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Chapter XIV

08/31/10

Chapter XIV

            “Welcome to the Factory.” Diamond Dog said.  He spoke with a matter of fact tone that presented the large warehouse as just another home. 

            The Factory, in fact, was more than just another home.  In addition to it being the refuge for almost a dozen runaways, as a house, it stood more like an industrial mansion.  The building sat in the center of what used to be a small airfield.  A 10 foot high chain-link fence surrounded the paved lot.  Years of neglect had seen the asphalt crack and break.  Rogue patches of weeds and grass sprung up from the breaks in the asphalt, widening the cracks, and pushing the pieces further apart.  

            The four walked along the rough ground to the large complex.  From inside Celia could hear the sounds of music and laughter.  The sounds made her feel a little better about following the two boys into Yesterday Town.  She was still pretty nervous and unsure about going with them, but she didn’t see how it could hurt to check things out. 

            Even still, Celia held Caroline close to her and backtracked each street in her mind, making sure that she knew which way would take them back to Future City.  If all else failed, Caroline could turn invisible and run, and Celia would run back to transformer they had passed and cut loose.  What would she have to lose? 

            After all, they were just like her and Caroline.  The boys, who referred to themselves as Diamond Dog and Black Sunshine, seemed sincere enough once everything had calmed down.  Diamond Dog had apologized several times for chasing them and scaring her.  He explained that he was trying to keep them out of trouble, and didn’t want to attract the attention of the heroes for no reason. 

            Celia could relate.  She wasn’t looking to attract the attention of any heroes either. 

            “I’m really sorry for scaring you, Celia.”  Diamond Dog said.  His eyes were soft and mournful. 

            “I know.” Celia said with a smile.  “You don’t have to keep apologizing.” 

            “I just wasn’t thinking.  I need to be more careful.” 

            Celia smiled again. 

*****

 

30 minutes earlier

 

            “Wow.” Caroline said, peeking from around Celia. 

            Celia put her right hand in the younger girl’s chest and pushed her back behind her.  “Caroline, get back!” 

            Celia took a deep breath and balled her fists.  Her muscles tightened as she tried to consciously use her power.  She reached out with her body and mind and tried to draw the electricity flowing around into her body.  This was the first time Celia had ever tried to actively use her abilities, and she had no idea if she was doing it right.  She prayed to God that she was.   

            The blast of electricity Celia had fired at Diamond Dog was an accident.  She just wanted him to stay back.  Celia remembered pushing her hand forward to tell him to keep back, just before the bolt of electricity shot out.  She was hoping that, if need be, she could do it again, but this time on purpose. 

            Celia wasn’t sure what happened, or how the teenage boy did what he did, but she was glad he wasn’t hurt.  She didn’t want to hurt them, anymore than she wanted to be hurt by them. 

            Diamond Dog looked around at the walls of the surrounding buildings.  Scorch marks peppered the walls like a negative painting of the night sky.  His eyes traveled down to his still outstretched arms.  The quartz covering ran from his palms to mid bicep.  Sections of the quartz started to crumble and break away. 

            Black Sunshine’s eyes darted from Diamond Dog, to the walls, to Celia, and back again. 

            “How in the hell did that happen?” Black Sunshine said aloud.  The entire scene was as surreal as it was unbelievable. 

            “DD,” Black Sunshine asked, almost as an after thought.  “You ok?” 

            DD didn’t answer at first.  He stared at his arms as if he expected them to fall off or burst into flames.  In the back of his mind he was envisioning a scene from a cartoon where someone gets zapped by lighting.  They seem normal at first, then turn to a burnt matchstick and crumble to dust.  He expected any minute now for his arms to become large burned up matchsticks. 

            “I don’t know.  I think so.”  DD said at last. 

            Celia’s heart leapt at hearing him say that, but she didn’t let it show.  She stood her ground. 

            Diamond Dog could see the strain on her face.  The hairs on his arm started to stand up, and a crackling sound was building around him. 

            “Whoa!”  He shouted at Celia.  “Hey. Calm down, okay?” 

            Diamond Dog wanted to dissolve his quartz and show Celia that he didn’t mean her any harm, but he was afraid she might blast him again.  It was sheer luck, and the grace of God that he wasn’t electrocuted the first time.  He wasn’t so sure that he wanted to chance things again. 

            “Hey!  I’m sorry I scared you.  We don’t want any trouble.”  DD said.  He slowly started to back away.  “Look, I’m moving back, okay?” 

            Celia held fast.  She didn’t change her stance or lower her hand.  She watched, and continued to draw the currents of electricity to her. 

            Diamond Dog continued to move backwards.  He reached out for Black Sunshine, still keeping his eyes on Celia, and grabbed him by the arm.  He pulled the boy backwards with him. 

            “How’s this?” Diamond Dog said, after he and Black Sunshine had taken several steps back.  “Is this good?  Can we talk now?” 

            Celia looked at the two teenage boys.  Neither one of them looked threatening.  In actuality, they both looked scared.  About as scared as she was. 

            “Okay, talk!” Celia yelled to Diamond Dog.  She held strong.  She wanted desperately for him to say something that made sense to her.  Celia didn’t want things to continue down the road that they were currently on. 

            Diamond Dog hesitated.  His mouth opened and closed without any words coming out.  He tried to explain, but couldn’t focus on anything but the Tesla coil like hand that was aimed at him.  DD swallowed hard and tried again to speak. 

            “Um.” He started, his voice lacking any form of confidence.  “Could you lower your hand, please?  Or power down, or something?”  DD asked.   Celia responded by flexing even more, and firing off more electric tendrils. 

            From where Diamond Dog and Black Sunshine stood, Celia looked like an electric sea anemone.  A pulsating mass of blue electricity with electric filaments that waived uncontrollably in the air, ready to strike at a moments notice. 

            “Hey, look.  We don’t want any trouble.  I’m sorry for chasing you, okay?”  Diamond Dog held his arms out in front of himself with his palms up.  He took a deep breath, glanced quickly at Black Sunshine, and let the crystalline covering over his arms dissolve into a fine powder. 

            Celia watched in amazement.  Not only was she awe struck with the control he had over his abilities, but watching as the quartz that surrounded his arms crumbled to dust and blew away in the breeze was – for lack of a better word – neat. 

            “So, I’m trying to establish some trust here.”  Diamond Dog said.  “If you don’t feel comfortable turning off your powers, that’s fine, but could you power down just a bit?” 

            Celia looked around.  She hadn’t realized, but things were starting to get out of control.  Guidance counselor’s office out of control.  She couldn’t let things go that far again. 

            Celia tried to relax, but being as scared as she was made it hard.  She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.  She tried to back off the currents of electricity, but couldn’t.  She had nowhere to send them.  Celia had never discharged the electricity she had drawn without firing it off, like she had at Diamond Dog earlier.  She was able to stop the current flow, but didn’t know what to do with what she already had inside her. 

            Diamond Dog watched as the girl aiming an electric hand at him relaxed a bit.  Her faced started to screw up and her brow furrowed.  The electricity around her had begun to subside, but her hand was glowing brighter, and the sparks that emanated increased in size and intensity. 

            DD took one step forward cautiously.  He could see the strain on the teenage girl’s face. 

            “Are you okay?” DD asked nervously. 

            “No.” Celia answered, her voice wavering. 

            Celia turned her head and looked at Caroline.  “Run!” 

            Caroline shot from around Celia and ran to the entrance of the back lot and around the corner. 

            “Black, watch over her!” Diamond Dog yelled at his housemate.    

            Black Sunshine took off behind the young girl, just as frightened as she was.  They both hid just around the corner.  Even in the morning sun, the back alley beamed with light.  The younger boy looked around, mostly at the sky to see if anyone else had taken notice. 

            Diamond Dog moved slowly towards Celia.  He paused with each step, making sure that Celia didn’t misunderstand his intentions. 

            “What’s wrong?” DD asked.  He was sure that he knew, but when it came to things like this, it was best not to assume. 

            “I can’t…” Celia began.  “I can’t back it off.” 

            Celia’s teeth began to chatter under the strain of holding back the electricity she had drawn.  Her hand shook, and mini currents fired off recklessly. 

            “I-I can’t-t hold it m-much longer-r-r-r.” Celia chattered.  “I-I h-have to let-t it go-o-o-o.” 

            Diamond Dog was directly in front of her now.  He could see so much of himself in her.  Especially in her eyes.  He could see them again now.  Even terrified, they were beautiful. 

            “Let me help.”  DD let the crystals exude from his skin and cover his entire body.  He wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but he believed that it would. 

            Diamond Dog reached out with both hands and wrapped them around Celia’s open hand.  He looked her in the eyes and nodded. 

            “Let go.” 

            Celia released the current of electricity that had built up inside of her.  It blasted out from her hand and immediately hit the refracted surface of the surrounding quartz.  The sparks danced and dodged all throughout Diamond Dog’s quartz exo-sheath.  They bounced and tumbled inside his shell like a living pinball game. 

            As eerily enchanting as the display was, Celia couldn’t take her eyes off of Diamond Dog’s long enough to witness it.  She was lost, as ridiculous and school girl-ish as it was, in the eyes of the boy holding her hand. 

            Random sparks found exits and fired out from the quartz shell.  More and more began to escape from their faceted prison maze.  Diamond Dog knew it wouldn’t be long before they all broke free. 

            “You might want to step back.” He said, releasing Celia’s hand. 

            Celia nodded and took a few steps away from him. 

            Diamond Dog stood with his arms by his sides and let the sparks do their thing.  Each one shot out at will, striking the closest thing to them.  Most drove themselves into the ground.  The remaining ones hit the dumpster to his right, or one of the nearby walls. 

            DD looked as though he were wearing a suit of light, beaming in all directions.  A human sun. 

            When the last one had exited, DD sluffed his quartz skin.  He looked at Celia.  She was on the verge of tears.  Behind him, Black Sunshine and Caroline peeked from around the corner. 

            Celia’s chest heaved up and down, and tears began to form in her eyes.  It almost happened again.  She was fooling herself earlier when she thought she had some control.  She had none.  She wondered if she would ever have control, or if she would always be a threat to those around her. 

            DD tried to ease her pain.  He walked over and put a hand on her shoulder. 

            “You okay?”  He asked. 

            Celia sniffed and wiped away the tears that ran down her cheeks.  “Yeah.  Are you okay?” 

            Diamond Dog looked down at himself.  His clothes were singed in spots, but otherwise he was unharmed. 

            ‘Huh, looks like it.” He said with a smile.  “That must have been something.  I probably looked like a Peter Gabriel video.”    

            Celia stared at him, not getting the reference. 

            “You know,” Diamond Dog started to explain.  “The Sledgehammer video, where in the end he’s wearing the suit…”  It didn’t register with her or the other two watching. 

            “Nevermind.” 

            DD gave Celia’s shoulder a light squeeze.  “You sure you’re okay?” 

            “Yeah.” Celia said.  She was still a little shaky.  “I’m better now.” 

            “Good, cause I don’t ever want to do that again.” 

            Black Sunshine stepped from around the corner with Caroline.  He surveyed the new damage, and what was still burning from the first refraction.  The fact that no one had arrived yet to see what was going on was a miracle. 

            The miracle was short lived as the sounds of approaching sirens grew closer to them. 

            Celia suddenly noticed that the alarms around them had stopped ringing. 

            “We need to go, DD!” Black Sunshine called. 

            “Yeah.”  Diamond Dog gestured to Celia and Caroline.  “Why don’t you guys come with us?  You’ll be safe. Trust me.” 

            Celia had no reason to doubt him or decline.  After all, he had just saved her and Caroline’s lives, when he could have simply run away with his friend.  Celia nodded in agreement.  The four took off out of the alley and back on to the main street. 

            On the street, traffic was stopped.  A few cars had run into each other, blocking off the intersection.  The accident was holding up the police and fire department. 

            “Holy crap, DD!” cried Black Sunshine.  “You blacked out the whole block!” 

            Diamond Dog looked back at Celia while they scurried off down the street.  He gave her a sly smile.  She smiled back. 

            The four youths slipped into the crowd and disappeared.

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