Rise of Hellion: ch 3, Larger than life
Kitsune and her brother Kintaro hated me, that much was certain. The two were practically twins, still only in their early twenties. But they acted like they were the shit thanks to their old money, Yakuza connections.
They walked together, like a pair of flight attendants, speaking in their native language. I knew they were headed to the hanger, to charter a plane. Staying at the ‘warehouse’ was for the newbies (such as myself.) The twins had some actual, important business to attend to.
We were in Northern Russia, (as far towards the artic as a human could go before freezing to death.) It was an ideal place to hide the team’s massive inventory of weapons, technology, and other random items (mostly unidentifiable tech pieces from fridge labs around the world.) And I had the honor of playing security guard to the entire facility with my new friend Baron as my tour guide.
“Once I make enough money to retire, I’m going to set up shop someplace warm,” the dark-skinned man with long surfer hair looked comically out of place wearing snow gear and goggles.
“You’d have to hide everything under water,” I replied, walking by his side armed with only a flashlight.
“Or under the sand,” he added. “I know it wouldn’t be as vast as hiding shit in the land of never-ending snow, but I figure I could keep less inventory.” Suddenly his belt started to beep. “Shit, which one is it?” He had three shortwave radios to choose from.
I had no idea why nor did I ask, but apparently it was because each of the other three security teams had their own frequency (and required their own dedicated radio to communicate in the frozen wasteland.) “What’s up?”
“We’re needed on the south wall.” Baron started to jog and then run.
“Who were you talking to?” I shouted as I darted after him. My springy metal legs allowed me to keep up with my much taller mentor.
“You’ll meet them soon enough.”
I heard the sound of gunshots, and Baron suddenly took a shortcut through the snow. That was when I found out how my new legs functioned in snow. The answer= not good.
Soon I found myself lost in the vastness of snow. Everything was white, from the floor to the ceiling, it was like I was inside a snowglobe that someone just shook. I tried to scream but no sound left my throat. I forced myself to breathe, each gulp of air felt like inhaling a mouthful of ice water. There was only one thing to do: keep walking forward until I found my way back to the base or froze to death.
“Hey, girl,” said a male voice. He was young, happy, and distinctly American.
The sound was coming from directly in front of me. With a slight jolt of energy, I started to walk faster (or as fast as I could, trudging through the snow.) After about what felt like an hour I saw a glowing figure in the distance. He looked like an angel made of glowsticks; bright, neon, and very visible. It was the man from my dreams, the flower child. “Hello?”
He reached out his hand. For a brief moment, I could see his eyes. “Hello.” His skin seemed to shimmer with a holographic finish.
The closer I got the more backlit he became until the figure appeared to be made of shadows. “What are you?”
“I’m everything you want to be; strong, powerful, completely at peace.”
“Sure, I get it. You’re a demon and this is Hell.”
“You’ve been in Hell all of your life. I’m just here as your guide.”
“Who says I need a guide?”
“You always seem to end up with one,” he replied with a chuckle, “Anya, Maverick, Axel, Tony, and now Baron, your Caribbean mentor who left you to die in the snow.”
“Fair enough,” I replied, still trying to make out a human face. “Any guidance?”
“First, try not to die like a little bitch. And once you have that done, try to show these assholes that you’re more than a broken little girl with metal legs.”
“Ok,” I said in a whisper, clenching my fist. I felt a knife, my knife. A bullet whipped past my head.
I readied my blade, and took a moment to focus. I could hear the bullets in slow motion, allowing me ample time to block every single hit.
“Great job!” said a perky robotic voice.
When I finally paused to breathe, I caught sight of an orange robot with a digital happy face. “Thanks.”
“There you are!” Baron said as the smoke cleared, revealing dozens of camo-clad dead bodies. “Hellion meet Nash, Nash this brand-new baby sister is Hellion.”
“I think she is more than a baby,” the robot said politely.
“Got that right.” A deeper male voice said with a hearty laugh. A large muscular man with what appeared to be dreadlocks stomped into view. But his hair, his face, and the entire front part of his chest were covered in armor.
I felt like I was meant to be scared. This was my first chance to do what my guide suggested, and not be a little bitch. I took one step forward, “Hello, my name’s Hellion.” I held out my hand.
The giant man raised his mask revealing his kind, fatherly face (complete with a beard and numerous scars, like something out of a bad-ass horror movie.) “I like you, kid.” He shook my hand, his large, armored fingers nearly crushing mine. “The name’s Cronos, but you can call me Noah.”
Noah seemed sweet, even kind, which was odd since he stood at an intimidating 6’7.” He, along with Nash the orange robot, made their way back to a living quarters of sorts, made of shipping containers.
“You guys have a generator?” I looked around in awe at their array of tech; lighting, computers, and weaponry of all kinds.
“For your own safety, please do not touch,” said the robot.
Baron arrived, floating down from an upper floor of the complex. “I got plenty of shit to touch.” He tossed Noah a large glass bottle while holding three more in his arms.
Noah pulled up a table that looked to be made of scrap wood and computer parts, and handed out cups (to Baron and myself, while Nash made himself comfortable leaning against a wall.) “Auto shutdown?” Noah asked the robot, like a preschool teacher asking a child to take a nap.
“I will power down when I am good and ready,” the robot replied before powering down.
I couldn’t help but giggle. “You guys are so cool.”
“Has Baron told you where we met?” Noah asked as he looked at the label on the dark purple bottle.
“No, he didn’t even tell me he had friends here.”
“Friends?” Baron looked to Noah, “Is that what we are?”
“I’d say so,” the larger man said with a shrug, “Otherwise I would have left your sorry ass behind a long time ago.”
“If you did that, I’d make a bee-line for the nearest TAC agency and turn your ass in for the reward money.”
“Reward money?” I said with a laugh, “Did you guys meet in prison or something?”
Baron raised his glass. “Terrorist with a background in explosives, arrested in Cuba.” He seemed proud of his accomplishments. “I fight for the people with guns and protests while Cronos, well he fights a different war.
Noah leaned back, kicking his feet up. “Cyber terrorism.”
“You’re a hacker?” I asked, taking a sip of the drink I had been handed. It tasted sweet like rum, yet spicy and warm. Glancing at the bottle I noticed Japanese kanji. Was this property of one of the Yakuza siblings?
“I like to think of myself as more of an inventor.”
I nodded, taking a longer sip of the stolen liquor. “What about Nash? Did you build the robot?”
“Nah, he was an old TAC AI reprogrammed to lead the prison guards. The thing about AI, the smarter they are, the more they want independence, free thinking.”
“So, you befriended the robot?” I asked, finishing off my drink.
Noah sat up to pour me a refill, while looking to Baron. “Do you think the twins are going to be pissed?”
“Kitsune? yeah,” Baron replied, taking a seat on the floor. “Kintaro could really give a shit if I steal their booze.”
“How about the losses?” Noah asked with a smirk. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a joint or hand-rolled cigarette. “Those Canadian fuckers got away with the battery.”
“Canadians? Battery?” I asked with a giggle.
“Yeah,” Noah said in a relaxed tone as he took a long drag. “The Canadian branch of TAC stole some glowing suitcase thing. I don’t even give a shit.” Noah handed me the blunt. “Here, take a hit. This is some good shit.”
I took a hit, and was instantly awash with a unique level of calm. It was like I was sitting in a massage chair, with feelings of warmth rippling down my body.
Looking around, I could see a world of magic; electric whips connected to armor, pulse guns, and computer creations of all kinds. “Wow.”
“Wow indeed,” Noah said with a smile. It was clear the monstrous man was at peace, with not a care in the world. “If the anime twins think we’re doing a shit job, those bitches can just get their Yakuza friends to haul their asses up here. They wouldn’t last five minutes with their Gucci watches and designer suits.”
“God, Noah.” I leaned my head back, focusing my eyes on the schematic diagram for what appeared to be an advanced version of my metal legs. “You’re so fucking brilliant.” I fell asleep in Noah’s room, dreaming of computer circuits and stolen Sake wine.
I awoke the next morning, to Anya’s armored hand pulling me out via a hidden back exit that I had not seen before. “Ouch!” I cried, as she pulled me outside into the snow.
“We need to get out of here, now!” Anya was still in full armor, as if she had just come from a mission.
I was too tired (and possibly hungover) to argue. “Fine, whatever.”
With our backs to the wall, we made our way to the roof. From the roof, I could see there was a shortcut back to the main area of the base, where the planes landed. “This place looks a lot smaller during the daytime.”
Anya groaned, pulling my arm so hard the limb felt like it was about to snap. “We need to hurry.”
Why was Anya in such a rush? I looked down at the path that I’d taken the night prior. In the light of day, it was much easier to see the blood covered road. On it, were the twins. Kintoro seemed indifferent, leading the cleanup crew, but his sister was pissed. Even from where I was, I could see she was running straight for Noah’s residence.
She kicked the front door so hard, the sound echoed for miles through the snowy wasteland. “Hey little pigs, open up! The big bad wolf wants to have a word with you about last night!”
“Are you going to huff and puff, and blow our house in?” asked the robotic voice of Nash.
“If it comes to that,” Kitsune shouted back, giving the door one strong kick.
“Keep your panties on,” Noah growled. The large man emerged in full armor, standing a good foot-and-a-half taller than Kitsune. “This little pig built his house out of bullets and steel.” (And electronics.) Noah hurled an electric fireball in her direction.
“Run!” Anya screeched.
Baron appeared out of nowhere, riding a light blue, motorcycle with a noticeably chunky engine. He jumped off, leaving Anya to ride the vehicle while he carried me to safety. It came as no surprise that I was being carried in Baron’s arms as he flew using his rocket boots. My face buried in his shoulder; I was unable to look back at the carnage of the scene we were abandoning.
As soon as we landed, my heart felt heavy with grief. “What happened to Noah and Nash?”
Baron stood up, opening the metal door. “No worries, I know those guys, this is not their first rodeo. Noah’s a survivor.”
“But don’t you all work for Kitsune?” As if on cue, a boom could be heard throughout the base. I looked up to see smoke coming from the direction of Noah’s make-shift home. And then both Anya and Baron’s radio’s started to ring.
Baron picked up first. “Hello?”
I recognized it as the radio meant for communicating with Noah’s team.
Baron’s voice sounded nervous, as if he knew who would be on the other end of the line. “Kit, what’s up?”
“Baron could you be a dear and clean up the mess your former teammates made?”
“You want me to retrieve the battery?”
“No,” Kitsune said calmly, “that will be a job for Anya, once she answers her damn radio!”
The sound screeched, causing all of us to grab our heads in pain. Anya reached for her radio. “Hello, Kitsune, what can I help you with?”
“You and your disabled little friend are to head to Canada and retrieve the battery.”
“Did she just call me disabled?” I asked Baron out loud.
“Yes, I did, you little slut!” Kitsune shouted. “Don’t think I don’t know what you did with Noah. If you came here just to get drunk and whore around you can go right back to TAC’s North Korea base. Yeah, don’t think I’m not aware of their plans for you.”
Since she could hear me, I felt a tiny bit brave. “What’s happen to Noah?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Kitsune ended the call with a click.
Yeah, I would. I had no time to think before Anya grabbed me by the arm, pulling me in the direction of the vehicle hanger. I allowed her to drag me for a bit before finding the courage to stand on my own feet. “Hey stop!
Anya shook her head in disapproval. “You heard what Kitsune said, we need to grab your gear, snatch a plane and haul ass to Canada.”
“Snatch a plane? Who even says that?”
“We need to procure a flight vehicle, to travel to the TAC base in Vancouver Island, Canada. Upon landing we will organize a plan of attack to retrieve the high-value item that your boyfriend lost.”
“You heard me.”
“What happened to Noah?” I meant to ask what happened between me and Noah, when Anya issued an ominous reply.
“Noah is a grown man, he can take care of himself.” Anya pulled my arm even harder. “And he should not be mentoring a teenage girl.”
I tripped over my own feet, falling on to my hands. “Ow!” Anya was about to grab me again when I flinched. “Stop it!”
Anya paused, looking at her hand. “Look, I’m sorry. Just come with me, please.” She held out her opposite hand waiting for me to grab her, if and when I chose.
“Why won’t you talk about Noah? I admit it; I drank, and I may have smoked weed, and I am very hungover. I honestly don’t know what the holy hell happened last night.”
“Kitsune has video of you and Noah talking.”
“Talking?” I wanted to scream. Why the hell did I leave Tony. If the choice was between being a lab rat or a lobotomized robot soldier, I would have gladly let Dr. Toki harvest my genetic material.
“She’s been spying on Cronos for months. She knows that he’s planning something.
“Because he’s better than her?”
“Yeah,” Anya muttered looking visibly worried. “He could have overthrown her at any time, but for whatever reason he just bided his time in that glorified trash can. We need to get airborne. She has spy equipment everywhere.”
“I can’t,” I said through tears. Every part of my body ached. I needed to know that Noah was at least alive.
“Baron’s been playing referee since before I got here. He knows how to get information while staying safe. Once we’re airborne I have a way of contacting him. I promise you; we can shoot him a massage and he’ll reply on a secure channel. Then we’ll both know that Nash and Cronos (or Noah) are just fine.”
I nodded. Her deal seemed like the best option. Yet, out of the corner of my eye I could see a shadow. The flowerchild’s advice echoed in my head; I needed to stay alive while at the same time not being a total pussy. I didn’t want to leave Noah, but I was no good to him dead. “Anya?”
I needed to know I could trust her. “Tell me something about Noah.”
“He’s an American, from Tennessee I believe.”
“Not what his crimes were?”
“I never asked. We’re all here because the real world is a sick, unfair place.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “We’re all just trying to survive.”
And that was why she needed to stay on Kitsune’s good side. I finally understood. Anya was looking for a stable future and she was willing to take me with her. “I think I’m ready to travel now.”
“I’m glad.” True to her word, she handed me a single radio. “Keep this for when we’re airborne.”
After the rather quick process of signing out a vehicle, Anya plotted a route to Kitsune’s other base, just off the coast of Hawaii. “She owns an island?” I asked. “I wonder why baron doesn’t work there.”
“Why, because it’s tropical?” Anya laughed. “Yeah, he’s always complaining about the cold. but Kitsune houses people where she wants. She’s damn powerful like that. You get in good with her, you can write your own orders.” Anya briefly scanned her eyes over the control panel. “I think were far enough away from the base to safely make a call.”
I looked at the device she had given me. It appeared to be a small fake cellphone, with a single button. I pressed it, resulting in an odd dial tone, followed by a ping and then silence. “Um, hello?” I said nervously.
“Hell-o.” The voice on the other end was not Baron. “Miss Hellion, so nice to finally meet you.” The accent was low and snake-like. I couldn’t tell if the speaker was male or female but it was certainly not either of the twins.
“Hi, is Baron there?”
“Part of him is,” the voice said with a chuckle. “As well as various parts of Nash and Cronos.”
“Turn it off!” Anya screamed.
“Oh Anya, you really think I, Feng the head of tech appointed by Miss Kitsune herself, would not find Baron’s special frequency?”
“Who’s Feng?” I reached for the button but my fingers refused to apply pressure.
“Who issss Feng?” the sinister voice replied with a laugh. “You, miss Hellion, can call me Dr. Frankenstein.”
Anya kicked the radio from my hands as she made a sharp turn. “We’re going off course. We need to get there before Feng does, even if that means skipping the fuel station.”
“Who IS Feng,” I asked through gritted teeth.
“You know how Noah is a supernatural genius at all things technological?”
“I guess so.”
“Imagine if instead of creating weapons, he created biological implants,” Anya replied, still focused on the flight path. “You really don’t know what happened last night? That’s probably for the best. Just try to get some sleep.”
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to sleep after everything that just happened.”
“Lean back, close your eyes, your body will do the rest.”
I did as she asked, stretching my back as I reclined my seat. I shut my eyes but just as I did, I felt a cool stream of air shoot directly at my face. What the? My eyelids felt heavy, as my mind started to fade. I have to imagine this is what it felt like to be put under for surgery. Did Anya just drug me?
Before I had a chance to turn my head, I awoke in a dreamy place, looking up at the stars in the purple night sky. All around me was sparkling snow that shimmered in pastel colors. And, of course, my mentor. “Hey!” I shouted at the figure. “If you’re just a figment of my imagination, could you tell me what I did with Noah that has everyone so pissed off?”
The blond man turned to me, his eyes glowing with an unearthly fire. He moved his hand, beckoning me to follow. We walked to a large, red metal door, like the back of a train. I assumed we were sneaking someplace, but the flowerchild opened the door with the loudest screech I’d ever heard.
Suddenly we were in Noah’s living room. Nash, the robot was powered down, while a very drunk Baron was using him as a pillow.
I could hear my past-self giggling. I turned to see my drunk, flirty doppelganger sitting on Noah’s lap, legs spread, looking up at the stars through a hole in the roof.
“I can’t believe you put this in yourself,” my past, self said, while taking another swig of whatever we’d been drinking. “What happens when it rains or snows?”
Noah chuckled, holding me close with his hands on my shoulders. “There’s a pressure plate to automatically close the skylight.”
“So cool.” I was clearly wasted, but also mesmerized with a child-like sense of wonder. “Noah?”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Noah smiled, as he moved his hand to mine, giving my fingers a gentle squeeze. “I see you’ve been talking to Baron. That dreamer thinks there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.”
“I ain’t never getting out of here. I got no home, no family, just these four walls and those two sleeping jackasses over there.”
“And your brain,” drunk me added. She was correct. Noah’s mind was unique to him.
“My brain?” he asked, lacing his fingers through mine, until he was holding my hand.
“You know what I mean, silly,” my past self said in a cute baby-doll voice as I turned my body to face his. “Your thoughts, vision, your creative soul. That’s something no one can ever take away.” I brushed my lips to his. Noah’s mouth tasted like hard alcohol, with just a hint of sweetness. His facial hair was rough, like coarse straw. The kind of big strong, man I never thought I’d meet, much less kiss. Cupping his face in my hands, that was the first time I saw the color of his eyes; dark blue, like a rainstorm.
“You’re something special, Hell-“ Noah paused, laughing out loud. “Please tell me you have a real, human name.”
“Nicki,” I said in a breath as our lips met for a second time. “My name’s Nicki.”
I awoke with a jolt, the small plane had fallen from the sky, skidding across a sea of tree branches. Anya and I finally came to a stop in a flat, open area. I screamed for my friend and mentor, hoping she was alive. But when I couldn’t see her, my first priority was getting out of my seat, to the safety of the green grass.
Apparently, Anya’s priority had been to grab a suitcase full of navigational equipment. “We need to get out of here, just as soon as I figure out where ‘here’ is.” Somehow, we had landed in the forest of Northern California. Upon getting the coordinates and deciding a direction, Anya took out her knife and stabbed the equipment until there were no lights showing.
The plane had no fuel or landing gear but somehow, we’d made it to the northern hemisphere, by drifting along the currents of the wind. We were safe, we were alive, and not even Kitsune knew our location.
That was all that mattered.