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Chapter XIII

08/16/10

Chapter XIII

            Diamond Dog jogged through the streets of Future City with renewed life.  Renewed life.  What a funny way to think of it.  Things certainly were different for Carson now.  He was living in a new city.  Had a new name – Diamond Dog, or DD as most of the kids at the factory called him – which was starting to grow on him.  Most importantly, he was learning to control his powers.  Carson had learned a lot the past few months about the crystal skin that he exude from his pores.  The crystal was a form of liquid quartz that quickly hardened upon contact with oxygen.  With Guru’s help, he had been practicing his control of the diamond-like skin.  He was learning how to shape it, force the cells to compact, making the quartz skin tougher and more resilient.  He was learning how to own his power, make it his.  Once he had complete control over his abilities, he never planned on using them again. 

            He completed his first lap around the park and stopped at Century Rock. 

            Century Rock was a large misshapen meteorite on the edge of Future City park.  Colonel Courageous had stopped it from impacting the Earth several years back and planted it in the park. 

            The rock was caught in the wake of Centurion’s Comet and ripped free from an asteroid belt several million light years out.  The gravitational pull of the Earth broke it free from the tail of the comet as it passed by, and sent it hurtling to Earth.  Its projected course was Australia.  The Colonel was able to stop it and brought it back to Future City.  The Australian government was up in arms that it was taken to the United States instead of given to the people of Australia.  Colonel Courageous joked that he would let Australia have the next meteor that was slated to destroy the Earth. 

            Diamond Dog decided to stop long enough for a drink before getting back to his routine.  Cockrum’s Café was just across the street.  He walked out of the park and to the crosswalk.  He looked at the walk button on the pole but didn’t push it.  He wasn’t in a hurry.  DD had learned a lot of things during his time in the city, and living at the Factory, and one of them was patience.  He could wait for the light to turn on its own. 

            Diamond Dog saw the teenage girl as he entered the small family run café.  She was cute.  Black hair with red and blue streaks.  She wore no make-up, save for dark eyeliner and green eye shadow.  DD was focused on her so much that he nearly bumped into another customer.  He decided to try and stay focused.  He’d get his drink, then have a seat at a table with the most advantageous view. 

            Celia took the fries out of the microwave and walked them over to the table where Caroline was waiting.  She sat the fries down in front of the young girl who immediately dove into them.  Celia sat at the side of the table, keeping one eye on the front door and another on Caroline. 

            The two had walked the confusing and crowded streets of the city for almost an hour before they found the small café; a place with a microwave that they could sit and decided their next move. 

            Caroline shoveled the warm limp french fries into her mouth.  Celia couldn’t tell if she was chewing them, or swallowing them whole. 

            Maybe that’s her other power.  Celia wondered humorously.  A human food vacuum. 

            “So,” Celia asked Caroline.  “You can turn stuff invisible?” 

            Caroline shoved the last of the warmed through fries in her mouth before answering.  “Uh-uh.  Just me.” 

            Celia was puzzled. 

            “What about your clothes?  They turn invisible when you do.  How does that happen?” 

            “I don’t know.” Caroline said without any thought.  It never occurred to her that when she disappeared her clothes disappeared, too.  “They just do, I guess.” 

            “Have you ever tried to make other things turn invisible?”  Celia was curious about the young girl and her abilities.  More so, see was wondering how she was able to control her powers. 

            “I don’t know how.” 

            “What do you mean, ‘you don’t know how’?”

            “I don’t know how to turn things invisible.  It just happens.  When I get scared, I disappear.” 

            “Well you have to know a little bit about your powers.  I mean, you know how to become visible again.”  Celia probed the young girl for answers.  She wanted to know how she did it.  How she learned to turn her powers on and off.  She wanted answers for herself. 

            “Uh-uh.”  Caroline answered again.  She stared at Celia, wondering why she was asking her so many questions.  “After awhile I just come back.  It just does it on its own, or when I fall asleep.  I turn back to normal in my sleep.” 

            Celia looked at the young girl.  Suddenly she felt defeated.  She was hoping that Caroline could show her something.  She realized how pathetic it seemed and how stupid she had been.  She was looking to a girl six years her junior for answers she didn’t have.  The girl was a runaway, just like Celia.  If she knew anything about how to control her powers, she wouldn’t have run away either. 

            “What do you do?” Caroline asked, snapping Celia out of her daze. 

            “Huh?” Celia half answered.  “Oh, I go to high school.  Well, I used to.” 

            “No.” Caroline giggled.  “What’s your power?  You shock people, right?” 

            “Uh, yeah.  Kinda, I guess.  I don’t know really.” 

            “So, you can make electricity and stuff?” 

            ‘No.  At least I don’t think I can.”  Celia thought about her powers.  The day at school when she exploded.  The lights dimmed and currents of electricity flowed from the electrical sockets and the overhead lights.  She remembered it calling to her, reaching out to her.  She was like a bridge, or a circuit.  It scared her.  Not the feeling of the electricity running into her, and the destruction she was causing.  That was scary, she didn’t deny that, but what was really scary, the thing that scared her the most every time her powers activated – she felt as if it was pulling at her.  It felt as if the electricity was trying to take her away.  She could feel her body breaking down, coming undone.  She could feel herself slipping away into nothingness. 

            “It doesn’t come from me.” Celia answered after a long pause.  “I kinda channel it.  I pull the electricity from around me.” 

            Celia looked up at Caroline.  The young girl was running her finger in the excess salt that had spilled on the table. 

            “I guess, I don’t know any more about my powers than you do.”  Celia said with a light smile.  “Hey!  You still hungry?” 

            Caroline nodded her head up and down excitedly.  “Yes!” she said with a humongous grin. 

            “It’s comin up.” Celia said as she sat down next to Caroline. 

            The two of them looked out the window of the small café.  Future City was beautiful.  She wished that she was on vacation and had the opportunity to take in all in.  She knew that this was probably as close to admiring the splendor of the city that she was going to get at the time. 

            “Excuse me.” Came the voice from behind them. 

            Celia looked up as the black guy she had noticed earlier made his way through the café and to the door.  She let out a small sigh as he walked out the front door.  Celia wasn’t the kind of person to become instantly smitten, or drawn to someone, but he had certainly caught her eye.  For the briefest of moments, when they first saw each other, she thought he looked at her just as long as she had him. 

            Celia kept her eye on him as he dashed across the street; yelling to someone on the other side.  She kept watching, wondering just what was going on. 

            The two teenagers began arguing.  Celia couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the other boy’s hands start to glow with black energy.  The waves of black energy crackled with power and shimmered in the sunlight.  The swirls of black seemed to dance around his hands like a ballet dancer in zero gravity, twirling and flowing in whatever direction it liked. 

            Celia grabbed Caroline by the arm with her left hand, and snatched up their backpacks with her right. 

            “We need to get out of here!”

*****

 

            Diamond Dog grabbed a bottle water and a sports drink from the large cooler and walked up to the counter.  He felt drained.  The summers in Future City weren’t that bad, occasionally getting up in the mid 90’s, but that was fairly rare.  Most summers, the temperature stayed a nice 83-85 degrees.  Even cooler in the shadows of the skyscrapers and parks. 

            DD had been feeling pretty good today, and hadn’t even bothered to make sure he was properly hydrated.  After working on controlling his powers in the wee hours, and his early morning run he knew better.  The liquid quartz that he produced dried him out, for lack of a better term.  He could seriously dehydrate himself if he wasn’t careful.  And, he certainly didn’t want to do that again. 

            In one of his early sessions with Guru, DD pushed himself, wanting to gain immediate control over his abilities, thinking it could all be done in just a few hours.  Guru let him.  After three hours of sweating and trying, the two had a light sparring match.  Guru defeated him easily.  Diamond Dog was too tired and too dehydrated to put up much of a defense.  His quartz was weak and brittle.  His second skin shattered with each attack. 

            Within just a few minutes, he was tapped out.  He couldn’t do anything.  It took two days of bed rest and nothing but liquids before he could even get out of bed.  Guru told him he had learned an important lesson that day.  He had learned his limit.  He knew that his power had a breaking point.  His power had a breaking point, but so did his body.  They were one and the same.  His power was not a separate thing he had to learn to understand and control, it was part of him.  If his power hit the wall, he hit the wall.  That day was the most important day in his training.  After that, everything else came with ease. 

            Diamond Dog knew he couldn’t stay in the cool of the café for too long.  He didn’t want to cool his body down, just keep himself hydrated.  He sat down long enough to polish off the sports drink.  He was saving the water till after his third trip around the park.  After that, it was back to the factory for a shower and chores. 

            DD looked three tables over at that the older girl sitting with her sister.  She had caught his eye when he came in.  Every once in awhile he caught her looking over his way.   He was waiting till their eyes met again and planned to smile at her. 

            Diamond Dog tilted his head back to gulp down the last bit of the red drink.  When his head lowered, he saw the older girl at the counter ordering food.  He tried to not look obvious as he watched her.  Something about her, the hair and dress, he found himself attracted to her.  He could tell that she wasn’t from Future City, and that may have been what made her even more attractive.  She wasn’t like the other people in the city. 

            The people of Future City were okay, for the most part, but Diamond Dog had trouble accepting people who happily referred to themselves as Futurians. 

            His eyes followed her again as she moved back to the table.  This time she sat next to her sister, with her back to him.  DD figured the show was over and got ready to leave.  He looked beyond his attraction and out the window of the café.  Across the street he saw Black Sunshine talking to a Hell Spawn.  A Hell Spawn! 

            “What the hell?” Diamond Dog unconsciously said aloud.  He rose from his chair and walked towards the door, leaving his bottle water on the table. 

            DD walked past the two sisters as he made his way outside. 

            “Excuse me.” He said, gently touching Celia’s shoulder.  He walked out the front door and dashed out into the street. 

            “Hey!  Black Sunshine!”  Diamond Dog called to his fellow housemate. 

            Black Sunshine looked over at DD, then turned away as if he didn’t see him.  Whomever he had been talking to was gone. 

            “Hey!”  DD called to him again when he made it to the other side of the street.  “What’s going on?  Was that a Hell Spawn I just saw you talking to?” 

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Black Sunshine said.  He tried to walk past DD.  Diamond Dog pushed him back and got in his face. 

            “Don’t pull that with me.  I know that guy Negative Death.  What are you doing messing with them?  The Hell Spawns are not people to play with.  They’re dangerous.  Hell, they’re not even supposed to be in Future City.  You know what kind of trouble you could be in for just talking to one of them?” 

            “What, you gonna tell Guru on me?” Black Sunshine said snidely.  “This is my business.  Get out of my face, Dog.”  

            Diamond Dog looked down looked down at Black Sunshine’s hands.  His fingers were balled into fists, with his black energy snaking around them. 

            DD just stared at him.  “You must be out of your mind.  You’re going to power up on a crowded street in the middle of downtown?” 

            Diamond Dog drew a deep breath.  A light covering of quartz covered his body.  It was thin enough to not be noticed by the average passerby, but not thick enough to block black Sunshine’s energy blast if he decided to cut loose.  He was hoping, if anything, that a little machismo posturing could force the younger runaway to power down and walk away. 

            “Think it through, Sunshine.” 

            Across the street, the tiny bell on the door of the café tinkled.  Out of the corner of his eye, Diamond Dog saw Celia and Caroline as they rushed out.  He thought for a minute they were doing a dine and dash, until he saw the older girl look their way again and realized that they had seen everything. 

            “Aw shit!” cursed DD.  “You see what you’ve done?” 

            Diamond Dog shed his second skin, letting it crumble into dust and fall from his body.  He chased after the two girls. 

            “Hey!  Wait!  Hold up!” 

            Black Sunshine looked around to see if anyone else had seen them.  He looked to see if anyone else had seen him talking to Negative Death.  No one.  Satisfied that no one was watching, he followed several feet behind DD. 

            The two girls had a head start in the chase.  Traffic had started again as they rounded the corner.  With the two powered teenagers on the other side of the street, they had a chance of slipping out of sight before they could catch up. 

            Celia drug Caroline down the street.  She hadn’t noticed that the younger girl had instinctively turned invisible again.  Celia didn’t look back.  She just held Caroline by the wrist and kept running. 

            Future City was big.  Too big.  She could have lived there all her life, and still wouldn’t know every street and turn.  Being that, it wouldn’t have helped her from making the wrong turn down the back of a row of shops and ending up at a dead end. 

            Celia swung Caroline behind her back, not looking at her, and took a protective stance in front of the invisible girl. 

            Celia dropped the backpacks to the ground and tried to control her breathing.  Her heart was pounding in her chest and her breath rushed in and out of her lungs like a bullet train.  She could feel the warmth washing over her again.  Arcs of electricity moved across the metal poles and edges on the trash dumpsters like Slinkys.  Rolling like waves crashing on the shore that was Celia. 

            Diamond Dog sprinted across the street, dodging between the moving cars, and ignoring the honking horns.  He raced down the sidewalk after the two girls.  He had lost sight of them when crossing the street.  He knew they were close, though.  The downtown streets looped and circled back on each other.  The majority of the shops, stores, and businesses were connected by either the underground rails, the skywalks, or both.  They weren’t going to get away from him by staying on the street.  They would end up coming back his way, towards the park, or dead end at the back of one of the buildings.   If DD’s guess about the cute girl was right, she was new to the city and didn’t know that. 

            Diamond Dog had a hunch, and ducked down the first back way that he saw.  He was so intent on catching the two sisters that he didn’t notice the streaks of electricity that moved around the corner of the back way to the dead end. 

            Diamond Dog rounded the corner and was face to face with the cute girl from the café.  Her sister was nowhere to be seen, and he assumed she was hiding behind one of the dumpsters.  A thought entered DD’s head as he looked into her eyes, which were now light blue pools of electricity. 

            She’s not as cute now as she was earlier. 

            DD was so entranced in the moment, he didn’t have a chance to warn Black Sunshine as he came running up to his side. 

            Black Sunshine powered up, with both his hands emitting black energy. 

            “LEAVE US ALONE!”  Celia cried out.  Her words snapped at the air.  She held her left hand out, telling them to keep back.  Electricity danced on her fingertips.  Her other hand she held out away from her side. 

            Diamond Dog put a hand out to Black Sunshine, telling him to stay back. 

            “We don’t want to hurt you.  I’m sorry I scared you, we just didn’t want you to call the police or anything.”  DD said calmly. 

            “STAY BACK!” Celia screamed. 

            “It’s okay.”  DD started again.  “We didn’t know you were just like us.  We’re not going to hurt you or your sister.”  Diamond Dog looked at Celia’s right hand.  He at first thought she was making a fist.  He could see now that she was holding something.  Something he couldn’t see. 

            “She’s invisible.” DD said. 

            “KEEP AWAY!”  A large bolt of electricity shot from Celia’s outstretched hand and directly at Diamond Dog. 

            Diamond Dog put his hands up to protect himself.  His quartz skin grew quickly and thick around his hands and arms.  The electricity hit the crystal sheath and traveled through the crystalline structure.  The electric pulse exited through the many refracted surfaces and fired out like a fourth of July spectacular. 

            The street lights in the back way burst, raining thin glass shards down on the street.  The building alarms started to blare, ringing and whooping in a deafening calamitous chorus.  The contents of the dumpsters caught fire and began spewing flames from the open doors. 

            The four people stopped what they were doing and stared at each other. 

            Caroline turned visible and stepped out from behind Celia.  She looked at the destruction that was all around them.  There were char marks on the wall where the redistributed electricity had hit and scorched them. 

            Caroline’s eyes were wide in amazement. 

            “Wow!”

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