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Chapter 7

Later that night, after the sun set, I woke up to find homeless people searching my pockets. I didn’t have any money, so despite being near death, my muggers were upset when I got up to leave. I looked like I belonged on the street.

It was beginning to feel like every day was worse than the last. Still, no matter how bad things got, at least I had a place to hit reset.

I went home.

Walking through Sections made everything feel small. Compared to skyscrapers, I was nothing. Looking for the horizon, I couldn’t tell where the buildings stopped, and the sky started. Mock City was a pit.

When I made it back to building 7, I found a familiar face waiting for me out front. Considering I didn’t have fingers capable of opening doors yet, I needed his help. I would have avoided my friend and his judgment, but I couldn’t enter my own apartment without him?

“You’re lucky to be still alive,” Cloud repeated like a broken record as we walked through my front door.

“I was only trying to help,” I said.

“You’re not a superhero.”

“I have to be something,” I argued while Cloud locked the door.

My fingers were almost back, but they felt stiff as if I’d been sitting on them all day. I tried flexing them and getting my blood flowing to no avail.

“This city pulled me here; it took me against my will. I have to deal with it somehow,” I added with my focus turned away from Cloud.

“So that’s what this is? You’re upset you have to live here? We’re all upset,” he added.

“Then you should understand,” I exclaimed louder than intended.

Part of me was only upset my hands had the motor skills of a toddler. Another part of me didn’t feel like justifying my actions after being kicked off a roof. I had nowhere to go and no way to leave. Forced into a shitty situation, what else was I supposed to do if not something crazy. If I was stuck in Mock City, then I had to try making things better. I had to try making it a place I could love, or at the very least, a place I could stand to live. I needed it to be a place worth living despite all the bad.

Frankly, everything was shit otherwise.

Without actively looking for ways to improve the situation, I might as well have been contributing to my own suffering. That felt crazier than becoming a hero.

“Let the heroes work. Let them fight the battles,” Cloud said as he rested a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s not just their fight,” I said.

I brushed his hand away, but Cloud stood still. I couldn’t turn away with him looking at me with so much disapproval. He didn’t have eyes, but I could feel his disappointment just the same.

“I think you need to be alone right now,” he said.

“Right,” I answered.

The room was deathly silent. I’m sure Cloud wanted to say something else. I could feel his need to persuade me. I was useless, but I couldn’t let go of my mission. Things could get better; I had to believe that. Unfortunately, Cloud didn’t have a chance to speak more. There was a sudden quake that vibrated the floor.

“Did you hear that,” Cloud asked.

The vibrations continued and grew closer in proximity. We both turned our attention to their direction.

“It’s just my landlord,” I informed my friend as I took a breath to calm down.

Things were getting heated, but I understood Cloud’s concern. My choices may have been my own, but they were dangerous. Even if we disagreed, it felt good to know someone at least cared. Not everyone in Mock City was terrible.

I stepped around my friend to walk over to the front door. I didn’t feel like replacing a lock, hinges, or screws again, so it was in my best interest to clear the way before Duke had to. I opened the door, expecting to find a poorly dressed elephant on the other side, but it was worse.

“I told you, I’ll have your money by,” I started to speak until I realized who was making the ground shake.

The sight that filled my eyes shocked me. I was too stunned to move or even react. A sudden punch to the gut woke me and told me I didn’t imagine things. I went flying back into my apartment, and I didn’t stop until I hit a wall.

“Twig,” Cloud exclaimed as he saw my crash.

It wasn’t Duke. What I found outside my door was King seated inside a robotic suit of armor. He came through my doorway and knocked down the doorframe along with part of the actual wall. As he came closer, King’s machine towered over Cloud and me alike.

“Come quietly, and this won’t get ugly,” King said as he held a robotic arm cannon pointed at me and another at Cloud.

It was round 3, maybe round 4 or 5 of Mock City supers against me. At that point, I had already encountered so many heroes, and villains, all I could do was roll my eyes at the thought of facing another one so soon. I sighed from how exhausted I was. It may have been a bad week, but I was willing to push my luck in hopes of it turning around. Honestly, in that situation, I didn’t have much of a choice. My best friend was in the room, so I might have been tempted to surrender. But playing nice was no guarantee King would restrain himself.

I lunged at the giant robot, but I was quickly blasted by an arm cannon that gave me a familiar hole through my chest. At the same time, Cloud was punched hard enough to open his suit. His gaseous body started to escape the containment, and while it did, King used his mechanical power suit to suck up the gas that was my friend. Cloud was trapped in a sort of pod the size of a soda can, and King held it in front of my eyes.

I surrendered.

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