Syche: The Dark Element

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Chapter 7: The Dying Dark

Chapter 7

The Burning Sea

I watched in surprise with a few others when you vaulted onto the fishing trawler. I was hidden, mixed among the crowds planning my next move at the time. I saw the Syches there, Kael and Gianna, more than you admittedly, but I have never gone out of my way to kill individual Psychics.

I must think the romantic in you likes the concept of fate, of destiny. Does this new information change the way you see our relationship? An entire planet, and we somehow end up feet apart.

#

Joshua felt the sense of tranquility that only comes through sheer exhaustion. There was no time to sleep, but he could sit against the rail and watch the calm waves lap against the boat, watch the mothers and children huddle together for warmth, watch what little there is to see on the open ocean. Joshua craned his head as a crewmate walked by. They were doing that, checking up on the clusters of refugees at regular intervals.

There hadn’t been any issues so far.

Feeling the cold seep further into his muscles, Joshua stood and shook himself out. He looked down at Gianna who seemed to be doing. . . okay? He was unsure about concussions. He’d had every sort of injury throughout his life, except for head injuries. Kael seemed to think she wouldn’t be using her powers any time soon.

Joshua pondered this further as he strutted up and down the ship trying to stay warm. It made perfect sense that a head injury would inhibit a Syche; their powers were purely mental. If Joshua ever had to face one down, the head was normally his target. Of course, hitting a person in the head was something of a universal strategy that he didn’t limit to Syches. As Joshua’s march reached the bow, he hesitated for a second and squinted. As his eyes grew wide and his calm broke, he turned and sprinted back to Kael and Gianna as the boat’s engines cut to silence.

“Why did we stop?” Kael asked dispassionately as Joshua skidded onto his butt.

“I can’t say for certain, but there is uh. It’s another ship on the horizon, I believe,” Joshua answered. “A ship.”

“Well you sound certain,” Kael grunted.

“It’s the blockade,” Gianna mumbled, opening an eye. She had their full attention now, so she continued. “Taerose set up a blockade along the entire Straight and a little beyond. This is going to be the hard part.” With eyes closed and body limp, she dozed off again.

The boys looked at each other. “I feel a plan coming on,” Joshua said looking out to the horizon.

“Just how ridiculous is this one?” Kael asked, the corner of his mouth slightly upended.

“We’re going to do this thing proper. So, yes. Pretty ridiculous,” Joshua said, a glint in his eye. “First we’re going to need a bigger boat.” Kael raised an eyebrow knowingly, a devilish grin growing on his face as Joshua dug into his pockets and pulled out a handful of objects he had pilfered from the military convoy. “Want to try these out?” Joshua asked.

A few minutes later, there was an annoying amount of noise on the deck, and Gianna opened both of her eyes this time. Sailors from the below decks were piling outside and the refugees were all standing up and moving around worriedly. Joshua sat to her right looking very smug. Kael was nowhere to be seen. In fact, the sailors weren’t just coming on the decks; they were looking through everyone there. The boat remained stalled.

“What happened?” Gianna asked, rubbing her temples.

“I snuck down below decks and blew a hole in the hull.” The words rang out behind her. Gianna turned and looked down to see Kael hanging off the side of the boat, his fingers gripping the ledge very tightly. “We’re going to steal that big one over there,” he said.

Kael motioned his head towards the forward end of the boat. Directly ahead, a large battleship was lumbering its way in their direction.

“Everyone remain calm and move to the lifeboats. I have radioed for assistance and the Taerose military is moving to our aid,” a loudspeaker attached to the bridge bellowed. “And please everyone, don’t do anything stupid.”

Joshua snorted. “Too late.”

The boat slowly dipped lower and lower in the water. Joshua helped Gianna to her feet and kept her steady as they joined the jittery mob of about fifty, squeezing into the two lifeboats the ship kept. In the commotion and haze, she hadn’t even noticed Kael’s disappearance.

In the end, everyone made it off-- captain and all. The little lifeboats and their denizens watched as the fishing vessel submerged into the abyss thanks to Kael’s handiwork. Joshua wished he could have seen how large a hole Kael blasted through the hull. He had felt the rumble and heard the crash, but that was a consolation prize to the actual spectacle.

The lifeboats bobbed through the water, floating this way and that, waiting for rescue. That rescue was the Taerose battleship looming close by now. As it neared, everyone was able to see just how massive it was. Gun turrets cluttered the deck and a massive bridge with sweeping radars rose out of the middle, keeping an iron watch over ship and sea. The sailors peered down at the little lifeboats, the metered attitude of a soldier in their step and look.

The battleship drifted through the waves and picked up all of the lifeboats’ inhabitants. Harsh faced navy men pulled the refugees up to the deck and packed them in one after the other-- knees to the ground, arms over their heads. Joshua grunted as was pushed onto the cold metal, banging his knees. He looked up for as long as he dared and carefully noted all of the details of the situation. He saw the doors into the ships, the soldiers with their automatic rifles. This could go wrong, he briefly considered. He was overdue for some catastrophe, they always found him. He touched the still fresh wound on his head reflexively. They always left their scars.

Gianna ended up in the second row in front of him, slightly to the left. This he took especial note of. The soldiers perched themselves on top of the battleship’s large guns and peered down at their prisoners. With everyone in tow, the ship changed its heading and began its voyage back to Tyré.

#

Now it is important to note how Kael had passed the time.

As the fishing trawler sunk, Kael jumped willfully into the bottomless cold. He pumped a small amount of power through his body to shrug off the icy water. Left with some free time, he briefly wondered what would give out first, given the chance, his body kicking to stay up or his mind keeping him warm. He honestly couldn’t say, and luckily, he wouldn’t have to find out. As the hulking warship pulled up the lifeboats, Kael swam starboard where the anchor hung just below deck level.

He gazed up and pondered. Joshua hadn’t mentioned how Kael would get up there-- at the time Kael hadn’t thought to ask. He looked down at the black abyss below; there was no forcing the water into an explosive reaction.

That left what was on him.

Kael flailed and splashed trying to remove his windbreaker. And then he struggled to remove Joshua’s gifts out of the pockets and clumsily tie them up in his shirt. With the prep-work in place, he pushed the windbreaker into the water and held it under his feet. Saying goodbye to a piece of clothing he loved dearly, the water bubbled unearth and he shot up and out to the anchor chain. From there, he pulled himself up and hung just under a little groove in the ship’s side, waiting, hidden, and unannounced. He shifted uncomfortably with the kangaroo pouch he had created with his shirt.

Finally, as the last prisoner was on deck, he slunk up and hid behind a turret, all eyes looking at the mob on the ground. Peering around, he spotted Joshua and Gianna. Kael took one last look and then reached for the little metallic balls he had cradled. He threw one onto the deck and then another; smoke began to pour out from the grenade. He threw another and then the final one. The gas accumulated in seconds giving the soldiers no time to react. They screamed unintelligibly and ducked for cover trying not to breathe. The refugees screamed in kind and jumped up in a panic. Somewhere in the smoke, a quick volley of gunfire rang out.

The chaos was instant.

#

Joshua took a deep breath, jumped to his feet, dashed left, and grabbed Gianna by the arm. He pulled her towards the center of the ship in a cloud of acrid smoke that not only blinded but stung his eyes and mouth, seeping into his lungs and choking the life out. Gunfire rang out and people screamed, but he could only keep running.

Gagging on his own fluids, Joshua knocked into what had to be another person before bashing into a solid surface. He groped the wall until he felt a handle and yanked it, the door giving way. He threw himself forward into the ship’s interior, Gianna in tow. They coughed and spluttered trying to breathe or even see again. Even with his senses teetering on nonexistent, Joshua could make out the sounds of someone clawing the outside of the door coupled with the sound of feet coming down the corridor. On the move again, he felt along the wall until his hand found a doorknob and plunged through with Gianna.

As the door swung shut, a detachment of sailors ran through the hallway and out onto the deck. Gianna and Joshua rested and caught their breath as best they could, clearing their sinuses.

“What in Formae just happened?” Gianna asked.

“Remember back in the supply convoy? I grabbed these grenade-looking-things in one of the crates. I guess they were smoke grenades with tear gas,” Joshua answered.

“You didn’t know it was tear gas?” Gianna said with horror in her voice but looking oh-so-happy.

“Can you focus for three seconds? Anyway, we’re meeting Kael on the brig, bridge, or whatever it is called. So let’s get rolling. As long as we don’t meet any soldiers we’re good.”

“Amazing,” Gianna said, “you two planned this all out?”

“Would it comfort you to believe that?”

Joshua put his smile back on, the tear gas leaving only a few tears in the corner of his eyes, and reached for the door handle. Gianna lashed out, grabbing his arm and yanking him back immediately.

“Careful, two guys are coming this way,” Gianna warned.

“How do you know?”

“How to explain. . . .” She paused and bit her lip. “Syches can use their power over any range, it just requires exponentially more energy the further you go.”

“I get that.”

“But we can’t feel through humans. They have a kind of. . . life force protecting them? You can notice if someone is a Syche that way too They feel different. But it’s crazy hard to tell if they aren’t using their powers.”

“You’re just telling me things I know. What I’m asking is: how in the world do you manage that with a concussion? In my experience, most Syches struggle to move an element at all with so much as a headache,” Joshua said, his ear to the door. Gianna remained quiet behind him.

The beating sounds of footsteps passed eventually. Joshua and Gianna sprinted up the hallway to the stairwell. They took the stairs two at a time. Towards the top, they found a solid-looking door that seemed very promising, especially since it was labeled as ‘Bridge’.

“You ready?” Joshua asked, getting ready to open the door.

“I wouldn’t do that, everyone in there is--” She never got to finish.

Joshua threw the door inwards and jumped forward. The element of surprise was not his. A group of men and women, officers by the look of their uniforms, were positioned around the room, guns drawn pointing straight at Joshua. Gianna tiptoed forward and tried to hide behind Joshua.

Silence persisted eerily through the room until Joshua decided he couldn’t stand it any longer. “Um, everyone stay calm because nobody needs to, uh, get, get hurt here.” Joshua hoped it sounded more forceful than he thought it did.

The short, clean-cut, slightly squirrely looking captain chuckled. He stood at the furthest position from the door, right by the window looking out over his ship. Even with circumstances as they were, he kept out of danger. “First do you really think you can hurt us?” he said. “Second, you do know we have cameras on the ship? We’ve been watching you ever since you got inside.” His tone was almost playful. He was enjoying himself. Overly so.

Craning his neck, Joshua looked past the Captain for a split-second and then smiled. “We don’t need to hurt you, as long as we have a hostage,” Joshua volleyed back.

“What hostage?” the Captain asked. His fingers grabbed the bottom of his uniform and tugged to straighten it as his eyes jittered around the room.

“Wait for it. . . .” Joshua said, stifling a laugh.

The glass right behind the Captain shattered and Kael hurtled through the window. He lurched forward and scraped a console with his fingers, sending a large smoky burst into the air. He caught a gun by its barrel and sent a stream of power into it as well, creating a concussive blast that blew the crewman holding it back. Finally, Kael bore down on the captain and grabbed him in a chokehold, keeping him in front as a shield.

“Weapons down now!” Kael growled through gritted teeth.

The Captain nodded, his face skewed in pain. “Weapons down,” the Captain murmured. Everyone in the room hesitated at the order. Kael grabbed the Captain’s hat and infused just enough energy to cause it to burst into flame. “Weapons down!” the captain screamed, furiously rocking his head back and forth to loose the cap. He almost pleaded with the sailors as they slowly lowered their weapons. Content, Kael swatted the hat from his head only leaving a mess of singed hair.

“Move all your guns to the corner there. After that, back to your posts,” Kael ordered. “I haven’t killed anyone on purpose but that can change easily enough.”

Joshua held up a hand calling for Kael’s attention. “You seem to have this so I’m going to go find the bathrooms. Be right back.”

Fifteen minutes later, a knock sounded at the sealed, fortress of a bridge door. Kael looked over at the monitoring system then opened the door to let Joshua stroll in with large important steps. Kael and Gianna had handled things well in his absence. The crew members were hard at work at their stations with their weapons piled in a corner. Kael and Gianna had switched positions. Now, it was Gianna who held the Captain hostage.

Joshua, flanked by Kael, strutted to the captain’s chair and sat down. “Why are you letting her hold the hostage?” Joshua whispered to Kael.

“She wanted to.”

Joshua’s face skewed in some perturbed fashion for a few seconds before he once again threw himself at the task at hand. “Status report Mr. Kael,” Joshua said in a mock voice of the Captain.

“Well Captain, we have the ship turned around and now we are headed due southwest at a moderate speed. We should be within the waters of Sela shortly.”

“What is a Sela, Mr. Kael?”

“It’s the closest country on the mainland. . . . We were literally just there.”

“Ah. Anyways, good work. I believe a promotion is in order. Congratulations Lieutenant Colonel.”

“Erm, I don’t believe that’s a nautical rank,” Kael said.

“Then it’s janitor for you.” Joshua turned to face the hostage. “You have janitors don’t you?” The Captain shot him a nasty glare back. “I think that means yes. Well, either a yes or a ‘I wish I could kill you’. I’m inclined to believe the former as it suits my interests.”

As much as she was enjoying the show, Gianna felt the need to interrupt, “Excuse me, but about what you said earlier.”

“And what would that be first mate?”

“No country in their right mind would let us sail up to their shores in a battleship, let alone a Taerosean vessel.”

“Fine cadet, bring the Cap. . . I mean hostage over here.” Gianna jerked the Captain across the room. He persisted to glare at Joshua expecting some smug comment to add insult to insult. “So, do you have a name?” Joshua addressed the Captain.

“I am Captain Beasley of the--”

“Honestly, I don’t want to know the rest,” Joshua said. “I really didn’t even care to know your name, but formalities and all of that. Am I right? Anyway, I would first like to thank you for the kind hospitality you and your men have shown us. Second, I would like you to know that we don’t like this situation any more than you do and we’ll try to end our imposing stay as soon as possible. And finally (and most importantly might I add) we would like your assistance in helping us get off this vessel.”

At the sound of these last words, the rest of the crew turned to face their captain, a mixture of expression on their faces from hopeful to angry to disgust.

Captain Beasley gritted his teeth and replied, “What did you have in mind?”

Joshua and Kael grinned at each other pleased with such an easy victory.

“The plan is pretty simple really: You phone into the country we are going and tell them that you rescued three citizens of their nation in a sinking boat. You send for them to come pick us up. And then they pick us up. It’s that easy.”

The Captain mulled it over, mouth ajar. He nodded his head. “I’ll do it, glaring problems aside.”

Joshua clicked his tongue walking around the captain. “Problems? My friends show off the barest amount of their powers and take the ship with very little effort. So don’t talk to me about problems with my plan. You should know, it always works out for the hero in the story.”

“Says the guy delivering a villain monologue,” Kael grunted.

Joshua laughed and turn to see Kael glowering over his shoulder. Joshua’s eyes flashed tracing a glowing orange line on the floor to the pile of guns in the corner. As a stray crewman reached his hand out, the glowing metal coalesced and then exploded in a fiery orange. Joshua could feel the heat from where he stood. The man fell backward and scrambled away as fast as he could holding his burnt arm. Kael was being very kind today, letting people keep their limbs.

Kael mumbled to himself under his breath, “About time someone gave us some trouble. This has got to be the collection of the sloppiest troops in all the Taerose Empire. I swear if I were ever emperor, this boatload of fools will all be the first lot to get the sack.” Kael rubbed his hands together and stepped forward. Holding up his hand with his fingers together. “I snap my fingers, and you all explode. It will hurt, you will die, and, best of all, I’ll enjoy it.”

The threat found its mark and any defiance in the eyes of the crew was gone.

Good job, Joshua thought. Even if spontaneous combusting people would violate some major Sychakenetic principles.

“This is Major Dean of the Selan Coast Guard, do you copy?” the radio crackled to life.

“Captain Beasley of the Royal Taerose Navy, I copy,” the Captain fumbled with the radio, desperately trying to ignore what was happened.

Kael’s hands clasped Beasley’s shoulders and shook him slightly. “See my man, this is what patience gets you. We’re almost off your ship. Bring it home.”

“We have been monitoring your ship for some time now and be advised: entering the waters of Sela will be met with military force. Do you understand?”

“Understood. The Taerose government recognizes your sovereignty and will not violate your waters. Now that we have that established, I am requesting the removal from our ship three citizens from your country. We picked them up from the wreckage of a fishing vessel,” Beasley finished, repeating Joshua’s story to perfection.

There was initial silence on the other side of the radio, but soon the voice came back on. “Very well, we will send a helicopter to come pick them up. In the meantime, I have been asked to request that you stay where you are and don’t proceed any further into our waters.”

“We will comply,” Beasley responded. He nodded to a woman on his left. In a matter of seconds, the engines reversed to kill the ship’s momentum.

“Our helicopter will be at your position within the next thirty minutes,” the voice fizzled out over the intercom.

“Hey hostage, is it off?” Joshua whispered, careful to not let those words get out over the radio.

“Yes, and I would appreciate it if you quit calling me your hostage,” answered Beasley.

“Okay jerk,” Joshua said once again at full volume, “then let me congratulate you on a job well done. Before their helicopter makes contact with us though, you should probably fill your troops outside on the situation so they don’t try and shoot it or anything.”

The Captain’s hand moved towards the ship’s intercom button.

“Wait.”

It stopped.

“Once they make contact, be sure to specify who they are picking up,” Joshua said. “Us. Not those guys down there.” He pointed straight down. “No one got hurt, right? No dead people from the tear gas stunt?”

“I haven’t checked yet,” Beasley seethed. “I’ve been preoccupied. But if I had to guess, yes, a lot of people died.”

Joshua’s eyes grew large. It was a simple conclusion, but it seemed to surprise him. Searching for words, Joshua opened his mouth but nothing came out. He barely noticed as Kael placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t think about it. These guys are the ones who killed them not us,” Kael whispered.

Joshua disagreed. He fundamentally, absolutely disagreed. But he couldn’t find the words. There had to be a scenario where everyone got out alive. He walked to the corner and sat down, pensive, quiet. Kael could handle things. He needed to think.

Kael prowled between the consoles, weaving through the crew members and occasionally stopping to stand over them for no reason. They glared at him with something more than disdain, as if he wasn’t human. Good, he preferred it that way.

A sigh of relief flooded the room as the radio sparked back to life. “This is the pilot of chopper A0-87, do you copy?”

“Affirmative,” Beasley answered.

“We have been cleared to take your three passengers and are on route. E.T.A. fifteen minutes.” The pilot’s voice rang through the room.

“Copy,” Beasley replied via the radio. “Be advised: you are only to pick up the three passengers on the catwalk of the bridge. I will repeat, only those three. Any other people, regardless of appearance, are of no consequence to you. Don’t land either. That will be obvious when you get here.

“Understood,” the pilot’s voice said with some hesitation, confused exactly what she would find.

The next fifteen minutes passed slowly. Joshua leaned against the wall and tapped his foot while Kael prowl the isles like some vicious sand hound. At one point, he looked over to Gianna, who he could have sworn was dancing in place just outside of his peripheral vision but now was stiller than the living ever should be. The wait was killing him-- true of any wait if he was being honest-- so Joshua paced in small circles by the window shaking his head, treading over the broken glass that Kael had burst through. The sun dipped low on the horizon casting a blood-orange haze on the sky and Joshua could barely suppress a smile as Kael just stopped and appreciated the colors.

In another five minutes’ time, whirling blades sounded overhead.

Joshua, Kael, and Gianna backed up to the door leading to the catwalk keeping an eye on everyone. Joshua glanced down to the refugees placed on their knees. There was blood but no dead bodies that he could see. They wouldn’t have tossed them over the side, would they? Of course they would; this was Taerose.

Kael cleared his throat. “No one wants an international incident here so we’ll just leave each other in peace?” Kael paused and looked back smugly. “And maybe our story should be the official story. No one is going to believe what really happened.”

Joshua went first out the door onto the metal catwalk that looped around the bridge, he glared as Kael strode back inside and socked the Captain in the face as a parting gift. Always with Taerose he does that. Not that Joshua could blame him. Joshua rolled his eyes and continued on to a man in a wet suit swaying back and forth in a basket. He helped Joshua in and together they ascended to the helicopter. Two more people in wet suits waited for him and pulled him onto the copter as they lowered the basket for Kael and Gianna. He took the first seat facing forward behind the copilot. Gianna took her seat next to Joshua. Finally, Kael was lifted aboard and he took his seat next to Gianna. The man in the basket slammed the door shut and sat down across from Kael.

#

Below, the Captain’s upper lip quivered as he turned to look at his crew. The silence hung heavy in the air and sunk into their being. Finally, Beasley bit his lip and said, “Shoot them down.”

“The helicopter?” the man who had tried to sneak to the weapon pile earlier asked.

“Yes, you idiot. I’m assuming we’re out of range of whatever black magic these heathens have. They can’t say the same for our ship’s guns. Someone, I don’t care who, make sure he’s confined to his cabin barring court marshal for not following my orders earlier. Everyone else, turn this ship around and open fire. Hiding behind another country’s flag won’t save these freaks.” Wiping the layers of sweat built up over his face, the Captain sat down at his chair, grinding his teeth hard enough to turn them to powder. His hand reached for his scalp and felt the burnt patches.

#

Joshua’s forehead was pushed against the glass window of the helicopter as his eyes glared emptily outside to the ocean, his breath leaving smudges. The battleship ran parallel, and the water started churning by its back end as the engines roared to life.

Nothing to do about the others trapped on the boat. Back to Tyré with y’all. Joshua had moped in the corner considering how to help the refugees, but couldn’t think of a single scheme. At least they would live.

He watched the battleship swing around, putting the helicopter in range of every single gun turret on the deck. Joshua rubbed his eyes and looked, doing a double-take. The ship crumpled in the middle as both ends rose; it was sinking. It stood suspended there for a few seconds and then violently plummeted into the depths as if yanked down by the hand of some ancient sea god or leviathan itself.

“Go back!” Joshua screamed over the roar in the air. “They’ll be people in the water, we have to go back!”

“What’s he on about?” the pilot asked.

Kael leaned in, trying to speak to Joshua, but Joshua sat back in his seat shocked and horrified with muddled confusion how that could have just happened so easily. Despite his demands, the helicopter kept rising farther and farther from the sea, his heartbeat as the tiny cabin’s walls closed in around him. He twisted his head to find Kael and was surprised to see him right there. Joshua brought two fingers to his shoulder and flicked them off. Hand signs would have to do over the noise of the blades. Kael had to know.

Kael looked around the vehicle and then out of the window bewildered. He understood the signal Joshua had given. They had devised hundreds between themselves. Forgotten some. Given some overlapping meanings. Occasionally threw out signs that were complete nonsense. But Kael knew this one, and couldn’t see how it was applicable.

Wham! The helicopter jerked, and the metal screeched. The vehicle tipped right as Kael slid into Gianna, who slid into Joshua pinning him against the door. The pilot fought with the controls attempting to level the vehicle. They weren’t moving now. Despite their height in the air, a red liquid seeped through the door and crystallized, causing the door to groan on its hinges. With a gust of wind rushing into the cabin, the door was ripped away out into the mixing dark blue abyss of sky and sea.

As his body slid and feet hung out of the copter, Joshua grabbed the seat belt he had neglected to wear just in time. Gianna landing on top of him and then Kael as well, putting all their weight on Joshua. Joshua let out a gasp of pain as his arm felt like it was being ripped from its seams. The three Coast Guard members across from him were strapped in and much safer but equally as panicked. The helicopter continued to roll right. Everyone was staring down into the ocean now.

The first thing in view was a man. A large man, dressed in the Element’s colors, in their black robes. He stood on a pillar of blood that rose from the ocean, like a waterspout, and inched closer to the helicopter as it was dragged down. Right hand raised towards the chopper as if he were trying to grab it, tethers of blood ascended high into the air and grabbed around the helicopter holding it in place. So much blood.

Joshua’s mind raced trying to understand. Animals didn’t have the same life force humans did, and Syches could rip their blood right out. In an ocean, a Blood Syche could pool a nearly endless supply. Joshua briefly looked to where the ship had been seconds earlier. Easy enough to collect blood from the dead as well.

“Kael! Burnout!” Joshua screamed at the top of his lungs, competing with the thump of the helicopter’s blades.

“Can you hold my weight?” Kael yelled back.

“Go for it!” Joshua yelled without a moment’s hesitation.

Joshua extended his free arm out of the helicopter and tightened his grip on the belt. Kael rolled into the aisle and slid down in a free fall past Joshua grabbing his free hand. His feet caught the very edge of the floor. He threw all his weight out, his only support now Joshua. In the air was where no Blood or Combustion Syche wanted to find themselves, but if this assassin could manage it, so could Kael.

“Inner left pocket of my coat Gianna!” Joshua screamed. “Toss it to Kael.”

Gianna frantically reached around him and felt through his many pockets until her hand grasped something odd. She pulled out a bluish-white crystal of metal the size of her fist. She stared at it longingly for a second and then gently tossed down to Kael.

Osmium. Denser was better for Combustion and this was the densest it got. Kael focused his mind and put everything into it he could. Everything had a limit on how large the explosion could be, and Kael would meet that limit. As the jagged crystal bucked in his hand glowing with a storm of orange energy, Kael chucked it squarely at the assassin riding the geyser of blood.

A blast ripped the sky. A ball of death shot down at the assassin in a deluge of heat and sound. It grew brighter and brighter as the flame expanded. The assassin disappeared into the inferno. The firestorm began to circle and grow in a grand spinning sphere. The blaze rounded and spun in the shape of a huge dome engulfing everything in the air between the helicopter and ocean. The sea glowed and the bloody tethers grabbing the helicopter snapped and fell back into the sea. With a pivot in the air, the helicopter jerked as everyone was thrown the other way. Gianna hit the side, followed by Joshua hitting her, followed by Kael hitting Joshua hitting her. The pilot leveled out the chopper and angled it for the nearest patch of land, on the horizon.

Gianna, Joshua, and Kael unknotted themselves from each other as Joshua latched on to Kael, laughing hysterically.

“You’re alive!” his lips moved, drowned by the roar of the blades.

Kael, winded, tried to shrug out of the overzealous embrace, just trying to take a full breath. He needed to sleep.

He also needed more of that metal. It was his only reserve. He had stolen it over a year ago with the intent of killing a specific man that he hated. Even if it saved their lives now, using it just now felt like a tremendous waste, and he would have to scrounge high and low to ever find more again.

The three Coast Guard members sat there staring in disbelief-- shaken but alright. With the door ripped from its hinges, the noise was unbearable and communication impossible. Everything had happened so fast they could only look at their guests and then to themselves with squinted eyes and slack jaws.

“What just happened?” the copilot hollered into his headset, looking around frantically.

“Just land!” the instructor belted back.

As the copilot radioed in a frantic message, the pilot fought with the machine as the dashboard lit up with every warning it was made to show. The vehicle uttered telltale guttural noises. It seemed to shake and sway on the wind. The assassin may not have destroyed the helicopter outright, but the prognosis was poor.

Land appeared under them shortly, and everyone was thrilled as the pilot set the helicopter down on a stretch of beach. With a thud and a shaky landing, they were back on dry land. The pilot killed the dying engine and exited to view the damage. The tail was slightly bent, it was missing a door, and the landing gear was more than a little mangled.

As the copilot guarded the radio, the Coast Guard instructor and his two recruits set up flares and rummaged the helicopter for a weapon. Kael signaled Joshua and Gianna to follow him. As the night set in obscuring everything, they stole away from the wreckage.

Joshua looked back at the ocean, his eyes searching all about. It was clear now that the Dark Element wouldn’t let them go, and if he couldn’t come up with something, they’d be dead by week’s end.

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