Puzzle Pieces

Chapter Nine

Shadow and I geared up, organizing ourselves for the perilous mission before us. Once we were ready to go, I looked over and asked him; "How do you propose we engage them? We obviously don't want them to catch our tail, and we don't want them to suspect anything."

He smirked, "Technology has changed, even if it was only a measly two years. GUN has been working on, and recently has successfully developed cloaking devices. Not just for the soldiers, but for the road and aircraft vehicles as well." His dark voice was smug; a slight twinkle in his eye could be seen.

"Oh yeah… I forgot they were working on that." I stretched my body. "Not that I needed it. I am all powerful." I bragged, now being the smug one.

"Humph… Don't forget, I am still the Ultimate Life Form." He folded his arms.

Abraham cleared his throat, his arms crossed. How long was he standing there for!? The thought flew into my mind abruptly. "Are you children ready?" He scowled, not amused with our childish dispute.

I cleared my throat a little, "Yes sir." I muttered quietly, feeling like a middle school student who has been sent to the principles office for the first time. Shadow had done the same.

"Good. Now, I have a satellite visual on them, so we will know where they are at all times, unless they go under ground. At this point, it will be faster by plane to catch up to them, and we will have a small, lightweight vehicle in it for when you land. Both have cloaking technology built into them. We already have the aircraft set up, and currently tracking the whereabouts of their vans." He briefed us. "Now, go save those children."

Shadow nodded and grabbed my hand, pulling me along. He knew exactly where to go; quickly finding ourselves at the aircraft, he helped me in then hopped in himself. He took the drivers seat and initiated the take off sequence.

"I didn't know you could fly." I looked out the window of the aircraft.

He sneered, "After all, I am the Ultimate Life Form."

"Down there, those black vans." Shadow motioned to the visual he had on them.

I nodded, "I see them." I glanced around with haste. "Over there," I pointed, "there is a clearing to set this baby down."

He took my direction and gently eased us to the ground. I unlatched the door to our next ride, a black, sleek, motorcycle with a shield raised up over the seat and above the seat. The wheels were missing the metal plating, thus leaving a hole in the circular rubber band. It was not the best "undercover" vehicle I could have asked for, but I did enjoy the look of the bike.

"You're the reason our cover is going to be blown. You requested a motorcycle didn't you?" I grumbled at Shadow, despite my initial liking of the style of bike.

"I won't draw any attention to us." He slipped himself in and helped me into the seat.

"This thing is begging for eyes to be laid upon it!" I motioned to the bike and stroked along the sides of it. "You don't even have to try to get attention by driving like a bad-ass, this does it for you." He chuckled and started up the engine. It was much quieter than I had expected.

"Good thing this is made for speed. If they do notice, they will not escape." The bike burst forward; I instinctively clutched onto Shadow, my fingers digging into him, my knuckles white.

"Just don't crash." I whimpered, the air almost making my voice inaudible. I clicked on my communicator, as well as Shadow's.

I could tell he was smirking as he spoke, "Will do." He seemed to hesitate for a moment, "Promise me, please, that you won't get hurt."

I sighed softly, "You know, that even if I wanted to, I could never truly promise you that on a mission."

"Please." He begged.

I thought for a moment, then obliged. "I promise you, Shadow, that on this mission, I will not get harmed. Not even a quill on my body will receive the tiniest of scratches." The tone of my voice was bordering on sarcastic.

"Next time, make it sound a little more believable." He grunted, setting sights on our targets. I felt his muscles tense, his shoulders stiffened.

I recognised that he began taking this seriously. A tiny flame of fear sparked inside of me triggering my heart to pound against my chest. I took a deep breath and slowly eased it out of me, wishing my worries out. "What about you, Shadow? Are you going to promise me you will make it out okay?"

He relaxed a little, his knuckles regaining a bit of colour in them, "I always make it out okay… and now that you are here, I have all the more reason to make sure I'm okay… for you."

"Love made you soft and gushy." I smiled.

His cheeks turned red, "Shut up." He ordered, before groaning, "I don't need a reminder." I giggled softly, turning my eyes to the black vans ahead.

Stillness washed over me, becoming genuinely calm, my eyes became fixed on my target. My breathing evened out; I'm ready.

It was quite dark out when they pulled down a hidden road. We kept our distance, cautiously following them through the road. It was just big enough to fit their vehicle through, although the branches of the trees did smack and drag along the sides of it. I peeked at the navigation system Shadow was using to find our whereabouts. It was a place in which I was not familiar with; however, it felt as if I have been here before. It screamed at the edges of my mind. Weakness washed over me for a moment, my eyesight and mind becoming hazy, numb.

"Cat!" Shadow called my name, fretting over my sudden condition changes.

It snapped me back to reality just in time to regain my grip on him, saving myself from falling off the bike. My breath caught in my throat for a moment before they returned, only heavier than they originally were. I looked to the ground realizing that Shadow had stopped the momentum of the bike.

"Look at me." His tone turned deadly, cold. I slowly slipped my eyes to his, unwilling to face him. I had no explanation for him, nor was I fully aware of what had happened myself.

"I…" I started, but no words came.

"What's going on?" Each word held need in it, a need for information, a need to know that I would be okay.

I just slowly shook my head. "I don't know. Let's keep going, those kids need us."

He just remained as is for a moment, silence taking over for a few brief moments. "… Just remember you promised, promised, that you would be okay." With that, he built up the bike's momentum once more.

A rock of dread sat deep in the pit of my stomach. I felt myself beginning to shake, the feeling of illness taking over. I began sweating, my breathing hastened, becoming heavier. I swallowed hard, the voices from my dream bickered with one another, the vague images flashed in my mind once more. It was all too fast to grasp, to understand. I felt the soft touch of hands rest on my shoulders.

"Stay here." I heard Shadow say.

All of a sudden his words were nearly forgotten, his image formed into a haze of black also becoming distant and fake in my mind. I seemingly fell backwards, cold metal shocking my senses briefly, only to be consumed in the depths of my own maze once more. The once sporadic thoughts began to align, forming in a clear path that made some sort of sense. A few insignificant memories flooded me, some of the earliest of them: early birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. The more personally important ones began to dawn upon me.

"Who was that hedgehog you were talking to?" I asked, curious about the black and red Mobian whom saved my dad's life.

"His name is Shadow. He works at GUN, like I do." He replied and scratched the side of his short, greying beard.

"Does he do what you do?" I looked back to where the hedgehog had been a few moments ago.

"Not exactly…" He sighed, not really wanting to discuss it.

"But he is good right? He saved you. I thought you said that the Mobian people weren't good people." I looked into my father's eyes. They were red with exhaustion.

"It's not that simple." These words only left more questions than answers in my curious mind. It seemed like he was about to explain what he had meant, but quickly disregarded it. "How about we get you to bed? It's almost nine-thirty, and it's already dark." He picked me up, swinging me over his shoulders.

I held onto his head, each leg resting on either of his shoulders. I whined a little, "Okay…" My lip hanged out, clearly forming a pout. I looked out the window for a brief moment, catching what I thought to have been a glimpse of the Mobian, Shadow, but that glimpse disappeared as fast as it had come. I found my heart pounding, and butterflies flew around my stomach. I remember questioning myself; why?

The snow crunched under my feet; large, fluffy flakes of snow floated to the ground such as a down feather would. I sighed, my breath creating a little cloud instantaneously before it dispersed. A small, narrow clearing came up ahead. I smiled, happy to be out of the densely clustered trees.

Why did Daddy never let me come out in the woods? There is nothing dangerous out here at all! I thought to myself, taking a walk along the narrow clearing.

Suddenly, I heard a loud cracking sound. My instincts jolted through my entire body letting me become aware that nothing good would come of this. Two things fluttered around in my head: Move carefully, or stay still. Not being able to decide fast enough, I ended up staying still, however fate was not in my favour. The ice gave out from underneath me, I felt the shocking cold slip up past my head; I could not breath, I could not move, my heart skipped a couple beats from the fear settling in. The dim light above me started to fade; the dark below had begun devouring me. A silhouette formed from the dim light above me before everything had faded into pure darkness.

I coughed and gasped, my throat burned while the rest of my body was frozen and slow. Once the water from my body was out, I could hoarsely breathe. I looked around some finding myself with a black hedgehog, shivering just as much as I was. He pulled me into his arms before standing, carrying me in a bridal-style fashion. After a few minutes, I realized he was taking me back home.

I thought carefully for the time it took him to reach my home; "You're Shadow right?" I asked, recalling a memory from my earlier childhood.

He just nodded, "You should have never gone into the woods. Not alone your father will be furious."

He kicked open the door and stepped in. He pushed the door shut with his back and sat me down on the living room couch. He found his way to the bathroom and grabbed a couple of towels, one for me, the other for him. I took it and enjoyed what little source of heat it had.

"Go dry yourself and get changed into something dry. I'll start a fire. Come to it when you are ready." His order towards me was gentle, somehow.

I followed his order, going to my room and undressing, drying myself, then changing into dry clothing. I tossed the soaked clothing and winter wear into the hamper then went to our fireplace. I had arrived to a large, warm fire; Shadow was curled up next to it, mostly dry.

I curled up next to him. "Thank you for saving me." He grunted.

I sighed softly, and closed my eyes. I started to nod off and found myself fall against him. His arm just wrapped around me. I found myself flustered as I noticed his muscular form. I forced a normal breath out, and inhaled the next one with great control over it. That same feeling from the following years when I had first discovered him had returned. The butterflies, and increased heart beat- everything was just as it was then, only he was next to me now. I became enthralled in the notion of feelings stirring within. Those feelings, however, did not hold off sleep. Soon enough I was lulled into a warming slumber, along with the weak sensation of a second arm wrapping around me.

The next morning I found myself in my bed feeling perfectly fine. I was not too warm and I was not frozen as I had been. I slowly sat up, just in time for my father to walk in. He sighed in relief, rushing over and embracing me; I slowly returned the hug, waiting for him to scold me. The hug lasted for several minutes before he finally pulled away. He looked upset.

"I thought I told you the forest was dangerous! If Shadow had not of been there I would have lost you." His eyes were on the brink of having tears in them.

"I'm sorry. It was just so pretty outside, and I always wanted to see what it was like there." My innocent words stabbed into him like daggers. He embraced me tightly once more.

"Don't ever do that to me again." He pleaded. I nodded, wrapping my arms around him tightly. "I love you." He whispered.

"I love you too, Daddy." I muttered into him softly.

My father's arm was wrapped around me gently. He had a meeting with Abraham Tower and refused to let me be alone at home for however many hours it could take. He sat me down in a chair not too far from Abraham's office. He pat my head then walked in, closing the door behind him. I watched Abraham shut the blinds to his office. I sighed and stared down at my shoes. They were black and purple; the laces were worn and starting to unravel. I heard some slight 'taps' of shoes hitting the floor. They were approaching.

"Hmm? Oh it's you." I heard Shadow mutter. "Why are you here?" He questioned.

I looked to Abraham's office; "My dad is talking to Abraham. He didn't want to leave me alone for a long period of time."

His slipped his hand to his hip and shifted his weight to one of his legs. "Last time he left you alone, you almost died."

I whined softly, "He won't stop bringing it up whenever I ask for something involving the outdoors, or being left alone."

He stared at me for a while. "Why are you so curious about the outside world? He is right, about it being dangerous for you."

"All I've seen is the inside of my home. He never let me go out and play. I might as well be in a cage, that's all that home is to me. The thought of exploring outside, it lets me break free of that cage. I don't want to be limited, because someone said I couldn't do it. I don't want my own limitations to stop me either. I just want to be free to explore and do as I please." I poured my inner feelings out to him.

"Unfortunately, kid, that will never happen. No matter how much you wish it to be different, you will always have something blocking your path to your desires." He scoffed then walked away. I felt hurt.

I sighed softly, stretching in the early morning light. I looked outside; the trees were a lush, rich green. Summer had finally arrived. The fall that had just passed, I had turned eighteen, and had been bothering my father how I was now an adult and could do whatever I wanted, including outside. Today, I planned to show him how independent and strong I could be.

I grabbed my phone and wallet as I usually did and headed out into the woods. I was lucky that he was out this morning so he could not get in my way. Once I had taken my first step outside, I squinted, finding the sunlight harsher now that I was directly in it. Letting a few minutes go by to let my eyes adjust, I took in deep breaths of fresh air. A bee buzzed by, searching for flowers. Eventually, with slight haste due to the excitement, I slipped into the woods, digging myself deeper into the maze as time ticked onward.

There was a small clearing, trees surrounding it all. It was lit well enough to see everything perfectly, yet it held a certain darkness to it. A couple of Mobians, wolves, were just on the outskirts of the trees. They had clothing on and easily walked on two legs. I don't think I have seen Mobians like these before. I wonder if they are anything like Shadow… They had spotted me, and begun to come towards me; my body said to flee, and so I did. While I was running, I heard something off in the distance. I looked in front of me for a moment; a section of vines sloped down along the ground suspiciously. I slowly walked around the vines, towards where I had heard the sounds. Once I had gotten closer to the source, I could tell that they were voices of people roughly around my age. I soon found them, perceiving the fear and worry on their faces. I had grown uneasy myself from them.

"Look, another one. Another person." A girl whispered; something about her was off making her seem strange to me, as to what made her strange, I was not sure.

A puzzled frown formed along my brow. "What's going on?" I hesitantly asked, wondering I was even in the position to know, let alone question.

"Something bad- very bad. I see it, I see it." She spoke almost hysterical.

I glanced to the other kids, and they just shrugged. One of them came forward and spoke, "She seems to be able to see the future." He clicked his tongue then swirled a finger around his temple, physically saying that she was "coo coo".

I just sighed and shook my head, stepping back, spinning on my heel. Having completely disregarded the fact that there were those suspicious vines not too far from me, I had walked right into them. My foot slipped out from under me along with what little ground there had been. My tailbone had slammed against the rough surface of dirt and rock. A few screams were heard as the other teens were dragged down with me.

"Worse is to come, worse is to come, be weary of those in black, those in black." The wild girl chanted.

"Oh my god, would someone just shut her up already!" Her voice was whiney. A boy in the group just shrugged it off.

"Why did you all come into the woods, here more specifically?" I asked them all.

"None of us really know, we all just felt drawn here." The same male that shrugged off the loony stated.

"Fate, fate, fate." The girl breathed in, shaking slightly, her eyes wide and staring to the sky.

"Please tell me this one took her medication and she will be okay soon." The youngest female asked. She seemed docile.

Some dirt from above fell and dusted my hair. Looking up, I counted five people dressed in black. One female, the rest were male. A dagger made of fear struck my heart, piercing it from one end to the other. "I don't think our schizophrenic friend is crazy anymore…" The others looked up, clearly seeing what I was.

One of the men tossed a net over us. It was large enough to encase all of us at one. He tightened up the net, making it more difficult for us to escape. Two of the five slid down the side of the hole to us and brought it upon themselves to tie us up well so we could not escape. The ones up top helped the others from their group to get us up the hole. Each member took one of us; however, the largest male had ended up taking two, since there were six of us, and five of them. Three females and two males. Come to think of it, that young male hasn't said a word yet.

We were tossed inside a spacious van, with an odd back area. There were seats all around that could fold down, or you could have them up. We were released once we had all been settled down. They left us in there. The young male tried the door; however, it was child-locked. I grumbled lowly.

"If they bang the seats down on us death is certain. We will die, we will die, we will die." The strange one cried. Her words stuck a second dagger of fear straight through me.

For a moment, a twist between reality and the pieces of my mind melded into one. That dream I had, it was becoming clearer, my mind speeding though the sections of it until it reached the end of my dream, the portion I, at the time, could not recall.

"We can't find anything." The gruff, large man called back to the others of his group.

"Fine. We are almost there anyway, as long as they are kept pure, there shouldn't be an issue." The girl spoke. I managed to catch a glimpse of her realizing that one of her eyes had a large bruise around it. Slight swelling was also occurring locally.

The man nodded and closed up the door on us. They continued to drive us to our destination. The word "pure" kept popping up in my head. I wanted to know what it meant, and I more desperately wanted to ignore it, pretend I never heard. No one in this van was talking to one another. Even the crazy one had shut up, but her eyes were dull, filled with a terrible knowledge. In that moment, I was partially glad that I could not see what she sees, and I wished to know even more so I could perhaps prevent what was to come.

I hugged my knees to my torso; my thoughts began to take over my surroundings. Come on Dad, did you manage to teach me anything useful over the years? I questioned myself. You probably didn't, did you? You never wanted me to follow anything in your footsteps. You were so busy trying to protect me from everything, including you, that I never learned anything about life, how to protect myself. Now, when I need those odd skills you probably have, I'm lacking, because of you. I sighed a bit. Perhaps I'm being too harsh…

The van slowed to a stop. The men came back, grabbed the neatest person, and put heavy-duty zip-ties around their wrists. Before they could grab me, I offered my wrists to them, clenching my fists, having them palm down to the ground, side by side. I had remembered watching an instructor at GUN once telling the soldiers how to offer their hands to an enemy so that they could better escape the restraints. The male accepted them as they were and had done the same to me as the one before. The ushered me along with the others; they brought us into an old gothic, satanic looking building that was beginning to crumble away.

A satanic looking pentagram had been drawn out on the floor; other ritualistic symbols had been placed throughout the room. Everything had been prepared for our coming. Terror was on each face of us children. We were all seated in special sections of the symbol. I just so happened to end up being place in the middle. I glanced all around; cloaked people surrounded us, their hoods hid their identities. I positioned my hands so that I could easily slip out of the zip-tie when I needed to.

A chanting began among them, I could not tell what they were saying sue to it being of a different language. The air changed, and almost all the light in the room was stolen. A dark presence mustered among us six in and around the symbol. In every direction shrill screams poured out of each teen except for I. Startled, and afraid, I started to slip off my zip-tie. In the process, right before my eyes, each one of them spontaneously combusted into red and orange flames, their bodies being incinerated; however the shell of their being somehow still held against the demonic fire, allowing their human forms to be seen as a silhouette. The smell of burning flesh and hair was horrid.

The goop of a demon emerged before me from the floor. I slipped my hands out of the extra loose zip-tie and kicked the floor to push myself backwards away from the horrid creature. I was just in time, if I had of been a moment too late it would have grabbed hold of me. My body vibrated with horror. I tried to stand but ended up tripping and falling onto my butt. The half-formed goo of the demon slipped around my leg. For a moment in time, everything seemed to be at a stand still; that moment it touched me, I was connected to it. There was a surge of power, both from the demon and from my own body.

"You will not take this body!" I cried out, my emotions overflowing and spilling out all at once. With the sudden burst of emotion, the power coming from me surged, a bright light brilliantly emitted from my being. A lack of energy quickly ensued, holding me in its grasp firmly. Darkness came, the unknown following.

I opened my eyes to soldiers.

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