Chapter 14: Svetlana
My back ached as I slowly sat up, the rocks tumbling off of me. I didn't know how long I'd been asleep, but it couldn't have been that long- I was still alive. The first breath of fresh air I went to take was anything but fresh. I got up and started choking, aware that I was really sweating. It was then that I became aware of the intense heat waves coming from behind me. I turned around and saw the hole that Flameheart and I had used to get out of the little cave made out of our town's destruction.
Carefully, I made my way over to the opening. Once I was a few feet away I began to hear it- two people struggling, groaning, crying, then finally that one sound of a scream as something (or someone) fell into the fire. I looked down and saw Dragomir breathing heavily, standing over the fire we had made last night, looking down at Flameheart's body. It was slowly being covered in ash, burning, her clothes turning to dust. I jumped down behind Dragomir, who turned around to face me.
I took a step back in disgust. His face was all bloody, his red eyes even redder. I peered over his shoulder and saw the remains of Rose's body. My nose wrinkled when the stench of death and rotting, burning flesh reached me. Dragomir's hand reached toward my face, his own expression distorted with insanity. Everything else that followed all seemed to happen in one millisecond. Dragomir froze, his expression turned into one of pain, and then my vision was overcome with a blast of light. I had to shield my eyes with my hands and when I took them away I saw Dragomir, lying on the ground, face down, with a hole in his back that must've been two feet wide by one foot across. The smell of burning flesh only intensified. I was broken out of my shock when I heard the ragged breathing. Looking up, I saw Flameheart, standing in the fire, green eyes practically glowing.
"Oh my God," she whispered. Flicking her finger up slightly, we both watched in amazement as a tiny flame left the tip. Out of pure confusion, the two of us smiled and laughed in awe. Then, looking down at Dragomir's body, we left the cave and came up to the wall we'd been trying to dig through earlier.
"How are we going to get out?" Flameheart asked, suddenly tired. I could see her head beginning to droop, eyelids staring to close.
"Can't you just blast us out of here?" I asked, half kidding. Flameheart's head came up suddenly, her eyes widening.
"Yeah," she said, "I guess I can," I stepped back a few feet and watched her from behind. As she thrust her hands forward, I hardly had time to react as shards of rock and debris flew everywhere. Despite the sudden heat wave and the fact that I was now huddled over, I could feel myself being blasted with a breath of cool air. I got up and the two of us walked out onto the street. You could've heard a pin drop, it was that quiet. Then I saw why; To our left was a group of people, all staring at us in shock. Even the girl standing on the crate with the megaphone in her hand, who must've been giving some sort of speech, was completely still.
"This is exactly what I'm talking about!" The girl on the crate suddenly began speaking again, even more animated, "We have to expect the unexpected. Did anyone expect this?" She motioned to the toppled buildings around us. People started murmuring excitedly again. "You!" I realized she was now talking directly to us, "Which one of you caused that explosion?" I pointed to Flameheart, who looked away, pretending to focus on the ground. "And how did you do it?"
Looking up, Flameheart shrugged and said, "I guess I just concentrated," pausing, she added, "And then 'boom!' Fire came out of my hands," More murmuring, some staring. Turning back to the crowd, the girl on the crate said, "Can anyone else do something like that?"
A few moments passed before someone said, "I can," we all turned to look at the speaker- a young woman with a long black dress and purple hair, to who a couple people leaning up against Saper's grocery store glared at. Bringing her hands around in a sweeping motion, we watched in awe as she manifested a sheet of ice over the store's wall.
"Anyone else?" the question was asked again, and answered again. Another woman could heal people's wounds, a girl could transport herself wherever she wanted, and- according to the girl on the crate- the world famous Chaz McFreely had developed some sort of armor around his hands and could possibly eject heat waves. People began talking excitedly, stealing glances at the few mutants in the crowd, clearly uncomfortable. "Okay," the crate girl tried to talk again, but no one was listening, "I said, okay!" she repeated. Everyone stopped talking and looked up at her. "Now comes the next issue: food,"
"What about the cause of all this shit?" the crowd parted to reveal a young man in bloodied clothes and a torn belt. He too had red eyes, "Who the hell cares about food?" he asked, "We shouldn't even have to worry about food! What about our lives? What made this happen?" No one bothered to cheer him on, except a young girl in the back. "Well?" he continued, turning back to us, "Doesn't anyone want to know?"
The girl with the megaphone calmly responded to him, "Yes, we do want to know," he faced her again, "But right now, before we can get into that, we need to establish a way to live. A way to survive," a few people became uneasy at this last sentence, "Before we look into how this happened, we need to make sure that we'll be okay while this continues. Who knows how many are dead? We need to take care of ourselves first," Someone started sobbing quietly and was taken to the side. Raising her voice to establish more authority, she said, "I know a lot of homes were destroyed, but there are some that are still standing. Probably, some with full refrigerators and pantries. Plus, we have Saper's,"
A blond boy who was leaning against the mentioned building tightened his fists, "Why can't we just get food from neighboring cities?" He asked in a voice that was higher than I expected. The crate girl's face darkened.
"I've been told," she said a little more quietly, "That we are, in a sense, cut off from the rest of the world," This was met by dead silence. No one dared to breathe, "I don't know how and I don't know why," she continued, "But all roads leading away from Reyesent have been cut off by endless water. Again, I don't know how it got there, but it's not going away. We are literally surrounded by water on all sides," More silence, "So as I said, our main food source is Saper's grocery store. In order to make sure everyone gets enough food, we will set up a system in which we can ration the food so that it will last us until we get out of this mess. To start, we're just going to have everybody line up in a straight line in front of the doors and take turns going in and getting one or two items. Derek and Crystal will admit you, telling you when you can come in and when you have to wait. Claire and Beebee will maintain the line and Preston and Yuki will guide people through the store. Once you have your food, gather here again and I'll finish with a few more…guidelines,"
As soon as the last words were spoken everyone seemed to run to the door as fast as they could. I could hear Derek and Crystal trying to shout above everyone as Claire and Beebee ran back and forth, attempting to coral the crowds. "I guess we'd better get in line, huh?" I asked Flameheart, who nodded halfheartedly and followed me to the back of the line. It felt like hours, even though it must've only been a few minutes, until we finally moved an inch closer to the store. Glancing around I saw the speaker girl surrounded by a few people. They seemed to be listening urgently to her, nodding and occasionally adding their own opinion. She raised her head suddenly and turned around.
Chaz was running up the street, attempting to catch up to her. As soon as he reached her she said something to him that made him run over to Derek. Derek came running over as Chaz took his place. "Do you think Liberty will try to rule over us?" Someone's conversation caught my attention.
"I hope not," someone replied, "Look at her, she can't be more than 14 years old. We were doomed enough as it is, now she's going to make us starve,"
"Who the hell are those people with her?" the first person asked.
"I don't know," the second answered, "But whoever they are I have a feeling they won't have any respect for us what so ever,"
"Isn't one of those people Esma? The former vice president of Morcucorp?" A third person spoke up.
"Told you we're doomed," the original speaker finished their conversation and I looked back toward Liberty's group. Sure enough, she was surrounded by Esma, Derek, and a few others I couldn't recognize. I thought I spotted Justice in the circle, but I couldn't be sure. My thoughts were interrupted by a shot fired into the air, followed by screaming and someone yelling.
"I told you to wait right here!" I peered over some shoulders to see Crystal, gun in hand, towering over a little boy. "That's it! We've had enough disturbances as it is! No one is getting food until we say so! Claire! Beebee!" As their names were called I looked over in their direction to see the pink haired on pulling out a gun. The other girl didn't move, but her partner and Crystal started shooting into the crowd. Everyone screamed and ducked down. Some people ran, most without food. Liberty, who had just noticed what was going on, turned the megaphone back on.
"Hey! Everyone calm down! Stop shooting!" Nobody was listening, "Chaz, do something!" she yelled out. Chaz smashed his fist into the ground, sending ripples of heat into the air, knocking people over. The surrounding sidewalk and road was warped in a circle around him. The few people who had food ran in one direction, but everyone else ran in another. "Derek!" Liberty had forgotten to take her hand off the talk button as she looked down him. When she realized what had happened she removed her finger and continued shouting at him.
Flameheart and I, neither of us really sure what to do in the confusion, ran back in the direction we had come from. There was a building still intact a few doors down from where Dragomir's body lay and we headed for it. As soon as we reached the door we saw it close on our faces. I pounded on the door, "Let us in now! We've nowhere else to go!"
"Go away!" Came the reply from inside, "It's every man for himself!"
"Flameheart, do it!" Turning to her, I motioned for her to take down the door.
She protested, "But I don't want-"
"Just do it!" I wasn't in the mood for negotiation. Taking a step back, I watched as Flameheart burned down the door and ran inside, mumbling an apology at the man and woman who were huddled against the back of the front hall with a small child in between them. Not giving them a second thought, the two of us ran to the back of the house, outside, and into the garden. "Why are we out here?" I asked, still running.
Flameheart didn't answer me as I followed her into a shed in the corner of the yard. "Again, why couldn't we just stay in there?" I was angry now, more angry than scared. With her power we could've easily evicted that family.
"I think they needed the shelter more than we do," she replied, "Besides, I'm sure if we ask them they'll let us stay in there," I raised my palm and slapped her, leaving a red mark on her cheek. I realized I hadn't bothered to take off my leather glove.
"Might I remind you that you're a bounty hunter that used to work for one of the most feared organizations of all time?" I asked, ready to strike again.
I thought she'd start crying, but instead Flameheart replied, "And might I remind you that that family has a better chance of dying because we burned down their fucking door? How could you be so rash and stupid?" I was slightly taken a back; no one had ever talked back to me, nor had I ever expected Flameheart to. "You're not in charge of me, Svetlana, you never were. I'm going back out there to help those people and maybe even Liberty too. I don't care what you do out here, but don't bother coming into that apartment,"
I watched, slightly dumbstruck, as the girl walked out of the shed and over to the building. She knocked on the door gently and waited for someone to come out. The man from earlier opened the door cautiously and greeted Flameheart with a glare. Surprisingly, she spoke calmly to him, as if to apologize and to ask if she could come in. To my astonishment, I saw the man reluctantly nod and she stepped inside, the door shutting behind her.
I turned around and kicked the lawn mower behind me, not bothering to acknowledge the pain.