Chapter 34: Villains vs Heroes
“I’m going to shoot him in the head,” Dale is more than straight to the point. He is both blunt and crude. I instantly pull away to witness the emotionless cool and icy state of his purple tyrian eyes. He doesn’t blink, nor does he seem to regret his statement as he gages my reaction.
Besides the hand on my waist, his other hand clamped around my wrist had eventually slipped through my too-willing fingers. So, our hands are clasped at this stage. But now, I curl my fingers. I dig my tougher than diamond nails into the back of his hand until I do manage to pierce his skin, at least after some incredible force from me. Dale let’s me go, unfazed by the blood on the back of his hand as he inspects it with a curious brow after he has released me.
I shake my head, not smiling as I walk away from him and not sure why he sounded so sincere about killing his adopted son.
Or, why he is letting me walk away so easily. That certainly wasn’t like Dale.
I make my way to the back of the slightly raised platform above the dance floor and I watch as Dale happily takes the opportunity to walk through the crowd, assessing all the threats. I, well, I’m now assessing him as the real threat and possibly the only threat here.
If he meant what he said, I couldn’t be near him. I couldn’t understand why... or how... or even the meaning behind his plan.
What’s worse is he failed to explain it to me.
My logic suggested there was no way he’d kill Casey. But my logic also figured that he would. And Casey might survive. But was that my heart or my logic on that last part? No one could survive a bullet through the brain.
I lean against a concrete pillar near some alcohol and I watch as Dale is eventually approached by a few braver Government officials, who dare to speak a few words to him. He happily answers with his arrogant smile. It’s fair to say, most of the people he speaks to, eventually scowl and move off quickly. Dale undoubtably seems to enjoy their discomfort.
“Hey, murderer,” I jerk at the familiar voice and I turn to see I’ve been intercepted by Coal with Dash and Jackle behind her. Unbelievably, Dash is on crutches while Jackle the jelly is eating jelly. And Coal... well... she is simply dressed in a coal coloured dress, her hair tightly pulled back in a bun as she gazes over me with her smokey, judging eyes, “You finally getting sick of your psychopath’s company?” Coal asks, smirking, “But then again, like minds attract like minds. Perhaps you’re crazy too.”
“Let’s not talk about me,” I growl and cross my arms over my chest as I raise my chin to glare down Jackle and Coal, the ones with the attitude. Dash was just a kid in middle school. 16 or so I was sure. He... well... he didn’t just look like he didn’t want to talk to me. He looked like he didn’t want to be here at all, “Who’s going to replace James the Brains and Kyle the Child in your heroic Five?”
“We’ve got one spot planned for someone special. As for the fourth, we’ve been conducting try outs,” Coal explains, vaguely.
“I’m curious, though, who do you have lined up?” I ask, “Hopefully someone with a bit of class, this time round.”
“The kid you brought with you,” Coal smiles widely, “I believe he goes by the name... Casey?”
“What kid -?” I pretend to play dumb, until Casey pops up behind me, jumping into view.
“This kid,” Casey turns to me with a critical look before showing a bright smile for Coal. I try not to roll my eyes as he stares her down.
“How would you like to be a part of the Five Reds?” Coal asks, fearless and full of great pride as she speaks of her workplace. Obviously she had been upgraded back to her status in the main Five Reds squad... and HQ had probably assigned another poor girl the task of retrieving the ring.
“Oh, um...” Casey pretends to think for a moment, “Do you even know what the Five Reds stands for?” Casey waits for them to reply but Coal just looks confused.
“It’s just a fancy name so we have something to be remembered by,” Jackle snaps out, annoyed, “What the fuck do you think you know about anything, kid?”
“More than you, clearly,” Casey happily keeps his head held high as he shoots out the knowledge they don’t know, ”Remember the righteousness and rescue and be ready and be ruthless when needed,” Casey quotes the verbs starting with R while counting them off on his fingers, “That’s what you stand for. Five R’s. Remember. Righteousness. Rescue. Ready. Ruthless.”
“So the kid has an imagination,” Jackle shrugs while he growls at Coal, “So, what? What’s so impressive about that?”
However, Coal looks a little shaken.
“I’ve heard that before,” Coal murmurs, “Katie recited that when she was sleep talking one night.”
At this point the music is quietening down and I see someone approaching the podium for the first speech.
“Excuse me, but I have places to be and people to murder,” my tone drips with sarcasm as I walk forward and link my arm through Casey’s as I decide to keep him close to me if I can manage it. However, as I walk past Coal I also murmur, “Oh, and Katie isn’t dead, either.”
Coal pauses with my admission, but as I walk swiftly past, she can’t spin and confront me as she wishes... because silence soon descends upon the hall.
There’s a blonde and striking male with grey eyes standing before the podium with glittering, futuristic clothes. New World attire.
“My name is Reuben Simeon of Avalon. I am Avalon’s President’s only son,” Reuben speaks formally and clearly while I stand with Casey by some railings to watch the speech. I hope he will be safe with me.
I can see Vana standing close to the podium, watching Reuben like he’s her greatest fantasy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were... betrothed or something. What better way to further unite the two New Worlds against Frankincense City.
I also spot Dale as he stands on the opposite side of the ball room, watching me with hooded eyes. I grab Casey closer to me and he looks disgusted as I put an arm around his shoulder and hold him closely and protectively. Dale just shakes his head, rolling his eyes.
That was not funny.
At least I was actually trying to protect Casey’s head from being blown apart.
“Most of you know me already,” Reuben continues his speech after a considerable pause where soft claps rise to meet him in respect of his introduction and for his impending speech, “Avalon and Atlantis are more than happy to initiate further ties with FC. However, the tension between ties is real and everyone knows of it’s existence. It is simply apart of the way the world is. Powers collide. Leaders collide. In the end we usually have two resolutions. War. Or peace. Our forces and laws have held peace in FC for a hundred years, yet sometimes... we hear rumours... that the New Worlds of Avalon or Atlantis have ulterior motives besides peace. With the Gifted people of FC, often the words hero and villain often find the way to our ears in the New Worlds. So, I thought I’d talk about those definitions. First off; Villain. Someone of evil intentions, aiming to achieve ultimately evil motives. Then we have; Hero. A person who is admired for their bravery, great achievements, noble qualities and good intentions. Let us focus upon these two major differences. Evil intentions and good intentions. Some philosophers suggest there is a grey area and that things aren’t black and white. But perhaps the world is either War or Peace. Good or Evil. I’m personally fed up with hearing new rumours that the New World has evil intentions for FC and it’s inhabitants. We are all human. We are all alive. We all deserve life.”
Everyone claps at this except Dale, Casey and I.
This, unfortunately, brings the direct attention of Reuben himself.
“You,” Reuben speaks after the clapping quietens down. He nods to me, “You’re a beautiful woman. Yet you do not applause my reassurance of peace and good intentions. Do you not agree with my speech? I wish to know your thoughts. Would you like to speak on the podium? This ball is about unity. A gathering of important figures who will influence this world’s future. What is your part?”
Casey grins and smacks my arm, eager for me to talk. However, I do not budge. But I do wish to ask a few questions from where I am.
“I’d rather you answer this, Reuben,” as I speak out, I know exactly what I want to ask, “What do you know of the Gang of Shadows?”
“Everything,” Reuben seems more than happy to answer as he speaks almost as soon as the question has left my lips, “Misfits. Miscreants. Rogue soldiers. Failures. Instigators of mayhem.”
“And what is the definition of a Misfit to you, if I may ask?” I question him politely and again he seems happy to answer.
“A Misfit is simple. Misfits are those who wish not to unite, but to delve in devision. Do you have anymore questions?” Reuben asks me with a smirk, “Something... perhaps... more difficult to answer.”
“Why were the Gang of Shadows created? They are super soldiers,” I ask him, “Why were super soldiers created after the law of the New World was enforced in FC... the law that supposedly keeps peace, order... control...?”
“It was a rogue operation, my dear, it was not approved,” Reuben dismisses my question but I am not done.
“I’m afraid that doesn’t answer my question...” I speak and glance at Dale, only to see him relaxing, watching me like I’m playing into a trap, yet he seems amused at my attempt to out-debate Reuben. But it wasn’t an attempt. If I was an Ultimate, I would outwit him. It was simply a matter of time.
“Some humans endeavour for more, when more isn’t necessary,” Reuben can’t help but slip a gaze to Lumen, who is standing at the bottom of the stage with more of his superior friends. But it is simply a slip, before Reuben looks to me again.
“That still does not answer my question,” with my repeated words now thricely spoken, Casey snorts with amusement as I push Reuben’s patience and even the crowd now turn to look at me as if I’m being rude.
“Perhaps you should rephrase your question, then, dear,” Reuben doesn’t hide his condescension. Perhaps he thought he was just speaking to a typically dumb and pretty girl.
“What purpose do super soldiers have, in this world?” I ask, using a purposefully dumb-downed tone and wide innocent eyes. When I glance at Dale he is thoroughly amused and can’t wait for Reuben’s response.
“Well, I guess, you could say they are weapons. Used to protect people in the event of an emergency. But since there is no emergency, their is no real purpose besides experimentation. Do you see, now, what I am trying to say?” Reuben smirks as I am for a moment speechless. But not because I am blown away by his wisdom... but by something I’m considering saying next.
And I do choose to say it.
If Dale was correct and we were on a hit list tonight, I may as well expose the truth sooner.
“What would you say if I told you there are three Ultimates in this room right now? Do they really have no purpose? No use? No say? No place?” I ask, out right. I don’t expect him to be so calm in the face of this admission, however.
“We are all aware of Dale’s presence, your place by his side and the child’s future,” Reuben speaks and purses his lips, as if he feels sorry for me.
“The child’s future?” I ask for further clarification.
“In the hands of good people with good intentions,” at Reuben’s quick witted words, a round of applause soon follows while Casey just gawks in utter disgust, “...any other questions before we resume with tonight’s aim, to achieve our focus of the peace filled future? You will find it, highly liberating, Alyssa.”
There it was. The first hint of trouble at the mention of my name that he should not know.
“I’m sorry, son,” this time, it’s not Reuben or myself speaking. Lumen heads out of the crowd and jumps up to stand next to Reuben at the same time that Casey ′eeps′ when a man dressed in black soldier gear, grabs the kid by the neck and starts to push him forward, away from me. I step forward but don’t get far as a gloved hand rests on my shoulder next. I turn and see another soldier holding me steady while silent swat men come filtering in through the entrance. When I turn to Dale, I see him giving me a look that said ‘I told you so’. Okay, so he was right this whole time. Lumen takes the mic from Reuben, who steps back with an irritated look on his face. It was fair to say, Lumen was a respected but controversial and probably secretly hated character amongst the men and women of this ball. Lumen now looks at Dale, smiling with no real warmth as he catches his gaze, “Your time has come to an end. Today. You will die. And so will the rest of your squad; STRIKE.”
“What of my kitten?” Dale asks, jumping off the slightly raised platform before the soldiers can put a hand on his shoulders. Dale nods to me while Lumen smiles brightly.
“Better uses for her alive then dead,” Lumen explains, sympathetically, “She is a designed whore, Reuben has paid good money to keep her in Avalon.”
Ew! I glance at Reuben and he tries to smile charmingly at me as he nods, while Casey is dragged right up to Lumen’s side.
“What of Casey?” Dale asks, stepping forward into the crowd as the other ball-goers, run away from his menacing, too tall figure with now slitted leopard eyes.
“A greater beginning awaits dear Casey,” Lumen pats Casey on the shoulder but Casey just hits Lumen’s hand away in revulsion.
“Argh!” Casey outrightly exclaims his disgust even further to which effect, makes the people gently laugh in the tension.
“And what of my squad?” Dale asks, curious when Lumen raises his hand to stop the soldiers approaching and grabbing a hold of Dale.
“Detained on their way here,” Lumen explains, thoughtfully, “Your time has come to surrender, Dale. Get down on your knees and it’ll be a simple bullet to the brain. Your use is no longer needed now that Casey is returned.”
“I’m his adopted father so I’d like to say some last words, if you will allow it, professor,” Dale couldn’t sound anymore insincere and people look on in disgust and fear while Lumen shrugs.
“Go ahead, it’s all over anyway. What will a few words do to change things?” Lumen shrugs and stands aside, grabbing Casey’s shoulder and pulling him in front of the podium to look on at Dale, while the soldiers raise their guns behind him, to aim at Dale’s head.
“Dad,” Casey growls at Dale, his eyes beginning to look desperate after the guns are now trained on his father. But Dale simply holds Casey’s gaze and doesn’t let go.
“Give me a hug goodbye, kid,” Dale holds out his arms and Lumen rolls his eyes and pushes Casey forward.
Casey runs off the stage to Dale and wraps his arms around his father’s middle, while I feel Reuben still eyeing me... and eventually walking through the crowd slowly... to come get me no doubt.
This was so not the time, as everyone except the New World prince of Avalon - even if he wasn’t an actual prince he acted like one - watches by as the execution is about to unfold.
Dale grabs Casey tight, but only for a moment before Dale abruptly swings him around and reaches into his suit, pulling out a gun. He flicks off the safety switch and presses the barrel firmly to Casey’s temple. Casey gasps, completely shaken by the sudden move as Dale holds him tightly back against him in front of the soldiers.
Everyone in the room gawks or squeaks in fright. I also audibly hear Casey swear a few curse words generously. The main ones are ‘fuck’ ‘shit’ and ‘holy crap’.
“Funny thing, evolution,” Dale’s voice carries, raw, deep and just like that of a predator who wanted to rule the animal kingdom, as he once told me. His actions and words have even stopped Reuben’s progress to me, but that is the least of my concerns. I feel myself going numb with expectations. Expectations that I know will not be met.
“Dale, please, don’t do this,” Lumen speaks quietly from the podium while Dale just smirks and shakes his head.
“Professor, you raped my mother, injected her over and over, then finally murdered her on a lab table and you pinned her up on a wall like a trophy... you didn’t even bury or burn her. That’s a kind of crazy you only see once in a millenium. Then you created me. I’m holding a gun to a child’s head. I’m your son so I’m simply following your lead, Lumen. The kid’s better off dead anyway and once I put him out of his misery... the only Ultimate you really need to save the world... is me.”
“Drop your guns,” Lumen yells at the soldiers, “Put them down.”
The soldiers do so, but Dale doesn’t put down his weapon.
“Dad, what the hell?” Casey starts to cry, looking up and meeting Dale’s gaze. Dale looks down, cold, icy and in control. That look he gives Casey scares me to the bone.
It’s a type of terror I’ve never felt before, looking into the eyes of a complete psychopath with no emotion present in his gaze.
“I’d love to say I’m sorry, kid,” Dale shakes his head, “But I’m not.” I almost collapse when I hear the gun shot.
People scream simultaneously and I see a streak of blood on the polished concrete.
Right before the lights all explode.
And the ballroom is enveloped in darkness.
I can still hear screaming, which is abruptly interrupted by lightening. Not just a burst, but a storm of electricity firing around the circumference of the crowd, targeting the armed soldiers. The soldier assigned to me falls to a quick face plant while my eyes focus on Casey’s limp and dropped body on the floor. What I witness is only like a photograph as the lightening quickly disappears as fast as it lit up the room.
And then we are enveloped in darkness again.
I gasp in a breath or two, standing completely still as I try to work out what it is I need to do. A hand clasps my shoulder and I’m about to scream before a hand also slams across my mouth... and the arm against the side of my head, touching my hair, is not cut. It must be Dale and I struggle widely against the him... until a voice hits my ear.
And it’s a voice I do not know.
“They’re animals, Alyssa,” the dark voice is older, huskier and pained, “Animals. He killed a child. He’s not a mastermind, he’s a psychopath and a megalomanic. He only cares for power and nothing else. It is his design, Alyssa. STRIKE are weapons of destruction and never ending lust. Get away from the animals before they kill you, too.”
I feel the rush of air as bodies run and women and men scream for the exits in the pitch black. But as a door is slammed open and some dim light floods in from the street lights beyond, the grip on me is gone as I spin and I see no one.
Around me I see bodies of soldiers collapsed, out cold or dead, and I see Dale picking up Casey and throwing him over his shoulder.
Almost everyone has left the Freeman Complex, while I remain standing, numb, watching Dale haul ass towards the exit. I kick off my heels, pick up a gun off the soldier behind me and I run at Dale. I hold the rifle high and scream at him, “Don’t take another fucking step!” I watch with satisfaction as Dale halts and turns to face me, his ‘beloved’ son still slung over his shoulder.
“Listen to me, kitten,” Dale warns me, low, but he is interrupted by the entry of three figures in the entrance. I turn... and it is not STRIKE as I expect.
It is the Brownie Squad.
“Alyssa!” Blue calls out from the front and I hold up a hand so they stay.
“When I say now, you’re going to knock him out,” I speak amongst the fresh silence as the last officials scramble for safety out the door, “Drop Casey, Dale, and stand still, or I’ll shoot you myself.”
“He’s not dead,” Dale speaks once more, while narrowing his eyes down at me. He’s in shock. I don’t think he can quite believe I’m holding a gun at him. But that is the very reason I don’t believe him. That, and he fucking shot a child.
“He looks pretty dead to me,” I snap, “So. Put. Him. Down.”
“You’re overreacting, doll,” Dale doesn’t put Casey down but comes forward to grab my gun. However, I point it slightly to the side and shoot to show him I mean business. The bullet flies past his ear.
Dale drops his hand and tilts his head, truly curious as to what I’ll do now.
“Even if he was alive,” I murmur, quietly, ”Even if he heals. Even if he is perfectly fine. You terrified him, you shot him in the head... and he is 9 years old. Do you understand why that’s fucked up?"
“See, now you’re sounding like a mother,” Dale chooses this moment to tease me as his purple slitted eyes glint in the dim light, just like a big cat, “Perhaps that’s why the first super soldiers were male; we don’t play on emotion as much as you. Now, you need to calm down. Casey has Hyper Regeneration. I did Casey the biggest favour in the world. They’re all going to think he’s dead. Put the gun down.”
“You’ll listen to our Ultima,” Blue stalks forward with Strawberry and Raven behind her, still dressed in their revealing white lab outfits, “Or we’ll make you... Ultima,” she says this last part to Dale.
“You can’t call us both Ultima,” I explain to Blue while I continue to hold the gun at Dale, “It’s not good english.”
...what sounds like a miracle...
...touches my offended ears.
“...holy fuck... s-shit...” I drop my gun to my side in an instant, holding a hand up to Blue. Tears spring to my eyes as I hear and then see Casey struggle on Dale’s shoulder. But only slightly and quietly, “...fuck me... fuck this... argh... fuck...”
Casey was definitely alive and himself.
“Forget it,” I swipe a hand at my Brownie Squad to back down on the aggression and they look at me confused as I can’t contain my grin, “He’s alive,” I state, pursing my lips as tears leak out of my eyes, “He actually... survived.”
Casey groans and just stays on Dale’s shoulder, clearly in recovery with his Hyper Regeneration while Dale now tilts his head and just glares down at me with pure arrogance, now that he is clearly right. And I am clearly wrong.
I quickly narrow my eyes and my smile drops from my face.
“You’ve slowed me down, doll,” Dale growls, simply, “You doubted me. You attempted to give me orders. You pointed a gun at my face. And now you expect forgiveness, I bet.”
“I have emotions-” I explain.
“I don’t give a fuck, kitten,” Dale cuts me off in an instant, his purple eyes unblinking as he glares me down.
“What are you going to do about it?” I ask, point blank. Casey groans again and Dale looks down at his struggling kid.
“Play dead, Casey,” Dale gets a groaned ‘yes, sir’ from Casey in return and a light hysterical chuckle from the kid too, before Dale focuses back on me, “We’re all going to free my men from the confines they’re in at the moment, if they haven’t already escaped. Then we’re going home. And then we’ll have some real fun... kitten. Do you understand?”
“No, I don’t actually,” I snap back, defensive in the light of his sudden threat.
Dale nods at the girls to move off and they shrug and turn, leaving... and I feel betrayed.
I glance at Dale and I glare at him. What the actual fuck?
“They don’t feel like you so they think you’re being unreasonable,” Dale explains, “That’s why they listened to me, they saw my reason as another Ultima who’s thinking straight; with the fact that we need to get out of here ASAP. We were brought up in the same rigid and hyper controlled environment. We have a mutual understanding, doll,” ...yeah, that fancy ‘mutual understanding’ was probably just the promise of unlimited access to brownies... “Now move, kitten, we don’t have all night.”
“You’re very cold, sometimes, Dale,” I accuse him anyway as I turn as does he to leave, and I make sure to leave the gun behind, “...and... if you may explain... what did you mean by... fun?” I ask because I can’t help but want to clarify his intentions.
I mean, I already knew they were bad intentions.
The best kind.
But I wanted to hear him say it anyway to confirm, just in case.
“Oh, isn’t it obvious, ‘Ultima’ ?” Dale asks me mockingly, rubbing the fact in further that I fucked up, which was a disgrace to my highly intelligent ‘design’... but to be fair to myself, I wasn’t brought up like them, in their environment, so I had a different kind of ‘Ultimate’ take on things.
“No, I don’t think it’s obvious... so please explain further?” I murmur this to the King of Shadows, urging him to explain in greater detail.
“You’re a bad kitten, Alyssa. You just want to hear me say it,” Dale smirks as he realises this, but his irritated expression soon comes back into play as he obliges all too willingly, “When we get back, I’m going to do more than just teach you a lesson, kitten. You’re getting punished... yes, with pleasure. And you won’t necessarily enjoy all of it. But that’s the point and I don’t really care if you scream... or whine... or beg. It’s about time I started teaching you some manners on how to behave. I’ll be having my way with you, doll, now. Always. If you don’t understand yet... you will very soon.”
Bad intentions, indeed.