a gin and tonic, that would be the best… in fact he thinks the world would be a better place if everyone got neckrubs.