Man of Time

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Chapter 20- Helda

“I would be lying if I didn’t admit I am a little bummed we don’t have super cool super hero outfits.” Helda’s laughter filled the nervous hall.

“I think these outfits are pretty slimming.” Blake laughed, gliding their hands down an all black attire.

“For being bulletproof, I’m impressed.” Catori commented, swinging her arms around for feel.

“These are definitely, fruity.”

Helda looked down at her suit with the Lothar engraving across her chest. It’s pale blue complimented her appearance while she tied up her hair. Exposing her masculine figure. Helda’s thumbs traced the lining of her coat, exposing the thick material which would protect her bullets.

“I spent a bunch of money on these, be grateful.” Blake commented while they helped snap my jacket together.

“No they’re fashionable, and I love it.” Helda nodded to everyone else’s matching outfits.

Ralph emerged from the corner of my eye in an identical Lothar suit as Helda. He walked with stiffened confidence without a limp. Something that caught me off guard as he entered the conversation.

Blake sighed in relief. “Oh thank fuck that fits you.”

Ralph chuckled by their expression, giving them a twirl. “It’s a little heavy but it fits nicely.” My grin caught his attention. “Mr. Walters, I must ask you to spare of moment of your time.” He offered his hand as we exploded in laughter.

“T-This,” A deep blush stretched across my cheeks, “You look very handsome.” I whispered.

Ralph looked down with a smile,“Why thank you.” He kissed my hand before making contact with Helda. “Look at us, we’re matching.”

Helda strutted over, taking glances at their outfits before speaking.“I look incredible, you look, subpar.”

“You are so mean.” I said through group laughter.

“Alright,” Edith cut the the joy from the air, ” It’s time everyone.”

She beckoned us to her study, a room that I have never been in before. It’s antique intricacies surrounded a large mahogany desk with floor plans and notes. Edith’s focused gaze grounded the reality of the situation. My chest thumped by the visualization of the plans while we all gathered around the desk.

This reality was coming to an end.

And this may be the last time I am gathered with all my friends.

Those thoughts ran through my mind as Edith explained the plan, showing us where we are going and how we are splitting up. I felt unqualified for this task. But I know if I back out now I’ll never return to my time.

Edith handed us floor plans for us to study and my stomach sank from how big the building was. The time machine was near the back of the facility, cut off by many hallways and rooms. I defused my anxiety by scanning the foreign room. A combination of shelves and plants lined the walls. Shelves of binders and folders labeled in different languages and titled under an assortment of years.

My attention shifted to the Blake’s unsteady composure. The swell in my chest had calmed through their strain. And everyone else’s tensed shoulders and held breaths steadied the longer Blake held open their palms. Their fingers twitched as they reached for a lush plant, expelling the negative energy onto it’s now crippled body. I exchanged my sympathetic glance before tuning in to Edith’s speech.

“Time; time is something they’ve taken from us. And we will never get it back. We were brought into this world because they thought we were nothing but listen to my words when I say you’re anything but nothing. We have fought with blood, sweat, and tears to prove that we deserve to have a life worth living. I vowed to avenge those who cannot be with us today, and I ask all of you to think about why you’re here to fight. We all have our drive, so let it fuel us to victory. We can’t lose, not here, not after everything they’ve done to us.”

A single tear slid down Ralph’s remorseful stance, “We have to prove that we’re worth more than what they told us.”

“Exactly.” Catori agreed.” It’s up to us to free those less fortunate than us, and stop this ruse all together so we can go home.”

“Let’s go home then.“Blake nodded.

***

We walked through dense forestry to get to the compound, parking our vehicle on the side of a isolate road. Once the building came into view, Ralph split paths from the rest of us. Straightening out his suit before waltzing over. We watched him speak with the guards, displaying a fabricated badge Catori developed. He gave an uneasy looked towards us before disappearing inside.

The rest of us go in through an exposed vent system. Helda kept referencing some sort of trope that occured in a specific genre of media, but I was unable to understand. Her charisma collapsed my crippling anxiety and helped me continue onward.

I assigned small orbs of light to everyone when traveling in the darkness. Each orb floating peacefully in front of each person. Our breaths weighed heavy in the cramped spaces until Edith whispered for a stop. She lingered above grated lines, removing the vent and sprouting a thick vine before hoping down.

“We all couldn’t have dressed up as janitors? Or... Agents like Ralph.” Helda complained.

Blake dusted off their shoulders,“Have you looked at us?” They circled their face.

“Edith and I would be fine.” Helda smirked.

“I’m the most wanted Forgotten, absolutely not.” Edith shook her head, peeking through the thin window in the door.

“So I’m just going at it alone?” Helda’s jaw hardened.

“We’re afraid so.” Catori said.

“Okay.”

Helda’s tone came off as more relaxed than fearful. A thin grin appeared from the corner of her lip as she joined Edith’s side. She shook her hands, bouncing her feet slightly while Edith recapped her part of the plan.

“Are you still comfortable with this plan?” Edith spoke softly.

“Oh yea I got it.” She nodded her head, giving us a wink.

“Be careful” Bhaskar signed.

“I’ll see you in a couple of minutes Bhaskar, don’t worry.” Helda gave a knowing nod before slipping out of the closet.

Edith exchanged conservation through a glance before turning to the rest of us. “Alright back up,” She corralled us to the vent, “This was all emotional support for her.”

We all sighed. “Seriously?” I complained.

“Wait wait, shouldn’t all officials be on the opposite side of the building at this point?” Blake folded their arms.

“Right, okay, Raymond go look out at a security camera. It should be off.” Edith advised.

“You think she will get there in time?” Catori said as I tried looking through the window.

“Even if she doesn’t, I know she’ll charm her way.”

“Hopefully her confidence in her power is good enough.”

“Me too.”

I swallowed my dread and carefully opened the door. Peeking out to daunting white hallways, my head swerved in servailence. I found the security camera, informing the others we could exit without being seen. Edith took the lead, directing us through memorized halls and disabled security check points.

Our quiet footsteps circled around a widened hall and into a large storage room. “We’re almost there.” Edith said.

The second my eyes faltered from my friends, the lights went out. My palms opened for illumination, but I hesitated. Trying to make sense of shuffling feet.

My fingers glided across steel poles and grates as I hid. Bumping into someone and deciding the stay beside them.

“Bhaskar!” Edith whispered.

A tiny flame flickered from across the room. Just enough to see the curvature of his freckles. I sent a current of thin light across the room, allowing everyone to reorient themselves. Everyone’s faces hushed in seriousness, staying still to see what’s going on.

Blake exhaled sharply, “People are coming.”

A march of footsteps echoed on cue. I snapped my light out of existence, lingering in darkness. The steady haze of a flashlight pierced down the main walkway. Bhaskar stalked around the framing, isolated from the rest of us.

Edith eyes darted frantically as the rest of us backed up, but my heel clipped a shelf. The official’s head swerved, rushing towards the sound. Blake’s figure towered over him, grabbing his bicep and draining the consciousness out of him. The thud of his body alerted the accompanying officials who ran over.

Edith rushed over as they seized Blake’s limbs. Their body twisting in defense. The two of them fought off their opponents and looked to each other with concerned exhaustion. Bhaskar and Catori jogged over, dragging bodies to the side.

With stifled anticipation we pressed on. Creeping through a massive hallway and towards large windows that lead to our destination. We peeked our heads over the wall, catching sight of the time machine.

THUMP THUMP.

Those images flooded my brain. Bringing back to 1920. Being beat in that alley. Defenseless as I screamed from inside. The 3, 2, 1. Poppy. The shop. Dinner. Sunflowers. My head pounded from the swelling in my chest.

Alexander stood on an leveated platform beside it, speaking with an inspector and several officials standing idly by. Ralph was among them. Head strong and eyes narrowed keenly. Edith gave the entry doors a small pull, cursing beneath her breath.

“They’re locked.”

In that moment, the building’s alarms set off. Wiring loudly in our ears while the doors at the end of the hall flew open. Rounds being fired in our directions.

A wall of light stretched from my arms, wrapping around our ducked heads. Edith and Catori jumped out of the safe zone, combating the intrusion. Bhaskar, Blake, and I jumped to the door, slamming our bodies against it in failed efforts. I made eye contact with Ralph, who stood in panic at our separation. Bhaskar pushed us away as his hand expelled a bright flame. Making work at the doors’ integrity.

Blake and I joined the fight, working together on a rogue official who slipped past the power couple. We punched and kicked without powers, fearful of hurting each other. Angry shouts came from the machine’s room from Bhaskar blazing open the doors and smoke pummeling into our lungs.

The team separated into their own battles. Using their powers to combat the ruthless brutes of the corporation. The thickness of my shields sharped through the fight. Sweat beading down my face. The scene blurred while adrenaline consumed my figure. Fighting for my freedom.

Next thing I knew I was in the room. A wisp of blonde hair flew past me and took down the official beside me. The coat of her suit falling to the floor. Too busy in my own battle, I slammed a shield into an official’s face and turn to-

BANG.

I jumped from the noise. Heart pounding in my throat watching a body drop from the corner of my eye.

Alexander.

His eyes frozen with shock and blood staining his suit. Unmoving.

My sight trailed upwards to a pointed gun. Smoking from the shot, held by the hand of;

“Helda?” Ralph croaked.

“Yeah?” Helda responded, tossing the gun to the ground.

“What did you do?” He stammered.

“You know a thanks would be nice.”

Edith jogged over, stopping dead in her tracks. “You killed Alexander.” Her gaze locked on his body.

“Isn’t that why we’re here? I’m pretty sure that’s why-”

“We agreed I’d be the one to kill him.” Edith growled through a pant.

“I think you’ve killed enough people as is,” Helda gesticulated, “It’s making you a little crazy.”

“Helda..?” Devastation rocked Bhaskar’s lids.

“Don’t look at me like that.” Helda dismissed.

“You... You killed him.” Ralph stumbled back. Hand covering his quivering lip.

“Yes, get with it.” Helda crossed her arms. “Don’t get why it’s bothering you so much.”

“You’re too young to be making this decision.” He lectured, “Taking a life isn’t something that should be taken lightly, you-”

“For someone who also has blood on his hands, you’re real preachy.”

THUMP THUMP.

Blood?

“What?” She grinned from my shock, “Oh right, he’s forgotten to tell you.”

Ralph shook his head, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Panic laced across his tongue.

“Sure you do, what was his name? Bren, right?” Helda taunted.

The room paused. A mixture of negativity lingered across Ralph’s fear-stricken eyes. Holding eye contact with Helda. His mouth parted with shaky lips, struggling to find words while he grappled with newfound revelation.

“How do you know that name?” He asked.

“Mm...” Helda pretended to ponder. “1943. You got caught up in a scandal that dad noticed.”

I took a step beside Ralph, “Dad?” I questioned.

“...Hugo?”

“It’s still! Helda.” She snapped with a pointed finger.

Ralph threw his hand up with quickened breathing. Eyes trembling with dissociation. “How...” His palm covered his mouth, “You were only 3. H-How are you here? How do you remember?!”

“I was forced to go back and watch your downfall to be reminded of what would happen if I refused service. Dad sent me here to follow you, let me transition to lower suspicion.”

Helda... Lothar?

Ralph’s sister.

A corporate spy.

THUMP THUMP.

What was Ralph then??

“He made me.” Ralph stuttered.

“And yet that sacrifice wasn’t good enough.” Helda cocked her brow.

“You should know how cruel our dad was.”

Helda scoffed, “I’m pretty sure I know better than you.” Her gaze grew hazy.

“Helda this is nonsense.”

“It’s the truth.” She took a step down towards us and we all with with-drawled.

Everyone, except Ralph. “He made me kill...” He exhaled sharply.

“You killed without hesitation.” Helda sneered, glancing to me.

“I did what I had too!” He spun towards me in anguish.

“Like you did with Bren,” She persuaded our attention back with a devilish grin, “Watching the life drain from the one you-”

“Shut up!” Ralph shouted.

Dread clawed my throat watching his vulnerability destroy him. The uneasiness from Helda’s presence. Her betrayal. The blood lining Ralph’s knuckles.

“Turns out Ralph isn’t as pure as he seems.” Helda lifted her chin in observation.

My own vision grew unstable. All prior confidence shattered by the unexpected. The isolating tension in a foreign atmosphere. I-I...

“We have all done things that we aren’t proud of. His past has nothing to do with what you are doing to us.” I stepped in front of Ralph, creating a barrier between the two siblings.

“And what’s that?” Helda asked.

“Betrayal.” Edith replied.

“Only for my own personal benefit, yes.” Helda agreed, her trance drifting to her closest friend, “I know, Bhaskar, you didn’t think a minute would result to this.”

“Be quiet.” Edith growled.

“You’re not my leader anymore, I don’t have to do shit.” Helda teased, “You were always an expendable pawn.”

“We have the same value, so that must make you expendable too.” Catori chimed in.

“To him, maybe” She gestured to Alexander, “But I’m free.”

Edith took a step forward. “Freedom isn’t killing a man.”

Helda rolled her eyes. “You’re such a hypocrite. I mean you said yourself that you were going to kill Alexander if it’s the last thing you did. I think you’re jealous.”

“I’m not jealous.”

Helda giggled to herself, rotating around the raised platform before twisting her body back towards us,“Everyone of you shares the same weakness of desperation. You’ve let it corrupt you to seek validation in a world that views you lesser.”

“You’re one of us.” Edith reminded.

“No, I’m better. In order to win the game, you have to play the game. You win by manipulating the rules. Because an eye for an eye-”

“Makes the whole world blind.” Ralph looked down, causing the corner of Helda’s lips to lift.

“Those online classes ended up working well after all. Once you’re on the same playing field as these ignorant men you realize you’re capable of the same cruelty that they are.” Helda’s thumbs ran down the lining of her vest, “And it feels so good to watch the hierarchy fall.”

“You’re sick.” Edith sneered.

“No, I’m smart.” She refuted, “But I get you didn’t expect that from me.”

Ralph shook his head, tears rolling down his jaw. “Why are you doing this?” His voice cracked.

“Because someone failed to fulfill the family legacy.”

Ralph’s heart dropped. “NO” He denied, “I’m on the right side of history!”

Helda tilted her head. “But are you on the winning one?”

“Enough!” I shouted.

Light sprouted from my palms. Fingers twitching to create a shield between the traitor and my lover. I swallowed my fears and stared into to eyes of our oppressor.

My heart thumped against my rib cage. Paralyzed by Helda’s menacing glare. A small perk of her lips followed a pitiful head shake before looking beyond me.

“Join me, Ralph. If you do you’ll no longer be a failure and you can finally have a purpose. Karl’s grandson is dead now, we’re the only siblings left.”

“You filthy son of a-”

Helda’s giggle pierced the air with a contorted wrist. I whipped around to see Ralph’s body constricting against itself. His muscles bulged, grunting in stiffened pain. The illusion of his left leg disappeared beneath flowing cloth.

“What are you doing to him!”

A blade burst from my palm. I advanced towards Helda, but an outside force diluted my motivation. Blake’s energy pushed me aside, ringing their palm around their torso with a belated breath. Helda whimpered, stance growing weary from Blake’s energy.

Green strands flowed around Ralph’s body as he gained control of his self. Falling back with one leg as Catori caught him. Blake’s harmonic stance wobbled against the full attention of Helda. Their arms straining until their legs gave out. I rushed to their side while they let out an exhausted sigh.

“I’m nice enough to let you go with a warning.” Helda warned. “Bhaskar’s right,” I turned to see Bhaskar’s hands raised from signing. “I think it’s time for you all to leave.”

The loud ambiance of marching echoed through the walls. We raised the weak to their feet. Eyes darting around for the source of sound.

Edith’s jaw tightened from a defeated gaze. “Bhaskar’s right, we need to go, now.”

“Last chance Ralph,” Helda taunted, “We can lead the company together.”

“... No.”

Ralph leaned against Catori, weakened by whatever Helda did to him. Eyes wavering while I came to his aid. Creating crutches from my light pushing him down the hall.

“Then stay out of my way.”

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