previous: Rise of Hellion ch16
There were so many signs that this was a bad idea, but I ignored them all. (Not that I had much of a choice.) I was still too stupid to understand the science behind Sundra’s time travel technology; was she still around, or did she lose her connection to my timeline? I imagined an astronaut tethered to a space ship while going out into the vastness of space. Did I accidentally destroy Sundra’s tether? Was she lost in the fabric of space and time, like some kind of trans-dimensional ghost? Or was she about to appear in front of me, to lecture about how insane I am for bringing my baby son to Siberia?
I sat on the cold metal bench-style seating of the small military plane, across from Nash. Abby was already huddled inside the robot’s core. I could feel the warmth from five feet away. “Do you have central heating?”
“Affirmative, Ms. Hellion.” The robot patted the seat next to him. “There’s plenty of room. And I’m sure Abby would enjoy the opportunity to be closer to you.”
The whole reason I had chosen the space opposite him was to be able to look at Abby from his little seat. He seemed content, happy, playing with various hanging toys. “Sure, thanks.”
I took a seat at Nash’s side, temporarily loosing eye contact with Abby. I could hear him start to whimper.
Nash quickly held my hand. “It’s ok, Abby. It’s ok. Can you feel your mommy’s hand?”
“Mama?” Abby squeaked.
As he spoke, Nash’s hand gave my fingers a soft, gentle squeeze. “Yes, your Mommy is right here.”
Could he feel my touch via Nash’s body? The idea seemed crazy, but it also melted my heart. I found myself hugging Nash like a security blanket. “I can’t believe there’s no heat on this plane,” I muttered, in an effort to not look like a weak sentimental female in a plane full of actual soldiers.
Baron laughed at me from the pilot’s seat. “If there was no heat, we’d all be dead.”
“We’re that high up?” I asked. The military aircraft had no windows other then the cockpit, which I could barely see. From where I currently sat, all I knew for sure was that we were flying through a dark purple star-filled sky.
“Yes, little Billy, we’re flying in commercial airspace,” he replied in his most condescending voice.
“What did you call me?” I didn’t know whether to be confused or offended.
“I was thinking of that show, Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye or whatever. There’s always a dumb-ass kid asking questions like he needs everything spelled out.”
‘Oh hell no.’ I bit my lip until I tasted blood. “Yes, that is the point of educational television aimed at children.”
“Well, Billy,” Baron replied in a comically exaggerated voice. “Please, allow me to break it down into terms you can understand. This plane is like a maggot in a bag of breakfast cereal.”
“As opposed to dinner cereal?” I snickered.
“A little critter just dipping and diving among the freeze-dried marshmallows, raisins and puffed rice.”
“What kind of bizzarro world cereal did you grow up with?”
“Not the point, little Billy.”
“Call me that one more time.” I stood up, ready to fight (or at least punch him in the back of the head.)
Nash, perhaps sensing my anger, gripped my arm, preventing me from rushing the cockpit. “It would be ill advised to attack our primary pilot, at this time.”
“At this time?” I giggled as I sat back down, resuming my warm, comfortable position.
Baron cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, according to the data of our expected flight path, we will soon be in range of the landing zone.”
Since he was speaking normally, I felt safe to ask a question. “How soon is soon?” In hindsight, I could have worded that better.
“Twenty-seven minutes,” Baron replied as he glanced upward to check a nearby switch. “Can you count to twenty-seven, little Billy?”
“That won’t be a problem.” I shot up from my seat, slipping out of Nash’s grasp. “1, 2-“
Before I could strangle Baron while ripping out his hair with my teeth, Axel stood up, creating a human wall between me and the cockpit. “Hellion, will you please join me at the equipment closet?”
“Sure, that sounds lovely,” I replied through gritted teeth. The weapons stash was at the opposite end of the plane. I watched as Axel selected his pieces, readying his weapon and armor.
“We need to acquire intel on Lucy’s location. Baron you take the east, Hellion, you and Nash/Abby take the south, and I’ll take the west, doubling back to the north. stay safe and remember; Lucy is the priority, if you have a chance to get her out you take it.”
Baron saluted him sarcastically. “Sir, yes sir!”
We landed on a remote airstrip overlooking the all too familiar base. With my robot nanny at my side, we scouted the required area. The layout of the base was the same as I remembered it (in terms of the airfield, landing strip and storage facility.)
The noticeable difference (at least on the side we were patrolling) came in the form of (what appeared to be) a powerplant. “Hey, Nash? What do you think about that thing?”
“Some kind of reactor?” Nash used the camera on his arm to take photos from various angles. “Should we approach or wait for backup?” he asked as he hit send.
I assumed he was sharing the info with Axel. “No, we need a good reason. let me see those pictures.”
The building was primarily dark, but there seemed to be a series of windows with distinct red lighting.
The image switched to a text chat; Axel apparently saw something in the corner. He recommended we investigate from a safe distance. I pulled out a pair of binoculars. From what I could make out, there was a figure on the roof; a guard in full armor, walking back and forth. “Nash, are you seeing this?”
“Affirmative, Miss Hellion,” he replied, using his own built in enhanced vision system. “What is your plan?”
“We need to get inside, or find a way to the roof without putting a target on our backs.”
“We should split up.”
The immediacy of his idea came as somewhat of a shock. “Not in your little robot life.”
“Listen,” Nash said, moving closer. “There’s a climbable fire escape on the left side, completely in the dark. One of us can climb, while the other starts inside.”
I could see what he meant and it was actually a very time effective plan. “And we can switch every floor, to gain more visual perception.”
Now it was just a matter of who would start where. “Do you know how to pick a lock?” I had to admit, my inner child was hoping he had some kind of adorable tech attachment. the robot flexed his hand transforming his fingers to a series of power tools. “Well, that settles that; you start on the interior while I scale the fire escape.”
For a moment I forgot about the super powered baby in Nash’s core. My son appeared to be asleep, with his head, and arms attached to electronic monitoring nodes. He looked a little too much like an actual, normal baby. What the hell was I doing? “You’ll take care of him, right?”
Nash nodded. “Of course, Miss Hellion. I’ve already lost my dear friend, Noah once. I will not let it happen a second time. You have my word.”
His tone filled me with a sense of confidence. “Thank you.” I didn’t know what he had gone through, but he was as human as anyone on the team. I took one last look at my son before starting the mission. I needed to live for him, I wanted to make him proud.
I headed for the fire escape. With the mechanics of my legs, I was able to make the jump to grab the ladder, pulling it down. I had assumed the fire escape would take me directly to the second floor and I was correct. With my blade I went to work on removing the frame on the window. There was also a nearby door, but I hoped that my decision was less likely to trigger an alarm. After a few moments of prying off screws and metal paneling the entrance opened to an otherwise dark staircase. I flicked on my wrist light giving me just enough power to be able to see my surroundings. I also had a radio and a tracking system to reunite with Nash in the event that we lost each other. Hopefully I wouldn’t need it.
The room hummed with the sound of laptop computers, connecting to areas that were not accessible to the public. I just had to assume this place wasn’t rigged to blowup. I followed the sound of footsteps, I figured it was either Nash or a armored guard. “Nash,” I said with my back to the door. “That you?”
We cleared floor after floor, avoiding detection. everything was going great. too great. Why was there no one in the facility? (not even a janitor.)
Finally, we were at the interior door to the roof.
The armored figure stood facing the moon. “Hey, Nicki.”
“Anya?” I could feel my heart freeze in my chest.
“How’s motherhood treating you?” Still facing away, she removed her helmet revealing her long lavender hair.
She looked as sleek and beautiful as ever, but unlike our past interactions, there was no love in her eyes. “Where’s Lucy?”
“Depends who’s asking.” She had her hand on her weapon but the fact that she didn’t pull it right away gave me a small amount of hope.
“I am,” I said, with fake confidence. “I’ve met her family. Her son needs his mother, you know that.”
“Actually, I never met her. While Baron and Noah were living it up in Wisconsin, I was being a good girl, donating my body to science.”
“Yeah,” I said through pursed lips. “I know.”
“We went south, directly opposite of here.”
“Call him.” Anya stroked her hand just above her weapon, her gloved fingers touching the grip.
“Why? You can just talk to me.” I turned to Nash who stood a few feet behind. “and Nash. I know you’ve met Nash before. He was the reason Baron and Noah even met.”
Anya raised her chin, “Hey Nash.”
“Hello,” Nash replied.
I could hear him take a step backward, into the shadows. I assumed he was trying to hide Abby’s presence. “See you can talk to us; we can get you out of here.”
“Who says I want out?” With a flick of her wrist, Anya was now pointing her weapon at my head. “I want to talk to him.” Her voice was quivering. “Now.”
“Ok, sure.” I held up my hands. “Nash, put the radio on the floor and kick it over here.”
Nash paused, hopefully he understood my cryptic plan. “Certainly, Hellion.” He detached his hand and slid it over. The small device landed at Anya’s feet.
Anya did not look down, so neither did I. This resulted in ten seconds of silence before static came over the signal. “Hello? Crackle… crackle…Who’s on this channel? Identify yourself.” The voice was barely audible.
Was that Axel, Baron, or someone else entirely? I knew there was only one way to find out. “This is TAC volunteer unranked Call Sign Hellion. I require assistance against an enemy combatant. Do you copy my location?”
The radio spit out more static before going dead silent. This was followed by (what I assumed was) a smoke bomb.
Knowing my window was fleeting, I quickly executed a leg sweep, knocking Anya to the floor. This was only possible due to my metal legs, since her armor was as steady as a tank.
I knew she would get back up. I needed to get her weapon (preferably without firing it in a random direction.) With all my strength I stepped on her hand. She released the weapon and I kicked it away. That was my first mistake.
Anya sprang back up, punching me in the face. She glanced around, frantically looking for her gun.
I assumed it was an ordinary gun, in a futuristic shell (to match the yellow-orange color of her armor.) I would quickly learn that the weapon was more than just a fashion accessory. She managed to get it back, firing at my knee. The blast sent a white-hot bolt, destroying my prosthetic like a piece of ice being dunked in hot water. “What the hell?” My leg felt uncomfortably warm. Did she just shoot me with corrosive acid?
Hopping on one foot, I scrambled for my own weapon. Slashing at her chest, my blade did little to no damage to her armor. I needed to hit her in the face. I sprang up, with the goal of climbing on her, wrestling her to the ground. Was I really going to stab her? Could I?
Anya laughed. “You were never worthy.” She rammed her knee to my stomach, hitting me right in my c-section scar.
I plunged the knife hard, stabbing her in the cheek. The blade got stuck in her jaw. It was, of course, non-fatal but looked painful as all hell. She released her weapon, in an effort to free both hands, to pull out the knife.
I grabbed her gun and fired over and over, until my former friend stopped fighting me. I kicked her in the stomach sending her flying off the building. It was only then, when I allowed myself to take a breath. I looked over the edge to see if she was still alive. (Anya was wearing full armor, anything was possible.) Looking over the lip of the rooftop, I had my answer. Somehow, I had shot her in the abdomen with the acid gun. As a result, she fell off the roof in two pieces, landing in the bright white snow.
I cupped my hand over my mouth. I made sure to sit down on my butt (since I was still missing half a leg,) as I sobbed uncontrollably. I didn’t even care if I was alone or not. I pulled my good leg to my chest, trying not to vomit all over myself.
I felt a hand on my shoulder; cold, robotic, likely armored. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” I held my breath waiting for the bullet to the head. I didn’t deserve to be alive.
There was nothing; no gun pressed to my back, or even a hand on my shoulder. Confused, I turned to see Sundra standing with adult Abaddon. She was in full armor while he wore the clothes, I last saw him in.
“Are you proud of me?” I asked out loud. “Was that the right choice?”
Sundra rolled her eyes, turned and walked in to the fog, leaving Abaddon standing alone.
When his lover was gone, my son sighed, running his fingers through his dirty blond hair. He took a step towards me, walking in slow motion with a glowing blur filter; like a ghost or an angel. “Anya made her choice, you know that.”
“No.” I shook my head, now sobbing for a variety of reasons. Abaddon was dead, and it was all my fault.
He placed his hand upon my shoulder. “Even with a thousand years and a million tries, you would never have been able to heal her heart.”
“I know, but I’m still sorry.” I stood up, reaching for his hand. He had been able to touch me but when I tried to touch him, I felt only air. Air laced with electric static. “Are you dead?”
“What?” Abby asked with a smile. “Is that why you’re so down on yourself?” His hand caressed my cheek, causing a warm soothing sensation. “In truth, I’m not dead, I’m traveling.”
“Prove it?” he laughed even harder. “Ok, give me your hand.”
I lifted my hand, holding it in front of my face. “Ok.” I closed my eyes, focusing on my breath. “I’m ready.”
I could feel his rough callused hands cupping my fingers. He maneuvered my hand to his face, allowing me to touch his cheek, just below his eyes. I could feel every wrinkle on his sweet smiling face. “Nice crow’s feet.”
“I prefer the term laugh lines, although some cultures refer to them as character lines.”
“I like that.”
When he kissed my forehead, I could feel his lips, his skin. even his facial hair.
“I’ll see you soon, Mom.”
When I opened my eyes, I was standing before my very confused teammates. Baron’s head was tilted as if he was looking down a magnifying glass. “Nicki?” he snapped his fingers a few times. “You there?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I muttered, still noticeably hopping. “Just my busted leg.”
Nash took a step forward. “I am so glad.” He shook my hand, bowing his head. “I do apologize for my actions. Although it may have appeared that I had abandoned you, I stepped back to a safe location to keep track of Baron and Axel’s current whereabouts.”
I nodded unable to hold back my grin. My baby son was looking up at me from his space inside Nash. He was happy, proud. For a moment I didn’t even notice someone was missing. “Where’s Axel?”
“Axel!” my baby squeaked from inside of Nash’s core.
Nash waved his hand, opening a window to allow me to see my precious son’s face. I would have wanted to touch him but I knew that was an unwise idea in the freezing cold of the artic. Instead, I placed two fingers to the clear window.
Abby lifted his little hand as if saying hello. “Hi, Mama!”
“Did Axel find Lucy?” I asked Nash while looking at my son’s big blue eyes. Abby’s joy was palpable and contagious.
Abby nodded, looking up at Nash to supply the details. “Axel! Lucy!”
“Yes,” Nash explained, “Axel located Lucy within Kitsune’s personal living quarters.”
Baron sighed, taking a seat on the edge of the roof. “That sounds about right.” He hung his legs (clad in his usual anti-gravity boots) over the side. “Now we know where all the security forces disappeared to.”
I knew he was looking at Anya’s corpse. The kind thing would be to take a seat by his side but I wasn’t sure I could manage that without puking. Instead, I opted for a comforting hand placed upon his shoulder. “Will you be alright?”
“It’s not about me, Nicki.” His voice was serious yet calm.
“I know.” Now I had to sit by his side, if only to not appear frightened of the bisected corpse of our former friend.
Baron placed his hand in mine. “Poor Anya, she was a good kid. Hopefully in death she can finally find the peace she was looking for.” He sounded as numb as I felt.
“I guess we’d better go find Axel, before that dumbass gets himself captured,” I muttered. My voice added an involuntary giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Baron asked, still looking down
“Nothing.” I bit my lower lip out of both frustration and shame.
“You were never going to side with her. Axel, or Julian, or whatever, you see him like the father you always wanted.” Baron stood up and proceeded to attempt to repair my leg while I was still standing.
“Noah knew him,” I said quietly. “They were friends.”
“I’m not saying your loyalty is a bad thing. I’m just saying that given the choice; and you had a choice, Anya would never have won over your loyalty to TAC.” He used a pocket knife to assemble a temporary solution; a piece of scrap metal attached to my broken stump. I would be balanced but unable to walk without a limp.
“Says the person who left Noah to die!” I didn’t mean to raise my voice. And I certainly didn’t want to cry.
Thankfully, Nash made a comically adorable robot throat clearing noise. “If you two are finished arguing, I have intel to share.”
“Sure,” I said taking a comforting, deep breath. “My apologies.”
Nash, having retrieved his hand, was typing something into a small screen. “Well, team, according to the ping of his last communication, Axel appears to be holding still at his last known coordinates.”
“What do you mean by ‘holding still’?” I looked over his shoulder to get a better look. The tracking ping showed Axel’s coordinates as paused for well over twenty minutes. “That’s weird. Do you think he’s talking to someone?” (Or dead.)
Baron stood up, putting away his tools. He shook his head with a look of indifference. “He’s frozen in place? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a trap at all.”
“Only one way to find out,” I said in my best superhero impression.
“Um, what was that, little Billy?” Baron looked at me like I was a mentally challenged reality star running for president.
“Well, you’re free to stay at the plane. In fact, you can fly back to Dr. Toki and get a head start on corpse retrieval, because you always like to be on the winning team.”
Baron laughed, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You hop the fence like,” I pursed my lips struggling for a word that would make sense. “A volleyball!” That was not the right word.
“Because volleyball is played over a fence?”
“You know what I fucking mean!” The anger was boiling over.
“I recall betraying some very powerful people, to pull your immature ass out of the fire.”
I was taken aback by his choice of words. I had been expecting him to play the race card or even make fun of me being the weaker gender. But then I realized, no; Noah was white and Anya was a girl. He had no problem with teammates who could pull their own weight. I was just a little bitch.
Our argument was interrupted by the sound of crying. I turned to see Nash, swaying side to side, like a baby swing. “There, there, little one.” Nash looked up at Baron and I with his digital eyes. “If you two are done bickering, we have some ground to cover.”
“Fine, let’s go.” Baron took a running start before taking to the sky.
“I guess he’ll meet us there.” I walked to Nash’s side. “Do you want to take the stairs or the fire escape? Fire escape seems faster, but I’m not sure how well I can climb with one functioning knee.””
Nash gently gripped my arm. “Will you be ok?”
I nodded. “Yeah, of course. It doesn’t even hurt, it’s just a pain in the ass to balance on.”
“I’m serious, Ms. Hellion. I need you to be ok.” He placed a single finger under my chin. “I’m not going to say if you are skilled or if you are simply lucky. Luck and skill contain many overlaps. However, what I know for a fact is that in this life we take what wins we can get, regardless of the aftermath.”
I understood. That was the kindest way to call me an immature newbie for getting so emotional at the sight of a corpse. “Can I ask you something?”
“Certainly, Ms. Hellion, we are friends.”
“How much of you is being controlled by Abby?”
Nash nodded and paused for a moment, as if truly thinking about the philosophical nature of the question. “From what I understand of my programming, Abby offers me suggestions in regards to direction, combat and other ideas, but my body has the final say.”
“Which was why you chose to throw the hand. You took a step back instead of engaging with Anya.” He had been protecting Abby, just as he said he would. I smiled; a light breaking through a wall of tears as I reached for his hand. “Let’s go be heroes.”
next: Rise of Hellion ch18