Princess of the Shadows ➺ [FC Series Bk.2]

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Chapter 19: Banishment by Beasts

One month later

“Cheers,” Casey, Viola and I clink wine glasses together, sipping strawberry wine on the edge of the tallest skyscraper in FC. Casey has his arm around V’s shoulders. Luckily for her, Casey had some class and hadn’t gone completely beast mode on her. Viola being 13, obviously Casey didn’t want to destroy her innocence... even if he admitted to me that he felt different now about kissing.

Thank god he didn’t mention anything else.

I had quickly forbid him to kiss her anyway - she had to be at least 18 before Casey made any moves on the poor girl.

Viola often clung to my side all day, every day, while Casey just gave her the occasional wink or put his arm around her shoulders, like now. They were sweet. He was sweet.

Which made this all the more sad as I gaze out over the green and gold horizon, the sun slowly setting... as kids woop and yell and scream as they play on the streets of an empty city.

Frankincense City, Frank City... FC... not a prison... but a children’s playground.

While it was rumoured Misfits were left behind, or that New World citizens against the government were banished - it was all a lie.

The city beneath our feet was full of abandoned kids anywhere ranging from the ages of 2 to 15. We did a head count every week - there were two thousand kids abandoned here. Why? Because they had the worst defects.

Sometimes Spanky Dust gave you enhanced genes. Sometimes, your stronger gene code was stained by a third eye, an arm out of your neck, a tail from your tail bone, a second mouth, even twenty fingers. These kids were the ugliest you could get - which made them all the cuter.

But they were little shits, rascals... and very, very, surprisingly - loyal.

They ran the city, crashed cars, grew their own food in school labs and butchered their own meat - chickens etc. The trash? Well, they left their trash in the classrooms of the teachers they hated the most.

Here was a city, once housing a million residents - now down to 2,000 children.

Children.

I was princess of the children.

Yay.

I jerk as Viola nudges my side, holding out a bracelet that reads her thoughts.

Smile. Pancakes together? The digital code reads.

“If I eat another set of pancakes for dinner, I’m going to throw up,” I speak through sign language... Casey taught me while I had been throwing up myself. From... argh... do I have to admit it? I could barely think of it.

My... my...

“Alyssa,” Casey growls under his breath and as I turn to the giant kid, now man, beast and warrior, I put on a fake smile, “I see those tears. If it’s possible to cry yourself to death, you’ll be the first to go down that way.”

“It’s joy,” my voice cracks, “Tears of joy for the beautiful man you’ve grown to be -”

"Mum, that’s gross,” Casey looks away, disgusted, “...even though you’re lying to avoid the subject.”

“I”m serious, Casey, you didn’t change and I’m proud of you for having a good heart - a-always,” my voice cracks again and I sniff in a breath.

Here come the water works.

V pushes out of Casey’s arm and shuffles over to me, wrapping me in a tight hug. I hold her back, while Casey rolls his eyes.

“I love you and all, but seriously, Alyssa, what is it now?” Casey asks, “Do I have to throw you off this building to knock some sense into you? Clearly love doesn’t work for you... it never did, did it? You liked it better when they treated you like crap - like a whore.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, young man,” I scold him, sounding silly but it wasn’t a topic I ever wanted to discuss again.

“Young man? I thought I had grown into a fully grown man that you were proud of, shedding tears of joy over,” Casey complains in his deep drawl, “Alyssa... I’m the smartest one here, take my advice, D-”

“Don’t say his name,” I snap.

“Str-”

"Don’t say their name either,” I yell at him and V lets me go to look hurt since I yelled at Casey. I pull away from her and jump to my feet.

“If you run off, can you please not disappear for more than 12 hours? V worries about you... Alyssa,” Casey adds, while I jump down and fix my DNA leotard.

I was wearing golden high heels I made for myself, also resistant to my nails and hair.

I had made a few improvements. My leotard was also now gold and my hair had an official DNA laced rubber band as well.

“I don’t just sulk in a corner,” I snap back, feeling like the young one as I turn and try to keep my chin high as I walk away from them.

I shouldn’t have had the wine.

I really shouldn’t have had that wine...

...but besides the main reason why, the second reason was that every time I got drunk - I got sad and the memories came back.

There were too many memories. As I head off to skip down the stairs to the streets of this barren city, my thoughts are consumed.

Waking up on a plane... drugged... woozy... with crates of water. The rush of wind as I was dumped out with a parachute hanging from the boxes of water. The New Worlds had the heart to supply clean drinking water to the kids here... no food, however, that wasn’t necessary.

I then remember Casey, V and I waking up on the street, surrounded by kids, as they threw water on us to wake us up.

I remember a week later, contacting Jessica. My Brownie Squad believed me to be dead and they were back with Cherry. Jessica said Dale, Serge, Ace and Jose had disappeared to save Avalon from Atlantis. They’d be back in seven days. Three weeks later and every time I rang up Jessica, she smugly told me they never returned. And when I begged her to alert my Brownie Squad that I lived, she’d just rub in that she was too busy, or that Dale had ordered her not to tell them I was alive.

So now I’m officially the abandoned whore in a city full of kids, a second Ultimate mind and V as my side kick.

It wouldn’t have been too bad if it wasn’t for the unknown, tearing my heart apart every single time I tried to reason with my Ultimate mind - what had happened to my beasts.

Did they die arriving in Atlantis? Did they even make it to Atlantis? Where did they go in Atlantis? Did Hacksaw kill them? Did he preserve their bodies to show me, to boast of their deaths... to taunt me with in the near future when he found out where I was?

The reason I feared their deaths, more than anything... was the ring on my finger.

Gold, too big... it only fit on my thumb. With a big fat green emerald... and information stored inside.

Huh, just the thought has me teary again. Because if Dale ever was to give me that damn ring... and he fucking did... it meant they were dead.

They had to be.

I just kept thinking it.

They were dead.

The same thought. Over and over.

And over and over.

And over and over and over.

That’s what was making me depressed. They were probably, most likely, dead. I was practically useless here. I had no ability to help in any way. The Transpendiser, a teleportation machine to Atlantis EBME Museum, was shut off on the other side. I had no plan to magically fly to the other side of the world. I had a one month delivery of water due in a week’s time, but that was it.

And there was no way to jump onto a plane a few thousand feet up in the air.

Eventually, I make it down to the street and I head towards the Black Lair, to think some more.

So much for ruling the world.

It was pretty hard when you were banished from the rest of it.

That’s where the hate came in. I knew my beasts wanted me alive as their walking sex toy, on the off chance they made it out of their mission alive. I would be there for them. It was so utterly selfish of them. To keep me alive for their pleasure. Because if they were dead... and I truly believed they were... then why the fuck was I in FC? Why the fuck was I somewhere that I was completely useless?

I had no purpose.

None.

My Ultimate genes were wasted.

Casey’s Ultimate genes were wasted.

Our lives were literal bottomless pits of worthlessness.

Oh god... great... now the depression was settling in again.

Now, I go to the one place that can help me when I’m this upset. I go to Casey’s old bedroom and I sit in his old chair, in front of all his computer screens which he has hooked up in every way possible to find any data, message or radar information on the beast’s return.

I could see incoming planes, hacked New World city emails, any message or anything at all that mentioned my beasts. There was never any. Nothing. Nada.

Absolute zero.

I did see some information about Hacksaw occasionally. Panicked people complaining of their family being slaughtered. The government quickly shut them up, however, just like they used to do in FC when it became about Hacksaw. All I knew was that the latest correspondence was that he was feared to have left to go to Atlantis from Avalon.

I secretly lived in fear that he had actually departed to FC.

It was the one thing keeping me glued to these computer screens.

A couple of hours pass, my eyes barely blinking as I watch the screens... waiting... for a beep... an alert... anything.

"Alyssa!" I jerk upright when I hear Casey’s happy drawl and I swivel in his chair to see him holding a plate of pancakes with V, who holds a bowl of home made whipped cream.

“Pancakes!” V even speaks this, she rarely spoke, but now she wants to make an impact.

I thank her and Casey with a small nod.

“Just what I wanted,” I lie.

“Well, we need to celebrate,” Casey looks a little nervous as he waltzes in... and I get a stab of panic as I think he might have some impossibly good news... “I interpreted some data.”

“Yes?!” I almost yell it but I quickly contain myself as V drags over a little table and two stools. While Casey sits on the ground and leans his elbow over one stool, Viola sits on the other and I stay in the chair, feeling my heart beat fast.

“It’s not news you’ll expect,” Casey starts off, grabbing a spoon and whacking some cream onto his pancake, while avoiding my gaze, “I worked out who my real biological parents are.”

“You’re a test tube baby, like me,” I reply, dryly.

“They have to get the genes from somewhere, fuck,” Casey sounds offended as he stuffs his mouth with the whole thing, chewing a couple of times and swallowing before burping, “Ah... that hit the spot.”

“No it fucking didn’t, you’ll probably have another ten before you’re full,” I again, reply dryly, while Casey just narrows his eyes at me.

“Shut up, fucking hell -” Casey get’s cut off by a whack from V’s hand over the back of his head. While she glares, he blushes before pretending to cough to clear his throat, “Um, well... I did some testing,” he changes tactic, trying not to sound so rude as per V’s request.

“Great,” again, I answer dryly, because nothing was that interesting to me nowadays. Everything just sucked.

Depression sucked.

Strike sucked.

Dale sucked.

Hacksaw sucked.

Life sucked -

“I’ve been holding this in for a week or more,” Casey interrupts my sadness but he also grabs my attention with this line, “So I may have found out that you share enough of my genes to definitely be my biological mother,” Casey points out, “And my father...?”

“...D-...D...” I can barely say the name.

“Dale? No,” Casey shakes his head, “He’s a leopard for fuck’s sake -” V hits him on the back of the head again and he growls at her on impulse, which makes her blush, before turning to me, “He also has black hair and I have blonde, so, no... but... I’m a nutter’s kid,” Casey shrugs, “Hacksaw is my father.”

I pause at this.

“...what?” I ask, blinking, “No way -”

“Yes fucking way,” as Casey grins, V goes into smack him but he raises his hand and catches her wrist, “Stop it, V,’” his drawl is equivalent to the way my beasts used to sound and it just makes my heart ache.

“So my psychopathic lover from a past life is your father, and I am your mother... that sounds about right,” I eventually speak up, “You’re yet another tool to defeat that Ghost Legend of FC... that’s great news,” I put on a fake smile and V rolls her eyes. I watch her talk to Casey with her hands and I read it well enough... she’s sick of me being a drag.

“Viola,” I speak up, almost cracking it, “The actual men that I fell in love with are dead. So I’m sorry,” I answer, far too harsh than I’d usually be on a kid, “They’re dead. They are fucking dead and nothing in this world will bring them back. Unless of course we invent a time machine -”

“Alyssa, move,” Casey suddenly cuts me off, jumping to his feet, he launches past me, shoving the chair away into the nearest wall, I roll with it while Casey’s fingers fly over his keyboard.

V jumps to her feet, eyes wide.

As Casey looks over the screens, he seems majorly confused.

“We have a fucking problem,” Casey snarls, loud and menacing and still exactly like the beasts I remember too well - I hated being around him because of that sometimes.

“Why?” I ask, too depressed to really think anything could go more wrong in my life at this point.

“We have company,” Casey turns to me, shaking his head, “Not good company.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” I ask.

“These things... don’t have heart beats... or any warmth... they’re not showing up on the fucking radar,” Casey blurts, “They’re showing up on the other one, the fucking... oh fuck,” he starts typing in some more letters while I slouch in the chair.

“If this is a joke... I don’t appreciate it,” I drawl back, “I’m a heartless gal with trust issues... sorry.”

“No, Alyssa, this isn’t a joke,” Casey turns to me, “Four fucking machines are walking around this city - from the port. I have the radar across the city, you know this. A boat arrived... a small one.”

“Four machines?” I ask, “What do you mean -”

“New World technology, Alyssa... Atlantis was the most advanced city of them all,” Casey explains.

“So where are the ‘machines’ now?” I ask.

“No idea, the radar doesn’t cover any point unless it’s crucial... but I saw four walking robots, and they are headed towards the middle of the city,” Casey spins to me, “We need to destroy them.”

“We’ll run them over with STRIKE, let’s go,” I jump to my feet. The car would do.

“Oh yeah, sure, like Atlantis scientists wouldn’t plan to back them up with defensive moves, are you crazy? They’re here to kill kids - why else? We need to find them and destroy them... from afar... you, me and V, we are this cities only fucking defence -” Casey is cut off as V now runs to his side and spins him back to the computers, where she points at a tiny screen full of too many cameras, “Huh?” Casey murmurs to himself and I lazily get to my feet to come inspect.

Why the hell not.

“D-Dale,” V whispers as Casey opens a camera shot, across another screen.

My heart beat stops.

A shot of an alley way, shows kids playing with a ball. One of them turns to a giant beast in a suit, who squats and gives the kid a pat on the head... smiling... comforting.

“...they’re back?” I whisper, confused.

“...it would appear so,” Casey also whispers, “Maybe they arrived with the machines... and there could be more than four, Alyssa, I only caught the radar when I saw data being picked up -”

“It doesn’t matter, we got to go, quickly,” I finally perk up a bit.

V let’s out an almighty shriek out of no where and as my eyes focus on what she sees on camera, even Casey curses in shock under his breath.

"What the fuck?" Casey yells.

“Holy shit,” I whisper as my hand rises to my heart.

Dale isn’t petting this kid anymore.

He isn’t smiling.

He seems to be screaming at the kids, asking questions, pointing at them to stand in line... while they all scream and cry... because he’s holding a head in his hand, dangling, bloody... small... and detached.

V has turned away, even Casey is finding it hard to look on.

“What the fuck is going on?” I ask Casey, “Is this...”

“Maybe they were captured and.... and they were pushed to their limits and went crazy,” Casey blurts out, “Maybe they’re forced to do this... maybe it’s not him... maybe he’s being controlled and, a-and...”

“Where are the machines, Casey?” I ask, my throat almost closing off... but I decide to focus on something more alarming.

“Why is that the focus of your attention right fucking now?” Casey asks me, turning to me like I’m crazy.

“Because we need to know if they came with the machines on their side... or if Dale is just... here... to kill,” I murmur.

When V turns to us, her hands speak quick and Casey and I both look at her in confusion.

The same, she says.

The same...

“Don’t tell me,” I whisper, “Don’t tell me that the four machines are... no way.”

“We can’t know,” Casey murmurs, “We can’t.”

“Enough chit chat, we need to get out there before more kids get their heads ripped off,” as I say this, Casey nods, agreeing... but as we turn to the camera one last time... we see Dale calmly walking away... now with three other beasts behind him.

STRIKE.

They look so calm.

“We don’t have to find them,” Casey speaks.

“Why?” I ask, “Are they -”

“Yes,” Casey nods and turns to me, “They’re walking to our location. They found out our location through interrogation. But they should have known where we were because they know where we’d be... so why the fuck did they -?"

“The same,” I cut him off and turn to V, who nods over and over, “It’s not them,” I add, my heart dropping to my stomach, “It’s not them, Casey.”

“It fucking looks exactly like them -”

“They wouldn’t rip a child’s head off,” I whisper, “They’re the machines.”

“How do we kill machines?” Casey asks, “And what if they’re not machines? What if we’re wrong and we kill them while they’re brainwashed or controlled or...”

“Either way, it’s not going to be that fucking easy, is it?” I mention, “At least we know they can talk. One way or another... we’ll find out soon enough.”

“And if they are the machines, that means STRIKE is...” Casey can’t say it... he had refused to believe they were dead this entire month.

“You better start to believe it, buddy,” I answer back, “The men we know are gone, either way. Hope won’t save us now. Only our minds will... so let’s use them, you and I together, Casey. Are you up for some mind fucking?”

“Fuck yes,” Casey nods, “Let’s fuck them up... let’s work out what’s going on... the old fashioned way.”

“The old fashioned way?” I ask, raising a brow.

“They’re looking for me, obviously,” Casey says, “Or you, or both of us ... but let’s be honest, I’m more important. So. Let’s grab a lazer gun and you prepare to threaten to cut my head off from my neck... and we’ll get to chit chat with the boys.”

“And if they are STRIKE?” I ask, “With pieces of them... replaced with machinery?”

“We improvise,” Casey answers, before turning to V, who sticks her chin up, looking brave, “You, cutie... you’re going to be the back up plan... you think you can do that?”

V responds with a very solid hell yes with her hands.

And that’s about the same time we hear a beep from the screens... because we now have company in the Black Lair.

“We don’t have much time - let’s move it!” I yell at Casey and V... and we run to prepare our shitty plan... and I hope we’re not all dead by the end of this.

I had to live.

I had to live through more bouts of morning sickness and really bad mood swings until I gave birth to the little girl inside of me.

Oh, yeah.

I forgot to mention.

I really shouldn’t have had that wine...

...because I was fucking pregnant.

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