Heart of Despair
We went back to the hideout extra cautiously after the news.
I didn't know what to think, so I laid my head on Lilith's lap when we finally sat down. I depended heavily on my sister when I felt scared or uncertain, and tended to show that physically by holding onto her arm or doing what I was doing at the moment. Gray and Mason were off rifling through the trash for food, since it was too late to go steal from the vendors. Aiden was sitting at the table, his head resting on his laced fingers, deep in thought.
The law that had been passed was something that put us in a tight spot. The I.D.s that allowed Numbers to walk around freely as citizens were extremely hard to obtain, and just as expensive. A black market fake I.D. would cost even more, and we just didn't have the Marks for that. The amount that we had stolen for the group was only enough to by two or three weeks of rations, or maybe a small revolver that had six rounds. It was because of this that we had decided to steal for food and save our money in case something had happened that needed the money.
"What're we gonna do, Aiden?" Lilith said in an even tone, but I could feel the shaking in her hands as they went through my hair, "We can't be in broad daylight anymore if this thing is real."
"I know, Lilith," Aiden said shaking his head and looking at my twin, "Looks like we'll all have to learn how to sneak around, not just you two."
He said it as more of a joke, but there was a huge truth in that statement. Lilith and I were probably the best of the Numbers when it came to staying hidden and quiet. That was why we were the ones that were sent to look out over a large area, since we could make it there undetected and we could then use our above -average sense of sight. Now, that seemed to be one of our more useful qualities.
"When does the law start taking effect?" I suddenly asked, my voice sounded painfully weak as my uncertainty betrayed me.
Aiden shrugged, looking at me with a sympathetic look, "I dunno. We should find someway to find out, though."
I shifted, burrowing my cheek into the trousers that clothed my sisters lap and sighed. It had been three years since we'd met Aiden. Three long years we had spent with him on the streets, learning silently the way he moved, thought, and planned. How he liked to eat, how he liked to be in a situation or fight, and how he liked to sleep. He was the sole subject of our obsession simply because he was so strange.
First was the hair on his head. It was very rare now to find someone that had naturally blond hair, at least in this sector. The second was the fact that he took care of us. He'd found us after I'd taken a big hit while stealing from another street beggar, and gave food and shelter. Sympathy and compassion were looked at as a weakness in the Districts, since they only left one wide open for fraud and robbery of both the purse and the heart. But Aiden seemed as though he had never heard of that concept.
We'd followed him since then, the first week comprised of us tailing him without his knowing so that we could see if he was treating us different or tricking us. We were only eight years old at the time, so it was pretty impressive that we were able to sneak around as well as we could. After two weeks, we began to feel attached to Aiden and his kindness. Soon we actually started to trust him, something that usually spelled death in this world of corruption and dishonesty.
Then, about year later, Gray and Mason were introduced to Lilith and I. We were sleeping in an abandoned apartment building at that time, resting on an old and ripped couch surrounded by peeling wallpaper and exposed brick. Mason had seemed angry while Gray seemed nervous under a facade of cool-headedness. Both looked like crap, wounds doting their faces and bodies. But when Aiden said that they were going to stay with us, and that they were going to be apart of our family, we'd gotten angry. By that time, we had grown to look at Aiden as an older brother and loved him as such. So to have two boys that seemed they'd been put through a meat grinder walk in and be told we'd have to share Aiden with then, basically, it was like taking away our food right as we were about to eat it after a long day of running.
"Don't you know people that could find out?" Lilith asked, sounding hopeful, "I thought you had some sort of friend that would know about this sort of thing..."
"I do," Aiden confirmed, nodding, "But he's in a tight spot with the Government, so I don't think that he'd be able to get much out of the officials before he gets carted off to the labor camps."
"What about that contact in the Army?" I asked, looking up at him as Lilith continued to stroke my hair subconsciously.
"I haven't heard from him in a long while," Aiden shook his head, crossing his arms as he leaned into the back of his stolen office chair, "I'm pretty sure that he was actually carted off for selling illegal books or something..."
"Then who's left?" I asked next, frowning slightly as I sighed in exasperation.
Then there was a pair of footsteps that were familiar to my ears. Lilith and Aiden heard them right after me, as they grew louder and louder. They were heavier then they usually were, like there was more weight that they carried. The grit that was on the concrete floors they walked on crunched much louder then usual.
"We're home," Mason said with a bored tone, barging into the hideout with a plastic bag full of food from the trash bins.
"Welcome back," Aiden said, just like he always did if any one of us got home. Something that he used to do just for us.
"What'd you get?" Lilith asked, rising from where she sat and forcing me to give up the comfortable position I was in.
"The sandwich shop had some sort of sale," Mason said as he and Gray set down the five or six bags that they had been carrying onto the table, "There were a ton of extras in the trash bin. They were even individually wrapped, so they didn't get too bad while they were in the dumpster."
I heard the crinkling of tissue paper and my eyes darted to the table again. Indeed the boys had brought back plenty of good looking sandwiches that were almost unscathed by the trash can. I'd never seen such perfect looking food in my life.
Lilith and I pounced on the food much faster then the boys, since all three of them had known what a steady meal schedule was like at least once in their lives, while we'd lived on the streets ever since we could remember. My mouth had been watering since the smell of the food entered the hideout.
I inhaled the first sandwich, not even stopping to savor it. There were tomatoes that hadn't spoiled yet, bread that wasn't molded, and meats that were still tender. All of those things were as rare as a kind Soldier in the Districts. It almost brought tears to my eyes how good it tasted.
"Slow down, Blair!" Mason was yelling, "Or we won't have enough for everyone. You too, Lilith!"
"Make us," We both said in unison as we continued to eat.
"Alright," Aiden's voice washed over the air, making us stop instantly, "I think that that's enough. Mason and Gray need to eat too, y'know."
"A-Alright..." I said, scarfing down the last of the third sandwich I'd been eating.
Lilith sighed, looking away as she snatched another sandwich in her hands before heading back to where we had been at before the boys had entered. She sat down at the wall and I sat down next to her, leaning my head on her shoulder as I felt suddenly tired from all the food that was inside my stomach. I had never felt this full in all of my life.
"Okay, boss," Gray said suddenly, "Did you decide?"
Aiden looked at him and paused, blue eyes focusing, "Yeah, I think I have."
"Where to?" The stoic boy responded, grabbing a sandwich before Mason dove into them.
"I'm going to call in a favor with a friend of mine in the Blacklight Sector," Aiden said, as if it wasn't a big deal.
"T-The B-Blacklight Sector?!" I heard Lilith stutter out as my eyes widened, "Are you crazy, Aiden?! Those people are the scariest in Cyanide!"
"Well," Aiden said, smirking, "Only if you make them mad."
We stalked through the Industrial Districts to make sure that we weren't spotted. Lilith lead everyone while I brought up the rear as we followed my twin in a single file line. We stayed close together and made sure that we weren't spotted. Even the rumor of a age-restriction lowering for I.D.s was enough to make us extremely cautious. Normally, the boys would be weaving through the crowds, pick-pocketing money as Lilith and I watched over them from a high place.
The laborers that were old enough to be forced here after their Gene Exam, the test that took a blood sample and used the DNA to tell whether the subject would be useful, toiled away at the metal that was used to make the war machine of the Government. The heat that rose out of the forging furnaces, as well as the red-hot metal, burned my face as we moved through the shadows of the balconies that connected the roofs and rafters of all the warehouses. The equipment had no safety regulations, to the occasional scream of agony as a boy got his chest severely burned by tripping onto a newly heated metal, or a girl getting her finger cut off by a metal-crimping machine was not uncommon and generally ignored by everyone except the medical drones.
The furnaces were the source of light in this area, so every time the workers poured new molten metal into a cast the area would become brighter as the sparks flew. Aiden seemed nervous, something that was very unlike him, as he watched the toils of the workers with a hollow gaze. Gray and Mason were silently complaining about how their feet, legs and back were starting to hurt from all the crouching and waiting in the dark. Lilith and I had been doing this for a long time, so the aches and pains that used to come with sneaking around were non-existent.
"When are we going to get there?" Mason grumbled under his breath, grimacing, "We've been sneaking around for an hour."
"It shouldn't be much further, " Lilith said out of the corner of her mouth.
I finished her sentence, "So shut your trap and move."
"I don't know how you tamed these two brats," Mason said, looking over his shoulder, "But you've got to tell them to stop hating me."
Aiden shrugged, as if he couldn't do anything about it, "I didn't do anything, Mason. That was all you."
Mason grit his teeth and jerked his head to look ahead again.
We were all looking our best, wearing the best clothes that we could afford in the time we'd been able to get money. Dark pants, boots, shirts. Black jackets with standing collars, multiple pockets, and a detachable hood. While Lilith and I wore black scarfs around the bottom of our faces and similarly skull-caps to conceal ourselves, we'd had the boys wear soot and grime to get the same effect. All five of us were wearing dark colored gloves, the ends of the digits having been worn enough to make them into half-fingered gloves. We had used our small stash of Marks to buy seven knives from a vendor that had a blow out sale before the next Inspection of the sector. Two for my sister and I, with one for each of the boys. Aiden had insisted on this, since we were more of naturals at stealth combat then the others were. I still had no idea why he trusted us so much with the weapons, despite obvious reasons.
As we moved through the shadows, I was thankful for the loud noises that came with the Industrial District, since sneaking around was far easier when all we had to worry about was being seen. The Government saw no reason to put audio sensors and drones in this area due to the hazards and maintenance costs, so sneaking through this area was always easy. What kept Lilith and I from here was the sights of kids our age being driven to work until they dropped. We couldn't ever watch for more then a few seconds before we had to look away.
"Almost there," Lilith murmured, holding up a fist to us to signal a stop, "But there's a group of guards near the vent we need to go through."
"Is there anyway that we can get them to move?" Mason sighed, "I'm getting sick of crouching."
"I'll do it, Sis," I said, knowing exactly what Lilith would say.
She blinked, "You sure? I'm usually the one that does it..."
"I know," I nodded, taking a breath as I re-adjusted my jacket's high collar, "But I need to do it this time. I need to get used to it."
"What're you two talking about?" Mason sounded exasperated amidst the loud noises of the machines.
We looked at him, then to Aiden. We'd agreed that we would keep it a secret for the two boys' safety. Our old lives that were not our best moments, the reason that Lilith and I were so different then the rest of the Districts. When Aiden had found out, it was the first thing that he told us to do. To keep it a secret. We'd be hunted down and experimented on if too many people found out.
Aiden shook his head, "Not yet. I don't think that they need to know yet."
"Know what?" Mason sounded extremely angry in his whispering tones, "I swear, if you two are keeping something from me and Gray..."
Gray, however, had been silent for the majority of the time. Upon seeing his head shake from side to side, Mason dropped the supposed threat and looked away from everyone's eyes. I took a breath and squeezed past the three of them carefully, making sure the the material that touched the metal of the railings was only the clothes so that it wouldn't make nearly enough noise. Lilith gave me a worried look, her features openly letting me know that she wasn't sure if I'd fully recovered from the last time I had tried this. Every time I'd done it, I'd have terrible flashbacks and a subsequent mental break-down. It wasn't a pretty sight, and it usually gave away our position. But after the news of the lowering of the age requirements for I.D.s, I'd decided that if I was old enough to be arrested, I ought to be old enough to deal with the ones arresting me.
I gave Lilith one last reassuring smile and turned towards the edge of the catwalk we had been using. It was a good twenty foot drop from where we were to the next level of the warehouse, with various pipes and ledges that I could use to lighten my fall. The guards at the vent we need to use to get out of the warehouse were chatting up a storm, sitting on crates of confiscated supplies as that drank generously from a bottle. The workers around the area were far too busy worrying about their lives then to look around to find me as I moved. I got to my feet, having been in a prone position to keep my profile low, and crouched at the edge of the cat walk. The bars that were supposed to guard against accidents were gone and busted, leaving a space that was big enough for me to jump through.
Without looking at the four kids I called family, I leaned forwards and pushed off at just the right moment. I hurtled through the air, my arms outstretched as I reached for a horizontal pipe in my flight path. I latched on as soon as my palms touched the metal, the heat of whatever ran through the pipe threatening to burn right through my gloves. I used my momentum to swing forwards and to the side towards a large support pillar of sectioned metal. The heat dissipated just as I reached the pillar, my palms grabbing onto the small ledge just before I fell. Taking a deep breath to recollect myself, I looked down to confirm where I was. Now a mere five feet above the lower level, I looked over to the soldiers. They were playing cards, using possessions that had been confiscated from the workers as currency in their little gambling operation. They suspected nothing. Thank God.
I released my grip from the ledge just before my fingers started to cramp, landing quietly just as a loud bang resounded as covered my fall's own sound. Silently thanking my instincts, I slithered into the darkness that was near the group of guards. I could feel Lilith's concerned gaze watch me as I moved, seeing every thing going wrong with just one mistake. The guards still hadn't detected me.
"Perfect," I said under my breath.
I moved closer and closer quickly, gaining ground and making sure to do it all without being spotted. It was as natural as breathing, I couldn't imagine anything more perfectly suited for me. But that was what I was supposed to think. What I was forced to think.
"So do you think that the Falcons will win the next game?" A soldier said, after a large bout of drunken laughter.
"Nah," Another said, giggling and hiccuping at the same time, "The Falcons'll lose to the Army team, no contest. The Falcon's defense is too weak to stop their offense."
"Yeah," The first sighed, "I guess you're right."
Then I drew out my knives.
Lilith and Aiden must have convinced Mason and Gray to look away. There was no way that they would let me be embarrassed by letting them see what happened next. With nothing that we could use as a distraction in these close quarters, as well as there being so many guards, this was the only option left. Lilith and I hadn't had to do this since Aiden had taken us under his wing. And for a good reason: Aiden was way better at it then we were in broad daylight.
I knew that I would not be getting any more sleep for the next few days. I never did after using the skills I'd buried deep with my subconscious. This was no exception. My hands had were covered in the blood of the five or six soldiers that had been peacefully playing a game of cards. Though they were definitely rotten to the core, the fact still remains that they were slaughtered by my hand. The knives that I'd used were still clutched tightly in my hands, blood having splattered onto my cheek in the rush of death.
I couldn't breathe, my heart pounding in my chest. The sight of blood on my hands, the feeling of warm crimson liquid on my skin, and the feeling of the heavy metal of the knives in my grasp forcing horrible flashbacks to occur. I began to see hallucinations in the reflections of myself in the guards' blood, of myself as a demon that was crawling out from the reflection and into reality. I tried to calm my mind, but there was no stopping the panic attack without Lilith.
Thankfully, just before I passed out in a torrent of screams that would have alerted others to our location, I felt the embrace of my twin. Her warmth calmed me like nothing on the planet could, the utter feeling of love and safety coming from her chest into my body made me breathe a sigh of relief. This was the best thing in the world to me. My older sister actually showing public affection to me, even if it was only to calm me down.
I was able to...to kill all of them before they could call for help or run away. Aiden and the rest of the group had climbed down from the catwalk, Gray and Mason shooting me weary looks of uncertainty. I had that coming. Lilith kept hugging me for a little longer, unphased by the blood that was soaked up in her shirt from my own clothes. My panic attack passed, retreating into my subconscious until my guard was lowered in sleep, I opened my eyes. Lilith drew away, standing as she helped me up.
"What--What's wrong with you, Blair?" Mason asked, staring at me.
"We are not talking now," Aiden said, then looked at my sister and I, "Lead the way, ladies."
Shakily, I obeyed Aiden's orders and turned towards the vent that the guards had been blocking. Gray and Mason looked at each other before following us towards the metal panel.
I took out one of my knives, using it to unscrew the bolts that held the vent in place. Lilith took out the vent panel as soon as it was freed, and I started to crawl through. The space was tight, coated in dust and filth. I was thankful for the scarf that I had around my lower face, since the thick material filtered the stale air. Lilith, Aiden, Gray, and Mason all followed me, my sister bringing up the rear so that she could place the vent back into place to avoid our detection. I army-crawled through the metal ventilation shafts towards the next building over. Where we were positioned, the next building over would be the last before the Blacklight District. All that was left before reached that District was this shaft and another three hundred feet or so of sneaking in the shadows. For the umpteenth time, I wondered why Aiden wanted all of us to go with him to a place like the Blacklight District.
When we finally made it through the shaft, we broke through the other vent under the cover of both shadow and the loud sounds of the factory. The guards didn't even suspect five kids moving through the darkness in the high catwalks of their warehouses, Aiden grinning despite himself as he realized this.
We reached the end of the last warehouse within hour an hour, since a guard decided to have a smoke break right in our path. This forced us to wait in the darkness until he was finished, then continue on with cramping legs.
The air of the Blacklight District was as hard to inhale as the rest of the world, the atmosphere also having the sense of danger about it. We were walking on the side walk, the boys looking around the eerie place with a cautious eye. The Blacklight District is the main hub for the Mercenary Order, the Information Brokers, and the groups of hackers that called themselves "Catalyst". All of these were illegal organizations, though each provided a service that was invaluable to the underground.
Since Aiden had a strange relationship with all three of them, he knew them all well. And they seemed to know him well in return.As soon as he revealed his face, people made way for him. Lilith and I flanked him like body guards, our scarves up to hide our faces.
We were as protective of Aiden as he was of us. So our hands were itching over the hilts of our knives, paranoid glances to the left and right becoming a fast habit. It was as if Aiden were a VIP, and we were his bodyguards. Body guards that were both vertically challenged and lean-muscled street-girls with knives.
"It shouldn't be much longer," Aiden said, turning to face the four of us as we trailed behind our leader, "But when we get there...don't do something stupid, okay?"
"Like?" Mason grumbled, voicing his well known hatred of being ordered around by Aiden.
"Speaking would be one," Aiden said, sighing, "So would be breathing on the wrong person, or looking the wrong guy in the eye."
"You trying to say something, O' Glorious Leader?" Mason said, gritting his teeth.
"Mason," I hissed, glaring at him, "Shut your trap before I slice it up."
Mason glared at me this time, "What can you do, Blair? All you and your sister do is follow him around like lost puppies."
"Now you're askin' for something, idiot," Lilith said venomously, "You watch your back now, before it gets sliced open."
"I'm so scared," Mason taunted sarcastically, shaking off our threats as if he didn't see me kill all those guards.
"You too?" Mason grumbled, looking at his friend, "You're supposed to be on my side!"
"I am," Gray said, shaking his head, "Which is why I'm telling you to be quiet before you have to fight those chicks."
Lilith and I both sneered when Gray called us "chicks" simultaneously, the term annoying us. Aiden picked up in this and a smirk tugged away at the corner of his mouth. He knew us like the back of his own hand, so being able to tell when we were annoyed was child's' play despite the fact that our expressions were hidden behind the scarfs around our lower faces.
"Alright," Aiden said, exuding a massive aura of seriousness and caution, "From now on, only speak when spoken to, alright?"
"Okay," Lilith and I said at the same time, while Gray nodded and Mason looked away.
Aiden lead us through a small alleyway between a gun-shop and a bar, the trash cans that were placed out being rummaged through by a group of street children. Wearing nothing but rags and frightened expressions on ashen faces, they scattered as soon as they saw the five of us in our dark clothing. Men, lounging on a group of crates with guns displayed in the waistbands of their trousers, stared at us with an interested look.
It wasn't every day that they saw a fifteen year old having twins on either side of him with two other kids right behind him, all while not seeming to be scared. They looked as though they were debating approaching us, if not for the reason of curiosity. But, thankfully, they didn't since they saw what we were heading for. The entrance to the alleyway store was lit up with eerie purple lights that could be mistaken for black-lights. There wasn't a soul near the place, as if the people around here thought it was cursed. Aiden strode up to it with complete confidence, like he owned the place, and knocked on the door after he ascended the stairs.
"The Government shall surely fall," Aiden whispered to the door, barely enough for even Lilith and I to hear.
"That it shall," A booming voice resounded through the door.
The door creaked open, slowly and purposefully. Then we all stopped dead in our tracks. My eyes widened and my heart rate increased immensely. There, among the shadows beyond the door, was a glint of metal.
Then an arm extended out, a gun trained on Aiden's head.