Quiet. My head hurts. The voices must stop. Stop talking, stop screaming. White, white, white; Is there nothing else? Figures, people. They’re speaking to me. I can’t understand. Their accents, where are they from? What language do they speak? Italian? Tamil? Russian, Chinese, French perhaps?
The room, it’s so very…austere. So very familiar, and yet, I can’t quite place it. Eyes are watching me now, as I stand. There are four of them. I can feel their gazes wash over me, sharp, critical. Is this some kind of competition then? Perhaps they’re the judges. But no, the clothes are too crude, the language too common. Speaking of which, they’re talking again. I have no time for talk. No time for anything, but why? I can’t remember. I must remember, I must recollect. An epiphany is awaiting me and it’s close at hand. I just have to find it. But where to look?
“Oh shut up, the lot of you.”
Yelling. That didn’t seem to work as planned. But now’s not the time for distractions. Immobilize them quickly then get back to business. Several complicated nerve pinches and a badly bruised body later, I’m back on track. They’re lying in a pile away from the Magtiate window. Somehow I doubt whoever’s running this place will be very happy with my behaviour. They never are.
Junk, junk, more junk.
“Hyraxe. Hyraxe. HEX, are you listening? You have to be careful tonight. Remember our worst-case scenarios? This is one of them. It’s crowded, dark and we can’t keep track of who’s going in and out. Napalm thinks he saw a Kaniene but we can’t confirm it. Watch yourself. If things look out of place, get the hell out of there and report straight back to me, got it?”
I rolled my eyes and flashed him a grin. Jhonen; always the paranoid one. I knew he was glaring daggers at me but I didn’t really care. He shouldn’t be treating me like a child. I can handle myself. Still, it might be best to placate him.
“I know how to watch myself Blade,” I grinned again, “and I can’t exactly mess up with you watching now can I? I’d never hear the end of it.”
I turned to go, but he pulled me back, an exasperated look on his features.
He retrieved something from the confines of his jacket and tucked it into my breast pocket.
“There,” he mumbled, “now you look distinguished.”
I glanced down.
Hyraxe, that’s my name and Hex, my legend. Jhonen had asked me to be careful. And from what I could tell, I had not listened. I knew where I was now, and why it was so familiar. The Prison. One question down and a million more to go. And how convenient is it that I seem to have a million and one objects stored in the margins of my pockets? I’ll probably find the meaning of life somewhere amongst this hoard.
There were plenty of nasty individuals here all right, but they weren’t the ‘I’m-Going-To-Beat-You-To-The-Point-Of-Unconsciousness’ kind. No, they were much more complex. These were the kind of upper-class high society snobs you read about in Teen Drama novels. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were perfectly all right. Conversations were polite and remained civil, and a few of them complimented my outfit, which was rather kind of them considering it was pretty stale by today’s standards.
The rest of them though, lived up to the stereotype. My ego took a severe beating more than once. I didn’t really think I could keep the ruse up. My charm worked on the street, where girls dreamt of a modern day Prince Charming to sweep them away into a land of mystery and romance. But out here, I was a sparrow amongst eagles, very far out of my league. The predator had become prey and there was no way out of it. I had to fend them off, on my own, until the night’s work was complete.
Well hello there.
Tall, tanned and a killer smile, definitely my cup of tea. I flashed him a smile of my own, extending a hand.
“Dean. Dean Onimus.”
There was an outburst of laughter behind him as he held up something I couldn’t quite make out.
“Here’s your refund.”
He dropped whatever it was into my hand and stalked off, tossing his head high into the air with a practised arrogance. I swore when I saw what he’d given me.
Ah yes, him. He’d left me in a pretty sour mood after that. Jhonen had to send in Sarrynx to make sure I didn’t snap and throw someone an uppercut. Can’t exactly remember what happened when she came in though.
Got to keep searching.
The pile of refuse on the floor is growing and I’m starting to wonder why I kept all that crap, when I hit the jackpot.
The Tags, the card, and a bottle cap.
“If you don’t calm down, Jhonen’s going to call it off. Do you really want that after all you’ve put up with?”
I sent her a dark scowl, my left hand moving to the notch in my ear, fiddling with the battle scar. It was a habit of mine; something I did when I was frustrated. Sarrynx was making a lot of sense, but I didn’t want her wisdom. What I wanted was to punch through someone’s skull. She, of course, was a lot more rational.
“Hyraxe, I’m going to cut the bullshit. We won’t be getting much out of tonight, maybe a tiny scrap of info and nothing more. But that tiny scrap of info is probably going to end up covering our asses when we’re out in combat. So you can stop acting like an angst-ridden teenager and help us, or you can go back to playing Batman on the city roofs.”
This is probably what is meant when one uses the term, love-hate relationship. She infuriates me. Her smirk told me that she knew of her victory. I glowered mercilessly.
“Fine,” I sneered, “I won’t kill anyone.”
Oh what I would give to wipe that grin off her face. Sarrynx placed a hand on the small of my back. It was meant to bring comfort. It also reminded me why she was my best friend.
“Cheer up hotshot. You’re not alone out here.”
As she walked past, I felt her press something cold into my hand. I let out a barking laugh as soon as I saw what it was. Killah’s dog tags. May the lord have mercy on Jhonen’s soul; she was not going to be happy when she got back. The idea of Blade being chewed out by a disgruntled ex-mercenary cheered him up tremendously. Within minutes, I had dived back into the crowd, brushing off any negativity on the way.
“So I told the guy, I told him. I told him to back off, back off and for the love of god, I asked him to pull his pants up.”
A couple of hours and a few glasses of wine later, I was a walking sensation. Being tipsy seemed to bring people together, and right now I was getting pretty popular. The people here led pretty boring lives, so my escapades made great stories. As the roar of laughter died down I noticed a girl who had been hanging around for some time. She seemed frighteningly familiar. That had to mean something.
“Are those just stories then? Or is there some truth in them?”
I knew I couldn’t blow it. I had to keep her interested if I wanted any information out of her.
“Well, I like to think that there’s a little bit of truth in every story, don’t you?”
I smiled and held eye contact.
“I guess so.”
Hook, line and sinker.
“Dean. Dean Onimus, CEO of Terces Industries.”
Her laugh was high-pitched and melodious, and again, very familiar. I was starting to get a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was something sinister about the girl. Now that I was up close I could see that her eyes, a deep brown, emitted a terrifying sense of malice and cruelty.
“Hannah Gates, vice-head of The Patrol.”
She held out a jet-black card, as though to prove her status. My heart stopped for a minute. I would have keeled over if Jhonen hadn’t trained me better. Now I knew why she looked so familiar. Brian Gates was her father. She was the daughter of the second most feared man in the city, and the vice-head of one of the most vicious law-enforcement units in the world. I had to make a decision and I had to make it quick. I now had the opportunity to pump what would be extremely valuable information from her, but if anything went wrong, I’d lose my life. The Heads were dangerous people, and their subordinates were motivated by fear. There was no doubt that they’d kill me if they knew of my identity.
“You look a little pale Mr. Dean. Is something wrong?”
She was smirking. She knew. I bolted. People gasped and shrieked as I bulldozed through the crowd, fear seeping adrenaline into my bloodstream. I was not going to let them catch me. There were several yells, and then gunfire. The Patrol had been on hand. Hot plasma slammed into the ground behind me, a small amount splattering across the back of my leg, burning through the clothes and singeing my skin.
I let rip a macabre scream. This was no superhero adventure, this was for real, it hurt and I wasn’t going to suppress the pain just so I could look brave. The familiar rapid fire of a Genesis IV told me that Killah was up and running. Sarrynx was probably with her.
Napalm appeared, sprinting alongside me. Together, we crashed into bystanders, dodging shots with frenzied zigzagging, screaming when we were hit and crying out when we weren’t. There was a constant shift between two extremities, pain and relief. We had no idea what direction we were heading in, our first priority was to get away. The gunfire was left behind after several blocks, but we didn’t slow down. A sudden, sharp scream and Napalm was no longer running beside me. Instinctively, I braked, hurtling towards the ground with the energy of the abrupt stop, the side of my face scraping across the road.
A gut-wrenching growl drew my attention away from the pain and the blood dripping down the left side of my face. Towering over my fallen comrade was a White Kaniene, its muzzle wet with fresh blood. Napalm wasn’t dead. White Kanienes didn’t kill, they were sent out to immobilize, so that the Patrol could capture. So it looked like Hannah wanted us alive, probably for the same reason that I’d been on this mission in the first place. Information. We were lucky. With a live capture, there was always a chance for escape. But Napalm didn’t look like he was going to be in any good fighting condition for a long time. Blood was pooling around his leg. Not a positive sign.
I drew a minute flare gun from the inside of my sleeve. It was small, but it would serve its purpose and signal the Circus to send a pick-up. Pointing it up towards the sky, I fired, and the Kaniene leapt. My reflexes sent a swift kick to its underbelly, sending it hurtling past my head and crashing onto the street. Within moments it was up again, angrier than before. I reloaded the flare and aimed. Blood spattered across the asphalt in a morbid swirl. I hated killing. Fighting was necessary, but the taking of a life was something I had never condoned.
But there was no time to reflect at the moment. The Patrol would catch up very soon, and I didn’t need them to find Napalm splayed across the street. The pick-up would take time to get here. I needed to lead the Patrol away. Retracing our steps was pretty easy. Napalm had already been bleeding, and the blood glistened under the street lights. I wondered how far the Patrol had followed us. I got my answer when I reached a small corner shop. A plasma shell caught me in the chest and I fell, stabbing the air with my cries.
“Should we go after the other?”
“No, Gates doesn’t care about the rest. It’s him she wants, he’s top priority.”
I gasped for breath, the pain searing across my chest. A black fog had started to impair my vision, and I fumbled about blindly, looking for something I could use, anything I could hold on to. My fingers closed around something small, and I drew it towards me, forcing myself to look down at it.
A bottle cap.
Well I seem to remember everything pretty clearly now. And if my memory is truly infallible, then this means that I am in a high-security cell, most likely within the Patrol Headquarters. Which would mean that I’d probably be getting a visitor sometime soon…?
Footsteps. From what I can tell there’s six of them. Probably sent to escort me to an interrogation. I smirk and take up a position comfortably behind the pile of previously defeated inmates. Six, probably armed, guards against a bruised and beaten rebel. I turn on the communicator hidden in the earring of my notched ear.
“Welcome back Hex, everything going smoothly?”
I grin to myself.
“All according to plan.”
This should be interesting.
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