Chapter 40: Saving the Enemy
2 weeks later
“You’re a good person, Alyssa, a very good person,” Desmond, a good man, stands up from his couch in his privately owned community centre while I put on purple lipstick, “But you don’t have to do this.”
“I do,” I whisper and pucker my lips in the cracked communal mirror to see if the colour has spread evenly. It has and while I think too hard, my nail cracks the plastic lipstick case and I sigh while handing it back to the kind woman who let me borrow it, “I’m sorry,” I murmur to Pauline, frowning apologetically.
“It’s okay, I’ll tape it up,” Pauline happily takes it from me with a comforting smile.
“Okay, girl,” through the reflection, Desmond clasps his hands, exhales sharply and then pumps his fist into the air, “We’re nearly ready to do this! I’ll make sure the Transpendiser is set for your location replacement.”
I level out my DNA leotard as I spin to face the tall and gracious man with a stubble a few days too old, only because he worked so hard on his campaigning to become FC mayor. His smile is genuine, his eyes so real and full of passion.
Like I said. He was a good man.
A very good man.
“The girls are asleep in the back room?” I motion my eyes over the brown brick communal area, full of couches, televisions and tennis tables for the mutants he took in who couldn’t afford shelter. The only two residing in the lounge now are napping on two couches, “Dez...did you give my girls the brownies and... and the sleeping pills... successfully?”
“Stop right there,” Desmond raises his hand, his eyes worried about my tone, “Don’t put guilt on your shoulders, Alyssa. You’re doing the right thing. They’re not safe attending the New World Congregation, especially after the number of death threats they’ve received from... you know who.”
“I know how to handle them,” I hiss my reply as my heart quickly fills with rage.
I wasn’t sure if being an Ultima was just about intelligence, but if it also meant my ability to feel heightened emotions was true, I could guarantee my rage just thinking about them, is something beyond words.
“I have no doubt in you, what so ever, Alyssa. Pauline and I have seen nothing but passion and a genius mind within you. Not only that but your heart... your heart is good, and you know you want to save the world... in the right way,” Desmond comes up to me and holds out his hand, looking for a handshake.
I used to refuse him these past two weeks, but he insisted that I find trust in my own ability to hold back and not to hurt him or others. So, I learnt to give him confident handshakes without my nails slicing his skin open to the bone.
I take his warm hand now, shaking it while he sends me a huge vote of confidence with his warm brown gaze, before glancing to Pauline, his best assistant in maintaining the communal lounge, kitchen, beds and bathrooms.
“Pauline,” he nods to her, “We did well. This will be a good step forward,” he then lets my hand go and adds, “Wow, Alyssa, you’re one brave girl. Follow me, we have the Transpendiser set up in the back room.”
“Sure thing,” I nod and follow him, wearing long socks with my leotard. I wanted to be as quiet as possible when I went to this place... a place that was taking me half way around the world.
I enter a small lab room, like a narrow library with some books and computers. At the end, behind a curtain, is a machine like a full body scanner.
The Transpendiser could teleport you to it’s partnering machine. There was only one other in existence and it was on the other side of the world.
In Atlantis within a closed museum called the EBME; the Everlasting Breadth of Mankind’s Endeavours.
Yep, in it’s completely innocently worded way... it still managed to sound creepy.
But, this museum was meant to be untouched and abandoned, which was the perfect place for the New World to congregate to discuss world wide matters in private with the most esteemed and trusted members from Frankincense City.
Information that Desmond gathered through his associates on the streets, suggested that only three people from FC were attending and had free plane tickets. Lumen, surprisingly, was one of them. Freesia was also invited. She was a popular politician in FC who loved vaccines and seeped a pleasant flowery odour at will... that happened to have the effect of influencing those around her, to agree with her. And last but not least, a shipment carrier called Porky; he owned a lot of boats and the FC port. In other words, he delivered the shipments of vaccines to FC.
“Turn it on, Larry,” Desmond speaks to the teenage boy tinkering with the controls.
“Just triple checking for errors,” Larry murmurs and hits a few more buttons, waits a few more seconds, and then hits the big start up button, “Ready for business. That’ll be two-thousand dollars, madame,” Larry gives me a wink and I’m feeling too serious to smile back, “O-oh, sorry if I offended you,” he quickly murmurs before he stands up off his seat and says, “G-good luck, Alyssa, um,” he opens his arms, attempting to come forward and hug me good luck and goodbye.
One confused look from me and he stands back, his freckled cheeks blushing as he drops his arms by his sides.
“I’m sorry, Larry, I’m just focusing on the mission,” I try to reassure him and he nods quickly.
“Sure,” Larry shrugs, like it’s no big deal while Desmond turns to me with bright eyes.
“Remember the reasons behind my guidance,” Desmond reminds me for the thousandth time as he had all week since we concocted this plan, “We believe STRIKE have found a way there, possibly through a third Transpendiser. Reuben’s father, Sir Greg and Vana’s mother, Miss Grace, are the Presidents of the New Worlds. Without your intervention they will be assassinated... and you need to stop that from happening. Gain their trust. Remember, hating STRIKE is not hating the rest of us. The leaders of the New Worlds know the soldiers are seperate from the inhabitants of FC. We need to give the Presidents reasons to start forming more alliances with us. Before the next vaccine shipment, before they start killing us on the inside. They hate mutants, Alyssa, to them, we’re demons, scum, unnatural of this Earth. But we need to find a way to connect on better ground. Violence and death; they’re not the answer. This may be a small step, what you’re doing, but it may also be a massive one. Gain the President’s trust... and please... stay safe.”
“I told you. I know how to handle any issues,” I don’t look at Larry or Desmond as my eyes are focused on the Transpendiser.
The curved metal sides beep and light shines along the rim. The circular platform is where I need to go.
I don’t hesitate.
I step forward.
I enter the Transpendiser.
I split a part and I come back together...
...all the way on the other side of the world.
The Everlasting Breadth of Mankind’s Endeavours is a broken place with dim lights and a funny hum to the air. My eyes scan the empty storage room that reminded me of the creepy lab room in DynaPrism’s section of the Preventative Care buildings. Blue lights on white walls and a slippery surface for my socks.
At least the socks would be silent.
I take a step onto the flooring and I can smell the stale air. This place was abandoned a long long time ago.
I take a few steps forward, and I feel a static shock run up through my sock.
I whirl so fast I nearly slip right over, but there is no one there.
I huff out a breath and try to calm my nerves, but even though my eyes show me the coast is clear, my spine still tingles with the presence of invisible eyes and the close proximity of inevitable danger.
I tell myself I would survive like last time.
I briefly remember how Dale and I were meant to attend this, invited by Lumen when Coal spoke to us through the phone.
However, I try to focus on something more important. STRIKE had tried to kill me once before. I know it was slow throws of knives and gun shots, one by one... but I had deflected them when my survival genes kicked in and showed me how to defend myself against them.
So, I would harness that feeling once more.
I would use it to stop them if I encountered them, but if all went smoothly, I would simply warn the New World Congregation and be on my way home before STRIKE... struck.
Plus, I could guarantee my survival because I think Vana liked me, sort of, and Reuben bought me as a whore - so he certainly wouldn’t want me dead. That would be a waste of money. As for the Presidents, Miss Grace and Sir Greg... I wasn’t sure how they’d react to my presence.
There was only one way to find out.
I exit the room, through a door that slides up automatically.
I then look up and down the blue lit corridors of some back-stage area of the museum. Some doors were jarred open and showed rooms full of exotic items from the Old World. Relics, artefacts, art works and old electronics... most of what we still used in FC.
I find a bright elevator and I step in and press for the top floor.
Desmond’s information sources said the secret meeting place in the EBME museum, had the greatest sights ever to be seen, soaring over all of Atlantis from the very outskirts of the city. I was excited to see it.
I notice as the modern and spacious elevator rises silently, that there are breaks in the dust on the metal floor. Multiple feet. Either New World men and women... or four men I had been openly hating for two long weeks.
But, I doubt STRIKE would arrive early.
They were more likely to strike towards the end, when everyone least suspected it.
I had explicitly expressed my hate of STRIKE to my Brownie Squad, multiple times throughout the day, every day, for the last two weeks.
I also told Desmond everything. Well, not everything. But enough for him to know, that once I saw STRIKE kill the mother and two daughters, I was done for life with the beasts. The Super Soldiers were of no mercy, no real plan and no real purpose in FC, other than a big red button that they protected.
But, the big red button, under their hand, didn’t mean they were responsible for it.
Just because they found it first, didn’t mean it was theirs.
Anyone who had their hand on that metaphorical button for all those missiles and nuclear warheads, would be the one responsible. It didn’t have to be STRIKE. Desmond helped me realise that.
Now, the elevator silently slows and stops on a bright white and wide corridor with two open arches that led to a sweetly smelling and very loud party area. I could hear banter, laughter and New World accents. I also hear Lumen, laughing loudly to someone about something sick. I know it’s sick because it’s an evil laugh only he’d do to match something despicably distasteful.
I hear footsteps echo through the room ahead that I can’t see just yet and I decide if I don’t move fast, someone might wander into the corridor and see me.
I skid forward on my socks and slide into the first room I see.
The door slides open and a dark storage room full of boxes of cookies and chocolate and other fine sweets, surround me.
I stand still while I glance around the mouth watering confectionary and just how much there is. This storage room went back at least fifty feet and was packed to the brim on the shelves. I quickly think of my plan, in how to approach the party... to warn them... without completely putting myself at a disadvantage first.
I just wished I could get a good view of the scene before my big entrance. I didn’t want to walk in blind. My Ultima senses did not want to walk into that area without any idea of the surroundings or how many people there were.
My eyes scan the ceiling of the storage room and I see a metal hatch.
I gather some full boxes and after creating a stepping tower, I climb to the ceiling hatch carefully and open it up.
My eyes widen as I see even more storage in the rooftop of this museum with an apparent view I was yet to see. And considering how high that elevator took me, I think I was at least fifty levels above the ground.
As I walk through the attic I see what I hoped to find. Ceiling decor, cheaply inserted. I get down on my hands and knees and crawl to the peep holes the decor provided to the scene below.
The voices get louder and clearer, and then I glance down to whatever I can see.
I glance the end of a white bar with servers giving Reuben and Vana drinks as they clink glasses and laugh together.
And then across from the bar are two long white leather couches that face one another, filled with men and women of importance. At least twenty New World people and three of FC; Lumen, Freesia and Porky.
“How funny,” one New World lady with bright teeth and pink hair grins as she looks over her friends, “They act like they are gods, but they come from this... it’s showing of what they are... oh my... half man, half beast, what a day this has been. Thank you for enlightening us, Lumen.”
“My pleasure, and well, my son is not half leopard, it’s only a slither of his DNA,” I realise this whole conversation and meeting must be solely about STRIKE. Which isn’t surprising, since they were the talk of the town... ahem... world.
But when my eyes slide to the wall at the end, I see the things everyone is discussing.
It takes me a moment to work out what I’m staring at.
I-it can’t be... it couldn’t... possibly...
I crawl quickly backwards, a lump rising to my throat.
My anger for STRIKE is suddenly very confused with a passionate empathy.
I had to warn them, beasts or not... if they saw what I just saw...
I couldn’t let them, I couldn’t let anyone see such a horrible sight.
I feel numb myself, as I slowly turn on my stomach and put my feet down through the hatch first. However, I’m so deep in my withdrawn and terrified thoughts, I don’t check first for a possible breach in the storage area.
I simply slide down, expecting my socked feet to hit the first box.
It doesn’t and I’ve slid out so fast, I fall right out.
I gasp and land on my butt... and let me tell you, from that distance... it hurt like hell!
I almost feel winded even though my butt took most of the impact as my socks just slipped on the metal flooring, providing me with no traction.
I glance around to see my boxes moved back into the shelves to clear the floor.
The room is seemingly empty except for the four eyes glowing in each corner of the room... and the familiar black suits... and the familiar beastly smell of danger, death, violence and liquor.
And then... those purple eyes... they catch me and delete all and any remaining rage from my chest.
“Stop,” I raise my hand when I see Dale nod to the rest of his team and I turn to scramble to my feet... but a lightening bolt blinds my vision, hits my body and has me jerking on the floor, my teeth rattling from the force of the charge. I try to speak but no words come out.
Silent beasts, none of them smiling, haul me up and someone takes off a belt, I hear it as my eyes close in pain.
But, I think it’s Serge.
I can’t see because when I open my eyes, my gaze is pointed down while I still shake from the charge, unable to speak.
A belt is wrapped around my arms and middle and securely tightened at the back, before I’m shoved back against the wall at the back of the storage area to sit on my butt.
I see three pairs of boots step gracefully backwards while another pair come sliding forward.
Knees bend and I feel a cruel hand grip my chin too tight as Dale lifts my head and his eyes pierce my soul.
“One word, kitten, and you’re dead,” Dale doesn’t have to say it twice. He stands up and they walk off to the door while I try to get my tongue working.
They are too quick.
They leave through the sliding door.
Hateful gazes of betrayal slide over me from all of them.
And still, I had no time to warn them.
The New World Congregation was expecting them.
That’s why Lumen brought his specimens over for show.
The images flash through my mind, forever burned there because they were so disturbing.
Four dead mothers, pumped full of formaldehyde and pinned to the wall in a display.
One was a panther, a big cat, cut open, eyes removed.
STRIKE had no idea what they were about to face.
And I had a feeling, neither did I.