Chapter 3Mature

7 Minutes Earlier


“Come on, Foley. You've got more than enough time to go through this once more before the stars come out."  Renata kept her arms were folded across her chest as she looked at him impassively.

 Foley Street Weston had come to the Center when he was just a child.  His life there wasn't bad -- not like the science fiction stories of old where some shadowy government agency planned to train him as a weapon or assassin or something. He was tested because of his condition, but the tests were largely physical because of the nature of his mind. Foley was physically able to master motion. Because of an anomaly in the pallium region of his brain his spatial memory was far beyond anyone else ever recorded.

His senses attuned to this anomaly and he developed a understanding of motion that few others possessed. His sense of balance was finer than the finest athletes on Earth by far. And the way his senses worked allowed him to process everything about his surroundings with lightning speed. His body had adapted to his mind. His musculature was far more reactive and efficient, and his bone structure was far lighter and stronger than normal, as well as several times more resistant to injury.

He could learn moves simply be observing them once, and could retain the memory with perfect clarity.  The Center was a part of the United Earth Directorate Research Division, a facility overseen by the government that housed many young men and women with exceptional abilities. Most of them had been parts of various military and civilian projects at one time or another, aimed at improving the human condition --be it for military application, or otherwise.

He and Renata were on the roof of the Center's downtown office building. It was all business tonight. They wanted to gage his physical abilities at in different environments. The study of his abilities had yielded advances in exercise science for the armed forces, as well as provided new insights into how to train pilots to improve their spatial awareness. Progress was always hampered by the drawbacks of his talent, but they made due.

The same anomaly that had given him such a fascinating grasp of the physical world had made it nearly impossible for him to communicate with another human being. His brain could understand human speech, but because of the different configuration of his mind, he could not speak without great effort and focus. His mind processed data in a way that scientists could not yet fully comprehend. To them it seemed that because he was using all of his enhanced senses at one time on a much higher level than other humans could hope to achieve, that the speech centers of his brain were relegated to the background as a lower priority service.

In addition, his problem solving abilities were off the charts, allowing him to think through complex problems far faster than anyone ever recorded. Though his mind was exceptional, it didn't help him with relating to others, and he often retreated into books early on as a means of escape. Through Renata’s gentle prodding and his friendship with Leto, another resident, he’d managed to grow into a well adjusted young man.

They'd set up acrobatic equipment at the top of this skyscraper in order to see if external conditions could affect his talents in the real world. The equipment on the rooftop was designed to task even his physical prowess to their limits, which was fine by him.  Seventeen cameras were filming his every move while he progressed through the obstacles provided for him. He back flipped, vaulted, cartwheeled spun, twisted and jumped with reckless abandon, while they recorded his every motion.

Sensors in the suit he was wearing monitored his heart rate, blood pressure and a number of other factors within his body. Leto, his best friend and another resident of the Center with uncanny grasp of mechanics and science, built this array of obstacles to constantly change the position and movement while he was on it. They’d made a bet shortly before his visit. If Foley fell, then he'd be buying Leto's Science magazine subscriptions for the year. If Foley won, then he'd get a customized setup in his rooms that did much the same thing as he was doing now.

Foley was in the middle of a backwards vault from a rotating sphere that was on a platform built to shift its height, and orientation at random intervals --even speed up the rotation of the ball on its access. He'd moved towards grab a series of rings that spun much like a Ferris wheel when it happened. To his right and behind him, he felt a whoosh of air, and saw bluish light from the corner of his eye. In mid vault, he grabbed the ring in a reverse grip, allowing him to change his orientation, flipping over to see what was happening. It took only an instant for him to evaluate the scene before him.

Foley had read more than his share of comic books and science fiction, so it was a simple thing to call it a wormhole because that's exactly what it was to him. The whoosh of air that he heard was not actually pouring out of the wormhole, but in fact being sucked into it even as the traveler exited the portal.  The traveler came through in an awkward backwards position, landing on her rump.  He said “she” in his mind because he could tell the being before him was shaped very much like a woman. The form fitting space suit clung to her like a second skin. He noticed upon seeing her land that she had on a space suit, but the helmet was in her hands -- its visor cracked.

Silky white hair whipped around her as she tried to scramble to her feet, moving quickly away from the portal. Her movements seemed disjointed and haphazard, like someone who was being pursued, and not just trying to get to safety. Renata was on the other side of his obstacle course, unable to entirely see the events as they unfolded.  He released the ring, vaulting in the direction of the portal, taking care not to land too close.

When he landed, he could see another traveler exit the portal. At that instant, he was overwhelmed for a moment by a terrible sense of dread and unease. For some reason, he felt a surge of anger spread through his limbs at the very sight of this traveler.  There was no reason for it –it felt like an instinctive reaction more than anything else. He just couldn’t quite place his finger on the reason why.

Like the first, she also wore what could be thought of as a space suit, though she did not move with the same sense of panic. This one was all business. The huntress moved with a sense of menace, leveling a rifle in the direction of the first traveler. In an instant, Foley embraced his vast understanding of science fiction. The weapon looked as though it was a beam weapon of some kind. he couldn't see any clips, though it was shaped like a heavy rifle. Was the blast concussive, or was disintegration its aim? He didn't know. He needed to know before doing anything stupid.

He watched the twitch in her arm as the muscles within pulled at the trigger mechanism. She moved with practiced precision. The huntress was so intent on her quarry that she didn’t notice him close the distance. He brought his hand down squarely on the top of the rifle pushing it down and away towards the lip of the rooftop as she pulled the trigger. A ball of energy about the size of a basketball leaped from the front emitter of her weapon --directed at the rooftop itself. It impacted in a ball of exploding light against the roof top spraying bricks and mortar outward from the top of the building. He watched the fragments. they appeared to be very close to remaining intact which meant that the weapon she was firing was concussive in nature.

She brought the rifle back up and struck him.  It was a clumsy blow --hitting him in the chest driving him up and backward. He used the momentum of her blow to reposition himself.  She didn't try to do what most people would --drive the gun back the way it came and level it at him --but instead she used her own momentum to continue pivoting in the direction of her blow, spinning completely around to bring the gun back to bear much more quickly and precisely. She was not quite as fast as he was by her movements but she was certainly able to keep time with him, bringing a new dimension to this confrontation.

He dropped low, bringing his leg around to kick her feet out from under her. She pitched backwards towards the edge of the roof, flipping expertly while casting the rifle to the side. She might not be as fast at him but she was apparently very well versed in the art of combat. He had noticed that the other traveler was nowhere near as proficient. The woman before him moved like a soldier. He felt his own pulse quicken. He’d been in a fight or two before, but this was the first time his life had ever actually been in danger.

He came to rest on his feet between the huntress and her prey. She came to rest in a crouching position --her hands already reaching across her, presumably towards some less bulky, but sufficiently powerful weapon. Her arm flashed outward, unsheathing a light, straight bladed weapon a little less than on meter in length. He'd watched her movements for only a few seconds but that was more than enough to gage her speed and limitations.

He held his position. He'd hoped desperately that his refusal to back down would make her pause, but the huntress was not swayed for a moment. She advanced towards him, and again he felt a surge of anger. He heard an unfamiliar hum emanate from behind him. He cocked his head to the side for a split second; enough to get a glimpse of two more aliens exit the portal in the air behind them. The two above were similarly armed as the huntress before him with similar markings on their suits. Through some alien means, they were hovering above, bringing their weapons to bear on him!

She lunged, thrusting her blade in front of her. Thrusts were difficult to evade in swordplay as he'd seen in many demonstrations. He did not have a sword, so there was no point in acting as though he did. If the weapons were still being leveled at him, then it presented him with a unique solution to his predicament. He could hear the click as the lead fired his weapon at his back. The other fired for the path he was most likely to take away from the side of the roof, figuring that the pattern would get him if he tried to dodge.

He didn't try to dodge her thrust immediately. Instead he waited until her blade was a hair's breadth away from his belly, then he spun towards the edge of the roof around her thrust. Expecting to meet resistance from his flesh, she continued her forward motion --committed to the action. He could tell that she'd realized her error too late as he clasped the belt of her space suit, pushing her forward into the blast of her comrade’s weapon. What hit her was pure concussive force, driving her down into the roof of the building, buckling the small section of roof where she struck, pressed down by the force and direction of the blast.

Renata moved as well. She was his caretaker, but like all of the staff of the Center, she was also tasked with his protection as well. During the seconds he'd been moving, Renata drew her weapon. She assessed the threat and moved to assist him, leveling her Smith and Wesson MP .40 at the lead shooter in the sky. Renata was a tactical shooter and would aim for the back of his suit --center mass. Her weapon barked twice, puncturing his space suit, tearing through its fabric and deep into his flesh. The alien shuddered violently then stopped moving, still hovering in the air above the rooftop.

Foley remained in motion, rolling towards the gun the huntress had cast aside. He gripped its handle as he tucked it under and spun, bringing it up to fire at the two in the air above. The third alien whipped around towards Renata in order to ward off the threat from behind but he was nowhere near as quick enough. Foley pulled the trigger as soon as he brought the weapon to bear sending a ball of energy hurtling towards the alien. Engulfed in the concussive blast, he tumbled to the rooftop.

Foley turned his attention towards the first alien to exit the portal. Barely four or five seconds passed and she managed to get to her feet, but her legs were shaky. He cast the weapon to the floor and took a tentative step towards her. She retreated a step, looking nervously over her shoulder at Renata who kept her weapon trained on her. Foley raised his hand to warn Renata to freeze. Renata held her position and watched carefully.

The alien had humanoid features. Her hair was silver --not the silver of someone who's lost their hair color with age, but shiny, lustrous silver. She had a luminous, complimentary grey complexion that seemed to go with her hair. Her eyes were solid white and seemed to glow. She coughed hard and dropped to her knees. He took a step towards her, but she threw her hand up in a pleading gesture to leave her be. She coughed again several times violently until she gasped and took in a deeper breath of air.

She didn't have a chance to protest as he reached her side in mid cough, grabbing her gently by the shoulders and helping her back upright. The instant her eyes locked with his they began to take a more human guise, forming deep iridescent blue irises. Her skin took a more human tone, becoming a rich caramel brown like his; her hair darkened to jet black. Within few moments, she assumed a human appearance of a young girl approximately his age, perhaps a little younger. She gasped, looking more than a little puzzled and scared, pulling the gloves from her hands and looking at her them as though she were seeing herself for the first time. Her eyes widened in horror as she looked over his shoulder and gasped.

He'd made a mistake.

He smelled the hint of burning ozone as the air past his left ear burned with the energy of the laser shot. With Renata where she was, she couldn't see that the huntress regained her senses and tried to fire a shot at them both. Whether or not it was a warning, or she was still groggy from the blast he didn't know nor care. He grabbed her by the shoulder, pushing them both to the right and out of the way. She sensed his motion and did her best to move with him but she was nowhere near as adept at the motion of battle. Another shot passed just where their heads had been a moment ago. Renata didn't have enough time to set for a shot and move at the same time, so she fired several shots to back her down from drawing a bead on the two of them.

Her shots went wide on either side of the huntress. Foley recognized what she going to try to get in between the two of them and the huntress to allow him time to move. She leapt from her perch turning sideways and firing her pistol as she did so. The huntress had collected her senses quickly and moved into a crouching position with a clear bead on them both. A  bubble of concussive energy came from the air above. The blast hit underneath Renata, propelling her with greater speed up and outwards over the side of the building.

He couldn’t leave the woman in front of him, and save Renata at the same time. He felt very deeply that the consequences would be disastrous if she fell into the hands of the huntress—though he couldn’t fathom why he felt that way. In a split second, his mind sifted through his options, calculating trajectory, force, and the reaction speed of his opponents. Without hesitation, he grabbed the startled woman in front of him, and flung her with all his might over the side of the roof.

She sailed over the ledge. Physically, Foley was many times stronger than he looked. His entire body had been tested, and along with his agility and balance, his physical strength was considered prodigious. The doctors observed his entire physiology had naturally developed to be more efficient than even the finest human athlete.   

He pushed his body to the absolute limit, bounding over the rooftop after the two of them, marking their respective trajectories instantaneously. Renata's motion moved in  a slow arc up and over the railing, while the woman in the space suit had more lateral momentum. Renata would begin her descent to the street below before the alien girl ceased moving forward and begun to fall as well. He intended to catch Renata before then and throw her through the window of the office building across from them.  He used his greater momentum to overtake her.

His heart pounded, but he remained in control. Renata had gone limp and released her weapon as she sailed over the railing. He plucked it from the air as he rotated past her. He aimed with one hand and fired at the window while upside down and spinning forward. The glass shattered as he tucked the gun into his waistband and caught her by the lapel of her blazer. Bringing her around him, he flung her with all his might towards the window across the alley below them. She crashed through it and landed in a conference room --concussed, but still alive. With his forward motion all but spent, he straightened out and pointed himself downwards.

The alien woman was just beneath him as he'd intended, reaching out for him. He reached out as well, falling faster and faster until they clasped hands. They both ended up falling together head first as he grasped her tightly and pulled her to him. They fell as one mass towards the street below. He'd marked the positions of the wires that spanned from building to building beneath them, taking note of their position. If he grabbed for a wire too close to the ground, their velocity would snap it, and they would continue to a sudden stop and death on the pavement below.

He looked for a higher wire closer to the side of one of the buildings. Catching a wire at the end and allowing the slow arc of its swing to redirect their motion would allow him to halt their descent. The only problem with that is that placement of the wire's other end could smash them both senseless if it's arc brought them into another building instead of through a window, or towards a softer landing spot than the streets below them.

She managed to reposition herself as they fell so that her legs were wrapped around his midsection and his arms around his neck. She held tightly to him as he pulled the Smith and Wesson from his belt and fired three shots at the base connector of the wire. The third shot dislodged the wire from its connecting harness. He reached out with both hands, and grabbed the end of the wire at the connecting bell as they passed it, where he could grip tightly. As they dropped, he felt the tug of the wire begin to pull them in an arc away from the approaching ground.

They were still some four stories away from the ground as the base of the arc began to pull them away from the street. Glass shattered as he heard the report of the alien’s concussion rifle. The blasts rocked the building just above them, but they were now in the full arc of his swing moving away from the debris that exploded outward. The blast felt more intense than before. Apparently failing to capture their target meant seeing to her death was the alternative command. Capture or Kill.

"Hold on!” He shouted. He was amazed that he could get the words out, but he did.

She clutched him tightly as he could feel them moving now fully backwards and upwards on the backside of the swing. At this point, he had no idea of where they were going to hit as they came to the point in their arc where they were actually starting to move back upwards. He strained to look behind them at the last second. He'd made a blind calculation that they would end up facing towards windows but he was wrong. They were heading towards the brick face of the building across the street and behind where they had been. His body was going to hit hard concrete and he knew that it would break. He only hoped that when that happened, he would be able to turn them so that his back remained towards the ground for the rest of their fall.

For the first time in his life, he felt fear. Not fear that he would die, but fear that he would fail. This was an impossible situation. They were going to hit a smaller tenement building across from the backside of the skyscraper. More shots, though this time they were not directed at him. There were more flashes of light and the pressure wave of impacts behind them. Images in flooded his mind. He could see the building behind them being obliterated by concussive blasts just behind where they were going to hit. He couldn’t see it directly, but somehow he knew that she could see it.

At the last second, he'd felt them slow far more than they should have.

“Null Motion pulse”came into his mind in a distinctly feminine voice. She was communicating with him!

The shot was wide so that they only skirted the outer portion of the pulse. Had she been more accurate, they would have stopped altogether.  Images flooded his mind and he somehow knew that a null motion pulse was a capture weapon that nullified kinetic energy within an area.

His back impacted against an interior drywall instead of the outer wall of the building. The impact nearly knocked them both senseless but he managed to feel effects of the Null motion pulse rob them of velocity just before their impact. Still, his hands were on fire and he'd cracked his ribs with the impact. There was a large chunk of the building suspended by the null pulse in front of the building. The huntress destroyed the side of the building then fired the null motion pulse. She wanted her prize intact.

"Three seconds"came to his mind. 

He knew now that the thoughts were hers. She was telepathic. He suppressed a chuckle at the thought that a comic books and sci-fi actually had concrete value in this encounter. The huntress needed her alive and for some reason he knew that she would have to take them both but her thoughts were not clear enough to pull the reason from her mind. The size of the corner chunk of building was huge, and while it wasn't a perfect plan, he knew what he had to do to give them both some time.

"Two seconds."

He moved forward toward s the debris as fast as his legs would carry them both. The Null motion pulse was localized to a small epicenter, with the field dissipating as it moved outward. By the looks of it the center of the pulse was directly beneath the exploded sections of building suspended over the street below. The corner of the structure had come off in one big piece, with enough room for them to hide beneath if it landed properly.

"One second."

He was reaching the edge of the building's demolished wall as he leaped forward carrying them her with him. His timing was right as he felt the field dissipate as the rubble resumed its motion downwards. He’d gotten them both under the largest section of rubble --the top corner portion of the building, as it fell. They fell underneath it towards the street below. Foley's acrobatic skills were such that a fall from two to three stories was something he could survive with difficulty if he landed properly. He did. The Chunk of building however, did not land entirely in one piece and the sidewalk and rubble collapsed beneath them both. They both ended up as mice underneath a teacup --trapped underneath the rubble. 

The End

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