It’s late spring. Almost summer, but it’s freezing. Zeke doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s probably loving the cold more than anything right now.
“Are you in position, Kal?” a cool voice says in my ear through my earpiece.
I lift my finger to one of the buttons on my mic. “In position,” I mutter back.
“Zeke?” the voice asks.
“Same here,” Zeke’s says from behind me, his voice as energetic as ever. “And try to at least sound a little excited about what we’re doing, Bennie. If we pull this off, we’ll have rations for the rest of the week, and cause some hell for those rich folk and military prats in the upper sectors.” He laughs.
The only response Zeke gets is a low, unswayed grunt through the mike from Bennie. Seconds later, Bennie’s voice clicks back on. “In position, Jade?”
“Yes,” Jade’s voice utters through the earpiece, bitterness in her voice because she’s probably annoyed by Zeke and Bennie’s bickering. “I have eyes on the guards. I'm muting myself.”
Just like that, her voice is off and I press a button on my earpiece that cancels out all sound. Zeke does the same and I know Bennie does it too. Zeke is practically jumping from excitement. I don’t know why. Maybe I should be more excited. Then again, that’s not my strong suit.
Bennie isn’t excited either, but that might just be because he’s positioned on a roof outside, and, unlike Zeke, he hates the cold.
From the alley of the military power plant/trade center, I have a perfect view of the guards as they suddenly start falling into a trance, and walking away from their posts. I watch as they walk further and further, till they're out of sight. Jade is doing her job wonderfully. Sudden static buzzes in my ear, making me and Zeke jump, then Bennie speaks. “The guards are gone. You have about a five minute window to fry the power grid and get as much supplies as possible before the next guard rotation.”
“Thanks Bennie,” I say. “By the way, how hard is Jade being on those guards?”
Bennie hesitates. Then speaks. “One will certainly be sore in the morning. The other guy, I think he stopped moving, but I can’t really tell from up here.”
I sigh heavily. “Don’t let her kill them,” is all I say before shutting off my mic and signaling with two fingers to Zeke to follow behind me. Thankfully, he knows how to be quiet when he has to be. With the guards away from the doors, and the nightly five-minute dark hour when all security cameras temporarily shut off, we can easily sneak inside and to the main vent in the outpost lobby. The vent leads to a hundred different rooms, but we only need two.
When we get to the vent, I pause to look out the transparent glass walls towards the alley where Jade is. I don’t see anything but her messy bunch of beautiful, curly, dark hair, and what I’m sure is blood staining the corner of a brick wall. I smile and turn to where Zeke has pried open the vent. He waits for me to crawl in first, and I do.
“Where’re we going first?” he whispers me, tapping the bottom of my shoe with his finger as we crawl through the vent as quietly as possible. I’m surprised his prodding isn’t giving me another headache yet.
I sigh heavily, annoyed he already forgot the whole plan. . . again. “Storage room. Top floor,” I answer him as quickly and hushed as I’m able to. “Bennie will pick up the supplies from us there. Then we destroy the power.”
Though I can’t see him behind me, I can picture him nodding his head but a worried look on his face, as usual during a mission.
Two lefts. Four rights. Go up fifteen floors. Two more rights. One left. We’re at the storage room.
It only takes one swift punch from my hand for the vent to bend and fall to the floor. The metal from the vent is sharp though. I feel several cuts on my fingers, each one bleeding warm, red blood, but I don’t care, even as the pain sends a small numbing feeling to my head. I drop down the vent, landing perfectly on my feet, like a cat.
After taking a few steps forward, Zeke follows, landing less gracefully and falling on his side, but he quickly jumps back to his feet and juts his chin out to me. “Wassup,” he says, lowering his voice awkwardly, and trying to act like he hadn’t fallen. I can’t help but laugh at him for a second. Then I’m back to business. I look around the room. There are hundreds, if not thousands of crates, each labeled with what they contain. Food Rations; Medicine; Water Stores; Weaponry; etc.
It makes me sick to think that all this stuff would do so much for the people at the slums, the recovery houses, the refugee stronghold, and any of the other poor sectors in Birmingham and even Europe for that matter. My fist tightens at the thought, straining the scars on my now bleeding knuckles.
I’m snapped out of my thoughts when Zeke puts one of his dark, cold hands on my shoulder. The chilling frost along his finger tips chills me to the bone, bringing me back to where we are. “So when do I get to freeze something?”
I sneer. “Later,” is all I say to him, bringing back my composer. “Grab as many Medicine, Food, and Water crates at you can and bring them to that window,” I order him, pointing to a huge, ceiling to floor window across the room. “I’ll get it open. Bennie will take the crates from there.”
Zeke looks out the window I’m pointing to. His smile falls, he frowns. “Are you sure you’re up for this?”
Here we go again, I think.
“We’re pretty high up and, well, the altitude and all that. Plus, we still have to shut off the power grid and that’ll cause panic in the building and with your. . . power-“ he stops his rambling when he sees the annoyed glare on my face. He sighs. “I just wanna know if you can handle this.”
I raise my eyebrows ever so slightly, though I’m not exactly surprised. Negativity was certainly not common from someone like Zeke, but then again, you never know when the dude will switch personalities on you. I lower my gaze and turn around, starting towards the window and pulling my knife out of its holster at my side. “I chose to come on this mission. I’ll be fine.”
“But you know how it-“
“I said I’ll be fine,” I snap at Zeke, still not looking at him, my grip growing tighter on my knife.
Zeke must’ve let it go because all I hear next is the sound of wooden boxes being moved around. My edge lowers as I start cutting along the edges of the window to remove not only the glass, but the window frame too.
It falls fifteen storied before hitting the ground with a distant but satisfying crash, but our altitude and the cold hit me like a sledgehammer, making pain pound through the back of my head. I push away the discomfort though, and focus. My finger hits the com on my earpiece, turning my mic on again. “Window’s open, Bennie. We’re ready for you.”
I hold my stance strong to keep from falling out the window as I wait for an answer. For a minute, it doesn’t come. Then I hear static before Jade’s voice buzzes into my ear. “Bennie’s on his way to you," she says. "He dropped his mic.”
“Rodger,” I say. I know our time opening is almost closed. Two more minutes, I suspect.
It only takes seconds for a mass of black wings to hover in front of me in the window. From far glance, you’d think it was a big bird, but up close, you can see it’s a red haired boy, no older than seventeen, with huge crow-like wings. Bennie.
“Hey Kal,” he says, slowly lowering himself onto the ledge of the window and walking inside, a toughness to his walk that most other gang members have picked up on the streets. His wings magically sink back into the flesh of his back, making it look as if they were never there. “How many?”
I notice him eyeing Zeke and the crates.
“How many can you take?” Zeke asks.
Bennie holds up two nets, both woven from metal ropes. “Each of these can hold about six. Twelve total.”
Zeke narrows his eyes at Bennie, then at me, then at the crates. He wants to argue with me more, but knows it’s both pointless and too late.
Four crates of Food. Four crates of Water and four of Medicine. We added crate after crate to each net, until they’re two neat pyramid-shaped stacks, held together with metal nets.
Bennie’s wings sprout from his back again, appearing through the holes he’d cut himself just for them. They flap gracefully, but forcefully enough that it nearly takes me off my feet. Zeke has to hold on to a mountain of heavy boxes to keep from losing his balance.
Instantly, Bennie is off the ground and flying out the window, the ropes of each full net attached to a harness he’s wearing. “I’ll meet you at base! Finish the mission!”
Just like that, he is gone, nothing more than a large black bird flying away.
One minute left.
We have to hurry.
I immediately rush for the vent again. Zeke follows behind me as I crawl in.
My hand hurts, oozing more and more warm, red drops as I climb downward thirteen stories to the second floor. The pain only makes my headache worse. I try not to show it, but Zeke picks up on my small winces as I grip the rims of the vent with my bleeding hand. “If you had that knife, why didn’t you use it to pry the vent open? Would’ve saved you all the trouble, yeah?”
Thankfully, he doesn’t ask about my headache, though he knows I have one, but he knows better than to bring it up. Still, I don’t answer him. My silence tells him I don’t want to answer. It tells him, he already knows why I really just don’t care about bleeding anymore.
I dont care about feeling pain anymore.
Because I've already felt the worst pain there is.