Chapter 2Mature

            My safe ‘house’ was more of a mansion. And a big mansion at that. 6 floors with more rooms than I could count, it was probably safe more because people would take years to search all the rooms than because they couldn’t find it. I wish.

            Actually my safe house was a camping area north of the city, grassy fields and patches of woods surrounding it. Our tents were very nice though. We had running water from a creek a little ways away from us, and electricity was provided via a set of portable solar panels that sat at the very edge. It had probably been a week (I didn’t keep track) or so since that last encounter with the assassin in the parking lot, and here was sadly more comfortable than the warehouse.

            “Hey!” Yori called from the creek. His voice echoed slightly as it reverberated on the trees. “Ryan! Grab the fishing gear! There’s some bass down here!”

            Strange as it is, Yori kept fishing tackle in the back of his car, along with a lot of the gear that I had mentioned earlier. He had a nice pole, graphite, with an expensive looking bait caster reel attached to the top of it. A couple spare poles were included in his ‘kit’, along with the one that I used, the same type of rod, but with a spin reel attached instead.

            I grabbed all of it and his tackle box, ran down to the water, set it down and looked into the water, searching for the fish. I heard the clatter as he flipped over the top and moved lures around to find certain ones.

            “I don’t see them.” I scanned through it closely, and after I scanned the glistening water, I gave up. Standing tall, I looked at Yori, who hadn’t said a word. His hands still were sorting through the junk.

            “Damn! Ah, dammit.” His finger flew up to his mouth. He sucked on it a little and continued looking for the bait.

            “Yori. I still don’t see it.” I still stood there as before. He popped around and looked sternly at me.

            “Just because I don’t see something, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Look again.” Grumbling, and continuing to suck on his punctured finger, he returned to work.

            I looked again. And there they were, two large bass, swimming in circles at the bottom of the water. They couldn’t have been there before, it wasn’t possible! But they were here now, and Yori had proved me wrong. I rolled my eyes, turned around and looked at him.

            “Okay, you were right, now are you gonna tease me for it?”

            “Ha, no. That was a lesson that took me years to learn, so now you are going to have to learn it… I mean really learn it.” He finally fished out the minnow that he had been searching for and grabbed his pole. I turned back to the fish and sat down. Staring at them, I scratched at the occasional mosquito, sighed at the occasional glitter of scales, and jumped as Yori noisily splashed the lure in, followed by an immediate bite as one of the fish swam up and slaughtered the poor thing.

            Heaving, he pulled the fish out quickly, not giving it time to fight. After he had it on the bank, he unhooked it and tossed it back into the water. Again, he cast the minnow in, and let it sit on the water, gently floating on the top. He retrieved it with short twitches, the wake gently lapping on the chocolate brown banks.

            “So, how’s the rural life serving you?” He continued watching it as he spoke.

            “Not bad, still which that I was awake.”

            “Don’t us all.” He sighed, and re-cast the lure. “Wanna go look for somewhere else?”

            “Nah, I’m good for now.”

            “You sure? It won’t take long to move.”

            “Yea, it’s nice here. We gotta creek, good sun, and the woods. It’s nice. Why do you ask?”

            “Not for nothin’ but, this place isn’t all fun and games. They say that things live here. Things that can smell fear a hundred miles away, can kill with just a look. And things that eat souls.”

            “If they eat souls, and I’m the only one here with a soul, how do they live?”

            “Well, we all have small souls that run on the power of your soul. That’s why if you die, we all also die instead of continuing on.”

            “Okay, well, I guess that we shouldn’t exude our fear… ahem, ahem. That means you Yori.”

            “Hey!  I never said I was scared!”

            “Uh-huh. Sure.” I gave him the eye.

            “Well, I’m moving up to the tents. I have work to do.”

            “See ya, mind if I keep the gear down here?”
            “Sorry, I don’t want any of this broken, so, yes, I do.”

            “Please?”

            “No Ryan, I need to keep this together. I’ll let you have the pole and some hooks here.”

            “And what? Dig up worms?”
            “Yes. Exactly”

            “Well, never mind then. I’m going to go for a walk.”

            “Have fun then. Be back before sunset or we’re goin’ back to the city.

            “Uh huh, to what, get arrested and tossed into a brain cell? Ha, get it, brain cell?”

“Yea. I get it, very funny. Now seriously, be back before sunset.”

“Sounds good. See ya later.”

I left him to picking up his stuff and walked alongside the creek to find a shallow area. As I did so, the variety of the life within it became evident. Large fish were commonly seen surfacing around the deep pool and schools of minnows lazily swam around the riffles.

I picked up my pace and quickly found a fast moving shallow area, rippling through the unseen rocks below. Realizing that it probably wasn’t deep enough to wade, I though t it over but then realized that this was probably my best chance, I hopped in knee deep and tried to push across. I lost my grip on one rock but quickly regained my footing on the next one.

From there I jumped to the other bank and continued to walk out farther to the wooded areas. Finding a game trail a ways inside, I walked within the surrounding brush, following a specific set of deer tracks. Eventually, the tracks got deeper and darker. I realized that these tracks were fresh, and I started to run, seeing if I could catch up with it. The scrunching of leaves and the snapping of twigs echoed around the forest. Five or six minutes later I realized something was wrong.

 I put my hands to my knees and tried to catch my breath. Huffing hard and fast, I was sucking in oxygen as fast as I could.  I stood up and put my hands on top of my head.

“Jeez, oh my gosh I’m out of shape.” I mumbled to myself, quietly. Looking around, I tried to look for anything out of place. It was when I looked back that I realized what it was. I was lost.

 

I was stunned at my stupidity. Maybe the ground was soft enough to have left my prints? No, not in the back, the ground was almost stone back there. I could follow the deer tracks back couldn’t I? No, too many others. Knowing that getting bearings was essential, I climbed a nearby oak tree. As soon as I got to the top, I was again, stunned. Not only was I lost, I was in a dangerous zone. When I said that there was patches of woods around, Yori must have missed this one, for it was no patch. For miles around, all I saw were woods.

My knee scraped against the tree as I climbed back down. Crap. The feeling of dread flowed throughout my body and my stomach churned out butterflies. At the moment, the best thing to do was to not panic, stay on the trail and try to backtrack. So in essence, try not to get in deeper crap.

I turned and headed down the path. I jogged, following my gut feeling. Taking turns here and there, I found a familiar spot, and sat down. This was the spot that I had seen the deer tracks getting fresher. My lungs were working ferociously, inhaling and exhaling as much air as I was physically allowed.

            In a little my breathing slowed down, and instead my stomach tightened into a cramp, forcing me to stay put. I sprawled out onto the trail, resting, getting ready to go on the last leg of my run. I soaked in the spots of sun that protruded from the trees, warming my belly and shoulders.

            “Where da hell could dey be?” It was a voice from not so far away. It was hick and unsophisticated. Well, from the stereotypical point of view. I quieted down, and controlled my breathing.

            “I dunno Ralph, but shuddup! Dey could be jus’ abou’ anywhere” The second voice had gotten louder, evidence that they were approaching. Tall bushes hid me, but if they were coming down the trail or an adjacent trail, I could be in for some deep trouble. Quietly, I picked myself up and tried to walk in the other direction.

            “Hey, Ralph! You hear dat? I thought I heared a lil’ bugger. Maybe some big deer! Betcha I get him first!” It was the second voice

            “Uh uh! I’d geet him! And then I’ll chop him up into a bunch a’ little bits and make a gumbo for just me! Whatcha think about that?”

            “I think you a lyin’ scoundrel. I get him in one li’l shot and blow a hole in him so big that I coul’ fit my hand right on through!”

            “Yea right. An’ I am a big bear fifteen feet high are’ I? Fibber you are.” After the fibber part, there was a bit of a scuffle that I used as a que to run and run hard. I got up and forgot about being quiet. With loud crunches and thundering snaps, I sprinted through the woods.

            “Ralph!” Oh no. They heard me. “That ain’t no deer. That a boy. That the boy! Geet my rifle! Give it here!”

            Lucky for me, there was a twist in the trail and as I took it, the shot of a gun and the whistle of a bullet filled the air. A tree to my left exploded, bits of it stinging the side of my face.

            “I told you you’d miss! I told you!” The first voice mocked the second.

            “Then you take a shot!” The second voice defended himself and egged the other to mess up.

            “I can’t see da boy!”

            “He on dis trail, let’s go!”

            I could hear them behind me, slowly growing louder. I could hear them and… water! I sprinted a little harder, trying to get to the creek. At the bank, I didn’t even try to wade it, instead I straight up jumped. With a splash, I landed on the edge of the water, a little off balance, but with just enough to keep running.

            “Yori!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “Yori! Hunters!”

            I ran by our fishing spot and scrambled up the hill. Across the flat camping area, I saw him and Silver grabbing their guns. Another crack of a rifle. I kept running until I almost tripped on Silvers leg. I quickly squatted down between them. Yori handed me the rifle I found during  the last combat session.

            “Three rifles are still better than two. What did you get us into this time?” His calm demeanor wasn’t settling.

            “Honestly Ryan, you just always have to get us shot at don’t you.” Silver chided in.

            “Two guys, they sound really country. Both with rifles. I am pretty sure that they’re both bolt action.”

            “Okay, not too bad. The country thing won’t be good though. Keep your heads low, they’re probably experienced.” With that, he cocked his lever-action rifle, loading a shell. Following him, I loaded my own. I peered down the scope, keeping my eye well away from the back-end, weary of scope-eye. Silver’s gun bumped into mine.

            “Barrel cheers! Don’t die! Have fun!” Silver’s sporadic voice was a little unnerving. From the tree line, exploded two figures, plaid shirts and the whole nine-yards, including beards and boots. Immediately, Yori lined up his crosshairs and pounded one in the chest, instantly dropping him. The other quickly retaliated and fired a string of rounds counting four or five. I guess it wasn’t bolt action….

            “That’s automatic! Holy crap Hansen? What the heck… fall back to the tree line behind us!” He grabbed my shirt and pulled me up. Glancing over my shoulder, the man fired a second set, and then turned around and waved behind him. From there twenty or thirty other guys roared out of the woods. Not good.

            “There’s more Yori! Run faster!” Silver was immediately out of her fun mood and into a scared and jumpy one. “We got thirty or more! All armed, so get a move on it!”

            “I am woman!” He was now just ahead of me. I pushed myself a little harder, just like the hospital. Too bad we can’t fly anymore.

            A roar of guns followed, individual rounds picking up dust all around us. We just got to the tree line and under cover when the ground right behind exploded in a giant ball of flame.

            “Do they have rocket launchers or something?” Silver looked with a worried expression over at Yori. I looked with my scope at them. One in the very back was handling a crossbow, loading bolts with TNT sticks strapped to the top. He was just lighting one when put it down and looked at my body guards.

            “No, they have a crossbow. Take a look.” I handed it over to Yori. “He’s in the back.”

            He only looked for a moment before he handed it back.

            “Limited range but enough explosive that it’ll do some serious damage if he hits us. Or even gets close to hitting us.” He squinted his eyes. “Set your scope to 100 yards. I trust you can take him out can’t you?”

            I nodded slowly, and twisted the dial. Pushing my cheek down into the stock, I looked down the scope, trying to find where the man had moved to. A moment later I caught him, this time, his crossbow in firing position. The moment that I had him in my crosshairs, I pulled the trigger, the bullet slamming into his chest. But it was the same moment that he had pulled it. Well, it was close. He had been raising the angle of his crossbow in order to increase the range, but when he was struck, he fell back, pulling the crossbow further up. I immediately looked back up and watched the explosive bolt rise into the air and fall almost straight back, striking a few of the other combatants.

            “Well, I took him out and a couple others, sound good?” I looked at Yori and smiled.

            “Good for you, but had it not been for you, we wouldn’t have needed to take out anybody.” He had a point, but it wasn’t one that I was going to care about in a little bit. I picked up the rifle and moved a little ways to the left where there was a group of trees that would offer some better protection. From there, the rifle raised backed up to my eye, and I waited for somebody to pause, maybe from the running, maybe to shoot. A moment later, the man in front stopped to reload a break action shot gun. A moment later, his head was in my sights, but Silver got to him first. It was a round in the chest, ripping a good sized hole through his rib-cage. I grimaced at the sight.

            Suddenly, several eruptions spewed dirt from a hundred yards out or so from the tree line. I wasn’t sure who was aiming at who, but I was scared either way, as both sides could just as easily take casualties as the other.

            “Silver!” Yori yelled. “Did you call someone in?!”

            “No!” The reply was just as loud. 

            “Ryan! We need to get moving! They have long range artillery back there or something. They may even have a stealth ‘copter up there!”

            Once again, either way I was scared. I hopped up from my sniping post, and sprinted the other way, following Yori and Silver. Another set of blasts came from behind, showering us with dirt, and they sounded closer. Bullets blasted away still, and one caught the ground right in front of my foot.

            “Faster Ryan, faster!” Yori yelled over his shoulder. In front of us, there was another clearing visible. I sprinted harder. Silver was in the lead, her amazing dexterity moving her through the thick underbrush with ease. For a moment or two, she seemed to almost glide, her feet not touching the floor, pushing through the brush without disturbing a leaf.

             A moment later we were into the clearing, a flat expanse of grass separated by the creek that flows through the park. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. The sound was soft, yet evidently there. Yori seemed to have heard it just when I did.

            “It’s a stealth! Silver, take it out!” Yori yelled over her. For the first time since I met him, he looked genuinely scared. But Silver was still acting as smooth as ever. From her pocket she produced a small bouncy-ball sized item, and while she was running, she threw it up into the air.

            “Flash out, hit the dirt!” Yori rolled down to his knees and plugged his ears. I copied him, but messed up the roll and instead landed on my face (ow). Even though I was covering my ears and shutting my eyes (While my face was on the ground), the device produced such a bright light and explosive blast that I was momentarily stunned.

A moment later I got up and looked around. In the distance, a fireball shot from the land and the stealth helicopter appeared, burning as a wreck. In another moment, the ground shook as the munitions inside blasted apart what was left of it.   

“Alright, that was close. But not close enough for those dudes behind us to care. Keep your heads down and let’s move to the next tree line.” Silver huffed. “This is going to get a little crazy, and maybe even out of hand if we don’t get under some cover.”

Yori had dropped his assault rifle and now had out his pistol, the same one from the parking lot firefight. He pulled the slide back and the hammer clicked, ready to launch rounds down range. I slid the bolt back and the next round popped into place.

Silver though was much heavier armed apparently though. From her pocket she produced a small cube, and threw it on the ground. In front of my eyes, a rocket launcher was forming, resembling the United States’ LAW.  It seemed as if it was being built piece by piece, every working part spontaneously appearing and being formed into the intimidating weapon. Its gray-blue exterior was contrasting with the emerald green of the well-maintained grass.

“Let’s kick some ass.” She took out a round from her pack and stuffed it into the rear of the launcher.

“Why didn’t you use that earlier you dumb-butt?” Yori was sort of stunned, but not in the way I was.

“Okay, before you answer that, why don’t you tell me how in the world that thing did that?”

“Well, you silly boy, this is made out of nano-molecule bots” She looked at me with a gentle smile. “For crying out loud child, what little do you know about your brain?”

“Okay you two, let’s go get some cover where you can have your cat fight. I feel like actually living through this.”

Without another word we all shut up and started the trudge up the gentle slope to the next set of trees. We found a small dried up stream to use as a trench, forming the formidable barrier that would spell death for those opposing us. With two rocks set up next to each other, I rested the rifle, stabilizing it and waiting, waiting for the first and the bravest of the stupidest to run out, ready to die for his money.

I really had no idea what these people would want with the money offered as a reward for my death. I mean, what would they do with it? Buy a new camouflaged pick-up? A new set of throwing knives? An extra broken down RV? But then again, these people weren’t that stupid… I mean they had enough of a brain to know what they could do with money.

Trained at the edge of the woods, the thick, tall trees too dense to see very far, my scope picked up a little movement. Behind a large oak, sat a small man, holding a long-rifle equipped with a high powered scope. Must be a rich hillbilly. It was at that thought that I realized that the scope was pointed at me.

“Holy crap! Duck!” Screaming, I followed my own order, a crack immediately following. A branch fell, shot apart by the sniper. Silver had ducked with me and was looking over at me.

“Where is he?”

With my finger, I silently pointed at the spot below the oak. She felt around her pack, and drew out an old cap. She slowly raised it above the banks. Crack! A hole went through the hat. At the moment of the shot, she jumped up, aimed, and launched the round, smashing into the underbrush behind him.

The tree that it had hit was instantly destroyed, gently falling and crashing to the floor. And from that area, three or four more sprinted out, rifles swinging in their arms. I shot one in the foot, making him stumble and fall. The guy next to him looked up at me, terror in his face, and turned to flee.

As he entered the woods, many more ran out towards me, or rather towards us. All of them were swinging about their guns, wildly hooting as if on a rabbit hunt. Wild hair and overgrown beards gave them a stereo typical look, complete with plaid shirts.

“This isn’t supposed to happen! We were safe!” Yori was grumbling as he fired shots towards them.

“Why didn’t I keep you from going to that walk!”

“Hey! They would’ve found us sooner or later” I argued, defending my position.

 don’t we?” Silver had already pulled out her phone eyeing Yori.

“Yes we do. But what are you going to do? Call in an airstrike?”

“Nah, they’re too close. But I’ll call in some strafes and an airlift, but that still means we have to hold them off from killing us until then.”

“Sounds fine to me, but they’ll need to do some heavy duty strafing, as without it, those ‘copters ain’t gonna land. They’d be dead before they touched.” There was hopelessness in his voice.

“Kay, I’ll be sure to tell them to call Chuck in.”

“Isn’t he retired?”

“That’s what they say, but isn’t Marcus ‘retired’?” Snipe countered

“Well, you have a point, but is he on base?”

  “He’s never off.”

“Alright, go ahead and do it.” Yori nodded in approval. Snipe tapped the keypad and raised it to her ear.

“We need a staffer at coordinates 20.117, 36.0000…” She looked at her watch. “6. That’s right, 6. Staffer needs to be Chuck DeLorez, and if possible, armed with a forty mike Gatling. Nose mounted.  Yea, er, is double on the wings available? It is? Okay, double wing and precision guided rounds. Sure. I’ll hold.”

She sounded as if she was ordering pizza. Double on the gunpowder please. And a side of nukes. All good. And uh yea I’ll hold as killers shoot high-powered rifles at us! People these days. Yori continued firing, and as the enemy grew closer, he started actually hitting them with the pistol. Maybe sometimes that was a good thing, but at this point that meant they were close enough to hit us with pistols, let alone rifles.

I momentarily stopped paying attention to them and grabbed my rifle, and without the scope, started to shoot at people nearby. It seemed to never end, more and more poured out of the tree line. My ears were starting to hurt, the gun shots racking a toll on my eardrums.

They started to let off and slow their attack and it was at that very moment that I pulled my trigger and it sounded with a little click, but no bang. Great. My gun was out. I tossed it aside and yelled to Yori.

“Yori! I’m on empty! What do I do?”

“Grab your gun and reload!” He threw me another satchel of rounds.

“I tossed it away!” He fired a few more rounds before responding.

“What in the world told you to do that?”

“I don’t know! What do I do though?!”  For a moment, he looked at me, and then, rolled his eyes as far back as possible. He fired an annoyed expression at Snipe.

“Silver! What do you got over there?”

“Shhh! I’m on hold still! But here.” She tossed me an automatic pistol, all together with an extended clip.

“I don’t know how to shoot these!”

“Ryan, I swear.”  She looked me with utter disgust. “It’s a gun Ryan, you point the damn thing and pull the friggen’ trigger. What else would you do?”

“Oh, be quiet. You know what I mean!” I jokingly laughed and yelled at her.

“Er, I really don’t” Her sweet-talk was followed by the sound of a rocket being fired a ways down range.

“Whatever. You do but you’re too immature to tell me.” It was in that moment that when she looked at me I could see what Yori had talked about. Her eyes were stunning, a beautiful smile to match, and not to mention a good-sized dose of pure badass to fit. The weird part though was that it seemed that she must have seen the same thing in me or something because the moments after that she seemed to be in the same trance that I was in.

Konk! A large brute woke me out of my daydreaming. The butt of his rifle had flashed against my skull, sending stars swirling about my head. I punched him back, shaky on my feet,  but it was like in the movies where the main character hits his bad guy, and the bad guy just gets meaner. But thankfully in this movie, the main character has a stronger-than-he-looks bodyguard that is apparently good at tackling people. How do I know this? Because the brute was now sprawling out on the ground with a guy half his size beating out whatever good looks he had left in his poor face.

Really, I mean, I felt sorry for the poor dude. Yori must have gotten pissed or something, because the fighter couldn’t get a shot at him, it was pound after pound after pound. I took my eye off the scene, worried that I would have to see the face afterwards. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight. So, instead I turned around watching the other side of the stream, waiting for anyone to come by.

To those of you who are reading, I don’t want to look like a monster. You may be questioning my sanity, and that is… well, totally fine. I mean I understand, because I’m waiting in a ditch to kill someone. But here’s the reason: survival. If I let these people do what they want, I would die, and then, they would too.

The first victim jumped down the bank, and hit the ground with a thud, raising the dust around his feet. It was a kid no older than I was; a mean glare in those hazel eyes. Gently the trigger slid back, the click of the hammer hitting the round, the blast of the smoke-less powder on the inside of the round. A brass-jacketed erupted out of the barrel, already at full velocity. The first round would hit the boy in the stomach; the second would land in his ribcage just above the other one. The next hit right next to his heart, and the last scored a bull’s eye and tore through the muscle, stopping the heart and killing him before he hit the ground.

No matter how ferocious I could get that face to look, or how big I could make the rifle seem, I shocked myself when I pulled on that trigger.  I let loose an array of rounds, tearing through flesh, destroying a life. But was it really a life I took? Wasn’t it inside my head? Later on, it would seem even worse that I would do that. I knew it that I had the ability to kill a kid, even though he was my age, he was still a kid.

I pulled myself together and sucked in a deep breath. Just a little longer, just a little bit longer.  And then maybe I would be free of the terrors of combat, maybe, just maybe. At least for a little bit. But just thinking about having to continue going through these things again… again having to kill people. No longer would I fool myself into believing that these were just thoughts. And that was always in the back of my mind. They were just thoughts, things that I came up with.

            That was why I could kill people in any combat. Whether in the parking lot, or in the field, or even now. They were just pawns, obstacles to my recovery that my brain thought of. Or something like that, but now? They are people. They always have been. Always.

            That didn’t change who they were. Just because a person is a person doesn’t mean that they can’t be monsters. As a matter of fact, everyone is a monster in some way. On the inside, sits an angel, but with everybody, maybe somewhere deep inside, resides a beast. What determines who you are, is who you side with.

            With the sounds of war around me, I had once again been able to zone out, drift in my own little world. Already our battle was ever with, Yori and Silver managing to win it without me. Pretending to still be doing something useful, I stood there with the pistol looking for enemy around my ‘post’.  

“Alright kiddo! Time to pack up! We’re headed to a new home, before the feds get here.” Yori seemed to have fallen for my trick.

“And stop picking you’re nose please.” Of course Silver wasn’t going along with it. Sniffle, sniffle. Oh well. Keeping wary of other potential enemy, we walked from the stream back towards our temporary home. My legs were already burning from running away from and towards danger, and so the walk was absolutely terrible.

As soon as we got there Yori looked at us both, Silver as happy as could be, and me panting from the pathetically small walk, and told us to pack the tent. I was about to die when Silver walked to the tent, pulled a cord, and presto! The tent folded itself up, everything in it slid out and dropped to the ground. I was happy until I realized that I would still need to pick all the crap up around me.

I bent down and reached for a solar light, but Yori burst out and started barking at me.

“Ryan! I said to pack up the tent! Not pick up the ground!” He was genuinely annoyed. “Do what I say! Sheesh, kids these days.”

“But I thought that this was our stuff! Couldn’t they track us with this? Like get are finger prints or something?”

“Ryan you have much to learn don’t you… how would they track us with our finger prints? It isn’t like they aren’t going to start dusting the world just to find us. They have a better chance of nabbing us if we waste our time picking this bunch of crap up trying to clean up after ourselves. That’s their job.”

Once again I had completely missed something that was totally obvious to Mr. know-it-all over here.  I picked up the fishing stuff, the only stuff he would let me pick up by the way, and tossed it into the back of his car. Next came the tent, still wet with the morning dew. Lastly, Yori and Silver pushed in their mobile armory and we all got into the car.

I buckled my belt (no matter how lame that may sound, it would be more lame to die in a car crash), and looked out the window, watching the grass pass by. For some reason, my eyes welled up. I guess it was just that once again I was leaving my home, and preparing for a new one.

We rode deep into the night, a harvest moon reaching its hands up to the stars. The highway was bright with the lights of passing cars.

“Wonder where they’re going.” I wonder “Is where they’re going as life-changing as mine? Are they scared?”

I thought about this for a while when my thoughts switched over to my dad. His bright smile warmed my thoughts every once in a while, but not enough. I hope that he still is there for me. And then the deeper thoughts dawned. Has he already given up on me?Was he still there waiting?What if I don’t wake up? What will he do then?

He wouldn’t give up, that wasn’t him. He was a veteran firefighter, and he never gave up on anything. The doctors could say I was dead and he would hold onto my body until it rotted away… maybe even after. That’s the way dad’s should be.

And it shouldn’t take something like this to realize that he was the way that he was. He was always there for me, no matter how bad I was, no matter how much I acted up, no matter how much I made him age. He would give his life up for me, and give one helluva fight beforehand.

You know, that’s the way most dads are, it’s just that the kids never want to admit that. There are exceptions, but most of the time, kids are kids, and just not ready to say that their dad is the best man in the world.

Mine is, and I’ll say that loud and proud. My dad was going to be in that room when I woke up, he was going to be sitting there in a chair holding my hand, and he would look me in the eye and say to me: “I’m here son, I’m here. You’re awake, and that’s all that matters to me.”

And that wasn’t a lie; it would be all that mattered to him, that I was awake and safe, no matter how many bills he had to pay, no matter how long it took for me to walk again. I was all that he cared about. I was his son. I was his masterpiece. I was his job. I was his career. His real career.

And it was my job to wake up for him. I knew that I would never stop fighting to get back to him, I would never stop trying, never stop pushing. I was going to wake up, and nothing, nothing, that would stand in my way and stay there.

My eyes filled and a single tear rolled down my cheek. It wasn’t a sad tear; instead it was a tear of realization. Maybe my dad wasn’t here for me now, but in a weird way, he sent Yori. Yori was my conscience, and my dad had put him there. Since Silver was his side kick, my dad put them both in my mind to protect me somehow, to hide me from my monsters. The monsters that I had created.

            The moon was back to normal at around nine ‘o’clock. We pulled into a gas station at around them and Silver sat in the car with me as Yori went in to pay for gas. She was in the front seat, quietly reading a book, but as soon as he had shut the door, she shut her book. She turned back to me, a smile on her face. The same one that was there at the fight.

            “Hey, you did pretty well back there.” She pushed back her blond hair. It was streaked with light brown sections. It was dazzling to watch.

            “Thanks. Uh, you did pretty well yourself.” It became a little awkward.

            “Yea, but sorry to say, I didn’t need your confidence.” She gave me a sympathetic smile and broke out into a laugh. “Sorry about that. But you really did do well out there.”

            “Thanks again. So-” She broke me off before I could complete it.

            “There’s something that I need to tell you.” She still had a smile, but it was uneasy.

            “What? Did I do something?”

            “No, Ryan, Yori lied to you.”

            “What!?” That wasn’t possible, Yori would never do such a thing.

            “He wasn’t trying to hurt you, it was for your own good.”

            “About what?”

“You’ve been in the Coma for two years. The doctors in the physical world, they say that your dad should either expect you to die, or to just never open your eyes. Ever.”

            “So I’m sixteen?”

            “Yea, as old as I am. Yori was worried it would shock you too much, that you would retreat into a deeper coma. It was only now that you had a chance to fight back, to try to wake up before your body killed itself.” So Yori was still the good guy I thought he was.

            “So my body has been attacking me for two years.”

            “Yes, it was mainly one group of people though. It was headed by a man named Areyel. But recently, he’s gained many followers by convincing them that the food shortages were your fault.”

            “Who’s fault were they then?”

            “His. All his. He kept you from waking up, from revitalizing the body.” I looked down, now knowing that I was up against real odds, this wasn’t a game that I could just pass off as a little road block in my way of waking up. I really could be in my eternal sleep if I couldn’t fight them off. But there was something that snapped inside of me, made me want to fight harder.

            “Well then you know what we have to do.” I looked her directly in the eye as I said it. Whatever had snapped made me angry, made me want to be done with this. “We have to end whatever he is. Human or not.”

            “But that’s just it Ryan, we don’t know what he is. Had he been a mental being like Yori, me, and most other people are, then it would’ve been easier to kill him. You wanna know why you weren’t killed by all of those people? You didn’t get lucky, they didn’t miss just because they were bad shots. They should’ve killed you. But you’re a soul. You contain the most powerful energies in the world.”

            “So is that what he is?”

            “Yes. We believe so, and he’s been here for longer than you think. Yori lied about you falling too, once again for your safety, that beast is why you’re here, why you are asleep.”

            “Great. Just great.” I rolled my eyes. I looked back at her again. “You know what though? I don’t care, I just really don’t care. I want him dead, and that is what I will make him. Soul or not, he’s an asshole.”

            “We know that already, but that isn’t what we care about either. It scares us more than you think. If a soul can get into here, why can’t it get to other places? That shouldn’t be possible, that’s for mental beings only. Think as each of the physical humans as cities… no, countries. Each one has its own securities, and is supposed to prevent certain things from happening, such as releasing souls from the body, and also preventing souls from passing into it also.”

            “So this guy is some sort of Freddy Krueger?”

            “More than that, he’s getting more and more powerful, he’s leeching away your energy, your ability for your soul to function. If we can’t stop him here, think of how powerful he could get! He has the ability to collapse this entire universe, including all three planes, mental, physical and soul.

            “Well then give me a damned reason why we can’t go after him now!” I could feel my face getting hot, and my rage boiling up.

            “Ryan! Don’t give me that sass!” She got her voice into a deeper pitch and a meaner growl. “We can’t go after him now or he would swat us away and kill us! It wouldn’t even be close.”

            Yori had arrived back and started to pump the gas. Silver stopped and sat back into her seat. The incoming sigh was evident.

            “I saw the way you looked at me back there.” She tossed it into the air and it just sat right above my head. “I saw that gleam in your eye. And I can’t say that I didn’t look back.”

            “I-” I didn’t know what to say, there wasn’t anything to say really.

            “There’s something in you Ryan. Something fierce, something deep, and I can’t stay away. And I don’t want to stay away.” She turned back to me with soft, gentle eyes that just said- Please, Ryan, please. “But I can’t do it. I shouldn’t at least. I have no idea of what this could do to the mission.”

            “And that would mean your life too darling.” Yori had secretly been listening through a cracked door. “And so we can’t. You can’t, I mean, because I sure wouldn’t”

            He looked back at me with a smile.

            “Sorry kid, you’re a handsome guy, but that’s not what I’m into.” He climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the car on. The ceramic exhaust roared with laughter, the fresh gas pumping through the engine. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

                The highway was now empty, mostly at least, and so Yori stamped down onto the gas and the car shot forwards. I was pushed back into my seat, and the outside blurred. Silver was basically unaffected, and pushed a button on the dashboard. A radar screen made its way out of the CD player, and flattened itself onto the front.

                “Am I clear?” Yori turned towards Silver.

                “Er, not completely, but I can’t tell if it’s a cop car or not.”

                “Well then turn on the scanner.”

                She pressed another button on the dashboard, and the radio turned on. It was all static at first, changing pitches as the time went on. But suddenly, a voice went out over the speakers.

                “We’ve got a vagrant on Heckler and Kosh. He’s got a pistol and is holding someone up in the alley next to the road. Permission for arrest?”

                “Continue with the arrest. We have backup on the ready.” It was a second voice with female tones.

                “Alright nothing yet.” Yori looked at Silver. “Do you think that we should risk it?”

                “Yea, if we can hit Mach 1 before we get out of government airspace we’ll be good anyways. They don’t have any fighters stationed around here do they?”

“We’ll not  officially, but there’s that testing base out in Arrway isn’t there?”
‘That’s a bomb range I thought.”

“They have a hangar in it.”

“Oh. Well then we could use the hyper drive then couldn’t we?”

“Yea, at this low of an altitude? We would explode and die.”

“I thought that we fixed that?”

“Yea, were do you think that I pulled 5000 dollars out of? My arse?” Yori  rolled his eyes.

“Well fine. We’ll just have to do a slow to flow.” Silver rolled her eyes back at him.

“But this doesn’t have a A-6 Hawker engine. That was the last car I had.”

“Oh yea! That was the one that I accidently wrecked my Chevy into, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” He sighed. “It was. You know what, to hell with it. We are going to go airborne.”

He flipped up the steering wheel, and out came an ox yoke. The track on the shift stick changed to become straight, and the decals noting the positions changed into a plus and minus sign.  He grabbed it and put it forwards pushing the engines to a screaming blast. I was being pressed more into the seat than before of course, but it was so bad that I couldn’t move forwards. It was only momentary though, and soon I was back to normal.

“Alright, we are hitting 300… 400… 500… 600… 700-” Then there was this stupendous blast that shook the car. Or was it a plane? “Alright, that is Mach one ladies and gentleman.”

“Holy crap, that was ridiculous.” Silver looked at Yori, her eyes filled with amazement. “What engine do you have on this?”

“ A Blairfield CO-140. CO standing for  Christonium oxygenated.”

“You have Christonium in this? Where did you get that?”

“Online.”

“Ah, that makes sense.”

“Surprise you?”

“What do you think, you big oaf?”

“Had it been me, I wouldn’t have been  scared. As a matter of fact, I would be very happy.”

“You didn’t ask if I was scared! You  asked if I had been surprised!”

“Well, those questions are one and the same aren’t they?”

“For you maybe.”

“Hey, what would have made you say that?” Yori rolled his eyes. “Can you say that you’ve been to the edge of the world and back?”

“Nope, past the edge.” Silver smiled at him.

“Oh shut up, when?”

“Last year. It was just for fun though.”

“Whatever, we have a jo-” The car shuddered and a bright flash illuminated the inside.

“Son of a bitch, we have a friggen Archer class fighter tagging us!” Silver yelled as she turned around. “Get me in the turret.”

She ground her teeth while Yori slammed his fist into a button on his arm rest. The car immediately started to change into a streamlined version of its former self. Some of the glass formed into a turret sitting on the top of the car. Included was a mounted machine gun. It wasn’t Silver sitting there though. It was me.

I didn’t have to be told to know that she wouldn’t be able to get here in time, and that I needed to take control. Fluently I grabbed the handles, and pressed down upon the machine gun trigger, aiming at the dark figure following us. Hot shells were ejected and poured down at my feet. The plane swerved to the right, dodging the incoming fire. I followed, green tracers marking my fire. 

“Ryan! Good job! Keep it off our tail, but strap it in, I’m hitting the afterburners!”

With no way to ‘strap in’ I simply continued to fire. The jet barrel rolled back to the left, and lined up a few rounds, hitting the back of the car. I was able to do the same, and caught it in its wing. Nothing major happened, but the pilot must have heard it, because he pulled up and went up into the clouds.

I jumped down back into my seat at the base of the turret and strapped a four way seat belt across my chest. The seat had changed into something that looked like a combat aircraft seat, and I was about to find out why.

“Afterburners on in three.” Yori began his count down.

“Two” I braced.

“One!” He switched a  button on the roof, and the transformed car shot ahead.

“We are hitting mach 2… now! We are approaching mach three in ten-”

Yori began his count down, but I didn’t care to listen, I was too amazed, watching the clouds outside the window zip past. Looking through them all was a cloud just a little darker.

“Mach three accomplished!”

“Yori do you get that carbon monoxide rain around here or something?”

“What?”

“That cloud over there.” Yori looked over his shoulder to where the cloud was. His eyes widened and he yanked the yoke over to the passenger side and rolled several times. The cloud was getting bigger and approaching us. But then I realized that it wasn’t a cloud, it was a squadron of planes, matching our speed, tilting to the left, preparing to drown us in a hailstorm of bullets, rockets, and whatever else they could.

I always knew that I was a wanted man here, but I have a feeling that it wasn’t that we had stumbled upon this group of attackers. No, they were sent to kill us. Calmly, I walked up the one step into the glass topped turret, and swung the machinegun over. They had sent that multi-billion dollar hit team to attack us… I closed my eyes… and they weren’t going to get a refund.

Yori’s cries against my actions were drowned out by the machine gun open firing, showering the attackers. I centered the rounds at the lagging ship, and in a couple moments, it burst into yellow and orange flames, then started falling back to earth. There was a moment of guilt, thte same kind as before, but then I remembered something- I was the good guy, not them.

I moved up the line and pounded them. The second went down faster, and so did the third. It had only been a few mere seconds that this had been happening. The two left threw the brakes, and swung behind our vehicle. I just held down the trigger as I moved around to meet them. The farthest did the same thing as the first jet attacker, and shot up into the sky. Bursts of fire highlighted the nose of the plane and tracers began to approach me and strike the turret. The first burst only cracked the glass, but the second made the glass explode. Silver’s hands appeared on my waist and pulled me down. She gave me a horrified look, and then shot up to give the plane her own greeting. With only a few short and fast paced bursts, I heard an explosion behind us.

“Yori! Give me an auto rocket!” The machine gun sank into the floor and was replaced by another turret similar to the first, but the barrel was wider and the ammunition thicker. Above, the other plane raked us with rounds, putting holes all over the roof. Silver shifted and started to fire small rockets at it. The sounds of the engines faded at one moment, and then grew louder as it approached. At the last moment, Silver ditched her gun and pulled a grenade from her belt. Biting out the pin as she threw it, the grenade made its way to the exterior of the plane, magnets attaching to it.

In another stupendous blast, the plane fell from the sky, just barely missing the rear end. Another close call, another chance to die. And all in a day’s work for us.

 

The End

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