Stories

Archives

About Me

Chapter XVI

09/27/10

Chapter XVI

 

            Morning seemed to come earlier than expected for Celia.  It wasn’t that she didn’t feel relaxed or refreshed, the technique Headwirwes showed them worked like a dream; she just didn’t want to get out of bed just yet.  Getting out of bed meant facing the world again.  She honestly didn’t know how to do it anymore.  It seemed like she had spent the last week, or so, of her life on autopilot.  She couldn’t in truth say that she had faced the world since the night she had runaway. 

            Is running away facing the world?  Celia wondered.  Probably not

            Caroline slept at the foot of the bed with a light blanket thrown over her.  Celia pleaded with her to get under the covers, but the young girl refused.  It was hard for Caroline to accept that they were safe.  She succumbed to the softness of the mattress, but that was all.  The only victory Celia had was in convincing her to leave her backpack on the floor, and not in the bed with her.  Celia didn’t push it.  She knew that it would take time. 

            It took some gentle nudging and light shaking to get Caroline up.  The younger girls stretched out along the bed like a cat.  She blinked several time in the slivers of morning light that peeked through the window blinds and smiled.  This was the second time she had awakened to Celia’s face.  She was getting used to it.  It made her feel safe. 

            “You hungry?” Celia asked. 

            “Starving.”  Caroline replied.  

            “C’mon, let’s go get some food.  I think I saw waffles when I was in the fridge last night.” 

            Celia sat nervously at the table next to Caroline.  She didn’t quite feel like she fit in at the Factory.  The new girl, making herself at home in someone else’s house.  The other’s didn’t mind, and moved around the two new girls as if they had lived there for years.  Caroline was adjusting, for the most part.  As long as Celia seemed comfortable, then she did as well.  Celia realized that she would have to put on a brave face for the younger girl’s sake. 

            “Come on.”  Renegade said.  “You’re almost there.” 

            Celia walked to the kitchen door and looked down the hall.  She saw Crash and Renegade helping Diamond Dog walk down the hallway. 

            Celia gasped.  DD looked horrible.  His eyes were half closed, and he could barely move his legs.  The two boys helping him struggled to move him down the hall.  It was obvious that they were carrying most of his weight. 

            As they got closer to her, Celia could see Diamond Dog better.  His skin had a grayish tone.  His clothing was shredded to the point that it was held in place by a matter of threads.  In his left hand he carried an open two liter of bottled water. 

            DD smiled as they walked him past Celia.  He water fell out of his hand and splashed on the ground.  Celia snatched it up quickly.  She grabbed Crash by the arm and pulled him towards her.  She was careful not to pull him out from underneath DD. 

            “What happened to him?” Celia demanded.  She was suddenly filled with terror.  The room became alive with static electricity. 

            Crash took the bottle from her hand and held it himself. 

            “He was working out with Guru all night.  He’s okay, he just needs some water and sleep.” Crash answered. 

            Celia looked over her shoulder at Caroline.  Caroline was oblivious to it all.  She sat contentedly, eating her waffles. 

            “What did he do to him?” Celia questioned again.  Flashes of blue light, like old camera flash cube burst in the air. 

            Diamond Dog reached toward her with his hand.  His arm fell without sufficient strength to hold it up before touching her.  He smiled again. 

            “I’m…”  DD tried to say that he was okay, but was only able to get out the first word. 

            “I want to see Guru, now.”  Celia commanded of the two younger boys. 

            Renegade looked over at her.  “He’s waiting for the two of you downstairs.”   

            Celia and Caroline stood next to each other on the concrete floor of the warehouse machine room.  Guru sat with his legs crossed on top of an overturned wooden utility spool with his walking stick across his lap.  He smiled as the girls stood like statues watching him.  Not exactly like statues.  Statues don’t shake nervously.  Guru smiled. 

            “I hope you slept well last night.”  Guru said.  “Did you have a nice breakfast?” 

            Caroline shook her head yes.  Celia stood quiet and defiant. 

            “Something wrong?” Guru questioned. 

            “What did you do tom Diamond Dog?  What the hell is all of this?  What do you want from us?” Celia barked at Guru. 

            The older man showed no emotion.  He met her steel-eyed gaze with his own.  They both stared at each other, eyes locked. 

            “You don’t trust me, do you?” asked Guru.  

            “That’s an understatement.” Celia snapped.  “What are you, some kind of modern day Fagin?  You want us to use our abilities to rob, steal, and kill for you?” 

            “No.”  Guru’s response was flat and firm.  There wasn’t the slightest hint of deception in his tone or mannerism.  If anything, Celia picked up on a twinge of animosity at the very notion of such a thing. 

            “Then what?” Celia asked. 

            Guru uncrossed his legs and climbed down off the spool.  He walked to the middle of the room and stopped. 

            “I’ll start with the obvious.” Guru began.  “This is the Factory and my name is Guru.  In order to answer your question, let me ask you one.  Why did you come here?” 

            “Well…”  Celia started answering before thinking about what she was going to say.  “I…  We didn’t have anywhere else to go.  DD said you could help us.”

            “And why do you need help?  Why do you feel you need my help?”

            Celia thought about what she was going to say next.  It wasn’t difficult for her to say.  It was difficult for her to admit. 

            “I just want to be normal again.  I want to be my plain old self.  Before – this”  

            “You ask me why, and I’ll tell you.  I think it’s fairly clear that you are not alone.  The world is filled with young people like yourself that have been given a curse disguised as a gift.  A gift they don’t want.  The only way to live with this gift is to learn how to control it.  This is not something that you can do on your own.” 

            “Why you?” Celia questioned. 

            Guru looked at her.  He turned sideways so that he could clearly see the spool, and so that Celia could as well.  He raised his hand, palm up at the spool and pushed at the air in front of him.  The spool slid across the floor and crashed into the opposite wall.  Guru turned back to Celia and Caroline. 

            “Because I am, and because I can.  Everyone here has the same goal as you.  They just want to go home.  This is not a school for heroes.  I am not training world saviors.  I’m teaching those that come to me how to be normal again.” 

            “Then why the fancy names?  Diamond Dog.  Crash.  Black Sunshine.  They sound like hero names to me.”  Celia asked.  She wanted to stay there.  She wanted to believe in everything Guru was saying, but it seemed too easy.  It all seemed too surreal to be real.  If she had learned anything about life the past week or so, it was that nothing was easy. 

            “Again, to answer your question, let me ask another.  What is your name, young lady?” 

            “Celia.  Celia Cordalis.” 

            “Tell me about Celia.  Who is she?” 

            “She’s…  I don’t know.  I can’t describe who she is.”  Celia answered. 

            “Fair enough.  Do you still feel like Celia?  Do you feel like the person you were before it happened to you?” 

            Celia paused.  She thought about Guru’s words.  Her eyes fell to the ground.  When she looked up, her mouth barely parted to speak. 

            “No.”

            “No one does.  I give them names to help them adjust.  It’s easier when you aren’t constantly comparing who you are to who you were.”  Guru stepped closer.  “Who you are inside hasn’t changed, but in your mind, you aren’t the same.  And you won’t be the same until you can control the ‘new’ you.” 

            Guru stared at the two girls.  He looked from Celia’s face to Caroline’s and back again. 

            “You’re not sisters, are you?”  Guru questioned. 

            Celia looked nervously over at Caroline.  She could see the younger girl’s image start to waiver as parts of her became transparent.  Celia looked back over at Guru. 

              “No.” she said at last.  “We sort of ‘found’ each other at the bus station.” 

            Celia reached out and took Caroline’s hand.  “But until she gets home, I’m responsible for her.  She goes where I go, and vice versa.” 

            “Fair enough.”  Guru said with a smile.  Celia was like the others at the Factory.  They were lost, but determined.  They were strong, though fragile, with an overwhelming ability to adapt to their new surroundings, adopt strangers as family, and to care for people without any regard to themselves.  Guru often lamented to himself that it was a shame that they weren’t heroes.  They were exactly what the world needed. 

            “DD told me about your encounter yesterday morning.  What he did, using his body to refract the electricity you generated… fascinating.”  Guru walked over to another overturned wooden spool and sat on top of it. 

            “I never would have thought of that.  Seeing as how we have been working on controlling how to manipulate his crystals, teaching how to shape their design, the very idea never crossed my mind.” 

            “I don’t understand.” Celia said.  “Why would that matter?  If you’re just teaching him how to control his abilities so that he can go home, why does something like that matter.  I thought you weren’t training heroes.” 

            “It’s all about control.  If I gave you a ball and told you to hold it, you are in complete control of that ball, correct?” 

            “I guess.” 

            “That ball won’t go anywhere unless you let it go.  But, once you let it go, you only have a limited amount of control over where it will go.  You can throw it in a particular direction, but whether or not it makes it to its intended target is another matter.  There are a myriad of factors which can alter its outcome.  Do you understand what I’m saying?” 

            “Nope.” interjected Caroline.  Celia was slightly lost as well. 

            “Controlling you abilities isn’t simply a matter of turning them off when they turn on.  It’s knowing what they can do, and how you can manipulate and alter them.  So, if I gave you that ball, and told you to throw it against the wall, you could factor in the weight of the ball, the size, the wind, any obstacles in your way, etcetera.” 

            Guru adjusted his position on the spool.  He drew his legs up and crossed them.  He laid his cane across his thighs. 

            “Are we ready to begin?” Guru asked.  Neither girl responded. 

            ‘Let’s start with you.”  Guru pointed at Caroline.   “Show me what you can do.”

******

 

            Colonel Courageous flew across the arctic tundra along the coast of Alaska.  He could appreciate the stark white lands with its low outcroppings of trees and shrubs.  Dr. 253 referred to it as the perfect biome and attributed it to society as a whole.  He once tried to explain to the Colonel how people themselves and cities were a form of biome, but the concept was lost on the world hero. 

            The Colonel smirked as he thought about his colleague.  It seemed that every time he recalled a conversation with him it always consisted of the Dr. trying to explain something. 

            Colonel Courageous wondered if the Dr. was just too smart for his own good, or if he was too dense.  As he zeroed in on Dr. 253’s home away from the world, he determined it was the former, and not the latter.  Who else would make a home out of the frozen wastelands of the world, but someone who thought too much? 

            He has the entire world to choose from, and he picked this place.  Colonel Courageous mused to himself.  The man needs to learn how to turn his brain off and just enjoy life. 

            Colonel Courageous angled his descent, and slowly moved closer to the frozen earth.  He landed in a particularly empty spot of the tundra.  The place was devoid of any vegetation for several miles.  The Colonel looked at the position of the sun in the sky, then narrowed his view to beyond the upper atmosphere.  His telescopic vision scanned the celestial body, locating the stars he needed to find his exact position. 

            While looking beyond the clouds that hung overhead, The Colonel hovered above the ground, gliding across the surface of the ice.  His flight pattern made a sudden 90 degree turn, while still facing straight ahead and looking up. 

            “There.” The Colonel said with absolute certainty.  His feet touched the ground once again, as his head tilted downwards and back to the earth.    

            “This is the spot.” He said aloud.  He cast an eye to the sky once again then turned his attention straight ahead and waited. 

            “One more minute.”  The Colonel pretended to be annoyed by the need to play the “game,” but he actually got a kick out of it. 

            Slowly, without warning or notice, Dr. 253’s house began to waiver into view.  It was a breathtaking sight.  The mansion, it wasn’t fair to call something so grandiose in design and structure a mere house, was coated with refractal plates which made it invisible to the naked eye.  The mansion could only be seen at certain times of the day, and from key vantage points.  The viewing windows were only open for a matter of minutes.  If a person missed an opportunity, they might have to wait hours and move to another location before the manor would be visible again. 

            Of course, Dr. 253 was the only person that could see the house at all times, and could come and go as he pleased.  Magnetic plates that tapped into the ley lines of the Earth the size of football fields had been installed in key points for hundreds of miles around Dr. 253’s home.  The plates made it impossible for his domicile to be located by any conventional means of navigation. 

            Colonel Courageous couldn’t help but smile as the mansion came into view.  Patches of the building slowly became visible inside streaks of sunlight.  It was like he was looking at it through the spaces of a picket fence. 

            The Colonel walked slowly up to the main door taking his time to savor the view.  He stepped up on the stone entrance and stood in front of the ornate door with the large glass portal in the center.

            “Wintergreen.” Colonel Courageous said to the open air.  The front door split in the middle and swung open.  The Colonel stepped inside and looked around. 

            “Welcome, Colonel Courageous.” The mansion’s artificial intelligence spoke. 

            “A15.” The Colonel called.  “Where’s the Dr.?” 

            “Dr. 253 is in the lower level.  Lab 8.  He is expecting you.” 

            Colonel Courageous stepped out of the elevator and into the disheveled work space that was Lab 8.  The Colonel was taken aback by the chaos and disorder that greeted him.  The normally stark white room was littered with debris and broken equipment.  Half eaten plates of food where staked in various places throughout the lab; on work stations, and atop computer servers. 

            The Colonel saw the Dr. at a work station to his left.  The table was littered with broken and half tinkered contraptions.  Many of the devices, or whatever they were or were supposed to be, looked like they had been left in mid-thought.  Miniature mechanical hands held small pieces and tools in place, waiting for the next step to be completed.  Nothing looked as if it had been stopped at a particular phase.  It all seemed as if he had merely lost interest and walked away. 

            Dr. 253 looked away from his work, and over at Colonel Courageous.  He was slightly startled to find the uber hero standing near him.  Dr. 253 jumped, then went back to work. 

            “You’re early.  I wasn’t expecting you to be here just yet.” said Dr. 253.  He continued to work on the latest project that held his attention.

            “That’s a first.  Normally you’re telling me I’m late, or right on time.” Answered The Colonel.   

            “Hmm.” The Dr. replied.  “Maybe you are late, then.” 

            “Doc.” Colonel Courageous started.  “You okay?  You don’t look well.” 

            Dr. 253 stopped what he was working on and turned to address The Colonel.  His white lab coat was stained with food and had small burn holes across the chest.  The coat was stretched tight across his almost hulking frame.  The Dr. wasn’t huge by any means, but his physique was much different than normal.  The Colonel could see the toned and chiseled muscles under his clothes without the use of his x-ray vision. 

            “Whoa!  Doc, what have you done to yourself?  You swore you wouldn’t experiment on yourself again.  What’s this?” 

            “Self preservation, my good Colonel.  Something is coming and we all must be prepared.”  Dr. 253 said sternly. 

            “Cyksiks.” Colonel Courageous said with anger.  Hidden under his angry response was an undercurrent of fear. 

            “Yes.”

            “How did you know?”  questioned Colonel Courageous. 

            “How could I not, Colonel?  You insult my intellect by assuming that anything could transpire in the world and go without my notice.” 

            “I wouldn’t dare to try and insult you, Doc.  I’m just surprised, as usual.  The Mayor ordered a media blackout, I figured that stopped the chatter before anything got out.”  Colonel began to apologize as always, for not being as smart as the Dr.  Dr. 253 always made him feel like a kid in elementary school.  He didn’t feel like the big hero when he was around the Dr.  When next to him, he felt dwarfed, like an ordinary man.    

            “Before the blackout was issued, there was an abundance of information traveling the media channels.  Once I knew of your battle, I tapped into the city cameras, satellite feeds, home recordings, and pieced together the footage chronologically.  I saw it all.”  Dr. 253 stared at Colonel Courageous with an intensity that he had never felt before. 

            “Tom was acting funny.  I’ve never seen him like that before.  I asked him if it was Cyksiks.  If Terror IX had returned.  He wouldn’t answer.” 

            Dr. 253 turned and walked away from the Colonel.  He lumbered over to a work station at the far end of the room.  The Dr. rummaged through the projects on the table.  He scattered the electronic devices across the tables, many of them falling onto the floor.  He walked from that station to another, searching again, and shoveling the unwanted projects off the side of the table and onto the floor. 

            The Colonel zipped across the room to his friend’s side.  He grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him around. 

            “Doc, what’s wrong with you?” Colonel Courageous asked.  He’d never seen Dr. 253 like this before.  He was the smartest man in the world, but right now he seemed lost. 

            “What’s going on here?  You’re experimenting on yourself, the room’s a wreck.  You’re unfocused!  Talk to me!”  Colonel Courageous demanded. 

            Dr. 253 stared blankly at his friend for a moment.  His eyes were empty and quiet.  The Dr. blinked rapidly, and shook his head.  Life suddenly returned to his eyes. 

            “Colonel.  I’m sorry.  It’s Terror IX.  They’re coming back.”  Dr. 253 said. 

            The Colonel couldn’t hide his fear as the news was confirmed.  “No.” 

            “It’s something new.  Something I should have anticipated, but didn’t.  So much to do.  I’ve been having problems concentrating on just one thing.  The thing you fought was one of them.  We destroyed their teleporters, but they found something new.  It’s ingenious.” 

            Dr. 253 leaned against the table for support.  He felt as though he had been running nonstop for days. 

            “The Cyksiks have found a way to tune into the energy frequency of our planet.” 

            “I don’t understand.”

            “Everything has its own energy signature, or frequency that it generates.  Even the planet itself.  Think of it like a song or melody.  Have you ever heard two songs that sound alike but are completely different?”

            “Yes.” answered Colonel Courageous. 

              “Those two songs share a rhythm or chorus.  The Earth is like that.  We all resonate along the same rhythm, but with our own tune.  The Cyksiks have found a way of matching the frequency.  They’re transporting themselves across space via this signal.  They have no way to aim it, so they are beaming into people at random.  Once they’ve locked onto a signal, they send one of their people over.  The Cyksisks host inside that person, slowly converting their body into something more like their own.  A hybrid of the two.  Because their alien physiology is so much stronger than our own, we have no way of fighting them off.  Once they’ve entered someone’s body, it’s only a matter of time.” 

            “How did you find out about this?” The Colonel grew pale.  The thought of fighting an entire city of those hybrid aliens was too much for him to even fathom.  He might have stopped the one in Future City without Major Tom’s help, given time, but two of them?  Twenty?  A hundred?  No!  The human race would be doomed. 

            “I stumbled across one of their transmissions the other night while listening to the stars.” Dr. 253 explained.  “It was overwhelming.  I could hear their thoughts in my head.  They were trying to make their thoughts my thoughts.  I was able to sever the connection before it was complete.” 

            Dr. 253 looked down at his new more muscular physique.  “Something must have still come through, enough to change my physical appearance to this.” 

            “Doc.” The Colonel started.  “Can we stop them this time?” 

            Dr. 253 looked at him with solemn eyes.  “I don’t know.” 

            The Dr walked across the room to another work station and picked through the items on the table. 

            “I know one thing.  They want you more than anything else.”  The Dr. stopped and looked over his shoulder at Colonel Courageous.  “You destroyed a great deal of their world, and killed many of their people.  It’s not something they’re likely to forget.” 

            The Dr. looked over the table one last time.  He turned and looked at the workstation he was at when The Colonel had entered the lab.  Nothing.  He stopped and thought for a moment.  His mouth mumbled incoherent words as he talked to himself. 

            “Ah!” Dr. 253 exclaimed.  He reached in his lab coat pocket and pulled out a small nasal inhaler.  “This is for you.” 

            “What is it, Doc?” 

            “It’s our best hope for saving the world.” 

            The Dr. walked over to Colonel Courageous and handed him the inhaler. 

            “I said that the Cyksiks can’t aim their device, but that isn’t for lack of trying.  I don’t believe they would blindly transport their people across space willingly.  They have to be aiming for something.  For someone.  When you fire a weapon that you aren’t sure you can accurately aim, it’s only logical to shoot for the biggest target one can find.  You.” 

            Colonel Courageous felt his knees go weak and his legs quiver. 

            “They hate you with a passion I can’t begin to understand.  But what I do know is that they won’t stop until they’re all dead, or you are.” 

            “So, what’s this?” The Colonel asked again. 

            “It’s a jamming device, of sorts.  I believe that they already know your frequency, but due to your genetic makeup, they’ve been unable to lock in.  Yet.” 

            “You’re skin is too tough for anything conventional to penetrate,” Dr. 253 continued. “And out of respect for our friendship, and your fear, I have refrained from making anything capable of doing so.  Inside that inhaler is a micro-transponder that will attach to your cerebral cortex.  This will dampen your energy signature and prevent them from finding you.” 

            “What do I do?” The Colonel asked.  He turned the device over in his hands, looking at it from all sides.    

            “Put the tube up your nose and squeeze the trigger.  The micro-transponder will do the rest.” 

            Colonel Courageous looked curiously at Dr. 253.  It wasn’t that he distrusted his friend, he’d just never seen him so rattled before.  In fact, he’d never seen him in such a state. 

            “Alright, Doc.” 

            Colonel Courageous inserted the nasal tube and fired the micro-transponder into his brain. 

            “Excellent.” Dr. 253 smiled.  “We might now be able to win this battle.”

Tags:

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment