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You look back at Kayla then over to Dante who is holding Chuck’s hand.
“Kayla, get Dante and get back to your family,” you say.
“You’re going nowhere,” Cornelius says. He clenches his fists which then begin glowing a pale blue.
“You can’t take him alone,” Kayla says coming up to you. “I’ll help. Dante can—”
“Dante’s in no shape to help you. He has no powers. Only you can save your mother. I’ll hold him off as long as I can.”
“Enough talk,” Cornelius says as he lifts off the ground and into the air. “You’re all coming with me, or you’ll die. The choice is yours.”
You spot a cinder block and with a flick of the wrist send it towards Cornelius. It smashes against the back of his head which knocks him forward. He hits the ground at your feet.
“Run!” you say to Kayla. “Get out of here.”
She hesitates then runs to Dante grabbing him by the arm.
“That was foolish,” Cornelius says rising to the air again. He reaches back and touches the back of his head. He pulls his hand forward to reveal bloodied fingertips. His eyes shift over your shoulder, and you follow his gaze to the fleeing Kayla and Dante.
He raises a glowing fist toward them. You drop your shield and leap in the air at him. You see the surprise in his eyes before you lower your shoulder into his stomach. He’s solid muscle, and it feels like you’ve hit a tree, but he gives. He lets out a grunt, and you fall to the ground.
You land awkwardly on your feet and look up. He aims at you and you jump out of the way just before the ground at your feet erupts in a blue-brown cloud of dust. You keep moving knowing that more blasts are to follow.
You are right.
You run away from Kayla and Dante zigzagging left, right, backward, and forward as blast after blast explodes around you. You look over your shoulder to see Cornelius scowling at you as he fires alternating blasts from both fists.
You jump to the right about thirty feet then put up a shield. Cornelius’ blast explodes against it causing it to light-up around you diffusing the power of the blasts. He continues to fire. Each hit takes its toll on you. It takes energy to generate your shield, and you feel weaker with every hit.
He stops firing, but his anger has not faltered. He floats down to the ground about ten meters in front of you.
He raises his left hand to his ear.
“Blow the block,” he says.
The block? You feel your eyebrows raise, but normalize them again, but he notices. And smiles.
“Yeah, that’s what I said. Blow the whole block. They’re harboring a dangerous fugitive. That’s a command directive.”
“What have you done?” you say still holding your shield.
“No, woman,” he says stepping forward. “It’s what you have done. There are consequences to your choices.”
Suddenly there’s a rushing sound of a jet as it screeches past from behind you. You flinch as it flies over.
Then the explosion.
The ground rumbles and you see a cloud mushrooming over the treetops from the direction Kayla and Dante ran.
“What have you done?” you say knowing the answer but dreading it nonetheless.
“Just eliminating the disease that has infiltrated our society.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense. What disease?” you say looking for a way out. There’s a set of buildings back towards the tracks, but what would that do for you?
“You and your kind. None of this would need to happen if you would just conform. Instead, you riot. You destroy. You kill.”
“They do not kill,” you say. “Death has only been a result of your aggression towards them.”
“They?” He squints. “They?”
He walks toward you. “You’re either with them or with us. There is no in between.”
“You’re right,” a voice behind him says.
He turns around just as a gunshot rings out. Blood splatters against your shield before Cornelius stumbles backward against it. His body twitches as the electrical current runs through him.
You look up and see Dante holding a gun. Tears stream down his face.
You drop your shield. Cornelius raises his fist, but you punch him solidly in the jaw, and he falls backward in a heap. Blood pools behind him from the gunshot wound in his upper chest.
“Is he dead?” Dante says.
You check his pulse. It’s strong.
“No,” you say. It doesn’t look like you hit any major organs or arteries. “He’ll live.”
“No he won’t,” Dante says raising the pistol again.
You grab his wrist and thrust it upward. A shot goes off, but it misses it’s target as he fires into the air.
“What are you doing?” he says. “He killed my cousin!”
“No more killing,” you say as you squeeze his wrist.
“Ow,” he says. You squeeze until his fingers are loose and take the pistol from him.
“Where’s Kayla?” you say as you slip the pistol into a side pocket.
He flexes his wrist as he looks at Cornelius on the ground. “She went after her mother. I told her to go ahead. She’s faster without me.”
You look back up at the smoke which has begun to settle. You hear the distant thudding of an approaching helicopter.
“We need to get out of here,” you say walking towards the explosion. “They’ll be looking for him soon.”
You know you have to keep moving, and there is no time for remorse or guilt or mourning. You are in danger and feel like the world is caving in around you.
“My cousin,” he says turning toward the broken body of Chuck. “I can’t leave him here.”
“You can and you will,” you say walking up to him. His eyes are looking a few feet away, but he is somewhere else. “Look at me.”
He doesn’t then does.
“Chuck is gone. Kayla needs you now.”
“Come with me, Dante. Help me find her.”
“What if she’s gone, too?”
“What if she’s not?”
He pauses and looks at the destruction around you.
“Ok. Ok.” He puts both hands on top of his head and clenches his hair so tightly you wonder if he’ll pull it out by the roots.
He lets out a yell that startles you. He leans into it and squats down before standing again. He turns and kicks Cornelius in the side.
“Let’s go,” he says leading the way.
Darkness is settling in around you. There’s an orange glow casting a shadow on you as you walk. The sound of ambulances and fire engines wail from that direction.
“Do you think she’s… alive?” Dante says as you step into the street from the coverage of the brush. You feel vulnerable in the open.
“I don’t know,” you say. “She’s fast, but not fast enough to…” you stop yourself as you round the corner of a building.
“Not fast enough to pull anybody out of that?” he says pointing to what you’ve already seen.
A small city block or what once was a city block has been reduced to a smoldering and burning rubble. People are frantically digging through what remains.People are running towards the destruction and you are struck by the fearlessness of their actions.
“Over here,” a man yells. “There’s somebody alive. Help!”
Dante runs over, and you follow.
“There’s somebody under there?” Dante says to the man straining to lift a large section of wall that has collapsed into the remains of a building.
You all stop and listen for anything over the sirens and yelling around you. You are about to say you hear nothing when a muffled cry comes from somewhere beneath you.
“I hear her,” you say, and you look for a handhold on the slab of wall.
“We’re going to need heavy machinery to lift this. Do you have a phone to call somebody?” the man says.
“I’ve got this,” you say as you plant your feet, feeling for solid support. “Just get ready.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“Just trust her,” Dante says. He nods to you. “I’m ready.”
You squat down as far as you can and take a deep breath. The wall is solid, but you don’t know how damaged it is internally. You hope for the best and begin to lift.
“Jesus,” the man says as the wall begins to lift. “You’re one of them?”
You straighten your legs and hold the wall just above waist level.
“You see anything?” you say.
“Hello? Anybody there?” Dante says leaning down.
“Yes! I’m down here. My leg. I… I think it’s broken. I can’t climb up.”
“Can you hold it? I can climb down there if you can hold it,” the man says.
“Yes, for a bit, but I don’t like the way this is sitting. It may break on me. Hurry.”
The man doesn’t hesitate. In a moment he’s disappeared into the space head-first.
“Anything I can do?” Dante says.
“Keep an eye out for Kayla and her mother,” then “Also, look out for the military. They’ll be around here searching.”
“I doubt that,” he says looking around. “They caused this. These people know who did this. They’ll beat anything down that even looks like the government. And I don’t blame them.”
You feel the weight of the wall shift downward.
“Hurry up!” you yell into the abyss.
“We’re coming!” the man yells. “Hang on!”
A moment later a small, pale and dirty hand emerges from the hole. Dante takes hold of her by the wrist and then the other after it appears.
“Not too fast!” a young girl says as her blond head emerges. “It hurts.”
Dante pulls faster, and she slides out her right leg twisted at an unnatural angle. She screams as she hits the ground. Dante ignores her and grabs the man as he emerges. Another swift tug and he is out almost as quickly.
The wall cracks in half before you can drop it and the whole section falls into the void beneath it. A cloud of dust billows up in the air and you back away from it shielding your eyes.
“Is everybody alright?” you say.
Everyone looks at each other and then the world around them.
“As good as we can be,” the man says kneeling down to the girl.
“What’s your name, sweetie?” he says brushing the hair from around her face.
“Amanda,” she says through pained tears. “Amanda Beaucraft.”
“Well hello, Amanda Beaucraft,” he says with a smile. “I’m Mr. Thomas. I don’t remember seeing you around here before. Is your family here?”
“No,” she says. Her bottom lip is trembling. “I from Alexandria. I was visiting my friend…” She’s sobbing now. “I don’t know where she is?” She buries her face in her hands.
You reach into your pocket and pull out your emergency pack. “I’m going to give you something for the pain, OK?” you say as you pull out a silver tube from its sheath.
“Is that a pen?” Dante says.
“No,” you say as you give it a twist to activate the medicine inside. It vibrates slightly letting you know it’s ready. “It’s to numb the leg so that I can set it.”
“Set it?” Amanda says.
“Your leg is broken. It can’t begin to heal like that.”
You see her pants on her broken leg are ripped at the seam on her upper right thigh. You tear it open a little more to give you room.
“You’ll feel a slight sting, but then nothing.” You look her in the eyes. “Are you ready?” You smile to reassure her.
You place the tip of the injector on her skin then press the top with your thumb. There’s a click and Amanda gasps.
“It’s cold,” she says. “I…I can’t feel the pain anymore. I can’t feel my leg.”
“Good,” you say moving your hand to her ankle. “Now look away.”
She bites her lip and looks up at Mr. Thomas. He takes her hand and smiles.
You place your right hand on her ankle and the other on her knee. You pull and move the leg as straight as you can get it. You give a twist to the pen and inject her leg again.
“Ok,” you say standing up. “That should start the healing, but have the doctors check it out when they get here.”
“Thank you,” she says. “Are you a superhero?”
You smile. “No. Just visiting. Just like you.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Sojourner. Sojourner Truth.”
“Wait, what?” Dante says. “Like the abolitionist?”
“Yes. That’s the name I chose.”
“Dante, not now,” you say putting away your emergency pack. “We have to find Kayla.”
“Kayla Robinson?” Amanda says.
“Yes,” you say. “Do you know her? Have you seen her today?”
“Everybody knows Kayla,” she says with a smile. “She’s super cool.”
“Did you see her before the explosion?” Dante says.
She shakes her head. “No, but I saw some of her friends. My friend said that they weren’t from around here. They all wore a black band around their arm.”
“The New Recruits,” you say.
“Who?” Dante says.
“Did they say anything about Kayla?” you say.
“Not exactly, but they were taking her mother somewhere. She was asking about her. One of them, a big man they called Bruiser, said that she was fine. I saw them all rushing out of the building just before it blew up.”
You look at Dante. There’s hope in his eyes.
“Do you know where they would take her, Dante?”
“Maybe,” he says. “There are two places where her and her friends hang out besides here. One is the old youth center on Yuma Street. The other is Bruiser’s place over on Capitol.”
“Does Cornelius know about either of them?”
“Cornelius?” the man says. “What are you two involved in? Is he responsible for this?”
You can see the anger in his eyes.
“Somebody needs to put a bullet in that man’s head,” he says.
You ignore it.
“Dante, does he know about them?”
“If he doesn’t,” he says. “It won’t take him long to find out now that he knows who Kayla is. We just have to pick one and hope for the best.”