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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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