Red. Red. Red.
My eyes were curtained by the mocking color, as if it was jeering at me, chanting, “this is all you’ll ever see, this is all you’ll ever see”.
Blood. Blood. Blood.
Apex’s body moved through the air, or rather, he seemed immobile and the world just rushed through him. It was hard to tell, my brain was running out of oxygen as the experiment tightened its grip on my throat. I was the bait. Apex is what he wants. The anger, the bloodshed, the suffering. The experiment, Meta, was slowly suffocating me, slowly snuffing the light in my eyes, the hope in my heart. Poor Newt. I never got to properly apologize to her for calling her a freak. Poor Visp. I never told him how happy I am that he fell in love with the better girl.
It was such a chaotic world. Fire was burning everything to the ground around us, people were screaming and running for their lives, the Martian police were on the fringes of the destroyed site, and the rouge combatants and allies to Superpowers Inc. alike were perched on the buildings, watching the bloodshed unfold. Mars was indeed becoming a slum where nobody cared and everybody watched.
I turned my eyes to Meta and tried to focus hard on his mind. I pried open my mind, praying that I was strong enough to carry the Martian’s agony on my shoulders. A sliver was enough to send my mind reeling with nausea. I couldn’t handle everybody’s pain, I couldn’t block out anybody’s pain.
“What’s wrong little princess?” said Meta. “You’ve stopped fighting”.
“Just kill me already,” I managed to whisper.
Meta laughed hoarsely. “When he comes to get you.”
Meta’s weight miraculously lifted from my body. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it soaring through the air, landing on a pile of mud brick walls. A shadow stood over me, strong and evil. It was Apex but at the same time it wasn’t him. I gazed into his eyes and found a cold glassiness.
“Stop playing children games, you bastard,” said Apex. “The real battle has begun”. He grinned in a grotesque and wolfish manner that sent shudders up and down my spine.
Before I could finish, Apex ran to the experiment, throwing punches left and right. “You thought you had finished with me? Think twice piece of…”
Meta responded with a shattering and deafening explosion to Apex’s chest. The impact of the two forces was too great to withstand. Even the spectators had ducked at the amount of energy emanating from the fight.
I couldn’t move, I just knelt in my place, watching the ripples of energy course through the air, shattering everything on its way.
Lorrie wake up!
Newt’s body fell across mine, shielding me from the impact of the energy ripples. I heard her whimper in pain as the ripples lashed against her back. She fell limp on my body, trying hard to hold it all in. The crash of limb against limb, bone on flesh, was sickening. Meta could regenerate thanks to my power and could read minds thanks to Newt, so it knew exactly where Apex would strike. But Apex, or whatever had taken hold of Apex, was vicious and cunning in his attacks. He fought with primal instincts.
“Newt, Newt!” I examined her back. Her shirt was torn at the back and the ripples had left their mark on Newt’s delicate skin. It was my fault she was hurt, she had jumped in front of me because I was too stunned to move.
Lorrie, this is not you, Newt said weakly, trying her hardest not to lose consciousness, you would have came up with a plan already.
I suppressed a sob. How could Newt be so smart?
“I’m trying Newt,” I said, “but I can’t, I’m too weak. I’m afraid of my power”.
“Lorrie, Apex needs you. I hear his mind and it’s not him. This being, all he thinks of is destruction, and he’ll accomplish that no matter what. He wants to destroy, kill, and win badly, even if it means that Apex’s body and soul will be crushed and destroyed in the process”.
I swallowed my desperation. My mind was rushing with a million thoughts at hundreds of miles per hour. “I have to get you out of here,” I said and slung Newt’s arm around my shoulder. I carried her to where Apex had left Visp, away from danger and eyes. They would be safe here.
I started making my way toward the raging battle when a limping, pale figure stopped me. It was a minion, which one I could not tell. Its tongue was out, drooling saliva. Its eyes were unfocused though I could sense it wanting my neck. I clenched my hand around the hilt of the dagger that was held on my waist. The minion stumbled a couple of steps toward me, and then suddenly jumped at me. I was ready for it; I unsheathed the dagger and swung an arc in front of me. The minion didn’t have time to react as I sliced the dagger across its arm. It wasn’t blood that was oozing out, but a gray matter that carried with it a horrible stench.
The minion looked at me with its hollowed eyes and charged. This time, its claws got my shoulder and twisted it as we both fell to the ground. I stabbed him on the side of the neck and it scampered away. It was a pathetic view; the minion was cowered in a corner trying to get the dagger out. My dislocated shoulder cried in pain, I bit my lips as I pushed myself up. I used my right hand to pull my shoulder back in place. The bones snapped into place and my regeneration took care of it. The minion had managed to dislodge the dagger and was on all fours. I gathered this minion was meant to inhibit Newt and Visp’s power. It was time to end it; Apex had taken care of the other one by freezing it into a chunk of ice. I grabbed a wood stake from a pile of debris and charged. The minion was quick despite its injuries and jumped out of the way. It jumped behind me; I turned around and swung the stake with me. It hit hard on its head but it splintered the wood in half. The minion cried and punched me on the gut. I fell on the pile of debris, right next to my dagger.
The minion was on me and about to sentence me to death had I not held him at arms length with my forearm. Its sharp teeth were digging deep into my flesh, drawing blood. I felt my arm beginning to feel weak. My free arm searched the ground for the fallen dagger. My hand closed on the hilt. In a quick and decisive movement, I buried the dagger on the incision I had made earlier on the minion’s neck. I pushed the dagger as far as I could, trying to reach its heart. The deeper I buried the dagger, the deeper the teeth were inserted in my arm. Both my arms were growing weak, I was getting increasingly tired as my regeneration tried to work extra hard to supplement my blood loss.
“One would think you had learn to kill an animal after probing my mind”.
I felt his hand closing on my hand, strong and decisive. I felt the pressure he applied to my hand and the hilt, lodging it completely on the minion’s throat. The minion’s mouth was agape. Shard released my hand, grabbed the minion by the head, and threw him far, far away.
“Are you okay?”
I almost laughed at the irony of his words. But it was so good to see him alive. He looked a little tired though, and worn out.
“You are alive.”
“Could you say it with less wonder?”
I rolled my eyes. “How did you escape?”
“The experiment wasn’t counting on my cowardice.”
I found myself grinning, but it soon became a grimace when another explosion shook the city. Apex flashed appeared a couple of yards away from us, followed suit by Meta. Apex’s body looked tired but the light in his eyes were intense and on fire. I couldn’t bare look at them because they didn’t belong there. He flashed again toward Meta but it flicked its arm, sending Apex away. Apex twisted in midair, placing his feet on a wall before pushing his whole body off vertically. His entire right arm was an iced lance. Meta responded by shielding himself with both his arms. Apex grazed him slightly with the lance.
“Its skin is tough,” Shard observed.
“Shard, I know this is not Apex and if he continues fighting at the rate he is fighting he’s going to die.” I said, fear laced with my words. I remembered how Apex would sometimes lose control in the arena and his taste of sunset would disappear. Oh, his taste of sunset, how I missed it.
“He’s giving the experiment a hard time though,” Shard said.
“We have to help Apex,” I said adamantly. I covered my eyes as a cloud of dust clouded our vision. Apex and the experiment were ferociously exploding each other.
“We can’t get close, we’ll be killed in the process. Besides, how do you plan to reason with him in the state he’s in right now?”
“Shard, I have to try.”
Shard relented. “Fine, I’ll distract the experiment long enough for you to talk some sense into him”. There was mockery in his voice.
Shard didn’t believe this was going to work. I didn’t even have a plan. All I had was my stupid heart telling me to help Apex.
“Stay behind me. When you see a chance grab Apex and do what you do with your mind.”
Shard disappeared from my field of vision and reappeared in close proximity to the fight. Meta had acknowledged Shard’s appearance and welcomed it, but not Apex.
“Get out of my way Shard, this is my fight!” Apex shouted, sending an explosion at Shard.
“It’s not Apex, or whatever you are,” Shard said, “it’s everybody’s battle”.
Meta laughed and charged at Shard, tackling him to the ground.
“Little wimp, here you are again!” Meta closed a fist on Shard’s throat and threw punches at him. Shard morphed his hand into a sword and slashed at Meta.
“Hey, I said he’s mine!” Apex started toward them.
“Apex!” I shoved Apex, intending him to fall on the ground, but his body was too strong that he just swayed a bit. “Well, that didn’t go according to my plan.”
“Step away,” he said, coldness in his voice. “Apex doesn’t need you, he just needs to fight.” He pushed me out of the way and to the ground. He walked to where Meta was holding Shard to the ground. There was no way I could take on Apex physically, so I did the only thing I could and suppressed my fears. I opened my mind.
The pain was almost unbearable. The world exploded in a million colors before me, blinding me, devouring me. Every soul, with its distinctive taste fought to be acknowledged. My body sagged at the weight of everybody’s agonies, fears, wishes, sadness, and hopelessness. My breath was coming out in rags; my mind was begging me to close my mind, to sequester in my own silvery world. But I couldn’t leave Apex to fight alone. I had to find his taste of sunset.
And I found it, faintly pulsing in the middle of the black aura, like a silent spectator from within, too tired to fight, too scared to escape.
My silver light called out to him orange glow, ignoring all else. However, the black aura responded violently and it manifested itself in the real world. Apex grip was on my neck; he lifted me up from the ground. Eyes that were not his gazed into mine furiously.
“What are you doing, bitch?” Not-Apex growled. “You’re going to get him killed. All he wants is to protect you, give him at least that.”
My hands wrapped around Apex’s fingers, trying to wrest them away or at least to support my dangling body. “You’re going to destroy him,” I whispered.
My silver light danced around the black aura of his soul, enveloping it.
“Do it then, I’ve seen your power work. You engulf other’s auras and rip them away from their life source. Come on, do it, kill Apex, rip him apart.” The not-Apex was taunting me.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had to stop this madness. Save Apex. As I wrapped my silver aura around the black aura, I met opposition, but I was stronger. The orange light pulsated somewhat brighter. I hesitated not knowing if to rip the black aura or not. It was so entwined with Apex’s orange one. I could kill Apex.
Lorrie, Lorrie, please, do it.
It was Apex, begging me to do it. Begging me to rip his soul apart.
“I can’t,” I said to Apex and out loud. “I can’t live in a world without you. I can't lose you too”.
Lorrie, please, trust me.
I took a deep breath. My silver aura had completely engulfed the dark aura. I felt Apex’s muscles tensed around my neck. His body was immobilized.
“Don’t do it,” the not-Apex threatened. “You are all going to die without me.”
I took one deep, ragged breath, and pulled.