United:Fire

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Escape

"Freedom. Finally! “Melanie sprinted through the dark hallways, alarms blaring. She could hear the guards behind her yelling as they chased after her. "Gotta keep running, gotta make it out of here."

She was terrified, after all this time she finally had a shot at escaping, what if she blew it? She shook her head in defiance. “I’ll make it.” She whispered repeatedly as she ran ever further into the maze of hallways and cells. Her Muscles screamed in defiance, atrophied from so long without exercise. Her heart and lungs worked overtime, fighting her with every step.

She forced herself to run even harder. She could feel the cold concrete through her thin leather shoes. She felt a touch of sorrow as she thought of what would happen to the poor guard who failed to double check the door locks. The guards in the facility were highly trained, for one to slip up and let her loose was a 1 in a million shot, she had to take it, she had to get out.

There was nothing she could do about the fate of the guard, and that ate her up inside, even the guards are people. She felt so selfish! Melanie thought of the family the guard would never see again, about the opportunities he would lose. Her kind heart ached from more than the exertion she was placing on it.

"It sucks, but you have to keep moving", she mumbled to herself. Breathing in through her mouth and out through her nose, her sides already shooting with sharp pains. Her face twisted in agony.

She knew they would be watching her. They were always watching. Melanie looked for cameras, her clear blue eyes darting around, getting a good look at the ceiling, making sure to check the corners. She chuckled as she remembered the cellblocks didn’t have cameras. She knew President Watche was too prideful to put cameras in this hole. He felt invincible, like no one would ever best him. A grin of vengeance appeared on her face, it felt a little unfamiliar to Melanie. She left it there, letting it fuel her.

The only way out was up. Things were going to get trickier if she left the bottom floor, everywhere else had cameras for sure. President Watch was vain and pompous, but he wasn’t stupid. This place was called the Watche Corporation, President Watche had established places just like this one all over the world. Specializing in all forms of security. Cameras, fences, alarm systems. The animal had somehow gained the support of the general public. Everyone trusted Watche, Everyone felt safe. Unless you were a superhuman, then that is truly all the company was to you. Your guardian, your overseer. The company's slogan ran through her head, though she wished it wouldn’t. "Always watching out for you."

She didn’t understand how people could be so blind.

“Ignorance is bliss.” She whispered softly to herself. A string of thoughts drifting through her mind. “Trying to hide from Watche is suicide! Where are you going to go when you get out? How will you keep them from finding you?” She bit her lip in fear, nearly drawing blood. The sick realization of where she was sank in once more.

Suicide may be better than rotting down here.

Melanie thought hard about her arrival in this place. She remembered the facility had six floors, she had seen the inside of an elevator. Thinking about that elevator ride made her nauseous, it had brought her here, to the bottom floor, to her prison. This is where Melanie and hundreds of others had lived for a few years at least. Without seeing the sun she had lost count of the days after about thirty. To Melanie it felt like an eternity.

The top floor was where the Watche offices were located. She had never seen them, but she was sure they were extravagant. Thinking of the difference in where she had been living, and her idea of the top floor, made her furious.

She had heard the guards talking earlier, for some reason president Watche himself was in this very building. What brought him here, out of all the facilities in the world, she didn’t know. She didn’t like it. “Just my luck that he’s here when I get out.” Her mouth felt dry, her throat hurt. She needed water.

Melanie had only met President Watche once, during the orientation. She and dozens of others were addressed by the big man himself. She had to admit his offer was extremely tempting. They were offered a position to work for him and find others like them. Those who accepted got to continue their lives, under constant scrutiny, they became employees for the company. Living a life of luxury, like millionaires.

All It took to decline him was for her to remember them kicking in her door, hauling her out of her bed and her college dorm in the middle of the night. There was no way she would ever put that fear on someone else, she didn’t even know the girl from the memory anymore. She tried to remember her family, and she couldn’t.

Somehow, through the torture and the attempts at brainwashing, they had forced her to forget. The pain she felt as she tried ever harder to remember her loved ones hurt more than her muscles, more than her dry throat, more than anything. She didn’t even know where home was anymore.

Clearing her mind with a shake of her head, she refocused on the task at hand. She knew there must be a kitchen, the rotten leftovers they brought her had to come from somewhere. There was probably a floor where the guards lived, though that wasn’t for certain. Melanie didn’t want to end up on that floor.

She knew there was a hospital on the ground floor, she vaguely remembered coming in through the hospital. Melanie didn’t go down without a fight, they had to hurt her, breaking her bones and tying her wrists. She ran her fingers over the scars, they still felt rough to the touch. The hospital had Treated her just enough when they brought her to the facility that they knew she wouldn’t die. Melanie felt angry at those doctors more often than she felt grateful.

She didn’t know where exactly the facility was located, only that the air was dry, drier than she was used too. She knew it must be in the United States because flying wasn’t a memory. Could they have taken that too?

She knew there were more people like her here, who could do unexplainable things, and for some reason President Watche was rounding them all up. Poor souls.

As she ran through the prison she could see these people in the cells to either side of her. Men, women, even children. These cells weren't nice. Cement floors, terrible plumbing, hardly room to stand up straight. Most people she saw just sat on their bunks, looking sad. A few cheered her on, some begged her to stop and take them with her. She looked up at the ceiling and tuned them out, if she listened any longer she would have stopped.

She just kept running. She had to.

Two guards suddenly rounded the corner in front of her. Surprised, she turned sharply and placed her back against the wall. Her hands pressing a little too hard into the concrete, her knuckles white with fear. "Hands in the air! Don’t move or we'll shoot!" They pointed their bright flashlights right at her eyes, she winced in pain as the light entered her unadjusted pupils. They were blinding her on purpose, it’s a lot harder to fight when you can’t see. Though she couldn’t see them, she knew the guards were wearing full body armor, the Watche logo, a multicolored Space nebula with a crystal blue eye in the middle, in its rightful place on their left shoulders.

She heard one of the guards raise his radio "Subject 273 has been located. Directions on how to proceed?" There was a moment of agonizing silence. All Melanie could think about in those moments was that there were at least 272 people she was leaving down here. "Affirmative sir!" said the guard in his best military voice. Both guards raised their Automatic weapons and fired right at her.

The sound was deafening, reverberating through the tight knit tunnels. Her ears were ringing now, and there were floating dark spots in her eyes from the lights. The guards lowered their weapons in confusion, walking toward the wall slowly. The bullets had passed right through her and hit the wall behind her. Concrete shards littered the floor. One of the guards began kicking them around. They both looked around like they were lost.

Suddenly Melanie was there, right where she was before. She ran past the guards down a hallway to the right. The guards jumped up in surprise, nearly tripping over themselves as they darted after her. "273 is escaping!" The first guard yelled into the radio. She chuckled to herself as they chased the illusion away. The guards that were chasing her before right passed her, close enough she could have touched them, and followed the others quickly. Chasing nothing but air and light.

Melanie relaxed. Sitting felt nice, even on a stone floor. Her chest heaved in and out as she breathed heavily, letting her eyes and ears readjust. Her head was pounding, the pain especially sharp in her temples. Using her abilities was extremely difficult here. With all of the suppressors in her system she wasn’t supposed to be able to do anything superhuman. Projecting just one illusion had felt like running a marathon, coupled with the fact that she was also literally running, Melanie had never felt so tired. Her leg muscles twitched as she rested, begging her to stop.

She thought of how the guards had watched her eat and drink, only leaving when she had finished completely. As soon as they were gone she would force herself to vacate her stomach, flushing the contents down the filthy toilet. She had lived on nothing but water from the top of the toilet tank for weeks now, she wouldn’t have been able to do it much longer. Fate had smiled upon her, and the guard messed up before she did.

Unfortunately her body acted faster than she did, and some of the suppressants had remained in her system. She didn’t know how Watche made them, but she hated them with every fiber of her being. They masked a part of her that was beautiful. She loved her illusions, to her every ability was beautiful as long as it was used for kindness.

As comfortable as she was, she had to move. She stood up slowly and listened, her ears no longer ringing from the gunshots. She was greeted only by the coughs and cries of fellow prisoners. She continued in the direction she had been going, running slower now, weakened from the effort of her powers. She paused as she passed the hallway to her right that the guards had run down, seeing no sign of them she smiled from ear to ear. The smile became smaller as she realized her illusion must have already faded. They'd be headed back soon.

A voice came over the loudspeaker, starling her with a loud screech and causing her to jump. "Subject 273, return to your cell immediately, all guards have been authorized to shoot on site. Continuing now is suicide. No one has escaped our prisons and no one ever will. If you value your life, return to cellblock C immediately.” It was him. President Watche. She could never forget his voice, it sent chills through her bones. Low and gravely, he spoke with authority. She heard the other prisoners begin to stir again as the announcement ended.

"Ill ruin you, you pig". She hissed under her breath. Surprised at herself for the hatred she felt, she had never hated anyone, but she hated Watche.

She continued to run, eventually stopping at another hallway to her left, placing her left hand on the wall and peeking around the corner, careful not to be seen, she observed silently. She held her brown hair with her right hand so it wouldn’t expose her. There were four more guards, sitting at a table near a door with Stairwell written on it. They were playing some sort of card game, leaning back into their chairs and scratching their guts. She was bewildered at the fact that the facility was on red alert and these guards were playing cards, like nothing was even happening.

There was a keypad near the handle of the door behind them. That was her way out! Excitement ran through her as she stared at the keypad. She felt it run from her head to her toes. "C’mon you can do this" She urged herself.

She focused, fighting through the suppressors. Crippling pain shot through her skull and the back of her neck, though she held on. An image of herself appeared, a perfect copy standing to her right. The illusion rounded the corner she was leaned against and walked casually toward the guards. One of them eventually spotted her and threw his cards to the table, nearly falling out of his chair as he jumped out of it. “There she is! After her!" Two of the other guards jumped up just as quickly as the first and ran toward the image. The fake Melanie gasped in fear, appearing to be surprised, it turned and ran back out into the hallway, sprinting away from the real Melanie. The guards rounded the corner, chasing her image into the darkness.

"There’s one more". She whispered to herself, hanging her head in frustration and softly running her fingers through her hair. Regaining her composure and peeking around the corner she could see the lone guard. Sitting at the table drinking a soda. His back was turned to her, he didn’t seem alarmed or alerted. She took a deep breath. Her vision was blurry now, darkness appearing in her peripheral. Every muscle in her body twitching and shaking now. The noise of the alarms still ringing throughout the facility, she had to focus.

She couldn’t take this guard by herself. Even in her best condition, he was much larger and stronger than her. Without her illusions she was weak, and she knew it. “Gotta get clever Mel!” She tried again to make an illusion of herself. She had to bite her tongue and stifle a scream as she dropped to the floor, barely catching herself and nearly blacking out. "Something smaller, you can do this" She whimpered.

Suddenly Melanie heard the guard gasp and shout. "What the heck!" She heard the sound of aluminum on concrete as the can hit the wall, soda splashing everywhere. She heard him cough a few timed, and could hear him retching.

She peered around the corner once more. The soda can lay on the ground, and it was full of worms and bugs. The guard stood up quickly, he looked horrified. He poked at the can with is foot a few times, staring at it in disgust. Wiping his tongue on his sleeve, he looked at the table, then down the empty hallway. A nervous look hung on his face.

After a few seconds he turned and headed for the door. She watched closely as he punched four numbers into the keypad. He opened the door and disappeared into the stairwell.

Melanie ran as fast as her tired body would allow, the soda can was just an empty can now. She started punching the four numbers into the keypad, a bead of sweat running down the side of her face. The light stayed red. She tried again, with no luck. She began to panic, resting her head against the door she began to hyperventilate. "Focus"! She said loudly. Doing her best to remember, she punched in four more numbers, glaring at the keypad.

After a few seconds the light turned green with a quiet beep and click. Her whole body relaxed and she smiled again. "Got it"! She turned the handle and stopped. She didn’t think she would get this far, her plan ended here. From now on she had to wing it.

She opened the door.

Looking around Melanie could see she was on the bottom of a stairwell, stairs extending further than she could see in the dark. The stairs were a double edged sword for her. Stairs meant freedom, but could her tired legs make it up that many stairs before they gave out on her? Melanie doubted herself, rubbing her legs with her palms, trying to ease the pain she was feeling.

There were windows lining the wall of the stairwell. Melanie gasped and fell to her knees as she gazed out them at the stars. Dizziness overtook her and she fell backward into a sitting position. The tears came quickly, she let them flow. Spilling across her lap.

It had been so many years since she had seen the sky, and the beauty of stars. It was the most grandeur thing she had ever seen. A few years before and the night sky was nothing special, but now it meant everything.

A shooting star streaked across the sky, momentarily illuminating the stairwell as it shared its light. Melanie involuntarily gasped.

"C’mon little star, get me out of here." She wished as she closed her eyes. A warm feeling permeated through her body, focusing in her center. It was soothing, and Melanie thought it would be nice to just go to sleep.

Panic shot through her as she remembered. She stood up and stretched, and began climbing the stairs. Gripping the handrails tightly, leaning against them for support. Melanie paused at every landing to rest and breathe, nearly passing out after each set. Ten sets of stairs later and she reached a door, collapsing onto the landing and staring at the door is all she could manage to do. As she stared at the door longingly, the handle began to move.

With great effort, she quickly crawled to the side, letting the door open toward her as she hugged the wall. She held her breath. The guard from earlier, the one with the soda, walked back into the stairwell. He was speaking into his radio. "Be right there, had to make an emergency trip to the restroom." Melanie heard someone yelling loudly through his earpiece.

He shook his head and ran quickly down the stairs. "Sorry sir, ill retake my post sir!" He put his radio back at his side. "Cant a guy catch a break?" He whined as he descended below her. She waited what felt like forever until she heard the door shut behind him at the bottom. Gathering her strength and standing with much effort, she opened the door.

The first thing she noticed is that someone was screaming. Terrible heart wrenching screams, she knew people were tortured here, she had been through it, but these screams were different. It sounded like someone was about to die.

"Keep it together" Melanie said to herself as she looked around, closing the door quietly behind her.

Yes! She was on the ground floor, the hospital. White tile floors, glowing fluorescent lights on the walls stung her eyes, pictures of soothing landscapes lined the hallways. Potted plants and magazines sat on side tables outside of what looked like waiting rooms, their doors closed.

Something so simple, yet it felt so alien. How could something so serene and normal exist above her former home? She gazed at the paintings, and wondered if she would ever see the ocean again, to feel the wind on her face and warm sand in her toes. She picked up a magazine and thumbed through it. Jewelry and clothing and all sorts of mundane things were for sale in its pages. Melanie scoffed at it as she threw it back down, the screams bringing her thoughts back to reality.

Looking to the other side of the hall she saw it, an exit sign, pointing left. Their dim green light guiding her to freedom. Then she saw the Cameras, one pointed right at her, its light flashing red. Her body went numb, she couldn’t move. She knew they could see her, why weren’t they running to catch her, why was she still standing alone in the hallway.

She started running, as hard as her body would allow. Right past the camera and to the left, following the signs. She vaguely noticed the screaming had quieted and turned into soft sobs. Turning down another hallway she smashed right into two people wheeling a small hospital bed, knocking her to the ground.

She lay on the ground, clutching her side. Her vision faded momentarily. People were yelling and running about. Forcing her eyes open and looking up she saw a woman surrounded by people in white coats, their faces hidden with green medical masks and goggles. They were Doctors. Melanie knew the doctors weren't combat trained, the protocol during a lockdown was for everyone to return to the housing floor. The only reason they would be here now is if someone were dying.

Or giving birth!

She sat up now, staring at the woman in the room. She was beautiful, even though she looked terrified. Her brown hair was a mess and wet with sweat. She looked even more tired than Melanie felt. The doctors started pointing and shouting, she wasn’t focused on what they were saying. Then over the sounds of the shouting, she heard more crying. Softer, quieter, a babies cry.

With a sudden burst of strength, standing up quickly and glancing at the small bed in front of her, she could see him. Brand new, with a little blue bracelet tied around his tiny wrist. A baby boy. She looked again at the woman in the room, and felt so much sorrow. To have to raise a child in here was a fate worse than death. Suddenly, as if reading Melanies mind, the woman’s face became panicked!

She began pulling out her IV needles and started trying to get out of bed. "Free him! Take him with you get him out of here!" Screamed the woman. The desperation in her eyes was screaming louder than she was. She was throwing the doctors off her, with what seemed to be strength she shouldn’t possess.

Time seemed to slow, everything freezing in place. Melanie had never had a child, she didn't know how to raise a baby boy. Knowing that this place is no place for a child to grow up, she made her decision. She had to fulfill his mother’s wish. "I'll get him out of here!" She shouted. A single tear flowed down the woman’s face.

"Thank you” mouthed the new mother.

Time kicked back into full speed, the doctors stuck the new mother with a syringe, her fighting slowed and her eyes became droopy. She fell back onto the bed, breathing heavily. The doctors began to reach for the baby.

"Get back!" Melanie shouted. "I’m warning you!" She raised her hands toward them and took a defensive stance. She knew the doctors weren't aware of everything the super humans could do, they backed off in fear tripping over eachother. Some grabbing sharp tools and equipment and holding it up ready to attack.

Grabbing the boy in her arms, she quickly wrapped him in a blanket from the bed he laid in. A few doctors began running at her again, realizing what was happening. She dodged passed them and headed right for the exit.

Looking at the boy, she felt a myriad of emotions. He was crying like all newborns cry. He had no idea what was happening, brand new to the world and caught up in such a mess.

"We can make it out of here little one!" Melanie said to him lovingly. She wondered why there were no guards on this floor. She wasn't complaining, she didn’t want the boy to get hurt. She had known him for all of thirty seconds, but she loved him fiercely.

Reaching the door and bursting through the exit, she could taste the fresh air of the still night for the first time in a long time. The moonlight illuminating all around her. She was free! The baby boy was free! She couldn’t believe it!

"Freeze! Stop right there or we'll shoot!" Holding the boy to her center and gazing out into the night, Melanie could see dozens of guards surrounded the exit, lining the forest around the complex. Their weapons pointed directly at the woman and child.

She quickly took in her surroundings. The trees were thick and dark, the facility was sitting in the middle of a clearing, the forest all around it. Above the trees she thought she could make out mountains in the moonlight. She had to act quickly.

“I have to save this child!" She thought to herself. She was still weak, still in so much pain, but she had to do this. She would give her life for the boy if that was what required. In an instant her mission had turned from freeing herself, into freeing the boy. His life was more important than her life, she knew it for certain.

"No!" She screamed taking a step forward. Focusing all her strength, she watched as the guards took their aim. Her whole body burst into pain, her nose began to bleed, dripping blood rapidly. Everything went dark, and she fell to her knees. Clutching the boy tightly.

The door behind her opened, and President Watche stepped out. She remembered every detail about him. He was a very stout man. He looked about 40 years old and always wore the same black suit, black tie, and black leather gloves.

He had a beautiful gold watch, and some kind of ring with a red crystal. No wedding ring, he wasn’t married. Melanie wondered who would be vile enough to marry this monster. His jawline was defined, a black beard which he always kept perfectly trimmed lined his face. His eyes were a beautiful crystal blue, like the ones in the logo. They were commanding, but sinister. His black hair was spiked in the front, he wore it kind of messy. She always felt his hairstyle was a little too young for his age.

If he wasn't so evil she might have found him attractive. Thinking about that made her gag a little.

"Soldiers! Stand down!" Shouted the President. All of the guards lowered their weapons instantly, looking around in confusion. "We have never had someone escape from any of our prisons. You will all be demoted, and relocated to a remote training facility to reeducate and retrain you. I will be dealing with this subject myself. Return to the facility and guard the cells, do a sweep and make sure no one else has escaped. I expect a full report when I return!"

"Sir yes Sir!" Yelled the guards. They instantly formed a perfect line, and marched past Melanie, the boy, and the illusion of their mighty leader.

Just to be sure, she had the illusion walk her toward the trees, feeling disgusted at even the idea of him touching her. As soon as the last guard reentered the facility she dropped the illusion and moved as quickly as she could, overjoyed to be free of the image of President Watche, hopefully for good.

Escaping through the trees was not easy, she had to be careful not to trip over roots and weeds and drop the boy. In the dim lighting and with how tired she was, she stumbled a few times.

The boy had stopped crying now. Melanie had heard the rumor that newborns could sleep through anything, and she was glad now that it was true. To her amazement, she continued for another hour. She could see the lights of guards through the trees in the distance as she looked behind her. They were well aware of her tricks now, and were headed into the trees.

She could barely see the Watche logo on the building, she knew it would be everywhere when she got out. Every store, every restaurant, every street corner. Watche was watching. A helicopter flew overhead, its spotlight illuminating the trees in a wide circle. She did her best to avoid its light, laying low and staying in the thickest parts of the trees.

The alarms from the facility were quiet and distant now. She was so tired, she couldn’t carry on much longer. Just as her strength gave out, she nearly ran into the barbed wire fence. "No, not now!" She sobbed as she pounded at the 50 foot fence with her free fist.

She should’ve known there would be a fence. She was exhausted, and it took her against her will. Slumping against the fence as she cried. "I’m so sorry!" She said to the child, stroking his sweet face. “I’m so sorry."

There was nothing she could do, she was finished. Glancing at the newborn, once more, she noticed that he was awake again, and he was calm. He stared into Melanie’s eyes. She felt a deep connection with the boy, he was hers, and she had failed him.

He looked through the fence, blinked twice, and fell asleep. The lights in the distance were getting closer. Sleep began to overtake her as well.

Everything around them began to glow, in a soft, warm light. It grew brighter and brighter and suddenly the woman and the child were on the other side of the fence, the light was gone as quickly as it had come.

They were in the middle of a road. Too tired to be surprised, it hardly phased Melanie. A vehicle was coming slowly up the road, a truck. Something big under a tarp in the back. She hoped the truck wouldn’t hit them and tried to raise her arm but didn’t have the strength, it fell lazily back to the ground.

The truck slowed to a stop, the brakes making a terrible sound, and a man stepped out. The light of the cabin illuminating a woman who was with him. She looked worried. The man stared at them for a few seconds before slowly starting toward them.

"Do you need any help?" The man said cautiously as he took off his cowboy hat, he had a gun, it looked like a hunting rifle. Too tired to say a thing, Melanie fell onto her back, fast asleep. The boy resting on her chest, sleeping just as well as her.


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