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Chapter XXIV

 

            A quiet rumble shook the Factory walls in the darkness of the early morning.  Little Ghost woke with a dry mouth and looked for the glass of water she kept on the nightstand.  She quickly remembered, after not seeing it there, that she had told Celia she didn’t need it.  She instantly wished she hadn’t done that, considering her current state of dry mouth. 

            She looked over at Celia sleeping peacefully.  The smile on the older girl’s face made Little Ghost wonder what she was dreaming about.  The thought of it being about Diamond Dog made her giggle quietly.  She leaned over her adopted sister and made whispered kissy noises in her ear.  Celia fidgeted, and her smile grew.  Little Ghost had to hold back her laugh. 

            Little Ghost stood silently for nearly a minute, contemplating whether or not to wake the older girl to go and get her water.  Suddenly, she remembered her great accomplishment earlier that night.  She had blown the candle out while in her ghost form.  She was growing up.  She could go and get her own water – maybe just this one time. 

            The young girl turned the handle slowly; listening as she did to hear if anyone was moving about in the building.  Little Ghost was happy, if not surprised by the silence in the building.  The older kids hardly ever went to bed before two in the morning.  She didn’t think much more of it, and tiptoed down the hall to the kitchen. 

            Little Ghost opened the cabinet door slowly, trying not to make any noise.  She had watched the other kids at the Factory, and knew that they were all pretty friendly.  Celia was comfortable around them, and they were all nice to her.  Inside, Caroline knew that none of them wanted to harm her, but she still couldn’t lower her guard.  She wasn’t afraid of them hurting her, at least not physically.  She was afraid that they wouldn’t like her.  That they would reject her like her parents did. 

            Caroline’s parents didn’t believe her stories of turning invisible and being unable to talk; or talk for them to hear her.  To her, they never tried to find out the truth.  They turned on her, and called her a bad girl.  Caroline was afraid that the kids at the Factory would be the same way.  The longer she stayed in her ghost form, the more she came to like it. 

            For Little Ghost, watching other people talk, play games, listen to music, and dance was just as good as doing it herself.  Living life vicariously through others wasn’t so bad.  Plus, she got to see who they really were when no one else was around.  She soon learned how much they were like her.  It made her feel close to them, closer than if she physically interacted with them.  She cried with them in the dark, and prayed with them in silence.  In a way, they were friends, even though they didn’t know her. 

            Little Ghost placed the glass on the counter and opened the refrigerator with equal stealth as she had the other doors.  She grabbed the pitcher of purified water and poured up a nice cool glass. 

            The young girl was only three sips in when she heard the voices.  They came from the stairwell door.  Little Ghost stood in silence, and let the darkness hide her. 

            “You take this room.” The familiar voice said in a hushed tone.  “I’ll take the one at the end of the hall.  Remember, don’t kill him.  I want to do that.”   

            Little Ghost started to shake in fear.  Her fear grew as the two voice passed before the nightlight in the hall, illuminating their bodies and faces.  She saw Black Sunshine, his clothes were dirty and disheveled.  His hair was wild and all about his head.  The one that walked behind him was the most frightening thing Little Ghost had ever seen. 

            Devilish was right behind Brutal, making their way down the hall.  His lower jaw had elongated to resemble that of a goblin.  His mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth that seemed too big for his face, and stuck out like a piranha.  His arms had also lengthened to the point that they were only inches from dragging along the floor.  The fingers themselves seemed to have disappeared and given way to the long blade like nails that stood in their place. 

            Little Ghost couldn’t suppress her fright anymore and gasped.  She immediately turned invisible and ran through the walls to her and Blue’s room.  The glass she held slipped through her ghostly hands and hit the ground. 

            “What was that?” Brutal questioned as he turned to the sound.  In his current form, Devilish was beyond making any sound that sounded remotely like human speech. 

            Brutal saw the broken glass gleaming in the low light of the 15-watt bulb.  He pondered on the sight for a brief moment, until the cause of the busted glass came to him. 

            “Shit!” He cursed aloud. 

            “Come on!”  he said to Devilish, and ran to the end of the hall.  He flipped on the hall light as he rushed to the far room.

            Little Ghost ran into the bedroom and tried to wake Electric Blue.  She tried frantically to shake the teenage girl from her slumber, only to have her intangible hands pass through the covers, her body, and the bed.  She tried again and again, panicking. 

            The door to the bedroom was thrown open.  Brutal stood in the doorway.  He looked at Blue’s sleeping body and started breathing heavy.  His fingers curled into fists. 

            “Celia!”  Little Ghost tried to scream.  Her voice was nonexistent in her ghostly form. 

            “Celia!”  She tried again. 

            Brutal raised a clenched fist at the girl in the bed. 

            “CELIA!” the young girl screamed at the top of her lungs.  Little Ghost was still invisible to sight, but could be heard by everyone around her. 

            Celia sat up in bed.  A silhouetted figured stood in the open doorway, and Little Ghost was nowhere in sight.  Electric Blue couldn’t see who it was trying to enter her room, but she knew they didn’t belong. 

            Threads of blue electricity traveled along the floor and walls and into Blue’s welcoming body.  She let loose a stream of twisting, arcing light at the intruder.  An unseen force slammed into Blue’s upper chest, throwing off her aim, and knocking her off the bed.   Her blast missed its target, hitting the doorframe mere inches away. 

            Electric Blue could hear screaming and fighting from the hallway.  She tried to get to her feet, but stumbled.  Another assault from the attacker in the doorway ripped her bed apart, sending pieces everywhere. 

            A chunk of the frame hit Blue in the back and sent her sprawling to the floor.  Her anger grew, fueled by her fear and panic at the assault on her home.  More electricity flowed into her.  Electric Blue aimed a bright white hand at the stranger and fired off a blast.  The current sped from her hand and traveled along the floor like a bolt of lightning, ripping up the tile as it moved.  The bolt exploded at the attacker’s feet, sending him reeling into the hall. 

            In the hallway light, Electric Blue could see the assailant’s face clearly, and what she saw scared her even more than the attack itself.  Black Sunshine. 

            ‘Bitch!” Brutal cried.  He rose to his feet and ran towards the kitchen. 

            Dazed, Blue was barely even aware of the tiny hands that tugged at her forearm.  She looked up to see Little Ghost in her corporeal form trying to pull her to her feet. 

            “Come on, Celia, get up!” Little Ghost pleaded. 

            “That was Black Sunshine.” Blue said in disbelief.  “Oh my God.  That was Black Sunshine.”   

            Blue wasn’t conscious of her movements.  She moved in an autonomous fashion, stiff and unresponsive. 

            ‘We have to go!” cried little Ghost. 

            Electric Blue looked at her adopted sister and snapped out her haze.  She was right, they had to go.  The question was:  Go where?  And how? 

            She could hear the fighting out in the hall and other rooms, and knew that Black Sunshine hadn’t come alone.  Who had he brought, and what were they capable of?  

            Like a shot of her own electricity it hit her, and Blue’s breath was taken away. 

            “They’re here to kill us.” Electric Blue said aloud.  It was so hard for her to comprehend; even harder to believe.  She suddenly flashed back to all those times she had watched television and wondered why it took so long for the people in the TV shows and movies to grasp the obvious.  She would dismiss the shows as being stupid and the character’s idiots.  Now, being in an unbelievable life or death situation, she understood.  Life, no matter how hard or cruel it can be, can never prepare you for something like this.  No one ever believes that such a thing could happen to them. 

            Blue found herself mentally drifting again, and shook her head to focus again.  Little Ghost was pulling on her arm hard enough to pull it out of its socket. 

            “We’ve got to go!”  Little Ghost pleaded with the older girl. 

            Blue wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words.  She grabbed Little Ghost by the arm and headed towards the door. 

*****

 

            “CELIA!” 

            Diamond Dog stirred from his sleep at the sound of Little Ghost’s cry.  He grimaced a bit, but didn’t open his eyes.  He groaned and slowly slid a leg out of bed.  The arcing sound of loose electricity, followed by the abrupt crash of busted furniture, forced his eyes open.  

            “What the hell?” DD asked as he cocked a head towards his room door. 

            The former high school athlete barely had time to act as a shadowed figured pounced at him from across the room.  DD threw himself out of the bed and onto the floor.  The bestial creature tore into the pillow and mattress, sending foam and stuff everywhere. 

            Devilish tore the pillow to shreds, and cut three large gouges into the mattress.  He wasn’t aware that he had missed his target until he started coughing out feathers from the pillow. 

            Diamond Dog was frozen in shock.  He couldn’t understand or believe what was happening.  Part of him thought that he was still asleep.  A heavy crash from beneath him and the screams of others in the Factory woke him from his trance.  Liquid quartz exuded from his pores and covered his body.  The shell started to harden just in time for the creature on the bed to attempt a second attack. 

            Devilish jumped from the bed and down on top of DD.  Diamond Dog raised his left arm to block the attack and hold him off.  Devilish opened his maw of teeth and clamped down on DD’s forearm.  The teeth scratched but didn’t penetrate the surface of the crystal.  One of his smaller teeth broke and skittered across the floor. 

            Devilish gnawed on the crystal covered arm like a dog with a bone.  He tried furiously to get to the flesh and bone inside. 

            DD increased the thickness of the quartz on his right fist and planted it in the side of Devilish’s face.  The punch sent the Hell Spawn reeling.  He howled as more broken teeth fell from his mouth.  Diamond Dog wasted no time in getting to his feet.  He followed the right cross with a left hook and another right.  Devilish fell to the ground unconscious. 

            DD looked down at the Hell Spawn punk at his feet. 

            “What the hell is going on?” DD asked as he ran out of his room and to the sounds of other kids in trouble.   

            Diamond Dog dashed out into the hall of the third floor just in time to see Brutal running from Blue’s room. 

            “Sunshine?” DD said curiously.  It still hadn’t clicked in his mind. 

            Brutal looked up and saw Diamond Dog staring at him from two rooms away. 

            “Black Sunshine.” DD said faintly.  He then realized that boy had just come running from Electric Blue’s room.  “Blue?” 

            DD shook his head from side to side in disbelief.  “No.  No No No!” 

            Brutal backed away.  He moved slowly, hoping that DD didn’t notice him moving.  Diamond Dog charged at the younger boy. 

            “What did you do?!” Diamond Dog screamed. 

            Brutal fired off a bolt of black energy.  The ebon energy hit DD’s quartz shell and bounced off into the hallway wall.  DD kept coming. 

            The Hell Spawn initiate looked to his right.  The door to the Pitt was right next to him.  He turned quickly and blasted the door apart.  DD saw him trying to run and dove at him.  Brutal jumped through the opening and down to the recreation room below. 

            Diamond Dog barely missed grabbing the younger boy.  He crashed to the ground, sliding between the door to the Pitt and Electric Blue’s room. 

            Blue and Little Ghost stepped out of their room cautiously.  Blue had no idea who else was attacking them or how many.  She looked down and saw DD lying at her feet.  She bent down to check on him. 

            “Carson.  Are you ok?” Blue asked. 

            “No.” DD said between gritted teeth in a voice that was more than pissed off. 

            “What’s going on?”

            “Black Sunshine.  He… We have to get everyone out of here.” 

            Beneath the trio the floor rumbled and buckled.  The new chaos was followed by a loud boom, and the building shook. 

            Diamond Dog looked down into the Pitt and saw Big Time crash through the wall and into the room.  Killzone stepped through the hole in the wall and into the Pitt.  Big Time had been knocked unconscious by the leader of the Hell Spawns attack. 

            Killzone picked up a broken piece of rebar and held it like a spear.  He casually walked over to where the unconscious teen was laying and prepared to finish the job he had started.  He hefted the metal bar over his head and yelled a taunt into the air. 

            “Hey, old man!  This one’s for you!” 

            “No!” DD cried.  He dove down at Killzone.  The crystal covered teenager slammed into the Hell Spawn leader.  The two of them hit the ground hard.  DD tumbled away from his assailant as the fell. 

*****

 

            Like the others, Crash had been awakened to the sound of Little’s Ghost’s scream.  He sat up in the bed and looked over at Big Time, whom he shared a room with. 

            “Big…” It was all the young boy could get out of his mouth.  Something in the dark smacked him hard across the face.  Crash was knocked flat on the bed.  He didn’t try to sit up right away.  He had been caught off guard by the attack and laid in the bed looking up at the ceiling.  His eyes blinked over and over again, not sure of what had just happened. 

            Crash’s surprised pondering was interrupted with a flurry of punches to his face. 

            Big Time heard the desperate gasps of his roommate, and turned on the light on the nightstand to see what was going on.  What he saw left him speechless.  In the bed on the other side of the room, he saw his friend beating mercilessly beaten by a walking shadow.  The shadow was on top of crash punching on the helpless young boy.  The ebony figure was two-dimensional except for its hands which were real and solid. 

            Big Time jumped out of bed and ran across the room.  He tripled his size as he moved, his footsteps becoming heavier and thundered against the tile floor.  He tried to grab the shadow man, only to have his hands pass right through him. 

            “Get off of him!” Big Time screamed. 

            The shadow man’s left hand shot out at Big Time, hitting him in the chest and shoving him away.  Big Time futilely tried once more to save his friend with no affect.  The shadow man flowed down the side of the bed and across the floor, moving between Big Time’s legs.  The figure of darkness lifted off the floor behind the bigger boy.  Its hands became solid again, and began pounding Big Time in his back. 

            “Aaahh!” Big Time cried out.  He fell forward across the bed where Crash was lying.  The attack had caught him from surprise more than it hurt him.  He moved up along the bed and hunched over his friend protecting him. 

            The door to the bedroom opened.  The shadow man stopped attacking Big Time long enough to see who was there. 

            Headwires limped into the room and moved directly towards the shadow man.  The teenage girl’s lip was busted and bruising was already starting to form around her left eye.  Her tank top was ripped along the left side, with the strap hanging down to her wrist, and her bra exposed.  She held her sleep pants with her left hand; the waist band bunched in her hand.  She raised her right hand at the shadow man as he started to slink towards her. 

            “F*** you.” Headwires said.  The look on her face was more intense and viscous than all seven of Dante’s hells. 

            The shadow man stopped, and the whisper of a man bounced in place.  Headwires scrambled the bio-electrical impulses in the shadow man’s head.  The attacker could no longer maintain its shadow form and became fully solid. 

            Negative Death fell to the ground as Headwires forced him to have a full blown grand-mal seizure.  The Hell Spawn member fell to the floor and passed out.  Headwires didn’t stop. 

            “Die.” Was all the teen girl said. 

            “You first.” Came a voice from behind Headwires. 

            The battered girl was suddenly struck from behind with an attack so strong that it knocked her across the room.  Headwires hit the foot of Big Time’s bed, flipped over onto it, and skipped across the top until she struck the wall at the head of the bed. 

            Killzone smashed his way into the room, destroying the wall for no other reason than to be destructive. 

             Big time rushed the gang leader.  He increased his size again as he moved.  He was now as wide as the twin bed he slept in, and almost as tall as the ceiling.  His speed was incredible, but not fast enough to catch Killzone. 

            The vindictive Hell Spawn attacked first.  He dropped down and fired a punch directly into Big Time’s abdomen.  The young boy’s charge came to an immediate halt.  Killzone followed up with a punch to the knee, dropping the younger boy to his knees, and bringing his head within striking distance.  Killzone proceeded to deliver an uppercut that lifted Big time into the air. 

            Big Time was thrust against the ceiling, shaking the walls of the Factory.  He was amazed that he was still conscious after the serious of punches.  He somehow landed on his feet, and backed to the far wall, next to Crash’s bed.  He braced himself against the wall and took a deep breath.  He was determined to at least hit the guy in front of him before he had his ass handed to him. 

            Big time feinted a jab with his left hand, then snaked out a punch with his right.  As his fist shot out, he increased the size of just his right arm, making it too big to avoid.  Killzone tried to sidestep the blow but couldn’t.  He was clipped by enough of the supersized fist to spin him around in a circle.  He instantly recovered, and smiled. 

            “Good shot, boy.” Killzone said.  “Too bad for you that’s all you get.” 

            Big time was in the process of returning his arm to normal size, for his current stature, when Killzone advanced.  His speed was more than the shape-changing boy could handle.  The Hell Spawn leader planted his shoulder in the younger boy’s chest and sent him through the concrete bedroom wall and into the next room, the Pitt.

            Killzone stepped across the rubble and into the Pitt.  He grabbed a broken piece of rebar as he moved.  He stood over Big Time and prepared to impale him with the metal bar. 

            “Hey, old man!” Killzone yelled at Guru, wherever his was.  “This one’s for you!”

            “No!’ came a voice from overhead. 

            Diamond Dog dove from the above and crashed into Killzone.  The two hurtled to the ground.  Killzone went head over heels backwards and into the wall.  Diamond Dog bounced to the side, hit the hard floor, and rolled over near Big Time.

            Blue grabbed Little Ghost by the arm and drug her down the hall to the stairwell door. 

            “C’mon, Caroline.  We need to get downstairs.” 

            The two ran down the stairwell to the second floor.  The younger girl tugged on the older one’s arm, trying to pull her down the remaining stairs to the first floor. 

            “Let’s go!” cried Little Ghost. 

            “Wait.  We need to see if anyone needs help.” Blue answered.  She opened the door and was confronted with even more horror. 

            The entire second floor of the Factory was in shambles.  Holes had been punched or blasted through the walls.  Many walls had been completely demolished.  Water sprayed from busted pipes showering everything within reach.  In the midst of the destruction Electric Blue could see Renegade fighting a teenage girl she had never seen before.  The girl had greasy black hair that was shaved on the sides, cut high in the back, and was long in the front.  Blue was happy to see that the Renegade wasn’t holding back because he was fighting a girl, and threw his punches fast and hard. 

            It was hard to comprehend what was happening around them.  It all seemed too surreal.  To go to bed on what seemed to be a normal night, only to be awakened a few hours later in the middle of a life or death battle. 

            Renegade caught his combatant, Heartless, with a well delivered blow to the stomach that doubled her over.  He grabbed her by the head with both hands and drove his knee into her nose.  Her nose cracked against his knee, and the older girls slumped to the ground. 

            Blue called out to him. 

            “Renegade!  Where are the others?” Blue queried. 

            “I don’t know.  Headwires was here, but then…  Where’s DD?” 

            “He’s – the Pitt.  He’s in the Pitt!” Blue answered. 

            “Come on!”  Renegade turned away from Blue and Little Ghost and tried to get through the debris to the Pitt. 

            “Wait!” Electric Blue yelled at him.  She pulled Little Ghost into the chaos of the second floor.  “Come on, Caroline.” 

            Diamond Dog had just started to climb to his feet when a boot heel to the back sent him sprawling face first into the wreckage of the Pitt.  Killzone stomped him once more in the back before flipping him over and pounding against his crystal carapace.  Chunks of quartz were broken free as the stronger boy proceeded with a barrage of punches. 

            DD couldn’t get his bearings.  His head was constantly being knocked back against the floor.  Killzone grabbed DD by the face and shoved the back of his head into the tiled floor.  With his other hand, he dug his fingers into the cracks in the quartz and tried to break the shell open. 

            “Get off of him!” screamed Crash from the hole in the adjoining room.  His face was beaten and bloodied.  His right eye was swollen shut, his nose was busted, and blood trailed from a two inch gash in his head. 

            Crash hoisted Killzone off of Diamond Dog with the force of a rocket.  The Hell Spawn leader was smashed against the ceiling of the room, two stories up.  The remorseless gang leader was slammed into the ceiling with such force and velocity that it shook the walls of the Factory one final time. 

            Crash let Killzone fall back to the ground.  He tried to make his way into the Pitt but found it difficult to move.  The building groaned and shuddered around them. 

            “Crash!” called a voice to the boy’s right.  He looked up to see Renegade standing outside of the remains of his bedroom door.  Electric Blue and Little Ghost pulled up beside him. 

            “Renegade!” Crash cried joyously. 

            “Where’s Headwires and Big Time?” 

            “Headwires is with me.  Big Time’s in the other room.  I think he might be…”  Crash started to cry at the realization that one of their friends might be dead. 

            Crashed looked at his friends.  His bloodied face even more disjointed as he started to cry.  “Where’s Guru?” 

            Killzone started to stir, as did Brutal.  The gang leader looked around for the other members of the Hell Spawns, but didn’t see them right away. 

            Napalm looked down from what used to be the third floor entrance to the Pitt.  Killzone saw her and sneered. 

            “Do it.” Called the Hell Spawn leader. 

            Napalm turned and walked away.  Suddenly, the Factory went up in flames.  Brutal started to panic as the room was engulfed in flames.  Killzone laughed. 

            Without anymore warning, the walls of the Factory began to crumble and give way.  The floor of the Pitt fractured and dropped to the ground floor.  The section of the floor the others were standing on sagged and tilted at a 35 degree angle, sending them all sliding to the floor beneath.  It wouldn’t be long before the entire building was in ruin.    

            The deterioration of the building momentarily halted the spread of the fire.  The children of the Factory pulled themselves from the rubble and looked for safety. 

            “Children, over here!” 

            The group turned to see Guru standing by the door to his private room.  The door had been protected from the building’s partial collapse by several stacks of heavy machines and large wooden pallets that had been stacked there earlier that night by Big Time and Crash.   

            “Hurry!  We don’t have much time!” 

            The group rushed to shelter as the Hell Spawns that were still in the building climbed from the ever growing ruin. 

            Diamond Dog and Renegade helped to carry Big Time and Headwires into the private room.  Crash hobbled slowly behind them with Electric Blue and Little Ghost bringing up the rear. 

            Behind them they could hear Killzone laughing as it all fell apart around him.  He made no serious attempt to escape the destrcution.  He took his time climbing to safety.  The other members of the Hell Spawns had already made it out and were waiting on him and Brutal. 

            Blue and Little Ghost were only a few feet from the door, when Blue saw the black glistening beam of energy stream past her.  Little Ghost was forced from Blue’s grasp as the blast of black light energy struck the girl in the back of the head and sent her face first into the wall.  The young girl’s body stood erect for only a second before it slumped to the floor.   

            Blue ran to her, catching her before she hit the ground completely.  She looked in her little sister’s eyes and saw that the sparkle was gone.  Her eyes were dark and empty. 

            The older girl clutched her sister to her breast and cried.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t fair.  She didn’t ask for this.  None of them did.  All she wanted was to be a normal little girl.

            “We’re not finished!” Brutal said between heavy sobs.  He cradled his injured arm.  “We’re coming back!  And we’re going to kill the rest of you!” 

            “No! You! WON’T!”  Blue said.  Each word was punctuated with the force of a sledgehammer. 

            Blue tapped into the currents of electricity that still flowed through the ruins of the Factory and pulled at them.  She traveled back along the power lines and pulled at every volt and joule she could get.  The old lights along the airfield fluttered and went dark.  The effect traveled like a shockwave as power was pulled from every electric source in a two mile radius. 

            Electric Blue reached out at Brutal.  Her fingers extended into long blue and white tendrils that were blinding to the naked eye.  Her fingers reached inside Brutal’s chest and wrapped around his heart.  Blue squeezed the frantically beating muscle, pouring every bit of electricity she had into it.  The brilliant arcing twisting light forced onlookers to blink constantly or hold a hand before their eyes to see.  The scene appeared as if it were being viewed under a strobe light. 

            Brutal’s body convulsed.  His jaw locked, biting off the tip of his tongue.  His blood began to boil and pour out of every possible orifice. His eyes fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings before exploding into the cold dead night air. 

            Diamond Dog watched, transfixed.  He wanted to stop her, but couldn’t look away long enough to make thought action. 

            Brutal’s clothing burst into flames, igniting his hair and skin.  His legs had twisted underneath him to where he was no longer standing under his own power, but by the force of the forty thousand amps of electricity that held him in its grip. 

            The Hell Spawn’s newest member was suspended in the air for fifteen seconds until the hand that gripped his heart had given him all that it had.  His body hit the ground with a sound that was more wet than solid. 

            Diamond Dog ran over to Blue and put an arm around her shoulder, holding Little Ghost’s still body between them. 

            “Come on.  We have to go.” 

            Blue stood, still looking off at where Brutal had stood.  Her hand was still aimed at a target that was no longer there. 

            “Blue!” DD said, bringing the older girl back to her senses. 

            “We have to go.” 

            Electric Blue looked over at Diamond Dog, then down at Little Ghost.  Tears fell from Blue’s eyes, raining down like the dying embers of a fireworks explosion. 

            “She dead, Carson.” Blue said softly. 

            “I know.  We have to go now, Blue.” 

            The three disappeared into the void of the underground room.  Neither of them spoke again as they followed behind the others.  There was nothing left to say.

Tags:

Chapter XXIII

 

            Electric Blue paced the relatively small confines of the room she shared with Little Ghost.  She wanted to go home more than anything, and knew that she had to embrace her abilities, but they still scared her.  She couldn’t help but flashback to the incident at school, or her first meeting with Diamond Dog.  Those memories scared her, and prevented her from recognizing her true potential and learning how to prevent those same accidents from happening again.  She was making strong progress, but would hesitate and set herself back with every stride forward. 

            The door to the bedroom burst open, and Little Ghost came bounding in, all giggling and full of energy.  The young girl ran and tackled Electric Blue, knocking her to the floor. 

            “I did it!” Little Ghost screamed.  “I did it!” 

            Electric Blue didn’t want to kill the pre-teen’s excitement, but she had no idea what she was talking about. 

            “That’s great!  What did you do?” Electric Blue asked. 

            “I blew out the candle!” Little Ghost said beaming.  All Electric Blue could see were big eyes and a large smile.  She looked like an anime character. 

            “I’m so happy for you.” Blue went along with the accolades even though she was completely clueless as to what any of it meant.  “So, you just blew it out?” 

            “Not at first.”  Little Ghost bounced a little as she spoke, steadily pressing on the older girl’s chest.  It was then that Blue realized she was lying on her back with the young girl straddling her chest. 

            “Ok.” Electric Blue wheezed.  “Let me get up, and then you can tell me all about it.” 

            Little Ghost climbed from her adopted sister’s chest and helped her to a sitting position.  Blue rubbed her aching ribs and looked over at young girl who was still brimming with pride. 

            “Alright, start at the beginning and tell me what happened.” 

            “Ok.  Guru had me sit across from him on the training floor and he started talking about how my abilities work.  He was saying something about it being afraid, but that’s not important.” 

            Electric Blue started to interrupt and clarify what Guru was trying to tell her, and how important it really was, but didn’t.  She decided to wait until after the girl had calmed down some.  It wasn’t so important that she needed to break the mood. 

            “Go on.” 

            “So, he put this candle on the floor and told me to blow it out, and I did!  Isn’t that great?” 

            “You blew out the candle?”

            “Uh huh.  Pretty cool, huh?” 

            “Was it a big candle?”  Blue was trying hard to understand, but she couldn’t wrap her head around what Little Ghost was trying to tell her. 

            “Not really.  Still pretty cool, right?” Little Ghost asked.  She wanted Blue’s excitement to match her own. 

            “Ok, so, Guru sat you down and told you to blow out a candle?  Kind of a weird training exercise, don’t you think?  What did he say when you asked what it was for?” 

            “I didn’t say anything.  You know people can’t hear me when I’m ghosting.”

            Blue’s eyes got wide.  Suddenly the connection was clear. 

            “You were ghosting, and you blew out a candle?!” 

            “Uh huh.”

            “That’s incredible!”  Electric Blue reached out, grabbed Little Ghost and hugged her tight.  “Oh my God!  I’m so proud of you.” 

            Little Ghost wrapped her arms around her sister’s neck and held her tight.  At that moment, neither girl missed their real home, or their family.  They had what they needed right there. 

*****

 

            The Hell Spawn’s hideout was clean enough, but not neat.  There was no order to the place, no rhyme or reason.  It was the exact opposite of the Factory.  Brutal wasn’t sure he could get used to it. 

            The Hell Spawn’s residence, for lack of a more appropriate term, was an old hotel in what was seen as the center of Yesterday Town.  The hotel couldn’t survive after the mayor turned his back on that part of the city and the people that lived there.  Crime, poverty, and a lack of travelers made it hard to keep the doors open and was soon converted to monthly lease apartments.  When the Hell Spawns started their control for the city, they took over the building and kicked everyone out.  Those that refused to leave were dispatched in one fashion or another. 

            Everyone had their own rooms and amenities, but primarily congregated on the second floor.  Brutal was given a set of rooms on the fifth floor.  Killzone had all the rooms on the eight floor, the top floor of the building.  No one was allowed beyond the sixth floor.  Killzone was very specific about that.  Brutal had never gone past the sixth floor, but swore he heard voices and noise on the seventh floor.  He wanted to ask someone, but was afraid to. 

            The Hell Spawns had accepted him as one of them and shared all of their indecencies and bad habits with him, but he was still afraid of them.  His first night there he swore that Negative Death was watching him while he slept.  It could have been that he was paranoid from the illegal imbibing he had done for the first time earlier that night.  All the same, he slept with all the lights on from then afterwards. 

            Brutal walked into the party room where everyone was hanging out.  The party room was a meeting hall that had been converted into their playroom. 

            Brutal couldn’t get over the excess of it all.  He didn’t know whether it made him happy or sad.  Everywhere he looked there were redundancies.  If one of them lost or misplaced an item, cd, dvd, video game, they would go out and “get” another.  Eventually, the missing item would be found and they would have an extra copy.  In a quick glance, Brutal counted four copies of the Killer’s Hand video game.  One copy hadn’t even been opened. 

            The former Factory kid looked over at Napalm as she lay stretched out across an oversized living room chair reading a music magazine.  Brutal was attracted to the older girl, but was equally afraid.  He had heard of her and her temper long before joining the crew.  With the ability to turn any liquid into fire, she was extremely dangerous.  Mack the Ripper also kept his distance, and would always be as far from her as possible.  Devilish, who also scared Brutal immensely, told him that Ripper had tried some of his “lady-killer-moves” on her one night.  Napalm beat him up, but that wasn’t enough for her.  She waited until later that day when Ripper had to go pee, and set his urine on fire.  Devilish thought it was funny.  Brutal decided that he would never tell anyone when he had to use the bathroom. 

            Brutal took a seat in a chair and rolled over to watch Heartless and Negative Death play the fighting game, Legend of the Gladiators

            It wasn’t long after that Killzone walked into the party room.  He was all smiles and dilated pupils.  He commanded everyone’s attention, going around the room bumping fist and high-fiving. 

            “Tonight’s the night!  Y’all excited?” Killzone bellowed in the large room.             Everyone answered back with screams and howls of their own. 

            “I can’t wait.  This is just the beginning.  First we take care of all those weak little babies over at the Factory, then we do the job for the big man, after that – it’s Future City, baby!” 

            The other Hell Spawns joined Killzone in his excitement.  Brutal felt his stomach flip and cramp.  He didn’t realize Killzone had come up behind him, until the older boy grabbed the back of the chair and spun it around. 

            “How ’bout our new member?  You ready to prove you got the balls to be a Hell Spawn?  You ready to show Guru where he can stick his self control bullshit?  You ready to show them who’s running things around here?” 

            Brutal tried to sound strong and confident, but his voice came out in a squeaky crack.  “Hell yeah.” 

            They all laughed at him. 

            ‘It’s cool, baby boy.  You’ll feel like the king of the world once this is all done.”  Killzone called to Devilish.  “Yo, give my man a little courage to get him ready.” 

            Killzone turned back to Brutal. 

            “Take a couple hits of this stuff and you’ll be more than ready to show them all who you are.  You’re a Hell Spawn now, and they need to know that.” 

            Devilish walked over with a glass pipe and a small vial of powder with golden flecks in it. 

            Killzone sat down next to Brutal while Devilish got him dosed up. 

            “You and me, two boys from the Factory, we’re gonna show Guru just how wrong he was.  Say your prayers old man.  Your chickens are coming home to roost.” 

*****

 

            Electric Blue took the staircase to the roof and opened the door quietly. She knew that Diamond Dog was there, but she wasn’t sure what he was doing.  Whatever it was, she didn’t want to disturb him.  That wasn’t entirely true; she did want to disturb him.  She hadn’t seen him in several days, and really wanted to talk to him.  Electric Blue liked him, and she had a feeling, she hoped, that he liked her too. 

            Blue spotted Diamond Dog as soon as she stepped out on the roof.  He was sitting on the edge with his legs dangling off the side. 

            Blue called out to him softly as she shut the door to the stairs. 

            “Hey.” She called out to Diamond Dog. 

            The teenage boy turned with a start.  He was so deep in his own thoughts that he was completely caught off guard by her appearance. 

            “Huh? Wha…  Blue?” blurted Diamond Dog. 

            “Don’t jump, it’s just me.” Blue said jokingly. 

            “Ha ha.  Very funny.” Diamond Dog said. 

            “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” 

            “You didn’t scare me” DD replied.  He paused, then looked down.  “Actually, you did.” 

            “I haven’t talked to you since before all that stuff happened with Black Sunshine.  Nobody has.”  Blue walked over to where Diamond Dog sat on the roof’s edge.  “You okay?” 

            “Yeah.” Pause.  “No.  No.  I’m not okay.  I thought you might have been him.  Black Sunshine.  I can’t make sense of it.” 

            “Do you wanna talk about it?  I mean, if you don’t, I’ll leave you alone and go back downstairs.”  Blue turned and started to walk away.  She hoped that he would stop her.  He did. 

            “No, stay.” DD called out to her.  “I don’t mind if you stay.” 

            Electric Blue turned back around and sat down next to him on the roof.  She leaned forward and looked down at the cracked asphalt below. 

            “Can I ask what happened?” said Electric Blue. 

            “I don’t know.  I guess Black Sunshine thought I was being too hard on him.  Maybe I was.  I don’t know.  I walk around here telling people what to do, acting like I’m their big brother, or something.  Maybe I shouldn’t do that.  They don’t need me telling them what to do.” 

            “They don’t seem to mind.  Everyone here likes you.  I think they like knowing that you’re looking out for them.” 

            “I thought the same thing about him.  I thought of him as a little brother, and kinda hoped that he saw me as a role model.  Someone to look up to.  Instead, he hated me.  I wonder how many of the others hate me, too.” 

            “Nobody hates you.  I don’t hate you.”  Blue tried to look in Diamond Dog’s eyes, but he kept his head turned away.  “We were both like him at one time.  You know, puberty, angst, confusion.  God, I hated going through all that.  I remember one time – I’m embarrassed to even mention it – I tried to fight my stepdad.” 

            Blue laughed out loud at the memory.  The incident was so ludicrous that even now she couldn’t believe she had done such a thing. 

            “It’s not funny to you, but if you knew my stepdad – ha!”  Blue smiled with embarrassment. 

            “Is he a big guy?’ DD asked. 

            “Oh yeah.” 

            “Ah.” 

            “I guess we were lucky that our powers kicked in a later stage in our lives.”  Blue continued.  “Can you imagine what it must be like for the rest of them?  All confused about the world, who you are, and what your place is, and to have to deal with accidentally setting things on fire by looking at them, or accidentally teleporting things to the moon.  It’s got to be hard.” 

            “Yeah.  I guess it is.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make me feel any better.”  Diamond Dog said softly. 

            “I can understand.  I don’t think he means it, though.  People are saying that he said he was going to come back and kill everyone.  I think he just said that cause he was scared and angry.” 

            “I hope so.”  DD looked over at Blue for the first time since she sat down.  “I haven’t felt right this whole week.  I wish we had a chance to talk about things before they got so out of control.” 

            “Yeah.” Blue said in agreement. 

            It was several minutes before Blue broke the silence. 

            “DD, can I ask you a personal question?” Blue asked. 

            “Of course.”  Diamond Dog shifted his position nervously.

            “What’s your name?  Your real name.” 

            “Carson.” He said with an odd smile. 

            “Carson.” Blue repeated.  “I wouldn’t have taken you for a Carson.”

            Diamond Dog laughed.  “I’m not, really.” 

            Blue looked at him funny.  She was confused about his answer.  She didn’t understand why he would lie to her about such a simple question.  It was unusual for her to connect with someone, especially a boy.  She thought they had something that was drawing them together, and suddenly felt as if it was all in her head. 

            Diamond Dog felt her mood change and explained. 

            “I was supposed to be named after Tim Daly, the guy from that show Wings.  My mom loves him, but always got his name confused with Carson Daily, the guy from MTV.  So she named me Carson, when she meant to name me Tim.” 

            “What?” Blue laughed a little.  “Was Carson Daily even around back then?” 

            “I don’t think so.  I don’t know, that’s just what my mother always told me.  I’m sure it had to do with something else.  Who really knows.” 

            “Tim Daly.  I think I know him.” said Blue.  “Wasn’t he in a movie called Night of the Comet?”   

            “Year of the Comet, with Penelope Ann Miller.  It was a romantic comedy about a priceless bottle of wine.  Night of the Comet was about zombies.  He was also in the movie The Associate with Whoopi Goldberg.”   

            “Wow, you certainly know your Tim Daly movies.” Blue smiled. 

            “Well, I am named after him.”

            Blue laughed.  Her heart fluttered. 

            “I’m sorry, that’s not funny.” She said. 

            “Yes it is.”  Carson looked across the night sky.  “What about you?  What’s your name?” 

            “I’ve never really cared for my real name.”  Blue looked down at her nails and played with turning the rings on her fingers.  “I like being called Blue.  Would you mine just calling me Blue?” 

            Diamond Dog shook his head.  “I like Blue.  I don’t mind if you call me Carson.  Just don’t let anyone else know.”  They both smiled. 

            “Do you miss your parents?” Blue asked. 

            “I miss my mom mostly; whenever I stop long enough to think about home.  Not my dad so much.  He was never there.” 

            Diamond Dog formed small crystals in his palm and threw them out into the night. 

            “He was there.  I mean, we all lived together, but he never seemed to have time for me.  I tried everything I could for him to just see me.  I joined the football team ‘cause he liked football and played in high school.  Nothing.  He always regretted not going to college.  So, I studied hard got almost straight A’s.  Nothing.”  Carson picked a newly formed crystal up and held it up to his face.  He closed one eye and looked through its refracted surface. 

            “I used to stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning doing my homework.  Making sure everything was right.  I’d be at the gym for 2 hours everyday lifting weights.  Trying to be the strongest on the team.  I was taking diet pills to stay up late, and mass building formula to bulk up…”  Diamond Dog closed his fist tight around the crystal.  “It’s no wonder I turned into this.” 

            Blue grabbed his hand and uncurled his fingers.  She picked up the crystal and held it in her hand.  She smiled. 

            “That’s not why this happened.  It was just a random thing.  I don’t think anyone really knows.”  Blue tried to comfort him. 

            “Do you miss home?” Diamond Dog asked her. 

            “No.” she said flatly.  “Well…  Home wasn’t bad, I guess.  I just – I don’t know.  I just didn’t feel like I fit.  Mom was – well – mom.  It was kinda embarrassing being her daughter.  It’s hard to explain.” 

            “What about your father?” 

            “Charles?  He wasn’t my dad, he was my stepdad.  He was okay.  I mean, he wasn’t a bad guy.  He was a little embarrassing, too.  You ever seen that old tv show Bigfoot?” 

            “I don’t think so.” Diamond Dog replied. 

            “It was on in the early 90’s.  It only lasted one season.  It was about this Bigfoot that was being chased by a big game hunter.  Every episode, the hunter would be closing in and would do something to put people’s live in danger and Bigfoot would save them.  Then he would narrowly escape before the hunter got him.  Kinda like the old Incredible Hulk tv show.” Blue explained. 

            “It sounds familiar.” 

            “Well, Charles played Bigfoot.” 

            “Wait.  Wasn’t there an old superhero in that show?” Diamond Dog questioned. 

            “Yeah.  He was a big hairy guy that went by the name Wooly Mammoth.  That was Charles.”  Blue answered.  “He used to be in a group called the Championaires.”  

            “I remember them.  They were a bunch of third stringers.  They had Wooly Mammoth, Mr. Extraordinaire, and…”  Diamond Dog struggled to remember the rest. 

            “Wooly Mammoth, Mr. Extraordinaire, the Touch, Split Second, and Aquanautus.  Mr. Extraordinaire was the peak of human physical fitness and could run faster and jump higher than any normal person.  His reflexes were three times those of normal people.  The Touch could temporarily possess someone by making skin-to-skin contact.  The weaker their will the longer she had control.  Split Second had super speed and could run across water and even up the side of buildings.  Aquanautus could control water.”  Blue rattled off the names and powers like she was reading from an encyclopedia.  She had been regaled, if you could call it that, with their exploits more times than she cared to hear.  When she was young it was exciting.  She loved hearing the old stories and fights.  Even though she knew the outcome, she was always held in suspense as Charles described the battles with such pride and exuberance. 

            “Wow!” Diamond Dog was impressed.  “Hey, didn’t Wooly Mammoth marry Super Sl…”  he stopped suddenly as realization slammed down on him. 

            “Oh!” It was all he could think to say.  “I can be kinda dense sometimes.  Guess it explains why my crystals are so tough.”  Diamond Dog tried to get Blue to smile.  She did just to make him feel better. 

            “Families are hard to live with.” He said.  He slid a little closer to her. 

            She smiled again, this time genuine.  “Yeah.” 

From behind them Little Ghost giggled silently before disappearing through the stairs door. 

            Blue came downstairs an hour after Little Ghost had seen her and Diamond Dog talking.  She closed the door slowly, trying not to make any noise and wake up Little Ghost.  The young girl was still awake and watched her moving sneakily. 

            “What’cha doing?” Little Ghost called to Electric Blue. 

            “Geez whiz, girl!”  Electric Blue said with a start.  She turned sharply and saw the bright smiling face of Little Ghost staring at her. 

            “You scared the crap out of me.  What are you doing?” 

            “I was waiting for you.  Why are you being all quiet and sneaky?” 

            “I’m not being sneaky.  I thought you might be asleep, and I didn’t want to wake you.”  Blue answered.  She walked over to the bed and sat down.  She kicked off her shoes, unbuttoned her jeans, and slid out of them. 

            “You know I can’t sleep without you being here to watch over me.”   

            “I know.  I just thought, being so late, that you might have fallen asleep anyway.  You eat dinner?” 

            “Yep.  Chef Boyardee ravioli.  I ate a whole can by myself.” 

            “Good gracious, girl.  Blowing out that candle gave you some appetite.” 

            Little Ghost’s smile grew bigger.  Blue pulled her legs up and slid between the cool sheets of the soft bed..    

            “You ready to go to bed?” Asked the older girl.   

            “Yeah, I’m pretty tired.” Little Ghost said to Blue. 

            “Where’s your glass of water?  Do you need me to get it for you?” 

            Little Ghost sometimes got thirsty in the middle of the night, but didn’t like walking the halls of the Factory alone at night.  Blue started keeping a glass of water next to the bed so that she didn’t have to get up and get the younger girl a drink. 

            “No, I think I’ll be okay.” 

            Little Ghost grabbed a blanket and settled in at the foot of the bed.  Blue didn’t ask.  She knew the young girl was still trying to adjust to her new life and wasn’t always comfortable making herself at home.  Blue wondered what had happened to drive her out of her home and onto the streets.  Blue couldn’t imagine having her powers manifest at such an early age.  She certainly didn’t blame the girl from withdrawing from the world. 

            “He likes you.”  Little Ghost said.   

            “Who?” Blue asked with a sly smile, hoping it would be who she was thinking. 

            “Carson.” 

            “Carson?”  It took a minute for what Little Ghost said to register with Electric Blue.  “Were you spying on us?!” Blue blurted. 

            Little Ghost disappeared.  Blue could still see the shape of her body under the blanket.  She reached for her slowly. 

            “Caroline.  Little Ghost.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to yell.”  Blue tried to coax her back to solid form.  “I’m not mad at you.” 

            Slowly, Little Ghost rematerialized.  She pulled the edge of the blanket up under her chin. 

            “Hey, it’s okay.  I’m not mad.  It’s not nice to spy on people, that’s all.” 

            “I wasn’t spying.  I don’t like a lot of people here.  I like you and DD.  I like to go where you go.” 

            Blue climbed out of the covers and moved to the foot of the bed.  She reached out, slowly, and rubbed Little Ghost’s hair.  The young girl’s eyes closed, and she let out a deep breath that seemed as if it had been held inside her ever since she first left home.  She snuggled against Blue’s leg and started to slip into dream land. 

            “I guess that’s okay.  But, sometimes we need time alone.” Blue said. 

            “I left before you started kissing.”

            “We weren’t kissing!” Blue exclaimed with a smile.  The thought had crossed her mind several times since they had left the roof and went to their own rooms.  She wondered if she should have made the first move. 

            Blue looked down and saw Little Ghost fast asleep.  She had the cutest smile on her face while she slept.  Blue couldn’t help but stare at it.  Today was the first time she had ever seen her smile.  It was contagious.  Electric Blue couldn’t help but smile herself. 

            Blue crawled back under the covers and turned out the light.  In minutes she was asleep.  A deep enveloping sleep that held her tight.  Like the others at the Factory, she was oblivious to the sounds of trouble creeping its way across the busted blacktop of the old airfield.

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