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Chapter 9

King needed a final piece to complete his machine. Knowing the heroes were looking for him, I was meant to steer up trouble as far away from wherever he needed to hit. I might have been the perfect soldier because I seemingly couldn’t die, but the metal menace forgot I was less than combat-ready. Even if I could lure the heroes away, I wouldn’t have been much of a distraction if they decided to cut off my legs or handcuff me to a fence. There had to have been someone better qualified. It didn’t matter that I had a gun, especially when the heroes had magic, heavy artillery, and ninja skills.

Still, part of me couldn’t help but be intrigued. King was crazy, but that didn’t negate his being a genius. If he said there was a way to leave Mock City, there had to be some level of truth to it. Even if he was a bad guy, when I broke it down, helping him wasn’t the worst course of action. Best case scenario, he would build his machine and leave Mock city. We all would have had one less psychopath to worry about. What ate at me the most was the prospect of my leaving Mock City. Could I? Would I? I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but the thought was dominating.

I couldn’t focus on that.

King needed a distraction before he could make a move on the part for his machine. I wasn’t about to run down the street shooting at garbage cans. I wasn’t about to drop bombs off the roof of a skyscraper. Anything that put me in direct conflict would undoubtedly end before it started. I didn’t have it in me to hurt people, and even if I did, it wouldn’t take much to stop me. I needed someone or something else to make noise.

Section 2 was known as “The Play Pen.” Whenever the city received an Arrival of the monstrous variety, that’s where they were sent. It also held super-criminals caught by police or the heroes. Mock City didn’t have a prison. Inside those fenced boundaries, anything could happen. It wasn’t a place policed by anyone. The idea was simple; everyone inside was meant to be so terrible they’d eventually kill each other. For the most part, it worked. There weren’t many people who could escape once they were dropped into The Play Pen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect way of handling crime. Since no one dared to willingly venture into Section 2, any Arrivals who portaled into the area were screwed. Not only would no one come to rescue them, no one would even know to look.

Most citizens wouldn’t come within a yard of Section 2′s electrified fence. It fried anything that touched it. I was hoping to find a monster in The Play Pen big enough to distract the heroes but small enough to limit collateral damage. That, of course, meant I was betting my regenerative ability was strong enough to pass the fence.

Getting into Section 2 wasn’t a problem; no one cared what went in. Getting out was the issue. On top of the electrified fence, officers patrolled the perimeter to make sure nothing crawled under or flew over and out. Nonetheless, I had to get in first.

Sometime after midnight, I found myself at the fence. I could hear the electricity flowing like a low calming hum. Bugs were charring as they made the mistake of landing on something too deadly to face. A smell of death was ever-present. Street lights illuminated everything, but despite the fence naturally having many holes, I couldn’t see its other side.

City streets stopped about 15 feet away before reaching the perimeter of Section 2 from all directions. Buildings weren’t even allowed to be built half a mile close to The Play Pen. It’s a miracle streetlights were far out enough to let me see anything. Otherwise, I might have walked into the fence on accident.

It was a 40-foot climb.

It would have been a 40-foot climb for anyone else. With my powers, I knew I could hop with enough spring to clear a three-story building. If I jumped as high as I could before touching the fence, that still would have left me with 10 feet to climb. Ten feet of electrified hell. I’ll admit, standing there, I tried to think of another way. Had I known where to find a monster outside The Play Pen, I would have.

The issue was time.

King didn’t give me the impression he’d wait forever. He didn’t know I was looking for a monster. The metallic menace probably assumed I’d rush into battle by doing something stupid or uncouth. Had King known I was trying to cushion my involvement in his misdeeds, I’m guessing he would have pushed me to fight the heroes on my own. Why else would he have given me a gun. My only choice, my only option if I wanted a monster fast, was to scale that fence.

Still, in my janitor uniform, I backed away and prepared to do a running start. I took lightning to the chest before. How bad could a fence be? I asked my self that question as I took step after step approaching doom. I jumped as high as my legs would let me, and at my peak, I reached out to cling to metal. My fingers worked their way into the loops, and that’s when I felt it.

I had on shoes with rubber souls, but they didn’t stop the current from shocking my system. Initially, my biggest fear was losing my grip and having to start all over, but my body locked up in such a way I couldn’t let go.

I was stuck.

I’m pretty sure I pissed myself, and I knew I was drooling. The pain lasted forever, but it may have only been seconds. The pain had a way of distorting time. Eventually, I grew numb, and my mind went blank between seizures. My goal of reaching the other side was the only thing to remain intact well enough to hold. I might have passed out and woken up several times before the pain became tolerable. Even that was an overstatement. It was excruciating, but after a few minutes or potentially hours, I started to climb. With every inch cleared, I left pieces of my flesh to barbecue on the metal deathtrap. By the time I reached the top, my body was smoking enough to make everything around me unvisible. My eyes might have been burnt out of their sockets as well. With the last of my nonexistent strength, I flung myself over and put an end to the electrified hell.

The relief I felt on my way down was like nothing else. Even when I hit the ground, I thanked something nameless for letting me survive.

I passed out.

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