Chapter XVI (Finale) – Make Them Pay
NO! They will not take this from you! You are mine alone little thing! MINE!
What is this? Please help me!
You will help yourself little one. They hide in your world now; remind them who reigns!
They had taken the bed and shower. Even the metal table had been replaced with an even crueler means of restraint. Now I was held vertically, arms and legs tied down at every joint. Either Eir hadn’t been here yet, or they weren’t bothering to fix me anymore. Though I couldn’t move much, I was nearly certain I had a few broken ribs (again) and my left knee was dislocated. In addition to all this, I felt several small pains in my back, arms, and chest. From the sound of multiply machines beeping and whirling, every vital was being monitored. I wasn’t sure what they were looking for, but from Synapses’ last words I guessed they had given up trying to understand my gifts.
Directly in front of me was Null, her back to me as she fiddled with a machine. Next to where the door appeared was Ultima, glaring with a slight smile across his lips. But I wasn’t scared. My body was practically shivering but it wasn’t from fear. I had learned to keep my cool during the rush of adrenaline from Edge’s training sessions. This was too much though. My heart was beating so fiercely it felt like I might just burst through the leather straps across my chest. Null noticed as a heart rate monitor erupted with flashing lights and alarms.
“Awake are we? I suppose you realize your time is nearly up, yes? You’ve stalled and played your games, but you’ve made it clear you will not cooperate. Why you rejected Dr. Synapses’ generous offers is I’ll never understand, but I’m not surprised. A spoiled child will act like a spoiled child. Almost seven years of coddling here has made you weak.”
“Big talk for someone who’s afraid of a hundred-pound, nineteen year old girl.”
“Defiant to the last? As expected. I’m sure Edge will say something similar once we visit him next. This research has been turned over to me again. It’s not ideal, but we may glean more information from your corpse. You’ve left us no choice.”
God, what did they give me?! The rush wasn’t going away! Every molecule in my body was racing. But it wasn’t just this energy pulsing through me. I could feel…something. It felt like the room was pulsing as well. No, not the room. It was just outside the room mostly, but there was still some faint beacon reaching out to me inside this cell. Something was pulling and wrenching at my chest. If I didn’t find it soon my heart was going to explode out of my chest.
“What the Hell did you give?! Make it stop!”
“Give you? Aside from the sedative Swift administered, we’ve done nothing to you.”
“JESUS CHRIST, MAKE IT STOP!”
Legitimately curious, Null moved closer to examine my eyes and pulse. And there it was. With every step coming closer, the beacon increased in intensity. The sensation was exactly the same when I had drifted through the walls of Edge’s room; like my body and mind had stretched to a new appendage. It wasn’t just coming from around Null, it was Null. Something inside her twisted, begging for me to reach out. As I strained, it grew even more excited. I understood.
“You’re so screwed. Both of you. They’ll never find all the pieces of you.”
I laughed. I couldn’t stop. They were so small now; so many bits to be broken. Laughing.
“Hysterics, quite common. Though I’ve never-“
“What time is it Null? Humor me.” My new confidence seemed to confuse her. It didn’t matter anymore.
“Just passed 1 a.m…”
“That explains it. Have you two either heard the phrase ‘hit you where the sun don’t shine’?” I wanted to see their faces change at this exact moment. When they realize something had gone wrong. The human body, it seems, is a rather dark place. Entire organs and systems nestled in a blanket of shadows. They screamed for me to pull and twist them.
Null was the closest so she felt it first. My will slithering around her spine, creeping between her heart and lungs. I was tightening, seeping into every corner I could reach. She turned to Ultima, who stood with a confused look on his face.
Oh we were well past that now.
“TOO LATE!” I was already in his throat and crawling through his veins. The lights in this room were bright, but skin and muscle were thick. Ultima stopped in his tracks, a look of terror coming over his face. While his skin and bones might have been indestructible, I found his lungs as fragile as Null’s. He coughed as his eyes started to become bloodshot. There was a small stream of crimson starting to run down the corner of his mouth. I wouldn’t push too hard. Not yet.
Null, struggling to remain standing, stumbled forward and hit a button on her console. Simultaneously, the straps loosened. The pain in my side and leg was dulled considerably but walking was difficult. The blackness in my own body reacted as well. It was nothing at all to pop my left knee back into place.
“Open the door.”
Ultima seemed unable to move. He spastically hit the wall until the door appeared. The man probably hadn’t felt pain like this since he developed his abilities. Both of them had passed out and now. Such misplaced ego and confidence. I’d found my way inside their skulls. Just one thrust and they’d fall to the floor, lifeless. They both deserved it. If not for what he’d done to me, but the hundreds of experiments he approved. Cowards. Pathetic. Just one little twist.
One day, maybe, but now I had to stay focused. Walking across the door’s threshold I immediately recognized the floor as R&D where Edge and I had attempted to escape before. Alarms were blaring across the floor. I felt dozens of people swarming towards me. They were all filled with so much darkness. It would be easy. As the group of security staff came around a corner, they stopped twenty-feet in front of me. They wore extra thick padding for protection. It obscured nearly all of the ambient light here. Not that it mattered.
Such a large group of shadows yelling out for me. Most of them immediately fell to the ground, writhing. They were undoubtedly superhumans, but none of their abilities protected them against what was inside of them. As I start to walk away, I feel the familiar gust of wind kicked up by the speedster Null called Swift.
His speed made it more difficult, but it couldn’t completely hide him from my reach. With a thought, shadows wrapped around both of his knees. Turnabout is fair play, Swift. His tibias splinter like glass. He slides on the floor, unable to stop himself, and collides with the wall on my right.
“FUCK! AH GOD! WHAT DID YOU DO BITCH?”
“Returned the favor. Swift isn’t it? Where are they keeping Edge?”
“Eir can fix your legs, and you have more pieces I can reach. Would you like to lose your arms next?”
“He’s, he’s in E block okay! E17 I think!”
He wasn’t going to be pursing me, and I’d made my point. The slate above my door read A3. There were no more rooms with the same marking to my left so it seemed the other direction must be towards Edge. Even if I was wrong, I wasn’t worried. I was already reaching into the walls and beyond. They might have taken every precaution inside my cell, but here I could feel every inch of blackness. After five minutes of wandering the labs I didn’t feel any more guards, though the sirens were still blasting. After the last group, it was safe to assume they had pulled back; most likely right outside Edge’s room. They knew I would come for him and use the area as a bottleneck. I wanted to see what they’d prepared.
First the B block of cells, then C, next D, and finally my final destination. During my leisurely stroll, I wasn’t approached by any faculty or security. While the entire floor seemed to be on high alert, the only evidence was the repetitive alarms which were still ringing. During my training I had severely neglected my tech proficiency training. Though I wormed my way through the walls and the miles of wire within them, I had no clue which ones would disable the alarms. For a moment I considered tearing them all to bits, but then I remembered the rumors that the whole building was powered by a cold fusion reactor. Nuclear physics and engineering were a bit out of my expertise, and I wasn’t trying to blow up the whole building. Not yet anyway; not until all the students had been evacuated. I was lost in thought and hadn’t noticed I was at cell E12 already. Snapping back into focus, it seemed I was right about their attempt to ambush me at Edge’s cell. There were at least fifty individuals, or at least fifty small pillars of shadow I could sense. While this new facet of my ability was clearly useful, it did nothing to help me identity who these people were, or if they had abilities. All I could feel were the shapes the darkness took inside their bodies. One of them was many times larger than the others. This individual was over eight feet tall, and seemed to consume most of the corridor. Taking a left turn down a hallway I could finally see the defenses they had prepared.
Several individuals held guns straight at me, with some kind of energy barrier acting as a chest-high blockade. These barriers seemed to be constructed of some energy that gave off a significant amount of light. As I came to a stop about thirty feet from the armed men, I was impressed by how quickly they had created countermeasures in the event I escaped. It was almost flattering. Behind the firing line of security and their energy barriers, were the other thirty or so men. Some held stun batons; a few were clearly elementals as there were swirling storms of ice, fire, electricity, and wind. My guess that one of them had been larger than the others was right on the money. A man, at least I assumed it was a man, stood in the far back and wearing some type of specialized armor bursting with light over the surface. Truthfully, this was a pretty clever way to ensure I couldn’t use my abilities as they understood them. But the massive brute had muscles several inches thick; none of that light could reach inside of him. Things had changed now.
The mass of security began to split, as Richard Orion walked ahead of them. Moving past the barriers, he now stood between the guards and me. If he was afraid, it didn’t show on his face.
“I figured it was only a matter of time before you found a way to escape, my dear. We understand so little about your abilities; it was highly unlikely we would find a way to contain them completely. How did you do it?”
“You can’t get rid of the darkness everywhere Dick. I had no idea you had so many implants in your body. Is that how you stay so spry?” Before I could even begin to twist his frail bones, he understood.
“Simply marvelous! You’ve learned to manipulate shadows themselves! If you remember our discussion, this should be impossible as shadows are nothing physical! How far is your effective range?!”
His joy at discovering my evolved abilities undercut my attempt at intimidation. He wanted to see what I could do? Gladly. While I had an advantage over the guards, I still wasn’t bulletproof. The gunmen would have to go. I tried to remember the names of the bones as I wrapped shadows around their arms and shoulders. Radius, ulna, humorous. Then there were all the little bits in the hands. Carpals, metacarpals, and all the phalanges. I wondered if any of them felt it; the sensation of something slipping under your skin. Regardless, it was too late now. Each of them, in unison, started to scream as they were forced to move. Their muscles protested against their bones which moved without their consent. Every gun was now aimed directly at Synapses.
“Can you out-think a few hundred bullets?”
“Your voice, not only is the sound altered, with a frightening effect as I’m sure you know, but there’s something else. It almost…vibrates inside your skull. It’s disorienting. Just another effect of your abilities I hope to understand. I suppose you have the drop on me. If you wish to take Silver Edge from this place, I will stop you. Nor will the security detail behind me. You have my word.”
“I don’t need your permission. You’re all alive because I allow it.”
“I agree. I want you to leave, Ms. Okada! I want you to go out into the real world and see it with fresh eyes. You were a child when we took you from your family. But you are a woman now, and a woman with immense power. Once you are gone, see the problems of the world and remember our discussions. I am confident the next time we speak, you will have a different perspective.”
He wouldn’t even let me intimidate him properly; it really ruined the whole power trip I was working right now. But Edge could still be in danger, so I put my ego away for the moment. I quickly started walking toward the door of E17. Like an invisible command was ordered, the entire security team moved to the walls, creating a pathway right to the door. I waited for some trap to spring as the door opened automatically, but all that was inside the cell was Edge. After Swift knocked me out, I had no idea how much time had passed since I saw Edge last but it was apparently enough time to work him over. His outburst of the truth after I broke his psychic link had cost him. His face, which wasn’t much to look at already, was now several shades of purple and blue. His lower lip and right brow ridge were caked with dried blood. Despite all this he was standing in the center of his room, like he was waiting. Upon seeing me standing in the doorway, he smiled wide, reveal his teeth were also covered in blood.
“I thought you might be the cause of all this noise. Ready to work kid?”
As happy as I was to see alive, it occurred to me this could be the trap I was expecting.
“What type of ice cream did you tell me I had to try?”
“Fried ice cream. It’s me, but it’s good you’re being cautious. I’m afraid I won’t be much help escaping.”
“Don’t worry about that; I’ve got us covered. How are we getting out of here?”
There was movement at the corner of my eye, and I was certain this was the trap I had been waiting for. I turned as quickly as my body would let me, but saw Synapses instead of a true threat.
“I can help with that. You will find the service tunnel unguarded and unlocked. It’s the same exit you two attempted to use a few weeks ago where you were captured.” Edge’s hands clenched into fists that shook at his side. If he had access to anything even remotely sharp, I’m sure Synapses would have been dead before he could say a word.
“Why would I trust a thing you say Synapses?”
“It might surprise you, but I don’t think you have any say in the matter anymore. Your ward has become quite capable of taking care of herself now. Though I’m sure she’ll insist on bringing you along out of some nostalgic connection to her past.”
The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but he was right. Null had mentioned it was one in the morning, and I had felt a massive pool of darkness around me this entire time. I could have slipped outside any time I wanted, but the idea of leaving Edge wasn’t even possible in my mind.
“I’d also like to return some things to you.” Again, one of the security guards acted without any verbal command, and brought Synapses two black bags. “These are the items they confiscated after your capture. I’ve taken the liberty to add a few things you will need. Money, untraceable phone, change of clothes, and alike.”
There was only one thing I wanted to take from this place: the weapon Edge made for me. Searching for a few seconds, I saw the gold handguard glistening at the bottom of the bag. Removing it, I wondered if there was anything stopping me from skewering Synapses where he stood. Edge seemed to notice my decision to grab the weapon, but did nothing to stop me. Looking him in the eye, he said nothing but shook his head slightly.
“Edge, forget him. We have to go. Now.”
Though he clearly wasn’t convinced this was for real, Edge seemed to trust the urgency in my voice. He nodded and we brushed past Synapses. All of the guards had remained perfectly frozen. My eyes were mostly on the big guy, forcing me to walk backwards. But nothing came. Edge and I ended up at the intersection of the two hallways, and moved down the next passage. Once we were out of eyesight, we immediately broke out into a sprint. I truly believed Synapses for some reason, but I wasn’t about to tempt fate.
“You want to tell me how the Hell you pulled this off?!”
“Later! Can you get us to that door again?”
“Yeah, just keep up.”
Even as we ran past rooms filled with other students being held, my mind wandered through each area of darkness. I wanted to see it all, and know everything that happened down here. As we ran, I came across a cell that made me pause. In this room was a suit of some kind; like medieval armor but completely seamless. It was metal, polished to a mirror shine. There were so many plugs, of all different sizes, attached to the suit which sat in the middle of the room. While the figure was ominous, it was only a little over four feet tall. It sat in complete darkness at the center of the room. Such a sight was strange enough to make me stop, but when I investigated further I knew what I had discovered. Coming to an abrupt stop, Edge hadn’t noticed till he was well in front of me.
“What are you doing? Let’s go!”
“I know this one…” As my shadows crept into the wall I found the components controlling the door lock. Ripping them apart caused the door to open.
She was crying, and I could hardly blame her. Though I could see perfectly in the darkness, I had not anticipated the heat. The room felt as if it would melt away at any moment. Even with all the precautions taken, it seemed she was pushing the structure to its limit. Just a few weeks ago I had hated her for almost burning me alive in my room. Now Null and her scientists had her strung up; just how they liked powerful recruits. It didn’t seem likely she could hear me, but I had to try.
“Karen…is that you?”
“GO AWAY! Please, I don’t want to do this anymore! I’ll do whatever you want, just make it stop!”
Edge has returned to my side. Upon seeing the metal figure, he seemed to understand my reasoning.
“Kid, we don’t have time for this!”
“You just want to leave her like this?!”
“You know I don’t, but we can’t help her if we get captured again. She’s not exactly the most stable trainee, if you remember.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“I’m getting her out. If you want to leave, then go ahead. You’re good at leaving little girls in the dark from what I hear.”
He grabbed the neckline of my shirt at pulled me back into the hallway. Truthfully I thought he was going to hit me after that comment. After looking at his face I realized he wasn’t mad; my stab at him had apparently found a weakness in his armor. His eyes were already glistening as tears formed.
“Alyx, I get it. You don’t have to be happy about it, but listen to me for a minute. I’m not sure if they’re really letting us walk out of here, but if they are our deal didn’t extend to Karen.”
“I don’t care. She’s coming with us.”
“Even if they don’t stop the three of us from leaving, we have no idea how that tech works. How are we going to feed her? How are we going to hide a metal teenager from civilians! Please Alyx, we have to go!”
I hated how much sense he was making. He was right, of course. Even if we were allowed to take her with us, I had no idea how her suit worked or if she’d be safe. And it was possible people would recognize Edge, but they’d certainly notice a chrome humanoid walking around.
“We’re coming back for her.”
“Kid, we’re coming back for all of them. But not today.”
Despite my power, there were still things I couldn’t fix. While Edge walked back into the hallway, I hurried to Karen’s side. She was still lightly sobbing.
“Don’t let them wear you do Karen. I swear I’m coming back for you!”
“Wait…who are you? Can you get me out? Please let me out!”
This was killing me. There wasn’t much space for shadows in that suit, but there was enough. She was gaunt. Where the plugs connected to the suit, tubes entered her skin and left weeping wounds. If Eir had been to fix her recently, these injuries must reopen.
“It’s Alyx Okada, remember me? I can’t help you now, but I promise-“
“PLEASE GET ME OUT!”
Edge had reappeared in the doorway.
“You won’t be able to explain this to her, we have to go now!”
I only noticed then that I was crying. He was right, again. I left her there as she screamed for us to come back.
For the next ten minutes we walked in total silence. If we hadn’t been so far underground, I would have tried to rip the building apart. I wanted to bury everything in pile of rubble and let the world forget about The Academy. I wanted Null and Ultima to realize I was the one who had destroyed their fortress. I wanted Eir and Edge to pay for betraying me. But most of all I just this to be over for Karen, and all the other kids held underground.
It felt like the entire floor had been evacuated for us. Synapses had promised Edge and I a way out, but it was too good to be true. It was entirely possible, if not probable, that this was another trap. I hated that a part of me was so ready to believe Synapses, considering all the manipulation he had already attempted.
He clearly had some sort of authority over Null and Ultima. Not only was Dr. Synapses considered an Alpha and Council Member, he was a Titan. There was no formal hierarchy of heroes within with Council, but there were definitely those who had gained political power. Titans was what some called the twenty or so superhumans everyone on the planet knew. Synapses was one of the most popular and oldest heroes in the community. His inventions had become so popular they even trickled down into the civilian market. My mother regularly used Cerebral Inhibitors to manage her chronic migraines. Titans were the face and personality of The Council. Most would never guess he was instrumental in a conspiracy to fool international populations into complacency. Lost in thought about how I would confront Edge about all this, I didn’t even notice we were within eyesight of the R&D exit. As we moved closer, I didn’t feel a wall of bright light like when Ultima ambushed us. Instead it was the exact opposite, there was nothing but darkness for miles beyond this door. Even when Edge and I had been experimenting in his room with my ability, there were the lights throughout the school to obscure my shadowmeld. Now it was just…infinite. I could feel it pulling at me again; the same sensation of a strong tide dragging me out to sea. It was too much. It terrified me. Edge seemed to notice my hesitance.
“Almost there! I need you to keep doing whatever voodoo you’re working. They could be waiting for us out there.”
“No…I’d feel them. There’s nothing out there. It’s just…black. It’s beautiful!”
He immediately went white. The pull of night was so strong now. Just a few more feet.
“Kid, I need you to knock that shit off! A few more minutes and we-“
“Yes…soon. If you don’t want to be left behind, follow and stay silent.”
Less than ten feet from the door now. A field of boundless shadows ached on the other side. A thousand silent screams calling out. So close now. The other followed behind, he was scared. His sweat poured from his skin. You don’t need him, he is unwelcome. No, he’s my friend. He will betray you. He is a liar. Weak. Pathetic. Yes, he lied. Abandon him. Worthless. No, NO! What was I thinking?
All I had to do now was reach out and open the door. Edge remained quiet. So much terror behind his eyes. Had I done that? How had I arrived at the door so quickly? My body moved without my participation. One hand reached out toward Edge.
“Come closer. She insists on bringing you.”
Hesitating for a second, Edge eventually stepped closer and grabbed my hand. I pushed the door open and stepped forward only a few inches.
There was no current, now I was the ocean.