“Wow,” I thought in awe as I watched from above as the guards walked back and forth in front of the doors to each prisoner’s cell. I had never been more grateful for the awful lighting in the strange circular space which barely allowed anyone present to see a few feet in front of them, but from what I could see, I was sure there were thousands of prison cells which occupied most of the space in the twenty-story building. I turned to the group which hid behind a shipment of storage containers at the very top. “Alright,” I whispered. “There is an insane number of Combos down there,” I told them. “Now they’re probably in cells like our own, with a big white room above the actual cell so first, we sneak by the guard and then we get the prisoner,” I told them before smacking my forehead after realizing I had forgotten the most important piece of the plan. “And remember that if a single guard has the ability to transmit to the others that we’re here, our only chance of making this work will be blown to smithereens,” I whispered, glancing at Zuri, who looked at me with great fear in her eyes. I smiled warmly as if to say, “it’s okay, we got this.” She forced herself to nod in response as I motioned for the group to make their move. Instantly, I watched as over twenty Combos jumped out from behind the boxes we had for cover and hopped over the thin metal railing which divided us from the thousands of guards which paced back and forth in front of the prison cell they were to protect. I took a deep breath to calm the butterflies which swarmed in my stomach and hopped over the railing, dropping silently onto the ground. I watched as the Combos silently crept from guard to guard before any of them even noticed we were there.
I shook myself from my thoughts and crept up to the guard which paced nervously in front of the door as if able to sense something was wrong. His hand hovered over his radio. I sighed and stepped closer, keeping low to the ground. I kicked his leg, causing him to lose his balance and begin to fall. I stood and reached my arms out, catching him just before he hit the ground. He looked at me with his amber-colored eyes frozen in fear. I gave him a look over apology before slamming his head into the brick wall just hard enough for him to lose consciousness. I then grabbed his keycard and opened the door to the prison cell. A small glowing green light showed as a click so quiet I could barely hear it. I picked the terrified man up with great ease and walked into the room, waiting for the door to close silently and lock before setting him down. Once this was finished, I flipped the man over and lifted his eyelids, making sure he was unconscious the way I should have done so long ago. I sighed with relief when his eyes rolled about the way someone in a deep sleep might allow their eyes to float about subconsciously. I smiled at how such a simple action could have prevented all of this from happening as I scanned the man’s keycard once more and stepped into an interrogation room quite similar to my own. I looked down at the floor and found the trapdoor which divided whoever was inside from the rest of the world. I wrapped my gloved fingers around the rusted metal hinge on the wooden trapdoor and pulled, allowing light to trickle into the room. The smell of mildew hit me once more as I let down the rusted latter which stood beside me and waited a moment for someone to come into view. Nothing happened. I poked my head into the prison cell. I saw a small dirty figure wearing long dark shorts and bright red tennis shoes with their cuffed hands wrapped around their knees with their head buried in their lap. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized it was a little boy no older than five or six years old. Anger flooded my veins as I hopped onto the figure’s mattress, the awful oozing sound echoing through the cell. I walked up to him and put my hand on his arm to show I was there. He looked up at me with his silver- grey eyes filled with fear. “Hey,” I whispered. He stared into my eyes and let down his legs, allowing me to see that he wore a red shirt which had been ripped so many times the picture was unrecognizable. “I’m here to help you,” I told him.
He tried to say something but was unable to the first few times he tried until eventually he was able to make out what he wanted to say what he wanted to in a shaky voice. “Can’t.”
“Why can’t you?” I asked.
“He…” the little boy trailed off. “He hurt me,” he said, holding his arms out. I took them gently and realized that his tiny arms were covered in huge, fresh knife marks. I winced at the sight of them, knowing how much they must have hurt.
“It’s okay,” I told him, sliding one arm underneath his legs. I put the other at the base of his back to support his little bones. I then lifted him gently to his feet and smiled at him warmly. “He won’t be able to hurt you anymore.” He nodded fearfully as I took his handcuffs and held them closer for examination, asking him questions while I worked, trying to distract myself from the fact that a single wrong move could blow us both to dust. “What’s your name?” I asked him as I created a small bubble of water.
“Ben,” he said quietly as I shaped and molded the bubble in a chisel-like object which I could use to open a small compartment at the base of the handcuffs which held the power supply.
“Where are you from, Ben?” I asked as I froze the tool.
“Mis’ip’pi,” he said, pronouncing the name of his state incorrectly as I used the tool to open the compartment.
“Do have any cool powers?” I asked as I carefully located the power supply.
Ben nodded excitedly which shook the handcuffs. I inhaled sharply after accidentally bumping the highly explosive battery. I waited for something to happen, but nothing did. I thanked who or what ever wanted our crazy plan to work and listened for Ben to explain his abilities. “I can zap stuff,” he told me. “I got to charge my toy car when it was dead,” he laughed. I suddenly wondered how worried his parents must be to have lost their precious little boy. I nodded thoughtfully and asked Ben to be very still while I dislocated the battery and ruined the circuitry with water. He did as he was told. I thanked him and took a deep breath before removing the battery, knowing that if I didn’t ruin the motherboard quickly, there was a very real chance little Ben would have to live through the rest of his life without arms. I told him there would be a few sparks but that he still needed to stay still. He nodded gently as I balled a tiny drop of water and placed it calculatively where it was needed. The moment the water touched the inner-workings of the handcuffs, sparks began to fly and the bindings fell away from Ben’s hands. He laughed excitedly and rubbed his wrists. I put my arm on his shoulder, thanking him for his bravery. Ben smiled and wrapped his arms around me. I returned his affections before explaining how the rest of the day was to proceed.
I paced back and forth across the ceiling in front of over sixty Combos. The group had grown too large to proceed as quietly as we had hoped. It was time to rethink our strategy. “Alright,” I said turning to the original group. “How many of you can volunteer to take these people back through the facility and somewhere safe?” I asked. Several hands went up. I pointed to a few of the people, making sure to choose people I knew could either fly or teleport several people somewhere safe, saying their names aloud, telling them how many people they would take at a time and to where. They nodded and silently gathered their groups. I watched little Ben look up at me falteringly. I nodded and smiled at him, unprepared for what happened next. He bounded toward me and wrapped his small arms around my legs. I as knocked off balance and fell backward. He giggled and asked innocently if I needed assistance. I shook my head and got to my feet.
“Thank you,” he hesitated for a moment. “Riptide,” he finished with a warm, toothy grin. He knew me, he knew who I was. I had impacted his life before then. I laughed at how strangely known Riptide was. I waited for a moment before turning back to the group, who watched in silence. I rolled my eyes at the faces they made and told them to come back to this exact location to get the rest of the Combos and watched as about a fourth of our team took hold of one another and disappeared silently into the shadows, Ben among the many. I sighed, knowing how much many of those people could have helped but I shook this off quickly and told the newly freed Combos to wait where they were quietly, picking just a few to come with us and show the future additions to the team where the others were waiting.