previous: Rise of Hellion ch8: Armor
Sitting in the dark, I pulled my metal legs to my chest, rocking back and forth. “Think, Nicki, you need to think of a plan.” I knew I needed to speak to Tony; he was my mentor, my guide, (and most importantly, my TAC liaison) but there was no way to safely make contact. I just needed to assume he was tracking me, despite the fact that I was in a hidden underground base made up of sewer and metro tunnels.
All I knew for certain was that I needed to guard the battery with my life. With my pinky finger I managed to fidget with the joints of my legs. After my stupid decision to show off, I needed to find a new place to hide the tiny data storage device. My new hiding place had to be high enough on my body, to the point where if FENG tried to remove it in my sleep, I would be able to feel it. Unless, of course, he drugged me (but that also implied I would be willing to share a room with him.)
“You almost done in there?” a female voice shouted through the locked door. “You know, this is the only bathroom for thirty miles. There’s a fucking line!”
“I know, I’m sorry.” I took a moment to fix my leg, just enough to be able to leave the putrid smelling porta potty. There was a sink with running water, that was connected to the local water treatment plant. but with no soap or sanitizer. I left the stall, passing by a massive line of no less than twenty female soldiers. Some of them were in full armor, looking ready to kick my ass.
“Me?” I asked nervously since I couldn’t see from what direction the voice had come from.
“Your name is Hellion, right?” A female soldier turned her head, shouting from her place in line.
“Feng told me to tell you to meet him in his office.”
“His office? And where would that be?” I couldn’t see her face, for all I knew she was a robot, a plant and I would be walking in to a death trap.
“It’s a giant tent on wheels, you can’t miss it,” the robot replied gleefully, giving her best Rachel McAdam’s impression.
“Ok, thanks.” I didn’t have to look far to find what looked like a bright red circus tent. The structure appeared to be secured to the back of a semitruck. This was clearly Feng’s personal office space. I placed my hand upon the golden handle of the black rubber door. The aesthetic looked like a BDSM sex club; unique but at the same time intimidating.
The door was of course unlocked. ‘It’s unlocked because he was expecting you. there’s probably a shotgun on the other side.’ I truly did not want to open it but I knew I had to. “Hello?” I said through a crack. I could, thankfully, see no trap rigged to the door.
“Do come in, Ms. Hellion.”
I opened the door to a room illuminated by neon lights. Feng was standing about twenty feet away, with his back facing me. “Hi, um. I was told that you wanted to see me?”
Feng stood eerily still. “There’s no way TAC let you just escape with the battery.
“No one lets me do anything,” I said as calmly as I could. “My choices are my own.” I knew he had to be holding a weapon.
“I truly doubt that, little girl,” he said with a chuckle. “The way I see it; either that is not the real battery or you’re a spy and the battery is a tracking device.”
“I guess you’ll never know.” I tried to stand in the doorway for an easy escape but with the raise of his hand he slammed the door shut remotely.
“You will not make a fool of me!” In less than a second, Feng made it across the room and hit me so hard I felt my head slam against a nearby table.
Time moved in slow-motion as three items crashed to the ground; a glass vial, a screwdriver and a notepad. I felt my mind flip a switch that I never knew I had. Step one, I would use the glass vial to hit him in the balls. Since the glass seemed to be shatterproof, this could make for a decent means of attack. Step two, would be a hit to the face, using the notebook. (A quick motion used more as a distraction than an attack.) Finally, I would end with the screwdriver stabbed in his shoulder. That plan should give me ample time to make my exit. Except step three missed.
Feng turned his head, causing me to stab him in the eye so hard the six inches of metal became completely stuck. I could see sparks as something electrical short circuited behind his eyeball. I also saw blood. I landed another kick to the stomach, making sure to grab the notebook (might be important later, you never know.) “You’ll stay down, if you know what’s good for you.”
Before he could reply I kicked him again, this time in the head. There was more blood. Feng was groaning in pain, struggling for breath. Or perhaps he was trying to decide on what card to play next.
“Thanks for the hospitality but I think I’ll be traveling solo.” It was a lie: I needed him to think I had the power to walk away. “I’m just going to say goodbye to Baron, before I go.”
“And Noah?” he asked in a whisper.
“Noah? You mean Cronos?” I leaned against the doorframe, blindly searching for the lock. Upon locating a latch, I was able to get the door open a few inches. I also made sure to wedge the notebook in the hinge for added weight and leverage. “If you think I’m going to trade the battery for Noah’s life, you’re even crazier than you look.”
“Don’t lie,” he said with a maniacal laugh. “I know you had sex with him after a single night.”
“You calling me a slut?”
This got a genuine laugh. “No, but even you have to admit, you’re immature, impulsive.”
“But I also want to stay alive. How do I know you’re not going to force choke me the moment I turn my back?” I’d found a second and third lock. Mentally I was preparing to run.
“Force choke? I’m not Darth Vader. And if I was, I could kill you where you stand.” He paused for a moment before starting to laugh. “Is this about the door? It’s on a preprogrammed timer.” With one firm tug, he pulled the screwdriver from his eye, letting it fall to the floor. “I think I owe you an apology, I’ve given you no reason to trust me.”
“Trust you?” I could feel the bile in my throat. “Do you even remember what you said to me and Anya?”
“On the chartered flight? Yes, I have some memories of that day.” He wiped his face, smearing the blood across his cheek. “I recall telling you that your friends had been dissected for spare parts. However, you can clearly see, by the fact Baron is still among the living, that I was…”
“A lying sack of shit?” I suggested. “Or were you just talking out of your ass?”
“What can I say, it’s just my nature.” His smile was wide, cat-like.
“Your nature…” I muttered, not moving forward. My mind drifted to the fable, ‘the scorpion and the frog.’ Basically, the scorpion asks for the frog’s help across a body of water but when he inevitably betrays the frog the bug claims that evil was just in his nature. “Is Noah here, in your BDSM circus tent?”
Feng chuckled. “Noah is in fact here. Would you like to say hello?”
“Well, right this way.” Feng paused, taking a moment to snap the broken pieces of his eye back into place. The parts were clearly made of a thick glass or perhaps porcelain. The chunks did not fit perfectly but he managed to close the wound enough to stop the bleeding. “Much better.”
There was a noticeable crack through his retina but I gave him a cheerful, flirtatious thumbs up. “Looks good.”
“Says the girl who stabbed me,” he said with a jovial laugh, as he walked to a door on the opposite side of the room. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you had a fetish for violence against men.
“Does this place have multiple rooms?” I asked. This seemed odd even knowing what the full size of the vehicle looked like.
“No,” he replied, holding open the door. He was clearly not going to offer any further information. He wanted my raw, emotional reaction. Because what I saw next was something out of my nightmares.
The front of the tent was actually the cab of a recycled semi-truck. (That part was admittedly kind of cool.) Chained to the front and side were no less than ten bodies in various stages of undress. They were arranged like trophies. Some wore armor, while others were missing limbs. I couldn’t even tell of any of them were still alive. Each body was attached by their arms, legs and neck. There was some variation depending on the availability of limbs. But what each body had in common were their lack of eyes. They all seemed to be covered in duct tape (regardless if the body in question also wore a helmet). I assume this was to avoid what happened next.
Somehow, they all sensed my presence and started to call out to me. “Nicki! Hellion!” the victims were male and female but their neck restrains were compromising the clarity of their voices. (So, I was still unable to tell which one was Noah.) “Get out of here!” “You need to run!” the words echoed off the walls of the tunnels, pounding into my head like a jackhammer.
Covering my ears, I fell to my knees, making sure to keep my knife at grabbing distance. “Where is Noah?”
In the paltry lighting of the tunnels Feng looked every bit like a typical scorpion. He of course giggled like a child as he approached a tall male body wearing yellow body armor. An opaque motocross helmet concealed his face, but I could tell, the victim was more metal than flesh. “And before you get all judgmental, I offered baron and Noah the same opportunities but only one of them wanted to play nice.”
And I was supposed to be ok with this? I wanted to scream, cry or (do as the others said) and run. That wouldn’t have ended well. I needed to play the part of a confident, empowered female with a strong stomach. “I wish to speak to him.”
“Most certainly, it will be my pleasure.” Feng easily removed the helmet revealing Noah’s face.
One thing was painfully obvious; Feng was the person I met on the roof, not Faust. Feng was the one who had Noah’s mutilated body on a leash like a wild animal. He was the one who wanted me to steal the battery. Was Faust even real? Or was Feng the puppet master for multiple characters? I leaned forward to touch Noah’s face, and nearly puked all over myself. He was missing both eyes and had a mouth full of black, oil-like blood. It was clear he was trying to speak but all that came out were choking, labored breaths. That is, until Feng punched the armor, hitting Noah in the chest. This seemed to activate a robotic voice emulator.
“Yeah, it’s me.” My body started to move all on its own. My brain didn’t want to remove the chest piece, I already knew what I would find. But my hands apparently wanted to see for themselves. I opened the latches on his shoulders, and hips, allowing the metal plate to fall to the ground. There was no skin on his chest. His neck and throat were robotic, connecting to a metal skeleton. This would have been acceptable but there was just enough human parts left to look ‘out of place.’ In addition to the skin on his face, his heart, lungs, stomach and intestines were still present, (and rotting.) The smell was overwhelming.
Noah opened his lips and spoke a quick sentence through the digital voice box. “Hold me.”
I did as he asked and took a step closer, standing on his feet to be able to look into his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
Noah shook his head, but with how his neck was restrained the movement appeared more like a muscle spasm. “You must end this.”
I could feel him tighten his stomach, subtly motioning to a weapon at his hip. Wait, no. That wasn’t his body moving it was mine. I could feel the fetus inside me moving, reaching out to its father. I could no longer stop the tears from falling. My child would never know him. Did I even know him? I cupped Noah’s face in my hands; he was warm, human. “There’s so much I want to say to you.”
Noah nodded, his face trembling in pain, fear or whatever emotions he had left in his mutilated body.
“I don’t know if we could have been together. Maybe you were just fun, maybe you would have been an awful father. I’ll have to keep telling myself that, because otherwise all I have are fairytales in my head.” I kissed his forehead for one final goodbye. “I’ll never forget you.”
I pulled my knife from its place on my thigh. Under any other circumstances the blade wouldn’t be enough to engage in combat (probably why I was allowed to keep it with me.) But in that moment, I was overcome with strength. I slashed Noah’s throat over and over. Sometimes I was cutting wire, other times flesh. When no one tried to stop me, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what Feng wanted. All I knew was that it needed to all be cut; anything that was his life, his human soul, and anything that could have kept him alive against his will. Noah deserved to finally be free. With one last cut, his head fell off, bouncing off another prisoner’s arm before landing at Feng’s feet.
I quickly spun around and stabbed Feng in the chest. I wanted so badly to finish him off, but there was no other weapon in sight. Feng looked down at the blade and laughed. “You think you can destroy me?”
With a flick of my wrist, my blade went straight up, cutting through Feng’s head like piano wire. “Yeah, I do.” I paused with my knife, finally free of his flesh. “Wow.” I honestly did not know I even had that kind of strength. My hand was covered in blood, trembling with energy. Behind me, I heard a slow clap. First from one person then two and then a small crowd.
“Baron?” It was more of a wish than a question. As far as I knew there would be an army of Feng’s creations training their weapons on me.
“I had a feeling I bet on the right horse,” Baron said as he placed his hand upon my shoulder.
“You bet on me? How do you figure that?” I asked in a catatonic voice. “I came here all on my own.”
“How do you think you found the doorway?” he pointed out. “But like I said, I ‘bet’ on the right horse. It was never a guarantee that you’d go through the door, you could have turned back, maybe went towards the US border. I’m sure you could have found someone to help you on that side.
I turned to see if he was smiling, laughing, anything to make this seem like an elaborate trap. He wasn’t. He gripped my hand, as his body faced forward unable to look away from Noah’s headless corpse.
“You seem to switch horses a lot,” I muttered. I could feel my eyes blinking away tears. “but I’m one to talk. I came back too late.”
Baron sighed, sharing our moment of grief. “There’s no way you could have made it back any sooner then you did, not with that TAC guy breathing down your neck.”
“I could have at least tried.”
“You’re here now and that’s all that matters.” Baron pulled me close for a hug. “Noah was a good guy. The world is full of good people.”
Good people who get royally fucked over by life. “I don’t want to go to Alaska. I want to kill Kitsune.”
Baron nodded. “Good to hear it.” He opened the door of the truck, already holding a pair of keys. “We can discuss the details once we’re back on the road.”
“Back on the road?”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” He picked up Feng’s body and tossed it in the passenger seat. The two halves of his head hung open like the petals of the world’s most upsetting flower. “The best way to get a meeting with Kitsune is to pretend her science fair henchman is still alive.”
“Ok, I get it, we’re constructing a narrative,” I said as I took a seat on the floor, trying to stay closer to Baron. “You and I have the battery and after we’re done completing any business in Canada that (Feng was after) we offer it to her in exchange for a promotion.”
“A promotion?” Baron said with a laugh. “You gotta dream bigger than that, little sister.” He was about to turned the key to start the engine.
“What about the victims?” I quickly asked, grasping his hand.
“You mean the people chained to the outside of this freakshow on wheels,” he replied with a sigh.
“Can we take down the other bodies?”
Baron shook his head. “I think you mean ‘should we take down the bodies?’”
“Why, are they all as bad as Noah?” Even if they were that made no difference; they deserved their freedom as well. Even death had to be preferable to being a living hood ornament.
“You mean are they alive?” he asked.
I offered the only explanation I could, “I heard their voices telling me to run.”
“That would be the hive mind,” Baron said in a brief, matter-of-fact tone. He turned on the engine, causing the truck to lurch forward on a predetermined path (like a train on tracks.)
“Hive mind?” I asked. I had heard the term in movies and TV. “Like Star Trek?”
“Pretty much,” Baron said with a chuckle. “I’m surprised you know about that. It seems a little before your time.”
He was right. How did I know about the Borg species from Star Trek? “Each new victim is harvested for their thoughts and memories.” Which was why they all seemed equally concerned for my safety and wellbeing. I was about to speak further when I noticed Baron switching to a different, higher-level tunnel. “Where are we going?”
“Heading east,” Baron explained. “We have business in Ontario. But along the way, there’s a body dumping port just south of Edmonton.”
“Sounds good.” I was glad that we would be getting rid of the body in due time. “When do we meet up with Kitsune?”
“I’ll have to hack Feng’s files to be sure but as far as I know the plan is to make it to New York to deposit the truck at the regional depot.”
“So, what should I do?”
“Right now? Take a nap. I’ll wake you at the next pit stop.”
“Sure,” I said looking at the dead body. “I’ll get right on that.”
“There’s plenty of room in the lab area,” Baron said, trying not to laugh.
“Thanks.” I found a place on the floor to sleep. The rubber mat was soft enough to make a decent bed, although I was still cold. I curled into the fetal position, falling asleep to the sound of the wheels making contact with random metal tracks.
In my dreams, I awoke on the wooden floor of a western-style train. “Wow, just wow,” said a familiar male voice.
I stood up, looking around at the nearly empty train car. “Faust?”
The man laughed. He was facing away from me but I knew who it was. He had the flower child’s blonde hair, and peach skin with just a kiss of sun. He wore a light blue suit, looking more normal than usual.
When he stood up and turned to me, my blood ran cold. He was older, with deep-set eyes; he looked like my father. “Care to take a seat?”
I didn’t have much of a choice. I sat across from him, that was when I noticed the tray of cookies and a pot of coffee. My stomach was rumbling. At least I could get something to eat. I grabbed a pink frosted cookie in the shape of a butterfly and helped myself to a paper cup of coffee. “This is so good.”
“I’m glad.” The man chuckled. “I think it’s time I told you my real name.”
“Sure,” I replied, swallowing the mouthful of food.
He paused for dramatic effect while pouring a cup of coffee for himself. “Abaddon.”
“Is that supposed to mean something?”
He simply shrugged. “You would know.”
“Are you even real?”
The question brought a smile to his face. “I’d like to be.”
“Ok, I get it. You’re my unborn baby.” Saying the words out loud made them suddenly tangible. There was a living being inside me; a little boy with my father’s stern face, and Noah’s blue eyes. Actually, the more I thought about it, Abaddon looked a lot more like Noah. Especially when he smiled. “What can you tell me about the future?”
“What would you like to know?” My son took another sip, clearly deep in thought, when suddenly he smiled again, squinting his eyes ever so slightly. “You want to know about Dad, don’t you?”
“Sure, I’ll take what I can get.” I could feel my cheeks flush. Since Noah was gone, there had to be a husband (or long-term partner) in my future; someone who helped me raise my son.
“The man who made the choice to become my father, he’s wise, powerful, kind. In my timeline, he’s an elderly man, on his deathbed, ruling over a land on the brink of war.”
“War or revolution?” I asked. “Is he a king or a rebel leader?”
“That will all depend on you. I can’t go into details, but needless to say, I need you…”
“To survive?” I asked, assuming the easiest answer.
“To be the mother I know.”
The lights flickered, as the cabin shook. “Are we headed towards a tunnel?”
“Next stop is the body dump,” he said, tossing his cup out a nearby window. “If I were you, I’d try to make it to the surface at least for a few hours.
“Because that’s where Tony will be looking for me.” I needed to believe that. He was likely the father Abaddon was speaking of. But why would I name my child Abaddon?
The lights flickered again, casting the world into darkness. I awoke on the rubber floor, to the sound of the truck’s massive breaks. I blinked my eyes, brushing my hair from my face.
“Welcome to Edmonton!” Baron shouted happily. Clearly he was on somekind of stimulant.
I stood up and made my way to the door. The outside world was snowy, and calm. A true vision of peace. “Do you think we could stay here for a day or two?”
“Why? Did you want to check out the mall?”
“Kind of,” I said stretching my back. “That and I want a decent night’s sleep, (and maybe a hamburger.)”
“We can make a longer pit stop once we cross the border. Deal?”
“Yeah, I get it. We need to stay on schedule.”
“Exactly, now be a doll and grab the head.”
I did as he asked and together, we said our last goodbyes to the creature known as Feng. May he rot in hell. I felt a warmth in my heart; like whisky, vodka and mountain dew; a sensation of pure happiness. I could sense my baby. Placing my hand to my stomach, I felt a small limb reaching back.
I would see Noah again. And for now, that made everything ok.