The cyborg street punk aimed his shoulder laser and fired. The beam burned through a brick wall and struck a trash bin on the other side, setting the garbage inside on fire.
“Very good,” Luana said, adjusting her sunglasses with a gloved hand. “Now, pick up and throw that car over there.” She pointed at the burned-out husk on the front lawn of what used to be a two-family home.
“I don’t think I can do that. I’m not that strong.”
“Yes, you are. I gave you the strength, remember? You’re full of new parts. Now go lift and throw the damn thing.”
He walked over to the car, put his cybernetic arm under it and braced his human one against the front end. He grimaced, his arms flexed, his chest heaved and he bent at his knees. The car lifted from the ground, not with ease but close. He amazed even himself. He tossed it a few feet onto the sidewalk where it rolled onto its side with a thud and a screech of metal. Pieces of glass sprinkled onto the street.
“Excellent!” Luana beamed. “Come to my side.” He thudded over to her. She stroked his muscled arm with her gloves. “You’re almost ready. There’s so much more power out there. What to start with? The necklace that little brat is wearing or the big man in the mask? Seems the big guy and I are both after the little girl’s bauble. I think we should start with taking him out first. That way the girl is free for the taking. I don’t need you to squash a little girl just to deal with her friends. Let’s go.”
They headed back to Luana’s truck, a pair of armed soldiers accompanying them.
Get up. The voice nagged. Healing you is weakening us. We won’t keep doing it if you do not deliver more results.
The masked killer sat up and pushed ceiling beams and wall plaster off of his body. Shards of glass covered him. He watched them work their way out one by one and the wounds they left began to heal.
His flesh was scorched by fire but it too healed. Charred, black skin re-grew. Old flesh peeled off in ribbons. Blood-filled, gaping wounds clotted and mended together. Through all of this his mask remained untouched. Nothing could tear from his head.
Finish your mission and kill them all. Not one must survive. This world depends on it. Find them.
“I don’t want your healing…” He got to his feet, brushing glass and dirt out of his face. “Let me die.”
No, no, not yet. Not until they die first then we will return you to the Earth. You cannot defy or resist us. You walk because of us. You see because we allow it.
“It is not a gift. I should not be here. My time was past.”
So was theirs. You agreed with us. They do not deserve this world. Look what they did to it. Remember how you served them, how you destroyed for them? You would let them do it again? Finish what they started?
“No! It cannot happen again. I can’t allow it.” Rage poisoned his body, slithering through his every fiber. His eyes flashed beneath his mask with ethereal light. His hands clinched into fists. “They should all die. They all need to die. This world must heal!”
The masked assassin stormed from the devastated store and crashed into the street. He sniffed the air and picked up a scent. “Vermin!” He started down the nearest alley.
“Morganna,” Orchid wept as she cradled the girl in her arms. Cesar stroked her hair and shook his head over and over again.
From seemingly out of nowhere, Kyle appeared, allowing the others to see him. He snuck up behind the mutated creature and bashed it in the back of the head with a tree branch. The creature screeched and went down, dropping the emerald necklace. Kyle picked it up and walked it over to Orchid and the others.
“Here,” he said. “I think this is what she needs.”
Orchid took it and put it gently around Morganna’s neck. The little girl’s eyes fluttered then moments later opened. Orchid felt warmth returning to Morganna’s body. Breath filled her mouth, her chest, and she gasped.
Morganna smiled. “Orchid, is that you?”
“Yes…what happened to you?”
“I’m okay now.”
“That wasn’t the question.”
“Orchid,” Cesar interrupted. “Not here.”
Morganna climbed out of Orchid’s lap and got to her feet. Everyone around them smiled and cheered. Some cried tears of joy. Prayers whispered on trembling lips.
“It’s okay everyone,” Cesar called. “Morganna’s fine. Return to the school.”
Morganna walked over to Kyle, Orchid watched from behind, putting a bit of distance between them. She was stunned. It just didn’t make any sense to her.
“It’s okay,” Morganna said to Kyle. “You don’t have to steal. We will share our food with you.”
“I wasn’t stealing,” Kyle didn’t make eye-contact. His gaze danced around. His feet fidgeted before he crossed them, “Okay, I was but only what I needed. I can’t go back to the old lady I bartered with. It’s not safe anymore.”
“It’s okay, you can find safety here and all the food and water you want.”
“You have water?”
“Oh yes.” She put her hand out to him.
“You’re different aren’t you?”
She nodded. “So are you. That’s a cool trick you have. I can show you how to use it even better.”
Kyle took her hand and walked with her to the school. “Okay.”
They walked past Cesar and Orchid who turned to him and checked on his wounds. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll live,” Cesar replied.
“Great, now tell me what is going on. She’s not a little girl is she? Cesar…is she?”
He lowered his head and whispered. “No. The others don’t know. We can’t tell them.”
“What is she, what is she doing with us?”
“She needs to tell you…you won’t believe me. I’ll have her talk to you.”
“You’d better. No more secrets or lies or I won’t stay with you.”
“Please Orchid, don’t overreact. We need you. You don’t understand what’s going on or what’s coming…”
“What don’t I understand…what’s coming?”
“Just know this…without you and the rest like you, mankind will end right here.”
His tone was more ominous then she’d ever heard before. She looked him in the eyes. “Morganna needs to tell me everything if I’m going to keep fighting this fight. I know what my powers can do with others like me…but how? Why? Who are we preparing against?’
“She’ll sit with you tonight.” He turned abruptly and headed toward the school.
The city never slept during the night. Danger roamed the streets, shadowy things hunted and the tides of power changed from moment to moment.
The streets and alleys were choked with shadows. The lights that used to keep them at bay no longer existed. Candlelight and generators were traded briskly and used sparingly. The innocent began to learn not to draw attention to themselves.
It wasn’t the innocent that ruled the streets.
Luana and her men scoured a four-way intersection until their devices led them to an old rundown factory. Her men kicked in the doors and stormed inside. Luana followed, the cyborg at her side.
The first room was filled with conveyor belts that no longer worked, the walls were adorned with cobwebs hanging like tapestry and the floor was crowded with piles of packing boxes, some waterlogged, some chewed through and some unopened.
Her soldiers began opening various boxes but turned up nothing of value or interest.
A crackle filled the room followed by the scuffling of many feet. The room lit up with firelight. Luana and her men found themselves surrounded by the cannibal cult brandishing torches, swords and axes.
Red-robed men stood both in front and behind them, blocking the factory’s entrance. Octavius stepped from the circle of cultists. In his arms he restrained one of Luana’s soldiers with a blade to his throat.
Luana cocked her head then shrugged. “I wondered what happened to Lionel. Glad to see he wasn’t a deserter.”
“I was wondering how long it’d take before we met,” Octavius said.
“Come now. The two most feared groups in the city. I think it’s time we talked. Think of how much more of the city we could own if we worked together. Pulled our forces together. Made the world bend to our will.”
“Sorry,” Luana said. “I’ve just become a vegetarian.”
Octavius laughed gleefully, baring his knife harder on his captive, drawing blood. “Be reasonable. It’s a mistake not to hear my offer. I mean, I know where my next meal is coming from.” He squeezed the soldier even tighter, licking his face. “Do you?”
“Really?” Luana sneered. “Do you think that I would ever team up with pathetic worms like you? You’re just a step up from bottom feeders. You could never hope to reach my status.”
“Then you and your men will never make it out of here alive. Join us or I start with this one.”
“Oh really?” Luana gestured to the cyborg beside her.
He stepped forward and aimed his laser cannon. A single beam shot across the room and hit the captive soldier in the forehead. His flesh smoldered before he dropped out of Octavius’s grip.
“Threats about my men are the weakest of all, cult. Because I just don’t care.”
“Kill them all!” Octavius screamed.
The two sides clashed, cult against soldier, cyborg against them all. Swords slashed open soldiers as hails of gunfire downed robed figures.
The cyborg’s brute strength served him well. He pulled one cultist off the ground and threw him into another. Two other cult members charged him and he smashed their heads together.
A man with an axe charged him next and the cyborg caught the blade in his hand, incurring no damage. With his other he snapped the cultist’s neck.
Luana watched from the shadows, a smile etched across her face. Her heart raced with the excitement of the killing.
A few more soldiers fell under axe and blade but ultimately the cyborg cut a path of destruction through the factory and the cannibal cult. He threw men through walls, smashed them onto the conveyor belts, punched his fist through their bodies.
Ocativus attacked him with his sword, slashing the cyborg’s human arm open. The cyborg wailed with agony. He swung round and tore the sword from Octavius’s grip. He snapped it in two then tossed Octavius into a group of his own men. They tumbled to the floor as the Cyborg aimed his laser again.
Octavius used one of his own men as a shield and blocked the laser’s beam. He jumped to his feet, eyes wide with fear. “Retreat! Retreat! Everyone out!” Octavius ran to the back of the factory and out the exit door. He looked back at Luana who grinned with pleasure. “This isn’t over. We will meet again!”
Luana walked up to her champion and patted him on the back. He looked over at her and wiped the blood from his face. “You’re ready now,” Luana said. “Training is over. Let’s get you back to base and dress that arm.”
Cameron and Lila took refuge in the park where Orchid and the others were attacked. He knew there’d been a face off here but he figured lightning didn’t strike twice in the same place. It would make a safe place to hide for the night.
Lila nuzzled against him, nearly asleep and Ghost curled up beside both of them.
In the morning Cameron would need to find a permanent place for them or head back to the cabin. Things were more urgent now. It wasn’t just the two of them anymore. A new life was on the way. He had to protect this precious cargo anyway he could.
He wished he’d made contact with others by now. He was starting to get concerned.
A snap of a twig echoed. Ghost lifted his head, ears perked.
Cameron was on his feet in seconds, the white wolf by his side. The patch of trees that secluded them rustled.
Moments later a girl in a white dress wearing a green stone stepped through them. The wolf’s muscles relaxed and he whimpered.
“Hello,” the girl said. “I’ve been looking for you. I have a safe place for you and your wife and of course Ghost here.”
Cameron’s mouth hung open. He watched Ghost trot over to the girl and lick her hands. “How did you know his name?”
“I know many things.” She patted the wolf who submitted to her. “I know that your wife is with child.”
Cameron and Lila looked at each other with disbelief. Cameron ran his fingers nervously through his hair. “I don’t understand…what’s going on here?”
“It’s ok. All will be clear soon. I am the one you’ve been searching for. Come with me and the others. We can offer you a safe place to sleep, food and water.”
“Food and water,” Lila said. “Cam… is she telling the truth?”
“I don’t know…”
“Trust me, Cameron. Great danger hunts you and those like you. I know why Ghost stays with you. Your ability with animals is a great one. I can teach you more. Come with me.” She held her hand out to him. Ghost’s tail wagged.
Cameron took his wife’s hand. “I think it’s okay honey, look at Ghost.”
Lila was hesitant but she eventually eased her way over to the girl and the three started away from the park.
“Who are you?” Cameron asked.
“I am called Morganna.” She smilled.