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Chapter XV

09/13/10

Chapter XV

 

 

            “So, this is the Factory, huh?” Celia said.  She didn’t really know what to expect prior to coming there, but it certainly wasn’t this. 

            “Yep.”  DD said with a warm grin.  “Home sweet home.”  

            Diamond Dog walked ahead to the side door and opened it.  He gestured for the girls to step inside. 

            “Come on in.”  he said cheerfully.  DD could sense their hesitation.  He pushed the door wide open and stepped inside. 

            The commotion that Celia had heard earlier was even louder now.  The sounds of three different types of music, all being played at the near highest volume blasted into the open air.  Celia grimaced at the raucous cacophony and walked inside. 

            The inside of the Factory wasn’t much different from the outside.  The residents had made minor touches to give the place a more homely appearance, but it was still a massive concrete and steel structure to Celia.  Instead of making her feel safe and welcomed, it made her long for the home she had left.  The bright detailed wallpaper and accent painted walls.  The family photos that were displayed in every room.  The people that lived in this building had gone to great lengths to make the cold factory look and feel like home.  But it wasn’t home.  It didn’t feel like home to Celia. 

            Home had her mother and Charles.  There was love in those walls. 

            Diamond Dog turned and saw the look on Celia’s face.  He grabbed her by the hand and led her to a stairwell.  The stairwell door had been removed, like many of the non-bedroom doors, in an attempt to open the place up and make it feel normal.  Nothing had been done to the stairs themselves, or even the stairwell; it remained drab colored concrete steps that had a metal railing with a dull finish. 

            “We have an empty room on the third floor.  You and your sister can chill there until you meet Guru.” Diamond Dog said as he led the two girls up the steps. 

            Crash was making his way down the stairs as the trio was going up.  He stood on the landing of the second floor stairs and confronted Diamond Dog. 

            “You’re late.” Barked the fourteen year old.  His stance prevented the group from moving around him without being rude. 

            “Crash,” DD began.  “I’m sorry.  Things kinda got out of hand this morning.  I’m sorry.  Can we talk about this later?  We’ve got some new housemates.”

            Crash looked at the older teenager.  He eyes trailed down from Diamond Dog’s hand to hand of the teenage girl he was holding, and then up to her face. 

            “Where did you find her?”  Crash asked indignantly. 

            “Cockrum’s Cafe.”  DD spat back at him.  “Do you mind?  Let me get them settled and let Guru know we have guests, then I’ll get with you.” 

            “He already knows.”  Crash said as he pushed past the people on the stairs and stomped down to the second floor.    

            Celia watched the boy called Crash stomp away.  She turned back to DD. 

            “What did he mean, ‘He already knows.’?” Celia asked. 

            Diamond Dog forced a grin.  “It means you’re about to meet Guru.” 

            Crash stormed downstairs and into the kitchen.  He tore through the cabinets looking for something to eat.  Guru kept the home well stocked with food; necessities, not junk food.  Groceries were brought in every week, and there was always snack food, chips, soda, and the like, but not in abundance.  Guru believed in a healthy body and a healthy mind.  He also knew that a house full of kids and teenagers meant sweets had to be present in some fashion.  As he saw it, they had been denied enough already, he wouldn’t deny them much more. 

            Everything was in moderation.  Junk food was bought only once a month.  It was up to them to make sure it lasted until the next month. 

            Crash couldn’t find anything he wanted to eat.  He slammed the cabinet doors with each disappointed search.  Truth was, he wasn’t hungry, he was just angry.  He had been there for six months, and though he was making progress, he didn’t see where he was getting any better at controlling his abilities.  Crash didn’t realize how long it would take him to gain control.  He liked living at the Factory, studying briefly, practicing his abilities, mainly doing what he wanted, but what he really wanted was to go home. 

            Diamond Dog had promised him that they would sit down and talk after his morning run.  Crash wanted to write a letter to his folks and tell them he was okay.  Let them know that he would be home soon.  He’d tried several times on his own, but the words just didn’t come out right.  He wanted his parents to feel relieved, and not scared for his well being.  Crash had been “missing” for six months now, and the way things were looking, it could be another six months, if not more.  He was afraid that he would never see his family again. 

            Crash sat down at the kitchen table and buried his head in his hands. 

            “Why, God?” He whispered.  “Why me?”

            DD led Celia and Caroline down the third floor hall.  They passed Headwires as they made their way to the last room at the end of the hall.  The 17 year old girl looked at Diamond Dog and sneered. 

            “Who’s your girlfriend?” Headwires asked. 

            Diamond Dog and Celia both looked down as they realized for the first time that they were holding hands.  They both quickly let go and started to blush.  Headwires continued on her way, laughing all the way. 

            DD stopped in front of the last door on right. 

            “You and your sister can crash here.  This room is normally empty ‘cause the Pitt is right across the hall.  It can get pretty loud in there.”  Diamond Dog stated.  He stepped across and opened the door to the Pitt. 

            The door was covered in stickers from top to bottom, from bands to cartoon characters.  The only part that wasn’t covered was the word “PITT” written in spray paint.  The letters were silver with highlights of blue and bordered in bright purple.  The frame of the door had been spray painted in the same fashion.  The noise from the room could be heard beating through the door. 

            Diamond Dog opened the door and the two girls looked in.  There was no immediate floor, just remnants along the edge of the wall where the floor used to be.  Two stories below they could see four people playing games, watching tv, and whatever else.  The room had 3 large flat screen televisions.  Two of the tv’s had game systems hooked up to them and people playing.  The third was for tv viewing only, as clearly stated in big letters on a sign that was mounted to the top of it.  One wall had a decent selection of books.  There were two couches facing the tv’s and two heavy wooden tables behind them.  One table was only big enough to seat four, while the other could seat eight.  Two large speakers were mounted on the walls behind the tv’s, with a stereo unit off to the side. 

            “Hey, turn that down!” DD screamed from above them.  A few heads turned and looked up.  No one moved to comply. 

            “Hey!  You know the rules!  Keep it down!”  

            The housemate known as Big Time reached for the remote that was several feet to his left.  His eyes were glued to the video game he was playing, and was having a difficult time trying to continue playing it with one hand.  He reached further out, his body at a 120 degree angle.  Celia watched as the boy slowly started to increase in size.  The controller he held was almost nonexistent in his giant hand.  At almost four times his normal size, the stereo remote was now within his grasp.  Big Time gripped it gently between his index finger and thumb and pulled it close to him. He slowly shrank back to his normal size, and turned the stereo down.  

            “Thanks, Big Time.”  Diamond Dog said.  The young boy merely tossed up a hand, never looking away from the screen. 

            DD shut the door and turned back to the two astonished girls. 

            Considering what they could do themselves, and what they had been through already this morning, they didn’t think they could still be amazed.  They were wrong. 

            Diamond Dog just laughed it off.  “Life at the Factory.” 

            He walked back to their room and opened the door. 

            “If it starts to get noisy again, just let me…” DD started.  As the door swung open Diamond Dog saw Guru sitting in the small wooden chair next to the bed.  Guru stood as the three started to enter. 

            Caroline turned invisible almost immediately.  Celia only knew Caroline was still next to her by the sudden pain that throbbed in her had as it was squeezed with all the young girl’s might.  Her hand hurt more than the time she had slammed it in the car door. 

            “Guru.” Diamond Dog said with surprise.  “I found…  I mean.  They need your help – too.” 

            Guru stepped forward and smiled. 

            “Am I to assume that one of these young ladies is responsible for the power outage at the Starpoint crossing downtown?”  Guru asked. 

            Diamond Dog’s head dropped and his shoulders slumped down.  “Oh shit.” 

            Celia looked at him.  She felt fear at first, but the older man that stood before her hadn’t done anything to make her afraid.  He had only risen from the chair and asked a question.  Aside from standing, he had made no other movements either towards or away from them. 

            “That was my fault.” Celia said with surprising confidence.  “I have problems controlling my abilities.” 

            Celia shook her head and started again.  “No, that’s not right.  I don’t know how to control my abilities.” 

            Guru simply smiled. 

            “It’s not really her fault.”  DD interjected.  “Black Sunshine and I kinda frightened her.” 

            “I see.”  Spoke Guru.  “What about you, young lady?”  He pointed a hand at where he had last seen Caroline.  He knew she was still there by the impressions in Celia’s hand.  Not to mention that her fingertips were bright red. 

            “Do you need help controlling your powers, too?”  Guru asked Caroline. 

            Celia looked down, assuming that the young girl was looking up at her, and nodded. 

            “It’s okay.” Celia said softly. 

            Slowly, Caroline’s body started to come back into view.  Her grip on Celia’s hand lessened tremendously, and the older girl could feel her fingers again. 

            “Yes.” Caroline whispered. 

            Guru nodded and smiled.  He slowly walked towards them. 

            “Most abilities are activated by the sudden rush of adrenaline.  When you are scared or excited, without proper control, these this can cause your abilities to flare up.  When this happens, generally the first response is confusion, excitement, and fear.  This causes another rush of adrenaline, adding fuel to the fire.  Your first lesson is to try and remain calm.” 

            Guru stopped a foot away from Celia and Caroline.  He looked at their tired dirty faces. 

            “There’s a bathroom down the hall.  I want you both to make yourselves at home.  Clean up.  Get something to eat.  Then, I want you to come back to the room and practice a deep breathing exercise.  I’ll have Headwires come up after you’ve had a chance to eat and get you both started.  In the morning we’ll see just what we’re dealing with.”  Guru stepped around them and headed for the door.  He gently grabbed Diamond Dog by the arm and pulled him out into the hall with him. 

            “Come, they need some time to themselves.”  Guru touched the skin on DD’s arm.  He rubbed his hand lightly across the top, and pinched a small area. 

            “You’re on the verge of becoming dehydrated again.”  He looked at the condition of the elder teenager’s clothing.  “I want to know everything that happened this morning.” 

            Guru shut the door to Celia and Caroline’s room, leaving them alone. 

            Celia looked over at Caroline who looked up at her.  Suddenly the two girls dropped their packs and ran across the room.  They dove for the bed, almost colliding in the air.  The two bounced and jumped on the bed, as if they never seen one before.  After a few minutes the two collapsed in a smiling heap. 

            The two girls lay on the soft mattress for several minutes, not moving.  The bed wasn’t the softest they’d ever felt, but it beat what they had been sleeping on. 

            Celia looked over at Caroline.  The poor girl had been through a lot.  She had been on her own for longer than Celia had. 

            “How does a nice warm bath sound?” Celia asked. 

            Caroline sat straight up in the bed. 

            “I haven’t had a bath in over two weeks.” Caroline answered. 

            “Then I’d say you’re long overdue.  Come on.  We’ll get ourselves cleaned up, then we can get some food.  I know you’re hungry.” 

            “Mm hm.” Caroline responded.  “We never got our sandwich, and those microwave fries weren’t very good.” 

            “I told you that.”  Celia said.  She reached over and started tickling the younger girl.  Caroline squealed and tried to get away. 

            “You’re a funny little girl, you know that?” asked Celia. 

            Caroline laughed. 

            “Let’s go get that bath.” 

            Celia stood up.  She grabbed Caroline by the waist and lifted the girl off the bed.  She set her down on the floor, and the two walked towards the door. 

            “Celia.”  Caroline called.  “Will you stand outside the door while I’m in the bathtub?” 

            “Of course, but only if you do the same thing for me.” 

            Caroline nodded heartily. 

            The girls picked up their backpacks and walked out the room. 

*****

 

            Killzone waited anxiously among the rusted carrier cars in the train yard.  The sliver of moon that hung overhead offered very little light.  He heard a light rustling over in the shadows, and tried his best to ignore it.  When he heard it again, he picked up one of the small stones and threw it in the direction of the noise.  What he hit was soft, and made almost no sound.  Afterwards, the rustling stopped. 

            Killzone started pacing in the near pitch black of the early morning.  He was tired, and wasn’t entirely sure the trip to Future City was worth his time.  Just stepping foot in Future City was practically off limits to the Hell Spawns.  If one of the heroes saw him there he would be set for a one way ticket to the Locker. 

            “The boss said for you to be alone.” Came a voice from behind Kilzone.  He turned sharply and came face to face with the deadliest looking gun he had ever seen.  The man holding the gun didn’t seem like much to Killzone, but he had a feeling that looks were definitely deceiving in this case.  After all, he was there to meet the man who “ran” Future City.  The man behind the scenes.  The man whose name was unspoken… because he didn’t have one. 

            Whoever was aiming the gun at Killzone was much stronger than he was, and Killzone would bet good money that the gun was just for show.  Whatever the guy was capable of doing was more deadly and painful than that gun. 

            “It’s quite alright, Number Five.” Said another voice.  The voice came from the shadows and appeared to come from all around Killzone.  He couldn’t pinpoint where the speaker was. 

            Number Five lowered his gun and stepped back. 

            “Only an idiot comes to a meeting without backup.  Especially when meeting with someone you don’t know.”  The voice said from all around.  “My only fault is in his poor choice of protection.” 

            From the darkness Negative Death’s naked body came flying out.  He landed at Killzone’s feet.  The normally homicidal Hell Spawn stayed on the ground at his leader’s feet, shivering in a fetal position. 

            “You wanted to meet me?” Killzone spoke up.  He knew this was a much bigger game than he was used to playing, but tried his best to make it seem like he belonged.  The nameless smiled in the darkness. 

            “No.  You wanted to meet me.  You and your Hell Spawns have done everything you can to come under my notice.”  The voice spoke. 

            “You begged for the day that I might have need of you.  That day has come.  I am ready to extend a helpful hand to you.” 

            “Wait.” Killzone said.  He was confused by the message the voice delivered.  “You need our help with something?” 

            “No.  You need my help, and I am now willing to offer it.” 

            “Oh yeah?” scoffed Killzone.  “And what do we need your help with?” 

            Number Five was in Killzone’s face again, gun drawn and placed under his chin.  Killzone never saw him move. 

            “Watch your tone, Yesterday trash.”  Number Five growled. 

            “Number Five!” the voice demanded.  The bodyguard took his place one again, moving away from Killzone. 

            “I can see your fear, Killzone.” Spoke the voice.  “You keep looking around for heroes, hoping no one sees you here.  You want in the city.  My city.  I’m willing to open the door, but you have to prove that you are worthy.” 

            “I don’t doubt your word.  I’ve heard about you and what you can do, but just because you let us in the city isn’t going to stop the heroes from slamming down on us.”  Killzone said. 

            “They will if you prove your power to them.  Right now, they leave you be because they don’t see you as a threat.  You lord over the unwanted, and they could care less.  In the city you are a minor nuisance that can be dealt with quickly.” 

            Killzone watched as the voice stopped traveling around him.  In the sliver of moonlight he could see the darkness move like smoke to collect and take on a human form. 

            “You have to show them that you are more than just a gang of children.  You are their equal.”  Spoke the dark man. 

            “How do we do that?” 

            “Kill one of them.”  Said the dark man.  The human form rolled away, back into the darkness from which it came.  The voice began to move around Killzone once again. 

            “I want you to kill the hero known as the Aggressor.”

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