Chapter 13: Event Horizon
Each breath you take in frigid temperatures causes a thin cloud of steam to form from your mouth. The natural heat of your body colliding with nature's personal freezer causing a wonderful display to be formed from their unison. When he was a child he would marvel at the simple sciences of life. Now he wished he could return to those simple times.
The soft chime of the front doorbell tingling brought him back to reality. That choking sensation caused by the smoke clogging up his lungs as he stared up into the sky. It felt like his days had turned to night and nights his day. The midnight oil burning ever so constantly as he fought against the urge to sleep. He still had work to do.
"Otto!" His scraggly chin turned to her, that green goofball he had been forced to take on as his subordinate. She had dark black bags under her eyes, but her irises were on high alert. "Wanna hear the wrap-up?"
A simple nod was all the response she needed. As she rushed back inside, he took his time, stomping out his cigarette and meandering back into the facility. Within those safe walls, he relaxed himself a little. A few officers were talking at the front desk. Conversations of unfinished reports and recent events taking over the table. The mention of Otto's current quarry took a jab at his soul, but he had no time to stress.
He made his way through the main lobby to the employee area. A few officers could be seen sitting at tiny cubicles, filling out reports and signing odd documents as they prepared to turn in. His own cubicle could be seen in the far-right corner, directly ahead of the ceiling-high window. A mess of papers scattered across his desk and some binders sitting in his seat. Just ahead was the neat little square that Shotzi reported to. He hoped he could be on the force long enough to see her space devolve into insanity much like everyone else.
As he made his way deeper into the building, he naturally paused to observe the woman sitting silently on a bench. Her head lowered and her body sulking as she fiddled with a strange bracelet in her hand. From the glowing red hair she had atop her head, he assumed she was related to Colt.
Part of him wanted to comfort her, but there was nothing he could say that would help. He chose to silently disappear behind the door. A new sense of life graced this room. Though the overwhelming dread tried to choke out any remaining scraps of hope these four walls contained.
A few voices could be heard emanating through the walls. He followed the sounds until he came to Captain Wesley's office. A small group of officers were loitering inside, leaning against the walls and taking seats where they could as the Captain spoke up. He noticed Otto make his entrance, straightening his blue button-up and rubbing his ruff cut of hair. "Bismartin. Good, we were just wrapping up."
He waved him forward to observe the desk. Scattered across the wooden top were several pictures and case files from within the dunes. The pictures that stood out to him were an overturned squad car in the middle of the desert and a strange figure seen moving through the streets at night. He took the picture of the vehicle but something about that creature seemed oddly familiar.
"Focus up men," Wesley turned to Shotzi, "and ladies. We don't have much time. If this gets out to the public it may cause panic."
"The public?!" one of the officers spoke up. "Who gives a damn about the public, what about the criminals?"
"Yeah when word gets out that the sheriff is missing, they're gonna go into a frenzy." Otto hissed at the mention of the sheriff. To think, that was his squad car they found turned over in the dunes. And the additional mangled hood didn't sit well in his stomach.
More officers voiced their frustrations. Any semblance of order the room had was absorbed by the chaos. Otto just looked through the images, trying to see if he noticed anything. There was an image of a jeep that was reported as stolen on the night of the disturbance. They found a hole in the gas tank alongside a blood-stained interior. It was assumed that the sheriff must have been pursuing the drivers, but the whereabouts of either party were still a mystery.
A few eyewitness reports kept speaking of, 'A woman with purple hair'. His hands naturally floated to an image sitting in the center of the table. Bright purple dreadlocks seeming to push themselves into the camera's field of view, completely covering the face of the person connected to it. At least, most of their face was covered, save for a small band-aid resting on their left cheek.
"Is that one of them?" Shotzi whispered over his shoulder. "A Gem Bandit?"
His older gaze locked onto her bright eyeliner, "Not a gem bandit. The Gem Bandit. Shelly, The Gem Bandit to be exact."
Shotzi soaked in the image, "I never would have thought she was so young."
"Nobody would expect it. A teenager in charge of the most notorious crime organization in The Greater Sand Dunes. She was living under our noses for years. And still is."
Shotzi requested the image for a closer inspection. She couldn't take her eyes off of those violent violet locks. "You would think with hair like that she'd be easy to find."
Another officer stepped up and snatched the image out of her hand. "And what about her? She's the prime suspect, shouldn't we find and interrogate this thief?"
"Thief?" Wesley's voice was aggressive, "A thief? A thief pickpockets. A thief breaks into your home and takes your wife's jewelry. A thief can be located with surveillance systems and a search warrant is all we need to book 'em." He took a seat as his tone mellowed out, "This woman doesn't pickpocket, she cracks safes. This woman doesn't steal from your home, she steals from your stores. Whenever she attacks Niagra she avoids major banks and focuses on well-established businesses and franchises. We've sent officers after her case files and they all have been lost in the field. She is not a thief. She's a crime boss."
Shotzi chimed in, "If the sheriff was really chasing her, what happened to him?"
The surrounding officers answered her question, "He's dead."
"I doubt it. He's probably being held prisoner."
"Why would The Gem Bandit hold him prisoner? She'd just kill him and move on with her life."
"Sure, she'd kill him. But what about the girl?"
The room fell silent at her mention. Everyone silently mulling over that fact. One officer blurted out, "She could have killed them both!"
They all jumped at him to silence such negative speech. One woman peaking outside the door to make sure nobody heard him. Especially not her.
Wesley spoke up, "We have to stay silent. We can't let too many people find out. The longer we delay the public knowing the more time we have to find them."
"Or prepare for the criminal uprising."
"That's enough out of you, Malcolm!" Wesley threw a frustrated finger his way, then cooled down for a second. His voice a bit more down-trotted, "And whatever you do, don't tell the kid. I don't think he can take it."
A loud bang could be heard from the front of the station. Several officers left the room to investigate the noise, leaving only five people in the captain's quarters (including Wesley, Shotzi, and Otto). The eldest officer took a deep breath, slowly approaching the captain as he observed the blurry image of Shelly. He spoke openly when he felt his presence, "Who is she?"
After a short cooldown, he gave a response. "A genius."
"Otto, a genius invents the wheel. A genius created the first computer. A genius decided to put melted cheese on his flavorless chips. This woman isn't a genius, she's a criminal."
"…Maybe. But she's a teen that's avoided law enforcement for years. Created a team of hooligans whose numbers we cannot count. And between you and me…" he leaned in. Whispering into the Captain's ear, "She's only gonna get smarter."
At Otto's conclusion, the door burst open, a young officer rushing in with an exasperated expression. "Sir, we need you in the front."
The captain and his remaining officers made their way to the main lobby. They expected an angry civilian or some sketchy characters loitering outside. What they got was a blonde family, a father with a shining golden beard to accent his baby blue eyes. A younger male that looked like he was currently training to become an Olympian guarding what he could only perceive as a triplet of his younger sisters. Each one so identical he thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him. At the front desk was a mother-son duo that had dirtier hair in comparison to the rest. They were roughly the same height, just a few inches smaller than the father but their tempers made up for their size.
"Where is my baby?!" Wesley watched as she slammed her hands on the counter. The receptionist trying her best to calm the angry mother down but failing miserably.
He took his time approaching the counter but was abruptly stopped by the muscular boy. He stood at eye level, yet he still felt this intimidating aura radiating off him. His eyes weren't bright like the father and the girls, they seemed lifeless. Like he had abandoned humanity to reach this level.
Wesley wasn't amused, "You really wanna do this?" He flashed his badge to show his stature on the force. The oldest boy didn't even flinch. He stood tall and leered at the captain. Wesley took a deep breath, puffing out his chest and raising his chin. "You don't want this boy."
"Don't mind him, officer." The father stepped up with a simple smile, "Roltz here doesn't talk much. He's a sweetheart I swear, just a little frustrated currently."
"Well, you should get your son under control, before he does something he regrets." Wesley backed off a little, "Now if you don't mind, may you reign in your wife."
"Hah, I'm not gonna give my hand to a tiger." The father's smile was as golden as his goatee.
"Fair enough. I'll talk to her." Just as Wesley moved to the mother, the father's hand firmly pushed against his chest.
"Sorry, but you're not who we're looking for."
Wesley kept his cool this time, "Maybe I can help you find him."
"Oh, we know you can. We've been asking for him since we got here. So if'n you could be so kind. Why don't you go grab ya boss?" Wesley was surprised as this new country drawl seemed to ooze from what was a very distinguished man.
Though he was more frustrated with the lack of information he was getting. "And who is my boss?"
"Mr. Officer?" Wesley looked down at the Olympian's knees. The triplets each peeked out from a different position. They talked strangely, each finishing the other's sentence. Like they were a three-headed-dog speaking in riddles and rhymes.
"Do you know…"
His heart nearly exploded. Or it would if his mind wasn't frantically connecting the dots. A family of mostly blondes with blue eyes. All angry about something out of the blue. Looking for his boss. Are these…
"The Florence Family." Wesley turned to see the old soul of Otto finally approaching. With his arrival, the tone of the father changed back to bright and cheery.
"Bismarck! Glad to see ya."
"-martin but who cares. I see your family is just as lively at night as the day."
The old officer looked down at the triplets, "And how are you three golden angels?"
The girls perked up a little at his arrival, "…If you're here…"
"…then that means…"
Shotzi burst through the door, "Jasmine, Julie, Joeann!"
"Shotzi!" they screamed in unison, tackling the older girl and rolling around in a pile of black, blonde, and green hair.
As the girls giggled together, Captain Wesley's mind went into overdrive. Why were they here? Why were they so angry? And why did something feel off?
Wesley was startled by the sudden call, "M-Me?"
His gray uniform was taken into the strong yet soft arms of the Florence matriarch. The smaller woman pulling him down to her level, "What did you do?"
Wesley was too confused to answer the question. He was now close enough to see her large cheekbones and rosy red cheeks. If it hadn't been for the current scowl directed at him, she would have been beautiful.
"You listening to me?"
"Ma'am, please calm down."
"I don't want to calm down! I want Tyler!"
There it was. This feeling that he couldn't shake. This feeling that something was missing. He scanned the family once again. Two boys (one large the other a tad smaller) a triplet of girls, a short mother, and an astute father. The missing piece was an annoying miniature missile with a mismatch bowl-cut and buckteeth.
Wesley looked down, "He's not here?"
"Don't tell me what I already know." The mother threw him around a bit as her anger seemed to grow. A few officers stepped up to help but Otto raised a hand to calm them. "Where is he? The sheriff picked my darling angel Tyler up yesterday and I haven't seen him since. Where is he? Where's the sheriff?"
Wesley was still in shock, "He's… He's not here?"
"Stop saying that! I want the sheriff, now!" She pushed him off to the side. Her eyes clamped shut and her mouth wide open. "COLTON!"
There was a long silence. Many of the officers now stepping away slowly. The path they formed allowed a new figure to be seen. A large woman with a strong build and a powerful presence. This mighty body was currently battling the throes of grief. Her eyes puffy and red from what was assumed to be a lifetime's worth of tears. Yet her face devoid of any emotion, as if she had lost the strength to feel anymore.
She took her time walking through the crowd, a somber sound emanating from the soft taps of her feet. When she was face to face with the mother of Florence, she looked down on her from an extra head above. With an empty stare, she said…
"He's not here."
In that instance, any frustrations the Florences had flew from their bodies like a jet. The girls that were previously a ball of joy began to openly cry into the chest of the female officer. The men of the family silently brooded as the realization finally settled in. A new depressing air choking the lights out of the room.
The two mothers of their respective families comforted one another. While Mrs. Florence cried into Marci's larger chest, she was happy to allow another to find comfort in her warmth. For she knew all too well how it would feel to fall asleep with a fragmented family.
The room he sat in was cozy to put it simply. This warm, snug feeling as if he was swaddled up in a heated blanket after a cold, rainy day. He couldn't help but bounce up and down in his seat. The polished wood creaking ever so silently as it supported his light but dense weight.
He gave the room another once over. He could never forget a place this special. The large dining table before him, with hand-carved legs and trimming. Freshly cleaned and adorned with an assortment of china and silverware. The little figurines of tiny people happily enjoying their frozen days. That small brick and mortar chimney that sat on the farthest wall, the heat it radiated cooking his chilled flesh.
And that smell. That wonderful scent of freshly cooked apple-cinnamon pie. He could hear her coming from the kitchen. Her voice sweet and airy. And that wrinkly smile.
"Tyler sweetheart~ How long have ya been here?"
He giggled sweetly, "Come on Grumma, quit joking."
She returned a faint giggle as she brought the meal to the table. A large golden retriever followed close behind, leaving the elderly woman for the boy's companionship. "Rechult wants a slice too."
"He can get a slice later. Now go ahead have some."
The boy happily took part in the baked good. Taking his time to enjoy every bite of the dessert. When he finished his first slice, he reached for a second. Only for his grandmother to softly rest a hand on his shoulder.
"Now you don't wanna be greedy sweety." The boy looked at her a little confused until he felt the light licking of Rechult beneath him.
"Sorry boy, you want a slice?" He grabbed some pie and presented it to the dog. But he continued to happily lap away at Tyler's open palm. With a giddy grin, he turned to his grandmother. "I don't think he wants any." He placed the slice back to his mouth, "More for me!"
The grip from his grandmother grew scarily tight. It felt like she was digging her nails into his shoulder's rotator cuff. He hissed his discourse, looking up to her with a worried expression.
The look she gave him was a little repugnant, "Now, now, Tyler, you shouldn't try to eat more than you can handle."
"But Grumma. I can eat more."
"No buts young man. Put down the pie."
Feeling a little ashamed he put down the slice. Watching as his grandmother left with a courteous smile. She went back into the kitchen, leaving him and Rechult alone in the dining room. The dog was still absently licking away any of the trace flavors on his palm.
Tyler's eyes took turns gazing at the dog and peeking at the kitchen doorway. He could hear his grandmother washing dishes. With a cheeky grin, he got an idea. "Hey, Rechult." The dog took a break from licking to listen, "I'm gonna grab another slice. Don't make any noise." He brought a finger up to his lips to reinforce the point.
As he reached for another slice, he could hear Rechult whimpering to the side. "Don't worry, I'll grab you a slice." He reached forward, putting his body on the table as he tried to grab the saucer. He was so close; he was practically touching it.
Then just as his fingers made contact, Rechult clamped down on his free hand. Tyler let out a curdling screech as he tried to pull his hand from Rechult's maw. He screamed for him to let go. When he looked at the companion, its face was filled with anger. It was clear this was no mistake, Rechult was fully aware of what he was doing.
Tyler tried to cry out to his grandmother, begging for her to save him from this beast. His pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears, or rather his shouts came from a mute throat. He raked at his lips trying to make a noise, but all he got was inaudible mumbles.
He continued to fight the beast's grip but looked to the kitchen. His heart stopping when he saw her. At least, he thought it was her. Her pigtails were always long, but now they wrapped around her entire body. Swirling around her like the threads of a screw.
Through a crack in the locks, she gazed at him. He could feel her piercing stare burrowing a hole through his soul. The feeling of pain from the dog seemed to fade away as he looked at her.
Her hair began to shift and writhe around. Then she spoke, "Why?"
He tried to talk but his throat was still silenced.
She didn't wait, "You were hurt. You're always hurt…" The sentient hair started to reveal some of her body. He could see she didn't have any shoes on. Her arms reached out revealing the lack of her usual dirty, yellow short-sleeve shirt.
As the hair continued to move it became more obvious what little clothing she had on. He saw a glimpse of her midriff, a shot of her thighs, and his face flushed more as his mind caught up to his eyes.
He tried his best to turn away, but his body was locked in place. The hair clustered around her face suddenly spread apart. Revealing the sickening image of Jessie crying. These tears were unrestrained, like a sea of sadness trying to flood the room they sat in. "Why, Tyler? Why do you always fight?"
For the first time, Tyler could move his hand. He reached out to her and was promptly blinded by something within his grip. Whatever it was, it shined brighter than the sun but was light as a feather.
Jessie's eyes grew bright. Like a flash of electricity was shooting from her body, "NO!" She rushed forward. And just as he saw her move in his direction, the light within his hand exploded.
Tyler shot up from his resting place with a shudder. Gripping his hands firmly and checking his palm. He didn't see any bite marks, no blinding lights, and unfortunately no pie. He took a second to breathe, trying to calm his nerves and slow down his heartbeat.
Then just as his body relaxed, his mind started to cramp. It felt like someone was attempting to compress his skull into a mouse hole. He instantly flopped back down, his head connecting with something furry but not necessarily soft. He groaned again and tried to relax a little. His head threatening to split in two as he pushed his short golden hair out of his eyes.
He took a second to inspect his surroundings. His eyes first falling on the structure's walls. They seemed to be leaning inward, collapsing at a central point high above him. He lazily looked off to the right, noticing a small pot with plants slowly burning from the tips. The scent smelled a lot like home.
Then he remembered a part of his dream. Imagining he was back at his grandmother's home. He wanted to laugh but the pain was too powerful. So he just smiled and thought about how far away from his grandmother he was. And how this island wouldn't allow him to see her anytime soon.
His hands gripped at the cloth covering him, the pattern in his hand reminding him of jaguar and leopard print rugs. He could feel a strange leathery texture beneath the fur. It almost felt alive.
Now he remembered. The village they had been accepted into. The lost battle against the bandits. The game he played in the field. He let his hand rest against his eyes, it hurt to think for too long. "What was I playing?"
A bright light sliced through the dimly lit room. A shadow passing over him then blocking the rays once again. With a little bit of discomfort, he was able to shift to his side and observe this new presence. His heart (which had just calmed down) was racing again.
Standing before him was a young maiden, her hair resting down to her lower back and igniting the air with a beautiful crimson hue. Her skin was fare much like his and her eyes (while tired) were gorgeous. She had the cutest button of a nose he had seen and there were a few twigs caught in the bottom of her locks. It just added to her charm giving her this rugged look of a poor princess.
Though the real reveal of her beauty came from the garbs she adorned. She had on a long dress that sat atop both her shoulders and draped over her knees. The fabric was a vibrant shade of orange with a bloody trim lining the edges. A shade of red just a bit dimmer than her hair. He couldn't take his eyes off her hair. It was so unnatural. So breath-taking. Then he made a realization.
How had he never seen this girl before?
He had been around the village once when he first arrived. He was certain he would have seen a girl as beautiful as this.
As he continued to gawk at her, she placed down a bucket she had been openly carrying with her. Tyler sat up as the girl got to her knees, placing a strange rag inside the bucket and wringing it out silently. She reached forward, rag in hand, then paused when their eyes met.
The two were silent for a second. One staring at the other as they took in the atmosphere. The girl was the first to break, dropping the cloth to the floor and lunging towards Tyler. He was taken aback and tried to support her weight, but he was too weak.
The two fell back onto his animal skin knapsack. He clutched his aching head, but quickly stopped when he heard her soft sobs. With a hesitant hand, he tried to make some space between them. Gazing upon this flaming goddess and the steaming tears she allowed to escape her dazzling face. "I was so worried."
He was frozen, flabbergasted, gobsmacked. But he had no time to recover, she continued her plea. "You scared me." Her voice was so soft, yet there was a hint of a country charm that sounded familiar. "You can't keep putting yourself in danger. I can't take it." She leaned away to observe him. Her distasteful frown fading as she matched Tyler's confusion. "Tyler?"
She's a princess. That's the only answer. A princess of this village that he hadn't met but she made it her duty to know everyone within her village. He pushed past the headache to deliver a proper response, "I'm sorry miss. But we haven't met."
The look of paranoia on her face cut through his heart. He wished he would have just said he knew her to avoid causing her such turmoil. She took her time with her response, his ears hanging on her every word. "Tyler don't you recognize me?" He assumed he would remember such a rare beauty. "It's me… Jessie."
Everything went blank. The world around him shutting off as he processed this information. It didn't sound wrong; in fact, he preferred this conclusion. What he couldn't believe was that he couldn't recognize her. A single tear rolled down his eye as he thanked his lord for allowing him to know such a gorgeous girl.
He goofily smiled at her, trying to play it cool. But his giddy demeanor drowning any chance he had at looking smooth. She smiled as he swayed back and forth, his eyes seeming to vibrate as they scanned every inch of her body. "Yep, you remember me." She softly shoved him down, "But you need to rest. You've been asleep for a while."
Tyler was ecstatic as she tended to him. She placed a cool towel across his head and fixed his ragged hair. His excitement growing at the thought of her tending to him as he slept. Though he noticed an issue. "How long have I-"
"Hey, Jess." Tyler's statement was abruptly ended by another familiar voice. Pushing through the animal skin curtain was a tough body. What looked like dirt and dust was smudged across his face. But Tyler couldn't take his eyes off his loud hair. "Nita's been calling you. Something about a…" he paused when he saw Tyler. The two staring at each other, "…guy?"
Tyler slowly raised his head, "Colt?" He noticed some grime caked on his brows and the ratty nature of his hair. It was almost impossible to tell it was him. He'd never seen Colt so filthy. His face was his pride, yet he seemed so humble now. He looked down and noticed the lack of a proper shirt. Instead, he had on some strange brown vest made of some crude textile. His usual blue slacks were now made from fur and animal flesh.
Even his shoes had been removed. He looked down at Jessie and saw her shoes had been removed as well. Tyler asked a question, "How long-"
Colt stuck his head out of the tent, "Hey! Tyler's awake!" He quickly rushed back inside and ruffled Tyler's hair, "You're finally awake!" The boy was confused, desperately trying to get out a thought but constantly being silenced by his friends.
Just as they calmed down a small body burst through the tent, tackling him like a three-hundred-pound lineman sacking a quarterback. He looked into his chest, peeking at the bright fanged smile of the village's tiny terror. "You're not dead!"
A deeper voice came from the entrance, "Not yet. But if you continue to throw yourself through him…" through the curtains came Bo. His eagle hat's beak as low as Tyler remembered and those bright white eyes boring a hole through him. "He will be."
"We are happy to see your speedy recovery. As is an ally."
Behind him came what looked like a smaller darker version of himself. This boy with shoulders as broad Bo's had a humble smile on his face. "Tyler. How do you feel?"
A key memory sparked in his mind, "Smokey." He tried to remember what happened before he went to sleep but felt a massive wave of pain rushed through his head. This gnawing feeling ate at his skull, trying to drill a hole through his scalp. He fell to the floor dramatically. Jessie and Colt were the first to rush to his side. Jessie lifting his head to help steady his breathing.
While the rest of the room went into a panic, another body merrily burst into the curtain. A bright smile on its jolly green face as he performed jazz hands. He wore a stylish new vest colored purple just like Rosa's eyes. Behind him peaked the botanist, "Look! I made Pac a vest!"
She instantly took in the scene, wishing she had known before she rushed in so brightly. Bo didn't show much worry, his voice was calm as he requested Rosa fetch the village doctor. Pac followed close behind.
When they returned there was a small woman in tow. A wrinkly, old lady that was shorter than Jessie and wore a grumpy grimace with pride. She took her time, waving strange smoking sticks above his head and checking his eyes constantly. After a few minutes of strange, ritualistic movements she turned to them dully. "He has cotton brain."
Jessie turned to Rosa, "Cotton brain?"
She held her chin thinking carefully, "It sounds like… he has a concussion."
The city dwellers all cringed at the thought. Though Tyler was quick to challenge that statement. He took his time sitting up, "Relax, I'm fine." He quickly stood to his feet, putting his hands on his hips proudly. "See?"
As soon as he rose, he lost all the light in his eyes and strength in his muscles. Colt (seeing his pupils go dark) quickly lunged forward, assisting him back to his knapsack. When he was back to a horizontal base he could feel his growing migraine begin to wane. With the skull-splitting headache subsiding, he could feel his thoughts flowing like water. And his mouth could not be stopped. "How long have I been asleep?"
Jessie thought it would be best for her to answer, "It's been three days."
"Three days?!" He could feel his head cracking from yelling. "How? Why?"
Smokey crouched beside him, "During our game, the brother Rol used me as a weapon to attack you. You hadn't woken since."
Nita visibly shivered at the mention of his name, "That creep."
Tyler looked to Jessie for an explanation. "Remember those three boys you played Brawl Ball against?" He gave her a so-so gesture, "The biggest one. His punched 'hurt like hell'".
Tyler remembered now that behemoth of a boy. With his size, he couldn't tell if he was short or Rol was a giant. "Right… the big bastard."
The group shared a small chuckle at his comments. Smokey tossed him a strange pair of pants similar to the pair Colt was wearing. When he looked up, Smokey had a childish smile on his face. "Once you feel ready, I know the perfect place to recover. We shall bathe together as warriors."
Running Start-Up Diagnostics…
Current Power: 10%
Rotary Motors: Offline
Optical Lens: Damaged
Audio Receptors: Online
Memory Cache: Corrupted
The void is an area without light, sound, or feeling. Empty is a word to describe this feeling, though he could not call this area empty. It was… nothing.
"What do you think vest or no vest?"
What was this sound? A voice? Not one he knew… Why were they speaking? Were they talking to him?
"Yeah defiantly vest."
They answered themselves. Peculiar. What about this particular garment was so important that it had to first be cleared? He heard no verbal clearing and from the sound of the voice, it sounded as though they were agreeing with someone. Perhaps a non-verbal response. A simple nod of the head.
This voice was new. This must be who they were talking to. That feminine voice from before. This slightly deeper voice called out to a 'boss'. What an interesting hierarchy. Matriarchy? He was unsure.
"I ran that initial scan. You've gotta see this."
A scan, but of what?
"Where do I start? So his internal memory shows some pretty interesting stuff. He is fully equipped for cognitive thought and speech."
Could they… be speaking of me?
"But~ me and 'Nixxy' popped open the lid and… his voice module is eroded."
"So? Get him a new one."
"Right. Cause voice modules can be found just lying around in your kitchen cabinet…"
Why has he stopped speaking?
"I'll get right on it."
Ah, it would seem he misspoke.
"Well besides the usual mumbo jumbo there are a few things that caught my eye. Specifically, his most frequently used assets. Looks like he was programmed to be a sharpshooter."
"Another gun? Good."
"Well, that would be good if it wasn't for the ammo we found in his gun…"
Rubber? His gun? What are they saying? His memory files showed no information about these items. A deeper search in his program found files dedicated to weapons handling. But not why.
"Maybe he was a training bot?"
"How would you know that?"
"I don't… there's nothing in his memory files. Well, there's something (maybe) but it's all corrupted. I can't retrieve it."
"Well, that's no good. Guess we'll scrap him."
"Hold on. Maybe he could be useful. It also shows he has a program dedicated to geometry. Maybe we can use that?"
Use him? They are going to use him? For what? Why? This cognitive thought directive was truly fascinating. He wondered what other thoughts he had that were lost somewhere in his memory.
Though for now, he could feel his power depleting. His systems were shutting down, awaiting the next chance he could awake.
Beginning Shutdown Process…
Running Start-Up Diagnostics…
Current Power: 37%
Rotary Motors: Offline
Optical Lens: Functioning
Audio Receptors: Online
Memory Cache: Corrupted
His vision had been restored. A welcomed change. He wasn't fazed by the lack of light from before, but vision was a necessity for full functionality. Now was the time to observe.
The room was rather bland. White tile flooring and metallic tables sitting before him. An attempt at moving his head proved fruitless. Whoever these people were that acquired him had not yet fixed his rotary skills. His optics focused on a large screen ahead.
He made out the image of what looked like another robot. This one with a much wider frame and a glass torso. Something about this bot's design felt familiar. He wondered what this bot looked like in comparison to him. But as that man said, his memory cache was corrupted. Any information he had on himself was lost to time. So be it. His conflict analysis concluded that he wouldn't need it to function.
"I'm telling ya, Ronnie, this is gonna be my best weapon yet!"
That voice. It's the same male as last time. He watched as this man walked into his field of view. Though now he didn't know if this was really a man. More like a boy. This young adult was a Caucasian male, with shaggy brownish hair. So this was the technician of their group.
Behind him came a darker woman. It looked as though she hailed from a different region than this man. Though where exactly he couldn't conclude, the floral bandana she wore was throwing off his optics.
This woman must be the boss. The way she stood showed a powerful presence, though her eyes were playfully curious. A childish young leader? Maybe these youths were a group of friends that found him in a dumpster.
Then he thought about it… where was he found? Why was he missing? Who is he? What is he? And why did his identification classify his sex as male?
Of course, his name! Why hadn't he thought of that initially? The stimulus and lack of information must have clogged up his deductive reasoning. Now… what was his name?
"There's no way it's gonna work." This voice was far deeper than the rest. So deep that all of his systems focused on analyzing this speech pattern. There were only two people ahead of him. Could this woman possess a voice that deep? Was this a woman at all? He was sure. Her figure was slim and curvy much like a woman's. But he knew that the Caucasian male had a much softer tone.
"You don't even know what I'm going to make."
"Don't have to. I know it's some dumb idea that you'd see in a video game."
From the position of the Caucasian and the sound of the voice, he concluded that this voice was not coming from the woman named, Ronnie. Now the question was… who's talking?
"It's not even that crazy." He pressed a few buttons on a massive keyboard before him. The image of the robot shrank to reveal what looked like a strange gun. The gun looked familiar. Perhaps it was his? "All I have to do is rework the internal mechanisms to fire a different ammo type and it'll be fine."
"Right… rework the gun to shoot. What did you say? Deadly rubber balls?"
How can rubber balls be deadly?
"Exactly! It's gonna be awesome!"
"How can rubber balls be deadly?"
'That is what I said.' He said internally. These two males (he assumed) seemed to be rather close. He could tell from the tone of their banter. It was a playful dismissal of the skill that the other clearly had. From the tone of the deeper voice, he was secretly hoping that he could actually do it.
"Don't call me Nixxy."
"Whatever you say, Nixxy-Wixxy." The Caucasian left his visual range, "You just wait and see."
The foreign girl began to walk away but paused for a second. She stared forward at something out of his view. Then let her eyes sharply snapped at him. For a second, he could feel his servos shudder, causing him to stare forward in order to avoid eye-contact.
She walked off as if the interaction never happened and soon the lights disappeared with her. He was left alone in the dark once more. Perhaps now he would have time to think? Though he did not feel up to it. His neural processor was still cold. It would be taxing to attempt any further thought. Perhaps he could rest until their next visit.
Beginning Shutdown Process…
Running Start-Up Diagnostics…
Current Power: 72%
Rotary Motors: Offline
Optical Lens: Functioning
Audio Receptors: Online
Memory Cache: Corrupted
He could feel a significant difference today. It felt like he was standing a few inches taller, and his body was a bit broader. Though his rotational axes were still locked up.
It is. How long had he been here? How hard was it to fix his rotation?
"What?" he heard her voice again.
"Well, I decided to take a peek at his activity logs." The Caucasian was sticking his nose deep into his business.
"It says he's been active for the past few days. Running daily self-diagnostic checks and turning on an' off."
"What?!" Perhaps he should stay silent. For now, it would seem as though he wasn't supposed to wake so soon. "How? Why?"
"I don't know?! I never activated his start-up, but he's been periodically running."
He defiantly wasn't supposed to be active.
His conflict analysis concluded it would be best to stay silent and remain still. Then a low strumming could be heard out of his view.
A new voice perking up over the soft tune. "Maybe he's sending info to someone?" This voice was softer than the Caucasian. Perhaps this was the woman he had seen last time?
The boss wasn't amused, she quickly snapped back to the Caucasian. "Sam?"
Finally, a name.
"There's no signs of an outgoing signal. And I don't see anything incoming. I think he's just… watching."
The boss was looking at him now. His single eye focused forward, staring at nothing but observing everything. He inspected her features, brown skin with dark purple hair that sat in stasis behind her. He noticed the small band-aid resting against her cheek and the yellow bandana dangling from her neck. There was this intensity in her stare that gave him pause. He didn't fear her, but he didn't want to challenge her at this range.
As she approached him, that sense of dread only grew. Until she was directly underneath him, looking up with a dangerous glare. It felt like an intense weight was trying to pull him toward her. Even if he could move, he didn't think he would be able to fight this pull.
"Hey!" He would have flinched if he could move. "Can you hear me?" His body was frigid. His eye not moving as it looked outward. The boss paced around him, "Can you see me?"
He was scared. Something about this woman screamed death. He needed to play dead. Just pretend he's unconscious. Image his power has been turned off. The boss (seeming content) walked back to Sam. "Does the vest still fit?"
"Yes ma'am. Made his body to your specifications." He presented a small notepad, "All that's left is to install a new power core, some combat training, and a name."
She looked through whatever was on the board. A small smile cracking along her face, reaching up to scratch her tiny bandage. "Any names found in his file?"
"Only thing I could find was… Ricochet."
"Hmmm… Nah that's too long." She looked the bot in his bright yellow eye, "Let's call him Rico." She tossed the board back in his hands, "Keep it up, Sammy. And he better be amazing, the bandits are getting anxious." Rico's eye jittered a little.
Sam returned a small nod as she made her exit. He slowly walked up to the bot. "Don't worry, you're gonna be the strongest robot in history. Rico."
Sammy made his way out of Rico's vision, the lights dying out as he made his exit. The bot was left alone with his internal machinations. Many thoughts ran through his head: Who were they? Why did they save him? And why did that word trigger something? Bandits? Why did that word give him such a strange reaction?
The questions didn't stop with time. They only grew like a vine. Branching out and latching onto his other thoughts as they all began to connect in a mangled amalgamation of ideas. But there was nothing he could do to change his current situation. At least not for now. It would be best to play along lest he draws the ire of the boss.
Besides, he had no information on his past. His knowledge of recovering his own memory was also flawed. Maybe this Sam could assist him in retrieving his past. Maybe a future working with these people would prove exciting.
"And that's why I always say, don't waste your breath on a fool who won't listen."
"Haha! Thank you so much, Mrs. Romero, it's a pleasure to have you on tonight."
The sound of a giant bus creaking to a halt could be heard over the torrential downpour that was sweeping the city. The raindrops refracting the lights that bounced around the sky.
"And to all our listeners remember to stay safe and keep it real with DP – and the Badger~ Badger~ Badger! – every Saturday night on your ride home. Now before we leave for the night let's send you off with one of Badger's favorite songs."
An upbeat instrumental toon started to blare from the radio. It sounded like a group of banjos and other string instruments were being played indiscriminately. It was exactly what the old woman needed to hear as she took her seat on the bus.
The driver gave a polite smile as he continued down the dark and flooded road. The old lady rocked back and forth slowly as she listened to the instrumental. The transport was mostly barren, save for a hooded figure sitting to her left. This person (dressed in all black) gave a depressing aura. It was as if his blood had been replaced with a cold, dark ink. And the sounds of his raspy coughing broke the serene atmosphere.
She reached into her floral purse, retrieving a small piece of candy. The shade peeked her way, then quickly returned their gaze back to the floor. Not taking no for an answer the elderly woman pushed for their acceptance of the treat.
It looked at her again, a deep chortle coming from the dark hood before a gloved hand reached outward. She watched as the shadows beneath the hood absorbed the treat, then recoiled from the taste. It wasn't bitter, but it had a sweet and medicinal taste. The old lady snickered at its reaction.
Her playful mood caused it to speak up, "Why?" His voice was deep. Like a bass vocalist in a choir. "Are you not scared?"
The woman's voice was lively and filled with joy. Her wrinkly face brightening up with a smile, "I've seen scarier. Plus, you look more like a sad animal than a dangerous man." She chuckled on that line.
He joined her with his own soft laughter. "Brave old codger huh?"
The old lady sighed happily, "I guess I have gotten old."
Without missing a beat, the shadow spoke up, "You have a young soul."
The two continued their conversation merrily. The shadowed figure staying hidden in the darkness while the old woman happily mingled with the light. They rambled to one another about every odd topic. Life in the city, tales of their past (though she did most the sharing on that), and predictions of their future.
He overshared by accident, "I'll probably end up dead with no memories at this rate."
"Don't say that. I'm sure someone will remember you."
Admittedly he was sure someone would remember him, but not for the right reasons. He moved to steer the conversation away from him. "If more people were like you… I wouldn't be worried about not being remembered." She playfully dismissed his compliments, but he pushed forward. "Honestly, this town would shine even brighter if that were true. Though protecting yourself must be a hassle."
She poked and prodded with her cane, "I'm no weakling." She continued to jab at him, getting another bit of laughter out. And causing his hood to fall a little. She noticed a strange gray mask protruding from his face. Though he quickly yanked his hood back on. She put on a teasing smile, "It isn't Halloween baby."
He gave a distant snort, "Yeah. I just came back from a party." The bus came to a slow halt. The sound of the doors hissing open appeared to control his movements. "Well… this is my stop, Miss?"
"Pleasure meeting you, Miss. Corduroy." He coldly slinked away.
She reached out, "Wait, what's your name?"
He provided no response. Instead looking out the window at the blue and purple neon refracting off the rain. He stopped at the door, slipping a few extra gems into the driver's hand. "Make sure the lady makes it home safely."
In a gruff voice, he muttered, "The dogs protect their pack."
As he stood under the sheets of rain he happily waved at the older woman. Watching as the bus disappeared behind the block. When the bus vanished so did his cheery aura. His shoulders slumped and his hands balled up. The rain around him seemed to fall harder now. Instead of sheets, it was a constant stream of running water.
He looked up at the sign, Bull's. That skull was supposed to be a welcoming sight, it gave him chills. "Home sweet home."
He casually pushed the door open, taking in the lively atmosphere. A Jazzy tune was blasting as several patrons were dancing wildly. Along the back wall ahead of the main door was a set of barstools and a pristine counter. There were many enjoying a greasy meal from the kitchen but most could be seen taking an unhealthy helping of liquid courage.
The clothing of the customers matched the aesthetic perfectly. Leather jackets with denim jeans could be seen on the butch members of the bar. But the dance floor was littered with fluorescent shirts and neon wristbands. The blacklights around the interior caused them to glow like a crime scene.
He made his way to the back, a few cute girls in bright white aprons rushing into the diner with full plates in hand. He took a second to enjoy the scenery, later cursing himself for it. While he was inspecting his surroundings a group of street toughs decided they wanted to toy with him.
"Yo, yo, Yozuro! Look at this chump."
A larger man of Asian descent stepped up, "Wrell, wrell, wrell. What are you doing?"
He didn't want to deal with this. He just turned to them, allowing the group to see beneath his hood.
The thugs instantly recoiled, "Oh sir. Sorry for bothering you." The leader ordered them to hold the door open for him. When they thought he was out of earshot the leader scolded the group, bringing a small smile across his face.
Inside the kitchen were several meaty men and women. All sweating bullets as they slaved over the open fires. He didn't bother them, moving for the freezer silently. A giant butcher's blade lodged into the wall beside him. His breath remaining calm while he peeked over his shoulder.
One of the chefs was staring at him, a violent intent in his eyes. "This area… is employees only." He watched as some other chefs flashed their tools.
A melancholic sigh escaped his lips, "Ya know…" He popped the blade out the wall. "If the health inspector saw how you treated your utensils." He peaked out from the abyss. "She'd have a field day."
Whatever they saw beneath that hood sucked the souls out of their eyes. "Sorry… please go on."
He locked the freezer behind him. The frigid air chilling his hollow bones. Why was this the place to hide the door? He rested his hand against a hanging cow. Taking his time to push it far away from the door. Once he reached the opposite side of the room a small click could be heard. Followed by a small door sliding open in the freezer corner.
The door closed behind him allowing a set of dim lights to illuminate his path down a shady staircase. As he descended a low murmur steadily grew. Muffled voices roaring about something hidden at the bottom. When he got to the end of the case he was stopped by a giant monster of a man. His hair covering his eyes and a graphic tee squeezing to his massive frame.
He brought up a massive hand, explaining that the boss wouldn't be able to see him. He was growing bored of these roadblocks. He peeked from under his hood, "He can make time."
"W-What happened to you?"
The giant guard nodded his head, then stepped aside. Inside the air was an inky tar. Any visuals he had disappeared once the door shut behind him. Though the lack of light didn't impede his movements. He shifted through the oil like he had been there a million times. Easily turning corners until he saw a sliver of light seeping through a doorway.
On the other side, those sounds of muffled laughter only grew. But his nose caught the stench of smoke and booze when he first entered the hall. That unhealthy stench that only humans could produce.
Inside were a variety pack of men, all screaming at a tiny television sitting in the corner. They seemed deeply enamored by whatever was on screen. He tried clearing his throat, but they couldn't hear him. He reached his hand into his hood, a shrill whistle cutting through the commotion.
All heads suddenly turned, rushing towards him with an array of guns, knives, and blunt weapons to threaten him. He stayed calm, watching as they all surrounded him. Observing the group, he saw that the person he was looking for still hadn't shown up.
He could hear rhythmic beats of a video game soundtrack playing ahead. In front of the tv were two men. They hadn't moved from their position, intently mashing the buttons on their controllers. Then suddenly a loud boom could be heard, followed by the announcer yelling 'GAME!'
The two men stood up at the conclusion. One was an extra body above the other. The larger one having to bend over to give him a proper handshake. They gazed at the group, the monstrous one gesturing towards them but the smaller body politely shaking his head. Choosing to make his exit rather than watch the scene.
After his exit, the large monster approached the group. The shadowy newcomer studied his approach. With each step, the room rumbled around them. It felt like gravity itself was bending around his body. He stood so high above them; his face was in the shadows above the light. In all his life, he had never seen a man as monstrous as him.
He brought a giant hand up to his face, pulling down a giant cigar. A massive cloud of smoke spewed from above. His voice was smooth like a whiteboard but as dark as a chalkboard. "Welcome back… Crow."
The bird-man took his time removing his hood. Making a crooked smile as he looked up, "Boss."
All the men broke into laughter at the sight. The bird-man had his face wrapped up in bandages. In the slants of the wrapping, they could see several small cracks forming along his frame. A very large indent could be seen on the top of his maw. Many of the men pointing out how he looks like he went through a crusher.
Even the boss let out some laughter but quickly went silent. "Cut the shit." All the men snapped shut. The boss reached upward; they could hear him scratch something. "Now… *ahem* did you kill her?"
A cocky grin was now across his face. He took his time, moving past the thugs and taking a seat in front of the tv. He turned to them, unplugging the game to allow the black and white fuzz to shine behind him. He cranked down the volume, now sitting with a leg propped up and a sinister smirk. "Let me tell you a story."
I was having a slow week. The boss hadn't called me in days so there were no new contracts. I figured I should occupy my time with something but I couldn't find anything interesting. So I do what I always do when I'm bored… steal.
I was just nabbing random items from every person I walked by. Keys, receipts, cash. The usual. But one lucky bastard happened to have a ticket to some show. Think it was called NWA?
Anyway, I didn't have anything better to do so I figured I go see the show. And it was boring. Those guys were a bunch of crème puffs. But they had decent popcorn so I decided to stay.
I kept running out of popcorn so I kept making trips to the concession stand. And on one of those trips, you wouldn't believe who I saw.
No Thompson, not the mayor. I saw that red-haired, red-necked, retard Colton Domire. Better than that. I saw him flirting with some girl. Well, I say flirting, more like creepily following her around. But I've gotta thank the poor fool for being such a mess. If it wasn't for him… she might not have shown up.
Yeah… Shelly. Well, I wasn't sure it was Shelly. I'd seen another girl with purple hair two days ago and almost took her head off. So I figured I'd follow for a bit. As Colt and the woman moved around the arena, she followed close behind, so of course, I did the same. I wanted to get in closer but I didn't want her to notice me.
That's when I saw this little kid. He was walking by himself so I figured I could use him. Paid him twenty bucks to keep her distracted and that's when I saw it. Her face and that same bandaid she's had since we met her. Now that I was sure I would have just slid a blade between her shoulders, but the sheriff came back with his little friend. So I slid away in the crowd. Keeping my distance and observing their movements. But I should have moved earlier, cause they ended up back in the main arena.
So now I'm stuck in the rafters, watching as Shelly and her little friends are having a ball watching a bunch of weaklings pretend to fight.
No Thompson, I couldn't just kill her. Her friends were right there, if I went for an attack they would have collided on me. I was waiting for an opportunity. And that opportunity came at a sudden power failure.
Lots of people started screaming when the lights went off. But I saw it as an opportunity to strike and strike I did. Figured I'd kill her quick with three daggers in her spine.
When the lights came back on I started to make my escape but I wanted to see her go down. I watched as she passed out and fell from a ten-foot drop. Satisfied I made my smooth getaway, but I guess I should have left early cause her little friends chased after me.
"And that's how you got those cracks on ya beak!"
Crow rubbed at his aching mouth, "No… this is… unrelated. By the way," he focused on the boss. "I fought one of her little bandits. Have to admit he was impressive. Maybe we could take him in as your next recruit. Or if you're too busy, I'll train him." He said with a bow.
"…Crow." His tenor was haunting, "Did you see her die?"
"Have I ever failed you?" he responded cockily.
Like a tree falling off a mountain his massive hand fell onto Crow's shoulder. He could feel it. The acceptance. The vindication. Crow would finally get everything he deserved. Power, money, women. He would finally have his foot in the door. One step closer… to ruling this town.
Then as sudden as the pleasure began a new pain set in. The boss's massive knuckles tightening around Crow's throat. He easily, slowly, lifted the bird off the ground. Allowing him to squirm and struggle under his grip. "You're a fool."
Crow tried to plead for his mercy but his voice was trapped.
"That girl. She is not so easily defeated. Three daggers and a fall Humpty Dumpty could survive won't stop her."
Through staggered breaths Crow choked something out, "I-I'm… sorry. I've never – ack – had to… use more force – AGH!"
His grip tightened, "Liar." He twisted Crow in his hand, observing his face. "You had to do something drastic to survive that."
Crow continued to fight helplessly. With a disgruntled sigh, the boss let him go. He fell to the floor in a damaged heap. As the bird desperately tried to get back some air, the boss took his time returning to his tv. "Times are changing Crow… we aren't the only superhumans on this island."
He slowly sat down in a large wooden chair. Even though the seat was designed for someone his size, it still creaked under his weight. He looked to the tiny ottoman between the seats. The two controllers they were using were facing the fuzzy static.
He took one of the controllers in his hand. For a normal person, it would have been big enough to be held in two hands. For him, the thumbstick looked like a pinky-pad. The other men watched as he intently inspected the toy. Crow watching on with rage at his frustratingly calm demeanor.
He still had his face away from them, but with the way, he said the next words. It was ever prevalent that he was smiling, "Someone get Twinkle Toes. Tell him… his little sister's back."
A/N: Yo been a while... like two and a half months? Yeah, I've been busy with school junk and haven't had time to type. But once I got the ball rolling on this chapter it may have taken me about a week's worth of time to type. But yeah Fighter's Story is back and I will be doing my best to update it as much as I can. Hopefully, this chapter ticked the boxes for those that really enjoy and look forward to each new installment. (Please do leave a review on the chapters. Love reading them. And responding.)
Before I get into some housekeeping garbage let's respond to the review on Chapter 12.
Queenbookerly: I always make a bang. I think this chapter featured a fair bit of Rico (SPOILER!: The next chapter is Rico-focused.) And I love Dragon Ball Z so you already know that I had to have a goofy naming convention. Nita is my wild child that I can throw at any problem and watch her dominate. And if you have adopted Tyler then I hope you're ready to pry him from his family.
Okay, house-keeping time. Favorite/Follow for more. And I released my first official one-shot Raphael so if you haven't read it check it out. I'm proud of it. Okay, that's it for this session.
SPOILER!: Next chapter, Initiation.
Thanks again for reading another one of...
Sammy's Silly Scripts!