Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Science fiction  ➡  General  ➡  Superheroes

Order

Copyright © 2013 Dorsey Lee Jackson all rights reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

[email protected]

Edited by: Vernissage

Cover 3D head rendering by: pitanime80

Additional composite artwork Dorsey Jackson

ISBN: [+ 978-0-9966615-0-8+]

Acknowledgments

I’d like to extend a special thank you to Mario Piludu and Ja-Net Edgcombe, for your countless hours of reading, feedback, reassurance, motivation, reliability, and support that helped to bring this book into fruition.

I will forever be grateful.

 

 

Dedication

For my father,

My role model, my inspiration, my motivation, and reason to always get up and give it one more try. I will always remember the lesson you taught me, the time we spent together, and the rare genuine love you shared unconditionally. No one can ever take that way or diminish that. I love being your name’s sake. I love and miss you.

Your son,

Dizz, the phase

 

O R D E R

Dorsey Jackson Jr.

1

More than a thousand miles had passed under his feet, yet his pace had not faltered, nor had he shown signs of fatigue. A soul driven by the passion of a cause does not tire. Particles of sand hurled through the air like bullets and the wind howled as a herd of wounded wildebeests, as the reddish orange sky domed the desert torn miles of land. It wasn’t always a desert. Civilization once flourished here. However, evidence of anything civilized was no longer evident. When the ashes brushed against his face and the all too familiar stench of the fallen innocent permeated his nostrils, he knew he had found it.

The long robed and hooded figure walked the sands until his feet stopped ten feet from a rising mesa, which seemed to be formed of ashes. He observed, and then proceeded to climb. Once atop, he pulled himself onto the small hill. It was still smoldering from the battle that had obviously just preceded. Bodies lay as far as his eyes could see – a mile wide and a mile long stretch of death. He surveyed the whole area, from East Mountain to West Mountain, as the winds whispered into his ear the names of the lifeless victims that lay beneath his feet. If he could remember how to cry, he probably wouldn’t. Still yet, the thoughts came. How many of the faces did he know or how many might he have met in the future? Thoughts like that he let fall into the cold void he called his soul, which ironically, are the very thoughts, in multitude that created the void.

The thoughts were broken as a sound off in the distance caught his attention. A small, four wheeled vehicle sped his way. He observed, and then proceeded to make himself unseen. Buried up to his arm pits in ash and peering through a rib cage he placed over the rest of his body, he had a clear view of the two soldiers that stepped out of the vehicle.

“Grim Reapers Shadow to Grim Reaper; Come in Grim Reaper,” One of the soldiers radioed in. He repeated the cadence.

“This is Grim Reaper. Go ahead.” A response came over the radio shortly after.

“The sun is directly overhead and the Shadow is beginning to follow behind the Reaper,” The soldier responded.

“Proceed with your orders then fall back to original coordinates.” The voice from the radio sounded again.

“Understood,” The soldier responded one last time. He walked to the back of the vehicle where the other soldier unloaded Gatlin gun sized rifles. “I hate this shit, damned scavenger duty.”

“Me too. I wish first wave would make sure these mother fuckers were dead when they shoot the first time. It’s a fucking damned shame we gotta go back and kill their missed shots.”

“There goes one,” The soldier shot at a squirming civilian who wasn’t lucky enough to die during the first wave attack of Grim Reaper infantry soldiers. “Damned piece of shit,” He cursed at the new corpse, cocked back his weapon, and continued on.

The soldiers were called “Shadows” because they followed behind or back tracked a wave of infantry soldiers known as ‘Grim Reapers’, to make sure anyone or anything that survived an attack didn’t survive for long. Their black hoods trimmed in blue half hid the mask with glowing red eyes that covered the top portions of their faces. A half face particulate, an air-purifying mask, protected them from the harsh sand filled winds.

The most distinguishable aspects of their blue and black armor were the human size skulls that were harnessed to their chests. As he looked closer, he could tell that the skulls weren’t just armor. They were real skulls cut in half and mounted over their black, white, and blue chest plates.

The soldiers were unaware they had a peeping Tom. He didn’t make himself known, as they carried out their orders. He did not attempt to be the savior of the few that were left behind, for he knew that in allowing their deaths meant the survival of a greater whole. Besides, they would probably beg him to kill them anyway.

Sporadic gun fire and staccato informal executions went on until the sun reached the other side of the horizon.

“Well, that’s about the last of them,” the soldier spoke as if he were a man finishing a hard day of work.

“As far we’re concerned. Anyone who did survive will be dead by sun rise.” The other soldier spoke.

The soldiers finished their duty and proceeded to drive away, not knowing they had a stow-away under their vehicle.

“Grim Reaper, this is Grim Reapers Shadow. Night has fallen over all and the Shadow rests until next day break. Returning back to base.”

“Roger Shadow,” A voice answered back from the radio.

The vehicle rode across the sands until it reached its destination, a massive military compound in the middle of the wide open sands like a defiant castle – imposing in design and arrogant in aura. It was a short trip from the entrance to the vehicle garage as the two soldiers conversed about military gibberish then jumped out the vehicle.

“…I hear the next strike is out towards East Mountain.”

“They say Morrison is ready to begin the major portion of the campaign over the rest of this region…”

Morrison! That is the name he wanted to hear. That was the barrier of activation. The unknown visitor climbed from under the vehicle and began to walk at a pace as cool as a winter’s cave. Even if the soldier would’ve seen it coming, he still wouldn’t have known what split him. With one quick stroke, the visitor unsheathed his sword, aptly named Silence, and took one head.

What the…,” the other said as he spun around. A question he would never know the answer to. Not once did the visitor break his stride. He sheathed Silence just as quick as he unsheathed her then stepped outside. He was only a few paces out when a soldier posted on a flight of stairs above spotted him.

“Hey you! Identify yourself…aahhhh,” Cut off by a barrage of gun fire, the soldiers body fell from atop the stairwell and crashed into steel drums below, the visitors guns already back in their holsters. However, his presence was made known to all now. Soldiers flooded the area and all hell broke loose. At least for the soldiers. He un-hooded himself and flung off the robe, revealing the shiny metallic body armor that covered him from neck to toe like a skin, his bald shaven head, his hard rigid face, and the wicked jagged scar that played from his forehead that curved down into his right eye brow, through the glassy dead eye that he had lost from whatever wicked tool made the scar, and down into his cheek. His appearance was enough to freeze an army, and it did for a few quiet seconds. The soldiers stared at him, guns aiming and ready. The visitor gripped the two laser dot pistols from his side: Revenge and Retribution. Two custom altered machine-gun thirty-eight hand guns which activated from the touch of his hands. It fell silent at the sound of the pistols charging from his grip and the loud unyielding stare in his stolid eyes. From the back part of his metallic suit, where the suit met his neck, a silver liquid cloth sprang out and began to mold itself around his whole head and face. A soft crackle whispered in the anxious silence as it solidified like ice, like a metal layer of skin, taking the full form of his face. Gunfire rang from his pistols followed by the sound of bullets cutting into soldier flesh.

In an office on the other side of the base, the sound of the battle raging on the outside was heard by a rigid face man sitting at a desk. His regalia showed that he was definitely in charge there and his face told the story of experience. His name..? Thomas Morrison.

“What the fuck is going on out there?” Morrison exclaimed jumping up from his desk as the sound of explosions interrupted his work.

“Sir, there’s someone attacking the compound!” A soldier’s voice came from over the desk intercom.

“Does it look like resistance infantry?” Morrison responded. “Is it a small band of soldiers?”

“It appears to be only one man sir… I think,” The soldier informed, stumbling over his words.

“You Think!?!”

“Who could be attacking the compound?” Another soldier in the room questioned. Morrison didn’t respond with a verbal answer to the question, but his eyes showed that he knew very well who it could be.

“Soldier… bring me my sword.”

Back on the outside, soldiers continued to fall left and right. They didn’t stand a chance against the opponent they faced. But now, his clips were empty, blood was spilt, and anger was still at its highest inside the visitor, leaving a trail of dead soldiers from the garage to the office. Morrison stepped outside to be greeted by an individual he knew very well. Although the figure was covered from head to toe in metal, the face was still no less familiar – His guns extended to his sides and still smoking. Without a word, he holstered them. A soft crackle broke the silence as the metal layer on the visitors face began to loosen up, like a snake shedding its skin, folding back on and withdrawing itself, and returning back to the spot it came from. Morrison began to walk slowly towards his imposing guest.

“So you finally caught up with me.” Morrison said with as much cavalier as he could.

The visitor only unsheathed Silence, placing her tip on the ground, angled in front of him.

“I never thought for once you would stop your insignificant crusade.” Morrison continued.

“Then you are a wise thinker,” The visitor finally spoke. Morrison saw that he wouldn’t get anything here except words of resentment and anger.

“You never understood the full scale of this war!” Morrison justified as he casually walked towards him, lessening the space between them to a few cordial running strides. “Soft idealistic hearts have no place here or any other place we may visit.”

“I understand that you are now part of the Hand that wields destruction. One finger that I will sever and cast back into the pits of hell.”

“Bitter words from an angry heart.”

“Then come, Judas. Taste my blade and savor the rancidness of my soul!” With that the visitor sprang at Morrison, catapulted by the pain and anger of the betrayal that had marinated for years. The sounds of the blades biting into each other rang throughout the air like the sound of metal being forged in hell. Back and forth they went, trading steel for steel. The sword fight looked choreographed, as they were equally matched. They would be, seeing at one time, they both helped father that particular style of sword fighting. In the end, revenge served as the master final stroke. The visitor broke down his molecular make up, disappearing from his current standing position, and rematerialized inside Morrison; bursting out his body like a being born anew, covered in the blood of his enemy, arms stretched wide towards the heavens, with a roar that would extend just as far… The baptism of a dying soul.

Although the days where he would find any form of peace or happiness were long gone, he still found some contentment in the vanquishing of an old friend that made himself an enemy. Brief was that moment and it passed. It was done, but he knew that Morrison was only one of many that he had given his word to seek out and send to hell, where there they would serve as messengers to the unjust and the souls of the damned, and they would know his name. They would know he was Dizz the Phase.

His thoughts returned to him and he gathered himself. He was weak, but he still had to move on. Slowly, he began to walk away from what he had been searching for – for years, as if it had never happened. As he walked, he raised his arm and tapped a few buttons on a metal band attached to his wrist. In a matter of a few moments time, air crafts phased into the sky, out of thin air, at full speed, blasting everything in sight. Dizz, The Phase, continued to walk casually, as if the explosions going on around him weren’t happening. Dizz closed his eyes and concentrated hard. With a sudden burst of blue lights that engulfed his body, he was gone.

2

Lost souls wander aimlessly for eternity, but souls driven and crazed by the passion of a cause wander farther and longer. At one time, he led thousands who called him Father and Moses. He watched them all perish in front of his feet. At times he felt as a child born of damned souls, and at night he would hear them cry out to him simultaneously…

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

…but to them he had no answer, only his cold existence, which did not serve as enough payment. Yet, he would offer it anyway, as a sacrifice to the people he once led and protected, who are now the collective rulers of his soul.

3

Dizz walked through the door of the main science lab. Blue flickering lights danced off his face as he passed row after row of data storage units. The isle opened up to an open area. As usual, the lighting in the room was dim. The wall size computer screen on the far wall, shotgun across from the entrance door, illuminated the area with the sleep mode display. The control console to the massive screen spanned the length of the wall. Only three entrances accessed the room: the main entrance door, and two open entry ways a few feet apart on the right wall.

“You cannot continue to compromise the purpose of this whole mission,” The voice came through the dark, calm and nonchalant.

“Here are the logs of my ‘Tour’, of the reality I found T.H.E. Corporation compound,” Dizz responded as he set down a stack of data storage units.

“Damn your reports! If you continue to use the Phase technology for your own personal grudges, you defeat the purpose of us continuing to use the technology to fight those who are doing the same.” The individual who carried the voice stepped out of the shadows. He was a man of light complexion. Green eyes hid behind glasses. Neatly placed brown dreadlocks came down to his shoulders. His face seemed young, but it also showed that he was a man of seriousness and dedication to a purpose.

He was the main science engineer of the small underground resistance they both worked with, the man behind the machines, weapons and technology that they used, as well as the technology they fought against. They simply called this man Mech.

“Technology? Humph,” Dizz said “Don’t ever compare me to them! My mission and our mission are undeniably related. I found the aligned reality and notified base of its coordinates.”

“You also took it upon yourself to infiltrate the compound and initiate the attack.” It fell quite for a few heartbeats. “Well, which one was it?” Mech surrendered in the debate.

“Morrison.”

“Did you get him?”

“You know I wouldn’t have come back if I hadn’t.”

“Look, I know the size of this for you, but you know this war is bigger than personal vendettas and grudges, for either of us.”

“I will continue to find the aligned realities and I will continue to hunt them down and personally stop their life lines.”

Mech decided to discontinue the futile conversation with a heaving sigh. He knew that for his close friend and brother in arms, that was what this war was really all about.

“At any rate, come check this out.” They walked over to the mega computer screen on the main wall. On it was a single line that broke off into a confusing web of lines that crossed one another at varying points.

“I found several more realities that have the possibilities of being sites that align with T.H.E. Corporations typical activity.” He braced himself. He hoped his phrasing of what he was about to say would mask what was really about to happen, until it happened. “As usual, we will have to explore them all to find out which reality actually aligns with this one and find T.H.E. Corporation compound before we can send any resistance there to counter T.H.E. Corporation.”

Dizz studied the screen casually, “What do you mean we? You can’t hunt because you have to stay here and align the realities, so who is the other part of we?”

“I’m sending Diamond to explore one of the realities. In doing that, hopefully, we can cut down on some time and catch up to T.H.E. Corporation. We can’t afford to lose any more time, seeing we have no idea how much time we have.”

“Diamond? We just picked her up no more than a year ago. Do you really think she has enough experience to handle a “Reality Tour?” Dizz contested so hard not because he doubted someone else in their ability of performing the duty, but more so of the chance of someone finding the aligned realty before him and rob him of his chance at vengeance.

“Her mind is the only other one in the resistance that can even remotely endure the Phasing process. And you know as well as I do that her combat ability is well past sufficient.” Mech responded.

“Three Phases and you’ll rip her mind apart.”

“Actually, I’ve done some tests on her, and she is showing remarkable and fast results. I’m supposed to run some more today. I’m just waiting for her to get here.”

“Well wait no longer gentlemen,” the extremely feminine voice came from the open door way. There stood a short, athletically built, women of about twenty years of age. Her cheek length hair bounced playfully as she made her way in. At a glance, an individual wouldn’t suspect she was the skilled soldier she was.

“Speaking of the she devil,” Dizz said softly.

Her real name was Rezina Washington and she had a past deeper than her forward appearance showed.

“Right on time. I was just talking about you,” Mech said to her as she entered further into the lab.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Rezina joked.

“No, you don’t want to hear what he says to all the girls.” Dizz, said under his breath.

Mech continued on with the discussion of business, “After I run these test on you, to make sure your body can withstand the Phase process, you need to start getting ready for your Tour.”

“When do we leave?” a curious Diamond asked.

“Tomorrow,” Mech responded sternly.

“Tomorrow! Why so early?” Her curiosity still peeking.

“If you understood the nature of this whole thing, you would know that tomorrow isn’t early enough,” Dizz informed her.

“Do I sense a hint of antipathy?” Diamond asked.

“No, call it boyish infatuation, and this is the only way I know how to show it.”

“Dizz will brief you on ‘Phase protocol.” Mech interrupted the banter again with the topic of business.

“That ought to be fun,” again Diamond offering sarcasm.

“Be in the training room tonight at 2000 hours… Oh, and be dressed for some fun.” With that Dizz walked out of the laboratory.

He decided to walk the streets. He couldn’t escape his thoughts, so he decided to dwell on them for a while. His past never left him alone. He journeyed back to a different time and experienced the taste of regrets.

It was your average city. The future hadn’t changed much of the physical architecture of it. Building lights still illuminated the night sky. High rises still stood and touched the skyline. Cars and pedestrians still zoomed the streets. What it did change, however, was who controlled these lights and these streets. A single corporation, which blurred the lines between government, big business, and scientific advancement, all in years of complicated sequences of events. Their control not only touched this reality, but reached into other realities. Reality travel, it was still a striking notion to him. How they did it, he had a partial knowing of and did not want to think about, but the why they were still unaware of. It didn’t totally matter to him anyway; his vendetta against T.H.E. Corporation was forged deep. All he knew was that their actions were of no good, and that’s all he needed to know. Their actions in these other realities: whole city populations wiped out. Not leaving one living, breathing soul, and in some cases, not even the remnants of one standing building. No trace of civilization, except for the trail of death and rotting bodies set a cast like meaningless fallen leaves of a forest of autumn trees. He observed the surroundings of the city as he squatted on a wall. Right fist in left palm in front of his face, he swallowed the pain of knowing that he helped mold society into what he is seeing now.

Across the street, a child was running up to his mother in the cool city night air. He couldn’t help but to think of the future he had chosen for that child. A future the child had no choice in, one that is definitely uncertain.

The elevator call switch flashed the -26 th floor. The door slid open and Dizz stepped off. Each step down the dark corridor reminded him of why he didn’t come here often. However, he continued to navigate the maze of shadowy halls. He sauntered around a corner into yet another long dark hall. At the end of it, several armed soldiers lined the walls and two guarded a door that read maximum security.

“Evening gentlemen,” Dizz greeted.

“Where to sir?” one soldier asked.

“Special Holds,” Dizz informed.

“Any specific?”

“Detention block 2122.”

The door slid open and Dizz navigated new walls of chain and bars until he came to a door made of solid silver three feet thick. He stared at the door as if the guard behind the three foot thick reinforced glass next to it didn’t exist.

“Open it,” without breaking his stare.

Bright U.V. lights flooded the wall and Dizz became a silhouette beneath them. The door slid open with a monstrous metal grind and he walked in. Inside, another layer of mesh fence made of silver. The mesh fence slide open, the huge metal door closed behind him, swallowing the bright U.V. lights. Once again, it was dark. He opened, entered, and closed the mesh fence behind him and took a seat next to the single cell that inhabited the room. Close. So close that the prisoner inside, balled up against the wall hidden in the corner next to him could reach out and grab him if he so chose, but Dizz did not look concerned.

“Long time no visit” the prisoner’s voice echoed from the darkness. No response. “What brings those high enough to cast stones to visit the damned?

“Advice,” a solemn Dizz finally answered.

“Speak and the wise will answer.”

“Will it ever go away?”

“It’s been a long time since it all happened.”

“I know.”

“If it’s one thing I’ve learned from the curse and the gift called these many years, is that it heals all things. Time will pass and it will help you forget and forgive.”

“Will it help me to forget the hatred I have for you as well?” The words suddenly biting out with a harsh, resentful tone.

“Just as much as it will help you to forget the hatred you have for yourself.” With a quick and sudden reach, he grabbed a scurrying mouse from the floor. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do believe it is my dinner time.”

4

2000 hours: Dizz walked furiously through the halls of a 32 story office building, which served as a front for the resistance base that sat 28 floors below it. Diamond tried to follow next to him at his fast pace.

“Wait up?” Diamond yelled a half step behind Dizz.

“There is no time to wait”, Dizz responded calmly, not breaking his stride. “Once you leave this comfort zone you call your reality and enter others you’ll understand that.”

“Hey, why did we have to stop at that change machine and get all that change?”

“Call it part of your training,” he answered.

After a long descent in an elevator to the -27 th floor, they made their way through the halls and into the one that lead to the training room. A few feet from the door, Dizz stopped and turned to her.

“What? Why’d we stop?” Diamond asked.

Dizz reached into a pocket and from it produced a coin. With a flick of his thumb he tossed it her way.

“Call it,” he said as it floated her way.

“Heads!” she screamed out. She caught it and slammed it down on the back of her hand.

“Now before you remove your hand,” Dizz began, “I am going to make you understand that which you already understand. Every decision you make leads you to a different reality, a certain path and every choice has a possible fork in the path that you can take. Now remove your hand.” She lifted her hand and looked at the coin. “What is it?”

“Yes! Its heads,” She exclaimed as if she was some school girl who just won a raffle prize.

“Now once you grasp this understanding you’ll be sitting somewhere and my voice will come back to you. Maybe soon, maybe in the near future, or maybe far from now, but you’ll be sitting, reflecting on some small decision you’ll have to make, and you’ll hear these words, I wonder what my life would be if I’d chosen tails?

That was the simplest form because there were only two choices. The only other option was…?”

“Tails,” She replied obviously.

Dizz reached back in his pocket and quickly flung at her a hail rain of a handful of coins.

“Now call it.”

She quickly attempted to shield herself from the rainstorm of coins. And then… they all fell to the ground with a symphony of metal clanging. After the ring of the last coins echoed and disappeared into the hall, she brought herself to look back at him from behind her flinching, coiled shield of reflex. “Now I want three specific coins, each of which has to be heads.”

“I couldn’t possibly find three specific coins you want. I don’t even know which ones you want, if they’re nickels, quarter’s, pennies, or dimes.”

“Now you have a glimpse into the understanding of what you’re stepping into.” Dizz hit the entrance panel with is fist. The door slid open and Dizz turned and entered. “Once you have phased into a reality, you are to look for signs of Corporation presence. Now because these realities will have similarities, T.H.E. Corporation will probably be in most of them. We’re looking for a certain M.O.” Dizz began to explain to her.

“I know. I’ve read the files that Mech gave to me. Is it really that much destruction in those realities?”

“Words can’t even begin to describe what you will see, but if they are there, and they have the M.O. we’re looking for, there will be a compound where they will set up base. You are to find this compound. Once you locate the compound, you are to transmit the coordinates to the resistance. After that, you leave. From there, the resistance will send air and ground infantry to destroy the compound and control the area.”

“Why doesn’t the resistance just send infantry to every possible reality that could be parallel?” Diamond asked inquisitively.

“There are way too many realities to account for. It’s not possible. Plus the Phase process puts a tremendous strain on the mind, not to mention the body. That is why there aren’t any other Phases in the resistance”, Dizz responded.

“So what about the infantry soldiers that are sent?”

“They’re not Phases. They are volunteers… All volunteers and they don’t come back. That is why you must be sure and thorough in your Tour.”

“What about you? Apparently you’ve been doing quite a few of them.”

“I’m an exception. The Phase technology simply aids me in the process. People like you… it controls the process. No more questions and answers. Let me see the Smart Armor Mech has prepared for you?”

Diamond flung off her long trench coat and revealed armor plating that covered her in specific areas: Upper body, shoulder harness, bicep, forearm, back of the hands, thighs, and shin. She posed as if just making it to the end of the cat walk.

“You like?” she asked.

Dizz’s eyes narrowed and his forehead furrowed. He couldn’t believe what he was actually seeing.

“Pink? You really chose and actually convinced Mech into painting that thing pink?” Dizz asked.

“Uh Huh. I know it’s a little cliché, but I thought it’d be fun.”

Dizz didn’t even attempt to entertain the conversation.

“Have you had a chance to kick on your Smart Armor?” He asked with a hint of bewildered irritation.

“No,” She admitted. “All of this is moving very fast.”

He walked over to her and placed his finger in between the plating around her neck.

“When you kick on your Smart Armor; the plates for the head piece with jump out from here. The first time will be a little shocking because they come out with a lot of force. The plating will work itself up your neck and around your head. Same thing for the rest of the plating on your body. There are no switches or buttons. It’s tied in to your nervous system so it all reacts on command and very fast.” He stepped away and starred at all five feet, 125lbs of her. He wasn’t totally confident in Mech’s decision. “Are you ready for some… fun?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I want to see what your skills are like.”

With that, Dizz took off running at her. He attacked her with a flurry of strikes and punches that she managed to block and parry, but the spinning kick that followed them caught her by surprise. She managed to recover and counter with her own flurry of strikes and elbows. Back pedaling on the defensive, Dizz planted a foot and cartwheeled to the side, but not before delivering a foot to her chin, spinning off both hands to come to his feet.

“Capoeira huh” she asked with a smile as she wiped her chin.

“Eu sou angoleiro.” He responded as he circled.

“What does that mean?”

“Look it up.”

They circled one another and then both set their footing again. Dizz glanced down at her footing. Cat stance “Just like a rookie, basic Kung Fu.” he thought to himself, but as soon as he committed to his punch her stance changed. Before he knew it, an arm brushed against his punch, pulled him forward with her opposite arm, and rigid handed him across his face sending him to the floor hard- Bagua.

“Are you impressed?” Diamond asked smiling.

“I don’t know yet.” Dizz responded unemotionally as he got off the floor. “But I tell you one thing, shit just got real.” He was back at her. They went blow for blow flowing fluidly between styles. Him: Muai Tai, Capoeira and Krav Maga. Her: Wushu, baguazhang, and Boxing. The Chess game went on and on until they found themselves on the floor grappling. She could feel his arm slipping under her chin. She refused to get chocked out. She slipped her hand down to a gun, pulled it out, and pointed it towards his head, forcing him to let her go. They rolled to one knee as she let off a shot that barely missed. His gun was out and seeking its target. She kicked on her Smart Armor. The plates at her neck jumped out and she jump by the pure force of them. Dizz smirked. Just as Dizz had told her, the armor plating unfolded and with a series of clicks and clacks formed around her head. She had talked Mech into making hers completely transparent to add to the allure of her nick name. The rest of the plating worked its way down her body and around her hands as they circled each other and the new game began.

She lunged toward him as he let a shot fly. It whizzed past her head and she managed to get a hand on his gun wrist, while maneuvering hers toward his head. Dizz’s free hand went up and led her gun towards the ground. Back and forth they battled for gun superiority. Aggressively grappling, aiming, swimming, blocking, and shooting. Until Diamond managed to kick off his chest and gain some space – Wrong move. Before she could even lift her gun up, Dizz landed a shot square in her chest. She looked down in disappointment.

“Fun over.” He said.

“Well we’re luckily we’re only using practice rounds.” She conceded.

“You’re lucky you mean.”

A symphony of clicking filled the air as her Smart Armor kicked off. “It doesn’t surprise me that you’re the type that would gloat.” She turned and headed towards the door. “I’m tired,” She offered up to the air.

Dizz holstered his gun and followed behind her. “You earned it.”

The door slid open and she plopped down on the ground next to it, grabbing a towel on her way down.

“Oh, I get a bit of positive reinforcement from you. Whoo, Hoo.” she said taking a sip from a water bottle.

“Credit where credit is due. That’s all.” He said as he leaned against the wall and wiped his face down with a towel as well. Sitting on the floor, he glanced over to her. “You know that used to be mine right?” Nodding towards her Smart Armor.

“What this?” She pointed at the tailor fit piece of battle technology that formed fit her petite body. “Were you fighting this war when you were a kid or something.” Her surprise and question was serious. “How long have you been doing this?”

Dizz giggled “No, that’s one of the original prototypes. It’s not that old though. Mech refitted it for you. Not a lot of major changes, well pink is a major change, but enough just to fit you and suit its purpose.”

“Well I feel honored. I feel like I’m wearing a piece of history.” Her tone turned soft and playfully nostalgic. “Like I’m part of the legend.” she said then laughed. Dizz’s chest heaved once with a silent giggle. “No really, I am really honored, now that I know that. You guys have a lot of faith in me.”

“Mech does.” Dizz said, but there was no laughter to follow.

Diamond detoured the feeling of sharp hurt that crept from her stomach with her next comment.” I’m surprised you were able to let go of something so important to you.”

“It was easy and hard.” Nonchalant. A silence fell over the conversation. “Do you really think you’re ready for this? I mean really. Soldiers pride aside.”

She took a sip and stared at him. “You ever wonder what your life would have been like if you’d chosen tails?” she asked him. He let his eyes lock with hers for a few quiet moments, then turned away, stood and grabbed his coat.

“I don’t have to wonder. I’ve already seen it,” he spat out then walked away.

5

Well, how was your first date?” Mech asked as Diamond and Dizz walked into the main science lab.

“Please”, Dizz responded.

“It was simply wonderful. I just hope Dizz didn’t get the wrong impression. I don’t usually show all my moves the first time around,” Diamond added batting her eyes at him.

“If I had a dollar for every woman that told me that,” Dizz countered dryly.

“Well Lady and Gent. Down to business. Are you ready?” Mech asked Diamond.

“As ready as I’ve been told I’m going to be.”

Mech grabbed her arm and fitted it with a bulky complex metal wrist band.

“Here, this is your Coordinate Lock. For you, this will get you in and out of whatever reality we plot into it. You’re not experienced enough yet to know how to dial them yourself, so if you find yourself in a bit of a jam, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT dial random coordinates. Press this button here. This is the Rephase button. The coordinate lock will beep as it finds the origin reality. How long that can take can vary. It will chime a different signal once it finds the reality and locks in a path for travel. At that point, you press the engage button and it will bring you back to this reality.”

“Will it bring me back to this base?” she asked as she eyed the new piece of equipment on her arm.

“No,” Dizz said firmly. “The phase process only works laterally. That’s up and down. Wherever you’re standing when you rephase will be the corresponding location you return to in this reality.”

“Right. Not to get too complicated, but if you were to move horizontally that would be more like Phasing and quantum leaping. Luckily, we don’t have to play that game…yet… I hope never. If you phased diagonally across locations that would be like quantum time traveling and…”

“Complicated,” Dizz jumped in “As we said we would not do.”

“Right.” Mech said.

“Where’s yours,” Diamond asked Dizz glancing down at his arm.

“My what?”

“Your Coordinate lock bracelet?”

“I don’t need one. For you, the bracelet controls the process.”

“And for you?”

“I am the process.”

“He’s right,” Mech said as she turned to him confused. “Complicated.” Trying his best to avoid the subject. What he does have, just like you, however; is a Coordinate Relay. This part of your band is what you use to send the coordinates of the reality you are at-in the event you do find a Corporation compound. I’m sure Dizz has detailed you on what happens next if that happens.”

“Yeah, I send the coordinates, resistance sends troops, to the coordinates, and then I leave.” She said.

“No. You send the Coordinates and then you leave. The resistance will send troops anyway. They don’t need you around to make sure of that.” Dizz corrected sternly.

“Tomato Tomatoes, you know what I meant.”

“Yeah I just want to make sure you understand that clearly,” He said.

“What’s the big deal?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mech said as he through Dizz a glance. “Listen, that’s about the bulk of it. Everything else you already know. Just do your best.”

“Ok, so how does this work.” Diamond asked. A big bright flash of blue lights and lines and Dizz disappeared. “Fucking asshole,” she whispered.

“Yeah he tends to be that at times,” Mech said. He walked over to the computer console and typed a series of buttons. The huge, wall sized, concave, sliver door on the left wall began to slowly open up. “Come here,” he said to Diamond. The machine was complicated. The massive machine slid out into the middle of the room. “It takes a tremendous amount of energy to get an object out of this reality to another. The science behind it is similar to me trying to push you away from something that’s pulling you back. So, like any two opposing forces, the unnatural motion requires extra momentum. This machine here will provide that. This lovely machine is called The Guide.”

Diamond eyed the huge piece of machinery and where she would stand. A large circular platform with five circles, one within the other, served as its base. From the back side, a solid piece attached to the base and arched upward. Four bars sprang out from the top, each arm ending in orbs angled 45 degrees in – the whole thing a dark shiny blue. A chill coursed through her body. “Why am I getting a weird feeling all of sudden now that I see this?” She asked.

“Because it’s going to hurt.” Mech said bluntly. She turned to look at him with questioning eyes. “Yeah we didn’t tell you that did we?” He said.

“No. That bit of information was conveniently left out.”

“I promise you it wasn’t intentional. It’s been me and Dizz for so long, we honestly forgot. You do know you are the only other person that we have found that can complete this process? I mean back and forth. Others would die.”

The seriousness of everything hit her. “What about the volunteers?”

“There is a reason they can’t come back.”

“Which Is?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Mech said as he turned to the computer console. “Step up onto the platform.” She did so, then waited for what was next. “I’ve plotted the coordinates for the reality you’re going to tour. I need you to brace and well, take as much as you can.”

“OK,” she said as her nerves began to get to her. Mech began a complicated sequence of finger movements then hit a button. Diamond was not ready for the first beam of blue light that sliced through her body. It hit her so hard that her body seized and she couldn’t even scream. The second one hurt so bad her knees wanted to buckle, but again her upper muscles seized and she stood erect. The third one from the back forced a yell out. From the corner of her eye, she saw Mech holding his chin and let out a heaving sigh. He hit another button and the fourth beam burned into her skin until her eyes watered. The fifth and final beam literally lifted her off her feet. Before she knew it, a wave of light blue light shot up from the bottom of the platform and through the ceiling, engulfing her. Then everything went black.

6

With a bright flash of blue light, Diamond touched down. Luckily, no one was around. Crouching, she tried to get her bearings. Head spinning and throbbing, she pushed to her feet.

“AHHH! Oh my God.” She mouthed. Her balance came to her slowly as she opened her eyes. Nothing was clear. She couldn’t manage to make out a single object. Her heart began to race and her skin began to sweat. She reached for her gun instantly wondering what was going to happen next.

Trees. A lot of trees were the first thing she could make out. Next was grass, and then buildings off in the distance. Just as she thought the worst was over, she realized she couldn’t breathe. She tried to exhale… nothing. She tried to inhale… nothing. Panic set in and she just knew she was going to die before her tour even began. Suddenly air rushed into her lungs. She took a long gasp and then the air got stuck again. She couldn’t breathe! The pain forced her to the ground, clutching her stomach in pain. As she rolled over to her stomach all the air rushed out her body along with all contents of her stomach. She breathed heavy and fast. She waited for what was coming next, but to her surprise it was over.

Was that normal? Would there be more? No time to worry about it. It was time to get on with the tour. Looking around, she tried to get her bearings again. She was in a park, luckily, an empty park, but it didn’t look familiar. It didn’t exist in her reality. So the next step was to find a landmark building that did exist in her reality. She glanced up into the sky and there, flying the Corporation Symbol, was the Lathan building.

“What the hell?” She said.

She was defiantly in the downtown area of the Southside of town, but what the hell was the Corporation symbol doing on the Lathan building. That’s like a KKK flag being flown at a Black Panther meeting. She looked down at her battle gear and realized she would need attire. Now that she had a sense of where she was, it was time to find some cloths. Hopefully they took the same currency in this reality.

As she passed people on the street she eavesdropped on their conversations. First and foremost they were speaking English and not some unknown language that she couldn’t possibly decipher. Conversations seemed to be as normal as any she would hear in her reality. So now that she knew she could converse with people she had to find out what currency was like. Hopefully it would be just as normal as the conversations.

“That will be $340 Dants,” the thin neatly dressed store clerk said over the counter. Unfortunately this would not be as normal as conversations. Would she be in trouble?

Shit. I’d hate to have to rob this place.” Diamond thought as she pulled the green apparently useless paper out of her back pocket. She stood there in confusion as she starred down at the money.

“I’m sorry. Is there some type of problem?” The overly articulate man asked giving Diamond a look of condescending irritation.

“No,” She said with absolutely no confidence behind the word. “Uh, what are Dants?” She asked with obvious embarrassment.

“Dants are those thin slivers of green paper you are holding in your hands dear.” Are you on drugs is what his eyes spoke behind his words.

“Oh,” Diamond said with a giggle. “My misunderstand you. I… um… no from here.” she feigned a Russian accent and pushed the handful of money out in front of her. It was roughly $150 bucks.

The man’s facial expression changed immediately. “No worries sweetheart,” he said with a smile “My grandparents were immigrants. I totally understand.” He counted out $120 from her hand. He paused and looked at her for a moment. “Here honey,” He handed her back a twenty. “A little just because discount.”

She smiled back at him. She didn’t have to feign the sigh of relief that followed. “Thank you much.”

She managed to purchase some regular jeans, boots and common sweat shirt. Attire an average girl would wear. More importantly, attire that would easily disguise her armor because of its loose fit. She observed the city as she thought to herself. So what do I look for first?

She looked up and staring her in the face was a big sign over a bar in the shape of the number 14. Interesting and hard to miss. She would make this her ‘come back to’ spot. No better place to start to find information.

The Huge 14 that hung over the bar caught Dizz attention first, then the clock on the building behind it. 8:45, it was still early. Too early Dizz thought. Between 8:00 and 8:45 he had managed to get clothing that covered his battle gear. Jeans, boots, turtleneck, and his signature cashmere trench. It wasn’t hard: A smash of a window, shooting out an alarm, and a quick grab and dash. He had gotten used to it a long time ago.

“This couldn’t possibly be a Corporation controlled reality. There’s too many happy people here,” The sign below the 14 that read ‘Silla’s Bar’, caught his attention. He went in and promptly headed for the bar. Casually taking a set he ordered. “Nothing like a beer to start off a daily reality tour,” He said out loud as he took a sip.

7

Mech exited the resistance headquarters dressed in a suit and tie with a brief case, and proceeded to a car. He entered the car, revved up the engine, and drove off into the city. As he pulled out of the parking deck and merged onto everyday city traffic, his thoughts immediately splintered off into the past and future. Civilians walked the streets; cars flew by carrying civilians oblivious to the seriousness of the actions going on around them. They lived their day to day lives not knowing that it was all in jeopardy of disappearing into nothing. How long they would be able to live in the bliss of their unknowing was uncertain, even to himself. What he carried in the brief case laying in the passenger seat next to him would be sure to be that change. Unconsciously, he pressed down on the gas pedal harder, moving him faster to his undocumented meeting. The importance of the data reaching its destination was beyond measurable.

As he pulled into the downtown area, he noticed a road block that brought his thoughts back to the present.

Shit! If I turn around I’ll take the chance of drawing attention to myself and I might be in for a fight. If I stop and they recognize me, I’ll definitely attract more attention than I want. Weigh the options Mech.” Throwing the car in reverse, he glanced over his shoulder and began to back up, but morning traffic was thick and he quickly found himself boxed in. Mech glanced back at the road block ahead, then back at the traffic behind him. He would definitely draw attention to himself if he made any efforts to depart the scene. He’d have to chance it. He waited his turn in line and when it was his turn he casually pulled up to the blockade and rolled down the window as a Corporation police officer walked up to the passenger side window.

“Good evening sir,” the officer greeted.

“Is there a problem officer?” Mech asked innocently.

“We’re running routine checks on cars that pass through this district.”

“How can I help speed up this process?”

“License and registration please.”

“No problem officer,” Mech responded and complied by handing the officer a well-organized, completely fabricated identification.

“Thank you sir. I’ll be right back.” The officer said.

Mech stared at the officer as he made his way over to his superior at a car ahead. He watched intensely as they conversed and looked over the ID.

“It’s him. The license and registration checks out, but I know it’s him,” The officer told his superior.

“You’re certain?” the superior responded.

“I know it’s him. Take a look at him for yourself.”

“Shit I’ve been made,” Mech realized as the officers started to make their way over to the car.

“Excuse me sir.” the superior exclaimed as they approached the car.

A barrage of gun fire blasting out of the windshield of the car cut them off.

“No, I think I’ll excuse myself,” Mech stepped out the car and readied himself for the fight that was about to come.

Civilians fled the scene as every Corporation officer in the area dashed towards Mech. With a casual stride towards the chaos, Mech flung off his suit jacket and cast aside his tie. Today was as good as any for a battle, especially one he knew immediately he would not be able to avoid once he decided to chance the roadblock. Mech slid his hands into the mechanical gloves that hung off his belt

The shirt and tie outfit ripped off his body exposing armor underneath it. Gadgets on his wrist exposed themselves. His glasses darkened. A targeting like device wrapped around from behind his head and placed itself in front of his right eye. They knew his face. They knew his name. They knew his reputation. They even knew his technological contribution to society, but today they would find out for themselves, why they called him the Mech. He tapped the side of his glasses with his forefinger.

“Target: all potential threats.” He spoke out loud. The inside of his glasses became a computer screen. The word specify scrolled across the screen. “Edwards technology using the path: Underwritten software – protocol: Daniel J.” behind his glasses everything disappeared, cars, civilians, buildings, except for Edwards soldiers carrying heavy weapons and a few Edwards vehicles. “Engage protocol” He said as he let out into a full sprint.

Edwards officers with heavy weapons raised them to address the threat that sprinted towards them, but to their surprise, and without warning, their guns exploded in their hands. All the officers had left were side arms to battle him with. “Playing field leveled a bit” Mech said.

Mech danced around gun fire while retaliating with his own. Closer soldiers feel victim to his martial arts skills. There was no way that he would’ve noticed the small silhouette in the background front flipping off the top of a building like an Olympic diver in the middle of a half pike. The figure, still a dark silhouette in the background, ran across the tops of cars, then horizontally across a wall of a building.

Edwards officers kept flooding the scene. “What the fuck,” Mech said. He was very familiar with Edwards’s officers procedure. This was not routine. There shouldn’t have been this many officers at a routine traffic stop and their response time to a threat radioed in should’ve taken much longer than what was happening. He kept dropping them, but they kept coming. Mech was cornered with a wall of blood thirsty soldiers in front of him.

“Oh shit! Out of ammo. Gotta reload.” He said.

The figure that had been making its way to the battle scene in the background arose from above the soldiers, blasting without warning.

“Don’t worry about it. I got plenty.” the individual said as he landed.

Mech quickly eyed the kid dressed in a long sleeve tee-shirt, tech vest, jeans and boots. He appeared to be about eight-teen years old, and was extremely agile.

“Partner, I don’t know who you are…” Mech began, not looking at the individual, but his eyes on the attacking soldiers.

“Now is not the time to ask,” the individual cut him off.

“Exactly!”

For the middle of the day, the bar was surprisingly half filled. Diamond glanced around the dimly lit bar as the smell of beer and cigarettes filled her nose. This was just as good a place as any to find information. Lustful eyes followed the unlikely customer as she made her way to the bar where a bulky bartender was busy cleaning a glass.

“How you doin’ ”, she spoke mock southern twang. “I’m from out of town and my car was stolen. Can you tell me where to find the local police station?” She knew any character in the bar would quickly rise to help ‘the Damsel in distress’ without question.

The nonchalant voice that came from behind her was not what she was expecting.

“I believe I can help you find what you’re looking for.”

She turned and noticed a man standing at the doorway with four other individuals behind him. She assumed he was the leader of the motley crew and that he was the one that spoke to her.

“And you are?”

The figure answered her question in the same nonchalant tone. “WE are The P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L..”

As he exited the bar, Dizz looked down the street to see what appeared to be Diamond walking his way. Her hair was longer, her clothing all black, and a tattoo on her face that played from her forehead, artistically around her eye and slightly into her cheek. An interesting version of her, he thought. He made his way toward her as he unbuckled one of his guns leaving it in its holster. He made sure his muscle stayed ready for the obvious action that was about to take place. The alternate Diamond spotted him and they met face to face on the sidewalk.

“Where are you from,” Dizz asked.

“Reality 0749 corporation resistance. And you?” She said.

“Dizz, reality 0741, C.R..

“A few realties up.” She said conversationally.

“Yeah we’re neighbors.” Dizz responded dryly.

“Well then there shouldn’t be too many variations.” She noticed he hadn’t looked her in the face.

“What have you seen?” Dizz asked.

“Nothing much. It doesn’t seem like there’s any corporation presence here.”

“Yeah I thought the same thing,” Now, his lack of eye contact was starting to bother her. She continued to try to ignore it. “Still there’s something odd about the atmosphere here. I’m getting strange vibes.”

“Same here.”

“Not big on conversation huh? Not like the Dizz from my reality.”

“Trust me there’s probably not much difference.”

“Maybe not. Still, I notice one difference. You can’t seem to look me in the eye. It’s like you’ve been looking over my shoulder the whole time.”

“I have.” Dizz affirmed.

“Why?”

“You’ve got company following you.” He informed her.

“Who?”

“Looks like ground troops for some kind of RSTA team.”

“RSTA?”

“Reconnaissance, surveillance, and Target acquisition. They’re coming to get somebody. Which one of us, I don’t know.”

“Shit!”

“Where were you headed?”

“Into that bar. Should we try to avoid them?”

“Nah, too late for that. Let’s have a little fun. Go there anyway; I’ll follow you in shortly.”

I’m sorry…. I’m not from around here. Are you apart of the local law enforcement?” Diamond continued the charade using the time to eye up the five man group that stood in front of the doorway.

“Oh, how coy a game pretty young lady. Of course, we both know you are not from around here, and I mean that in the farthest contexts.” The leader responded.

Diamonds inner alarm went off. They definitely smelled like Corporation, but how would they know who she was? Not likely, but she wouldn’t dismiss the possibility. She’d just continue to play the game.

“But don’t think me ignorant,” the leader continued. Diamonds senses heightened even more. “I have to admit. You’re not quite what we expected. Or shall I say who we expected. What’s the matter? Is the old man getting tired?” The man questioned.

“Nah, Just a little bored,” Diamond countered taking a better stance.

“You were right in your suggestion that we are some type of law enforcement, but whose law hmm? What do we enforce? Oh so exciting,” the man egged her on with a mischievous smile. “I see you’re still a little confused. Muse no more my delicate. Allow me formal introductions. I am Nahtill,” with a courteous bow. His hair was long stringy and un-kept. It was hard to place his age, but she could tell he had performed many years in service. His attire was grunge like. It was reminiscent of what a cowboy might wear: A long, open, brown coat, with its collar turned up. Underneath, she could see grey and black armor with brown accents. Simple brown leather gloves adorned his hands. His military style cargo pants were strapped in various places with armor on the thigh, shin armor tucked securely in cowboy boots. He turned and pointed. “This is Kala,” Kala’s attire was simpler: Black from head to toe, leather jacket, with solid Black armor. Then to the man in red. “Odīon Mosī” His helmet had no eye slits, no mouth ventilation. It came to several points in the center with a hollow darkness in the center. He was covered from head to toe in blood red body armor with an intricate yellow paisley design woven all around it, mech-gloves with gun slinger like gun holsters, and a sword sheathed horizontally across his back. “And these two masses of men, my personal muscle, Razu and Zuka.” Razu was literally a beast walking. His head was a cross between a crocodile and an ape. Massive chest with fur covered his whole body. His fingertips were knives waiting to slice into something. Diamond had no idea what nightmare he dropped out of. She had never seen anything like him before. Zuka was obviously from a Yeoman project. His entire body was over processed muscle. All the armor he wore could not hide the pure herculean build of this man. Both men stood at least 8ft tall. If they were an Edwards team nothing, about them was conventional by any standards she knew.

“And how is it that you were going to help me?” Diamond fished.

“Well my lady. We shall be your entertainment for today.” Diamond flinched in confusion. “Razu, Zuka, would you care to elaborate for this young lady.” The two beasts of men started her way. She stepped back and reached for the guns at her side. The two men darted at her. She managed to get off two shots to scatter the two men, but the man in red, Odīon Mosī, produced a short staff from his back, and swung her way sending a sharp sliver of red energy crashing into her chest. She was off her feet and flying backwards. Her guns continued to blaze, and her Smart Armor kicked on, as patrons of the bar fled the scene with haste. She saw the whole scene clearly as if it were in slow motion: Nahtill positioned himself, reaching for guns of his own, Razu and Zuka headed her way with feral fury, Odīon Mosī sprang right and ran horizontally across the wall like an insect. Kala Stood center ground and, it appeared, to charge up. Over the bar, and into the shelves of liquor, she went flying. Entertainment huh, she thought. It didn’t seem like much fun. Gun fire set the alcohol around her ablaze and she found herself consumed. It would take a while before the heat penetrated her Smart Armor, so she used the cover of the fire to buy herself some time. She could see all five men’s positions although her vision was blurred. What kind of timing would she need? Odīon hung from the wall, Razu and Zuka lurked around the fire to find an angle of attack, Nahtill sprinted her way guns aiming, and Kala was just finishing his charge – There’s her opening. Just as Kala looked up, she straightened and sent a flurry of bullets at his chest. He went down. No doubt he had on armor, but it bought her just the amount of time she needed. The other men turned to Kala’s screams. She made a straight dash towards Odīon, the biggest threat. Leaping into the air, she caught him with a crescent kick. He went down. Zuka was the next to go down with a flurry of gun shots before she even touched the ground. Nahtill was close enough for a head shot, but he countered with a series of hand to hand movements. They grappled for a moment, gun shots going off every series of seconds or so. Diamond managed to tangle him up long enough to spin him into the path of a charging Razu. The beast bowled Nahtill over and Diamond took the time to escape outdoors.

8

Mech planted his feet and braced himself for the blast that the humongous Echo tank was inevitably to deliver. They were corporation common use for urban uprisings, although they were more than fit for war combat. Over kill was one of T.H.E. Corporations more forward qualities. Even though, in this situation, it was about fitting. The damage these two resistance combatants inflicted was dynamic in comparison to their odds. This was just a sample of what resistance fighters were capable of. They possessed an uncanny savvy for obliterating the odds. That is why recently, T.H.E. Corporation had to rethink their strategies against Corporation Resistance. Whenever there were reports of a possible Corporation Resistance uprising, the big guns came out. Even more so, the big guns would have to come out, seeing who they were dealing with. Daniel Mitchel, Alias Mech. The once highest ranking science officer of T.H.E. Corporation: genius from birth, world renowned, and the man who created the very weapons they now use to fight him. He knew all of the technologies strengths as well as, and more importantly, all of their weaknesses. The behemoth of metal and steel stood two times as high as a common tank and two times as wide. A unique tread design allowed their clunky exterior great agility in any terrain. Their duplex independent double turrets allowed for it to attack two different targets in a three-hundred sixty degree radius. The tanks seemed alive, Zooid, beast like, and feral. The sound of the machines movement, added to this persona. And the name, Echo Tanks – from the mouths of the massive turrets emerge immense spherical sound waves that expanded as they progressed so that its target had very little room for evasion. The ammo, a single tiny click sounded in a hollow chamber designed to channel and reverberate the energy and intensify it. A magnetic field forced the sound to continuously reflect against itself, as if imploding, so that when it exited the mouth of the turret, instant magnified and outward explosion. Ammunition… endless. Mech stood and marveled at his design, his creation. Simply genius.

His feet were dug in deep and he waited for the right moment. His hand slipped into a small pouch on his side and gripped the small silver, spherical ball tightly. The translucent, bluish-white sphere emerged from the turret and raced his way. He had to wait just for the right moment or the sound waves would engulf him. Now! He let the small metal sphere fly and it impacted the sound sphere only two feet in front of him. The ball exploded into an invisible medium sized sphere sending ripples of silver along the countering blue sphere. The sound sphere cascaded around and past the sphere. Mech was shielded by the bulk of the blast, but the vibration of the clash sent him flying off his feet, sliding on his side several feet. Just a second too slow, but close enough.

More corporation officers filed into the street and bullets whizzed through the air. Mech looked around, surveying the situation. The young man who lent his assistance skillfully handled a group of officers a few feet away. A poetic and acrobatic combination of hand to hand and gun play. The kid moved like gravity meant nothing to him. Fluidly, he moved from car tops, across building walls and soared through the air like a gymnast. Mech was impressed and curious. He had seen a display like that before in only two other instances.

Mech looked up to see several assault tanks positioning themselves along the streets. They were smaller versions of the Echo Tanks, still just as effective.

“Hey yo!” Mech yelled to his new companion who had just finished handling another group of officers, then ran over to Mech. “We got company.”

“What do you mean?”

“See those smaller assault tanks,” he pointed to them. “Those are brought in when they don’t want to necessarily destroy a target…”

“But?”

“But to keep it from escaping.”

“Which means?”

“Drop squad,” Mech informed as he turned his attention upward. There in the sky, a dozen mechanically winged silhouettes descended towards the ground. Mech removed the two foot pole from his back which immediately extended into a full 6 foot Bo staff. He dashed towards the group of police that barricaded the tanks and took out as many as he could. The young assistant only thought it right he follow suit. They cleared a path to a tank and mounted, just in time to turn around and see the full drop squad touch down.

“What’s the deal?” the young assistant asked looking on curiously. He had never seen these types of soldiers before. They were clad in a tight fitting one piece that appeared to be made of a thin cloth material. Their heads, hooded and also tight fitting, attached to the one piece. There were no openings for mouth ventilation or eye slits. Just a single sliver curved line down the right side of the face and T.H.E. Corporation insignia on the chest.

“Time to formulate a new strategy.”

“What the hell?” the youth questioned.

“Those are Silver Streaks, Corporation special forces.

“Really, well this looks easy enough,” he let off a couple of rounds that ricocheted off the soldiers bodies.

“Bullet proof material,” Mech informed.

“I see.”

Simultaneously, the Silver Streaks all stood up.

“Whoa,” the youth exclaimed. They all produced Bo staffs like Mech’s, which extend to full lengths.

“It’s time to leave,” Mech said.

“What no stay, play and fight, with these guys?”

“No my young friend, this is a totally different ball game.”

9

Dizz went crashing through the bars picture window, soared over the street, and into the side of a parked car across the way, which virtually curved inward V-shape from the impact. Luckily for Dizz, he had his Smart Armor on under his incognito clothing. Through the slight daze, he looked up to find three of the individuals responsible for his brief moment of flight, standing in the street and casually heading his way. If he remembered correctly, the man in the front was named Nahtill and the other two burley men on either side of him were Razu and Zuka. They intended on causing more damage no doubt. Behind them he could see Rezina inside the bar handling her own battle with the remaining two, Kala and Odīon Mosī, and doing quite well at that. She resembled and moved like the Diamond he knew, but there was this rough and ruggedness about her that he admired. He got to his feet and brushed himself off.

“Another C.R. Fighter,” Nahtill spoke.

“Thee C.R. fighter.” Dizz rebutted.

“Yes I know, the infamous Phase,” Nahtill countered sardonically. “I see you pride yourself in your so-called reputation.”

“Pride is for those who welcome weakness. I only speak what is true.”

“I see. Well like I said, just another Corporation Resistance fighter.”

“Think what you want,” he griped his two pistols and the hum of their charging filled the air. He removed them from their holsters and extended his arms to the side. “But these are my tools of debate. And I’m sure they’ll make room for a little question…” he motioned one gun, “and answer,” and then the other.

“Not a problem. Razu. Zuka,” The two burly companions behind him roused to his call. “I think it’s time we humble this gentleman.”

The two beastly men sprang at him immediately and his guns began to blare just as quickly. The bullets ricocheted off the thick metal on both their chests and back his way, forcing him on his back. Razu flew over him safely and agilely onto the hood of a car behind him. Zuka landed square on top of him, pinning his hands and guns to the ground. He scuffled on the pavement with the large beast of a man and with a series of grapples somehow managed to send the man rolling. No sooner than he got one man off, the other was in the air and descending upon him. He quickly planted one foot and rolled aside, planted the other and rolled to his feet. Dizz gained his balance and positioned himself for battle with the other mammoth that landed square in the street. The two men circled each other in a few moments of predatory sizing. Without warning, Dizz turned and extended a gun behind and let off a round at Nahtill, who had been looking on. Nahtill side-stepped and dodged the round pulling a weapon of his own and returning fire.

Crossfire spilled everywhere, the four danced about evading bullets. Pedestrians screamed and scattered. Cars came to a screeching halt. A car came speeding around the corner, noticed the mêlée, hit the brakes, and fish tailed to a screeching halt. The car behind attempted to stop, but there was not enough time. It slammed into the side of the other, knocking it on its side, and plowed it forward. Dizz, directly in the path of the two car pileup, leaped into the air, back facing them, landed on the over turned car, and surfed it until they came to a stop. The attackers scurried to get out of the way. The position gave Dizz a vantage point. He let loose a clear sweeping line of fire the attackers managed to avoid. Zuka dashed straight forward, crossed forearms first, and collided with the underside of the car. The car slid from under Dizz and the next thing he knew, he was looking up at the sky as it raced away from him until he came to an abrupt stop with a muffled thud, hitting the ground.

Suddenly Nahtill stopped and put a finger to his ear. Dizz hesitated confused. Razu and Zuka didn’t notice and started again towards Dizz. Dizz flinched in preparation.

“Razu! Zuka!” Nahtill screamed out. The two men stopped. Nahtill walked away from the group, obviously concentrated on something else. Razu, Zuka, and Dizz stood motionless and curious. Nahtill straightened up and his eyes came back to the current situation. Razu and Zuka went straight as well. A few seconds later Kala and Odīon came running out of the bar. They all gathered completely ignoring Dizz. Nahtill gave one final glare at Dizz then in a flash of Phase lights and lines, the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. was gone. Suddenly the Battle scene was calm. Dizz looked on confused. Did he really just see what he thought he did. A few moments later, Rezina came walking out of the bar looking just as confused.

“What happened? Did we scare them away?” she asked

Dizz holstered his gun as Rezina walked to meet him.

“I don’t know what happened here. I am just as confused as you. Actually, a little more.”

“Who the hell were those guys?”

“I don’t know. Obviously Corporation, but I’ve never seen them before.”

“Did you see what they did?” She asked.

“Yeah, they spot Phased out of here.”

“I thought you were the only one that could do that?”

“So did I. I noticed they didn’t have on Coordinate locks so they shouldn’t have been able to leave either. I’m curious as to why they left so abruptly.”

“Any ideas at all what they wanted or do you think we stumbled upon one another by coincidence.”

“No I don’t think it was coincidence. They were locked on our position. Or your position At least.”

“So what do we do next?”

“We can look around briefly and if something jumps out at us we can act on it.”

“But?”

“The team we just met, what just happened, too important to ignore. I have to report back to Mech to let him know what just happened. They put a whole new spin on the game.”

“O.K. I’ll follow your lead.”

They looked around the city for the usual signs of Corporation control, but nothing seemed to point towards that. They stuck around in the shadows of the battle scene to see who would show up. The cops that arrived on the scene were average law enforcement. No symbols of corporation property on them or their vehicles, at least no recognizable ones. Everything in the city pointed to a corporation-less society; except the group they had the run in with. And even more, there were too many happy people. Everything appeared to flourish. Free enterprise seemed to exist. After Dizz was satisfied that there was at least no impending danger in this reality he conceded in the tour.

“From what I can tell in this brief period of time, there’s no Corporation control here. I may be wrong and we may have to come back, but for now, we’ll leave it be.”

“I agree with you.” Rezina admitted.”

“I guess I’m going to head back to resistance base, report our little run in with that group – see what Mech can make of it,” Dizz said.

“I’ll hit my base too, see what we can come up with,” Rezina responded. With no more, they started to go their separate ways.

“What the hell?” Dizz heard Rezina exclaim behind him. He turned and headed back her way.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. She was staring at Coordinate Lock with a frown. She tapped a sequence of buttons.

“What the… I don’t understand what’s going on?” she said.

“What’s the matter?” Dizz repeated.

“I tapped in my Rephase sequence, but nothing’s happening. I can’t seem to get a lock on my reality.”

Dizz glanced down at the band. She tapped the sequence again. Sure enough – nothing.

“It keeps skipping over my reality. It goes through all the others, but won’t lock on mine,” Rezina said as she franticly repeated the sequence over and over again.

“You think it’s the band? You think it might have gotten damaged during the battle?” Dizz suggested.

“Could be,” Rezina admitted.

“Let me see if I can get a lock on it.” He grabbed her arm, closed his eyes and concentrated hard. “That’s strange,” he said. Her face fell into a vision of worry.

“I don’t understand,” She said.

“Don’t worry about it. You can come back with me and Mech can figure this all out in our reality.” Dizz offered.

10

They danced their way through the jungle-gym of cars, pedestrians, and street obstructions making an escape route their best way possible, but the pursuing Silver Streaks kept up vigorously. From car roof to car roof, alley through alley, to busy night sidewalk streets, Mech and the young tag along dodged explosions and gun fire as the battled spilled over into the city.

“Quick, around this corner,” Mech yelled out. He was hoping his memory served him a possible route that would give them a chance to rest. However, the Echo Tank that sat defiantly in the street lined with two assault tanks would prove that it wasn’t.

“I guess it’s time to tango huh?” the youth assumed.

“I bet you had no idea what you were getting yourself into did you?” Mech entertained.

“It doesn’t matter, an encounter with T.H.E. Corporation is an encounter with T.H.E. Corporation. It’s not my first and I can see now, it defiantly won’t be my last.” Just then two Night Eyes whizzed by overhead, with search planes specific for night probing for a specific target. His words were sincere, but he couldn’t help but think, damn all this for two guys? Who the hell was this guy he was dealing with?

“Night Eyes,” Mech informed.

“They’re really not pulling any stops here are they?”

“No and I think it’s time that we didn’t either.” He pressed a couple of buttons on both the key pads on his wrists. “Step back.” He tossed his arms across his chest and his gloves began to glow. He cocked them back at his waist and with one quick jolt, extended them in front of him and a mass of energy jumped from the gloves and slammed into the assault tanks.

“Nice,” the young associate marveled, “But what about the big one?”

“He won’t shoot!”

“How do you know that?”

Mech turned around, “Because those guys right there are too close.” The guys turned and were reminded of the herd of Special Forces soldiers that pursued them. Mech began interchanging blasts from his gloves at the soldiers, as his counterpart echoed his effort with his own weapons. Soldier after soldier fell, but they kept getting back up.

The fight went on and on, but Mech could see that this was one that would not be won. He couldn’t go on forever and he wondered how much longer his young partner could. As they fled, his mind raced to find a possible solution; then, it hit him.

“Down that alley right there,” he said as he pointed. The young lad looked and followed instructions. “Take everything you have, bullets, explosives, and hit the Streaks with it. We want to cause enough ruckus to slow them down as much as possible,” A definite tinge of desperation in his voice. “Then sprint like hell. Don’t look back! Don’t retaliate! Just sprint like hell! Understand?” Mech instructed.

“Yeah,” the youth acknowledged with a nod. They did just that. The explosions bought them at least a minute lead on their pursuers. They made it to the alley without intervention. Mech quickly approached a dumpster that lay against a brick building. He pulled one side of it away from the building, knelt down and, with his fists, punched a random number of individual bricks. The youth looked on curiously.

“C.R. 2-2-1-0-5-7-3,” Mech spoke out loud to the wall. Suddenly, a small square portion of the wall idled back and slid open. “Quick inside,” Mech motioned his partner into the hole and then followed suit. He grabbed a hold of a rope connected to the back side of the dumpster and pulled it against the wall. He hit a button on a panel next to the opening and the bricks slid shut. He motioned his companion down a long spiraling flight of stairs below them. A minute later, a quite confused group of Silver Streaks and Corporation soldiers arrived to an empty alley.

The two navigated the maze of dark tunnels for a lengthy period of time, mostly without word. Dim emergency lights lined the halls every so often. Where exactly they were going, he didn’t know, however, Mech seemed confident enough about it. The youth look on at the intricately dug maze. It seemed carved out from the rest of the city by master earth dwelling animals. Abruptly, they came to a halt, as the echoes of guns cocking and metal clanging jumped through the darkness.

“What’s up fellas?” Mech said to the unseen group. A dark rough looking man stepped out of the shadows holding a menacing machine gun.

“Mech, long time no visit,” the man said.

“Sorry to show up so unannounced,” Mech apologized as the other hidden onlookers emerged from the darkness. They all had a rough look about them: short cut hair, utility vests and boots. They looked like members of some deep brush military platoon; all brandishing wicked looking machine guns that they appeared more than skillful enough to use.

“Got into a tango with some Corporation forces out there. Although my young friend here helped out quite a bit, it got pretty sporty out there, had to find a place to duck and hide,” Mech filled them in.

“It’s alright, Click heard you come in a ways back. Let’s go up to the main command… You’s can rest a bit. He led them through the halls and into the main command room. The accompanying crew set their weapons down and unattached their gear.

“Tech a be down here in a minute, he said.

“No problem,” Mech responded.

“Who are these guys?” the young assistant inquired.

“Behold Terra Squad – Nero,” a distinguished voice boomed into the hall answering the young kids whispering question. The kid looked up to see a medium built man with military experience written all over him. Where he lacked in height, his short buzz cut, huge biceps, and confident stride made up for.

“Informally known as “the Honor Guards Ghosts,” Mech added as he stepped forward to meet Tech at the bottom of the stairwell.

“Mech, heard you ran into a little bit of trouble on the up-side,” Tech said as he gripped Mech’s hand firmly.

“Yeah. They set up a road block, a pretty extensive one at that, I.D.ed me and sent the whole kennel after me.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah I’m talking Corporation officers, Echo Tanks, Night Eyes, and Silver Streaks.”

“Silver Streaks?”

“Yeah, Like I said the whole kennel.”

“Looks like they were looking for something, or someone specific. That’s odd, We didn’t see anything about it in the data we recovered from our mission earlier.”

“Mission?”

“We ran a recon mission In Corporation City for the Guard this morning, caused a lot of chaos around there.”

“Yeah lots of fun.” A gargantuan of a man added as he heaved a gun of substantial size off the table.

“It was like romper room – Left a lot for them to clean up around there.” This man was just as mammoth.

“Got a lot of interesting Intel too,” Tech added.

“Well, if it weren’t for my young friend here, I wouldn’t have made it out,” Mech admitted.

Tech extended his hand. “What’s your name kid?”

“Yeah, never did get your name during all that,” Mech admitted. The kid politely shook Techs hand.

“Don’t have one,” the kid said with a genuine smile. Tech through Mech a sideways glance with a humored smirk then eyed back at the kid. “Alright,” Tech said. “Fair enough.”

“You don’t have one?” Mech questioned.

“It’s safer that way for me,” the young kid said as he lit up a cigarette.

That’s Tech, this distinguished group’s leader,” Mech explained to the kid as they sat around. That’s Click, He can tell you exactly what something is just by the sound and can hear it a mile away.” Click was the third man of unusually enormous size that he witnessed in this lair today. He’d hate to be on the opposite side of battle with the trio he thought to himself.

“That’s what he meant by he heard us come in,” The youth realized.

“Yup. Mech confirmed.

“But how’s that possible?” the kid asked.

“The same way you’re possible,” Mech responded as he held the Kids gaze. The Kid knew that was a conversation that would soon come. For the moment Mech let the topic go. “That guy there – Hayel, the best soldier you might ever want to have watching your back in a battle.” Hayel was your average height. He looked like any average college graduate with a nice cushiony office job. His hair was neat and his skin was smooth. How this pretty boy ended up with this rough bunch was a mystery to the kid. Mech pointed to the first giant the kid observed earlier. “There, that’s Bremis…”

“I shoot shit up,” Bremis finished for Mech. Mech Chuckled with the rest of the room. He pointed to other behemoth from earlier.

“That’s Gatlin…”

“I help,” The man also finishing for Mech referring to Bemis’s statement. Again the hall erupted in a muffled laughter, Mech continued.

“Namis, Danis, and Gariffen. Those three men there will strategically tear your head apart. The best way to avoid losing a battle of wits with them is not to have one.” These men fell in the range of average height and what was considered normal military fit. Out of all seven men the kid noticed that only Tech and Bremis did not have Irish accents.

“How many of you guys are their?” The Kid asked. “There are 50 of us,” Tech answered. “We’re organized into three different groups. I have the honor of leading all 50 of these pretty boys, Auriol, who you haven’t met yet, sub commands, and Bremis heads up another group of us.”

“Yeah we’re one big happy, functional, dysfunctional family,” Bremis added. All the men shared a laugh.

Clicks smile suddenly faded into a concentrated squint as his head jerked towards the entrance. The atmosphere in the room changed quickly to a heavy seriousness.

“What is it Click,” Tech asked as his hand went instinctively towards his machine gun.

“5, 6, 7…16 light foot runners on the balls of their feet… slow shallow breathing…,” Click concentrated harder.

“What? What’s happening?” The kid whispered to Mech.

“Someone unannounced is coming,” Mech informed.

“Long capes flapping behind them!” Click finished.

“Red Eyes!” Tech said as he mounted his gun under his shoulder and made his way to the back of the room. The other men began to scurry in pre-battles procedures. He didn’t know exactly what Red Eyes where, but it sounded enough like Corporation forces to the kid.

“What, do you think they followed us down?” the kid asked, his tone riddled with guilt.

“Nall, they’re using Red eyes. For an attack like this it takes much longer preparation,” Tech said.

“Much longer than the time between your skirmish and now,” Bremis added as he heaved a huge gun off of a table. “They plan on doing damage.”

“Must’ve had used scouted out for weeks,” Tech said.

“And us?” The kid asked.

“Just coincidence,” Tech assured. He picked up a radio, “Auriol, we’ve got Red Eyes and expecting more Corporation company. Order your men to their War Arms and meet at the cavern entrance.

“Roger,” The heavily French accented voice came back from over the radio.

“Bremis, have your men do the same.”

“Got ya,” as he ran off.

“Alright! Their Ghosts against our Ghosts!” Gatlin excitedly exclaimed. “It’s going to be a heck of night fellas.”

Mech and the kid followed Tech down the hall and into another room where men scurried to the walls to arm themselves with their War Arms. This was a unique weapon only of the Terra Squad. Although each gun had a little something different to match the character of its owner, the design was pretty much the same: Two massive rectangular bodies that rested on the left and right, one per arm, of the soldier – Some double barrel, some single, some triple, some Gatling, depending on the soldier. Attached to each, a hydraulic bar that made the huge guns light on arms and did the bulk of work. The bar wrapped around to another bar that did the horizontal work and attached to a small square pack on the back of the soldier. The whole thing strapped on with a harness vest. The weapons were stored on hydraulic lifts that lined the walls of the storage room. The men filled in, in rows as the weapons of mass destruction were mechanically lowered onto their backs at the push of a button. All the soldier had to do is strap up, and slide his arms in. Each soldier did so and dashed off to their different destinations. Tech arrived and slide underneath his. He hit the button and the weapon came sliding down with a mechanical whine.

“You need one of these Kid?” Tech joked with the kid with a smile and a wink.

“Nall! Just give me a machine gun and enough ammo,” the kid responded as he looked on in astonishment.

“Good enough. There should be plenty lying around. Grab anyone that meets your fancy,” Tech said as he finished strapping up. Mech turned to the Kid.

“Kid, you’re about to be treated to a sight rarely witnessed by anyone: The Terra Squad in action.”

By the time they reached the cavern entrance a massive amount of Terra Squad soldiers had taken position outside the door. Several more stood on cliffs that sporadically lined the dirt brown rock walls of the hall leading to the entrance.

“No blood demons yet?” Tech asked Bremis as he stepped to the front of the mass. Blood Demons was the nick name often used to refer to Red Eyes. Particularly because of the blood red capes they adorned.

“No, not yet, but they should be rounding the corner soon.” Tech took a commanding step forward and bent his right gun up near his face. The next few moments were an anxious silence. From the light that blushed from around the corner, shadows of the approaching horde climbed up the adjacent wall.

“Gentlemen!” Tech screamed just as they turned the corner, running full speed. Red! Blood Red. Just like the Silver Streaks they wore a fitted one piece. Eyeless hoods covered their heads that draped down onto their chests, and long red cape-coats flowed behind them. “Have your way with them!” Tech finished. The whole brigade let loose. The gun fire was so loud an individual would think the cave was collapsing on itself. The group of Red Eyes scattered like roaches under a descending foot, some acrobatically dodging gun fire from the ground. Others took to the air and on the walls, running, without breaking a stride, horizontally on the walls and scaling the walls like insects. The kid froze for a second by the sight. To his surprise, several Terra Squad soldiers, with weapons less cumbersome than the War Arms, did the same thing – ascended the walls. They met with their opponents mid-hall and physical battle ensued, without regard to gravity. The remaining floored Red Reyes returned fire and it was an all-out war within the confined space of the cavern. A mischievous smile slighted the kids face. He was not the only one that could do it. This was his kind of fight. He went to take a step, but halted as the combined high pitched whirring of something charging and the rotating clank of metal gears caught his attention. He turned to see what it was just as Bremis gently bumped him aside, his Gatling style War Arm rotating all four cylinders and answering the kids curiosity.

“Step aside kid. Watch how the big boys play.” All four cannons started to spit lead fire. Again, a group of Red Eyes scattered to get out of the way. Bullets ricocheted off their bullet proof cloth uniforms. One Red Eye wasn’t so lucky. Caught in the main line of fire of Bremis’s Gatling’s, his uniform deflected as many bullets as possible, but it could only take so much. He staggered back then the suit gave out. The bullets ate him up and disassembled his body with one quick moment of blood and flying body parts. Another Red Eye, just escaping the same fate, swung the right end of his Bo staff and an arching florescent red energy jumped from it and slammed into the ground just in front of Bremis, the Kid, and a number of Terra Squad. The explosion sent them all flying. During his brief moment in flight, the Kid lost all sense of direction. He couldn’t tell if he was upside down, spinning sideways or just flush hurling backward. His loss of direction soon broke as his face hit hard against the ground and bounced. Although his eyes were tightly shut, he could feel the grains of dust dancing around his eyeballs and the taste of dirt go down his throat. Although his eyes were still closed, involuntarily, he could tell the room was spinning, the sounds of the whole battle scene, a muffled and distant event. The ringing in his head subsided as he shook the dizziness off and got to his feet. When his vision finally settled, he caught the sight of Mech in mid-flight letting off rounds from a gun in one hand and thwarting an attacking Red eye with the other. The Kid picked up his gun from the ground and dashed off into the crowd. The Red Eyes were relentless in their attack. Their movements, fluid, effortless, and graceful, made them hard targets. None of them carried guns, only the red bo-staffs that they used to deliver bolts of red energy from. They danced in and out of Terra squad gun fire to get close to their targets. The Kid could tell this was not the Terra Squads first romp with them. These herculean sized men moved with just as much grace and wielded their bulky weapons with ease and expertise. Their onslaught was brutal. Every one of them looked like they enjoyed the power that came from the weapons on their arms. Their movement looked thoughtless and precognitive.

The battle seemed as if it went on forever; however, only a bulk of minutes had past.

“Fall back into the building!” The retreat order sounded from Techs battle stressed and frustrated throat. The squad did so and just at the right time. As the Kid entered the doorway and looked back, he saw a whole brigade of corporation soldiers, led by a group of Silver Streaks, turn the corner. They had been over run on their own ground by the Red Eyes, and there would be no denying they would be even more so by the approaching forces. The Kid watched the whole nightmare, seemingly in slow motion, as the huge cavern door slammed shut in front of his view.

“Auriol, hold them off as best you can. Then you and your men bail out of here and fall back to secondary base of command!” Tech screamed over the gun fire into his intercom, the order conceding defeat.

“Roger,” Auriol’s voice shouted back from the intercom almost drowned out by the guns blazing in the background. His voice continued. “Bremis did you copy?”

“Yeah I did, but I don’t like it. Break my heart and curse my soul for this day.” Bremi’s voice sounded over the radio. Tech turned and looked at Mech and the Kid. “This is a losing battle gentleman. It’s been many a day since I’ve seen one, but it is. So…”

“What next?” Mech asked.

“We blast our way through the mucks, get the hell out of here, and reassemble at our secondary base of command.”

Mech starred at Tech and the obvious anger and frustration he felt. They all walked to the door at the rear of the room.

“This will go down as a sad day in the Terra Squad archives,” Tech bit out then slammed his fists against the open switch on the doors control panel. The door slid open and all three opened fire and rushed towards the awaiting battle that ensued in the room on the side.

11

The three foot thick solid metal core reinforced door slid open revealing the underground tunnel and the tired battle weary trio. Tech, Mech, and the Kid entered and the door grind shut behind them. The hall to the secondary base was noticeably smaller, but the architecture was almost identical.

The surviving Terra Squad members covered the room all about. They removed their battle gear and recuperated from the battle that just preceded. Mech and the other two removed their gear as well and found a place to rest.

“So what now from here?” Mech inquired more so just to break the melancholy silence.

“We regroup and spend time nursing our wounds. The Terra Squad took a hell of a beating today. It’s gonna be some time before we recover,” Tech said, the hurt in his voice abundantly clear. This was a group who lived by their pride and it had been hurt today in a way it had never been before. “We’re gonna contact the Guard, inform them of what happened here today, and see what they come up with.”

“I guess me and the Kid will hold up here for a few hours to catch our wind then head back to the resistance base that is if you’re willing to endure our stay, of course?” Mech said.

“Of course, take all the time you need. Make yourselves at home while I tally the damage to my group.” He looked down at the Kid with sympathetic eyes. “Welcome to the war Kid.”

12

Dizz walked into the science lab of the main headquarters, Rezina a half step behind him. With a silent compressed gush of air, the door slid shut behind the two, and the recessed lights flickered on. It was dark except for the light that shown from the computer screen. Dizz’s eyes searched the room and as they rounded the large storage units. There, laid out in a chair, head tilted towards the ceiling, was Mech… asleep. As the footsteps came to a halt, Mech snapped awake.

“Oh hey,” Mech managed to mumble out.

“Hey. Long day?’ Dizz inquired.

“You wouldn’t believe,” he glanced over at the other figure that was just a silhouette in the dim light. “Who’s our guest?” Rezina stepped into the light. “Diamond?” he asked with a confused smirk.

“Rezina,” Dizz corrected. He turned to Rezina. “Diamond is what the Rezina in this reality goes by.”

“Oh. Where is she?” Rezina asked.

“She’s still out on a reality tour,” Mech let her know.

“Rezina, however, is from reality 0749,” Dizz said as Mech eyed him curiously. “Which also brings up a very unique dilemma I need you to get on?” Mech started to pry himself from his chair.

“Which can wait until tomorrow,” Rezina granted noticing the obvious exhaustion of Mech.

“Oh thank you. I like you already.” Mech praised her.

Dizz looked over at the beer bottles next to the computer monitor. “What, you have too much to drink?” He humored.

“Bruh, I’m too tired to get drunk,” Mech countered. “Oh by the way, I have a little surprise for you, but that too can wait until tomorrow.”

“Fair enough, truth be told, I’m just as tired as you. Your story first tomorrow?”

“Fair enough.”

13

The darkness overcame him quickly, surrounded and intertwined with the void that was comfortable and warm called deep sleep. Soon the images came. The faces started to dance around and through his subconscious: some of them familiar, some of them strangers, regular faces, young faces, happy faces, distorted faces, cold stolid faces, demanding hard faces with questioning eyes that stared into the him that wasn’t there. One by one, two by two, five by five, six, eight, fifteen, they swarmed until the numbers were uncountable. A bodiless mob of heads that hunted down on him. And then, the choral of voices that screamed out to him a phrase that he was defiantly familiar with,

Father? Why have you forsaken me?”

that snapped him awake, bolt upright in his bed. Dizz breathed heavily, defenseless in the dark, and hung his head in his hands.

She arrived while everyone was still sleeping, navigated the halls to the equipment room, de-geared, and then made her way to the main science lab. It was quiet. Diamond made her way to the sleeping quarters and approached Mech’s chamber. She tapped the button on the door and it slid open. She peeked her head in and found Mech nestled away underneath covers.

“Mech,” she whispered out quietly. He drugged awake and sat up.

It was back to work. Diamond and Mech sat in the main lab conversing when Dizz entered the room.

“…and then they were gone?” Mech asked surprised.

“Yeah just like that.” Diamond confirmed.

“Who ate all the breakfast,” Dizz interjected dryly.

“Food, that’s what I forgot,” Mech said.

“Diamond,” Dizz greeted.

“Dizz,” She returned.

“Glad to see you returned,” Dizz said neutrally.

“You act as if you’re surprised.”

“No, only pleased.”

Mech’s eye jerked up towards Dizz at the last comment. He wasn’t quite sure what he heard in the tone. Dizz wasn’t usually this kind to Diamond. Not even a sarcastic remark. As Mech brought his glare down to Diamond, he could tell that she was equally unsure, but Dizz strolled nonchalantly towards the desk, not looking at either, as if he didn’t notice their surprise.

“What’s on the record books today?” Dizz asked.

“Diamond was giving me a run down on her tour. I haven’t yet reviewed her logs.”

“Have you updated her on what’s new around here?” Dizz asked as he sipped the coffee he’d just poured with a mischievous smile. The smile widened behind the coffee cup as he heard the door slide open.

“No I haven’t.” Mech eyed back. Rezina walked in and Diamonds eyes lit up at the sight of her almost twin. Dizz smiled at the look in her eyes.

“Diamond, this is 0749 C.R. fighter Rezina.”

Rezina and Diamond both stood speechless. Diamond was the first to approach Rezina.

“Wow! Is it alright to touch you?” She asked.

“It’s okay; that same matter can’t exist in the same place at the same time theory doesn’t apply here,” Mech informed. “You’re technically not the same matter, Two different groups of energies.”

Diamond extended a hand. “Diamond!” Rezina shook her hand.

“Rezina!” Rezina returned as the two stood there in disbelief.

“Well now that that’s all squared away,” Dizz broke the silence. “Back to business.” Compressed air gushed from the door as the kid walked in. Dizz quickly spun around, gun out of its holster as quick as he could bat an eye. Rezina followed his lead a split second behind him, followed by Diamond.

“Whoa, whoa,” Mech jumped in. The kid stood there frozen in his tracks. “Oh yeah, That’s the surprise I was telling you about.”

“You all kind of jumpy around here aren’t ya?” the kid screamed as he made his way into the room. The guns began to lower.

“Dizz, this is my new apprentice,” Mech introduced awkwardly. Dizz eyed him curiously, as he put his gun away, buckled it in its holster, and then walked over to the kid.

“I’m Dizz,” he said extending an arm towards The Kid. The Kid grasped the hand and shook it. “And you are?” Dizz continued.

“Uh… He doesn’t have a name,” Mech interjected before the obvious, potentially, and still was, awkward statement could be made by The Kid.

“So what am I supposed to call you, The Apprentice?” Dizz asked smirked face.

“That’ll work for me,” The Kid stated.

Dizz looked back at Mech. Mech just shrugged then glanced over at Rezina. She simply smiled.

After all the formalities they eventually got around to the discussion of past day’s events and comparing notes.

“…and then the Kid Popped out of nowhere,” Mech filled in.

“So where does the Silver Streaks come?” Dizz inquired.

“Well, after we battled down a couple of Echo tanks, they cornered us with mini assaults and dropped the Streaks from Night Eyes.” Dizz’s eyebrows went up. “Yup,” Mech answered the unasked question.

“You mean to tell me they already had this stuff set up throughout the city?”

“Yeah. I’m telling you this was preempted. Now, rather or not they were looking for me, is a different question, but they sure took advantage of the fact that they lucked up on me.”

“I’m still getting over the fact that they got the drop on the Terra Squad,” Diamond interjected.

“Yeah I know,” Mech agreed.

“How bad off are they?” Dizz asked.

“They’re hurting bad,” Mech said with a hint of empathy in his voice.

“That bad?” Dizz asked.

“It’s going to take a lot of time to fix those bruised egos and mend that hurt pride. They used Red Eyes to lead the attack so that means they we’re confident that was The Terra Squad base and the end result is exactly what they planned.”

Dizz stared down at the ground trying to figure out what the hell was going on. “Well if they were willing to stir up that hornet’s nest. They definitely have further plans.” Dizz said.

“Why is that?” The Apprentice asked.

“If you fuck with Terra-Squad Nero, and you don’t finish all of them off, and that is a very unlikely possibility; when they retaliate, and they will retaliate, Hells gates will open up,” Dizz informed.

“That is a true statement Kid.” Mech confirmed the statement. “We were hoping that the events of your tour could shed some light on the situation,” Mech admitted.

“I doubt it,” Dizz said, “Honestly, we probably brought back more questions than answers. I would like to hear about Diamonds tour first before we start on ours. Mine might take some time.”

“Yeah this is interesting. Diamond go ahead and tell them what you told me about your tour,” Mech said as he eased into his computer chair.

“Well over all I took a look and there were no signs of Corporation existence, at least not with the M.O. as prescribed to me. However, I did run into a group of men who called themselves the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L.. Battle ensued…”

“Wait, that’s the name of the group me and Dizz ran into on our tour,” Rezina interrupted. Curiosities raced.

“There were five men,” Diamond continued. “The apparent leader, Nahtill, took the time to introduce all the members of the team: Kala, Odīon Mosī, Razu and Zuka. The group looked carefully put together and they knew I was there.

“That’s the exact same group that we ran into” Dizz said.

“You ran into this group too,” Mech questioned.

“Yeah, that’s why we came back so early. They knew we were coming too. Your reality must’ve been where they went to after we battled them”

“Yeah it was strange. They left kind of abruptly,” Rezina added.

“I doubt that. In the middle of fighting them off, Nahtill suddenly became preoccupied with something else. He called the team over to them and they Spot Phased out of there,” Diamond informed them.

“What do you mean they spot phased?’ Mech asked.” It’s impossible for them to spot phase. Only Dizz can do that.” Mech said with a great amount of confusion.

“They simply gathered together and phased away.” Diamond said.

“You didn’t tell me that,” Mech said.

“They did the same thing in our reality. That’s what I meant by our brief might take longer” Dizz added.

“Well did they at least have on Reality Locks?” Mech asked.

“No” Dizz informed.

“None of them?” Mech asked.

“None that we could see,” Rezina said.

“None on the team I dealt with either,” Diamond added.

“The same way in your dealings with them huh?” Mech asked Dizz.

“Exactly the same way,” Dizz responded.

“I’m sorry Spot Phased?” The Apprentice asked.

“Sorry Kid, forgot you’re still completely new to all of this.” Mech apologized.

“Let me break it down for you kid.” Dizz offered. “1: There are no other phases. 2: Phase travel requires extra help. We call it the Guide. Diamond and Rezina wear what are called Reality Locks. They help send a phase back to their origin reality. Without them a phase would be stuck in that reality. 3: I don’t need a lock. My ability is not dependent on the guide. I can phase anywhere I want to on the spot… Hence; spot phase.”

The Apprentice sat there blank face trying to take it all in.

“So how do we know which reality they showed up at first?” Rezina asked.

“Well this happened about a half an hour into my tour, And I fought them for some time,” Diamond said. Dizz and Rezina looked at one another.

“That’s about the same time we had our little run in,” Dizz said.

“Which leads us back to the original question,” The Apprentice interjected.

“I’ll run through the tour logs – see if I can’t deduct the time frame of the attacks, then mull over the data a little more to see if I can’t get a little more insight on the events,” Mech said as he stood.

“Well let’s figure this shit out fast because neither team was able to complete a thorough tour because of this P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L.,” Dizz said.

“Agreed. We’ll have to put those two realities on back log in the list and come back to them once we figure out how to address this new factor. Maybe this was a rare instance specific to those realities,” Mech said. “In the meantime, we should debrief as normal so that we can all be up to date on current events. Rezina I’ll walk you through our procedures. I’m sure there’s not too much of a variation from where you come from. And Kid, I’ll get you familiar with how we do things around here.”

They all stood around the computer console as Mech ran the calculations, his fingers moving like busy worker ants harvesting for the winter. Rezina tried to stay calm although she was anxious to see what had went on. Suddenly, Mech stopped. He was motionless. Rezina’s eyes started shifting back and forth between the computer and Mech’s face, which had an nun-determinable expression, trying to figure out what was going on, but she couldn’t come to a conclusion. She glanced over at Dizz whose eyes were doing the same thing. Mech eyes lifted from the computer screen and gave Rezina the same look of curiosity she was giving him. Both their eyes slowly returned to Mech and the computer screen. Abruptly, Mech snapped out of it and his fingers went back at it. His eyes fidgeted rapidly across the computer screen so fast he looked mechanical. Then suddenly and abruptly, he stopped and froze again. He sat there for a few quiet heart beats and the silence was more than Rezina could bear.

“I don’t understand,” Mech finally said eyes still frozen on the screen.

Rezina’s heart picked up. “What? What don’t you understand,” she urged.

“I ran the calculations correctly. I ran them twice,” He was quiet again. So was Rezina and she didn’t know what to ask next.

“According to the calculations, it says it’s not there.” He answered dumfounded.

“What’s not there?” Rezina asked.

“It says your reality’s not there.”

“Run them …”Dizz started.

“Again,” Mech finished his sentence eagerly, his fingers moving again before he finished the last word. He stopped… motionless again. He slowly turned and looked up at Rezina, The look in his eyes stealing the warmth from her soul.

“According to these calculations, your reality doesn’t exist anymore,” he finally said.

“What do you mean it doesn’t exist?” she asked.

“It’s not there anymore.”

“Wait Mech, I don’t understand,” Dizz said.

“I don’t either, Mech admitted with frustration. “It’s just gone. Rezina, your reality is gone or was never there.”

“It had to be there. I’m here,” she screamed. Rezina looked on in silence with a neutral expression and regained her composure. “So what do we do to figure this out?” she calmly asked.

“I don’t know. I’ll run every possible test that I can think of. Analyze every possible factor… I’ll think of everything I can, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Okay, We’ll do what we can and handle it from there,” she slowly backed away from the computer then started to turn and head out the room. Dizz grabbed her by the arm.

“We will find your reality. We’ll do everything that we can. We’ll figure this out,” he assured her. She looked him in the eye and gave him the simplest of smiles. That hard strong woman he’d seen when he first met her was not there. For just the first time he’d seen a girlish look of acceptance. She walked away and out of the room. And it was quiet for a sec.

“Should someone go after her and try to talk to her?” The Apprentice asked.

“No,” Diamond answered, “Let her be alone for a while.” in a situation like this someone might say If it were me, I know what I would want, but in this instance it was her, so she knew what she wanted.

Rezina walked down the hall leading to the underground cavern exit. A normal regular stride at first, but as it came she picked up the pace. As it became stronger her pace quickened more and more until it was all, but screaming to come out. She burst out of the exit door onto the courtyard. The cool air ripped through her body. She backed herself against the wall next to the doorway, still holding herself, and cried.

14

So what does this group of controls work?” The Apprentice asked as he studied a grand selection of lights, buttons, and knobs on the far right of the main control room’s massive computer console.

“These control everything in the data section of this room,” Mech said as he leaned over the seated kid and flipped a switch. “All those rows of humming, light flicking, heat dispersing beauties over there.” An unconscious smile creased the kids’ lips, He liked the sound of what he just heard.

“Is there anything on this level of the base that the console doesn’t control?” The Apprentice asked as he surveyed the console.

“No, This parallels 3 levels actually,” Mech informed.

“There is a lot to learn just at this seat alone.” The Apprentice was winded just by the thought.

“Don’t worry about it Ki…” The Apprentice’s eyes stopped Mech mid-sentence. “I mean Apprentice, It’ll be fun. I’m glad to have someone around here to share my tech stuff with.”

“What about Dizz?”

“He knows this stuff, but he doesn’t care. As long as everything’s working when it’s supposed to work.”

“And is everything working?” Dizz’s voice entered the room before him.

“A-1” Mech said.

“What’s going on gentlemen?” Dizz continued.

“Sup” Mech returned.

“What’s going on Dizz?” The Apprentice greeted.

“How’s it coming along Kid?”

“Mech is beginning the process of teaching me the ins and outs of everything. It’s a lot to learn, but I’ll make out okay.”

“You familiar with the place yet?”

“I’m getting around okay, but I’m still getting used to being in a base so far underground with a whole network of base above.

“28 stories.”

“Are there other bases like this in the resistance?”

“We can’t disclose everything to you so soon kid. You gotta earn something.” Dizz said as he winked at The Apprentice. “Stick around for a while.” Dizz walked over to mid console and starred up at the mega screen. Reality lines illuminated the screen. “What’s the latest on activity up top?”

“Not much activity in the last three days other than the increase in roadblocks,” Mech said as he joined him at the console.

“Have you received intel on who they are looking for?”

“No. I’m still not sure that they weren’t looking for me.”

“Well that’s very vein of you.” Dizz said with a smile.

“Yes it is, I am, or was very important.” They shared a short giggle. The kid had no idea how light they were making of the situation.

“Well no need for us to stress ourselves with extra worries. If there is any word, the Guard will let us know.”

“Exactly.”

Dizz lowered his voice. “Did you manage to figure anything out from data from the tour logs?”

“No man. It’s still a bunch of confusion to me. As far as I can tell the time lines are not lining up,” Mech admitted.

“And Rezina?”

“I’m still drawing a blank, It’s been all craps for me since you guys have been back.”

“Yeah, well don’t let it hurt your genius pride too much.”

Decompressing air caught their attention as the door to general quarters slid opened. Diamond and Rezina walked in dressed in full Smart Armor.

“Oh my, nobody told me this was where the sexiest men in the resistance would be gathering.” Diamond said with a playful smile. “Looks like I’m in the right place.”

“That you are my dear,” Mech said.

Dizz and Rezina locked eyes. Dizz greeted her with a subtle nod which she returned. Dizz turned and faced the wall sized monitor again. “What are the coordinates of interest today?” He asked.

“After a grueling night of algorithmics, I pulled these two from the collection of realities that we have narrowed down as possibles.”

“I hope you guys don’t mind me asking, but I’m still kind of new at all this.” The Apprentice reminded. “Like, I get the gist, but possibilities for what?”

“They are touring realities that have extreme similarities. Aggressive Corporation activity is there, Mech informed as he got busy at the console.

“I’ll Put it to you like this kid, when it’s all said and done, nothing is left.”

“That’s the possibility we’re looking for,” Mech said.

“Wow” The Apprentice said.

“Yeah Wow” Dizz said.

“As usual, look for aggressive Corporation activity, Corporation play on political power, and of course the compound. That’s the most important.”

“We ready?” Rezina finally joined the conversation dryly.

“You will go in two teams again. This time, Diamond and Rezina and as usual, you’ve got your own party Dizz. I designated it that way because you two together can cover just as much ground as one experienced person. Now, there will be a 30 minute gap between the first touch down, as it will take that long for the Guide to recharge.”

“Should the first person wait for the other?” Diamond asked.

“No, you’ll be able to communicate with each in that reality, so time would be better spent on initial recon.”

“I’ll go first.” Diamond volunteered.

“Cool, Rezina, you bring up the rear. Make sure you’re thorough and cover as much ground as you can,” Mech said.

Dizz starred at Rezina hard, as he slid on his leather gloves. He didn’t need to be verbal for her to hear his question. She glanced up, a resilient stare in her eyes. No words needed to be shared. None would be. Dizz turned his head.

“There is no time limit on a reality tour. If it takes you a day, which it won’t, or a week, or a couple of months, so be it. Just be thorough. Report back if the need arises,” Mech finished.

“Alright cool. Let’s get on with the get on. Have you loaded the coordinates to my reality relay?” Dizz asked.

“Yes, you’re good to go. Diamond and Rezina when you’re ready I’ll give you two yours.”

Diamond and Rezina both raised their wrists with the metal band on them.

“See you guys in a couple of months.” Dizz said. Then with a brilliant flash of blue phase lights he was gone.

“That was really cool!” The kid said.

“If you think that was cool just wait. Diamond, Rezina, you ready to receive?” Mech asked.

“Ready and waiting,” Diamond said as she took a playful jump forward.

“Yeah,” Rezina respond.

Mech typed in a couple of commands and the coordinates began uploading to their coordinate locks.

“Should be good to go.” Mech said after a couple of moments. “Read them back to me to make sure the upload took properly.

“0153496822133876,” Diamond read back.

“Rezina?” Mech questioned.

“Good!” Rezina confirmed.

“Alright ladies, step over here. Apprentice, come here.” The kid slid over in his chair to the keyboard console Mech was referring to. “Press the red button right there. Pull that lever down and type in these commands: Protocol – Gather-hold-engage-unlock.” A heavy breathing began from behind the metal cylindrical door on the other side of the room. It continued until a deep thud vibrated the room.

“Alright!” Mech said. “Now, type open then press the release button there.” The kid did so and the cylindrical door opened. The massive platform that slid out was astonishing to the kid. He had no idea such a machine hid behind that door. He barely paid attention to it in the little time he had been there. All four team members approached the platform.

“Apprentice this is the Guide. This is what is used to send our phases to other realities. Hey Diamond, you ready for your second go around?” Mech asked with a smile.

“As ready as I’ve been told I’m going to be.” She winked at him then let out a heavy sigh.

“Alright, Apprentice type in: Grab –hold-bleed- disperse, Mech said.

The Apprentice did so. The Guide began to hum with a massive charge. A few moments later Mech reached over and tapped a button on the console.

Diamond closed her eyes and winced milliseconds before the beams began to shoot out in consecutive order. One after another, they sliced through Diamond. The Apprentice found himself grimacing at the sight of Diamonds pain. He marveled at her endurance as the lights shot through her body. He had no idea that she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. She fought back the tear that attempted to escape out the corner of her right eye. She threw her head back to keep any from rolling. She could feel the blood trickling down her forearm. She clenched so hard her nails had pieced her gloves and into her palm. Although she knew in real time it had only been a matter of seconds, it seemed like it would never be over. Rezina stood there arms folded and unmoved.

Just as The Apprentice didn’t think Diamond could take anymore, Mech tapped another button. Light shot from the platform deck, lifting her off her feet. With a brilliant flash of blue light reminiscent of Dizz’s departure, Diamond disappeared. The Guide began to charge down as the light dissipated. The Apprentice sat with his mouth dropped open.

“It’s going to take about a half hour for the Guide to recharge then we’ll send you Rezina.” Mech said. She stood there arms still folded and unmoved.

“You were aware that’s what it’s going to be like?” the kid turned and asked her. She lightly nodded.

“Apprentice, let me give you a tour of this marvelous piece of machinery, designed by none other than yours truly,” Mech said.

15

What was different? Dizz always looked for what was different in a reality first. He always found this gave him a better reference point on what was constant.

“I can’t believe they lost the super bowl. It was right there in their hands.” Dizz overheard a man scream from a bar he was passing by. Language was the same.

“Yeah I pay $50 a month for service.” A lady mentioned over a cell phone. Monetary system seemed the same.

“Well when we had city employed civil servants as cops we didn’t have to deal with that type of stuff” The statement from the enraged civilian passing by cut through the rest of the buzzing conversation of the busy metro street to Dizz’s ear. That was the different he was looking for. Time to pick a fight.

It took over 30 minutes for traffic to back up bad enough for someone to call the authorities. After a few bold citizens were courageous enough to confront the man standing in the middle of the street got knocked out, dragged across the pavement, and threatened with a gun barrel in the face; no one approached this bald man with a scar down his face refusing to move – especially since he had both guns drawn and pointed in either direction, daring anyone to try him. People swore, horns honked, but no one approached.

Sirens blared in the distance.

“That’s what I’ve been waiting for.” Dizz smiled a wolfish smile. As the sirens got closer, his heart began to race – the excitement of the approaching battle. “Everybody get out of here!” Dizz screamed as he waived his guns around. People screamed and ran. As the vehicles pulled up, he looked very close for the insignia on their chests. Closer, Closer. He thumbed the recharge buttons on his twin pistols. Retribution began to hum first. Then Revenge joined the melodious song.

Damn it!” Diamond screamed from her hands and knees struggling to keep her head from spinning and her stomach from palpitating. She threw up for a third time before she found herself breathless again. She knew it would soon pass so she tried not to panic. Crumpling over onto her back as the pain in her abdomen increased, she realized this touchdown was much worse than the first one. And then panic set in as she realized things were going dark. She was about to lose consciousness…in a foreign, potentially hostile reality…alone. “No,” she whimpered. “Gotta fight it. Gotta fight it.” She commanded herself, but even with all her mental effort. Everything went black.

Sir! Put the guns down and get on your knees!” The officer screamed at Dizz from a distance. Guns cocking rang out all around him as law enforcement began to surround him. He simply stood.

“Who do you work for?” Dizz screamed out as he stared at the ground.

“Put your guns down and get on your knees.” The nervous officer repeated. Dizz couldn’t see their insignias from where he stood. Their uniforms didn’t look familiar.

“OK! I’ll put my guns down and I will get on my knees if you tell me who you work for.”

The officer was deathly annoyed at this point “What! We are law enforcement. What difference does it make?”

Dizz could have just as easily sprinted across the street, verified the insignias and gunned them all down with very little effort, but he wanted to hear the words. He wanted to hear the name. To him it was an admittance of guilt.

“We work for Edwards Corporation.”

The metal cloth sprang out and began to mold itself. Slowly and deliberately, the Smart Armor slid down his gloves.

“Now, put the damn guns …”

Before the officer could finish his sentence Dizz set Retribution and Revenge ablaze.

Baby, are you alright?” The soft, aged voice cut through the haze. When she opened her eyes an old lady stood over her.

“It’s too early in the damned morning to get drunk. I swear you youngster’s have no discipline.” A scruffy voice added. The haze cleared and the man’s wrinkled face came into view.

“I’m not drunk,” Diamond said as she propped herself up on an elbow.

“Could’ve fooled me.” The man scuffed out.

Diamond glanced at the time clock on her coordinate lock.

“You’ve been down here for 15 minutes” The older lady said. “I saw you when you passed out.”

More than enough time, Diamond thought to herself.

“From the way you’re dressed, I assume you came from one hell of a costume party?” The man said as he and the older lady began to help her up.

“I promise you sir I’m not drunk. If I were, I’d be handling this a lot better.”

“Doesn’t matter. Will you be okay is the question.” He gruffed as he chewed the end of a cigar.

“I’ll be fine. Thank you two for the help.”

“Oh, I know you’ll be fine. You look like a girl who can handle herself.” The old lady said with a hint of suggestion in her eyes. The phrase prompted Diamond to check on her side arms, but the lady pushed her body against Diamond and grabbed her elbow. “Sweetheart do you have anyone to call that can come get you?”

“No I don’t. I don’t live far from here though.” She assured the woman then turned to the man. “Excuse me sir do you have two dollars I can borrow though. I’d like to take the bus home. Don’t really feel like walking.”

The man eyed her for a minute. She was sure he wanted to say something to remind her how irresponsible today’s youths were. To her surprise, he simply reached for his wallet, pulled out two crisp one dollar bills, and handed them to her.

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“Listen, I really mean this, You do take care of yourself. I don’t want to read about you on some evening news. I got two college aged daughters myself and I’m concerned about em all the time. Ain’t no wild college party worth your life.” Then he kissed her on the forehead and walked off. Surprising actions to Diamond. Diamond turned her attention to the older lady.

“Thank you so much for your help. I’m going to get going now.”

“Oh no problem sweetheart. I’ve had more than my fair share of binges in my day.” She said then pulled Diamond really close as she reached in her big purse with the other hand. “But I know that’s not what all this is about. I don’t know what it’s about, but…” from her purse the lady revealed one of Diamonds pistols. Diamond reached for her side. Sure enough, her holsters were empty. Handing both guns over to Diamond, the lady smiled then said. “I’m sure you’ll be able to take care of yourself.” She kissed her on the check.”

“Thank you,” Diamond said.

“No problem kiddo.” The lady said and walked off with a wink.

“Okay Diamond, shake it off and get it together.” She said out loud. “Don’t want to look like the weak link.” I’ve got a responsibility and I don’t want anyone to think I am not capable.” She looked around the area to spot the longest block she could sprint down and disappear. She didn’t want to be anywhere close to the Phase point when Rezina arrived.

“Alight, clothes first.” Thanks to the scruffy faced man, she now knew that currency was the same. She went to check the storage pack on her side. She should have the usual $150 that were apart of phase protocol. To her surprise, it was empty. Someone had robbed her while she was unconscious. Most likely was the scruffy faced man. Couldn’t have been the old lady. No matter. They were both long gone by now. “Damn it!” She screamed. How was she going to get clothes? Would she have to rob some place, or even worse someone. Some innocent or better yet, she could kill two birds with one stone and rob a cop. What if the cop was an innocent? If the team heard her thoughts right now they would think she was weak. Everybody was so hard edged. She started to wonder if she would make it through this war with her personality. She couldn’t help it. She loved people. That’s how she was raised. That’s how she was made. She would do her duty though.

His guns blazed hard and long until the tips of the guns were fire red. He never felt this intense before. He didn’t even know if they were true Edwards. He would have to stop shooting soon before his guns were permanently damaged. Silence came out her sheath. He stood there in the middle of thousands of bullets ricocheting off his Smart Armor. He closed his eyes, titled his head back, and starred up to the heavens. How many times had he been here? How many times had he felt this all-consuming fire inside of him? How many times had it not been quenched after bullets had been fired, blood had been shed, and he not cared and longed for the next moment he was here. He was glad his guns were overheating. Silence would bring more satisfaction. He walked slowly towards the biggest gathering of officers. The bullets ricocheted as Silence scraped the concrete. He glanced up at the skyscrapers above. No Edwards symbol flown on either of them, but the officer said they were Edwards. He looked over his shoulder at the buildings behind him. No Lathan symbol shown on any of them, but the officer said they were Edwards. Dizz had been doing this long enough to know the signs that would let him know if he was even on the right track in a reality. None of them were apparent so far, but the officer said they were Edwards officer. In any reality, to him that was enough to let his guns fly. And if it didn’t help in the grand scheme of this over all war, it would help to ease the pain or fuel his fire. Either was good enough for him.

So far, there were no officers to be found. Diamond hadn’t seen a single one in the 25 minutes she had been in this reality. She had to find one soon. She was drawing way too much attention to herself. If she didn’t cover herself soon someone would call the police. She knew she could deal with one, but no telling how many she would have to deal with if they came to her. Phase protocol stated clearly: DO not draw too much attention to yourself. The unpredictable nature of reality travel may bring upon you situations and or technology, a Phase you may not be prepared for. Avoid uncontrollable’s as much as possible for the point of a tour is to gather information that will lead to finding the compound.

“Think Diamond, think” If she could avoid robbing an innocent she would, but it wasn’t looking like that was going to happen. Just when she thought she would have to dwell in her lesser self, a cop car sped pass the open alley way in front of her. She raced down the alley to follow the vehicle. When she reached the ally way, she found that luck was not on her side. It was only a car for a private security company on the level of mall cops. Just a man returning home from a hard day at work. From his exhausted look and bags under his eyes, most likely a third shifter. He didn’t even have on a gun. He didn’t deserve to be robbed. He was just another chess piece in this whole thing like her. She watched quietly from the alleys edge as the man walked to the apartment adjacent to his parked car and was greeted by a woman in a robe. She smiled from ear to ear, happy to see him home. She fell back on the building wall disappointed in her ability to act. A soldier in this game needs much more heartlessness. Then luck shined on her. Across the street and a block down was a sign that read laundry mat. Still not her preference, but it would have to do. She promptly made her way down the street and into the laundry mat. It was relatively empty. A few eyebrows rose at her flashy body armor, but she paid them no mind. Briskly, she walked to an unattended drier still spinning, opened it, grabbed what she thought would suit her, and was out the back door as a pointless phrase of “Ma’am from someone inside followed her out. No one followed her. Once outside, she sized up the outfit she conscripted. Jeans and a man’s button up. It would have to do.

16

Bodies lay everywhere. The streets were quiet. No cop survived and no civilian stayed around. Blood covered Dizz’s entire Smart Armor, but it wasn’t enough. Even more so, it accomplished nothing in terms of the tour. They were Edwards. So what, he had fought Edwards in many realities. This still hadn’t brought him closer to a compound. He was sure to bring more heat down upon himself. He didn’t care. This reality still had to be toured to be thorough in their search. No reality could be left to chance because in truth, they really didn’t know exactly what they were looking for. Silence found her sheath again and Dizz continued down the street. Abruptly, he stopped as the truth caught him. He was getting beyond himself. If he wanted to accomplish his goal as well as the resistances goal, he had to reign himself in. That would take accountability. He turned around and headed back towards the Phase point.

Rezina dropped to one knee when the third light cut through her back. Fists clenched down on the platform with HER entire body tensed, she took it without a sound. As she glanced to her side, The Apprentice stood from his seat, his face a sight of worry and concern. She smirked and winked at the kid. The smirk was quickly wiped off her face as the fourth light ripped through the other side of her body and brought her to her feet and on her toes. Finally, and with great relief, the blue light consumed her from the platform and carried her away.

As the phase lights disappeared and her consciousness returned to her, Rezina found herself staring at the ground. There was no more searing pain of phase lights cutting into her, but the dull numbness that covered the body that followed. She waited for the second cycle of pain to start… The breathlessness, the gut wrenching pain in the abdomen, the head aches, and any number of unpredictable side effects that followed the last time she phased in. To her surprise, there was nothing. She glanced down at her Reality Lock to make sure she actually had phased away. Sure enough, it placed her in reality 0153496822133876. As she stood, confusion set in. “What the fuck?” Whatever the reason, the Tour must go on. The first thing she looked for was cloths. She promptly made her way to a local shop purchased a long coat and made her way back out to the street. It was busy with pedestrians and people unaware of what this world could possibly become. She got her mind ready for the long tour that was ahead of her and like the past three days, pushed away the concerns that threatened to take over her. There was nothing she could do about it now, so might as well focus on the task at hand. It would be the same thing if she was back home anyway, Phasing out and looking for T.H.E Corporation. Her thoughts were broken off as she felt someone staring at her. She opened her eyes and turned to find an older lady staring at her intensely as if she had seen a ghost. A strong silence penetrated the air as they locked eyes. With effort, the lady broke her trance.

“I’m sorry dear. I don’t mean to stare. You remind me of someone I met is all.” The lady slowly and purposely walked away.

Rezina brushed it off and got her thoughts back on the task. Tapping her com she began a casual stroll down the street.

“Diamond, where are you?”

“Getting dressed.” The voice came back clear.

“Anything of importance to share yet?”

“Not a damn thing. It’s hard to look for something when you have no idea what that something is or what it will look like.”

“Therein lays the difficulty of our task.” Rezina mumbled. “What side of town are you on?”

“Just outside of downtown. South I think.”

“I’m still downtown near the phase point. I guess I’ll take North.”

“Cool, we’ll bounce back info and take it from there I guess.”

“That’s about the only option we have. As soon as I run into law enforcement, I’ll let you know if they’re Edwards or not.”

The voice came before she could recognize the familiar sound of a phase touch down.

“You won’t have time for that my dear.”

As Rezina turned to face the voice, the bullets whizzed past and exploded brick in front of her. Rezina tucked and rolled to get out of the way. Coming to one knee she spotted them… again?

“Fancy meeting you here again.” Nahtill said as he smiled at her.

The P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L.! Rezina recognized right away; two of them at least; Nahtill and Kala. Her guns were out and she was blasting.

“Rezina! Rezina!” Diamond called into the communiqué desperately, but there was no response. “Oomph!” Once the haze dissipated, Diamond realized she was face down staring at the pavement. She looked back quickly and Razu and Zuka were racing toward her. She flipped to her feet. She knew she could not take on these two massive beasts head up. She would have to make some distance between them and her.

Mech rolled his chair over to the center of the counsel. “Hey yo Kid. Turn on the automator.”

“Which one is the automator,” The Apprentice asked as he searched the massive control board. “And it’s Apprentice, not Kid remember?”

“I got you. Gotta get used to all this new stuff. The automator is the big bright red button next to the big bright blue one; top left.”

“I see it.”

Mech sat motionless for a moment then jumped up abruptly.

“Well ki… Apprentice! You ready to go get a beer? No telling when the teams will be back.”

“How long is he usually gone?” The Apprentice asked.”

“There is no definite time frame. Every reality is different. Could be a week, a month, a couple of months. Who knows? This usually gives me plenty of time to kill.”

“Okay I guess.”

They both started for the door when the bright flash of blue light stopped them in their tracks.

“Send everyone to where I am,” Dizz said to Mech and then with another burst of Phase lights, he was gone again.

Mech folded his arms and tapped his forehead with his forefinger.

“Odd,” Mech said out loud.

“Uh Yeah. That was really odd.” The Apprentice said. Mech walked over to the reality display and chaired himself calmly.

“What’s so different about this reality that Dizz want’s them all there” He said. “Very odd.”

“That’s the only thing you find odd? I’d be surprised at what’s considered normal around here.” The Apprentice said.

“Dizz wants to send everybody to the same reality coordinates,” His fingers moving a mile a minute.

“More than one person never visited the same reality at one time before?” The Kid asked.

“Well there’s never been more than one person touring the realities until now, but one thing you have to understand. Dizz is kind of particular about his tours. The fact that he is requesting me to have every one come to the same reality is the fact that is odd. He doesn’t even really like anyone, but me looking over his Tour logs.”

“So what do we do?”

“We send everyone to that reality. Apprentice, get on that computer and pull up the reality search algorithm. Let me show you how to locate realities.”

“So what’s next?” The Kid asked.

“Tap that button right there and I’ll be able to send a recall beacon to the reality Diamond and Rezina are in.” The Kid hit the button and Mech slid over to the other side of the console.

“Can’t you like call them or radio them or something? Wouldn’t that be easy or faster?”

“The technology doesn’t quite work like that. There is no way to communicate between realities. When they are gone they are gone. I have no way to locate them or receive updates. The most we’ve been able to do is send beacons and coordinates to the Reality Locks. So that is what we will do. How long it will take for them to receive it, Phase out and make their way through the city back to the base, I’ll have no Idea.”

“So wherever they are in the city when they phase out in the other reality is where they will be in city in this reality?”

“Yeah, the phase process is parallel; up and down. They don’t phase horizontal across physical space. So if they were deep into the city when they get this beacon, either they will have to make their way back to their original Phase point to phase back into base here or phase back to this reality where they’re at and make their way back here. Either way, it will take time for them to travel. Luckily, they haven’t been gone long. It’s possible for them to be in another country when they phase and they have to make their way back the best way they can.”

“So we sit and wait?” The Apprentice asked.

“We sit and wait.” Mech confirmed.

When he phased back, the streets were still littered with the dead bodies of the Edwards Law enforcement officers he displaced early. It never bothered him before, but he knew this was something different. He knew this …feeling could grow into something that would disregard the welfare of innocents; people who were just living life as they knew it in whatever reality they were in. People who had nothing to do with the overall war that raged on between the realities and had no idea such a war even existed. Just because they existed in a reality that was not his, did not make them less. If it did, then he would be less too.

He was deep within the city when conscious thought returned to him. Again, there was not much difference in the architectural structure of this society. Skyscrapers stood, people milled about the streets in their day to day activity.

He looked down at his reality lock to see how long he had been back to try to guess an ETA for Diamond and Rezina when his instincts told him to move. The sword barley slid past him as his mask solidified over his face and his sword was in hand. Before he could recognize who he was fighting his sword was attacking and defending. He kicked the attacker in the chest pushing him back and gathered his thoughts. The red uniform with the intricate yellow design all over it was unmistakable. This was one of the soldiers from the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L., Mosī. Here we go again.

“You Mother Fuckas don’t give up do you?” Dizz screamed. “You got a sword so I guess you think you’re bad enough to take me on alone. Alright cool, let’s put our balls on the table. Huh? Who got the heavier stones?” Dizz said. Odīon Mosī charged Dizz, sword swinging skillfully. Metal clashed and Dizz smiled and stepped away. “Rookie.” He taunted as he twirled his sword, but he knew the soldier wasn’t. Odīon took his sheath off his back, sheathed his sword, and pointed it at Dizz. A wordless challenge. They were back at it. Dizz attacked Mosī without intent of actually making contact. They were both talented. Spinning, Dizz sheathed his sword on his back, then snatched the whole sheath off his back and attacked Mosī with it. Back and forth they went testing each other’s skill.

Mosī Flicked his wrist and the sheath flew off the sword. He pulled the other one from his back and attacked. Dizz flicked his wrist and the sheath flew off his sword as well and he defended himself. With on fluid motion Dizz spun, scooping the sheath from the ground with his swords blade, sheathed his sword, pulled his gun, let off a shot, retuned the gun to its holster, pulled his sword, and continued battling. Mosī dodged the shot, defended and attacked with furry.

When the subtle vibration and beep came through from her Reality Lock, she had repositioned herself on a walk way; blasting shots at the two P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L attackers that managed to find her in in this reality. She quickly found cover and looked down at her bracelet. “What the fuck?” She turned and let off two more covering shots then tapped her com. “Diamond, Did you get that?”

“Yeah,” The voice came through buried behind gunfire. “That was a recall signal right?”

“Yeah kind of soon, but couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m pinned down.”

“I’m not having much luck here either. They caught me off guard and haven’t let up since. They phased in right on top of me.”

“Live to fight another day.” Rezina said as she turned and fired. Brick spattered around her from the returning gun fire. “Well I’m in a good place to phase out, so I’m out of here. What about you.”

“It’ll take me a sec to find a good phase position, but I’m right behind you.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure. I’ll see you back at base.”

“All right – Out.” Rezina made sure her attackers where far enough away for the recall to take place, then typed in the recall sequence. The Reality Lock beeped as the Guide in the other reality tracked her position, found her, and then sounded the “Locked signal”. She tapped a few buttons. Blue lights surrounded her and she disappeared. She touched down hard in her reality. Everything was the same except the loading dock was empty and there and no P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. shooting at her. She ran down the ramp and walked towards the entrance that lead out to the street. Then the previous thought hit her again; there was no P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. shooting at her. She dwelled on that thought for a moment. Why wasn’t there? She carried the thought with her as she walked out into the open street.

It would take her about a half hour to make it back to base. Her eyes stayed on the swivel the whole time and her ears open for the sound of a phase landing. She took a detour. If there were to be phase landings she did not want to lead them back to resistance base. 15 minutes past and there was nothing. Better safe than sorry. She broke out into a jog to make up time.

Razu had made a major miscalculation in his attempt to cut her off. Inadvertently he exposed Zuka while shielding her. Diamond took full advantage of the opportunity. She lunged to the side and let off a fury of rounds that caught Zuka’s left side. He fell to the ground and she side stepped Razu, breaking for open space. The beast of a man was clunky and moved slow so she managed to get some distance between herself and her attackers. Up a fire escape and onto its platform she began her rephase sequence. The Bracelet beeped in turn as her coordinates were being located. Within a matter of moments, it chimed confirmed. She hit the rephase button and was gone.

By the time she made it to the resistance base and rushed though the lab doors, Mech and The Apprentice were already preparing the Guide.

“What’s the deal?” Rezina spat out.

“Sorry for the quick recall, but Dizz showed up shortly after you guys left and requested that everyone be sent to the reality where he was at.

“Any particular reason?” She asked.

“No, but the request is reason enough. We’ve already got the Guide ready so if you are ready…”

“When the recall came through I was fighting two of the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L..” She interrupted.

“Again!” Mech said.

“Again” Rezina confirmed. “Nahtill and Kala. They attacked without warning this time.”

“And Diamond?”

“We were in different parts of the city, but as of her last communique, she was fighting another two. Razu and Zuka. She said she was good to find a Phase point and follow soon so I phased out.”

“So it would be safe to assume that if you two were fighting four of the team… The Apprentice offered.”

“Dizz is probably fighting the remaining member.”

“I didn’t think about that.” Rezina said, but now she was glad that she hurried.

“Typically I would wait sometime between Phases, but given the circumstances, I think it best to get you to the reality Dizz is in. Find him and back him up. We’ll send Diamond shortly after you, but remember it will be at least another half hour, so you two hold it down.”

“Will do.” She said and stepped up on the Guide. Mech began the phase process.

Mosī was bearing down on him. Dizz swords flared out and body ready for action. He pounced again. Dizz countered, parried, dropped his shoulder and pushed Mosī out into the busy street. Cars swerved, people yelled, but the two swordsmen did not falter in their attack on one another.

When Rezina touched down again she waited. Waited for the pain and anguish of phase touch down. Again there was nothing. No pain, no disorientation, but she did feel abnormally warm. Sweat beaded on her forehead although it was fall and jackets were everyday wear. She chalked it up to nerves and the situation.

“Dizz” I’m here in the reality. Where are you?” There was no response from her com, but gunshots rang out from a few blocks away followed by screaming. She assumed that’s where he would be. She dashed off in that direction.

When she arrived, Mosi and Dizz were jockeying for gun superiority. This time, it was two of them against one. She loved those odds better than last time. Her Smart Armor kicked on. Both guns were out their holsters and she let off rounds as she stalked Mosī at a slow calculated pace. Mosi took a few to the back of his armor. Turning to look, He crouched to one side. Pulling the short Bo staff from his back, his stance quickly turned into an aerial flip, slashing the Bo in the air, sending a sliver of red energy her way. She quickly tucked and rolled as the energy hit the car behind her. It exploded sending her off her feet. Just as she was about to hit the ground she glanced up to see Mosi heading her way. Dizz quickly gave chase. Knowing that bullets would not have the desired effect Dizz lunged in front of Mosi from the side. The two toppled and a grappling match began. Each battled for top superiority. Rezina quickly gathered herself, ran their way, and aimed her gun at Mosi’s head, but he quickly swept Dizz, leapt from his mount and caught her hard in the face with a punch. He pressed forward as she fell back. Dizz was up and swinging, but Mosi countered with one hand and struck Rezina again with the other. With a combination of kicks and punches, Mosi balanced the fight. Silence left Dizz’s sheath, but as he began to swing Mosi Kicked off his chest and with a burst of phase lights he spot phased away.

“Son of a cowardly bitch,” Dizz said.

“So what…” Rezina began to ask. Another burst of light and Mosi was back, with Nahtill and Kala. They phased in right in the middle of Dizz and Rezina and the whole scene quickly turned into a mad dash of reposition and battle.

Right on time,” Mech said as Diamond walked into the lab.

“What’s with the early recall?” She asked as she made her way in.

“Dizz called for it,” The Apprentice informed. “He wants both teams in the reality he’s at. We don’t know why yet.”

“Rezina has already left. She said the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. showed up in your reality again.” Mech asked.

“Yes, they Phased in close this time and attacked us in sets of two. I dealt with Razu and Zuka.”

“So that being said, here’s our analysis. If four of them showed up in your reality…”

“Dizz must be dealing with Mosi.” Diamond finished the thought.

“Exactly. So we don’t know what the situation is in that reality, but the first order of business is to find Dizz and Rezina and back them up.”

“Of course.

“How long before the guide is totally recharged?”

“Another ten minutes. Go to the weapons room and reload and I’ll phase you out as soon as you get back.”

Sirens blared in the background. Rezina looked over to Dizz who glared back at her.

“Get ready for some extra company. After what I did downtown today they’ll be out for blood!” He said then quickly defended himself from Nahtill and Kala who were on him hard. Rezina ran to make some distance between herself and her attackers. The Edwards squad cars pulled up half a block away from the battle that was raging on the street. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. None of them had witnessed anything like the spectacle they were seeing in their whole careers. The rather large sergeant stepped out of his vehicle and surveyed the situation.

“Rogers!” he screamed out.

“Yes captain a young officer responded, running up to the car.

“Put a missile in the center of that whole group.”

“Sir Yes sir” the young cop said then disappeared to the back of the vehicles.

“I’m not playing with this shit today,” The captain spat out. Reaching inside his vehicle and grabbing his radio, he thumbed the button, “Address this situation with extreme prejudice people. We’ve already seen what one of these fucks can do today and I want this shit over with now! All-out assault.” He threw the com back into the car. Rogers reappeared with a rocket launcher. The young cop took aim, and as he was told, placed a missile dead center of the group. The explosion threw all five people off their feet.

Disoriented, Rezina attempted to stand as the noise in the back ground became a muddy haze. Voices filtered in followed by the muffled barrage of a hail rain of gun fire. Officers rushed the scene and a battle of now three different groups began.

This time when the phase lights dissipated, Diamond simply stayed on her hands and knees and waited for the pain. It did oblige. The first sharp pain ripped through her side and up her back, literally flipping her over and onto her back. Horrid shock filled her mind because although she expected the pain, this time it was much worse. She arched her back as her muscled seized and she thought her back would break. Yes, this time it was much worse. The pain stopped temporarily. Then it felt as if someone had smashed her head between two bricks. I’m going to fucking die! She thought and was sure of it. For the next five minutes pains of all sorts ran through her body. It was the worst torture she had ever experienced in her life. When it was all done, all she could do was lay there; not an ounce of energy left. There she stayed for the next ten minutes.

Pain had left her paralyzed and disoriented. All she could do was stare up at the sky and wait for someone to walk up and find her. If they did, there was nothing she could do.

17

A sudden jolt of life struck her, lunging her forward with a deep gasp for air. Diamond hung her head for a moment then looked around. Luckily for her, the street was entirely empty. If anyone would have found her, she would have been defenseless. Her right mind came back to her and she realized that not an ounce of pain remained in her body; no evidence of it at all. “I’m really getting tired of this shit.” She reached up with tired arms and tapped her com. “Dizz” no response. “Dizz, where are you at? Rezina?” Nothing from the com. She sat there in a confused daze for a moment. The sound of a large explosion rocked the ground beneath her; massive gun fire from somewhere. She stood and tried to pin point the sound. There – about two blocks away. With all the energy she could muster she began a sprint in the general direction.

A half a block jog and a few turns around corners she ran into a sight of bodies and destruction. Many onlookers circled the closed off area; Cops and coroners, ambulances, and clean-up crews. Many buildings were damaged and damn near destroyed. There had to be about a hundred bodies, she calculated with a quick sweep as she tried to make her way through the crowd inconspicuously. There was no time to find cloths and her armor was sure to draw attention. She quickly made her way away from the scene, but the images stuck in her mind as she journeyed towards the sound of chaos.

Nahtill and Kala took turns striking at Rezina. They smiled as they toyed with her. She found it in no way humorous. Grabbing Kalas arm, she flung him into Nahtill then turned to address the cop that ran her way. She grabbed him by the throat in mid stride and slammed him on the ground. Kala grabbed her from behind and she managed to fling him off. Bullets ricocheted off of her armor from cops above on a buildings fire escape. She turned her guns to them and nullified the situation.

Mosi and Dizz went back and forth defending themselves against the cop’s unbiased attack and took shots at one another when the situation presented itself.

As Diamond ran up to the battle, she froze in her steps. It was a pure sight of chaos; cops, P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L., and her team members caught up in a three way battle. Her heart pounded, and for the first time, nerves got to her. She was afraid. As she forced herself to take a step forward phase lights in the distance caught her attention. The three P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. that fought Dizz and Rezina disappeared. Everyone, including the Edwards cops stood confused. Phase bursts behind her, caught her attention. She turned to quickly find herself defending herself against the attack of a giant Zuka swinging maliciously at her. Razu bolted forward and sent her flying into the mêlée ahead. As she tumbled through the air, she could see that the other four P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. had returned as well. Cops turned their attention to the new arrivals and they too became a part of the mêlée.

Dizz peeked around Mosī. To his surprise, he saw both his team his members. They were getting hammered. New Priority. He had to get over to them. His armor could last forever, but he knew that the refitted Smart Armor Diamond wore was flawed. He’d learned that many times and had the scars to prove it. He only assumed it was the same for Rezina’s suit. He repositioned himself to make sure Mosī didn’t notice them. Gotta give them time to recover. Can’t kill this guy in the position he’s in, but he could definitely incapacitate him. Dizz countered a couple of sword strikes then hit him as hard as he could with the butt of his sword in the face. He sprayed a path of gun fire at the group of Edwards cops that potentially blocked his path then flowed through the mêlée to get to Diamond and Rezina. Dizz moved from body to body, his usual style of fighting; attack and move, constantly attacking and countering an attacker. When the sword was needed, he pulled it out. When the gun was needed, he used it.

With an assault of strikes and kicks, he knocked the Edwards attacker of Rezina who had her pinned on the ground. He lifted her to one knee. She stared at him hard in the eye. He knew what they were saying, but weren’t admitting. She, as well as Diamond, would fight to the very end with no complaint. They would not back down and she knew he knew it. But, as he was grabbing her arms, they were trembling. They were soldiers, but the truth was they were new to all this. Dizz had to accept the inevitable. They were being overrun.

“I’m Sorry Dizz.” Rezina said softly. Dizz stood to find Diamond. She was being backed down by both P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. and Edwards alike. He sprinted her way pulling out Silence as he strode. Rezina followed suit. Silence moved quickly between attackers and cleared the area.

“Hey Guys.” Diamond said.

“Find a place to rephase and get out of here,” Dizz simply ordered.

“I just got here.” Diamond said with a bit of sass. Dizz eyed her with no humor then turned to Rezina who was just walking up.

“Rezina,” Dizz began.

“I got it.”

They all moved to make time for their exit strategy, their bracelets beeping separately as they worked their way through attackers. Eventually the confirm beep sounded and each one found clear space to phase away.

Dizz looked over to make sure Diamond was gone. She phased away then he turned to Rezina. She looked at him and reached for her device. “See you at the base!” She cried out and motioned toward her wrist. Dizz concentrated on his reality and then he was gone.

18

Where are the others,” Mech asked as Diamond staggered through the labs entrance. He ran to Diamonds side.

“They should be right behind me,” She said as she gathered herself. Moments later Dizz burst through the door.

“What’s the word?” Mech asked.

“P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. and Edwards cops all at the same time.” He held his words for a heartbeat. “We were being overrun.” Mech held his gaze for a moment then turned away. They waited a long second then the obvious question came.

“Where’s Rezina?” The Apprentice asked. Diamond and Dizz looked back at them dumfounded.

“She was right behind me.” Dizz said.

It was not anger; It was neither fear, nor was it a sense of urgency she felt. It was an overwhelming feeling of sadness. She couldn’t control it, or understand it, given the situation, but the action of phasing out reminded her that she could not go back to her own reality. Although she would fight hard and understood her place in the team’s dynamics, she didn’t feel like her purpose was truly being served. She was made to fight T.H.E. Corporation on all plains. It felt pointless for her to go back to the reality they came from and wait to fight again. No that would not be what she would do, She would make herself useful. Plus, she had a hunch about what would happened if she phased there.

“So you decided to stay and play with us,” Nahtill said as he approached a bowed head Rezina.

She slowly looked up and gripped her guns tighter.

“I’ve got nothing else better to do. You will suffice,” She said as she slightly jerked her head moving a lock of hair from in front of her eyes, revealing the long tattoo that played down her face.

“I’m flattered as I’m sure the rest of my team would be, but what are you going to do about the rest of them?” he motioned behind him referencing the Edwards cops that the rest of his team dealt with at the moment.

“The same thing you are, but…it doesn’t matter.”

“You’re mighty bold. It’s five, He paused “I’m sorry…” He turned and pretended to count as he mouthed imaginary numbers. “About 100 to one, give or take. That’s pretty nice armor, but how long do you think it will last? Bullet proof only means bullet proof for so long. It’s bound to give out soon.”

She stood emotionless. “Probably, but it doesn’t matter.”

“You say that so sincerely. I’m actually starting to believe it.”

“It really doesn’t matter,” She said again then slowly raised a gun at Nahtill.

“Shall we dance again?” He raised a gun at her. “Do you want to lead or shall I?”

“Ladies first,” Rezina responded. Nahtill smiled, both guns blasted, and they danced around one another again in gun play.

Well we have to go back and get her,” Dizz Said. “She

must’ve been held up in the fight somehow.

“That’s obvious,” Mech Returned. “I’m already on that,” He said as his fingers were busy on the computer console in front of him. “You said she hit her rephase button right?”

“Yeah. I saw her reach for her rephase. She said I’ll see you at the base and I was out. I knew I should have waited.”

“I’m starting to think it might be something wrong with her devise or even worse her.”

“What do you mean,” The Apprentice asked.

“Maybe it’s something in her that keeps affecting her reality travel.”

“In your calculations have you ever accounted for anything like that before?” Dizz asked.

“No, but nowadays, with the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. thing and everything else going on, I wouldn’t be surprised. New events seem to be the order nowadays.”

Nahtill, Kala, Mosi, Razu and Zuka had managed to deal with the Edwards cops and the streets were silent. All of their attention was turned on Rezina. That is exactly what she wanted. Time to play her hunch. She shot her guns in a manner that would scatter the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. hoard then fled deeper into the city. They gave chase, bullets whizzing past her. She searched for the best place to take the next step. There, half a block down would be good. She dashed to the spot that she decided on and waited for the herd to catch up.

Guys,” Diamond said softly.

“I’m ready to send you guys back out. What’s ammo looking like?” Mech asked.

“Guys,” Diamond said again. The Apprentice noticed her holding her stomach and slowly collapsing to her knees.

“Ammos good on my end. It should be a quick in and out anyway.” Dizz informed.

“Guys,” Diamond and The Apprentice both cried out as The Apprentice ran over to her aid.

“I don’t feel too well.” Diamond said then collapsed into The Apprentice’s arms.

“Oh shit,” He cried out.

“Get her to the med bay” Mech instructed. They scooped her up in their arms and carried her away.

“Too many Phases?” Dizz asked as he helped to hold her up.

“I’m pretty sure of it.” Mech answered.

19

That’s what I thought,” she whispered. “Come get it you mutha-fuckas!” Then she dashed out in the city. She wanted to see how hard they would pursue. She kicked on her Smart Armor and turned to face them.

“Why fight Love?” Nahtill taunted. “It’s just you. How effective do you think you’re going to be against us?”

“Why pursue? It’s just me. How important can I be? My guess is that you really don’t have a choice.”

“Oh we have a choice. There’s always a choice.”

“Then why are all five of you here? It was only two of you the first time I was by myself.”

“Fuck your conversation. Let’s get on with you dying.”

“Let’s!” she returned. “But you first.” She let off a barrage of gun fire. Battle ensued again. She fled through the city. Again, the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L followed. She waited till she was cornered.

So?” The Apprentice questioned.

“So what kid?” Mech responded as he stared down at an unconscious Diamond on the med bay table.

“So is she going to be alright?”

“How am I supposed to know? I haven’t even put her under the scan yet.”

“Remember kid, this whole technology being used by others is new, so anything that happens is exploratory for us.” Dizz informed The Apprentice. “Even I only phase in and out of a reality.” He reflected on what happened when he killed Morrison, “For the most part.”

“We had an idea the phases would affect her, but we didn’t expect to have to phase and rephase so close together. I hope Rezina isn’t laying somewhere comatose or worse.” Mech slid the table with Diamond on it under the bio scan. A holo scan of her body illuminated over her. Mech reached into the scan and touched her brain. The body disappeared and the brain took up the space. “See right there,” He pointed to a red spot on her brain that started as a glowing ball then narrowed out and extended all the way down her spine.

“What is that?” Dizz asked.

“That’s the part of her brain that controls consciousness. It’s pretty much been overloaded.”

“What’s going to happen to her?”

“Uncertain, but my guess is her brain and nervous system is … Well rebooting. Re-acclimating to the reality; At least I’m hoping.” He turned to The Apprentice and before The Apprentice could begin his sentence, he answered his question. “I have no idea how long it’s going to take. The good thing is she is still alive.”

“And the bad part.” Dizz asked as he stroked his chin.

“There are going to be some adverse effects. I have no way of telling what. I’m worried because those are the things that can kill her.”

“Well great!” Dizz said as he walked away. “So both Rezina’s are down, technically?”

“Yeah, Mech said and looked up at him as his hands were busy working around the holo brain. “… and it’s not your fault.” Dizz eyed him and began to walk out of the room.

“And it’s not your fault,” The Apprentice’s voice lofted from behind Mech. Mech looked over his shoulder and eyed the kid the same way.

“I’ll go look for Rezina.” Dizz’s voice entered the room before him as he walked back to the room. He starred down at Diamond then at the floor.

“Dizz we got this here. You know how this is going to work out?” Mech said.

“I can…” The Apprentice began.

“No! “Dizz and Mech said at the same time.

“I keep telling you kid you’re not ready.” Dizz said.

“I get the feeling as far as you’re concerned I will never be ready,” The Apprentice lashed out. Mech looked up at Dizz. Dizz stared back.

“I know what’s out there. Plus, we can’t afford to lose another part of this team. You help out well here with Mech. We need you in this reality. The Corporation has a hard time dealing with a person like you,” Dizz reassured the kid. Mech finally exhaled.

“What sit and watch Diamond lay here and not be able to do anything,” Mech braced again. For a second he thought the kid was safe. “Watch the computer screens go to sleep. We haven’t battled here in this reality in a long time and I’m getting bored…”

“Be lucky about that kid!” Dizz booming voice over lapped the kids’ last sentence.

“I serve no purpose here.”

“Kid,” Dizz said.

“I joined this team to make a difference!”

“Kid,”

“I want to help!”

“Kid! Diamond needs you!” Dizz screamed as loud as he could. An uneasy silence hung in the air for a handful of heartbeats. “What she needs right now, trust me kid; I can’t give as much as I would like to.” Another handful of heartbeats hung in the air. “You two take care of this, Rezina and I’ll take care of the other one. That makes a difference kid. That makes a difference.” With that, he burst and disappeared into phase lights.

Mech looked at The Apprentice wondering what he was thinking. “You know…”

“He’s right,” The Apprentice said without looking at Mech. “I know, I know. I’m just feeling the same thing he’s feeling right now.”

Everything looked the same as when he left Rezina. Dizz looked around at the remnants of battle and wondered if he’d ever get used to it. He only had a moment to glance briefly before the sounds of gunfire ringing throughout the city caught his attention. He gave chase to their sound. It was close and sounded like it was getting closer. He rounded several buildings and down several blocks. He stopped and realized it had passed him and was now behind him; closer to where he just came from. He turned and quickly raced back. When he rounded a corner, he spotted Rezina standing in the middle of the street, slowly being stalked and surrounded by the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. team. He sprinted her way reaching for Silence as he did so.

This time when they surrounded her she didn’t run.

“There’s always a choice huh?” she said to Nahtill. He eyed her hard. She positioned herself exactly in the right place. If she was right this would be the place to find out. She raised her wrist and hit her rephase button. Moments later Rezina was gone.

Dizz removed Silence from her sheath as he approached the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. who hadn’t notice him yet, but to his surprise they phased away as well.

He slid to a halt, confused. He knew her phase travel time would take longer than his and he would get there before her. Rezina was his only priority and he had to make sure she phased home safely. Quickly sheathing his sword, he phased away.

“What the hell?” Mech’s exclamation was the first thing Dizz heard once the phase lights dissipated. Dizz looked around confused. “Why are you back so early?” he asked.

“I just saw Rezina Phase away. I wanted to make sure she made it back to this reality, but I had no idea I’d be inside the base.”

Blue lights flashed and Rezina dropped in and kneeled. Everyone in the room turned in surprise.

“Rezina, where have…” Mech began.

“Wait!” she said and whipped out her guns. Everyone else whipped out their weapons and waited.

“What are we waiting on?” The Apprentice asked. After a few quiet heartbeats, she stood and holstered her weapons.

“Just like I thought,” she said.

“What were we expecting?” Mech asked as they all put away their weapons.

“Nothing. That’s the point,” Rezina said.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“I stayed,” she said.

“Yeah obviously.” Mech said. He stepped closer to her. His next words were calculated. “But you stayed by choice?”

“I think I figured something out,” she said.

“Do you know what kind of hells been going on around here?” Mech asked as he stepped closer to her.

“Listen I think I know why…”

“I don’t give a damn what you think you know.” Mech lashed out.

“What the hell, I’m trying to tell you guys something important,” she said in confusion, her feelings almost hurt. Very few people ever saw Mech lose his temper.

“This… That your back is important. The other night…” He clenched his fist and bit his lip. “Three days ago when you first got here.” He paused again. “Do you know where my mind went?” He raised both hands toward her. He opened his mouth again, but no words would come out. He turned and walked out the room. Rezina stood there completely baffled.

“I thought you were on your way back with us?” Dizz asked calmly, but his eyes shooting ice daggers.

“I was, but… I had a hunch.”

“A hunch?”

“Yeah,”

“That – what you just did, was intentional.”

“Where’s Diamond,” she asked trying to avoid the accusation. She couldn’t disagree and she knew any words she could find to explain wouldn’t do. She had violated their trust, and with these men, that’s just something you didn’t do. She could tell Dizz was gritting his teeth as his jaw line hardened. Dizz starred at her intensely for a few hard moments then simply walked away.

As the metronome of the EKG echoed the room, Mech looked over Diamonds body thoroughly. A holo doppelganger floated ominously over her as she lay motionless on the table.

“Any Idea?” Dizz asked.

“Not a one. There is nothing in our science that says that she should be in a comma, but here again we are dealing with factors beyond our science. All I can do is wait to see what happens,” Mech said defeated.

“Then we’ll wait calmly. If that’s all we can do then that’s all we can do. Don’t overstress yourself my friend. Wait for what happens next then take it from there.”

“I’m starting to see you were right about putting her in harm’s way.”

“Ignore my comment from days ago. The emotion behind it had nothing to do with the actual result. It serves no purpose now. It won’t help,” Dizz said. “Is it possible that she can hear us?”

“There have been cases of people being in commas and being able to recall conversations going on around them.”

“Then walk with me.” Dizz said.

“What’s up?” Mech asked as they headed for the med bay exit and out into the hall.

“This is not a rebuttal to them being here and doing tours, but we have not been able to finish one tour since they have. This P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. thing has slowed down progress like nothing else has. We have to somehow get moving.

“So what do you suggest?”

“I don’t know. I’m just venting frustration. The reason we’re walking down this hall right now, is because I don’t want to take the chance of Diamond being able to hear us and she

thinking they are the blame.”

“We’ll just have to scrape over the Data and figure out Who this P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. is and what they want.”

“We’re not certain they’re Edwards?”

“Since we are dealing with different realities, and we don’t know where they come, from we can’t assume. We have to leave all probabilities open until we sort through the certainties in the data.”

“I’m started to get frustrated.”

“I’m sure that’s an understatement.”

“When do we debrief?”

“In about two hours.”

20

A few hours past and no one spoke to each other. Rezina sat quietly on the table in the Main lab, the ominous choral of humming from the data storage units the only sound. As she cocked her gun, shot an empty round, and cocked it again, she let her legs swing like a little school girl.

“A person can always feel the stare of another person, especially when it’s quiet and they’re alone;” She offered to the empty dim room.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t come to chastise you,” The Apprentice said leaning against the general quarters door way. “I can’t get upset with you about the past day’s events and P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. I’m new here just like you.” He took a lean on the end of the table, facing away from her. They sat there in silence for a while as neither could think of what to say.

“How’s Diamond?” Rezina finally asked.

“Mech says she’s stable, but no idea on how long she’ll be unconscious or what the after effects will be. How are you feeling? I mean, seeing you two are technically the same person. No headaches or anything like that?

“Nah. I’m shocked too. As a matter of fact, I didn’t feel anything at all this time around. The first phase in from my home, I got the normal pains, but not this time.”

“So every time it hurts?”

“Yeah. Not to that extreme,” she nodded towards the doorway referencing Diamond, “but it hurts like hell.”

“Any idea why you didn’t pass out like Diamond when you phased home… I mean to this reality. I know this is not your home; Not your real home anyway.”

“To answer your question… no damn idea at all. And you might be right, I’m starting to get the feeling this may be home.”

Experimental was the one lab Rezina had yet to be in. She looked around at the numerous machines, large and small, vials, and what looked like a smaller version of The Guide. Experimental had a unique feel to it. Different from the usual dark feel of the rest of the rooms in the base, but then again she had only been on this one floor in the past three days.

“So tell me what kind of experiences you’ve had after phase touch down.” Mech asked as he prepared her upper shoulder for implant of a node scanner. The needle pierced her skin and she winced just a bit.

“The first time I landed in the reality I met Dizz, I felt disconnected as I was told I would be; throbbing in the head, sharp pains in the abdomen, vomiting…”

“Sounds pretty normal.”

“But after that; the last series of phasing; nothing.”

“Mech’s eyebrow went up as he typed in a sequence in a computer nearby.

“Nothing at all?” He asked with extreme confusion.”

“Nothing at all; I was just as confused as you, but I don’t know, all this is new to me so I figured it was just an abnormality, given the results of this is always unpredictable.”

“True, I would think the same thing given the unpredictable nature of travel; however, because of how this science works, you should always feel something. That’s the one consistent we’ve always seen, but I’ll start with this for you. You and Diamond are practically the same subject; not the same person, but the overall factors are the same for you two. You both went to the same realities, so the results should have been exactly the same because those factors were the same.”

“So what does that mean?”

“So now, that brings up another matter, amongst the rapidly accumulating, new aspect of things.”

“She’s lying in a comma and I’m sitting here feeling as healthy as can be.”

“I can only assume it has to do with why you are not able to phase to your origin realty. Once we figure out why you can’t go home and why I can’t locate your reality, we should be able to figure that all into the equation.”

“I noticed that you didn’t say once we are able to find your origin reality and send you home. Is it not a realistic possibility?” She asked.

“Forgive my choice words. They had nothing to do with rather or not I believe we can send you home. Overtime you’ll come to realize I believe that there is always a possibility. After the things I’ve seen and experienced over the years, anything is possible.”

A machine chimed a long beep. Mech removed the node from her back and stepped back over to the computer. “Scan of your body is all complete. I’ll load the data and give it a thorough racking over. I’ll be sure to inform you of the results.”

Once tempers cooled off and Diamond was stable, The Apprentice, Mech, Dizz, and Rezina reconvened in the main room. Regardless of what happened they still had to debrief.

“So what was so important about the reality you were in Dizz?” Mech asked.

Dizz settled into his seat and inhaled deeply.

“Nothing, I simply believed we could be more effective with all three people working the same reality.”

“That’s it?” Mech asked. He knew this man more than anybody and that was not a viable answer. “That’s bullshit, I’ve never known that to be your style; so tell us what you saw that called for a recall?”

“Not a damn thing,” Dizz said and held Mech’s gaze for a heartbeat. Mech did not waver. “That conversation is not for now bro!” he warned.

“Everything is for now. We need to analyze every bit of data we can to decipher the events of the past three or four days. You said it yourself, we have not been able to effectively tour one reality in those said days.”

“My reasons won’t change anything that we decipher. I simply thought we would get more done with everybody in one place.”

“Well your decision is part of why we are deciphering everything that’s happening right now. Diamonds still laying in there in a coma as result of phasing to that reality.”

Dizz tensed up with offense. He felt blindsided given their previous and completely opposite conversation about it earlier. “That has nothing to do with the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. popping up which is the damn problem, not where we phased. So fuck you.”

“Fuck you”

“You know that…”

“Fellas! The Apprentice interjected.

“None of that is going to help with what we have to deal with today. Dizz is right the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. is the problem that we need to discuss,” Rezina said.

“You two are smart enough to know the blame game helps nothing;” The Apprentice added. Both men idled back. The obvious embarrassment in both of them.

“True,” Mech said. “So the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L.? Tell us what happened during your tour. Let’s take this chronologically. Dizz you go first.”

“I started my tour, came back and issued the recall order. I was back in the other reality 45 Minutes to an hour before Mosi showed up.”

“Did he Phase in directly on your position?”

“No, I didn’t hear any Phase burst, He attacked me from behind unannounced. I don’t know if he was in that reality already or if he phased in somewhere else and found me. Either way, he located me.”

“Rezina?” Mech asked.

“I was about a half hour in, talking to Diamond over the com when I was attacked the same way by two P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L., Nahtill and Kala?”

“And Diamond?”

“Later I found out she was battling too. I don’t know the specifics of how and when, but it seemed like it was around the same time.”

“So when you guys went to the reality Dizz was in?”

“Dizz was fighting Mosi and they showed up once I got to him. Which was about 15 minutes in.”

“Who specifically showed up?” Mech asked.

“The same two, Nahtill and Kala. This time they phased in right on top of me.”

“Once Diamond got there, the other two showed up the same way,” Dizz added.

“So they were designated to track specific members of the team?” The Apprentice added.

“It appears that way. Highly different from the first time. So we still don’t know during the first encounter if the same team fought me and Rezina and then Diamond by herself.”

“More questions than answers;” Mech said lightly as forefinger worked his upper lip. “But it’s obvious it was one team that attacked you three this time. Why else would they break up?”

The Apprentice decided to attack the next line of questioning, seeing that it was inevitable. He was hoping since he was an unattached party to the events it would lessen the emotion that was potentially to follow.

“So once everyone else phased away, they all stayed and fought you?” He could feel the energy change in the room and Dizz and Mech eyed Rezina. “We have to figure out why.”

“Are you all ready to hear what I have to say about it?” Rezina asked.

Dizz looked up at her hard “Speak on it,” But that wasn’t what he really wanted to say.

“We knew they would show up, but we never asked ourselves one question. Why don’t they show up here?” She had everyone’s attention. “So…” She looked at Dizz out the corner of her eye, curious as to what emotion would follow her next statement. She braced herself. “I played a hunch. I made my way to the original phase point and phased back here.”

“Dizz, that’s when you saw her?” Mech asked.

“Yeah.” Dizz leaned forward in his seat. “Let me back up to your last statement. Then you phased here; base?”

“Yeah I had a hunch they would not follow.”

“You had a hunch?” Dizz said.

“Yeah, they didn’t follow us when we rephased here before so I figured this time wouldn’t be any different.”

“And obviously she was right;” The Apprentice pointed out quickly.

“You told me you were on your way back,” Dizz said evenly.

“Yes!” she said hard and met his hard gaze.

“You told me you would see me back at base?”

“Yes I did” she said as she rolled her eyes.

“This base?”

“Yes damn it! I did it. What point are you trying to make!” Rezina screamed as she stood up from her lean on the computer console and took a step towards Dizz. Dizz stood hard and took a step towards her. The next words that came out of his mouth all came without taking one breath and with viscous grit of his teeth.

“That is the fucking point you muthafucking genius there is a specific reason we have certain protocols in place, we will never repeat orders again there is a reason for everything we tell you and Rezina. I know you’re harder than the average women so understand I would knock you on your muthafucking ass and not feel bad.”

She tried to hold his gaze, but she couldn’t. She took a step back and leaned back on the console.

“How were you so certain they were the team?” Mech quickly asked to diffuse the tension.

“I figured they didn’t have to all stay for one person,” she said her tone soft and subdued. I wanted to see if they would all stay, attack, and follow me. So I made it difficult for them to see if they would follow me through the city and sure enough they did.”

“That’s interesting; So now we have to figure out why?” “Because they can’t,” The Apprentice interjected.

“Expound on that,” Mech asked his body language showing intrigue.

“They can’t follow us here.” The Apprentice let the statement hang in the air.

“Yeah, why” Dizz asked.

“Now that I don’t know.” Again he let the statement hang in the air.

21

Diamonds hair was soft, her face unblemished; clear and smooth with no make-up. Even while she was in a comma, her face still showed a hint of a smile. The Apprentice giggled. He had never met anyone like her. She was toned like a cheerleader and looked like a high school girl, but from what he had been told, she was a soldier. He realized he had been standing next to her for about a half hour and took a seat next to the metal table she lay on. Only shallow breathing causing her chest to rise and fall gently was the only hint of life. He was very interested in getting to know her, just as much as everyone else in this place. She helped to keep the energy clean in all this chaos. He wondered if she would ever awake. He certainly hopped so.

Eventually he fell asleep in the chair.

“Apprentice,” The soft hoarse voice awakened him.

He drug awake to find that his hopes were granted. Diamond stared him in the face from the table and just like normal, displayed the one aspect of her character he liked the best; she smiled. “Where am I and who beat me over the head with a big raw fish?” Diamond said. The Apprentice smiled back.

Dizz and Mech stood at the main room console discussing the past day’s events.

“So if we factor in that they phased in on top of us the second time?”

“That at least lets us know they can definitely track the team itself,” Mech said.

“Hey!” The Apprentice voice said from the doorway. “Diamonds awake.”

The voices were a tad distant, but Rezina could make out the conversation on the other side of the doorway to Experimental.

“So how do you feel?” She heard Mech ask.

“Like complete and utter shit.” Diamond responded. Rezina discreetly leaned into the doorway, but made no sound. “I’m hungry too. I must’ve thrown up about two days’ worth of meals between all of the phasing. Who is cooking tonight? Mech your cooking right? Dizz not you. You don’t look like you can cook.” Diamond said as she sat on the side of the med table. Everyone in the room couldn’t help but smile, including Rezina.

“That’s the least of your worries.” Mech said. “But yeah, I’m cooking tonight. You’re right, Dizz can’t cook.”

“Hey, I do alright.” Dizz contested. The room laughed again.

“Listen, I will need to find out the specifics of how you felt during each phase touchdown, but first I have to run some scans on you while you’re just coming out of the coma;” Mech informed.

Rezina moved back behind the wall.

“We’re glad you’re back.” She heard The Apprentice say.

“Yeah we are,” Mech seconded.

“Dizz, are you glad I’m back?” She heard Diamond ask. She could only imagine the uncomfortable look on his face and it made her smile. “AH don’t worry about it. I know you are. We know you’ll never admit it.” She heard Diamond make a pucker sound with her lips. “Smooches.” Rezina covered her mouth to guard a laugh. It was amusing how Diamond liked to egg him on.

“Since your puckering, I got something else you can kiss.” Dizz responded. The entire room erupted in a laugh.

“Where’s Rezina?” was the last question Rezina heard asked. She didn’t get a chance to hear the response because she quickly lifted herself off of the wall outside Experimental Lab and dashed off, taking a mired of emotions with her.

22

Mech walked into the Main Lab, The receiving message intercom was beeping like crazy. He settled into the chair in front of it and hit the accept button. The screen flashed on and there was Techs face.

“Tech, what’s up?” Mech asked.

“Sorry to disturb you Mech. I’m sure you’re probably busy with duties of importance,” Techs voice came through clear over the intercom.

“Not a problem.”

“I called to inform you that the Guard wants to meet.”

“When?”

“They want a collective meeting of all three groups. The date hasn’t been set yet. It’s dependent on the obtainability of all the important heads of all the teams.”

“That’s not a problem our way. We can make time.”

“Good, they have very important information.”

“Anything you can shed light on now?” Mech asked.

“Not over airways. Not even encrypted ones. Everything will have to wait till the meeting.” Tech informed.

“I’ll inform the team and get back with you.”

“Good. Talley up your time and get back to us.”

“Out.”

“Look forward to seeing you there. Out.”

Mech turned off the intercom and Techs face disappeared. He leaned back in his chair, tapped his bottom lip with his forefinger, and contemplated on what the new information could be; information that they would risk something as rare as a meeting with all of the active parties of this resistance. That meant all the heads of every cell of the underground resistance, leaders of civil resistance cells, and The Honor Guard themselves in one place. Abruptly he broke thought, got up, and went to inform the others.

Not too tight or you’ll strip the bolt and the bolt will…” Dizz explained to Diamond as he leaned over the hood of the vehicle, but Diamond was just too anxious and jumped forward in the procedure.

“How the hell am I supposed to get to it from here and still get a good grip?” She was toying with a tool underneath the jacked up vehicle and found herself in a very awkward position.

“Don’t grip too hard or the…” Dizz repeated, but it was too late. The anxious Diamond stripped something below and a fountain of thick brown liquid sprang from the open hood of the vehicle and hit Dizz square in the face.

“Awe!!” Diamonds high pitched squeal came from under the vehicle. She wheeled out from under the vehicle, her face and upper body covered in the milky substance. She looked up at Dizz and a concerned look fell upon her face. He looked down on her and smiled. She smiled back. Giggles began to force themselves from both their mouths.

“I tried to tell you not to grip the bolt too tight or you’d strip it.”

“I heard you, but in the position I was in I didn’t have a choice. Who designed these things anyway?”

“Mech,” Dizz said as he wiped the oil off of his coveralls the best he could. “That is the one joke, slash mystery, we all prod him about. Of all the perfections he’s created around here, here is the most awkward design flaw we’ve all been hit by at one point or time. He pretty much designed everything around here. I figure you’ve been around long enough to know that.”

Diamond took to the task of also trying to clean herself. She wiped down a hand full of the smut off her face and flicked from her fingers. The droplets spackled Dizz’s face, who had just wiped it semi-clean. He stood there with a skirmish closed eye grin then opened his eyes to a smiling Diamond who laughed at him with a girlish giddiness. He took an oil soaked finger and ran it across her nose and smiled back with a look of “…deserves another.” she smiled then stuck her tongue out at him like a teenage cheerleader. It amazed him how she could be so girly like, but still no less battle efficient. How did she keep her humanness amongst all this? But he guessed she hadn’t seen the horrors he had. She would eventually. Or if she was lucky / unlucky enough, maybe she wouldn’t.

Mech glided through the entrance door to the garage bay and sauntered their way.

“What the hell?” he calmly stated.

“Diamond stripped the bolt to the Axe converter. I tried to tell her.”

“Rookie,” Mech stated.

“Rookie,” Dizz confirmed.

Diamond through them both an open mouth look of playful shock and gave her best face of mock hurt.

“Yeah well don’t you two play too rough with my toys? I put a lot of work into these fine machines,” Mech said.

“I’m just trying to teach Diamond how to perform some maintenance on the CL-4 and some other vehicles around here. I figure she could be of some use other than toting a gun and blazing bullets.”

She playfully slapped him on the shoulder and he mockingly shunned away from it.

“I would have done a lot better if I had a better teacher. I can’t help it if I move faster than the teacher can teach,” Diamond said.

“See, that’s what’s wrong with women, always impatient. That’s why I stopped having sex.”

She was back at him with a flurry of playful slaps and taps. Dizz smiled and was humored by it. Mech looked on as the two rough housed and that’s all he could do. Dizz stepped back over to Mech.

“You know how the Axe design is,” Dizz said wiping oil from his face with a rag. “Your one mind boggling and bewildering design flaw.”

Mech’s eyes were frozen on Dizz’s face, his face a mixture of confusion and shock, mouth dropped halfway open. He couldn’t believe this. They were actually playing and Dizz was actually smiling, seeming to be free of thought. Mech held the expression for a few quiet moments. Diamond noticed and her smile dropped. Suddenly Mech snapped out of it, realizing his own silence.

“Oh well, you two better go and get cleaned up. I got news from the Squad. We all need to sit down and talk about this.”

Diamond eyed between the two still curious about what was behind the expression she saw on Mech’s face.

“Give us a sec. Let me get this cleaned up and we’ll be on our way.”

Mech glanced over and caught the look in Diamonds eye before turning and walking away.

“And I’m telling mama. You know better than to get dirty in your good clothes,” Mech screamed as he strolled toward the door.

23

No warrior can step into conflict with a cluttered mind and expect to win. None of the warriors of the past, none of the warriors of the future, and more importantly, no warrior of the present, but back bent, face held in hands, there he was with a mind full of thoughts. Recent events had everyone in a quiet jumble and he knew it. War was coming.

Once again they sat in the main room of the science lab in an unstructured semi–circle. It was quiet for a few heart beats. Then Dizz, standing arms folded and staring at the ground, finally spoke.

“It’s obvious that war is coming and I know what you all might say. What is it that we’ve been fighting all this time? But no, I’m not talking about the back alley private, shadow battles that we’ve been fighting. It is going to be out in the streets, out in the open. The whole world will know about it and be affected by it here in this reality with people that you know and love. Not the carbon copies that you know could die in some other reality and still appease you in your reality.” Dizz’s eyes shifted to Rezina as the afterthought of what he implied just hit him. He looked in just enough time to see that it did strike a nerve in Rezina as her eyes jerked up toward him. He hoped that she would see in his eyes that he meant no offense. It was obvious that the others noticed it too as an uneasy silence touched the air briefly, but Dizz would not touch on it now. Now was not the time for apologies or stroking of egos. “The Apprentice and Mech stumbled into an ambush and got chased half way through the city while T.H.E. Corporation tore up the city all for two men. Why were they so persistent? Terra-Squad Nero got their asses whooped. That’s never happened. Me, Rezina, and Diamond ran into new cronies that were specifically sent to track us, so we cannot avoid the obvious. Things are changing and it’s about to get rough. We must prepare.”

“So what do we do?” The Apprentice asked the obvious.

“Nothing.” Dizz said surprisingly. Everyone was taken aback by the answer. “We have all been pushing very hard and we are all tired. I’ll be the first to admit it. We do ourselves no good, nor the resistance or this battle, by going into this next campaign halfhearted and minds flooded with thoughts. I know you might think we should be training, but the past few years have been training for this same enemy that we have been fighting. There is nothing I can say, nor is there anything I can do to evoke a fighting spirit in us. It is ingrained in our genes. So now, we don’t know what to expect from T.H.E. Corporation, so that makes their methods unorthodox. So the best way to fight the unorthodox is with the unorthodox. For the next two weeks we take it easy while the Honor guard draws up the battle plans. Anything else would just be nervous action and busy work.

Plus, it does us no good to keep attempting tours if we keep getting stopped short by this P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. We have to figure them out before we head back out.”

“I’m on it bruh,” Mech said with a hint of guilt in his voice. Mech had never been stumped in his life and his professional pride was hurting.

“I know you are bruh. This is just beyond us right now; something new we were in no way prepared for.”

“So that’s it,” The Apprentice said.

“That’s it,” Mech confirmed.

“That’s it,” Rezina echoed.

The cool night air helped to thin the population of night party goers. Still, the downtown area was filtered with a nice collection of people that pursued entertainment in the night life. Mech and The Apprentice walked down the sidewalk passing by shops of the entertainment district.

“Apprentice, I’m going to show you the key to keeping a sane mind while being a part of a civil resistance.” They stopped in front of a huge building. “Partying.”

The Apprentice looked up at the massive building. This was a club? He thought. They walked in the club where inside awaited a long line of hopeful party goers waiting to get in. Mech by passed them all and made his way to the bouncer by the pay booth.

“Yo Kevin,” he yelled out to the bouncer.

“Mech,” Kevin said as he looked up. “Long time no see.”

“Yo, it’s been a busy one. Who’s spinning inside?”

“DJ Taste is D.Jing tonight,” Kevin informed him as he unlatched the velvet rope to let Mech in. “I’m sure he’ll let you bless them.”

“No doubt,” Mech said as he made his way in. “Yo this is my young friend. I’m gonna show him the meaning of a good time tonight.”

The two entered the club and made their way through the dance floor.

“Hey Danny!” Mech yelled out to the bartender. “Let me get an Old E.”

“What Mech up in here? You’re usual on its way.”

“You drink Kid?” Mech asked.

“Nah, never really thought about the stuff. You just ordered malt liquor. They don’t sell malt liquor in clubs.”

“They keep a private stash for me in here. I always come here and they know that’s all I drink.”

A waitress walked up to Mech with his drink. “Here you go Mech. I’ll keep em coming all night,” she said with a smile.

“Thanks. Get my friend here a mixed. He’s a beginner. Keep em coming as much as he can handle.”

“You got it,” she said eyeing The Apprentice with a seductive smile before walking away.

“Kid, are you even old enough to drink? Mech asked as an afterthought.

“No,” he replied.

“I gotta remember to ask you about that amongst the vast other things I need to know about you if you’re going to be working with the underground, but for tonight, we forget about everything.”

Near the D.J. booth by now, Mech looked up at the D.J. and put both arms in the air. The D.J. looked down and saw Mech and gave him a what’s up while still concentrating on a mix. Mech and The Apprentice milled up the stairs and into the D.J. booth

“What’s up Taste?”

“What’s up Mech?”

“I thought you might let me touch those things for a little while.”

“Do your thing,” Taste said handing over the headphones. Mech stepped over to the turntables and began to D.J.

The Apprentice milled around the crowd taking in the party scene. He thought he would like it. The whole point of the night was to forget about everything and enjoy the night, and he was going to do that. By the time he gave any thought to the time, they were in their third club. He had relaxed and let go of everything. Mech seemed to be at home in the atmosphere. For the first time in many days, there were no sirens blazing, no officers running behind them in pursuit. There was no one coming for them. The music played, the people danced, and all was comfortable.

The Lathans had the Handrox building built over this monstrous cavern many years ago. 32 stories down, this rocky monument to earth’s natural paint brush, served as a place of solitude for the Underground Resistance fighters that called the subterranean portion of this building home. The cavern ceiling extended high into the air and sat just perpendicular to the actual building structure. Stalagmites hung from the ceiling. The air was always cool and damp. There was even an underground creek that ran through the cave. It felt like being outside.

Rezina remembered when she first busted through the door into this cavern her first day there to find a place to hide her tears. Immediately, she felt she had found a place of comfort. Overall, it was dark, but lights positioned high in the ceiling gave the illusion on moonlight. She could see why this place was so inviting. The stone benches, the small patches of planted grass, and relocated birds made it serene.

She stood at the door way for a while contemplating if she should disturb him. He looked at total peace. A sight she had yet to see him in, in this reality or her own. Dizz glanced over in her direction.

“You mind if I join you?” she asked.

“It’s a free country, in here at least.” Dizz said. She walked over and took a seat next to him. They both stared up at the illuminated rock above.

“I can see why you like it here.” she said.

“Everyone does. It’s the one place that seems so far away from what we face up there.”

It fell awkwardly silent for a moment. Thoughts of their conversation a few days ago still floated through her mind. There was no point in bringing it up. Both of them were to prideful to apologize and lacked the emotion to even agree to disagree.

“So tell me about home.” Dizz asked. The question caught her off guard, but it was good enough for the moment.

“Well one bad thing is, this doesn’t exist.” She motioned towards the cavern and all its surroundings.

“No?” Dizz asked surprised.

“No, things are a little different where I come from. If I ever make it back, I’ll definitely suggest the upgrade.” She giggled.

“Tell me what is the same?” Dizz asked as he starred off into nowhere.

“Well… There’s Mech, you, Tech. Everybody’s there.” Rezina reminisced. “One person that’s missing here, that I really miss, we call Red.”

“You know Red?” Dizz’s eyes shot open.

“Yeah, you’re familiar with the name?”

“Hell Yeah. There’s a Red in your reality?”

“Yeah we’ve actually grown quit close over the years. He showed up with not much of a uniformed memory. Not even knowing where he was or how he got there. I wonder if it’s the same type of time-line?”

“Nah, The Red I knew died some years ago… back in a different lifetime.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said.

“It’s OK, Its better he died then. The events that followed years after probably would have broken his heart and killed him anyway.” Dizz took a swig of beer and stared off in the distance.

“He described the ‘you’ he knew a lot differently anyway so it couldn’t be the same.”

“That much of a difference huh?” Dizz Asked.

“Yes a complete difference.” Rezina looked at Dizz with questioning eyes. “I know a little about you and Mech’s interaction at T.H.E. Corporation, but how did you two partner up?”

He turned and looked at her with humored eyes. For the first time she even saw a hint of a smile. “Who, me and Mech? Huh, we’re brothers of guilt,” he said and with, to her surprise, a laugh.

“I know about… about your guilt. Well, I know of it…that it’s there,” She made sure to be careful with her words. Now that he’d opened up, she didn’t want to trip any memories that would send him back to his cold demeanor, but he simply eyed her with a smile. No anger, no irritation, though he obviously recognized her caution. “But what about Mech? What guilt does he have? If he has one he doesn’t show it.”

“He suffers from what I like to call “Einstein Syndrome”. All this stuff he’s created, but look what it’s used for. Simply because he could do it, but never entertained the question of if he should. It’s not that the guilt is not there. It’s just that he’s accepted it.”

“And you?”

“I on the other hand…” he let the sentence hang unfinished as he quietly contemplated. “What has the Dizz back home told you about himself? About his past?”

“Not too much more than what you already have. You two are not that much different unlike me and Diamond surprisingly.”

“You two are more alike than you would like to admit.”

“And how do you know this?”

“These eyes recognize these eyes.”

She understood what he was getting at.

“But back to you,” she blatantly changed the subject. “He’s told me a little bit about the days at T.H.E. Corporation. He’s told me about …Pain.”

The expression in Dizz’s eye changed at the sound of that last word and she non-verbally backed away a little. She let the last sentence hang in the air. His smile was still there, just hung a little lower. He looked away and stared off in the distance.

“Is there Pain in your Dizz’s world?”

“Not the way he would like it,” she said eyes still on him.

“Then you should know that, if we’re as alike as you claim, no matter what he does or what he gets involved in, there will always be Pain.” He brought his glare back down to meet hers, and he was pretty certain she understood.

Silence filled the air fast and a bed never felt so good before. Diamond wanted nothing but sleep. Warmth seeped all over her body and the pillow conformed to her head sending her off to la-la land immediately. Snap awake – it felt too comfortable. She couldn’t waist a moment like this on the oblivion of unconsciousness. She had already spent a whole scary day and a half in a coma. Maybe she’ll stay awake for a while and take it all in. Yeah.

24

The Church stood on the corner staring as if it were waiting for him and demanding his presence. Dimly lit on the outside and silent in the late night air. He could see candle light dimly flickering in several windows that were on the building varying in size. He stood there in quiet UN-concentrated contemplation then started his brief journey to the place of worship. He climbed the high ascending, semi-circle stairway and knocked on the door. A few moments later the door creaked open and there, half hidden behind the cracked door, stood a tall thin man about fortyish, his close cut hair slightly sprinkled with dots of gray and eyes speaking expiring experience. He was obviously the Pastor and care taker of this church. Even in this late hour he was still dressed in religious wardrobe. The pastor looked at the bowed head visitor draped in the long trench coat adorning an obvious heavy burden.

“Good evening pastor,” Dizz finally brought himself to say as he lifted his head.

“Good evening son,” the pastor responded in turn. “What can I do for you in this late hour?”

“I… am in search…,” his words trailed off as he couldn’t find words fitting to what he was feeling. The pastor opened the door all the way and stepped to the side as an invitation for Dizz to step in, then turned and started into sanctuary. Dizz began to step in, but stopped abruptly “Oh Wait,” He flung back the coat tails of his trench, reached inside with both hands, and removed the two custom tailored Thirty-eight machine gun pistols, that had become a signature trait and raised them shoulder high as if in some ritualistic contemplation.

“What is it that you’re in search of son?” the Preacher asked as he began to turn around and stopped in unexpected surprise at the sight of Dizz in the doorway with Retribution and Revenge.

“Redemption,” Dizz said as he knelt and placed the guns on the ground outside the doorway.

“Oh… I see,” the Preacher conceded. Dizz stepped in and closed the door behind him. The Preacher turned and continued into the sanctuary, Dizz following a few steps behind him. “Have you ever had a relationship with God son?”

“Pentecostal…”

“So then you’re not totally unfamiliar with God’s grace?

The room was small, dimly lit like the rest of the building with candles to suit as well. There were not as many, but there were enough candles to cast a light on the two faces that engaged in beseeching conversation. Religious symbols, common to those who recognized them hung around. Several crosses, several pictures… not exactly a confession room; however, much would be confessed here.

The two faced each other chair to chair. The confessor with his head bowed, and the receiver sitting on the edge of his chair, attentive and receptive.

“What is it that burdens you son?” the Preacher beseech-ed.

“My past,” slow and calculated the words came out.

“What is it about your past that weighs so heavy on your shoulders?” For a moment the pastor thought the silence that hung in the air would be the only answer, but to his surprise…

“I have done things in my past that have not made me an asset to society. Although I used duty and pride to validate my actions, I know now my ignorance in these actions is not an excuse.”

“Go on. There is more.”

“There was also a time when my duty was valid….. a responsibility hung over my head and I accepted it willingly, yet I failed.” The words choking in his throat, fighting back the tears. “All my effort could not accomplish the task… for me, that is not acceptable…” And as if an afterthought, “and my faith is lacking.”

“About the wrongs of your past, forget them, for God has. Acknowledging them is the first step. Confessing them is the next. Accept your sin as you already have, then do them no more. Salvation is an open door, always remaining open. About your sincere efforts son; do thy duty that is best, and leave unto the Lord the rest. Do not punish yourself for things that are not punishable.”

He walked away from his religious lesson with the same outward demeanor that he walked to it; hands in pockets, coat pulled tight, head slightly bowed. Yet inward, there was some release of tension he felt before this late night session. The church towered behind him down the street like a pedagogue watching after he just sent a young student off to apply the lessons taught; an architectural monument to the interaction that just transpired. Before long, the candle light from the windows disappeared and the building was miles away. He had no specific destination, just any place his thoughts could take him. He ventured upon a bridge. The architecturally aesthetic street lights glimmered off the lakes waters below. He looked down on them and reflected on Chinese philosophy he once heard; There, but not there. Moving, but not moving. The reflection of the lights painted on the water’s surface and the ripples move. The reflection acknowledges them, but still painted in the same spot. Empty and fulfilled all at the same time. Sometimes he wished he could be like that. All this time he thought he was working towards it, but instead of feeling empty, now he just felt void. Instead of feeling fulfilled, he just felt cluttered.

Salvation As he looked down he thought maybe if he just let go it would let go of him. He removed the two guns from their holsters and held them up in admiration and disbelief at the same time. He wondered if he could just throw his concerns over into the water just as easily as he could throw the two guns. They had been there for him in times of need. He had made a commitment to them and they had been faithful. He could not be disloyal. That would be like putting away a good wife. No, he could not do that. Let no man put asunder… He put Retribution and Revenge back into their holsters.

He glanced to his side towards the end of the bridge which ended a couple of streetlights down and spilled onto a concrete street that bee-lined into the downtown city. The sounds of the night life floated his way and touched his attention for a brief moment; the echoes of car horns, the live music from a late night cabaret a few blocks away, voices of nocturnal party goers, and the rumble of a white unmarked van that rolled into his view. A truck trailed by a small entourage of men on foot and a nervous eyed driver, whose head fidgeted in every direction and wouldn’t stop moving. What kind of delivery needed a foot escort and what the hell could be delivered at this time of night? Corporation, he thought. He turned towards the van and his feet instinctively carried him that way. The coat tails flew back open and his hands back towards the holsters that held the guns he had just given contemplation to throwing away.

The van disappeared into a side street. The entourage followed suit. Dizz picked up the pace to a brisk walk as not to fall too far behind. By the time he made it to the edge of the building on the street the group he tailed disappeared onto, and peeked around the corner, the group had parked and was opening the back doors to unload. Several men stood at the back of the truck while the remaining group took positions to stand watch – *Interesting*.

He felt as if he were looking for trouble, which was more likely closer to the truth. Or he could just walk away. The mischievousness inside of him started to take a step towards the group as his hand went for a gun. Salvation… The word seemed to echo through all his thoughts. Abruptly, he stopped in his tracks. If he were to find it, he would have to make an effort. So, his hand moved away from the gun and he turned and began to walk away. The debris from the explosion just above him, Spackle his head. He ducked and bent instinctively, Mother fucker! That sentiment echoed throughout his body language. Someone had just taken a shot at him. He turned to face the group he had just granted indemnity from the judgment of his guns with a hurt look. His eyes saying you ungrateful sons of bitches. Yes, he had been spotted and apparently they did not want to be. That was an obvious sign of guilt. What were they doing that they did not want witnesses? What the hell did they have to hide? Whatever it was, was not so much important as the fact that he was offended.

His coat tails whipped back. He gripped his twin pistols and their charge-hum filled the streets extended out to his side. The groups gun fire whizzed by him, spitting debris from the buildings around him. He walked, untouched, with a scary calm pace; angered eyes blaring like a ghost sent to exact vengeance. The soldiers readjusted their aim and bullets began to ricochet off his torso, legs, and arms, protected by the body armor underneath his clothing. With a chilling crackle that sent a frost through the air, the metal liquid cloth sprang out from behind his head, wrapping itself around his face, taking its full form, and solidifying.

“I grant you your lives and this is how you repay me. You shall all pay for your ungratefulness.” With a slow jog that spilled into an all-out sprint, Dizz delivered judgment. His guns blared turn-in-turn. Soldiers began to fall and fly. The soldiers scattered to try to gain some vantage point. Some found cover, others weren’t so lucky. It all seemed easy pickings as Dizz rushed the relatively unprotected group, but then the double doors of the entrance of the building literally exploded open and milliseconds behind the smoke and flying debris, rushed out Yeomen; massive giants of men covered in body armor, 9 feet in height all over processed muscle, brandishing transparent, concave body sized shields and batons dashed toward him.

Dizz quickly put his guns away and produced his sword from under his coat. With an uninterrupted stroke, he delivered an angle strike to the ankle of the Yeoman only inches from him, spinning as the behemoth went sliding face first into the pavement. With a quick reversal of body and stance, he delivered a twin strike to the opposite leg of the second Yeoman. He two went toppling. Now that he had quickly disposed of the most immediate threats with minimal effort, he took to the air and jumped over the third delivering a double foot kick to its back before gliding over. He landed directly in front of the fourth one and danced around its strikes and blows, then side stepped it and ran into the building. Inside, he hoped to close their range of attack with the restricting space of the building walls in comparison to their size.

But Dizz was highly disappointed. He stepped into an open empty room. Several columns lined the wall, but not close enough to obstruct his rather large pursuers. It was dusty, dark, and for the most part, looked long unused. Shotgun across from the entrance was another door. It must’ve been where the soldiers must’ve gone with their cargo. Approximately a seventy foot shot, be he figured he could make it. Not enough time to over think the decision. His attackers were bursting into the room scampering like a nest of angry insects whose hive was disturbed. His feet were moving and Yeomen were stomping up dust in pursuit. He was only a third of the way to the door when instincts told him to side step and dive to the right. Just in time to evade a swinging club from yeoman. The dust rolled up around him as he tucked, rolled, and he came to a knee. There was only enough time to let off one shot before another Yeoman attempted to bowl him over. The men where huge, but they were quick and agile. The four giants became a moving obstacle course. Dizz rolled, flipped, and dodged them. His movements had to be continues in order to avoid getting hit. He bought enough time to get to the door and open it. It was a freight elevator. He hit the call button on the side and he found himself flying off his feet horizontally from the blow of a Yeoman. The armor underneath his clothing kept any real damage from being done, but damn it hurt.

Alright, what needed to be done to get a hold of the situation? The Yeomen rushed towards him and his mind raced. Suddenly he burst into a mad dash across the room, hugging the wall he had just been flung into. This would at least keep their attack one sided. The Yeomen lagged just a little behind him. Then suddenly the entrance doors burst open- the soldiers from outside.

Dizz’s guns were out and blazing in milliseconds as he changed his path to a lateral sprint. Several soldiers took hits and fell. The shots disoriented them just enough for Dizz to redirect his attention to the Yeomen, who were directly behind. Instead of letting off rounds, Dizz dashed right through and in-between them, the last thing they would expect. They tried to put on brakes and redirect their steps, but only ended up stumbling and falling over each other.

Dizz did not bother to look back. The freight elevator was just arriving as Dizz approached the door. The gate slid open and Dizz left his feet, soared inside, and slammed hard; back against the inner wall. The guns left the holsters again mid-flight and were blaring at the attackers before he hit the ground. It was enough to keep the attack off. The door slid shut and the elevator began to descend.

As Dizz laid there, ribs hurting, tired, and breathless, he thought about how hard this battle was – hadn’t had one like this in a while. He began to smile and giggle to himself until he was laughing out loud. He liked it. Yeah he liked it.

The elevator hit the bottom floor and the door slid open. Ahead were countless crates and boxes. Dizz stepped out into what appeared to be a storehouse. The mechanical cranking and sounds of machines turned Dizz’s head to the left. A few voices floated his way. He crept through the crates to get a better look at what was going on. The freight door! He slipped a small box in-between so that it couldn’t close to keep the Yeomen and the other soldiers from coming down. Curiosity kicked in. What was it that they brought down and were so carefully unpacking in the well lit room across the way? He had to see. He stepped a little closer behind the protection of the crates, pulling one of the guns from its holster – just in case. Suddenly the soldiers stopped, their attention no longer on the task of what was in the box. Did they notice him? No, but they noticed something. They were radioed by the other soldiers above. Several soldiers grabbed their guns and rushed out into the store house. The others inside quickly attended to repacking the crate and a metal door slid shut in front of them. The soldiers were quick in spreading out and searching the store house. Well no need to play hide and seek. The gun fire started immediately.

The confined space of the store house made this a difficult battle. Dizz scrambled to the far side of the room to get a better angle on his attackers, which proved not to be so much of a good idea as he thought. He had cornered himself. How stupid. All his eagerness to see what was in the crate took him off focus. No matter, it was just time to kick in and retaliate – relentlessly. Just as he did so, the sharp pinch of something under his arm near his top rib, caught his attention. It felt oddly familiar. He continued to blast away as his mind jumbled over the placement of the feeling. As warmness began to drip down his side underneath his armor, he placed the feeling. He’d been shot. How the hell did his Smart Armor give way? The sense of urgency heightened and his aim became accurate. His curiosities for the contents of the crate were no longer a concern. The soldiers fell and he scrambled through the room. After a time, all the soldiers within the room were down. He walked over to the solid titanium wall of a door which slammed down as a security procedure, separating him from the work station on the other side. No, his curiosity would not be quenched tonight. He stumbled over to the freight elevator grasping his side. The pain began to show itself now. He hit the call button and ascended upward to the ground floor. He knew there would at least be the Yeomen from the earlier battle waiting for him when he finally arrived, but what else awaited him when he got there, he was unsure of.

When the door slid open, the flood lights from the carrier vehicle outside the door across the empty room, turned the horde of soldiers waiting for him into a silhouette of slowly moving anxious bodies; the Yeomen towering over them in the background. The guns slid out and Dizz walked towards the group. Yes, to find salvation, it would take effort, but no, salvation would not be found tonight. It would have to wait.

25

Damn it Mech!” Dizz burst into the main science lab with the torso piece of his Smart Armor in one hand. His other hand was holding the wound on the side of his mid body that he was bleeding profusely from.

“How the hell,” Mech responded as his attention jerked up from the motor him and Diamond were working on. Rezina and The Apprentice froze at the site. “Dizz what happened,” Mech asked, honestly confused. Dizz slammed the armor down on the metal table then plopped down in the chair next to it. Diamond quietly stared at the dry blood covered portions of his upper chest and some on his side, where he clawed the armor off. The lower parts near his stomach were still covered with fresh wet blood. She stood in silent amazement as the others riled to his aid as he squinted in quiet pain. The fresh bleeding bullet wound was shocking, but what caught her attention more were the five old gunshot wounds that covered his body; two in his upper left chest, One in his upper right abdomen, one in his lower right abdomen, and one just beneath his right collar bone. As he turned she could see that the right collar bone and lower left abdomen gunshot had gone right through and exited his back. This had never been spoken of before.

“What the hell happened?” Mech repeated.

“That’s what I was going to ask you.”

“Where’d you go that you got shot at one 0’clock in the morning?”

“Dude! We live in the city,” Dizz reminded him.

“Yeah, but besides that asshole.”

“I followed some people, who turned out to be Corporation soldiers, delivering a truck to a seemingly abandoned, well-guarded by Yeomen, building.”

“Why the hell would Yeomen be guarding an abandoned building?” Mech asked as he picked at the bullet wound.

“That’s the train of thought that led me to get shot. It turned out to be a storehouse; Corporation front. They were delivering something I didn’t get a look at.”

“This has got to come out,” Mech announced the analysis.

“You damn right,” Dizz muttered.

“Apprentice go and get me the tools and medicine I’ll need to get this out,” Mech ordered.

“Right,” The Apprentice said as he scurried along to another room.

“I’ll go help,” Diamond said as she, with effort, took her eyes off Dizz and followed behind The Apprentice.

“I’ll go get the surgery room prepped,” Rezina offered as she went off in the other direction.

“How many Regular Corporation Soldiers actually accompanied the delivery? Maybe from that I can tell the importance of what was being delivered.”

“Fuck that! You can debrief me later,” Dizz launched out. “I want to know how I got shot. These things aren’t supposed to give way to bullets.”

“Hey look, I’ve been telling you to get that thing checked out. It’s on you. You decided not to do it,” Mech countered. “What do you expect? These armors can’t last forever. This thing is old Bruh.”

“Well I’m sorry I haven’t had time between all the getting my ass kicked and solely doing a job that a whole squad should be doing.”

“Don’t start with that shit. What do you expect?

“Oh yeah, you might want to check the body hydraulics on it. It absorbs the bulk of impact, but I still feel pain.” Dizz reported.

“Well these suits aren’t designed to take full assaults from giant sized Yeomen.”

Dizz’s mind drifted off in contemplation of where his mind went when he was shot. He debated rather or not he should tell Mech. He would have to eventually. He didn’t know what he was about to say, so he just began to talk.

“Mech man, when I got shot, I felt myself slipping. I didn’t even really feel the initial gun shot.”

“What do you mean?” Mech asked casually as he forced Dizz to stretch at the side to inspect the wound closer.

“It was like I was here, there, and somewhere else at the same time. I couldn’t even get my muscles to react for a moment. It was like a dream of somewhere else I had been before.”

“Sort of like when you’re sensing realities?”

“No man, this was like déjà-vu to the tenth degree, distorted. The jolt from the shot forced my mind to do something strange I’ve never experienced before… or something I’ve experienced differently.” He briefly reflected on what had happened in his fight with Morrison. One day he’d have to tell Mech about it, but no need to get him excited now with all the activity going on with the resistance. Don’t need to add something else. It might scare Mech like it scared himself. It would mean more testing and being picked and prodded over like a guinea pig. He didn’t enjoy the old days of that in T.H.E. Corporation and he damned sure didn’t want to have to go through it now. Their minds had to be sharp and focused on the task at hand.

“That’s not too odd. The mind can confuse brain functions when it is suddenly shocked. Just like your muscles and motor functions.” Mech finished his inspection and straightened himself. “Alright up. I’m going to have to get you into the surgery room. I’ll figure out what went wrong with the armor. Obviously I’m going to have design another. Also, I have to make sure Rezina’s and Diamonds are working OK. In the meantime, you’re going to have to go without one while I design another,” Mech informed as they limped off to the surgery room.

“Hey, after the surgery, can we get a beer?” Dizz asked.

“Hell no. Won’t be any beer for you for a moment,” Mech responded.

“That’s what you think. I know where your stash is at.”

“Bruh, I finished that stash a week ago. I thought we were supposed to be resting and relaxing.”

“That was the intention bruh, but doesn’t seem like that’s something I’ve been able to manage over the years. Everyone has their lot in life. I guess this is mine.”

26

Consumers do a lot of shopping during the fall and winter months. Teenagers Gina and Danielle were no different. Side walk shops of the downtown area were inviting to all; flashing lights, bright colorful sale signs to attract potential passing customers, and display windows made up so extravagant that the average passer-bye had to stop and glance at the newest fashionable shoes in them. At least catch the eye of every teenage girl with nothing to do on a weekend and a pocket full of allowance saved up for the past few weeks. Add the money earned from the part time job worked after school at the local record shop and you have Danielle and Gina.

“Girl, I have to have those shoes. They’re the latest in the Ukon collection this year and no one else has them because Taylor’s is the first store to sell them…” Hair swung across the youthful, overly excited face as Gina whipped around to see if her friend had a face of agreement. To her surprise Danielle was looking at her with an amused face.

“They look just like the latest Tirons you have. And besides you have nothing to go with them,” Danielle informed her.

“And that’s all the more reason to buy them. They give us more reason to shop.”

“You’ve got a point,” Danielle considered. “Girl, let’s go buy them.”

The girls happily sauntered into the shop extravagantly displayed above as “Taylor’s”. Inside was a genius of style and shop testament to where architectural genius and fashion collided. It was like walking into the ball room of a small palace. The tell-tell signs of a mall, where the grand escalators made of glass and trimmed in wood painted gold that disappeared into the ceilings; carrying shoppers with gold artfully designed Taylor’s bags, the sea of clothes racks and rounders’ that seemed to go on forever, and the countless sales women dressed in outfits that made them look like they owned the place.

Across each wall sat twenty foot long and twenty feet high mirrors, trimmed in gold with diamond cuts painstakingly done by hand with greater beautiful, yet faint designs in the glass. The mirrors sat high and were angled down so that every customer could see into them. There was one mirror per every few feet or so across the wall.

The perfume booths that scattered the store, one per designer line, were stages of glass counters. Customers could walk up its stairs into the small room which was like its own store in itself. They were all equipped with windows, mirrors, and sitting booths for board boyfriends and husbands forced to endure the long and often ritual of women’s shopping.

“OK, I can get the burgundy, pink, blue and purple. You can get the red, since I know it’s your favorite color, orange, dark blue…” Gina planned. “Oh we’re going to be the diamonds in everybody’s eyes.”

“Whoa, wait. I guess I should have said let’s go in and watch you go buy them.” Danielle interrupted her. “I’m sticking with my Victor Calones.”

“You always buy Victor Calones.”

“Hello. That’s why I said I’m sticking to my Victor Calones. Might as well stick with what you know, especially when you look so good in it.”

“I hear you. Well, you can help me pick out my Ukons and then we can go pick out your Victors.”

They milled through the store like veterans, which they were. They spent most of their weekends shopping and had been in Taylor’s many of times. Romping through Taylor’s on a fashion rampage was just another part of daily life to them. By the time they got to the formal wear section, which was only halfway through the store, they both had several bags in each hand and had no sign of stopping. They milled through the gown section of “Carries Finest”. This particular section was dedicated to evening gowns for dinner dates and special nights out on the town. Special at least to teenage girls who had nothing else better to do with their time except talk and delude about those who sought their attention. I.E. boys.

“So are you going to the formal this year? Better yet, who are you going to the formal with, because I know you’re going to take advantage of everything in your last year,” Gina asked.

“I’ don’t know. It’s not like the pickings are bright. The prospects are cute, but they lack much in brains and class,” Daniel said.

“I know. It’s like I’m attracting the middle of the line.”

“Oh please. You’re just picky.” Daniel corrected her friend.

“Yeah, that’s true, but I like to fool myself into thinking otherwise.”

The girls laughed.

“I just wonder who’s going to ask me.”

“Why wait? Who are you going to ask?” Gina asked.

“Oh don’t make me sound like some self-indulged chicken head. I know it’s perfectly okay to ask a male to go out. I just don’t have anyone in mind.”

“Well don’t think too hard. They’ll come when they’re ready. On another note, did you see what was in the school newspaper this week?”

“Yeah, front page, center column.”

“I don’t know how they got into so much trouble.” Gina said.

“Football players, it’s in their genes.”

“Yeah blame it on the Y chromosome.”

“So they flooded the whole gym?”

“And it spilled over into the main building.”

“How’d they manage to overfill the swimming pool?”

“I don’t know. Some guy on the team’s a genius. He doesn’t quite know how to put his brains to use yet though so… It was supposed to be a school prank.”

“Paul Walker.”

“Yeah that’s his name. He’s not that bad. Not the kind of guy you would think would be running around with football players, kind of cute too.”

“Yeah, he’s in my Lit class. I’ve talked to him once or twice.” Danielle said.

“I heard he’s mixed up in that whole underground resistance thing against T.H.E. Corporation.

“Oh Yeah?”

“I don’t understand why anyone would want to get involved with that kind of stuff. I mean, right now at least not. I understand that everybody’s looking for a cause, but I think kids should be kids and leave that other stuff to the others.” Gina confessed.

“Yeah everybody has their purpose.”

“Some people fight for the environment, some people for animal rights, and some run off and join the military.”

“Yeah and right now ours is buying shoes.”

“Oh yeah.” The girls looked down at the collection of bags they accumulated and laughed.

“We’re so busy buying everything else that we forgot about the main objective.”

“Let’s go get these shoes before we clear out their entire inventory.”

Smiles and giggles were the order of the rest of the day for these two girls. As they walked past the nine foot tall gold statue of some mythical God holding a collection of purses and accessories, Danielle looked up toward the glass Canopy that allowed sun rays to beam into the store on clear days, unlike this one. A haze of clouds lofted through the sky casting a gray overtone. It was winter so the dark clouds were normal for a day like this, this time of year. Through the patches of clouds she could see several tall buildings that stretched across the skyline. They were beautiful, marvelous buildings. The tallest and most distinguishable building was square in shape. Simple. A testament to older design. Its windows shinned lights sporadically throughout the floors and suggested busy office work of diverse industries. There on the top hung a huge sign. A symbol of who owned it and who just about owned everything in the city, T.H.E. Corporation insignia. The symbol was etched in just about everything in society, either literally or symbolically. She contemplated on it for a moment. She turned her head and let her attention float elsewhere. There it was again, high above a dressing room… constant reminder. Her thoughts left shoes for a moment and drifted unfocused through political events and happenings. Until, she snapped out of it. The bright colors of Victor’s high heels collection demanded her attention, asked for a smile, and she obliged.

They purchased what they came for and managed to acquire yet more items, and after a stop at a restaurant and several other stores, the day ended.

Danielle came home, hit the lights in her room, closed the door and dropped her bags across the room as she made a path to her computer desk. She hit the power switch and the computer screen flashed on. She pulled the shirt over her head, down her arms and threw it on the bed. By now, the computer was booted. She took a seat, hit a series of buttons on the keyboard and came to her message center. It said Solcé wanted to meet. She contemplated on what that could mean, but was glad she was invited. On her home page the recent events of resistance fighting and Corporation updates filled the screen. She took note of them all, mentally cataloged them, then laid in her bed and let her thoughts wander. School tomorrow, let’s see: Senior meeting, study group session, prom formal meeting, and weapons training after school with Honor Guard trainers. She wondered if Eric would be there. Too bad she couldn’t get after school credit for it. It wasn’t supposed to exist.

27

First order of business was to enjoy this poolside view, warm breeze of the tropical hemisphere, and the White Russian in his hand. Confusing business with pleasure was something Donothan Lathan never made the mistake of doing. That’s because he never replaced the one with the other. They were always one and the same to him. That’s how he lived in every aspect of his life.

Trees lined the edge of the property; trees tall enough to block the view of anything else but the sparkling moon that shinned in the clear sky. The night was filled with stars, and the bright hole in the sky which was the moon. Landscaping was equally beautiful. The grass was greener than any he had seen before. So green, it almost looked blue under the moonlight.

Guests ventured about the paradise enjoying the evening, socializing, networking, looking good in their expensive formal wear, and enjoying the overall benefits of their wealth. Donothan Lathan swallowed down the last of his white Russian and walked over to the balcony. This was the only open space between the tree enclosed surroundings. From there, an individual could see right over the edge of the mountain estate sat high above everything else. It was a long drop down. Still it was a magnificent view. He turned back to face the mansion that sat across the yard. A helicopter flew in from above and disappeared on the other side of the building. More guests no doubt. All that were invited had to be flown in to this mountain top escape. He strolled across the field once more, past the magnificent swimming pool, and studied the eclectic statues that lined the yard. Halfway to the mansion, a waitress sauntered his way. He studied her face and worked for a look into her eyes. Yes it was there, so he thought. Her eyes and body language echoed the sentiment. He ventured towards her to see if his thoughts were right. Grabbing her ever so gently by the arm.

“Excusez-moi mon petit. Could I bother you for another White Russian?”

She blushed then replied “I’d have to go back and have it specially made. I have an assortment of drinks, but not what you request.”

“Then what do you have?” he asked with a mischievous smile.

“Cranberry and vodka if that suits your taste.”

“Well, I guess I’ll have to have a cranberry and vodka. You can only have what the lady has to offer.”

“Of course.” She handed him the drink.

“Two please,” he added. She handed him the drink and started to walk away. “Ah ah,” he said grabbing her by the arm again with the same light touch. “For you,” politely extending the drink her way.

“My employer doesn’t allow us to drink with the guests while on duty.”

“Well then I won’t tell him if you don’t.” She hesitantly grabbed the glass. “I never like to drink alone,” he added. They turned the glasses up and each took a sip.

“Oh, we forgot to toast to something,” she said.

“Well what shall we toast to?”

“To you, good people.” Nothing but sincerity in her eyes.

“To good people,” he returned the same sincere toast. They swallowed the drinks down and she took his glass. “It was nice to have had the chance to dance with you Miss…?”

“Amona,” she finished for him. “It was nice to have had the opportunity to have danced with you as well Mr.…?

“Donothan.”

“Mr. Donothan,” with that she walked off. He was right about what he had seen in her eyes. She was and could appreciate good people. It was almost as if she was reading his mind. His words were sincere and heart felt. Although he was blessed with money, he still valued the goodness of people, and tried to spread it as much as he could in his daily life. Although he was blessed with all the good looks, charm, and money of someone well off, he was as humble and as manner-able as a farm boy.

“It’s amazing how you make people smile,” the voice came from beside him. There was no need for him to glance over to see who it was. He recognized all too well the voice of the woman who stepped up and stood beside him.

“It’s a pleasure to be able to do so, especially to those like her who can do the same back.”

“Your good looking and charming and she didn’t even get the slightest sense at all of you flirting with her as she would with another man.”

“When it is given in sincerity, it is taken that way,”

“And what was the sentiment given in that particular encounter?”

“Good people.”

“Good people?” she repeated as she seemed to think the statement over. “Your genuine love for people, it’s going to be your down fall one day.”

“Well I already fell once.”

Her eyes sparkled at the realization of the inclination of his statement. “Well was the fall hard?”

“I don’t know I’m still falling…farther and farther every day.”

“And that is what I’m talking about.”

“And how’d you take it?”

“Sincerely.”

“It’s like I said.”

She leaned in and gave him the lightest of kisses. “How are you enjoying the evening?”

“I’m actually rather enjoying it. I’ve never seen such a sight like this. It’s a beautiful backdrop for nature.”

“It is isn’t it?”

“I think I’ll bring my boys group up here for the summer. I’ll have to make sure to have a talk with Mr. Lanscher to see if we can arrange it. I’m sure he wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

“Evening Donothan,” a grey haired, rather debonair looking man greeted as he strolled their way. “Miss Grace,” he greeted Ophelia as he extended a hand to Donothan then turned and kissed one of hers.

“Kevin, So nice to see you again and with such a lovely backdrop,” Donothan said.

“A pleasure here as well,” Kevin returned.

“Mr. Drake what brings you so high into the clouds this lovely evening? I thought you were afraid of heights, all the guest were flown in,” Ophelia joked with him.

“No, I’m into stocks and dividends. My dear it’s lows that I’m afraid of.” They all laughed at his clever remark. “Donothan how’s business these days for you?”

“It’s been beneficial to me. Beneficial enough that I could be invited to such a gathering.”

“You and me both,” Kevin agreed. “And Miss Grace, what is it that you’re into again, real estate isn’t it?”

“Yes and it’s been quite well this year.”

“Well good. It’s nice seeing you both here tonight. Now, I’m going to hurry along to that bar over there and fetch myself a nice mixer of a drink… Again” he paused “again, and again.”

The two wished him along his way with laughter and smiles.

“Good evening to you Mr. Drake.”

Ophelia giggled at the man’s chipperness and always good attitude. “Good people?’

“Good people,” Donothan agreed.

The night moved on and it was a generally relaxed evening. Donothan and Ophelia nestled on a bench, her head on his shoulder and stared up at the stars. They weren’t married, but they acted as if they were. Although he had enough money to buy a number of women, for a night or for a lifetime, he only needed one.

“Monday morning, deposit more funds into the private account,” he said nonchalantly.

“Which private account?” she asked as she ran her fingers up and down the buttons on his shirt.

“The private, private account,” he replied.

“That private account.”

“Yeah.”

“Your concern for people…” she reminded, “it’s going to be your down fall.” she finished as she nestled closer to his chest.

“They still need people on the outside and I’ll do my part from here until it’s time to do otherwise. And what are you talking about, you’re right there with me.”

“I know, I just like picking on you.” With a forefinger she took his chin and turned his face toward her. “Mr. Lathan.” She kissed him on the lips. “You definitely are good people.

28

Got a message for you Capt!” the reception desk cop screamed over the chaos of noise that filled the station.

“Well file it with the other ones. Can’t you see I’m busy with other priorities right now,” he yelled back as he walked in, a whole brigade of cops behind him escorting a group of hand cuffed individuals.

High pitched, consistent and annoying, “Can somebody turn off that infernal racket! I can’t hear myself breathe let alone think.” Sergeant Derrick Manson referred to the buzzing alarm that out sounded the symphony of activity going on.

“Can’t Serg!” a voice filtered in from somewhere. “They’re doing fire alarm systems checks. It’ll be going off every now and then.”

“Well for how long!” Sergeant Manson insisted

“All day!” the voice sounded back. Serg got up from his desk and walked towards the copy machine.

“Krikee! I could ring someone’s neck right about now!” he said and had the perfect opportunity as a hand cuffed prisoner swung loose from a group of cops trying to detain him and almost broadside Sergeant Manson with a flailing forearm. Sergeant Manson just barely ducked his head out of the way, grabbed the guy and with a series of grapples, slammed the guy face first into the floor with his knee in his back.

“Sit his ass down or so help me I will not be responsible for what I do to him!”

“Sorry Serg.” one of the cops apologized as they heaved the man off the ground, nose bloodied and bruised.

“Tamara! Get that file on Ava Street I asked for!” the Serg continued on his verbal rampage.

“Yes sir,” Tamara screamed from across the station and scurried to the file cabinet.

“And see if you can find any field work that needs to be done so I can get out of this noise hell!”

“Yes sir!” her voice echoed through the background noise.

“Not likely Serg,” A voice informed from a near bye desk. “With all the work being outsourced to T.H.E. Corporation boys, it’s not likely a good ole cop like you can find anything of importance to do.”

The sergeant looked down at the young officer busy away at paper work on his desk. “What ever happened to good old days when a cop could catch an excessive force case just by walking out the door?” the Sergeant asked.

“Sold to the highest bidder, just like your pension and congressman,” the young officer informed him.

“T.H.E. Corporation boys do all the work while we’re becoming outdated technology,” he continued. The alarm in the background silenced. “Finally, a break of sil…” but before he could finish getting the sentence out of his mouth, the alarm was blasting in his ear again. “Dag Nab-it!”

“What’s wrong with you Serg? A rat crawled down your pants and died?” Another passing young officer asked.

“Blame it on that damned alarm!” the Serg said. He felt the force of a body push against his back, balled up his fist, and immediately turned, and swung. “Dag nab-it I thought I told you’s to sit his ass…”

“Whoa Serg!” the tall mid-weight man said as he just bobbed the punch.

“Damn it Curtis. You can’t be invading a nervous cop’s private space like that.”

“It’s not like I have much of a choice,” Curtis pointed out to him as he squeezed through bodies of the crowded police station. He walked through the crowd, past the desks and into his office. No sooner than he sat his papers on his desk a young enthusiastic officer leaned into his doorway.

“Hey Capt., got those files you wanted and a shit load of requests for you when you get time.”

“Well I guess I’m never going to get to ‘em,” Curtis replied.

“Hey it’s your bosses, not mine,” the kid reminded him.

“Yeah and I’m yours,” Curtis said with a smile. The officer smiled back and left the room. Curtis put his head down to read the file that was already on his desk, but he didn’t manage to get through the first two sentences.

“Hey Curt, you got a two O’clock meeting with the boys, approval inspection in the garage, and a boat load of paper work for you,” his young secretary informed him as she stood in the doorway.

“So I keep getting reminded.”

“Hey, it’s no better for me. As your secretary, the more work you have, the more I also have.”

“As my secretary, could you get me some coffee?”

“Sure thing Capt. its decaf.” “I’ll caf it.”

“It’s cold.”

“Is it done?”

“Yup.”

“Bring it to me.”

She sauntered off and he tended back to his file. It became boring a third of the way down. He turned to his computer and hit the enter key. The Police Station symbol screen saver disappeared from the screen and was replaced by a password page. He typed in his password and log on name and was brought to the main screen. Nothing on there but the same cop stuff. He clicked on an icon titled Curtis Files. After a series of windows and files, a message center popped up. There on the screen was the message. All three groups wanted to meet. The time and date was there. The location, though encrypted, was there too. He stared at the screen idly for a sec. “Hey Tammy!” his bright eyed secretary appeared again in the doorway seconds later. We’ve got some field work to do,” he informed her with an ambiguous stare.

“Station affairs or private?” she led on.

“Private,” he said, confirming her unspoken suggestion.

29

He’s cute,” Gina pointed out a boy walking across the school’s cafeteria.

“He’s alright.” Danielle corrected as she let her eyes mill through bustle of students.

“He’s checking us out.”

“Of course he is. All the guys in here are checking us out. Did you forget we are wearing the new Yukons and Tirons.”

“Of course not. I’m loving all the attention though.”

They were dressed to the T – sitting in a high school cafeteria, but dressed like they were going to the club.

“Oh my God.” Gina blurted out.

“What?” Danielle asked as she looked around.

“There is Paul Walker.” She drew attention to a clean cut smoothed faced teenager accompanied by two friends.

“I’m surprised he’s still in school after the stunt he pulled.”

“I know right. Wait a minute. I think he’s coming over here.”

“Really,” Danielle asked and looked his way. “What for?” “Yup, he’s definitely headed this way.” They watched as the slim, mid-height, preppy dressed teen sauntered their way with lunch tray in hand.

“Hey Gina. Hey Danielle,” Paul greeted as he took a seat at their table.

“Hello Paul.” Danielle responded.

“Hey Paul,” Gina said. “So word is you were responsible for the flooding of the gym?”

Paul smiled from ear to ear, shamelessly proud of the genius in his mischievousness. “Yes that is the word isn’t it? What a great rumor it is?”

“So how did you manage to pull that off and not get expelled from school? I need to know for my future indemnity sake?” Gina asked in her usual in your face manner.

“Easy, knowing someone did something and proving they did it are two different things. The school board can’t prove I did it. Isn’t the justice system great? Were you girls impressed by my little exhibit of genius?”

“I wouldn’t say impressed. Shocked maybe,” Danielle chimed in.

“Well what would it take to impress you Danielle?”

“A proper use of brain cells and intellect.”

“Well give me some time I’m sure I can drum up something.”

“What brings you over here anyway Paul? Did you come over just to gloat and get your ego stroked?” Gina asked.

”No, but you can never get enough of that.”

“Well?” Gina asked.

“Hey listen Danielle, I was wondering if you had a date for this year’s prom.”

Danielle and Gina’s eyebrows shot up. “No she doesn’t. Why do you ask Paul?” Gina informed

“I was wondering if you would accompany me to the formal.”

“Well Paul…” Gina began.

“Gina I can speak for myself. Thank you for asking, but I’m sorry Paul I won’t be going.”

“What!” Gina exclaimed.

“That’s a shame. It would’ve been cool for the smartest girl and the smartest guy in school to go to prom together.”

“That would have been novel, wouldn’t it have,” Danielle admitted.

“Well no worries. We’re still cool. Mind if me and my guys take a seat at the table next to you ladies. We like to sit by beauty.”

“Sit on Paul. Sit on,” Gina said as Paul left them to their lunches “Wow that’s crazy we were just talking about him yesterday and he comes and asks you to prom the next day.”

“Yeah weird I know.”

“How come you didn’t tell him you would go with him? I know the fact about you not going is a lie. It’s our senior year.”

“It’s not a total lie. I still haven’t decided if I want to go.”

“Leaving your options open?”

“No, I just haven’t decided if I want to go.”

“Leaving your options open. Who are you leaving them open for. It’s not like anyone else has asked you. Everyone’s too afraid. That’s what happens when you’re too smart. That’s why I like to straddle the line”

“Straddle the line. You’re too much. Who are you going with since we’re on the subject.”

“I don’t have a date yet. Still waiting for the right person to ask me.”

“Well why don’t you go with Paul”

“Because he asked you and I don’t do sloppy seconds.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Eric Foster asked as he slid a leg onto their table and made himself comfortable.

Eric’s athletic build was even apparent under his button down shirt. He flung his mid cut hair to one side and leaned in over his outstretched leg.

“Hey Eric, Join us won’t you?’ Gina said sarcastically. “We’re talking about how cute Paul Walker just asked Danielle out to prom and she turned him down.”

“Well good. I’m glad you did because I would have wasted my time coming over because I was going to ask you.”

“Don’t waste your time Eric. She says she’s not going.” Paul interjected from the other table.

“Paul is right Eric. I will not be going to prom this year. Thank you for asking.”

“Girl, your shoes are on too tight?” Gina said softly.

“You’re kidding right? It’s only like your last chance at what’s important in High School.”

“There are other, more important things in high school Eric,” Danielle said.

“Such as,” Eric asked.

“Grades, activities that will get you into the college of your choice. Important activities like that.”

“OK, you already have that. We all know that. I meant socially.”

“Sorry Eric. I didn’t see a section for that on my college applications so I don’t see how that reflects on my future.”

“Well it would reflect well on my heart.” Eric said. Danielle felt herself wanting to melt in her seat, but she wouldn’t show him that. That would take away from the fun of their normal back and forth banter. She simply leaned in with a raised eyebrow.

“While that’s flattering Eric, I think I’ll continue to focus my energy on the more tangibly rewarding efforts.”

“Come on. I figure after all my efforts in pursuing you have at least earned me that one night.”

“You assume incorrectly, on this topic at least. It’s no reflection of you.”

“I see you are set in your decision.”

“That I am Eric.”

“Disappointing I will admit. Too bad. Well, I guess there’s nothing else for me to talk about here. I’ll catch you guys later.”

“Later Eric.” Paul said.

“OK so now you go from having no one asking you to two dudes in 5 minutes asking you,”

“Yeah and?”

“And you’re still not going. And Eric of all people, that’s a no brainer. He’s been chasing you for like the past year and a half.”

“I don’t know yet.”

“You’re such a nerd.”

School was over, but her responsibilities were not. Today was eventful. Two date requests was the last thing she expected to happen today. Eric she could understand. They had been going back and forth for the past two years. The only thing really for them to do was to make it official, but she rather enjoyed their cat and mouse. It would be sad for it to end because of the seriousness of a relationship. Who knows she thought maybe one day. And Paul, she didn’t even know she was on his radar. Of course they flirted once or twice, but not to that degree.

“Hey Danielle,” Paul’s voice came from behind her. Perfect timing. Guess events weren’t over for the day.

“Hey Paul,” she said with a smile.

“You on your way home?”

“Not directly. Why?”

“Do you mind if I walk you?”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“During the walk, I was hoping I could talk you into reconsidering going with me to prom.” Paul admitted.

“Paul, you can walk with me. I’m going to the coffee shop first, but I don’t think you’re going to be successful in your attempt. Although, I do admire the persistence.”

“No biggie. I’m glad you admire the persistence because I was wondering since you won’t go out with me to prom, If perhaps we can go out some time after prom?”

Danielle stopped and turned to face Paul. “I have to be honest Paul. You’re very cute, but I’m not interested.”

“Because of Eric?”

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone knows he’s been after you since sophomore year. You two are basically like an item or something.”

“No we are not, and no, that is not the reason. I’m just not interested in dating right now.”

“Well hypothetically, if you had to choose between the two of us who would it be?”

“Paul if I had to choose between the two of you that would be hard. Let’s see, you’re both on the football, basketball, and track teams, you’re both cute – luckily for me this is just hypothetical and I don’t have to choose.”

Paul laughed. “Well played, but we both know you’d choose Eric. Let’s face it He has a, what’s the word they use, oh swag about himself. He’s quote unquote loner cool.”

“What are you talking about? You’re cool too. He’s like loner cool, but your way cool too.”

“You forgot something though.”

“Oh yeah. What’s that?”

“I’m smart. That should give me a few extra points.”

“That you are. You are smart. I do respect your intelligence. I don’t know why you would ask me any way. All the cute girls are chasing after you.”

“Yeah well, they’re not as smart as you and that’s an attraction I find more important.”

“Paul you do know how to flatter a girl.”

30

Luckily, the highway was relatively empty. It made for a quick and smooth trip to the exit ramp. Donothan cruised off ramp exit 42 and into the northern metro area. A short trip down the merging street, a turn left at the first light, half a block drive, and Donothan pulled into the areas mall complex. At about 5 miles an hour, he cruised in line with the other traffic looking for parking. He looked up and saw the sign that pointed out valet parking and the other that pointed out general parking. Donothan whipped his car left and cruised into the general parking. Halfway back, somewhere around the middle of the sporadically filled lot. The rows behind where he parked were totally empty. However, Donothan parked right in-between the cramped space of two cars.

Donothan walked towards the malls entrance and spotted the young valet who stood by the curb waiting for the next car to be parked. Donothan walked up to the young man and reached out a hand as he passed by. The valet habitually extended a palm expecting to feel the cool metal of car keys. Instead he felt the coarse, rough, warmth of folded bills, amounting to 30 dollars. The valet looked down at the money confused.

“Excuse me sir. This is Valet parking…Did… I park your car?”

“No.”

“Then why did you give me a tip?”

“Because you could’ve,” Donothan said as he turned and continued on into the restaurant attached to the mall. There he was greeted by the tuxedo dressed host.

“Good evening Mr. Lathan, meeting Ms. Ophelia again this weekend?”

“Yes,” Donothan replied with a smile.

“Ms. Ophelia is already waiting – the usual table sir.”

“Thanks,” he said as he sauntered in located Ophelia and sat down at the table which already had several finished plates of encore meals placed upon it. He kissed her on the cheek. “Hello dear.”

“Hello dear,” she returned wiping the corners of her mouth with a napkin.

“What, you’ve started without me?” As he sat down in the chair across from her.

“This was just something to hold me over until you got here.”

“My dear, you eat like a pig.

“Yes, my metabolism allows me to do so, and if you can do it, as a lady that is, then you should. As a boyfriend, your job is to stare on, ignoring the fact, and make me feel as if I eat as daintily as a woman is expected to.”

“Ooh, I’m your boyfriend. So are we going steady now?”

“We have been for a while and I would expect you to act accordingly.”

“So that means I can’t ask out that cute little cheerleader that just transferred over.”

“No, you better not,” throwing her napkin at him.

“So I guess it’s okay if I ask you out to the prom.” he said imitating an overly anxious school boy.

“I’ve been waiting for you to.”

“Wow, this is great,” They both giggled at their little charade.

“What is our title anyway?” Ophelia said casually as she went back to the plate in front of her.

“I don’t know.” Donothan responded nonchalant, getting comfortable in his seat.

“I mean we both know what we are, but titles just don’t seem to fit.”

“Strange isn’t it. I couldn’t imagine calling you my girlfriend.” They laughed again at the youthful title. “Or my woman? That’s so possessive. Would you like that, me calling you my woman? You know we’d be in the mall, you’d get too far away and I’d yell out, Ophelia get over here. You knows you’s my woman.”

The contents of her mouth almost escaped as Ophelia had to catch her laughter. After swallowing she replied, “or could you see me: Nuh uh, I’m not having my man all up in some bi’ness function wit’ a whole bunch of women without me. Nuh uh. It just ain’t gon’ happen.”

Laughs again.

“I’ve always had a title for you,” Donothan said still recovering from laughter. “My love.” Ophelia glanced up at him with a mouthful of food and winked at him.” Now what’s a brotha gotta do to get some food around here… or did you eat it all?” Without looking, she grabbed a small tomato from her plate and tossed it at him.

“That’s not a bad Idea though – prom. Let’s go to someone’s prom. It’s that time of year isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yeah my hotels are starting to fill up with reservations, but you know, you might be right. That might not be a bad idea.”

“Yeah, it would be fun.”

“Oh by the way, I talked to Mr. Lanscher, and I will be taking my boys group to his estate this summer for a retreat. I was thinking maybe you could take your girls group up there as well. Maybe arrange a little mixer one of the days. Who knows we could be introducing two unknowing youths to a lifelong experience.”

“Mr. Lathan are you getting sentimental on me. Are we reliving past memories?”

“I relive moments with you all the time.”

Donothan pulled out of the parking lot, Drove half a block, and ran into a road block. From what he’d heard, these things have seemed to have become more and more common. Donothan reached into his glove compartment and grabbed his Registration. A Corporation officer walked up to his door as he did so.

“Good evening officer. How can.”

“License and registration and don’t be slow about it.” The officer cut him off quit curtly. Donothan’s temper flared on the inside, but he’d let that one pass. Donothan reached for the registration on his seat and the officer stuck his gun damn near in the window.

“Hey, watch how you reach over there!” the officer demanded. Anger rose on the inside of Donothan.

“Certainly officer, but may I ask what…”

“I’ll ask the questions, you’ll sit there, and wait for me to tell you what to do next.” The officer cut him off again.

“Sure, but before I hand you this information, which you’re gonna wish you got first, I’m going to ask you a question. You’re a Thomas Edwards Employee, Have you ever had dinner with your boss?”

“My captain?” The officer asked confused.

“No, Mr. Edwards Jr.?” Donothan handed the officer his registration and I.D. “I have, on multiple occasions; In fact, I remember letting him cheat off my tests in school. Not that either one of us needed to be all that concerned with grades because his last name was Edwards,” Donothan glanced up at the officer calmly and glacially. “…and my last name was Lathan.

The Officer stood there confused for a brief moment. Then he began to turn pale as the blood left his face as the realization of who he might be talking to set in. Just then his commanding officer walked up.

“What’s the hold up?” he asked as he reached for the information in the officers’ hands. He looked once at the ID Then his head snapped up to the car window. “You damn idiot,” He said under his breath. “Excuse me… us Mr. Lathan. We’ll be letting you get on your way. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Donothan slowly began to pull away. “You didn’t know who that was? You freakin idiot.” Donothan heard the commanding officer ask as he pulled off. Donothan hated doing that, but sometimes it was needed.

Better times, old friends, past, present, future – his name will still be Lathan. Better times began to seep into his mind and he dwelled on them for a while. Maybe he would drive a little longer. No meetings today. No important business. Let’s take the day for himself, he thought.

31

Time got away from Donothan way more than he would like it to now a days. This war seemed to take a toll on everything and everybody. His initial investment in the resistance happened way before he had a choice in the matter or before he could appreciate what was going on. His fathers invested a large chunk of his initial inheritance into what is now the U.G. resistance as if he knew where his heart would be when he turned 18. When he was old enough to understand, his father explained that he could either take the money for himself when he turned 18 or match the mature value and donate it to the U.G. resistance. His decision was well made and well invested. Never was there a day where he missed the Billions that were used to fund the U.G. resistance. Nowadays, he found himself wishing he could do more. Most people would think the financial investment given, privately of course would be more than enough.

Donothan Lathan, however, was on his way to a private facility where his only direct contact between the resistance existed, to discuss what more could be done to further the cause. He could not turn a blind eye to life going on around him.

Security procedures for this facility were the best money could imagine. It was important to keep communication between him and the U.G. clandestine. Foley was the only man charged with the communications to keep infiltration form happening. What would the world think of one of the richest man in the world funding a private army against a government blessed organization?

As normal, the room was dark, other than the cast off of blue light from the countless computer screens that spanned the room. Donothan enjoyed coming here. It was something soothing about the atmosphere. It was reminiscent of a naval command center. It was the central command center for the U.G. resistance -where the funding met the military action.

“Hello Donothan,” Foley greeted Donothan as he entered the room.

“Foley I need to get an update on the financial situation.” Donothan sat down in a seat in front of the forward computer screen. Taking a seat at the command chair, Foley began to pull up the data.

“It’s a good time for you to show up,” Foley said.

“Why is that?” Donothan asked.

“There is a big meeting being held soon between the heads of all the factions. There’s going to be a major attack on the Corp compound.”

“They’ll definitely need more money. I want to send another Billion to them.”

“That’s cool, I’ll send it over to them right away. But what else is on your mind? I can see you thinking.”

“Foley can you do me a favor and pull up the schematic that Mech sent over to you.”

“I sure can.” With a few keyboard strokes, Foley had the images on screen. Donothan sat back in his seat and folded his legs. His forefinger worked his upper lip as he studied the data.

He left central command with a lot on his mind. What was to come? What could they do about it? If, If, If. Then there were those thoughts that tempted to take him over and kept returning. Money was great, but he wanted to take a more active role in the resistance, but what could he do. What he was considering was far too dangerous and Ophelia was definitely not going for that. Her words haunted him often “Your sincere affection for people is going to be your downfall.” Joke/serious, her comments always were, but it may prove to be truer than he would have liked to accept. He smiled at the thought of his loves insight on him. “Phone,” He spoke out loud. “Home,” In a few seconds the Bluetooth dialed up the place he and Ophelia used as their main place of residence.

“Hello handsome,” Ophelia’s voice came through the speakers. “It’s the middle of the business day. What business has prompted you to give me a call?

“Business is done, well almost done. Now it’s time for pleasure.”

“Oh and you called me. I’m so flattered.” He loved there mock canter.

“Of course, my other plaything appears to be busy right now.” He played with her

“Lucky for me,” she played back. “Well I await your arrival with girlish excitement.”

“I’m sure you do. Can you do me a favor love? Draw up a nice bubble bath, light some candles, and bring up two bottles of our favorite wine from the cellar.”

“I can, but how do you know I’m at the main house I own a third of the city. I could be at any number of the private properties.”

“Because I know it’s Thursday and some routines don’t change.”

“Oh you know me so well. Well I am a very important lady around this city you know and to request such a domestic task of me is well… quit beneath me. Why don’t you ask one of the maids?”

“Because I like it when you do it, you know me so well, because you’re the love of my life, and I know you can’t wait till I get home.” She could probably hear him smiling through the phone. He couldn’t wait for her response.

“No, because I’m the love of your life and you can’t wait to get home to me.”

“Yeah there’s that too.”

“Uh, Huh.”

“Listen, I’ll call you when I’m close. I’m going to make a small detour before I end the day. Have my lips ready when I get home.”

“They’re always ready love.”

He disconnected the call and smiled as he continued his drive. Lucky wasn’t the word.

32

Common Balance…. That is the key to your body.” Miss Echo’s voice seemed to do just that, echoed off into the distance. Words became noise and all of the charts, graphs and mummified animals around the class became a blur.

“How much longer?” Paul’s whisper lofted over Danielle’s shoulder, echoing the very sentiment she was feeling. Danielle glanced up at the clock and just as if the end of the day genies answered her prayers, the school bell rang. Class was dismissed. Thank goodness.

“Class don’t forget to study chapters 16, & 18, for tomorrow,” Miss Echo attempted, but her reminders were vain. Any half listening ear was already halfway out the door, thoughts on a multitude of teenage concerns.

Danielle made her way to her locker. Her thoughts, however, were on issues not so teenaged. She still had to meet Solcé. How exciting an honor. She had only been training with the teen initiative for a year and a half.

“Yo, what are you doing after school?” The sudden voice caused Danielle to fumble her books.

“You startled me, Danielle shouted out, knowing very well who it was. “Eric you know I’m always busy on Thursday evenings.”

“Yeah I know, but I decided to skip my after school responsibilities today. I thought I’d ask you to do the same. Come hang out with me,” Eric said with a mischievous smile.

“Yeah well unlike you, I don’t skip any of my responsibilities; not school, not after school activities, homework, or even the dishes. I have a future I care about and actively preparing for,” she informed him.

“Yeah I have a future I care about as well, but you are extreme. Who can study as much as you? You’ve got the highest grades in the school and we all know you don’t even have to spend half the time studying as the rest of us. You’re smart. Like super brain smart.”

It was true, but… “Not true.”

“Is true.”

“Regardless. I can’t hang out. I have a very important meeting today.”

“You know you never told me what you do after school on any given day.”

“That’s because it’s none of your business.”

“None of it?”

“None of it,” as she closed her locker and pushed passed him.

“I figured I should know something.”

“How do you figure that?”

He gave her a tilted head raise of an eye-brow.

“Yeah I think you’re cute. We’ve never played chess with that, but you think I’m cute…adorable… drop dead gorgeous and I don’t know any more about what you do on Thursday, Wednesday’s, or Mondays than you know about me.”

“Show me yours and I’ll show you mine?”

“I’ll think about that, but I still won’t tell you what I do after school.” Danielle winked at him and then left him where he stood. She quit enjoyed the little cat and mouse with Eric. No one, not even her best friend, knew what she did. T.H.E. Corporation chose their candidates very carefully and the High school initiative program was clandestine. People knew it existed, but no one knew the candidates. Not even the other candidates.

Move forward! Four new clusters! You all know the drill!” the drill sergeant screamed from somewhere. They were all herded in five by four groups to the firing line. Danielle looked around. Just like every other Thursday, everyone in the room wore all black, boots, hoods and ski masked covered faces. She wondered how many people she met with here three times a week she already knew – Intriguing really.

“First row. Grab your fire arm!” The sergeant ordered.

I wonder if Eric was here. Nah. Isn’t busy the same days, but then again, neither are any of the other candidates in the initiative. That helps keeping people form figuring it out. Plus we don’t meet every month. Danielle grabbed her fire arm and assumed assault position.

“Discharge!” The sergeant ordered. Everyone in the front rows, including Danielle, proceeded forward and entered the obstacle course.

482656123146 step forward!” The mechanically disguised voice from the drill sergeant called out. Danielle stepped forward. “Are you 482656123146?” the drill sergeant asked.

“Sir Yes sir, I am 482656123146 stepping forward sir!” Danielle responded. She Still hadn’t gotten used to her hearing her voice mechanically disguised. Everyone’s was.

“Upper level. Report!”

“482656123146 reporting to upper level as ordered sir!”

“Candidates fallout!”

Danielle proceeded to the upper levels as ordered, Her meeting with Solcé. Candidates? An awkward designation for initiative trainees she thought. Anyone who was here were not really candidates. They had already been chosen.

Honor Guard Soldiers.

Coy feelings of excitement consumed Danielle as she approached the door to Solcé’s office. Careful not to appear too excited, Nervous, or overconfident. She stood at attention in front of the guard posted at Solcé office.

“482656123146 here to see Solcé as ordered,” Danielle spoke with all the military calmness that she could muster. The soldier smiled at her and pushed the panel that opened the door.”

“Go in, Solcé will be with you in a moment,” he informed her.

She saluted and made sure that her body language showed all the respect that an early cadet should show.

Unique was the first word that jumped into Danielle’s mind as she entered the office and the door gushed shut behind her. It was different from all other offices she’d seen here. Danielle especially admired the simpleness of the design. Martha Stewart could’ve arranged the office. It was almost devoid of any military character at all; reminiscent of a large living room. She noticed how especially dark it was in the room. Given the many large pane windows that spanned the room, she would’ve expected it to be bright as all outside, but the automatic tinting system was engaged on all the windows. Why have such light allowing windows if they are not used. It was the military though. An independent privately owned military, but a military no less. Only a desk lamp and the soft glow of track lighting that lined the bi-axial corners of the walls touched the room.

Deafening silent. Not even the hum of a computer was apparent. She almost became annoyed at the sound of her own breathing.

33

45!” the drill sergeant screamed out the count. “Drop down for push-ups!” Although Eric could do at least 15 more pull ups he did what he was ordered. Along with his other teen trainee’s, he began a tentative number of push-ups to a very demanding count. Training wasn’t much different than sports practice so it was a breeze. Gun training on the other hand did not come so natural to him. He’d never handled a gun, nor cared too, until he enlisted. He did okay, but he wanted to improve. Was it a good idea to join the teen initiative? Hell yeah! He could see himself doing this for the rest of his life and loving it.

“We’re looking for the best of the best people,” the drill sergeant yelled out. That was good because the best is what Eric wanted to be.

Step to the line” The drill sergeant ordered. “Take aim… Fire.”

Paul could tell even from this distance that his first shot was a bulls-eye.

“Fire”

The second shot too. He’d gotten better than two years ago.

34

After a long silent wait, a gush of compressed air broke through the silence. Danielle looked up to see the private entrance door open. Tall, slender, an eye patch over her left, with a confident, regal stride; Solcé entered the room. As she entered, Danielle noticed her pace faltered. Her eyes moved up to the couch and sitting area across the room, then Solcé gaze turned to her momentarily, then moved away. As Solcé started for her desk Danielle began to stand.

“No Need. You may keep your seat,” Solcé informed without a look as she found her seat. Danielle slowly sat back down.

“Sir yes…” Danielle started. Solcé stopped her with a raised hand. Solcé gazed at her for a heartbeat.

“Danielle you may address me as Solcé for this meeting.”

“Sir yes, I mean yes ma’am.”

“Solcé Danielle. Solcé.”

“OK Solcé,” Danielle answered meekly then smiled.

“You can remove your mask. I know everyone in the organization, let alone the high school initiative.”

Danielle slid off her mask.

“They keep getting younger and younger. 17 Huh?”

“Yes. I’ll be eighteen in…”

“Three months, I know. That’s part of why you’re here.” Solcé stared and marveled. “Well I guess I was actually younger than you when I started and a lot more greener.”

“Oh really? How old were you when you joined the Guard?”

“I was fifteen. My boyfriend was 16. Love will lead you to ventures you never imagined you’d take part of.” Her gaze ventured off to a place that was obviously the past.

So Solcé could see some of herself in her? Maybe that was a part of why she was here, Danielle thought.

“Wow that is young. Not too many people know that so there has to be a reason you’re sharing that with me?”

“There is. I know you have something in you that not too many other candidates have within themselves. I want to explore that. We’re starting a new division of the Honor Guard. A division that requires candidates with particular set of skills.”

Solcé whipped out a file and flipped it open. “Impressive gun range scores, sniper training – top of class, explosive design and planting, and shadow reconnaissance – excellent. How would you like to take part in a group that utilizes all these skills as well as help train some other candidates?”

Danielle was indeed surprised. “I would love to and I would be honored, but I don’t know if I’m qualified to help train.”

“You are. Trust me.”

“You’ve been at this a lot longer than I have so if you think so I agree.”

“Good, you will be working directly under me and my personal assistant…”

“Mag’Tanya?” Danielle heard herself blurt out with a hint of excitement behind it.

Solcé eyed her curiously. “So you know of her?”

Pulling back on her excitement in her voice. “I’ve heard … a few things… about her… here and there.”

Solcé stared her in the eye. Then Danielle notice a small grin on her face as her glance rose slightly over her shoulder, but before Danielle could turn to see what Solcé was looking at, the warm breath on her neck, the pressure around her neck, and the cold feeling of steel against her head made her freeze and sit up in her seat.

“You talk too much kid,” the voice lofted over her shoulder.

Danielle froze and sat up stiff in her seat. Oh Shit!

“Solcé let me do this Kid.”

35

“Come on Solcé, let me do this kid. No one would know.”

“Tanya,” Solcé said.

“She knows more than she should.”

“Tanya,” Solcé said again.

Danielle knew it was a good chance of her not making it out the room. Suddenly the grip around her neck loosened and Mag’Tanya burst out laughing. Danielle managed to turn her head just as Mag’Tanya plopped down on the couch next to the desk.

“I had you going didn’t I kid?”

Danielle couldn’t manage a word. She didn’t even hear a door open.

“Wondering where I came from Huh? Been in here the whole time. I saw you saunter in all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Apparently you haven’t heard enough about me. Ahh… Get used to it.”

“So what part of training is this?” Danielle asked with a half relaxed giggle.

“None. Tanya just has a somewhat dark sense of humor, if she has a sense of humor at all.”

“You don’t have to explain Solcé. She knows that, seeing she’s heard all about me. Ain’t that right kid?”

Danielle was starting to get the sense, but praying that she hadn’t offended the personal assistant - aid- assassin. Although no physical record existed of Mag’Tanya actually being sent on assassin missions, word of mouth carried a lot of weight on the subject. Her mysterious demeanor added to the persona. Especially now that Danielle was up close and personal. And she would have to train directly under this woman?

“Ignore her Danielle. Although her bite is much worse than her bark, you are fine,” Solcé comforted.

“I’ve had my laugh for today. We’re all business now kid.” Mag’Tanya said.

“So if you haven’t been scared away from the opportunity, are you still interested?” Solcé asked.

Danielle glanced over at Tanya. Tanya winked at her. She turned back to Solcé. Although her thoughts were racing the only word she could eek out was;

“Sure.”

36

Let’s go G- Damn it. I need speed, agility, efficiency. This is not play time boys and girls. You haven’t earned the right to be called men and women yet and it doesn’t look like you are trying to.”

He was riding them hard for the past two weeks. It was tough, but backing down was not an option, at least not for her.

“Come on 482656123146! How are you going to lead people if you can’t even lead yourself? Get your ass off the ground and through my obstacle course!” It sounded like he was screaming from inside her head. The drill sergeant was riding her especially hard.

“I need you all to be ready. No! You all need you all to be ready. I am not burying any dead kids anytime soon!”

The Outside course was far better to train on, but it was far from easy: a football field size course with all the body breaking, mind bending, and air sucking trimmings. Hard wasn’t even the word for it. It was damn near impossible. They had to run it three times in a row, but that was the point. It was designed not to be finish able. Trainees would always have a reason to push themselves no matter how long or how hard they trained on the course. Extensive training was needed at this stage in the game. Lives were about to be at stake. There was no training or preparation enough for that.

“Move it, move it troops!” He never let up. She scaled the wall in front of her, climbed the rope after that, swam the moat, and tracked through the mud pit, and round one wasn’t even done yet.

She had to admit, she knew it would wipe her out, but she was amazed at how physically demanding it was on her today. She was in great shape, but she just couldn’t manage to catch her breath from seemingly the very beginning of the course. They all had done this course multiple times. This sudden loss of physical ability was unexpected. Maybe it was performance anxiety. Or maybe the months of training had finally caught up with her. Although she aspired to be, she was not a machine and the human body does give out. Not today, she commanded inside. If she were to give out, it would not be in the field; especially not in front of her superiors. This challenge was hers and she was claiming it, just like every other goal she ever faced in her life.

By the time they had come to the beginning of the second round, she had managed to force a second wind.

This is what it takes, so if a drill sergeant wanted to scream her eardrums out, If her body wanted to rebel, if her lungs wanted to concede defeat, she didn’t mind. This honor was something she did not take lightly, and although she tried to avoid personal goal attachment, somewhere inside she wanted to make Solcé and Tanya Proud. They were different type of women; women she had never experienced before, not in civilian life or military interaction. This would serve to be her greatest challenge in her life to date, but just like every other challenge, it would fall.

“Alright troops take a knee… Good job today. Get your wind up. We’ve got a little more to do.”

More? Her heart was pounding, her head was throbbing, her knees were burning, but there was more. It was okay, she knew it would get more demanding as she grew in rank and responsibilities. Bring it on.

Tuesdays were weapons training. Now this she liked. She had always been a great marksman, plus there were no physically demanding aspects of this day. She liked physical activity just as much as the next person, but she liked a break just as much as the next person too. Her scores were always high. She was the top of her group. She could probably guess she was the best of the other groups as well.

“Step to the line!” The drill sergeant yelled out. She stepped up with the rest of the line. “Prepare your weapons!” A Mark238; her favorite assault rifle. This was as normal as breathing to her. “Fire when ready.” She let off her rounds. It felt good and she smiled wolfishly. Sometimes she felt ashamed of her affection with firearms. All the other candidates admired her number since they didn’t know her name or face. She wanted to keep that respect.

“Shoulder your firearms,” the drill sergeant yelled after the third shot.

“Still trying to keep that top shot title,” the candidate leaned over and whispered through his voice altered mask. It caught her off guard. Because the voices were so altered, no one barley spoke to one another in the firing pit.

“Yeah, you know it solider,” she responded.

“Secure that shit soldiers,” the drill sergeant screamed down the line at them. “This isn’t speed dating. This is target practice. She holstered her weapon. “Alright move to the back of the line. Next line, step up.”

As she stood there and watched the other soldiers take their turn, her thoughts turned nostalgic. She had her father to thank for her great gunman-ship. All the way back to two years old, she could remember going up to the low side of East Mountain with him. They would stay all weekend and hunt. Occasionally, Mom would come, but usually it was Daddy and daughter days. Knots were nothing for her, fishing was okay, knives were a great lesson to learn, but guns were her favorite time with him. Probably because it took so much intimate time to teach and she loved her daddy. Everything done with daddy was time well spent.

If he could see her now he would be proud of her. That had been the whole point since she was a little girl till now. Luckily all the candidates in the room were wearing the same ski mask that she was. The tears flowed freely and long. No one could see that she was crying.

“Step up to the line,” the voice jolted her out of her thoughts. It was her turn again. She had lost track of time within her thoughts. She aimed her weapon again and fired.

“Thanks dad,” she whispered aloud.

Things that went boom always … unnerved her. Weird for someone joining a military organization right, she thought to herself. Things that go boom were the norm for this line of work. Nevertheless, here she stood in explosives training; another important facet of her responsibilities.

“Ah this shit is dangerous,” she heard herself say out loud.

“What,” the soldier helping her set the explosive next to her asked.

“Nothing.”

“Yo exploding items are a normality here you know that right.”

“Shut up. I know that, and I know what I’m doing. Just get the charge connected.” she spat out. Even with the voice altering, the irritation came through very clearly.

“I’m just saying.” The solider responded and laughed”

“Explosives connected. Clear,” She stood and shouted, ignoring his commentary. God it sounded familiar. Reminded her of somebody.

Blue 5 move forward,” Danielle whispered over her com.

“Blue 5 in position, what’s sit?”

“Hold tight, Blue 6 is moving into position now.” Through the dark she could faintly see the three soldiers moving across the field in the distance.

“Blue 6 in position. Waiting for your go.”

“Copy Blue 6.”

The soldier next to her leaned over her shoulder. “You see that crate of barrels over there?” He pointed to a large number of barrels next to a building that was softly lit.

“Yeah.” She tapped the side of her helmet and zoomed in on the barrels.

“That’s great position for support in case we need to escape in a hurry.”

“I see your point.” It was important that she got this right. She was paying attention to every detail. Assault on a fortified position was the one area of practice she hadn’t got right yet – fail every single time. Attention to detail would be important to get her through this exercise.

“Hey Blue 1, this is Blue 8. Do you want us to lead the charge? We’re in perfect position for surprise.”

“No we’ll take the lead. No need to put yourselves in unnecessary danger.”

“Copy Blue 1. Just letting you know we’re willing.”

“Appreciate that Blue 8, but let’s stick to the game plan. We’ll take the risk.”

“Copy that. We’re ready when you give the go.”

Danielle looked at all the positions. Everything looked set to take the building on the far side of the field. “Blue 5 Can you take a position next to that crate of barrels next to the building across from 6 and give us some escape velocity.”

“Sure can. We’re on it. I guess that means we’re sitting tight for the rest of this mission.”

“It looks that way,” she responded.

“Damn we’re going to miss all the fun.”

“Not if we fuck this up on the way out.”

“Roger that. Moving into position now.”

“OK, once you’re set, were on the go.”

“Good hunting team. We got you on the way out if you need us,” Blue 5 responded.

“Alright teams. We’re going on three. Set?”

All teams responded in set.

“Three!” Danielle gave the order. All 7 teams moved in on their designated targets. Danielle’s group reached theirs and took a knee. “Ready?” she asked. Her team nodded in affirmative. The team moved out, but before they could make it half way to the door all the flood lights came on and lit up the field.

“You are dead!” the drill sergeant’s voice came from a tower looking over the field. “And you probably got the majority, if not all of your team except 8 and 5 killed!”

“Damn it she whispered.” Not again. How come she couldn’t get this right?

“This is not the beaches of Normandy or a last stand in some war movie. Soldier, did you not see that 8 had a better position for the lead than 1.”

“Yes” she said in a normal voice.

“I’m sure they told you.”

“Yes,” she screamed louder.

“ I understand that it’s important to take responsibility for your lead, but drop your pride soldier. You have nothing to prove on the field. If there is a better position of attack, make an audible, change up the play, and make it work!” The drill sergeant informed. “Oh and soldier… that’s SIR- YES FUCKING - SIR! Stop letting your frustration get in the way of your thought.” He starred down at Danielle intensely. Finally, she understood. She would not make that mistake again.

“Sir Yes sir,” she said humbly

48246734821 and 458847578374 made good calls today. Now that she thinks back. They usually do. She would have to memorize who they were. It was so hard to do so seeing they couldn’t see each other’s faces. It was getting easier; build, body movement, and word characterization was getting easier to tell who was who. It was an impersonal way to do so, but she had to use what she had for now. Hopefully one day the masks would come off, but she knew that wouldn’t be until teams had completely solidified. No telling when that would be.

“Let’s pack it up. Go home for today troops,” the drill sergeant screamed down. The lights went out, but the embarrassment, annoyance, and frustration inside Danielle did not.

37

Come in Danielle. Have a seat,” Solcé motioned her in then took a seat on the couch next to Mag’Tanya. “Although you’re always welcomed, we’re surprised to see you so soon.”

Danielle took a seat in a chair across from the two.

“I wanted to talk to you guys about the training.”

“Shoot kid. We knew you’d have questions,” Mag’Tanya said.

“I know the purpose behind us being totally unidentifiable, but I’m having concerns about how to call each person to memory if I can’t see them.”

“That is a part of the training most people struggle with.

“I’m slowly starting to connect subtle movement, voice characterization, and body language with each number, but it’s still so impersonal. I’m wondering is there a better way for me to go about it.”

Solcé glanced over at Mag’Tanya and she glanced back. “You got it. That’s actually the whole point of the training. That is the best way to go about it.”

“Good Job Kid,” Mag’Tanya congratulated.

“I have to admit, it’s hard for me to remove personal attachments to my soldiers because I see them every day. All the time. I remember each and every face.”

“Isn’t it better that way? I mean, isn’t it easier to understand your soldiers when you know them so well?”

“Not when you know each time you give an order you are sending someone to their death.” It fell quiet over the room for a few heartbeats. “…And you never know who it will be and that it is unavoidable.”

“I didn’t think of it that way,” Danielle admitted.

“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t go about the business of making myself hard and not care for each soldier. I still care for each and every one of them, in the context in which I care for them.”

“That’s part of her problem,” Tanya said as she got up from the couch.”

“Unfortunately,” Solcé smiled. We can’t all be as hard as Tanya, so we do the best that we can do. That’s all that anyone can ask of you. It’s probably best that you don’t see their faces, especially in the beginning stages of your duty. Trust me, whatever you deal with, with the masks, the time will come soon enough that you will have to deal with it without the masks.”

“That’s the truth,” Mag’Tanya offered from the drink counter. “For now it will hurt less.”

Training, school, extracurricular, home responsibilities, and just trying to be a kid, it had all begun to take a toll on her. The weekend had passed and she still was dog tired. Responsibilities were her life, but this was something she had never seen before. Time just seemed to keep getting away from her.

As she laid there on her desk, the teacher’s voice seemed like a distant, muffled sound. Everything appeared to be in slow motion. Was this what it felt like to hallucinate? As if she were watching a movie, the teacher moved slowly toward her, each step echoing through the room, and she couldn’t move. She should say something, move, or something, but her body would respond to no commands.

“Danielle. Danielle,” Miss Echoes’ voice floated through the haze. Then her touch snapped Danielle into full consciences. She sat up quickly and gasped. “Danielle are you alright?”

Danielle simply looked around the room confused. “What, what’s going on?”

“Class is over sweetheart.”

“It is?”

“Didn’t you hear the bell?”

“No, I didn’t hear anything.”

“I know. I watched you the whole class period. You didn’t move.” Ms. Echoe pulled up a seat next to Danielle. “I’m a bit concerned because this is not like you.”

“I know, but don’t worry about it.”

“A scholar like you, pretty much comatose during class? I think I should be concerned,” she said with a smile.

“Come one Ms. Echo I’ve always been more than focused during class.”

“That’s my point dear.”

“You gotta give me at least one slack day in four years. There’s Students that are like this all the time.”

“Yes, but they are not you.”

Danielle had no response.

“OK Danielle, I’m sure whatever is going on that’s got you soooo drained is only temporary and you will handle it.” She touched her lightly on the hand. “I’m sure. I just hope it’s not some boy.”

“Oh please! I wish I had time to make time for that minor distraction.”

A-“ Danielle heard herself say out loud. “What the hell?” She stared down at the test in front of her in disbelief, but the mark wouldn’t change.

“I know… you are not… having a hissy fit over an A-“ Paul leaned over and said to her.

“Believe it or not Paul, in four years I have never gotten anything less than an A on anything.”

“First times happen in high school,” he commented.

“Well at least that’s one first time down,” someone said from behind her. He and Paul giggled.

“Shut up,” she hissed. Don’t panic she told herself. Its’ not that bad.

“Really you’re that upset about an A-” Paul asked sincerely”

“Yes Paul! I have goals to attain.”

“You didn’t know, you’re talking to super braniac over there,” Eric added from across the room. She eyed him something vicious. “What, it’s true. I tell you that all the time.”

A-. What the hell was she doing?

She slammed her locker shut and stood there in deep contemplation. What was more important, School and her scholastic endeavors, or this Military journey she was taking?

“Hey don’t mean to interrupt your mental breakdown, but I haven’t seen you in a while.” Eric joked as he walked up to her.

“Not now Eric. I’ve got some important decisions to make.”

“That’s nothing new. Seriously, I haven’t seen you around, what’s going?”

“Success is defiantly not.”

“Come on Einstein, Seriously an A-? Some of us would kill for a B-. You passed that’s all that matters.”

“Might be for you, but some of us take our futures seriously.”

“What does that supposed to mean? I’m just trying to be supportive.”

“Yeah well stop. I mean look at you. Your cloths are sloppy, hair is a mess.”

“I’ve got my own responsibilities to worry about; school on top of sports and home. I get stressed out too.”

She did have to admit, he wasn’t his normal chipper self he usually was. He was almost lackadaisical, even with his sarcasm.

“You’re tired and you don’t even do half of what I do and you’ve got the nerve.”

“Fuck you! Who do you think you are? Don’t blame… What ever’s going on with you on me because it’s definitely not time spent with me that’s causing the problem. You’re too busy for yourself let alone me.”

“You…,” she began.

“No, not me,” he interrupted “Anything you’re about to say cannot begin with me. I’ve got no place in your life, so I don’t even know why I keep trying.” He left her standing there with those words.

Realizing that all her responsibilities have been taking a toll on her overall character made the walk home a long one. Eric was just joking as he usually does and she flew off the handle. [_ An A- really? _] It wasn’t all that bad comparatively, but it was to her. She had to admit though, she had become overly sensitive. What else had she fucked up in the past month she hadn’t paid attention too? Screwing things up with Eric caught her attention immediately because he was important. If only he knew that, but of course she never conveyed that. Screw him. He never took charge and really asked her out. Not really. So it was just as much his fault as it was hers she rationalized, but the truth kept staring her in the face. He was right.

Another block alone with her thoughts and she would be home. “Hey Danielle,” Gina’s voice came from behind her. Great she was saved from her self-defeating thoughts alone. “Hey Danielle, where have you been?” Gina asked as she jogged up.

“I’ve been busy. I know, nothing new. Everyone keeps telling me that.”

“I don’t care what everyone keeps saying to you. I miss you. That’s all that matters to me.”

“Thank you Gina.” She stopped, turned, and gave her best friend a hug. “That’s why you’re my best friend in the whole wide world.”

“That’s what I’m supposed to be here for.”

“Our friendship is important. You do know that don’t you?” Danielle asked.

“Of course I do. You don’t have to remind me of that. We’re cool.”

“Good one less important thing to worry about.”

“Worry? What else are you worried about?” Gina asked as they continued their walk.

“I don’t know, the usual. School mostly. I kind of had a break down today.” she said with a smile.

Gina stopped abruptly. “Danielle, school is the last thing that you should be worried about. It’s the end of your senior year. Your future is secure. If anybody’s future is secure it is yours.” Danielle smiled “So now that that’s covered, what else are you concerned about?”

“I kind of blew up on Eric today.”

“For?”

“No good reason. That’s the problem.”

“I don’t know why you keep dancing around the inevitable. You haven’t had a boyfriend your entire high school career. What is the big f-ing deal with dating Eric?”

Danielle thought real long and hard. She stared down at the ground searching for an answer she already knew.

“The answers in here,” Gina touched Danielle’s head. “and here.” She touched her heart. “Not down there,” She referenced the ground. “But since you’re looking down there,” She kicked up one foot. “Check out my new Ukons. I know, I know. Love them. Go ahead. I do.”

“You are silly girl.”

“Now I did get a little worried when I didn’t see you at the store when they came out. We’ve been talking about these things for the past three months. Looking at your feet I assume you didn’t even know that they were out.”

“What about my feet. What’s wrong with my feet?”

“You’ve got on sneakers and we’re not doing anything near athletic right now.”

“And we’re not doing anything close to a fashion show right now either,” They both laughed.

“Every day is a fashion show. You of all people should know that.”

Gina started to ramble on about the new Ukon collection, but the words started to become a distant muffle in Danielle’s head. Shoes used to be important to her, but not anymore. It’s not that they were unimportant. They just weren’t important. Not much of her past life was. She didn’t expect such a drastic change. Then there was college in her future. How the hell would she maintain a collegiate life while being active in the Honor Guard Initiative. She’d have to figure it out. Obviously other people had. And Eric? What would she do about him? So much – so much.

She looked up at Gina and she was still rambling on. The words flew right past Danielle, but she smiled every now and then and nodded, but her mind was somewhere else and she couldn’t fight it. This change would be permanent.

A block away was the inviting lights of her home. A block worth of time had passed and she hadn’t even noticed.

“Alright girl I’ll catch up with you later. It was good seeing you.”

“What, just like that. You’re going to interrupt my expose on the new Ukon collection? Now I am starting to get worried.”

Danielle smiled, “I’m sorry, especially if I don’t seem interested. My mind is just somewhere else.”

“Well wherever it is, you need to go get it.”

Danielle stood there and starred at her friend and then another concern hit her mind. This secret that she had been holding from her friend all this time. What kind of friend was she really? What kind of person was she becoming?

Dusk was beginning to set in and she could see the living room lights on. Mom was home. She leaned in and gave her friend the biggest and most sincere hug. “I’ll see you later Gina.”

Gina eyed her sincerely. “OK, you’re not dying or any anything like that are you?”

Danielle laughed “No! I’ll be okay. Go home shoe freak.”

“I’ll be checking in on you regularly,” Gina said as she pranced down the stairs. “I’ll have 9-1 programed in my phone in case of an emergency,” she screamed as she walked away.

Danielle entered her home and closed the door.

“Hey sweetie,” her mom called to her.

“Hey mom,” Danielle said lethargically.

“It’s awfully late. You’ve been making this a habit.”

“I know. School stuff.” She plopped down on the couch.

“Well I ate already. Would you like me to warm up something for you?”

“No, I’ll eat a little later.”

Her mom came and sat next to her. “Sweetheart talk to me. I’m beginning to become a little concerned over your behavior the past few months,” Her mom admitted.

“Everyone one is. I don’t need to keep getting reminded of that.”

“Rightfully so. You don’t do the same things you use to do, you’re always tired like you are now, and you’re not the same sweetie to me, you usually are.”

Danielle looked up at her mom, She leaned over and gave her a tight, loving hug. “I know mom. I’ll be better. I promise.”

Her mom kissed her on the head. “I know you will sweetie. Don’t wait too late to eat.”

“I won’t.” with that Danielle headed up to her room. She opened the door, dropped her bag, and was hit with another reminder of how much her life had become something other than what was hers. Clothes lay on her bed, her desk was disorganized, and she hadn’t updated her calendar in two weeks. Who the hell was she? She smiled and accepted it. Slowly she began the task of cleaning her room. Normally, she waited till Saturday to do it, but right now she just wanted some feeling of a normal teenage life with normal teenage responsibilities. Cleaning your room was about as close to a teenage chore as you could get.

After that she took on the task of her desk. That didn’t take long, probably because she spent so much time there. She stepped over to her calendar, but decided not to touch it. She could take a break from planning everything to the T for one day. She looked over to her closet and opened it. Just for a minute she wanted to stare at her Ukon collection, even if she didn’t want to put any on.

It was basic Psychology. A cluttered room was a representation of a cluttered mind. That would not do. She sat on her bed and looked around. Everything would be in order soon. A nap would come first. After 18 years, her quest for excellence had finally caught up with her. She was tired, but she would offer no excuse. Just regroup, rest, and go back at it. She glanced over at her laptop that glowed in the darkness. She didn’t even want to think about pulling the Honor Guard contact to see if there were any messages on there. Not tonight. No, tonight was hers and she would sleep, but first she’d keep her promise to her mother and make something to eat. If she could just pry herself off of the bed. Everything started to become hazy. That warm felling began to cover her. “Mom!” she yelled.

“Yes Danielle!” Her mother’s voice screamed back from downstairs.

“Can you fix me something to eat after all?”

“I’m already on my way up with it.”

“You know me so well”

“Yes I do daughter.”

“I love you!”

“I love you too.”

38

Another day of Training ended and it was time to meet with Solcé and Mag’Tanya for another scheduled update. This time she wasn’t so enthusiastic about meeting with the two. She was tired mentally and physically, but the meeting would happen anyway. She got cleaned up and made her way to Solcé’s office. It was late in the evening so she hoped this meeting wouldn’t last too long. The door slid open and she entered the room.

“Evening Solcé, Tanya.”

“Sup kid,” Mag Tanya Greeted “So what’s on the agenda today?”

“Well I’m here to give you guys my usual update.”

“How’s your progress,” Solcé asked.

“Feel free to be honest,” Mag Tanya said as she locked eyes with Danielle.

“Of course,” Danielle responded. “Well my scores and tracking have been excellent, top of my class in almost everything.”

“Almost everything” Solcé asked.

“Siege and Assault keeps kicking my butt.”

“Oh,” Solcé responded empathetically.

“Don’t worry about that Kid. You’ll just have to hang out with me for a few days.” Mag Tanya said.

“That’s the best education in that area money can’t buy.” Solcé said.

“I hope you don’t get squeamish around blood. I mean a lot of blood,” Mag Tanya said with a smile.

“I look forward to that,” Danielle joked back. “Although it is an honor and a privilege, I will admit it is all a bit demanding. It’s been kicking my butt.”

“I’m sure you can handle it kid.”

“That’s not a question. I’ll get it all together. I’m just having a hard time juggling all my outside responsibilities and that’s something I’m not used to.”

“That is because you are a perfectionist. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Solcé reassured.

“You’re doing better than anyone out there and they’re half the person you are. Let’s be truthful about it.”

“I know. I thank you both for your vote of confidence. I guess I’m just here to vent. I’m new to this, so whatever I can learn from people more experienced, I am open to.”

“We’re listening. Whatever you have to say. We’ll offer our best solution.”

“I guess what I’m asking is what personal tips could you give about handling adult responsibilities while dealing with teenage responsibilities.”

“Oh we got this kid,” Mag’Tanya said with a laugh.

“Yes we do,” Solcé laughed as well. “Let me tell you something Danielle. I was no older than you when this whole commitment entered our lives. We were teenagers just like you; in school, boyfriends, life.

“How did you all handle it?”

“The best we could. Put what you can do without on a shelf and what’s most important in your hands.”

“That’s all you can do.” Tanya added. “Do you know how many boyfriends I went through until I got to the right one? Then after he died, I continued on with what was important.”

“You can handle it” Solcé encouraged.

“I know,” Danielle admitted.

“Good, because I have something I would like to entrust you with.”

“Really. What’s that?”

“More responsibility. I’m about to entrust you with information that is top level clearance only. Can we trust you with that?”

“Of course you can.”

“Of course we can,” Tanya affirmed.

“Pretty soon there is to be a meeting of all the factions of the Resistance against the Thomas Howard Edward Corporation. There we will discuss a strategy for an attack on their compound. I am telling you this because we will be using the Teen Initiative during this attack.”

“One team only,” Tanya added.

“And we would like for you to head up this team and be in charge of their portion of this attack.” Solcé finished.

Danielle was not expecting something that heavy. Her heart dropped into her stomach and she could feel condensation form on her forehead. Danielle didn’t want to show any fear or doubt. “I am honored. I am more than willing to take this command.”

“We figured you would be. You are really the only smart choice.”

“But so soon?”

“I know. Unfortunately the time line we put together calls for us to have to act rather quickly. Information we received from the Terra-Squad has enlightened us on information that may shift the reins of power in this war.”

“ The Terra- Squad?” Danielle asked. She had never heard that term before.

“Terra-Squad Nero.” Tanya informed. “They’re a multipurpose division of the Honor Guard. Now there’s a team you should hang out with if you want to learn. Maybe one day after you graduate.”

“The attack is based on their information. The meeting will be clandestine and all the major heads of the resistance will be there.” Solcé continued.

“If the meeting is so secretive, why are you all telling me this? I haven’t even graduated yet,” Danielle asked.

I’m telling you this to let you know how important this meeting is, this attack is, and how important you are to this organization. Do not loose heart young one. We chose you for a reason.”

“What you’re going through is normal. Don’t give it anymore thought.” Tanya said.

“There is so much in you, you haven’t even discovered yet. More experienced eyes can see it very clearly.” Solcé said.

“OK,” was the only thing Danielle could say?

“OK” Solcé reaffirmed. “Are you ready for your first command?”

“OK,” So what do you want me to do? What’s next?”

Her walk home offered her a different set of thoughts this time. Again dusk was setting in. An appropriate atmosphere for what she was feeling. A whole new set of responsibilities brought on a whole new set of emotions. These did not threaten to take her over or go away. They were just there.

“Use some company” the voice came from across the street. She turned to find Eric leaning against a light pole. He’d obviously been waiting for her.

“You been stalking my route home,” she asked with a smile.

“Well obviously.” He walked over to her.

“What’s on your mind?”

“You.”

“Really? what about me?”

“Exactly, what about you?” he asked.

“I know, I kind of lashed out at you a few days ago.”

“Yeah you did. What did I do to unleash the beast?”

“Nothing, that’s the problem,” The double edged sarcasm came out clearly before she even realized she was messing up again.

He stopped abruptly in his tracks. “Wait. What are you talking about?”

“You haven’t made one honest move to pursue me.”

“Are you serious? I’m standing here right now. I find that rather offensive.”

“Every approach is a joke. It comes off cheap.”

“OK, you must still be smoking whatever you were smoking earlier. I’ve shown you nothing but attention for the past two years and you’ve done everything but turn me down cold. You treat me like a scheduled class assignment.”

“Are you serious you’ve never even seriously asked me out on a date? I mean really ask me out without any jokes or cheap flirtation.”

“Can I be honest?”

“Can you be honest?”

“Yeah I can. I think I’m going to be right now. You are unbelievable. What I think you need to do is get over yourself and join the rest of us.” With that he stormed off.

“Jerk!” she screamed out.

“Hey you’re real smart, so I think you know the alphabet real well. Hey Danielle, what’s the second letter.”

The last comment stopped her dead in her tracks.

“Danielle!” Gina’s voice shocked her “What the hell is wrong with you”

“Gina”

“Second letter of the alphabet? That was lenient.” she said as she approached Danielle. Apparently she had seen the whole episode go down. “Why are you treating him like that?”

“I’m sitting here asking myself the same question.”

“He really likes you. Everyone knows that. That’s obvious and he’s right. You’ve done nothing but put him off.”

“I know, I know Gina. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe… Maybe I’m just scared.”

“Maybe. He deserves a lot better than that.”

“Should I go and apologize?”

“Not right now. I think you should let him cool off. He might not be too receptive to anything you have to say right now. I know I wouldn’t.”

“Give it a day or two?” Danielle asked.

“At least.”

“I know you’re right. I know he’s right. Gina I have been so overwhelmed. I can’t even think straight half the time.”

“There’s nothing to think about there. He likes you and you like him.”

“I really have been considering giving me and him a chance. I just don’t want him to become a scheduled in responsibility like everything else and mess it up.”

“Danielle, that relationship is going to make it to college, through all the break ups and your first major job. What kind of idiot are you being right now? And he’s right, You need to pursue that.”

Her best friend’s words sunk in deep, but her best friend didn’t know about the secret she’d been keeping from her and how that would affect any relationship she would have. She didn’t even know that it was affecting the relationship that they had, but right was right.

“Alright. I’ll give him; I mean me and him, a chance.”

“Yes! Hallelujah. That’s the smartest thing you’ve said in a long time. Besides, there has already been a ‘you and him’ for long time anyway. You two just never made it official.”

“What would I do without you?”

“Uh, be single and continue to wear ugly shoes.”

“Shut up!” the two laughed. “But if I mess this up you are going to share in half the blame.”

“I’ll take that, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Stop being hesitant.”

“I will. I will find the courage, and the time, to make something happen between him and me. First I have to find a way to apologize,” Danielle admitted.

“Yes you do, but I’m sure whatever you say, he’ll except with an open heart.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah I know so. I haven’t been wrong all night have I? Now back to those ugly shoes you are wearing.”

“Oh my G. Not my shoes again?”

“Yes your shoes again, and it will be your shoes again until I get you in a pair of these new Ukons.” She drew attention to her feet.

Danielle knew she had been so neglectful of the friendship between her and her best friend lately that she made a deliberate effort to show interest in what her best friend wanted to talk about. It was only fair.

“How many new Ukons did you buy?”

“All of the new collection.”

“They are expensive. How could you afford them all?”

“When there’s a will there is a way. I worked overtime and saved every single penny I could, but what I would like to know is; what will it take to get you downtown with me so we can get you a few pair of your own.”

“I have a few new responsibilities coming up, but I promise after those things are done, I will continue our weekend ritual of shopping.”

39

Remarkable feats of architecture continued to be the call for the resistance; cavernous halls seemingly etched into the earth with technology seamlessly woven into the tapestry. Even though this large dome shaped meeting hall was etched into the interior of the earth, there was no feeling of being underground. The top of the hall touched the upper side of 100 feet. There were only three ways in; two entrances shot gun across from each other and a tunnel that lead to a balcony 50 feet above the floor that over looked the hall. Below, three rows of seating lined the walls that encircled a massive round meeting table. Although there were no windows, lighting was engineered to show from the crevices in the rock.

“I never ceased to be amazed by the architecture,” Rezina spoke aloud leaning on the railing of the balcony above and peering down on the caucus gathering below. How the insurrection kept all this from T.H.E. Corporation continued to be beyond Rezina. Surprise was the emotion that repeatedly touched her at every new resistance gathering.

“Marvelous isn’t it?” The Apprentice’s voice came from over her shoulder. “You should have seen the base for the Terra –Squad. Or have you? I keep forgetting that relationship time-lines are different in different realities.”

“No I haven’t. The time variation is minimal between me and Diamonds time-line. I’m still relatively new.”

“You seemed to be a little more seasoned, more versed in resistance protocol and function.”

“The time me and Diamond joined is around the same. How much action I’ve been allowed to gain is different. Dizz and Mech put me out on the front line a little quicker. We force the action a little more. We are forced to in my reality.” Rezina informed him.

“I guess I’m not around yet where you’re from?”

“No, not when I left, but I’m sure you’ll be there when I get back,” she said offering a smile.” He smiled back at her.

“It’s gonna take me a while to get used to this whole parallel thing, you know?”

“I know what you’re saying. I’m still adjusting if I have to admit.”

She was very pretty, but then again so was Diamond. Two sides of the same coin, The Apprentice thought as he watched Rezina who leaned over the upper tier balcony. Heads or tails he thought to himself. Which one was she? How could they technically be the same person, but have such distinct differences. The hair, the tattoo, the overall attitude – Heads, she was definitely heads of the two.

“So is this the usual way it goes when the heads of leadership meet?” The Apprentice asked as he walked up next to her.

“I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve met with the Honor-Guard in any reality,” she informed.

“So you’ve never been to a meeting of the three factions of the resistance?” he asked in amazement.

“No,” she replied nonchalantly. “One thing that’s for certain in any reality is that they don’t meet often. It’s too risky. Another thing you’ll find, the resistance has been very successful at is secrecy. That’s why we’ve never been infiltrated, at least not in any reality I’ve visited. I just go out and bust heads on the streets. That’s all that matters anyway. It doesn’t matter what the orders are or how they’re given. Just give them to me and let me get to work.”

The Apprentice decided to skip the small talk and get straight to what he was thinking.

“You’re intriguing to me.”

She turned and looked at him in surprise, “Why?”

“Your demeanor through all this.”

“Trust me kid, you grow used to it after a while.”

“No, I mean here in this reality.” she started to understand what he was getting at. “Do you miss it?” he asked.

“My reality? Of course I do.”

“Your home, your friends, your normal way of doing things… You remain so calm, relatively at least. You fight hard with us here and never breathed a word about your reality not being found. That takes a lot of strength.”

“I think about it, but rather it’s here or back home, T.H.E. Corporation is T.H.E. Corporation and it’s still the same war. I’m a soldier and as long as I’m fighting that war, that’s all that matters. Everything else is secondary. What am I going to rush home to? The same people, the same B.S., T.H.E. Corporation?” She stretched her arms out wide referencing the surroundings. “Feels like home to me.”

“But it’s not completely the same. There are significant variations aren’t there? I mean in the people, places?

“T.H.E. Corporation is doing the same thing to all of us, so in that, there is no difference.”

The two glanced around the room. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes of today Rezina couldn’t help but think. All the core cells various factions of the resistance were there. It was easy to tell what level of the overall resistance individuals functioned in. Honor Guard members stood around the room like the military disciplined soldiers they were. Hierarchy and orders seep from their body language. Higher ranking Guardians laced the large round table in the center of the room every other chair or so. In front of most of them were files notes and papers.

Integrated civilian resistance people looked just like that, civilians. Most had attire fitting to any early morning busy street. You could tell these were normal people from diverse industries that made the world go around; school teachers, librarians, construction workers, social workers, graphic designers, garbage men, congressmen, lawyers, college students, doctors, judges, and cops… These were the easiest to tell at this level of the resistance. Because integrated civil resistance members were your average people who chose to fight T.H.E. Corporation from behind the scenes, keeping their identities private and their participation in the resistance quiet, they eyed around the room nervously. They looked like it was hard for them to get comfortable, like they were out of place; wondering if they were taking a chance by involving

themselves in the resistance. Rightfully so; These were people who led normal lives, they did their part where they could from their place in life, then continued on and portrayed themselves to the world as normal people. This aspect of the resistance was very important. A helping hand and silent strike against T.H.E. Corporation was vital. T.H.E. Corporation couldn’t strike at what they couldn’t see or foresee.

Then there were people like herself, the underground resistance; raged, scruffy faced. They look like they came from every walk of life where there were the rebellious ones. Their attitudes and body language screamed rebel. Most looked like life had taken them through the ringer. Their eyes screamed; life has swung at me hard so bring on whatever else you think you have… I bet I can do you one better. These people struck at T.H.E. Corporation every chance they got then disappeared into some quiet hole. They lived to cause havoc against T.H.E. Corporation and most had some strong grudge or malice against them for one valid reason or another.

“Quite a gathering of faces aye?”

Rezina didn’t recognize the heavily Irish accented voice, but the statement appeared to be lofted her way. She turned to find a relatively young man stepping beside her, his face dusted with small aged scratches of battle, the light shadow of a beard, and buzz cut. “Yes it is. All we need are the crumpets and tea.”

“Hey there kid. I see ya didn’t get scared off by our little run in the other day? Good to see ya got balls larger than a pup.”

“Hey Hayel, good to see you again,” The Apprentice exclaimed excitedly as he shook the hand of the familiar Terra squad member. “Nah, it’ll take more than a few bullets flying to run me off.”

“That’s good to hear. So I’m assuming your joining us for the long haul right? Or short haul, depending on rather or not T.H.E. Corporation asses decide to drop the bomb and say the hell with us all aye,” Hayel said with a smile.

“Come dawn or dusk, I’m here,” The Apprentice said.

“That’s the spirit kid. Hey, with Ox balls like yours, who knows, you might even make the Terra-Squad one day.” The new found comrades shared a laugh. “Tell me, who’s your beautiful friend here.” Referring to Rezina.

“This is …” The Apprentice started before Rezina cut him off.

“I am standing right here so you can ask me and not The Kid.”

“Feisty, that’s how I like em.” Hayel said with a squint eyed grin. “How say ya help me make a new friend in you. Ya fancy that Lovely?”

Rezina eyed him quietly for a brief second before taking a step up to him.

“ Rezina, this is Hayel. He’s part of the Terra- Squad and one hell of a fighter. You should’ve seen some of his moves in battle the other day,” The Apprentice interjected.

“Well if your friend continues to be fast at the mouth like he is, I just might,” Rezina said.

“Don’t PMS love. I’m just making conversation. Hate ta get off to a bad start with ya. How say ya we jump the ice breakers and kiss and make up.” Hayel seemed to enjoy egging her on. Had it not been for The Apprentice snickering in the background she might have thought of some quick words to respond back to him. Instead she eyed him with ice, popped a buckle on one of her gun holsters, and turned her back on him.

“Hayel stop harassing the ladies. Haven’t ya got the point yet? They don’t find ya charming.” This voice was deep scruffy and demanding. Bremis stepped into the doorway from out of the shadows.

“That’s the second greatest lie ever told to the world. The women absolutely love me,” Hayel said folding his arms and settling in.

“And the statement you just made is the third world’s greatest,” Bremis said as he surveyed the room. “I’ve got the door today. Buck and Roll if we get any action.”

“I’m assuming your bucking and I’m rolling,” Hayel asked rhetorically.

“Do you see the size of the gun in my hand,” Bremis pointed out as he lifted massive cannon in his hand. The design was unlike anything Rezina had ever seen in this reality or the other. The body of the gun ran along the underside of Bremis forearm and extended about a foot ahead. The barrel added another foot. The handle sat on top and in the middle of the body. Bremis gripped it from above.

“I’m a better Roller than you anyway,” Hayel retorted.

Rezina looked away from the lovely couple and back down at the Conference table. The heads of the groups were just arriving to the table. From the hall that lead down the back corridor appeared a thin middle aged women with such a presence that Rezina found herself not being able to take her eyes off her. The woman was regal, both in demeanor and military wardrobe. The patch that covered her left eye told who she was. She must have been Solcé. Shortly in front of her was apparently her top aide. He was cute she thought to herself; short buzz cut and clean demeanor. He was obviously young in this whole thing. A little more seasoned than herself, yet still young. And then bringing up the rear, not too far back, was another young lady. Not an aide, yet not a head official. She was something else. Her look was hard. Although she adorned a dress suit, very professional, conservative hair style- well kept, her eyes gave it away. They were unyielding. It was obvious she was keeping a very calculated distance on Solcé and her eyes, discreetly, were sweeping everything and everyone in the room. The aide pulled out Solcé’s seat for her as she sat, but this other lady, while still at the table, would not sit. It was obvious that no one would make her. She took her place quietly, yet sternly over Solcé’s shoulder. The other heads began to take their seats. Mech and Dizz entered to take theirs directly across from Solcé and her group.

“Enter the Mr. and Misses,” Rezina heard Hayel comment from over her shoulder. “What a perfect couple they’d make aye? One eye and one eyedstress,” he chuckled. Immediately Rezina swung on one leg, put all her weight behind it, and decked Hayel in the eye.

“Never speak… never open your mouth against him. I’ll drop you where you stand, resistance or not,” Rezina informed Hayel starring him in the eye. She eyed him down a brief moment more before walking off.”

Hayel watched her walk off half stunned. “No panties for me tonight aye kid?” The Apprentice and Bremis laughed at the whole give and take. Then the room was silent. It was obviously time for the seriousness to begin.

“First of all, let me commend all of you in the various aspects of this movement and your efforts.” Solcé’s voice echoed the room. “Without you all working in every area, this would not work. As you all know, there has been a change in recent events. We’ve set this meeting because recent events have called for us to have to change our approach in battling T.H.E. Corporation. Recently Terra-Squad Nero completed a reconnaissance mission against T.H.E. Corporation main headquarters. Information acquired uncovered interesting data. As we all know, action on the street has been, to say the least, confusing. Most of the information is still being decrypted. However, a 3D Schematic of the layout of the headquarters has been discovered. It showed a complete reconstruction of the facility, mostly the underground networks. New wings are being added, entire rooms and areas transported to other sections of the base. The newest addition to this structure caused us some concern. In the center of the base is an elevator that travels 33 levels down. The lowest level opens up to a corridor which is highly guarded by Corporation soldiers. This leads to a number of access corridors and one that leads to a 4 feet thick door laser printed and guarded by Silver streaks. This opens up to a chamber protected by sensor guns. On the other side of that another 4 feet door opening into another chamber. This chamber is immense. This room is guarded by Red Eyes, Yeomen, and is filled constantly with G36 Gas.” The whole room gasped.

Curtis leaned over to whisper to Tammy. “G36, that’s the gas that Dwindleson made that eats the insides out in 36 seconds flat right?”

“Yeah and there’s no protection or aid for it. None known at least,” Tammy said.

“So how do they have Red Eyes in there,” Curtis Said. Tammy simply shrugged her shoulders.

“So how do they have Red Eyes and Yeomen in there and shit?” Dizz echoed the question out loud.

“This is something we have not figured out,” Solcé admitted. “However, this informs us that whatever is to be stored in there is important to T.H.E. Corporation. The something that may answer our questions to T.H.E. Corporations power.”

Curiosity filled the room…

“The data also reported a complete restructuring of the hierarchy of T.H.E. Corporation. Promotions are being made, new ranks being created, and new groups and divisions are being formed. Its obvious T.H.E. Corporation is preparing for a move on power. For what, we are not sure of. What I’m about to explain may make all this make sense and give insight as to why it has raised concern.

In 1968, T.H.E. Corporation funded an archeological dig that uncovered an unknown item, or items of value. Shortly after this dig is when T.H.E. Corporation began to gain power. A few years back, another dig was funded. Again, items were uncovered, but nothing is known of what they were. The push and pull of T.H.E. Corporation became greater. We have recently learned that another dig was funded and successfully completed. Nothing is known of what was recovered.”

Dizz’s eye brows went up. His thoughts quickly raced to his run in at the abandoned warehouse.

“Its obvious people that T.H.E. Corporation is preparing for a new move,” Solcé finished.

“So what are we going to do about it?” Curtis asked.

“We are going to attack T.H.E. Corporation main headquarters; All divisions all cells at once,” Tech announced.

The room filled with a muffled buzz of conversation.

“Yes it’s true. We are going to coordinate an assault on Compound City to find out and hopefully retrieve, whatever it is T.H.E. Corporation has stored in that chamber. Hopefully we can reverse the flow of power,” Solcé added.

“So if we even get into the heavily guarded Compound City, down into the sub-level, and into the chamber, how are we going to get around the G36 Gas,” an underground resistance fighter from the stands asked the obvious question.

“That is one detail we will have to figure out, but one thing is for certain, we need to hit T.H.E. Corporation before another change in power occurs. We are already over our heads and we may not survive this change.” Solcé said and no one could argue with her statement.

Dizz mulled over it for a while. Mech turned to give him an eye that said don’t even think about it, but it was too late. Mech could see it. Dizz looked at his friend and Mech eyed him harder telling him not to make that decision. Dizz couldn’t even believe he was considering it himself, but before he could dwell on it any longer the words came out.

“I know someone who can get in there and get out alive,” Dizz couldn’t believe his own words coming out of his mouth. Neither could Mech as he slid back in his chair in disapproval. Solcé looked at Dizz in curious surprise.

“You know of someone who can get into a chamber filled with G36 Gas?” she asked. The underline question was are you sure and how come I don’t know about it.

“I do,” Dizz said not able to bring his gaze up from the table.

“By themselves?” she asked.

“Yes,” Dizz answered. “He may need some support getting down and into the corridors, but once to the chamber he can do what we ask.”

Solcé was held speechless. There were no words needed to convey the confusion in the room. Mech, however, had no problem finding the words to say.

“I can’t believe you’re going to do this,” Mech whispered from under his hands.

“I can’t believe I just did either,” Dizz whispered back.

“O…K…,” Solcé said as she eyed Dizz. She could tell this was not the time to inquire about the statement. She would trust him and take him at his word for now which wasn’t hard for her. “The major details of the attack will have to be laid out and agreed upon. They will then be conveyed to the rest of the divisions of this resistance. In the meantime, get your people ready. Try to keep a discrete profile on the streets. Avoid any conflict if you can. Dizz you get your person together and inform me when you are ready to present your plan.” With that, Solcé concluded. Dizz nodded and prepared for the onslaught of questions from his friend. Solcé gathered her things and left followed by her small entourage. The room dispersed and began to break into small groups. Mech turned to Dizz, but before he could get his words out…

“Don’t even ask, at least not till we get back to the base.” Dizz blocked the question.

“Hey Dizz, Rezina called out as she jogged to catch up with him.

“What’s up?” he said as he turned at her beckon. He doubted she even noticed the quick grimace of pain. His gunshot wounds still hadn’t totally healed. He started to think about all this talk he did about an intense battle with the Corporation and his body hadn’t even totally healed. He also wouldn’t be using his tested armor. It was going to be brutal for him to get through it. Shit, if he moved the wrong way or aggravated the wound enough, he could bleed out right there in the street, but he was Dizz and he would do it.

“I need to talk to you. There’s something I really need to get off my chest.”

“Shoot; Straight and forward.”

“You know, back when Diamond got sick you chewed me out about going off on my own with the P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L. That kind of… no, it really pissed me off”

“I know what’s out there. No one should have to face what I’ve had to face alone, and as long as I can help it, no one in my outfit ever will. There is no debate about that.”

“That sounds good, but I know you think you’re doing a good job of hiding the pain, but I see you’re not totally healed. And what are you going to do? You’re going to go out and fight. I’m going to do the same, fight through my pain as well.”

Dizz stood there wordless. She had slapped him hard with that and there was only one thing he could say. “True and clear,” he said as he grabbed his side. He no longer had to carry on the masquerade. He exhaled long.

“Clear?” she asked. He nodded his affirmation because if he spoke he knew his rib cage would explode with fire. “But I understand what you were trying to convey, and I won’t do that again.” she finished.

He extended his hand trying to avoid having to speak and air circulating through his lungs. She gripped his hand firm and then pulled him into a hug. He closed his eyes and endured the pain of the embrace, both physically and mentally.

40

The elevator call switch flashed the -31 st floor. The door slid open and Dizz stepped off. Again, each step down the dark corridor reminded him of why he didn’t often come here. Yet, here he was again. He navigated the same familiar maze of shadowy halls. Around the corner and down the long dark hall to the maximum security wing.

“Detention block 2122, Special Holds,” Dizz said to the guards at the door.

“Yes sir.”

Dizz entered, made his way through the walls of chains and bars to the three foot thick security door. This time, he stood there in silence longer than he usually would. Was he really about to act on this decision? He was torn about it, but now it was time to do what was necessary for the greater good.

“Same place,” Dizz said to the guard in the security booth. He made his way to his destination. The prisoner inside sat along the back wall facing Dizz. Neither said anything at first.

“So what have I done to be worthy of another visit from his majesty,” the lanky figure calmly lashed out the sarcasm from the shadows.

“I need your help,” Dizz said without effort.

“That came out too easy,”

“Yeah I know.

“Well what do you want,” the figure said as he stepped out the darkness.

“ObaRé Kek…” Dizz’s words stopped.

“Dizz… You know my name. This we both know. The question was what is it that you want of me?”

“Don’t be so eager. Debts to be repaid are usually costly when offered. “

“Oh, I’m willing to pay the price. I’ve had more than enough time to think about what I would be willing to do to get out of this; my own personal hell, well-crafted and engineered by you; my judge and jury.”

“Fuck you. Don’t play innocent. We both know you are far from that. So what I’ll do is this; I’ll offer, you’ll accept. I know you have your terms. I’ll accept and we’ll both get on to what’s important.”

“So be it. You don’t want to play our usual game. I’ve grown rather tired of it myself.” ObaRé said as he returned to his seat in the shadows.

“There is a resistance going on above. It’s a movement that began when you were still on the streets taking blood,” Dizz said. ObaRé was obviously listening. “We need someone of your, shall we say, unique abilities to get into some place we cannot. Will you do it?”

“Oh yes, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes to get out of here…and back out there, where once I am, you may have another problem. Are you willing to accept that because you know me?”

“I already have. What else do you want?”

“Once I’m out, I want all debts that have placed me in here repaid. I want you to leave me alone so that I can return back to my world. I would hate to have to hurt you once I’m out. You know we’ve built such a strong relationship while I’ve been in here,” ObaRé said sarcastically. “I especially enjoyed our rather lengthy conversations every six months or so.”

“Cool, but what if I decide not to honor that part of our deal. Say I get annoyed and want to make target practice out of you?” Dizz toyed with ObaRé.

“We both know I’m the better man. My aims a little better than yours,” ObaRé said referring to Dizz’s one eye. “Two’s always better than one.”

Dizz smiled. “Nah that ain’t always true, less to distract you. My sight stays focused.”

“Either way, are you going to let me out of here or not?”

“We have a deal?” Dizz reassured.

“We have a deal; Or something like that.”

41

This is the main call room Mr. Lathan. Most of the call rooms around the country resemble this one here. We refer to it as the floor,” the Division supervisor informed him as they entered an open floor. Hundreds of employees sat in cubicles with headsets on, tending to inbound calls. “We receive calls and make reservations for our hotels on the north east, southeast and southern regions. It’s a pretty simple process: A sales rep receives an inbound call and attempts to place them in one of our hotels in the region that will accommodate the customer’s needs.”

“Seems simple enough,” Donothan admitted.

“Would you like to listen in on one of our calls?”

“Sure, Sounds like it would be fun.”

The group rounded a group of four cubicles.

“Here, we’ll listen to one of Tina’s calls. She’s one our best employees here.” In a seat was a petite coy girl in her early twenties. “Tina, meet Mr. Donothan Lathan, owner of the hotel chain you work for?” The girl blushed in her seat. She was meeting one of the richest men in the world. Donothan extended his hand.

“Mr. Lathan…it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Tina said school girl nervously.

“No, no, The pleasures all mine,” Donothan said, setting the girl at ease. “Call me Donothan.”

“Here Mr. Lathan, have a seat next to Tina. We’ll put these headphones on you, and you can listen to Tina’s next call,” the supervisor said. Donothan sat.

“How do you enjoy working here Tina?” he asked.

“I enjoy it. I’m a student so the hours work well with my schedule; the perks are good, and co-workers pleasa nt -w hat more can I ask for?”

“Sounds great, anything we can do to make your experience working here more enjoyable, you let me know, and I mean that.” You can get my personal e-mail address from your supervisor.”

“Thank you” Tina said. A beep sounded in the headphones. “Oh, here’s our call.”

“Let’s take it,” Donothan said with a smile.

“Good afternoon, Thank you for choosing the Lathan East. My name is Tina. It will be my pleasure to assist you. How may I do so?”

Donothan put his hand over his mouth piece and whispered up to the group behind him. “She’s good.” Tina blushed.

“Yeah yeah, cut through the bull,” a forceful and inconsiderate voice boomed into the headphones.” I’m coming to the East on the 22nd of December and I would like to have a room on the top level; King bed, non-smoking.”

Tina’s fingers moved across the keyboard as she flipped through the different screens. “May have your name please?”

“Mark Rosenthal. You should have me in your system.”

“My pleasure. Unfortunately sir we have no vacancies on the 22nd of December. However, I am showing the Lathan West has availability and it would be my pleasure to make a reservation there for you.”

“Bull shit, I want a room on the 22nd at the East. I come there all the time and I’m sure you can find a room there for me.”

“I’m sorry sir, but I’ve Looked at our entire inventory and we will have nothing available for that day.”

“I want to speak to your manager.”

“Certainly sir. One moment,” Tina said. She started to pass her head set to the manager standing behind her, but Donothan intercepted it.

“I’ll take this. Hello sir, this is Mr.… Donothan. How can I help you?”

“Your less than adequate reservationist couldn’t get me what I want, so I hope you can.”

“We’ll I’m sure Tina did her best to assist you.”

“Well I’m sure she didn’t! The 22nd of December thru the 31st, King, Nonsmoking, on the top floor, Make it happen.”

“I’m sorry sir, as I’m sure Tina informed you, we are all out of rooms the twenty-second. Did she not refer you to the Lathan West?”

“I spend a lot of money there I’m sure there will be a room for me there.”

“No sir, I’m sure there won’t be. I can assure you of that.”

“I’m going to show up on the 22nd there better be a room.” – click.

42

Part of the reason Donothan loved visiting his hotel property was the staff. Ophelia handpicked most of the management here at the East. It was a bet; who could do the others job. While Donothan was off choosing properties to buy and sell, Ophelia was in charge of choosing the opening management of the Lathan East. That’s probably why there was a host of pleasant employees carrying his grand hotel.

“Welcome to the Lathan East. It’s a beautiful day now that you’re here. How can I make your day?” the young hostess said to Donothan.

“You already have,” Donothan answered. “You’re not scripted to say that are you?”

“No. It’s a greeting I made on my own.”

“I didn’t think so. It’s nice, and do you know who I am?”

“No sir.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“However, you are a guest at the Lathan East, so you’re more than special.” The bright eyed, young girl said with a giggle.

Donothan walked towards the front desk, eying where the guest would check in. He found a quiet corner to lean. Here he would be out of the way and unnoticed until he needed to be.

The young receptionist walked over to the front desk manager who was busy away at a computer.

“Hey John,” she said.

“What’s up Sally?”

“Should I know who that gentleman right there is?”

“Which one? The burly man in the gray suit?”

“No, the tall good looking guy in the blue suit leaning in the corner.”

John arched his head to a clear view and gasped.

“Oh my gosh! That’s Donothan Lathan.”

“The owner of this building?”

“And about half of the buildings in this city.”

“I hope I didn’t leave a bad impression,” Sally said.

“I better get over there and see what the occasion is,” John said. John started to make his way from behind the counter, but was stopped short buy a demanding and indignant voice.

“Excuse me, My name is Mark Rosenthal and I have reservations. You should have all my information in there. I want the Presidential Suite. You are the front desk manager and I want you to handle it. I don’t want to deal with some second rate reservationist, Take care of it.”

John turned to find a short pudgy man of about sixty years of age. He was dressed in everything that said privileged. “Yes Mr. Rosenthal,” John said as he turned back to the desk. Although the man’s tone was over the top rude, he didn’t want to do anything that would make the hotel staff look bad especially not with Donothan Lathan looking on nearby. What an inopportune time for an irate customer to stop in. John’s hands were moving across the keyboard looking for the reservation as Sally walked up to him.

“Is everything alright over here?” She whispered to him as she pretended to work on the computer next to him. John glanced up to the corner to see what the richest man in the city was doing. As he suspected, but did not want, Donothan was still leaning against the wall with a phone in his hand, staring in their direction.

“I don’t know yet,” he said as sweat began to form on his forehead.

“What’s taking you so long?” Rosenthal screamed out over the counter. John looked up with irritated eyes. He had only been typing for a few seconds. Did this man show up today just to try to get him fired? John held his tongue, afraid of what might come out. “It’s not rocket science you idiot! Mark blasted Rosenthal. The man reached over the counter and banged on Johns keyboard. “Rosenthal, Rosenthal!”

“Yes sir, if you just give me a second I will find your reservation and get you squared away immediately.” John said with all the patience he could muster.

“You shouldn’t have to check for my reservation. I come here all the time, and when I do I spend a lot of money. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen you before, Or her for that matter,” Rosenthal referenced Sally. “Who are you?”

“I’m John Stanton. I transferred over from…”

“I really don’t care where you came from just hurry up and find my room. My wife would like to get settled in.” Rosenthal demanded then turned to his wife where he began an inaudible conversation. His rudeness didn’t seem to surprise her at all. As a matter of fact, she stood there as if it were socially normal. John glanced up again and as he feared Donothan slide his phone into the inner pocket of his suit jacket, straightened up, and began a slow and deliberate stroll their way. I’m definitely losing my job today John thought.

“Oh no Mr. Lathan’s walking this way,” Sally needlessly informed John.

“I know,” John said evenly as he eyed Donothan.

“We are in trouble,” she added.

“I know,” John responded in the same tone. Rosenthal turned his attention back to the two reservationist.

“So am I ready?” Rosenthal asked. John was not eager to say the next bit of information because he knew what it would unleash. He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, pursed his lips, and got ready for the next interchange of dialog.

“Unfortunately Mr. Rosenthal, I don’t see a reservation in our computers for you in the Presidential Suite, or any other room in the hotel. If you’ll allow me to ask you a question…” John said, but just like John expected, Rosenthal cut him off and began a verbal onslaught.

“What do you mean there is no reservation? There is nothing for you to ask me. The reservation should be in there.”

“Mr. Rosenthal…,” John began.

“Excuse me,” a strong baritone voice interrupted John. He looked up to find the outstretched hand of Mr. Lathan motioning toward him, prompting his name.

“John sir. Uh my name is John.” He could feel his hand trembling on the keyboard. Sally inconspicuously slid her hand over and placed it on his, trying to give him a bit of support.

“Thank you John, I’ll take the reservation from here,” Donothan said as he stepped between Rosenthal and the counter. “You’re doing a great job here,” Donothan added. John stood there not sure what to expect.

“Who are you?” Rosenthal demanded with a natural condescending tone as he looked Donothan up and down.

“Mr. Rosenthal is it?” Donothan asked.

“Yes, Again, you are?

“Rosenthal, I suggest you get your bags take your wife and find another hotel.”

“I beg your pardon, You will not speak to me in that manner.”

“And you will not speak to anyone; I mean absolutely no one in this hotel, or this hotel chain in that manner.”

“I will speak as I damn well please. I am Mark Rosenthal. Do you know who my Constituents are?”

“Rosenthal, I don’t give a damn because do you know what the name on this hotels Marques is? The Lathan East! Do you know what my name is? Lathan. Donothan Lathan.”

Rosenthal’s face turned pale and he swallowed hard. Donothan turned to Rosenthal’s wife whose mouth was wide open.

“You’re married to this man?”

“Yes,” Rosenthal’s wife said with a shaky confused voice.

“I’ll pray for you,” Donothan said and turned his gaze back on Rosenthal.

Rosenthal’s eyes looked like they were about to explode out of his head. “Excuse me,” He exclaimed.

“No I’ll let you excuse yourself right out of my hotel. The bell boys will not be helping you with your things. You will not get a room here, today, or ever. As a matter of fact, I promise you, you won’t find a room in the lowest rated hotel chain in this city, so I hope you have relatives here and you better hope I don’t know them.” Donothan held his gaze for a moment as Rosenthal’s soul shrank right in front of his eyes. John and Sally were frozen in place, awestruck. Without another word, Mr. Rosenthal turned, gathered there things and left the Lathan East. Donothan watched with disgust as the man left his establishment. He turned back to the employees.

“John, Sally, when are your next days off?”

“Uh, we both have weekends off next week,” John said.

“Enjoy a night each in the Presidential suite. It’s the least you deserve for having to deal with a customer like Rosenthal,” Donothan said as he turned and started for the door. He stopped and turned to them again. “Oh, do you guys drink?”

“Yes, yes we do Mr. Lathan.” John responded.

“Yeah me too,” Sally added softly.

“Enjoy the wet bar as well.” With that, Donothan left the Lathan hotel his father built in his names sake. That would be a day John and Sally would never forget. They would most likely become lifelong employees under the Lathan name.

43

18 Semi Trucks in total were delivered to the Chase Building across the street from the Corporation Compound City; 10 sporadically the day before, 8 the morning of the attack. It’s cargo? Each truck carried 60 Corporation resistance fighters. It was a rough ride, but the best way to get everyone close enough to the Compound undetected.

Arron Dahlem looked across the ragged war hardened faced men and women that stood before him; eyes that stared into nowhere, scars that physically healed, but never found closure, lips that forgot how to smile years ago – fear did not exist here. The malice and dedication to dethroning T.H.E Corporation from their self-imposed seat of power was so deeply rooted in these soldiers that mission assignment didn’t matter. As long as there was a finger to point them in a direction to fight they were willing; soldiers who looked, thought, and felt like him. He was proud to be responsible for strategic coordination for organized attacks for this division of the underground Resistance.

Dahlem smiled a devilish smile. “Vengeance!” he yelled. “Redemption! A chance to strike back and take back whatever it is this demon called Thomas Howard Edwards Corporation has taken from you.”

The first word hit Dizz hard as he listened to Dahlem’s words through his earpieces in another truck. He was confident in Dahlem’s leadership. He would fight just as hard as any other U.G. Fighter; more importantly, he knew how to.

“I see the thirst in your eyes.” Dahlem said, each gaze touching him personally. “I know it. I know it very well. It stares back at me in the mirror every day. Here is where it starts. You all know more than anybody else that will fight today, that after these moments, more war is coming, but for now; once we reach T.H.E. Corporation courtyard, we make a Drop Zone quick and we hold it for as long as we need to! Is that a yeah?”

“Yeah!” The truck erupted in agreement.

“Alright mutha-fuckas, get ready to unload!” Dahlem yelled to his soldiers.

Dizz rubbed his side. It wasn’t as sore as it had been.

“You ready for this?” Mech asked him.

Dizz looked up at him and held his gaze. “It wouldn’t matter.”

“I know. I’m just making small talk because there isn’t really anything else to talk about.” Mech said and popped a stick of gum in his mouth. They both laughed as the semi swayed back and forth.

“It’s an odd feeling having my guns in my hands, battle waiting in front of me, and not have my Smart Armor on.”

“It seems to have become part of your identity. That’s not good.”

“Yeah I could agree with the first part of that statement, but why is that not good. That armor has gotten me through a lot of hell and back.”

“Yeah I know, but it’s just technology. You know how that turned out before,” Mech said without hesitation in his voice.

Dizz took a finger and rubbed it across the scar that slid down his face. He nodded gently.

“You’re right. No argument there.”

“I just don’t want to go through that again. It was just as hard on me as it was on you.”

“You won’t have to, trust me.”

“But it is a needed technology and you wear it well.” Mech said.

“Yes I do, like an expensive suit right?” Dizz said with a smile.

“Like an expensive, tailor made suit. Don’t down play the style. I designed those remember.”

“My bad, my bad bro! Compliments to the designer. Where credit is due.”

“Show you right.” Mech said. “Don’t worry, I’ll design you a new one better than the last one. Let’s get through…” Mech raised his arms out in front of himself. “This and we’ll get back at it.”

Dizz mimicked Mech’s arm movements. “Get back at it? This? We’ve never stopped.” Both their eyes glared off to an invisible distance. “We’ve never stopped.” Dizz repeated the phrase, his tone a bit more subdued. “How long we been doing this man?” Dizz asked.”

“Too long man.”

“I agree.” Dizz heaved and sighed. “But until the day it’s done.”

“Until the day it’s done.” Mech echoed the sentiment. They turned back to face the door and did the only thing they could do – wait.

They would reach their destination soon and war would begin. If other parties of this battle didn’t know, every Underground Resistance fighter knew this. Dizz looked over his shoulder at the seasoned hardened bunch in his truck. Every man, every woman in this truck had a heart like his and they would fight to the last drop of their blood without coercion.

He could fell the truck beginning to slow and position to back in. The beep beeping of a truck backing up confirmed it.

Dizz turned one last time to the fighters behind him as the truck began to stop. The 60 set of eyes that starred back at him, all with questioning eyes, caught him off guard. Of course everyone knew who he was, what he had been, and they waited for his words, but he knew none were needed. If this fight was a feud of families he and they would all come from the same bloodline. He turned his body completely to them and took a long hard stare across them making sure each and every one of them saw his eyes. He grabbed Retribution from her holster and she begin to sing with her familiar charging hum as he held her up. The sound of guns cocking and armor clanging filled the truck.

“Go shoot something,” were his only words. He turned and he and the rest of the truck sprinted out of the semi. 1080 Underground resistance fighters poured out of their individual trucks and flooded the loading dock of the Chase Building. In droves, they made their way to the lobby area and waited.

Infantry team in position.” the voice came through over the intercom. Solcé could feel her blood pressure begin to rise, but she fought back her emotions. She tapped the com. “Blue 1 your mission is a go,” she said firm and confidently. Civilian casualties, how many would there be? They had planned this attack the best they could to minimize civilian casualties, but this was an urban assault and given the nature of their enemy, civilian casualties would be unavoidable.

“Should I tell the other support tanks to get ready?” May’jor’s voice came from the back of the command tank.

“Yes,” she said. “Ready as we’ll ever be I guess,” she said to Tanya who stood close by.

“Yeah,” Mag’ Tanya responded.

May’jor’s voice became distant as she contemplated on the events that were to come. She had just fired the first arrow. She tapped the com as a thought hit her.

“Da…” She caught herself. “1… Be calm. Keep your mind steady. This will all go as planned.”

“Yes Solcé,” was all Danielle could muster. She wanted to focus all of her emotional energy on the task at hand. She glanced down at the Propulsion gun in her hand. As she sat in a van just a block away from Compound City, her heart raced as she contemplated her first command. “Alright team, this is it. Everyone knows their rolls. This should be easy. The Propulsion guns are to do most of the work, so find the target, place your charges, and rendezvous back at the Chase Building. Everybody got it?” she spoke into the com mounted inside the helmet of her new Blue Team body armor. She stared down at its sleek, shiny, black, and blue finish and marveled at how light it was. She could see everything in front of her clear as day although the fitted headgear and solid rounded face mask were completely black on the outside.

“Got it,” the voices responded back in turn into her ear from her team. Her team? She thought about that; her first Honor Guard command, so far from school books and classrooms. She knew it was supposed to be a simple first command to get her and her team acclimated to what responsibilities would follow. By all detail it was, but her nerves still found her.

A block away Main Street waited for her. The wide six lane street ran parallel to Compound City and invited a diverse multitude of people daily. The grassy island that separated the North and South lanes often had adults and their children, civilians walking their dogs, business people enjoying a paper during a mid-day lunch, lovers enjoying the scenery… real day to day people. Not too many weekends ago she could be found trolling the area in search of the latest shoes. Now here she was.

“Why do we hesitate?” Blue 3 asked from the passenger seat next to her. Danielle sat for a moment more then with her next phrase officially became Blue 1.

“Blue team move out.”

From the van she could see Blue 2 exit a vehicle on the far right of the street with assault rifle strapped across his back aiming the short butted sensor gun in his hand. She turned to the right and Blue 5 exited a vehicle and pointed a similar weapon. Blue 7 ran passed their vehicle and down the center of the street pointing his sensor gun.

“Surveillance and sensor guns active. All surveillance should be inactive on this side of the building.” 7’s mechanically altered voice came through over the com. Blue 1 and Blue 3 exited the vehicle with their Propulsion Guns. 4 and 6 appeared on the other side of the street, all four aiming at the Northern side of the high, imposing brick wall of Compound City.

Danielle listened closely to the rapid beeping and watched closely as the display on the top of the gun calculated coordinates and locked on its target. “Ready!” she said.

“Locked,” 3 confirmed. Danielle waited for the ready signal from her other team members so they could shoot the explosives and get the hell out of there. Their first command was supposed to be that simple, but…

“Problem Blue 1.” Blue 2’s voice came back from the com. “The gun is not locking onto the coordinates.”

“Same here,” Blue 6 also confirmed.

“We’re locked here. The guns have pre-set coordinates to track and lock onto. It should be automatic?” Danielle said.

“Blue 1, the coordinates are not locking.” Blue 2 confirmed.

“There must’ve been a miscalculation in the distance needed to confirm a lock by whoever programed them,” 3 said.

Danielle looked down at her gun to make sure they were actually locked.

“That’s the only thing it could be,” 3 said.

“Whatever the problem, we have to hurry up and get off the street before we draw too much attention to ourselves,” Danielle retorted. “Alright Propulsion team, reform closer to the compound. Watch your step though. Don’t want to draw any corporation attention to you.”

“Got you. Either way if we don’t get this done soon we’ll have Corps on us anyway if we keep these sensor blocks up too long,” 6 informed.

“Yeah Propulsion team hurry up before we have to deal with another set of problems,” 2 Said.

Moments into her first command things had gone wrong. She couldn’t mess this up. She was the leader and every leader is taught something can always go wrong. Improvise and complete the task. 2 and 6 moved with stealth closer to their target.

“Stop right there,” Danielle ordered. “From this position we have defilade from any surveillance around the corners of the buildings facing the compound. Any closer and we risk detection by the sensors that are not being blocked.”

“Alright trying it again,” 2 said.

“Aiming,” 6 also confirmed.

After a moment the disappointments came back.

“Still nothing,” 2 informed.

“Blue 1, if we don’t hurry up and get these charges planted the missiles will drop and the D.Z team will have nowhere to go,” Blue 7 said with urgency.

“And this will all be a bust,” 3 added.

“Alright Propulsion team, gather up on our position. We’ll try it from here, and move with some hast. We’re running out of time.”

Cat’s out the bag now,” Solcé said lowly. Absolute structure was important if this was to succeed. Solcé wanted to make sure that the order of the events dictated success. Lives were at stake, hundreds of them. With effort, Solcé tapped the com button on the console in front of her that opened a channel to all listening Honor Guard ears. “Guardians!” She let the title hang in the air for a heartbeat. “You are called that for a reason. You have taken on a responsibility not easily offered. You are the threshold between God given liberties and a tyranny veiled in societal conditioning. You have been chosen to do what the common man cannot and what the ambitious chooses not. Now, today, this moment, and beyond choose to do your job well and find glory, praise in the absolution of your effort. My pride goes before you.” Solcé stopped and held her silence for a long moment.

“Why do you wait my lady?” Mag’Tanya asked.

“Once I give this order it will no longer be just a civil insurrection. Political lines will be crossed and this will become an all-out war.” Solcé said.

“Then so be it My Lady. Give the order. The inevitable is the inevitable because it is inevitable.”

Solcé contemplated a few moments more. She inhaled deeply, summoned confidence to her voice, and faced the inevitable. “Find Honor!” she ordered.

“Find honor!” The crowd responded back to her.

“Shall I give the order Solcé,” Mag Tanya asked from behind here.

With a long heavy sigh Solcé spoke, “Yes.”

Mag Tanya turned to Major who stared at Solcé with concerned eyes. “Deliver the order May’jor” Mag Tanya instructed.

“First wave deliver the package,” May’jor gave the order. With a long grinding of metal, three compressed tanks turned their turrets in the same direction. Boom the tanks fired upon their target a mile away.

Danielle knew once they passed the intersection and stepped out onto Main Street, they would step out of the protection of the buildings that lined the street and step into the field of view of Corporation surveillance. As they raced across the street and into city traffic cars swerved, people screamed, and ran, but the team kept moving forward.

“Place the charges in a large circle around the charges 3 and I placed, quickly!” She ordered. The team got busy placing the charges. The sharp shrill of missiles growing closer in the sky behind them quickened her heart rate. “Put a ten second delay on them”

“Hurry up guys. I know you hear what’s coming,” 7 said.

“We’re hurrying,” 4 responded needlessly.

“Set!” Danielle screamed out as she finished setting her charges, turned and slung her riffle from her back, aimed and positioned herself for cover fire.

“Set,” 6 echoed shortly after then moved to help for cover fire on the opposite side of the team.

Danielle searched the street and surrounding area. She knew that the possibility of Corporation forces was highly possible. As the word of set was repeated and members took cover positions, Danielle gave the retract order.

“Alright everybody move to the retract position and let’s get the hell out of here.” But just as she gave the order and began to move, Danielle looked overhead. She could see the missiles headed their way. As she looked closely, she noticed on the far left one of them traveling a little lower than the others and off course. Instinctively, she knew it would fall short of its target. Its path was parallel to her team. “Everybody find cover!”

In the distance Dizz could hear the hard shrill of the missiles heading their way to the compound.

“Drop Zone team let’s go!” Dahlem yelled. Dizz, Mech and a swarm of experienced Underground Resistance fighters emerged from the Chase Building and promptly dashed toward T.H.E. Corporation Compound. Civilians fled and cars swerved to a halt.

Compound City grew closer and closer and as it did, a portion of the wall in front of them exploded, leaving a gaping hole for the team to enter.

Dizz watched as the missiles soared over head and disappeared behind the compound walls. The explosions that followed shook the ground and fire rose into the air from behind the walls.

There was no time to escape the descending threat. There was nowhere to hide.

“Scatter, Scatter!” Danielle screamed out as she stood out in the open.

The Plastic explosives exploded next to them and the misguided missile above spun out of control, slammed into the Rhatma building across from Compound City, and exploded. Blue team scurried about as large chunks of debris sped towards them. Explosions behind the wall of Compound City shook the ground. Danielle only had a moment to shake off her disorientation before she realized the new threat.

“Oh no,” she whispered to herself. She watched in horrid shock as the Rhatma building slowly tilted away from its base and began to fall towards them. Nerves got the best of her and there she stood, out in the open, frozen, and unable to move.

“Blue 1! Blue 1!” Blue 7 screamed out from behind a car. The beckon was in vain. Danielle was deaf to everything around her. Her eyes were glued on the giant that broke apart above her and her team; threatening to bury them all. “Danielle!” Blue 7 screamed out one last time.

Listen up!” Curtis’s yell echoed through the Chase Building lobby as the sounds of explosions found its way into the lobby. He shouldered his assault rifle. “I understand those are the professionals out there,” he pointed towards the door then turned to look at the hooded and masked people in front of him. “Some of us don’t shoot guns unless it has to do with these times.” These times he thought to himself. “Accountants, Garbage men, School Teachers, Social Workers, Cops; we all come from different walks of life, but today we have a common job to do and we will do that job just as well as the people out there. You hear me.” A roar of affirmation erupted into the air. “We hold that back line and anything that gets past the infantry you take down. Let’s go!”

The Civilian resistance bolted out of the Chase Building and took position on the far side of Main Street. Curtis could already see the chaos increasing. He looked to his left and took a long hard stare down the line of civilians he was in charge of that day. He took a look to the right and down the line of the lives he was accountable for that day. If everything went according to plan, they wouldn’t have to do too much. What if everything didn’t go according to plan?

The whole building came down with a menacing crunching of rock and metal.

“Damn it” Blue 7 spat out then leapt from the protection of the car and sped towards Danielle. Not a moment too soon. Blue 7 tackled her, moving her out of the path of large chunks of building.

“Snap out of it!” Blue 7 commanded. “Let’s go!” He scooped her up and they danced their way through the rain of debris.

The building slammed hard over and against the wall of Compound City and disintegrated into a pile of rubble that blocked off the street. Blue 7 and Danielle stood and looked around.

“Blue team report! she screamed out, her right mind now back with her. Team members began to respond back immediately. All 7 team members were accounted for and unharmed.

“What’s the plan?” 7 asked her?

“We still retract,” she said, but as she looked towards the other side of the street, she witnessed an onslaught of corporation forces making their way down the street and towards the resistance efforts. 6 stepped up to them.

“If we retract now, we’ll walk right into the conflict that’s about to happen.”

“Yeah, but it has to happen. We can’t stay here.” She stared as Corporation forces moved closer and the second stage of resistance forces merged in turn. “Move out.” She gave the order reluctantly. As she took a step, she was stopped short buy the sound of metal bending on itself. They all looked back and to their surprise, found a satellite tower from within the compound falling toward them. It slammed hard against the walls and crumpled into a wall of tangled metal out onto Main Street.

They were cut off and from their original retract path.

As Arron Dahlem led the Drop zone team towards the gaping hole in the side of Compound City, Dizz looked to his left and noticed the Corporation counter forces headed down Main Street. Corporation soldiers sprinted around the corner, Griffin Chariots; troop transport skiffs, were mounting and headed down Main Street, and the faint silhouette of Yeomen loomed in the background over the whole herd. He looked over his shoulder at the second mass of UG soldiers that followed them as he sprinted. This was going to be one interesting fight. He hoped Diamond and Rezina was ready for it.

They ignored the oncoming counter and hit the hole in full force. Carnage and devastation lay everywhere in the courtyard within Compound City. Bodies covered the ground, buildings set afire, but not all Corporation forces were nullified. A handful of corporation soldiers still stood their ground and fought off the D.Z. teams attempted foot hold.

“Spread out!” Dahlem screamed as resistance forces poured in from the hole. Gunfire rang out everywhere. Dizz and Mech took to the right side and found cover behind a large piece of building.

“Let’s get this area cleared people before the drop team gets here,” Dahlem yelled out. Dizz and Mech moved right and took positions picking of Corp soldier after soldier as the courtyard filled with more infantry. Across the courtyard corporation soldiers filled in with heavy weapons and tripod guns. Dahlem quickly noticed.

“Right side, get on that before they get set!” Dahlem ordered. A group of U.G fighters repositioned to counter. Slowly, the D.Z. team worked their way inward to the middle of the courtyard and began a painstaking task of creating a circle for the drop squad to descend to. Now the hard part of holding that position began.

Dizz thought briefly about Diamond and Rezina, who by now should be right outside the hole.

“Mech” Dizz yelled out as he took a knee and pointed towards a group of Corp soldiers. Mech pulled a grenade and let it fly. It exploded sending the soldiers flying.

“How much longer,” Mech yelled out over the chaos.

“Should be here soon,” Dizz yelled back as he stood quickly, spun, let off a couple of rounds, and then he felt it. The sharp pain ripped up his side and his left knee buckled. Immediately he could feel he was losing blood. He had aggravated his gunshot wound. Now it was just a matter of time.

On your left,” Rezina called out to Diamond who spun and took down two soldiers that headed her way. They sprinted across Main Street through the chaos with the rest of the Inside Perimeter team towards the compound wall.

“Which way to the hole?” Diamond asked.

“To the right,” Rezina said stopping to cut down a transport vehicle headed toward the compound with Corporation troops. Their Smart Armor was in full function. Bullets ricocheted off them and they cut down wave after wave of Corporation officers. Her back slammed against the wall hard as she made it to Compound City and took position on the side of the insertion point. Diamond slid to a stop and took position on the other side. Resistance fighters took position on the wall along the street. A small group joined Diamond and Rezina creating a defense semi-circle in front of the insertion point.

“Compound perimeter team what’s the status?” Rezina heard a voice ask over her ear piece. “You need to give the D.Z. Team support. We can’t afford to have the insertion point compromised.”

“We’ve just arrived to the wall. We had a lot to fight through.” Another stressed and intense voice answered back over the communication. Suddenly Rezina heard the voice panic. “Donald! Get your squad on that! Wait! Hurry to the front! Hurry to the front!” An indecipherable chaos of voices and yells followed his panic. The communication became static a split second before Diamond and Rezina saw the explosion to their right along the wall a block down.

Rezina arched her head to get a better view. Through the smoke she slowly began to make out the encroaching threat. Griffin Hover Chariots; troop transport skiffs, were making their way down Main Street. “Diamond!” she yelled out as she pointed.

“I see them.” Diamond replied as she moved next to Rezina

“We have to keep them from mounting their offensive and try to keep them from heading towards the inner perimeter teams,” a voice screamed out. Quickly, the Insertion Point perimeter team turned their attention to the encroaching chariots. Several chariots stopped opposite of the perimeter team while others broke off and sped towards inner Main Street. The team opened fire on them relentlessly trying to drop the soldiers before they had a chance to disembark. Solider after soldier fell, Chariot after chariot exploded, but Chariot after Chariot sped towards the battle.

“Keep pressure on them!” the voice screamed out again.

Main Street had become a battlefield as Underground resistance clashed with more and more Corporation forces that filed in. Derek Passé led the charge that would hold the center of Main Street and keep forces from focusing on the perimeter and the D.Z. teams. The Apprentice looked up at the young man. He couldn’t have been any older than 26; not much older than himself, but this man moved and barked orders like he had been fighting all his life.

“There are chariots mounting on the far side of the street.” Passé screamed to a group of soldiers. “Ground it before they get a chance to dismount.” The soldiers moved to the order. The Apprentice watched as they targeted the hover vehicle. The group of soldiers made quick work of the Chariot. The soldiers on it never had a chance. Although The Apprentice found himself in the center of all the action, the explosion along the wall a block ahead of him rocked him hard. He knew his friends were somewhere along that wall. His job was no piece of cake, but he still felt some guilt not being with his team through all this. Whatever happened today, he felt he should be with them. So he would do his part. He would fight. The rest of the team he knew, wherever their jobs, would do the same no matter what. That much he had learned from his brief time with them. He would honor them with that same effort.

“Snap out of it kid,” the feminine voice said as a body slammed against his back. “You’ll get yourself killed real quickly out here if your heads not focused on the moment at hand.”

The Apprentice glanced over his shoulder. He caught a glimpse of a girl in cargo paints, halter top, leather gloves and a head band. “I’m good,” He screamed out as he took back to the task of firing his gun and holding off Corporation forces. “It’s not my first rodeo.”

“Yeah, but you’re still green. It’s written all over you,” the girl said as they both repositioned themselves and found cover. “Your form, the way you move, the worry in your eyes; you haven’t done this too long. Don’t worry we’ll get out of this okay. It’ll all be a piece of cake.” She stuck out a hand as she smiled and starred The Apprentice in the face. “Kiziza, what’s your name?”

Fighting off the feeling of offense, The Apprentice shook her hand quickly and turned his attention back to Corporation forces. “They just call me Apprentice.” He said. From the corner of his eye he quickly sized her up. “You don’t look too much older than me. What makes you such an expert?”

“See that man right there.” She pointed to the man leading the charge.

“Yeah what about him?” The Apprentice asked.

“That’s Dereck Passé. You know who his mentor is? Aaron Dahlem; battlefield genius!” She gloated with a bright smile.

Did this girl know that a battle was going on? The Apprentice asked himself. “That’s cool, but what makes you such an expert?” He asked again as they continued to fight off Corporation forces.

“You know who my mentor is?”

“Who? The Apprentice asked.

“Derek Passé.”

“Yeah, well… you’re right. I haven’t been doing this too long, but guess who my mentors are?”

“Who is that?”

“Mech and Dizz. Heard of them?”

“Oh yeah? Cool. Come on Apprentice. Follow me. We’ll get through this just fine.”

The two began back into battle, but were stop short by Passe’s booming voice. “We got Yeomen headed this way. Lock and load.”

The Apprentice and Kiziza looked towards the edge of Main Street to find a large group of Yeomen moving with speed towards them.

“Hold them here!” Passé screamed out. “Don’t let them anywhere near the insertion team or the outside perimeter.”

U.G. soldiers rushed to the task, but the giants would not make the task of holding Main Street easy. The Apprentice stared at the giants as their batons began to swing and bodies went flying. In one straight line and their transparent shields in front of them, they moved forward. The Apprentice could feel his heart racing. He was afraid, but his team, wherever they were would do their jobs. He would honor them with that same effort. Without any more thought, he and Kiziza rushed to do just that.

Almost over the D.Z. Fellas,” Tech hollered out over the sound of wind rushing past the aircraft they were inside. “Lock and load!”

“Looking forward to Romp,” Gariffen Said, as he secured his left arm in his War Arm.

“Aye, me too.” Gatlin seconded.

“Doubt those fucks had a chance to miss us since our last stomp in their halls,” Namis said as he stood up. “What about you,” he spoke towards ObaRé who sat quietly. “You looking forward to a little blood and guts in the compound?”

“No, I’m looking forward to a lot of blood and guts,” he said quite devilishly.

“That’s my kind of talk. I think I’m going to like this bloke,” Danis said.

“Let’s get’er up,” Tech screamed out as the jump light inside the cargo hold turned red. Everyone stood and took their jump positions.

“Hey this guy doesn’t have on his Declension Pack,” Namis point out about ObaRé.

“Get him one” Gariffen said.

“I don’t need one,” ObaRé quietly informed.

“Hey look, I understand wanting to catch a thrill and all, but don’t take it so far.” Hayel said to him as Namis handed him a Declension Pack. Hayel shoved it in ObaRé’s chest. The light turned green. Tech was the first one out the door followed by Bremis.

“I told you I don’t need one,” ObaRé said as he dropped the pack, pushed Hayel to the side, and jumped out the door.

“What the hell,” Hayel said then jumped out behind him. The others followed.

The wind felt great rushing past ObaRé’s face. Ahh – freedom. What he would do with it. Beneath him, Compound city rushed his way. Muzzle flashes filled the small area he was to land in. He was ready.

Tech landed first dead center of the infantry drop zone perimeter and immediately laid fire to everything around him that was not resistance. Bremis hit the ground next.

“Evening Gentlemen,” Tech said as he took a knee next to Dizz and Mech.

“Did you bring the party with you?” Mech asked.

“Sure did and that interesting party favor you two provided us. I’m going to expect some explanation after all this is done.”

“That’s Dizz’s doing. You can expect him to explain it after we get out of here.” Mech informed.

“If we get out of here.” Dizz said.

With a boom ObaRé landed behind them. He stood and followed slowly behind the two. The others landed and took their positions. All of them confused about what they just saw. They helped lay down suppressive fire with the D.Z. Team inside the compound courtyard.

Dahlem stepped over to the conversation. “All your people here?” He asked Tech.

“Everybody’s accounted for.” he said.

“Make it as quick as possible gentlemen,” Dahlem said.

“Will do.” Tech said.

Dahlem stood. “Drop team is down! Covering fire!” He screamed the order.

The D.Z. team perimeter opened up on one side and made an exit. “Bremis give us an entrance please!” Tech yelled out.

“With pleasure,” Bremis said then let loose with his War Arms. Where there once was a door on a wall across the courtyard there was now a gaping hole. Terra Squad–Nero and ObaRé Kek made haste into it. They stopped short inside while Tech tapped a few buttons on his wrist band. A halo-schematic of the building illuminated from it. A small light flashed where they stood. Tech ran his finger through the schematic and found where they were supposed to go.

“OK fellas, we are three floors up from the elevator that’s gotta take us were we gotta go. Regular combat positions. ObaRé you follow behind us.”

As they moved to their positions the footsteps lofted down the hall. “Click, designate,” Tech ordered.

“Corporation soldiers boss.” Click said.

“Right on time,” Tech said. “Looks like our hosts have come to greet us. I want to make sure we take care of these soldier rooks before the Red Eyes show up.”

“Got you cap,” Bremis yelled out as he laid down a barrage of gun fire from his War Arms. The Corporation soldiers were no match for the barrels of the Terra Squad War Arms. They were essentially tank guns mounted on the arms of men. Simple flesh was nothing.

“Good to be back in here ain’t it?” Gatlin screamed to Bremis.

“Yeah it’s kind of like a reunion. Looks like they did something different with the place,” Bremis said.

“Maybe new curtains?”

“Or paint!” They both broke out into laughter. Hayel and Gariffen moved forward with ObaRé. Corporation soldiers piled in. They cut them down quickly and leap frogged to the elevator corridor.

“Hayel, get this door open,” Tech ordered. Hayel quickly moved to the elevator door. His fingers got busy typing on his wrist band. A few moments later the elevator opened up.

“We’re good.” Hayel informed. Click, Gatlin, and Gariffen filled into the elevator. There was no way all seven massive men, their War Arms, and ObaRé would fit into its confined space.

“See you brutes at the bottom.” Gariffen said as the door slid shut.

“More Corps Capt!” Bremis screamed as more Corporation soldiers barreled down the adjacent hall.

“Well then, let’s make more corpes,” Tech said. The ragged bunch laughed and let off an onslaught of War Arm gun fire.

“Elevators back,” Hayel announced.

“ObaRé, Danis, Namis, head down.” Tech ordered as he continuously fired from his War Arm.

“What about you and Bremis boss?” Danis asked.

Bremis turned to Danis. “Are you serious? These are just Corporation soldiers. This is play time.” Danis and the other two entered the elevator and made their way down to the second level. When the doors opened the previous Terra-Squad members were already in the throes of battle. Sliver streaks leaped from wall to wall, falling, and getting back up. The six men instinctively formed a semi-circle perimeter around the elevator as they waited for the remaining two team members. A few moments passed and the door slid opened. Tech and Bremis rushed out; their War Arms spinning all barrels.

“Two corridors down and to the right is where we need to go gentlemen,” Tech screamed out. “Let’s clear a path.”

The team went to work moving down the hall. They leapt from wall to wall making quick work of their Silver streak attackers, ObaRé following behind them.

44

Corporation Chariots rounded the corner and landed 30 yards shotgun across of the gaping hole where most of the battle occurred. Curtis stood to get a better look. Sure enough it was Silver Streaks. The party was going to get more interesting.

“I hope the U.G. soldiers are up for the battle,” Tamara said.

“I hope we’re up for the battle,” Curtis said.

“What do you mean?” Tamara asked, but then noticed why Curtis made the comment. The Silver streaks were not headed for the battle inside the compound, but towards the perimeter.

“Oh shit,” she said.”

“Command we got a problem.” Curtis spoke into the com. “We’ve got a whole platoon of Silver Streaks headed towards the civilian perimeter.

“What are we going to do? We can’t handle a whole brigade of Silver Streaks,” Tamara whispered.

“We got support on the way. Hold tight.” The voice came back from the com.

“Command said they got support on the way.” Curtis relayed.

“What do we do until then,” Tamara asked.

“What we can do. Open fire!” Curtis screamed as he stood and unloaded his weapon. His civilian team followed suit. Bullets ricocheted off black Silver Streak clothing, but the herd kept coming with feral ferocity. Curtis could see some of the civilians stepping back. Fear was getting the best of them.

“Hold the line!” he yelled. It was enough to stop their back pedal, but he could tell this was about to get ugly. None of them were trained to handle Silver Streaks. Not even himself. They fired relentlessly with no real effect. Soon the Silver Streak threat was upon them and all out chaos ensued. The lines between Civilian Resistance and Sliver streaks became a crowded vision of blood, screams, and yells. Just as Curtis thought all was lost he heard their saving grace. He turned and to his relief, three Honor Guard Compressor tanks rolled toward Main Street and his civilian team.

“Thank God!” Curtis whispered. “Give em hell just a little longer. We’ve got Honor Guard support!” Curtis screamed out over the gun fire to his civilian volunteers.

“Cap!” Tamara said to Curtis as she watched the heard of Silver Streaks steady progressing their way.

“I know!” Curtis responded taking aim at as many as he could.

“Capt!” she screamed out with more urgency.

“I know!” he screamed back. It was their job to hold the back line, but it was obvious that it was going to fold. “Fuck it! Scatter.” He screamed out. He was hoping he could get enough Silver Streaks to give chase and ignore the Command tanks, but before he knew it the command Tanks rolled to a stop and lined up behind the civil resistance creating a blockade on the street parallel to the Chase Building. Nothing could get in behind them and nothing could escape the battle field.

The Back of all three Compressor tanks slammed open and out poured row after row of regal yellow battle armor trimmed in red. Face plate slammed shut, 7-60’s; Guardian assault rifles, glimmered in the light. The mass of Guardians emerged from around the tanks and their 7-60’s let loose. As the soldiers sprinted towards the battle field they met the Silver Streaks with discipline and precision. Silver Streaks began to fall left and right and the lines between resistance and Sliver Streaks began to even. Several groups of Guardians broke off and headed toward Main Street.

It’s getting thick in here!” Gariffen screamed out over the War Arm assault. They were held up in a hall way facing the elevator they needed to go down.

“It’s only Silver Streaks, What are you bitching about?” Bremis said as he lunged to the other wall.

“You should put your War Arm down and run over there and give them a hug.” Hayel added. The men laughed.

The high pitched, piercing, and wailing scream rang out through the hall.

“Shit just got serious fellas,” Tech informed. The gun fire ceased from the other side. They all knew what was coming. “Click take out that far wall and give us some cover.”

Click rolled out and did just that. The wall exploded giving a cloud of smoke that was hard to see through. It fell quiet for a few heartbeats.

“And now the fun begins!” Tech yelled as he took a commanding step forward and raised one of his War Arms. “Gentleman!” The Red Eyes appeared on queue down the hall, racing toward them. “Have at them.” The hall way erupted with gun fire.

Red Reyes emerged from the smoke. Gun fire rang out and the Red Eyes jumped and ran across the walls. The Team dispersed to compensate. More screams traveled from down the hallway.

“Tech, we’re going to get overrun!” Bremis said.

“There’s the shaft,” Gariffen yelled out to ObaRé. “What do you need us to do to get you to it?”

“That’s okay fellas, I can take it from here,” ObaRé informed.

“Good, because I don’t want to be anywhere near that G-36 stuff when you get to it,” Gariffen admitted. ObaRé took off into the cloud of smoke. The Squad couldn’t see the action on the other side, but the sounds were visceral. When the screaming and gunfire ceased, ObaRé returned covered in Blood. The team starred on in shock.

“I’m going down the elevator now,” he said calmly. The Squad stood there shocked. ObaRé turned, walked towards the elevator, entered, and went down.

From the control stage inside The Thomas Howard Edwards Corporation compound command room, Hennery Pegasus Theron surveyed his control room and the complete pandemonium that was currently in front of his eyes. On every 100 plus computer screen, Resistance fighters scurried about causing mayhem. In his twenty plus years of service, he had never seen anything like this, yet alone been in charge while a chaos like this occurred. It just didn’t happen under his command. Calmly he stood there with hands griped behind his back, his perfect military posture bringing him to his full six foot five height.

He slowly stepped down the first set of stairs and strolled across the full length of its tier; observing every computer and every cadet at its semicircular console. Once he reached the end of its length, he turned his head and looked down the bottom row. Commands and reports were being shouted and relayed with extreme intensity. His hands still gripped relaxed behind his back, he strolled down the row to the middle. He stood over the cadet’s shoulder that was monitoring a portion of the attack outside of the compound. A few seconds past without him saying a word. The cadet didn’t even notice he was standing there. Theron squinted at the screen then slowly bent down to the cadet’s ear height.

“Cadet,” he said casually. The cadet stopped the command he was giving over his headset abruptly. A nervous surprise filled his face as he look over his shoulder to find his commanding officer observing him. How long had he been standing there?

“Sir?” Was the only thing he could get out. Thereon slowly and methodically reached over him and pointed at the screen. The cadet carefully inched his eyes toward the screen then back up at Theron.

“Have you had this command all day?” Theron asked evenly as he tapped on the screen three times with a slow metronomic rhythm.

“Yes sir.”

“In your opinion, approximately where did these…people insert their attack?”

The cadet had no idea what was coming next, but he would not lie. If there was discipline coming, lying would only make it worse. “Sir I can tell you for certain that the attack came from the Chase Building.” He waited for Theron’s response. Theron stood to full height.

“Cadet, bring the front Rail gun online,” Theron said with a scary calmness. The cadet did as he was told. “Destroy the Chase Building. The entire building cadet. Raise it to the ground.”

“Sir, yes sir.” He had only been a Corporation officer for two years, but he knew that some commands were not to be questioned. Actually, no commands were to be questioned coming from Theron. He had also learned that any command given by this man had valid reasons. The rail gun blared into the action on the screen.

Diamond was turning her attention to a Griffin Chariot and beginning to bear down on it when the distinctive cannon fire from T.H.E Compound rang out over head. Her gaze followed the gunfire across and down the street, to her surprise, the Chase Building. She watched in horror as the gun fire methodically chopped away at the buildings base. The fighting seemed to come to a halt as everyone watched the action take place.

“That’s not the building I think it is, Is it?” Rezina asked as she stepped up next to Diamond.

“Yeah. It is,” Diamond answered.

Move!” Curtis yelled out, but it was to no avail. As the Chase Building fell apart at all seems, Civilian and Corp forces alike near the building were crushed by the falling debris. Curtis threw down his gun, grabbed Tamara and flung both of them hard to one side just as a big chunk of the building fell where they were once standing. “Run,” he screamed out as he scooped her from the ground. They made haste away from the building and further into the battle field.

The command tank closest to the building wasn’t so lucky. Wave after wave of debris hit the tank until it was crushed and buried along with the Guardians inside.

Solcé stared at the command tank next to hers in horror as hers shook violently. It was far enough away that it wouldn’t get buried, but debris hit the tank hard. Solcé looked back at her crew as some gathered themselves from the floor. Once it was all done, the battlefield near the outside perimeter was a foggy view of dust and rubble.

“My lady, there are going to be a lot of people who need help. If you don’t mind?” May’jor said as he motioned toward the door. Solcé nodded. May’jor grabbed a weapon and exited the command tank with haste.

“Send a group of Guardians as well,” Solcé said turning to Tayna.

What the hell,” Blue 5 gasped. Danielle and her whole team looked on horrified as their planned escape route and place of safety crumbled to the ground. Danielle’s muscles seized and panic coursed through her body. How the hell would she get her people out of here alive?

“We are stuck,” 3 stated the obvious. More gun fire rang out and the car they hide behind shook violently as they desperately squeezed in for cover. Danielle’s h eart threatened to jump out her chest. She had stopped breathing all together. What was she going to do next? This was nowhere near part of the plan. For her and her team, it was supposed to be a quick in and out at the beginning of this attack with no direct contact with the enemy. They- She – wasn’t trained for this.

“1!” She heard the voice call out, but her mind couldn’t bring her body to respond. “Blue 1!” the voice now a muffled distant sound in her ear. “Danielle!” It called out again. The firm grip of Blue 7 hands on her arms shook her out of her daze and brought her to the situation at hand. “You got this,” 7 whispered in her ear. “Blue 1, what’s the plan?”

“We can’t stay here much longer,” 5 said.

She stood quickly and peeked over the car to get a clear view of the situation.

“OK! We’ve got 16 Corp officers directly ahead of us. There’s an Echo moving in behind them. There are 23 overturned and stationary cars between here and Main Street – Plenty of cover between here and there. We focus on leap frogging between the cover.”

“You got all that from that quick peek?” 7 asked in amazement.

“Yeah,” she said.

“You are amazing,” 7 responded.

“But what do we do from there? How the hell do we get out of all this?” A panicking 2 asked.

“First, we get out of this hell of a position, and then strategize from there, OK.” She said her confidence returning.

“OK,” Blue 2 responded.

“Maybe if we’re lucky enough, we can make it to one of the Command Tanks.

45

High above the city, in the Lathan Tower, Donothan watched the explosions and fires below at T.H.E. Corporation compound. Five miles separated his building from the physical action, but every bullet fired touched him personally. From this office on the highest floor, the entire city could be seen. From anywhere in the city the Lathan could be seen as well. It’s rumored that his father intentionally had it built that high with this office facing T.H.E. Corporation compound to remind the Edwards that he would always be a watchful eye over them.

Donothan casually sipped a special blend of Vietnamese tea from a now cool mug. His tea had grown cold. How long had he actually been standing there? The sounds of war were distant and muffled; reminiscent of a fireworks display going on miles away. Gun fire from this distance was reminiscent of camera flashes in a dim basketball arena during an event changing moment.

It looks like they’re having a little trouble with new Corporation technology. He’d have to send them more money. Vibrations shook the room proceeded by a brilliant flash and boom. Donothan watched as a large chunk of the Rhatma building fell. Most of his buildings in the area would receive substantial damage during these events.

He turned, and walked towards the mini bar. He placed his tea in the microwave. Two minutes should be good enough. After his tea was reheated, he returned to the window, took a seat in the chair facing the wall sized picture window that overlooked the city, crossed his legs, and continued on with his tea and spectating.

His mind drifted off to thoughts and places of futures hand. What roll would he play in it? How would Ophelia feel? He didn’t really have to ask himself about Ophelia. He already knew she would protest with great vehemence. However, he wanted to play a more personal role in this conflict. His current role was chosen for him well before his birth. A role he accepted with great honor, but still yet, not his choice.

What Mech had shown him six months ago had set with him, had haunted him daily, without rest. The schematic clearly showed a threat. One he was still struggling to wrap his mind around. The new technology would be built, but he prayed to God above it would never have to be used. If it ever came to that point in this reality God have mercy on us all.

A bright flash shook him out of his thoughts. A moment later the crystal chandelier above his head rattled and the windows shook in front of him. Donothan casually looked up and watched as the explosion grew high in to the air. Which building was that? Corporation he hoped. He glanced down at his tea. The mug was cold in his hand once more. Time seemed to have gotten away from him again. Donothan pried himself from his spectating chair and returned to the bar to reheat his tea once more. Not a moment too soon. As he contemplated rather to reheat the current cup or make another altogether, the high pitched whistle cut through his thoughts as it grew steadily louder. Before Donothan’s mind could process what the sound was, glass cut through his back and the room exploded all around him.

46

Getting caught up in this battle was not part of the plan,” one of Danielle’s team members voice came through her com.

“I know. We have to make our way through the southernmost part of the street to avoid being detected. All right team, gather up. We need a plan – strategy?” Danielle offered up to her team as they gathered and all took a knee behind a car turned on its side.

“We can make our way through that maze of cars. That troop transport is empty and should provide us enough cover to make it to a safety Blue 1,” Blue 6 offered.

“What about getting inside the Chase Building? That’s where we needed to go.” Danielle’s heart was racing. Her team was not trained for this, but she had to make sure they made it out of there.

“Listen, once we get to the transport I’ll scout half a block ahead to make sure the path is clear,” Blue 7 said.

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s go,” Danielle said. The group moved with stealth and speed to the transport. Bullets rang out everywhere. There was almost no cover at all. Luckily they made it there without incident.

“OK, cool. That was wasn’t so hard. Alright Blue 7 do your thing.”

Blue 7 headed out over the ruble. He was only half way there when he spotted the Corporation troops disembarking a transport. Even worse, they had spotted him.

“Oh shit.”

Danielle arched her head around. They were spotted. There was no avoiding it. “Scatter!” she screamed out. That was the best strategy for the situation. “Make it back to the command tanks the best you can. They stood and defended themselves as they made their escapes in different directions. Danielle found herself pinned behind a car. Gotta get out of this she thought to herself. Half a body length in front of her she saw her saving grace: A T-26 RPG in the hands of a fallen Corp troop. She lunged out to grab it then crawled back to safety behind the car. To her left she could see Blue 7 standing his ground, but before she knew it blood spatter jumped from his back and he hit the ground. Quickly and without thought, she stood and fired the RPG at the Corp troops ahead. All of them went down except one, but she could tell he was dazed. She dropped the launcher and used the time to run over to check on Blue 7.

Danielle rushed over and knelt down next to her subordinate. Damn would she loose a team member under her first command? She didn’t know if she was ready for this.

“Relax, don’t try to move,” Danielle tried to comfort the teen soldier.

“Danielle,” the mechanical voice came through the mask. Danielle pulled back in shock. How did this soldier know her name? Slowly, she disconnected and pulled the soldiers mask off and gasped. The tears welled up immediately. She ripped off her mask.

“Eric,” she gasped out and at that moment she was no longer a soldier. She was again a teenaged girl with all the cares of a teenaged heart which was about to be broken.

“Eric. What are you doing here? How, how did you even know it was…”

“I’ve watched you from behind enough to recognize your sway,” pain ripped through his body and he let out a moan. “…shall we say,” Eric interrupted as he tried to smile. He gasped in deeply as a sharp pain shot through him. “I just figured it out not too long ago. At least now I know what you do with your time after school.” He began to breath heavy.

“Oh my god. You have to relax you have to Eric”. Then she began to panic. As she kneel there with Eric in her arms the sounds of battle and gun fire all but disappeared around her. The concern for her safety vanished. Her first command no longer mattered. She didn’t hear the footsteps nor did she notice the T.H.E. Corporation soldier who shot Eric run up on them, gun drawn. Danielle and Eric were easy targets, but the Corporation soldier froze in his tracks stunned as well. Danielle didn’t even notice or didn’t care because in her arms Eric began to die. He convulsed violently and wheezed for air as his lungs began to fill with blood.

“Oh no,” she moused out as the tears blurred her vision.” T.H.E. Corporation soldier took off his mask and stared down at them in horrid disbelief. What had he done? “No, no. Don’t go, don’t go. Stay. You can’t leave yet. I waited too long. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she began to repeat over and over. He stared into her eyes as life slowly, but surely, began to leave his body. He smiled at her and she heard his message of love loud and clear. And then, he was dead; his eyes still staring deep into her. All she could do is sit there and hold him and let the tears fall. Footsteps approached her. She looked up and there in a Corporation suit, in as much disbelief as she was, was the man, the boy who shot and killed the love of her life. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t move. She gave no change of expression at all when she saw Paul standing there, but Paul looked like his world had just been turned upside down – because it had. For a moment they simply stared at one another. No words could be exchanged. From behind him, Paul could hear the fast approaching hum of Griffin Chariots and more Corporation soldiers heading their way.

“You have to leave,” he informed Danielle. Danielle gave no change. “You have to get out of here. Danielle you have to leave,” he pleaded. Still Danielle gave no change. “I can’t protect you.” He pulled on his mask and pulled his gun up. “I’ll buy you some time,” before he turned, “We’re even.” He said referring to sparing her life then he ran off into clouds of smoke. Danielle gave no move.

As May’jor worked his way back to the command line, he spotted the teenage troop knelt over her dead comrade. He could also see a group of Corporation soldiers closing down on her position. The girl didn’t seem to pay it any mind “What the hell,” He spoke out loud. Running over he dispersed the group of young soldiers with a barrage of gun fire. A grenade dispersed the rest of them. He rushed over to Danielle’s side and knelt next to her. “Come on you gotta get out of here. He told her. She didn’t move. He noticed her deep, passionate stare at the dead young man next to her. He swung his gun around his shoulder, stood, picked up Eric’s lifeless body, and slung him over his other shoulder. With a commanding grab of her arm he pulled her up. “Come on.” Danielle took one last look at Eric’s face as it bounced over May’jor’s shoulder and then looked away as she was dragged along. With stealth, May’jor proceeded to make their way back to the command line only having to cut down one more group of soldiers as they passed a stationary tank before making it back to the Compressor Tanks. He led her to the ground next to the Command Tank and carefully sat Eric’s body next to her against the tank. He climbed halfway up the ladder to the main platform; just enough to see Solcé and Tanya “She’s not ready.” He said over the chaos, gunfire, and explosions then climbed back down and headed back into the battle.

From where she stood Solcé could see Danielle sitting next to her dead comrade. “Tanya,” she said.

“I got it,” Tanya replied then jumped off the Tank. She walked over to Danielle and knelt. She studied her briefly only glancing at the dead boy next to her during her walk over. She grabbed her by the hand and led her up the ladder. Danielle stood there emotionless. Solcé stared at her, but didn’t say a word. Tanya followed behind her on the ladder then led her to the back and covered part of the tank. Leading her to a seat, she sat Danielle down then knelt in front of her. She studied her face with empathy and caressed her cheek with one hand. Slowly, she stroked one side of her head, touched her face again, then stood and left. Mag’Tanya stood next to Solcé who starred off into the battle ahead. They did not exchange eye contact.

“I think she knew the kid.” Tanya informed calmly.

Solcé glanced over her shoulder at Danielle who simply sat there and cried profusely. Then she glanced down at Eric, and then back at the battle ahead. “No, I think she more than knew him. This is the part of my job I hate.”

“My Lady,” Tanya acknowledged then turned and jumped off the tank. She walked aggressively toward the battle line taking a group of Guardians with her. “Come on let’s shoot something damn it and get this over with.”

The elevator came to a stop at the -36 th floor. Through the glass elevator door, ObaRé could see two Yeomen suited in distinctive suits. They could also see him. The G-36 gas was also visible. This was going to be fun. He hit the open button and stepped into the room. Immediately he could feel the skin on his face being eaten away. He inhaled deeply. He could feel all his internal organs do the same thing as his skin; being eaten away and re-growing themselves almost instantaneously. This was an interesting pain he’d never experienced before. He’d have to remember it. He opened his eyes and starred at the Yeomen who stood guard over an interesting vault directly ahead. Interesting. How could these Yeomen be in this room at the same time as the G-36 gas? There wasn’t supposed to be any protective suits for it. Let’s find out he thought. He rushed the Yeomen who lumbered toward him. With quick strikes he attacked; jumping and evading, but they were not stopping. He got in close and punched as hard as he could at one of the Yeomen. From the suit came an interesting sound. He grabbed onto one of them and clung to his back. He pressed his ear to the suit. As the Yeoman moved he could hear the sound. It was persistent. It took him a second to place the sound, but he eventually got it. Two distinct sounds that were so close they sounded like one. The normal human ear wouldn’t even notice, but thanks to his elevated senses, he could; liquid and crunching glass. Somehow T.H.E. Corporation was able to make glass within the suits that would liquefy upon movement and quickly solidify. The chemical change was so fast the G36 gas would treat the element just like glass and could not penetrate – Genius.

Change of strategy. He whipped his hands to the side and slowly his fingernails extended to razor sharp points. He smiled a devilish smile. Slowly, his fangs extended. He slashed and cut deep into the suits. He could hear the sound of glass breaking. Fangs pieced the suits and the liquid tasted funny as it slid down his throat. Soon the Yeomen lay on the ground gasping, screaming, and dying horrible deaths.

ObaRé approached the vault and ripped its door away with ease. He jolted back and stood there in horrid surprise.

Command we’re headed back up top.” Techs voice came over the com.

“Compound team, the infiltration team is headed back,” Solcé said into the com. “They’re going to need some back up for their exit.” She turned to May’jor. “Give the command to open fire on the compound.”

“Yes my lady,” May’jor responded.

The dormant turrets on the two remaining command tanks came alive. They turned their mouths toward the area near the entry hole in the compound wall then came alive with rapid gun fire.

Tech, we got your escape velocity, but it’s going to be a hard fight back,” Dizz radioed.

“Got you. We’re coming through the door in a second. We’ll come out swinging,” Tech voice answered back.

“Good cause we’re going to need it,” Dizz responded. He stood. “Open fire!” The whole infantry team opened fire. Just as they did the Terra Squad, with ObaRé in tow, bolted through the door. They ignored the fight on the inside and headed straight for the gaping hole. Bremis and Click took positions on either side of the wall and laid down fire at the Silver Streaks. Slowly, but surely, they made their way to the Command tank.

“The Infiltration team is on board!” Solcé screamed into the com. “Begin the exit strategy.”

“Solcé our initial escape route went out with the Chase Building,” Mech’s voice came back.

“We know. As soon as forces are clear from the building the command tanks are going lay down suppressive fire to give you all escape velocity until everyone is clear.”

“Roger th…” Mech began.

“Yagen Nah!” The battle cry and the explosion that followed came through the com clear and distinct in the background. Solcé stood in confusion in front of the tank. Everyone stood to see the huge explosion and cloud of smoke.

ObaRé hurried over to the front of the tank. Did he hear what he just thought he heard? Sure enough to his horror across the battlefield stood a bare chest soldier covered in tribal Tattoo’s wielding a menacing weapon.

“Yagen Nah!” This time the battle cry lofted clear and distinct over the chaos and confusion of the battlefield. Slowly they started to stand out. ObaRé could see a whole brigade of the bald bare chested soldiers.

“Nahgen Nah!” The battle cry came from the other side of the battlefield. Another set of distinctly different bare chested tattooed soldiers began to fire on the other and everything and everyone in their way.

“Oh this just keeps getting better,” ObaRé hissed.

“What the fuck was that,” someone asked on the transport.

“I don’t know. Keep laying suppressive fire on the Corp troops. We gotta buy the ground forces enough time to get out of there,” Solcé commanded.

“No. It’s time to leave,” ObaRé informed calmly.

“What are you talking about? Our troops are cut off and surrounded.”

“There is nothing you can do.”

“We just can’t leave them out there.”

“You don’t want to stay around and play with these boys. You will lose the entire assault force right here, right now.” ObaRé starred into Solcé’s eye hard and firm.

“This is the order to retreat.” The words came long and hard from her voice. “All troops are to make their way to the nearest command tank. We’ll take as many as we can. For everyone else…” She held the next statement for a long pause, but there really was no other option. “Everyman for himself. Make your way back to basses the best you can.”

47

Over a third of the assault force was lost yesterday in, what I think we are about to find out, was a rather pointless assault.” Solcé’s monotone voice echoed through the long corridor that led to the meeting cavern that she had introduced the attack to the entire resistance days earlier. Today she was not so eager to take the voyage down this corridor today. Mag’Tanya could only look at Solcé as she stared down the corridor.

“Has everyone been accounted for yet?” Solcé asked.

“No My Lady. Many have not been able to make their way through the streets. Corporation presence is thick on the streets to say the least,” Mag’Tanya said. “We knew casualties would be high, but the risk was worth it.”

Tanya watched Solcé’s back and shoulders heave up and down as she breathed in deeply and let out a long exhale. The action was answer enough. Then Mag’Tanya followed behind her leader as she took steps to begin the long walk down the corridor toward the remaining heads that gathered once again in the large cave.

The same faces were there; well mostly, but the overall atmosphere of second meeting was solemn. The air of defeat was heavy; faces tired and doubtful. Solcé scanned the room to see who she could recognize. There was a few missing faces. She stood next to her place at the round table for a long hard moment before taking a seat.

“Allow me to commend you on a well fought battle. The mission was important and took complete cooperation of all sects of this…” she paused for a heartbeat, “resistance against the Thomas Howard Edwards Corporation Compound City. Nothing of this scale has ever been attempted before and you all coordinated well. My Pride goes with you.”

I know that there are many from different sects of the movement that have not been accounted for and are still making their way through the city back to their respective bases. We wish them all luck and will do what we can to retrieve our brothers and sisters. We don’t make it a habit of leaving our brothers in arms to defend themselves on the battlefield; however, it was disclosed to me during retract, that if we were not to pull out, that instant, we would have lost many, many more. So, the decision to retract was made and the order given. As head of this movement, I accept full responsibility for that decision.”

“No explanation is needed Solcé.” Arron Dahlem’s voice penetrated the room. “We all respect and trust your authority.”

“Thank you General Dahlem. I still felt the words needed to be spoken. With the help of Terra Squad-Nero, we were able to penetrate the inner levels of Compound City and attain some knowledge as to what we are dealing with; I’ve been told. I will ask Dizz’s constituent, ObaRé Kek to come forward and address the council with his findings,” Solcé’s words trailed off as she bowed her head and closed her eyes. Mag Tanya stared on with concern.

ObaRé stood and in his usual slow deliberate stride took the center of the floor.

“So what happened when you entered the chamber?” Solcé asked.

“G36 Gas, two Yeomen dressed in special suits.” ObaRé informed. “It was hard for me to tell at first, but the suits used a technology you might be interested in. Looks like the suits were insulated with a water based solution that solidified and re-liquefied upon movement.”

“That makes sense, the G36 gas can’t flow through water or glass.” Curtis said.

“Exactly. I killed them all and as your Intel suggested there was a vault that I managed to open.”

“And the item we went to pick up.”

“It was there. It definitely was there. What they discovered years ago would defiantly shift the reins of power, that is if that’s what they found during their dig.”

“What was it?” Solcé asked, her body language still the same.

“I don’t know,” ObaRé responded.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Solcé asked.

“The item we’re talking about is old. You can consider it ancient. Very ancient.” ObaRé took a few steps forward. “Here’s the thing, there is what you today might consider prophecy surrounding this item. This prophecy also involves an ancient order of priest. The story is that one group of these priests put a spell on the item so that when Immortals see it; all they see is a bright light. We can’t touch it either or we would be destroyed. I can’t touch it because I am what your myths and folklore of Vampeels is loosely based off of.”

“I’m sorry a what?” Solcé asked.

“A Vampeel.”

“This Blocke is nuts. Now he thinks he’s a day walking vampire,” Hayel’s voice jumped from the crowd.

Before anyone could notice, Dizz swung up a weapon and shot ObaRé square in the forehead. His body went flying to the ground.

The sounds of guns cocking and swears rang out everywhere. Some even pointed at Dizz.

“Dizz what the hell” Solcé shot out. Dizz holstered his weapon and waited.

“Thank God,” Gariffen screamed out.

A short moment went by. Gasps filled the room and swears jumped out as ObaRé stood up and the bullet oozed out of his forehead.

“Like I said, I can’t die. I’m Immortal.” He informed the stunned crowd.

Solcé starred at Dizz, eyes full of question. Dizz simply stood with his arms folded and hand over his mouth. It was obvious this issue would not be addressed today, but it would be, oh it would be. She noticed Mech lower his head and cover his face.

“OK! So now that that’s settled,” Solcé said with as much sarcasm as she could voice, then pulled her eyes off Dizz and back to ObaRé. “And the men that showed up towards the end of the battle. You seemed pretty adamant about them.”

“Like I said before, there is a prophecy that surrounds this item. The details I don’t know, but I do know this; you’ve got problems. The two groups are an ancient order of men sworn to their cause. Those overly aggressive tattooed men that showed up at the end of your mission, those would be the priest I’m speaking of. As you can tell prayer is not what these priest spend the bulk of their time doing.”

“Those were two distinctive groups of men?” Solcé asked. “It didn’t appear to be much of a difference between the two.”

“Yes they were, The Yagen Nah and the Nahgen Nah. You’ll have no problem telling the difference over time. Trust me. The Yagen Nah believes that the prophecy should and will happen. The Nahgen Nah believes that it shouldn’t and won’t happen,” ObaRé explained. “How this prophecy all ties in with your quest against Thomas Edwards, I have no Idea. What side of the prophecy you all sit on, I don’t know. But listen and understand this; they don’t give a fuck about you, T.H.E. Corporation, Santa clause…the Pope. You are all inconsequential. All they care about is making sure the prophecy does or doesn’t happen. They will destroy you and anyone else in their way.”

Solcé let the information roll around in her head for a moment. “So this is where we stand?” She said.

“Yup,” ObaRé said.

This was far from anything that anyone in the meeting hall that day was expecting to hear. However, it was now dropped on the table with the vastly growing number of factors that everyone in the resistance against the Thomas Howard Edwards Corporation had sworn to fight against to their last drop of blood.

48

ObaRé let the night air blow across his face. He inhaled deeply and took it all in. He hadn’t felt the fresh air in a long time – freedom.

“So what now?” Dizz’s voice came from behind. ObaRé turned to find him walking up.

“All debts are paid. We had a deal. Now I return to my world and my people and continue where I left off.”

“Yeah we had a deal, but what if I decide not to honor our deal? What if I decide to come looking for you and finish our unfinished business?”

“Well I would remind you that my aim is better than yours,” ObaRé took his two fingers and pointed them at his eyes. “Two eyes.”

“Yeah I beg to differ. My single eye keeps me locked on my target.”

“That’s a game we may play one day, but for now.”

“But for now… I have a war to fight.”

“Understand this. The Yagen Nah and Nahgen Nah make this a totally different ball game.”

“How so?” Dizz asked as they both stared off into the city ahead.

“I cared nothing for your concerns with Edwards. I had no reason too.”

“But now?”

“I gave no thought to the validity of that prophecy in the many years that I lived. It was just as much a fairytale to Immortals as we were to your people.”

“Now you know it’s real,” Dizz said.

“Now I know it’s real and my instincts are telling me this war will now affect me too. If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is to listen to my instincts. They have rarely been wrong. I won’t be totally absent from this war.”

“So what will you do?” Dizz asked.

“The Yahgen Nah, the Nahgen nah, and this prophecy; they are my world. I will find out what this item is and what this prophecy has to do with all of this, in between time that is.” With that ObaRé walked off into the city.

49

Come in.”

Alexander Chileas followed Theron through the office door. He had served under this man as his personal assistant for only four weeks and it was his first time in his four years, in the most notable office in the entire Corporation. Needless to say, his nerves were high.

“Reports Sir, on the Resistance attack that occurred the other day,” Theron said as he entered the enormous office surrounded by windows overlooking the city.

“Thank you, you can place them on my desk.” The voice came from across the room where Chileas eyed, carefully, the man sitting at the desk at the end of it.

Theron reached over the collection of diverse artifacts ranging from small statues, bowls, a Pyramid, obelisks to a stone knife, and dropped the file filled with physical papers. All of the artifacts were obviously relics of cultures and civilizations long since passed. To Chileas they seemed out of place, given the design of the rest of the massive office. Everything else in it said business.

Chileas paid a special note to the fact the reports were being delivered on physical paper. There was a time if you wanted to hide a paper trail you would do so digitally. Now, in this technological society, if you wanted to hide that same paper trail, you would do so with physical paper. What was that important?

“Do we know how they were able to insert an attack on the compound?”

“The attack was launched from the Chase Building across the street,” Theron said evenly. “The building seemed to provide an undiscovered blind spot in our surveillance.”

“And what have we done about that building?”

“I had it destroyed.” Thereon said casually.

The man sat back in his seat and placed his fore finger on his top lip. Chileas barley breathed the whole time he was there. He did not want to do anything out of place. Theron, he noticed; however, was quite comfortable and cavalier, but then again, he was only a low ranking officer serving under Theron and Theron was well… Theron was Theron. That was always the only explanation needed.

“Good. What’s the word on the pursuit of the fighters.”

“Plans are on their way. A city wide lock down is already in effect. Corporation presence will be everywhere.” Theron informed then turned and headed for the door. Chileas, although a quiet inconsequential fly on the wall, took notice of every bit of the interaction in this office as brief as it was. He felt honored to have been able to accompany Theron to this meeting and looked forward to the next one. Chileas took one last quick sweep of the room as he followed Theron to exit.

“Good keep me posted.” Thomas Howard Edwards III sat back in his seat and gazed into nowhere. How arrogant the resistance to think they could stop a plan that was worlds beyond them. And the Honor Guard? He couldn’t wait to crush them and rid himself of the nuisance. Pushing the thick file to the side of the desk, he swiveled around in his chair. Standing up, he walked towards the window and looked down on the destruction that occurred in his compound below. The tower that still lay crumpled against the walls of Compound City, the debris from the Rhatma building, and the craters left from the Honor Guard missiles. Yes he was eager indeed to rid himself of the nuisance, but he should thank them. They just made his job easier.

Got questions?

Join the conversations about

O R D E R and the story at:

www.dorseyjackson.com

Other Links

Sign up for mailing list

Like O R D E R’s Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/orderthenovel


Order

Lost souls wander aimlessly for eternity, but souls driven and crazed by the passion of a cause wander farther and longer. At one time, he led thousands who called him Father and Moses. He watched them all perish in front of his feet. Now this one man takes on the task of fighting a war that should be fought by several army’s against a tyranny veiled in societal conditioning, the likes of no world has ever seen. A tyranny which blurred the lines between government, big business, and scientific advancement, all in years of complicated sequences of events. Although the days where he would find any form of peace or happiness were long gone, he had given his word to seek them out and send them to hell, where there they would serve as messengers to the unjust and the souls of the damned, and they would know his name. When everything has been taken from you, and there is nothing left, revenge is enough. Order, by author Dorsey Jackson is a must read for any military sci- fi enthusiast. Jackson keeps the reader enthralled and anticipating the next chapter in this page turning novel that will leave the reader anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book on what is destined to be an epic.

  • Author: Dorsey Jackson
  • Published: 2015-10-10 04:35:25
  • Words: 77039
Order Order