Chapter 42: Caged by Beasts
When Blue teleports us all back to the bunker, I don’t expect to be standing in a near to pitch black space with little to no light flickering from one luminescent bulb. I see a spark that illuminates S.P.A.N.K.Y... which I never recognised to be an acronym. It’s the first thing my eyes adjust to. It’s an acronym no one in FC had ever been enlightened about in terms of the meaning behind it’s label.
I had never thought deeply into the term Spanky Dust.
Now, my eyes take in the words that make up the lethal gas, with keen interest.
As soon as I blink a few more times, the rest of my body feels centred after being literally transported half way around the world in a moment and a burst of power. It’s only then that I realise why the room is almost pitch black. The single light left flickering is the only thing to survive Blue’s drain of the electricity to power her teleporting ability.
I see my girls scramble back to stand behind me on the smooth and polished concrete flooring while STRIKE gather their senses and also round together, a few feet in front of us.
All move, except for one man who stands unfazed and calm with distinct tyrian purple eyes, turned to slits. He is perfectly equipped for this kind of minimal lighting.
“Defences are offline,” Dale snarls this furiously back to his team as the flicker of light only momentarily shows their positions and their expressions.
Serge has his eyes trained on me, Jose is eyeing off the girls while Ace glances between Dale and I, awaiting instructions. They all look like they’ve grown out their hair a bit and they seem mangier. A little... sad? I can only assume being forced to stare at all your dead mother’s bodies, preserved and hung up for display, took a toll, even on beasts.
I can’t dwell on that observation as the room slowly lights up in a red glow, and a warning siren just begins to wail, right before all the lights around us flicker back on abruptly and the siren halts.
From darkness to light, the rest of this unknown level in the Black Lair bunker is suddenly very visible.
“Back up generator, enabled!” around us, out of the speakers from the corners of the level, comes a familiar kid’s voice. I look around while the Brownie Squad also spin to take in the large gas chambers surrounding us to the left and right. We were standing in the middle of the hall in between the chambers.
Dale makes one hand movement once we’re done looking around at the concrete and glass chambers of research and death. As his two fingers motion upwards, all beasts pull out a gun each and focus the barrels at each one of my members.
Ace has his smaller hand gun on Strawberry instead of his sniper, as Jose has his gun on Raven, Serge’s is on Blue and Dale’s is on me.
“Why the guns?” I ask, slowly putting up my hands in ‘surrender’ as I lower my tone and raise my brows, “If we wanted you dead or knocked unconscious, all of you would already be flat on the ground -”
“Did Desmond King, runner-up for mayor, tell you to say that... kitten?” Dale asks with a smirk but doesn’t lower his gun, as he speaks of Blue next, but doesn’t look at her. Instead, the Lord of the Underworld keeps his gaze locked onto my own, “Teleportation. I had a feeling there would be something hidden about your Brownie Squad.”
“Funny as well, that I had a feeling walking away wouldn’t be easy or accepted... and guess what... it wasn’t. I have a gun pointed at my face. So. Death threats. Seriously? I thought we were ‘friends’,” I lower my hands even though all of STRIKE have us under the aim of their guns.
“Do friends walk away from friends?” Dale seems to cringe asking the question, as if hating the fact he has to fall into my ‘lame’ banter. He’d no doubt feel more comfortable with some swearing and crude accusations.
“You killed a representative from the New World and her two innocent twin daughters,” I say this neutrally, “All of you planned it and executed it with precision and ruthlessness-”
“The twin daughters had a hugely lethal homemade bomb in their bag,” Dale snarls this, now moving his gun but only to aim it at the acronym, S.P.A.N.K.Y, “Time for a lesson, doll,” huh, that couldn’t be a good thing, as lessons tended to be secretive knowledge, spoken because I was probably being prepped for another death sentence... and what lessons were said now, were simply for degradation purposes. Still, now I have open ears, especially after the literal bombshell he just dropped on my last two weeks of belief that they had killed innocents, “Special Purpose Alterator of Naturalisation by the Knowledge of Yesteryear. The alterator Dust, SD, kills 85% of humans and leaves the other 15% degenerate and mutated with largely unknown side effects. Chamber 1, found that out with the first trial. Chamber 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 trialled updated versions of SD. Chamber 6 was deemed a success, with minimal change and 0.2% chance of lingering side effects. However, Chamber 1, although with the deadliest side-effects, seemed to also have the most positive changes that permanently strengthened the best genes of humanity. Still, Chamber 6 was the best option... remember why SD was created in the first place? Because they always forget to go into depth anywhere in FC’s education system. Just before Dooms Day, human DNA started to rapidly deteriorate faster with every passing decade as the world was polluted with toxins, whether as gas, solids, things like plastic and more. Then suddenly, with the safe option of Chamber 6, the Old World was guaranteed a future. However, one wrong input into the mass production of the Dust that would save everyone, made Chamber 1 into a wide range, extremely potent and deadly apocalyptic weapon. Smart people in FC know this and can find it out with a little bit of research. Stupid, brain washed humans in the New Worlds are taught that we’re monsters, demons and some even label us as the ‘children of hell’. Because we aren’t natural, we aren’t ‘evolution’. Yet here we stand, surviving. Then, in comes a New World Representative and her family that somehow convinced themselves, to kill a mass of mutants. The New World are our enemies, doll, they’re taught to hate and fear us since the moment they can comprehend the world around them.”
“Is this where you say ‘funny thing, evolution’?” I ask, feeling numb by his words and conflicted by his suggestion.
Dale, an Ultimate, a super soldier and a heartless killer... could be lying... or he could be telling the truth.
I mean, did heartless men really adopt children?
Or protect a city from imminent destruction?
Or the two other cities?
The one thing that bothered me from two weeks separation was the nuclear bombs in Dale’s possession.
Two drops and he could rid the world of Avalon and Atlantis... but he didn’t.
Since he said they were our enemies so adamantly.
But he didn’t and he wouldn’t... why?
Someone like him, trained as he had been, should be ruthless always.
And now I had his current explanation to add onto my list of doubts. Did he really kill a mother and daughter, who made a bomb, therefore saving hundreds if not thousands of lives at that square while they protested against STRIKE?
Or was he lying?
Every part of me told me he was telling the truth.
“Oh, funny thing, evolution? Perfect choice of words, actually,” Dale trains his gun back on me again and drawls, “The Force of Supremacy won that day, doll. Three degenerate humans of the Old World living a lie, in denial, in cities called ‘New Worlds’, to make them selves feel superior, better and stronger. Yet those three conspiring and brain washed beings didn’t win, with their bomb, did they? We shot the brains out of their skulls first.”
“That you did,” I speak through gritted teeth now, “But what did you think I’d do after witnessing such a thing?”
“Did he not tell you to stay out of sight? To not look?” Ace asks me.
“She disobeyed and ran, it’s not complicated,” Serge snarls next and watches me still with an unreadable gaze.
“And if you use your head, doll,” Jose speaks up, looking offended as he looks me over, “In regards to the death threats, what type of reaction is required when secrets are exposed, to outsiders, and then those very outsiders run away into a city full of liars, cheats and New World spies... and Desmond fucking King? You could have left to sell us out, for all we know. You didn’t stay to talk, you fucking ran.”
“If what you’re saying is true and there was a bomb, so what if I ran from a wrongly assumed assumption?” I ask them, a tad weakly, while trying to defend myself because I knew at the time what I did felt right. Even if I was ultimately wrong, ironically, but we all made mistakes... surely they could see that, “Besides, Desmond King is running for Mayor and he provided us with shelter and a home... and he’s a good man.”
“We provided you with a home, kitten,” Dale growls this low, “But we’re animals in your eyes, aren’t we?”
“I don’t - ”
“101 times,” Blue murmurs this and I glare at her to see her shrug and roll her eyes, ”What, boss? 101 times you called them anim-”
“So they didn’t do anything morally unacceptable?” Raven asks me and she also sounds annoyed... with me.
“I have a confession,” Strawberry raises her hand and sounds sheepish.
“Oh, gosh, what is it?” I ask, wondering how this situation could get any worse, considering STRIKE didn’t look pissed off anymore.
Each super solider looked... hurt... and offended... and legitimately moved, in a bad way, by Blue’s confession about my ‘animal’ remark about them. 101 times in the last two weeks.
“I sucked Desmond’s cock... like... twice... so we could stay at the community centre...” Strawberry lowers her hand and bites her lip, “I hated it but I wanted us to be safe.”
“What? Really?” I turn to face her and she shrugs. I’m shocked, but not by Strawberry’s actions... instead, I’m shocked by Desmond.
I had thought he was -
“A good man, huh?” Ace lowers his gun without waiting for instructions as he takes a few steps forward, his eyes raging and unblinking. Dale doesn’t tell him off for stepping out of line, either, which means he was happily letting his men have full reign of their rage, “...and we’re the animals? You think we aren’t aware of others? Perhaps you think all our energy is focused into looking after ourselves. Sure. 97% of us care about fuck all but us... because we’ve had each other’s backs since birth... but trust me, Alyssa, 3% of us, gives a shit about others. What percentage do you think gives a fuck right now?”
“What do you want?” I look Ace up and down wearily as he stops opposite me, so close, and I wait for him to do something.
“0%. Literally fuck all of me gives a shit about you right now,” Ace grabs his gun back out with lightening fast reflexes.
Within a blink, there is a cold barrel pressed directly to my forehead.
“Don’t -” Blue raises a hand dancing with electricity to save me, however, Serge just raises his hand and he drains back her power so her sparks simply falter.
“The little blue birdy just ran empty,” Serge chuckles out loud, “She isn’t charged at all. I wouldn’t have guessed you run on borrowed energy, blue doll.”
“So?” Blue asks, looking offended.
“Do you want to see the animal... kitten?” Ace asks this seriously while I gulp through the feel of that tight barrel pressed against my forehead, “Or do you want to admit that you fucked up?”
“I may have fucked up, a little bit,” I respond through gritted teeth and Ace stands back and takes the gun away from me, instantly.
“Fantastic, that’s great to hear,” Ace pockets his gun and turns to Dale, who nods to Serge and Jose to drop their weapons... “I’ll accept that as an apology.”
“With inexplicably good timing, we have Viola baking fresh brownies with Casey,” Dale motions to Strawberry, Blue and Raven... and he sounds... suspicious... and all knowing.
“They’re past brownies,” I snap anyway, in annoyed defence, knowing my squad weren’t as gullible as they once were when it came to their favourite dessert -
I watch Serge’s satisfied smirk as the girls walk forward, past me, turning to stand with STRIKE.
"What?" I ask in confusion as they all step forward, like the last two weeks have been a prank on me, “What about the movie night, the 14 sleep overs, the documentary marathons, the shopping, the... t-the strap ons I bought all of you?" I whisper this last part quietly, “You loved those.”
“Brownies, Alyssa,” Blue murmurs and she has both a conflicted and worried look in her eye.
“What did you say to them that first day,” I murmur to Dale, “When you made them listen to you?”
I can’t get my answer right away.
“Hey, dad!” Casey’s voice booms through the speakers, “What was the issue with level 7? We’ve got a permanently damaged energy cell. Was the Transpendiser not working correctly? Also,” Casey drops his tone to a whisper, “V got her first period... I don’t know what to do, she’s freaking out... can you call Alyssa? I don’t know what to do! Wet wipes or paper towel... or tissue... she’s literally freaking out so bad right now. I think she’s worried it’s going on the new suit we made her. Damn it, dad, what do you do when a girl cries? And don’t send Serge up here. For fucks sake.”
Dale picks his phone out of his pocket and he rings Casey.
“I told you Alyssa isn’t available for awhile, buddy. But, we have two helpers along the way,” Dale nods back to Strawberry and Raven, but he holds Blue’s arm, “Not you. You stay.”
He hangs up the phone and I narrow my eyes as through the confused fog of my brain, as I try to come to terms with the fact... I could have been wrong about STRIKE this whole time... now my heart sort of feels warm and fuzzy like it used to, because...
“You didn’t tell Casey I ran?” I ask, quietly.
“No, I didn’t,” Dale answers but motions to the others, “Down to GH now, I’ve got my kitten and Blue. Ace, open doors 1 and 2 on the way out. Serge, stay for one second.”
“We’ll help Viola,” Strawberry walks away with Raven and both nod to me reassuringly.
Dale hands a sheepish Blue over to Serge, who steps forward to grab her arm.
“What do you want with Blue?” I ask Dale, while I’m still confused about what he meant by the doors ‘1’ and ‘2’ just now.
“How do you think she teleported us to a level she was never meant to see?” Dale asks me, like I’m an idiot.
I open my mouth to respond but nothing comes out. I look to Blue and she looks down, blushing with guilt.
“C-curiosity?” I ask, suggesting it because I could never believe Blue was a traitor or a spy.
Like I first was when I was sent here...
As Ace, Jose, Strawberry and Raven wait at the end of the gas chambers’ corridor, waiting for the lift, they act like friends.
Meanwhile, Ace also presses a few buttons on an electronic panel and two glass doors slide up out of the ground... from the gas chambers.
Chambers 1 and 2 are now open.
“Cages to detain you,” Dale murmurs and stands back, waiting for me to walk in willingly while Serge just drags Blue over and moves her quickly to stand inside the first chamber.
“Until?” I ask and I hesitate, so Dale grabs me in response to my delay. His hand grips my elbow and easily maneuvers me until my socks slip and I stumble into the chamber.
The Lord of the Underworld chooses not to answer.
Dale holds his gun to Blue, to ensure she doesn’t exit while Serge stalks off to close the glass fronts.
“I wouldn’t break the glass, doll,” Dale warns me as the glass slowly starts to slide down, “The system is designed to burn up everything inside the chamber if the glass breaks, to stop contamination from the gasses that were once used inside them.”
The glass is slow to close and I see Serge waiting for the lift... he doesn’t bother to say a farewell.
I am still a little unsure of how to react, now that 2 weeks of hating STRIKE turned out to be good for nothing and based on an assumption.
“Your eyes saw what they wanted to see. It’s all to do with trust,” Dale seems to answer my thoughts, “You didn’t trust me, kitten. You didn’t trust any of us that day.”
“I’m sorry about what you had to see today,” I blurt out the apology while I still have the chance and even though it is off topic.
My words reach him just as the glass clicks into place at the bottom and seals me into the gas chamber; which was now my prison.
Dale pauses and he seems deep in thought about my words.
When he registers the images I’m referring to, he looks a little overwhelmed for a slight moment.
And then Dale looks at me... he really looks at me.
All I can do is stare back and see him vulnerable momentarily, before he simply watches me and shakes his head.
Not in disappointment, clearly not... when his eyes spoke of nothing but calculation, formulation and a hint of menace.
Then, he walks away.
Clearly, Dale was a few steps ahead of me, especially after getting my girls to react so obediently... to be trustworthy of him and the others. And now all I’m left staring at is the acronym across from me, where SPANKY is spelled out across the metal wall.
It’s only lit for a moment... and then Dale switches off the lights and the power... and I’m surrounded by black.
I work out quickly it’s to stop Blue sucking up anymore energy to teleport her way out of the cage in an escape attempt.
I may have fucked up...
...but now, I could only hope this cage was temporary.
For the both of us.