Monday, January 31, 2011

The Unstoppable (Chapter Eight)

Chapter Eight: Black Envelopes

Standing on the train as it rolled quietly down the track, I could hardly believe it had been just six hours since I'd watched Candi hand Tony that fateful black envelope. I still didn't know what they meant, those slips of paper enclosed in dark wrapping. I still felt overwhelmed and out of my depth.

Sabrina reached into my jacket quite frankly then and with no warning. Her fingers searched about for a few very uncomfortable seconds until she found the holster. After curving her hand around the grip, she withdrew, apparently satisfied. I had half expected her to draw the weapon, but apparently she wasn't interested just yet.

"Alright, let's get going." Sabrina urged. "Mission's still on, yes? He's on the train somewhere, I know that much. I can only assume he would be in the front, where the controls are. Maybe we can take him by surprise."

We rounded a corner and the lights flickered ominously. It was getting darker outside as the day progressed. I nodded and made for the door that led to the next car of the train. An automatic door with a little window slid aside for me, making the transition surprisingly easy. This cab was identical to the last, plush red cushions all in neat rows.

And no people.

Moving cautiously, we made for the next car. I wasn't sure how long the train was. I hoped Sabrina knew. I didn't want to stumble on Super Hobo without warning. I looked out the windows, watching the city quickly sliding by.

"You wanna draw that gun now?" Sabrina asked. "We're only going to get one chance to take this guy out." The gun. It was as awkward as ever where it lay against my shirt. I reached into my jacket, letting my own hand fumble against the grip.

"This gun could save us, yes, but it could also get us killed. I should empty the clip and throw it away." I made a motion to do exactly that, but Sabrina snatched it from my hand.

"That's a risk I'm willing to take. If you can't handle it, I'll hold onto it." I shrugged and moved on. I could heal from almost anything. It was her choice if she wanted a weapon around that could wind up being turned against her.

If we failed right now, that was exactly what would happen. The next cab was as empty as the last, and so was the next. Nothing broke the monotony until Sabrina finally spoke up. "This is the last passenger car. The engine is right through that door." Holding her gun, she reached into her pocket, fumbling for something. A little vial.

The automatic door in question was just like all the others. The only difference this time was, there was no window. No way to see in or out. No way to know what was waiting for us.

Also unlike the other doors, as we snuck close this one didn't immediately open for us. I was relieved at this, because I wanted a minute to mentally compose myself before we dove in. I didn't get it, however. The moment we were leaned against the wall by the entry, Sabrina slapped a button, opening the door.

It opened into a control booth occupied by panels of buttons and levers. Windows opened up on all sides to show us a world being taken over by the slow pull of twilight. There were two men inside, one in the uniform of a train engineer, the other an old man dressed in ragged clothing.

The puppeteer.

All this took mere seconds to absorb. By then I had a had raised and ready, lightning crackling at my fingertips. Sabrina raised the gun and fired a shot, but her arm didn't obey her aim. It swung to me and shot me in the chest. As before, I felt a white-hot flash of pain in my chest. I wanted to drop to the floor then and there, but I locked my knees and grit my teeth, standing my ground. The wound healed quickly enough, but being shot was still being shot.

At that point, I was about to let fly with a burst of lightning, but Sabrina was suddenly in the way. The vagrant was using her as a human shield. I was conflicted. I could try to knock him back with my telekinesis, but my control was shaky at best.

Before I could do a thing, Sabrina had walked behind the puppeteer and was wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "No!" She screamed in protest. "You don't know the rules! You'll get us both kil-" Her panicked scream cut off as she disappeared from sight.

Now that my view of the track the train slid down was unobscured, I could see a man emerging from the mist. It was the bomber who'd nearly blown me up in the empty lot. His stance was casual, as if standing before a barreling was something he did every day. There could only be one reason someone would stand like that.

He was going to derail the train.

Now that he was out in the fading light of day, I could make out a few details I hadn't before. My adversary had long hair bound up in a pony tail, and was dressed in a long gray trench coat. He upraised one hand, and I saw another of those slim black cylinders appear.

The way I saw it, I had two options.

I could let him bring down the train.

Or I could try to hurl his little explosive back at him. I might kill him, but I would probably damage the track.

And then the trail would be flying from the rails anyhow anyhow.

Realizing escape was my best option, I turned to run back the way we’d come. I burst through the door back into that first passenger car. I had almost made it to the entry to the next car when the engine exploded behind me. The explosion knocked me clean off my feet. As the train began to slip from its moorings to the ground below, I was hurled over the seats to hit the windows on one wall. They shattered on impact, razor shards of glass cutting every unprotected inch of my skin to ribbons.

I felt another impact as the car hit the street, could hear the asphault being ground to bits. Cars screeched to a halt under this unprecedented rampage into their territory. I came to a rolling halt on the center aisle, battered and beat to hell. My blood had left red patterns on everything. The windows, all variously spiderweb cracked or completely gone, had taken their toll on me.

Just when I was catching my breath, thinking it was all over, and my wounds were fading into memory and oblivion, it began again. Another car derailed right on top of mine. The mostly unharmed windows on the other side shattered as the integrity of the other side began to buckle, bringing more glass raining down on top of me. This time however I managed to shield my body inside my jacket, allowing the worst of it to pass me by.

There was no time to flee, no time to react. More and more of the train began to rain down on me. One after another, like silver bullets hammering a tin can. The crash was the most catastrophic, mind blowing thing I’d ever experienced. I counted it a mercy when my attempt to stand met with failure, and a jarring finally threw my head into a wall hard enough for me to black out.

When I awoke, the train car I’d been trapped in was so horribly battered that either side had nearly been pressed together, with me being nearly squished between them. I crawled outside to find a world in frightening chaos. This was the second time I’d woken up from head trauma to find things having spiraled out in my absence. I decided I hated that feeling of helplessness. I resolved to be less careless next time. I knew this mess wasn’t exactly my fault, but I couldn’t help thinking I could have handled things differently.

My mind reeled as I thought over the next possible move. I made my way through a maze of random cars variously wrecked or stopped. It didn’t look like anyone but me had been seriously injured. The street I’d crashed into didn’t seem like it had been too heavily trafficked, which was surprising since rush hour was nearly upon us.

I found Sabrina and Super Hobo not far from the wreckage. They were at an intersection illuminated against the growing dark by a lonely streetlamp. We seemed to be in a bit of an abandoned corner. That explained the low impact we’d had, the delay in rescue workers arrival. Super Hobo was on his backside, trying to crawl away. Sabrina was clutching a wound in her belly, trying to reach my gun.

The gun that lay at my feet, I realized.

“Blackpool! Hurry up! Take him out!” I bent down and picked up the gun, examined it for a moment. Was I capable of shooting someone else? Could I willingly snuff out another man’s life. The vagrant was concentrating on me, gazing at me with ancient, pale blue eyes. I took a few steps closer, and the look intensified. He’s trying to take control of me, I thought. It’s not working.

His powers were useless against me.

“Come on Blackpool!” Sabrina cried in a strained voice. “Take the damn shot!” Emboldened, I took a few steps closer, lifted the gun to his forehead.

“Please…” the vagrant looked up at me with a pleading look on his face. “I surrender. No more tricks. You can take me into custody.”

“Agent Blackpool, take the shot. That’s an order.” Tony’s voice came from behind me. “And hurry up about it. This is some mess we’ve got on our hands.”

“He surrendered,” I replied meekly. “I can’t.”

“Do it Blackpool! Kill him right now or so help me God…” Before I knew what was happening, Tony lunged at me, wrestling the gun from my grasp again. Realizing the error I’d made, I half expected Tony, Sabrina or I to be the one that got shot, but Tony leveled my weapon at the vagrant.

“Sorry newbie, this mission was code black right from the start.”

“You can kill me,” the vagrant said, “but you can’t break the chain, the cycle of life. The Seed will bloom, and her flowers will choke you all.”

The man left the world with a bang, defeated at last. I realized I’d been holding my breath and let it out with a massive whoosh. “What is code black? What do the envelopes mean?”

“Assassination orders.” Tony replied tersely. He began to rummage through the corpse’s dirty old corpse till he found what he was looking for, the Oracle Sphere. “Take care of Officer Rathbone,” the senior officer ordered. I tore a strip off my shirt, making a bandage for what appeared to be a wicked knife wound in her abdomen. As I wrapped the skinny intelligence officer in my jacket, I asked her what happened.

“I sedated him, of course. You were pretty much useless, so I had to do something.” I remembered her messing with a little vial right before our assault. She must have hidden it in her hand so the vagrant wouldn’t know about it. "When we teleported down here, I nearly got away but he started to come around a lot faster than I anticipated. He managed to stick me with his switchblade before I could escape.

“I’m sorry,” I said vehemently. “Next time I promise I’ll do better.”

“Yeah well, we’ll see,” was her only answer. I graciously elected not to bring up the fact that she’d shot me.

“Is that Sphere thingie alright?” I asked Tony.

“Oh, it’s just dandy, newbie.” He brought the little device close to where I knelt and held it close to my face. Squeezing it tightly between his fingertips, it began to crack.

It was made of plastic.

“It’s… fake?”

“Oh yeah. This whole operation was a setup. Like I said, an assassination.” Agent Kramer’s face was lined with exhaustion and disgust. “That scumbag was the highest profile of high profile targets, one of the top dogs with the Seed. He was no hobo. He was in disguise so he could get close without arousing too much suspicion. Would have worked perfectly too if Rathbone hadn’t thought on her feet.”

Sabrina's already wan features turned white-hot with anger. "And you didn't think we might need to know what was really going on?"

"We needed to sell the fact that the Oracle Sphere was real. It needed to seem like an authentic mission."

"That's bullcrap." Sabrina replied. "I'd kill you right now if I could get ahold of that gun." Keeping us in the dark, that's Melville's thing, isn't it? I swear, he thinks we're all his lab rats sometimes."

"Trust me, all was as it needed to be." The agent said smoothly, unperturbed. We let the word slip about where the sphere was being kept, and then that it was due to be moved somewhere safer. Everything worked out perfectly on that end of things."

What hadn't worked out so well, apparently, was our getting taken by surprise, Tony getting shot, and the target escaping the bank without difficulty.

Of the second vell we'd encountered, the demolition man, there was no sign. Our success was obviously a mixed blessing. We'd succeeded, but the cost to the city was going to be astronomic. We weren't in charge of cleanup though, Tony assured me. While the cops and firefighters were coming out of the woodwork to mop up our mess, we simply fled.

Apparently being injured made teleportation difficult for Sabrina, so I had to carry her. After she refused to allow Tony to pick her up. We didn't have to go far. A taxi was waiting for us a few blocks from the wreck, as if the fact that our mission would end here had been anticipated all along.

Tony walked ahead and got the door, allowing me to gingerly lay the injured woman in my arms down. I slid in next to her and he followed. I sat back in those plush leather seats in clothes ragged and tattered. I was filthy and exhausted but largely unharmed. There was a tinted window keeping me from seeing who our driver was.

"Back to base." Tony ordered.

I laid back against the headrest, wondering if being shot, if shooting, if all this insanity, was something you could get used to. I didn't think so, but if I was ever going to survive, I knew I would have to find a way to adapt.

That was my first mission.

The light hadn't come yet.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have noticed I have some strange habits when it comes to writing. Breaking any of these bothers me a little bit, some more than others.

1. When I write in a coffee shop, I have to have my back to a wall. This is a privacy thing, because it weirds me out when someone reads something before I deem it acceptable to be read.

2. Each story has to have its own notebook. It bothers me to write the wrong story in the wrong notebook, so when I accidentally forget the notebook for the story I'm working on, I (usually) write something else.

3. Working without coffee or a hot drink throws me off a lot of the time. I have no idea why.

4. I always write with Bic blue or black ink pens. This isn't so strange I guess, because all other pens are doomed to fail me.

5. I always write in composition notebooks, though sometimes out of necessity I have written stories on legal pads, napkins, envelopes, and my arm.

6. I have a thesaurus and a dictionary at my desk, but I always use when I need to look something up.

7. When I am brainstorming a story in my head, I have to have to have to have a closed off cave where I cannot be disturbed or seen. Windows and doors must be shut, and music has to be on. If I get bothered during this time, I tend to get very irritable.

8. I get inspiration from the most random things imaginable. For example, I went to a motocross thing the other day, and while the motorcycle racing did not inspire me in the slightest, the star spangled banner beforehand gave me a crazy new idea.

So that's a little peak into my mind and the way my writing works. I'm actually pretty sure I'm only typing this because I'm breaking number three right now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Story So Far (Unstoppable Edition)

So. My new/old book, The Unstoppable is starting take shape. I think my experience writing That Hideous Slumber is helping me immensely. It's starting to flow a little better than it did the last time I tried writing it. If you haven't gotten the chance to check it out yet, I'm going to gather the first seven chapters here to make them a little easier to peruse. I love blogging, but it's less than ideal sometimes for posting books chapter by chapter.

The Unstoppable

Part One: Acceptance

Chapter One: The Inescapable

Chapter Two: Two Years From Yesterday

Chapter Three: Making Friends Everywhere I Go

Chapter Four: How I Got the Snot Blown Out of Me... Twice

Chapter Five: Bits and Pieces

Chapter Six: First Mission

Chapter Seven: The Vault and the Vagabond

Please note: While Chapters 1-5 have seen minimal editing, chapter six has been revised heavily and chapter seven has been rewritten from the ground up. Chapter eight is currently in progress, hopefully to be published online next week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Unstoppable (Chapter Seven)

The Unstoppable

Chapter Seven: The Vault and the Vagabond

The new gun I'd been issued weighed heavy against my chest as I ran. My team moved across a gravelly rooftop slick with cold, drizzling rain. I wasn't sure I liked the feel of the weapon at all. The leather holster strapped to my torso never seemed to lay right, feeling like a physical metaphor for my uneasy feelings about carrying the tiny instrument of destruction. Two months of training hadn't scrubbed the old me away just yet; I still felt more computer programmer than secret agent.

Tony, Sabrina and I were in the heart of suburbia, in a city just outside of Chicago called Naperville. I was following close behind Tony as we made towards our goal, a bank with a secret vault. Sabrina was a few steps behind me, bundled up against the cold in a thick sweatshirt with a furry hood.

I served as the glue for our merry band. Couldn't lag behind or I'd lose Tony, couldn't go too fast or Sabrina would be left behind. The buildings here were all close together, huddled as if hunched against the frosty afternoon air. It was the perfect way to surreptitiously get the drop on our target.

The mission, so far as I'd been told, was a robbery. The robbery of a certain very important artifact. We were to retrieve it before the bad guys could. The bad guys, in this case, was a terrorist group that called itself the Seed. Apparently they were a group of superpowered thugs who often made trouble for the Agency.

Tony came to a stop over an antique store. The roof here was smooth concrete, broken only by a satellite dish and one of those weird ventilation fans that's always spinning for no good reason. A wrought iron sign swayed in the breeze, hanging down below. Across the street our destination awaited. The bank looked friendly enough. Even the name sounded cheery. The Sunny Days Bank of Naperville.

I continued fiddling with my leather holster. "Nervous, newbie?" Tony asked me.

"I'm not entirely comfortable with this gun..." I replied.

"Oh man up, girlfriend." Sabrina muttered, pushing past me.

"Are you ready, Officer Rathbone?" Tony asked, all business. The girl nodded and began to remove her hoodie. I was surprised to learn then that she was in disguise, dressed in a gray skirt suit complete with a skinny black tie and a little golden nametag. The tag read "Aileen Carlson" and had a very cheerful looking sun with a smiling face in one corner.

Add to that mental picture a dark brown wig. That was the strangest part of the whole thing for me, because it made her look even more like Kate. Normally Sabrina had a short red pixie cut. Her disguise made her look more and less like the woman I'd been engaged to.

"I just hope everything is laid out the way it's supposed to be. I don't like following blueprints. Hate it, in fact." She sighed and slipped off a pair of ratty sneakers, swapping them for a pair of tall black heels. It was an odd sight for me, as Kate had hated dressing up and avoided it whenever she could. Sabrina sighed again, seeming uncomfortable in her dressy outfit. Maybe they weren't as different in personality as they seemed.

"You know the timetable we're working under," Tony replied distractedly. He hadn't taken his eyes off the bank or the surrounding streets below once since we'd arrived. "Now get going. It's already oh four hundred hours, we need to be in and out."

"Oh you got it sugar," the girl said in a pitch perfect southern drawl. "Aileen" nodded again and closed her eyes, taking a slow, deep breath. After a moment, she vanished from sight. Sabrina's power, I'd learned, was teleportation. Even though I hadn't been briefed very thoroughly on the mission, I should have guessed she would be helping us infiltrate using her abilities. It certainly explained why she was dressed as a teller.

What little I did understand, was that terrorists were seeking out a high-tech object called an Oracle Sphere. Apparently it was a little device that could pinpoint the locations of neophytes, people with superpowers. In short, a recruitment tool without peer. Incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands.

I began to pace impatiently, fiddling with my gun holster. Finally Tony ordered me to sit down. "You're going to call attention to us," he muttered. "Relax, buddy."

"Is there a point where I'm going to be filled in on the plan?" I whispered back. I wasn't sure why I was whispering now. There had been no precedent.

"Sure thing, newbie." Tony replied at a normal volume. "Sabrina is doing most of the work on this one. We're just here for backup, in case things get rough. We're expecting the Seed to try something. They've been after the Oracle Sphere for years. Eight hours ago we learned its location had been leaked, so we're going to retrieve it and move it."

"Why all the secrecy?" I asked. "Why not just go in and get it?" We had a veritable army of agents that could show up to help us out.

Tony hesitated. "Remember when I mentioned we were kind of robbing the bank? The uhh, Oracle Sphere, it... yeah it definitely doesn't belong to us." The older man pulled out a tiny handheld radio. "Alright Rathbone... you in position?"

I could barely hear Sabrina's whispered reply. "On my way. Give me a minute."

We waited on pins and needles for the next word from the agent. There was a long, tense moment of silence. Suddenly, I heard gunfire. Two shots. Tony jumped to his feet and ran to the far edge of the building, opposite the way we'd come. A fire escape ran down to the ground.

"Sabrina, what's going on!" He practically yelled into the radio. We pounded our way down the rattling iron stairs, throwing stealth out the window. I sprinted after him across the street, straining my ears to hear her reply, if there was going to be one at all.

Finally as we reached the glass doors that lead within she spoke. "I'm ok," She said breathlessly, sounding a little rattled. Two men are robbing the bank right now. This can't be a coincidence."

Tony looked at me, seeming to be formulating a plan. "She's right. This can't be a simple bank robbery. These guys might be Seed. They probably have powers, so stay sharp. We're going to go in, do our best to incapacitate them, but if they open fire, we shoot to kill, comprende?" I nodded. The gun still made me uncomfortable, but I didn't say anything.

Tony drew his gun and threw the door open. Both of us moved in slowly. Tony projected an image of two little old ladies wandering cluelessly into the bank. It wouldn't last long but it would give us a moment or two to take stock of the situation.

There wasn't much to tell. The little bank was littered with patrons on their hands and knees. Two masked men stood before the counter, screaming demands at a flustered teller whilst waving handguns around. There was no sign of Sabrina.

One of the men turned to regard us as the glass doors slid shut. The door wasn't terribly loud, but the scraping as it closed was the only sound to be heard in the room beyond the robbers own yelling. "Beat it, Grandma, bank's closed for the day."

The crook, face obscured by a black ski mask, stared for a moment, no doubt sensing something was off to what he was looking at. I had often noticed that there was an odd shimmering quality to the edges of one of Tony's illusions, like it didn't quite blend with its surroundings. The more people he had to fool, the more strained his powers became, making it harder and harder to keep the deception going.

His comrade threw his gun away and fired a bolt of electricity at me. I barely had time to throw myself to the ground as the long, arcing blast of lightning hit the panes of glass in the entry behind me. I rolled on the ground and brought myself up into a firing position as the sound of shattering filled my ears. I quickly funneled all my adrenaline into my own lighting strike.

The only difference was... I didn't miss.

The robber was hurled head over heels right over the counter. Despite all his talk of merely taking our foes out of commission, Tony shot the other one in the head. The bullet simply bounced off, however, pinging away into some far off corner. I leapt to my feet and fired off more lightning, hitting my adversary squarely in the chest. He didn't flinch.

I was running forward at this point, igniting my hands in flames that licked all the way up to my elbows. I punched the robber in the jaw, but it was like hitting granite. Zero give. It was lucky for me that when I used fire I gained a bit of invulnerability, otherwise I would have broken every bone in my hand for certain.

The thief took his own opportunity to drive one of his fists home, but it had little more effect that my attack. I staggered back a little bit under the force of the blow, but I felt no pain. With a low gutteral scream Tony suddenly threw himself at the thief and wrapped his arms around his neck, snapping it with a sudden twist.

"Looks like his neck is still breakable," Tony declared. I could only stare dumbfounded as Tony let the body drop to the ground. It fell in an awkward heap while the agent hopped the counter and handcuffed the one I'd taken out. My second big battle, over. It didn't seem like my heart was ever going to stop pounding.

Sabrina popped her head up as things began to settle down. She'd been hiding underneath a desk nearby, it seemed. "Cut that one a little close, didn't we? What were you two doing up there? Holding hands?"

"Simmer down, Rathbone. We came as soon as we could." Tony replied in an urgent whisper. "Now let's get a move on. This mission is still a go. Did you get the keys?" Sabrina jangled a set of small keys on a ring in response.

To my surprise, we attempted no cover-up whatsoever with the hostages. We simply left them, even as they began to stir, realizing they were safe now. Guess we were going to let them think what they wanted.

We moved around the corner, following Sabrina through a sterile white corridor into a room filled with dozens upon dozens of tiny brass safes. Safety deposit boxes, I guessed. I kept expecting Sabrina to stop at the one we were here for, but instead, she kept going. The room quickly came to an end and we wound up facing a metal door with chipped green paint. Sabrina pulled out her keychain and began systematically trying each key. Outside I could hear sirens wailing away. The police would be here any second now.

Finally the teleporter found a key that worked and all three of us slipped inside. This next room was empty save for one wall that was occupied by a massive, circular vault door that seemed to made of steel and brass interlaced together. The imposing thing stood like a monument to unflagging permanence. It looked as though it had always been here, merely allowing the bank to be built around it as a matter of its own convenience.

"How are we going to get past that thing?" I asked.

Tony chuckled. "We're not." It was then that I noticed Sabrina wasn't standing with us anymore. After a moment, she reappeared again. Only this time she much more to my right than before, practically up against the wall.

With a loud click, something inside the door to the vault shifted. The silver colored parts of the door withdrew, and the gleaming monstrosity rolled aside. Within, we found a treasury of odd artifacts and strange, unidentifiable machines. I couldn't help gaping a bit, trying to take in all that I was seeing in the little room we now stood in.

Tony was entirely nonplussed, walking over to a little silver and blue orb. He inspected it closely before sliding the object into his pocket. "Mission accomplished. Let's get out of here." He waved for us to follow him. We trailed behind the senior agent as he led us through another dull white corridor into a room filled with cubicles.

An emergency exit beckoned not far off. It had been propped open, allowing bright gray light and the scent of rain to enter the room. I was confused at the time, but I later learned that Tony had bribed someone to leave us an escape route here. As we left the building I could hear commotion in the distance, both behind us inside the bank and around the corner near its front entrance. We were leaving not a moment to soon.

A homeless man leaned against the wall of the opposite building, half hidden in shadow. I could just make out the filthy, ragged clothing, and a wild, unkempt beard. I was afraid we were being watched, but the vagrant didn't seem to be paying any attention to us.

I looked to Tony for direction, a plan, whatever happened next. He was studying the little ball in his hands, a look of disappointment plain to see. This puzzled me, because I couldn't figure out why he should be disappointed.

All had gone as planned... hadn't it?

At that moment two cops raced around the corner, guns drawn. There were no words of warning, no preamble to violence, they just opened fire. Tony immediately ducked behind a nearby barrel, drawing his own weapon. Sabrina just teleported away.

Me? I took a bullet to the chest. Gasping with pain, I tried to use my telekinesis to fling both of the men away. I still could not control my abilities however, and one was sent flying towards the street while the other didn't even get his freaking hair ruffled.

I staggered behind a dumpster, holding a palm to the wound in my ribcage now gushing blood. A sudden ping sounded as a bullet hit the asphalt at my feet. I felt at the little opening in my chest and found that it had healed itself, my body spitting out the lead projectile like it was nothing. Despite the hole in a shirt now stained red, I felt perfectly fine.

I peeked around the corner where I was hiding to see that Tony and the cop were still exchanging fire. I glanced about, wary that another adversary might show up. After all, the door leading into the bank was still gaping wide open.

The homeless man wasn't leaning disinterestedly against the wall anymore. He was staring intently at the fight, occasionally seeming to mumble and wiggle his fingers in an odd way. It took me a moment to realize that his right hand, the way it jerked, it was mimicking the way someone would fire a gun, despite being aimed at the ground. And totally empty.

Leaving the cop to Tony, I moved in to investigate. "Hey!" I called out. "Get out of here! Official government business." I'd been taught never to give away who I worked for. To say that it was official and government related was usually enough. Only higher ups in the government and actual members of the Agency knew of the department's existence, and that was the way it needed to stay.

The man ignored me, continuing in his odd contortions. I was beginning to suspect that he was controlling the policemen somehow, like a sinister puppeteer. I didn't want either them or Tony to be hurt, so I decided it was time to try driving the unsettling old man away.

Was I angry or afraid?

The moment I raised a hand to attack, anger won out. I was irritated at this interruption when we'd been so close to completing our goal and returning to safety. A fireball appeared in the center of my palm, then grew to engulf my entire hand. I was ready to hurl it at the vagrant when he booked it. Behind me, I heard a clattering as the cop dropped to the ground like an abandoned rag doll.

I gave chase, wanting to apprehend the man. Further into the dank corridor of the alley I ran. "Great!" I mumbled to myself. "Of all the vells in the world I could run into, I get Super Hobo." I followed as he rounded a corner, but the moment I came around, he'd vanished. There was nothing to see but another backstreet, this one looking even more dirty and disregarded than the last.

That, and a baseball bat being swung at my face.

I had no time to react before it battered my forehead, knocking me unconscious instantly. The last thing I saw was the face of the old man grinning wickedly.


I woke up sputtering in a pool of my own blood. I cautiously raised myself to a sitting position and felt at my scalp. There was a little blood, but no wound. According to my watch, I hadn't been out for long. A little less than a minute.

I doubled back to where I'd left Tony. I found him still crouched behind the barrel, clutching at a wound in his abdomen. Though the police officer still lay where he'd been dropped, somehow Tony had been shot. As I neared, he grabbed me by the arm. "He's got it... that old man. He took control of me, forced me to hand it over. You have to find him! I'll be all right!"

I nodded, feeling a little overwhelmed. "Which way did he go?"

Tony shook his head. "No clue... Find Sabrina. No doubt she teleported herself up to a rooftop somewhere nearby. She might have seen what happened."

I stepped back out toward the busy street waiting not far away. The bank was a hive of buzzing activity, policemen and former hostages interacting in the wake of the robbery. Robberies.

I turned the other way, not wanting to get caught up in the crowd and risk being recognized. But where was Sabrina? I looked at the rooftops looming above me. Rain fell towards my eyes. It was picking up, turning into a full fledged downpour.

As I looked upward feeling lost, Sabrina appeared next to me without warning. She grabbed me by the arm. "He went this way. I couldn't take watching you gape like a dumbfounded cod for one more second."

"I... I got knocked unconscious," I said defensively as we hurried down the street.

"Thank God! Hopefully it knocked something back in the right place!"

I couldn’t help wandering what people were thinking as we raced down the street, moving at a speed perhaps best described as breakneck. Sabrina had such a vice grip on my forearm I would have been tempted to think she had powers of super strength had I not known better. We ran through ever busier sections of the city, slowly moving from suburb to metropolis.

Suddenly Sabrina steered me away from the busy streets to an open field apparently occupied by a sprawling colony of prairie dogs, judging from the number of holes that dotted the ground. It was one of those uncultivated plots you can always find in a midwestern suburb, a teeny patch of leftover wilderness yet unclaimed by concrete and steel.

And on the distant side of the field, a figure fleeing as fast as his ancient legs could carry him.

The vagrant.

“We have to be careful now,” Sabrina murmured. “If he uses his puppet powers he could kill us both.” Leaping over the little burrows that seemed to be everywhere, we quickly began to gain ground. Intent on getting away, the supposedly homeless vell hadn’t noticed us yet.

“Alright,” my fellow agent whispered furiously. “Use your flamey powers! Take him out!” We were quickly running out of field, with thirty yards still between us. Beyond, I could see a train station on a raised track emerging from the mist. People milled about everywhere, in the train, on the platform. Dozens of people, just waiting for our adversary to take control of.

Not good.

Very very not good.

I tried to pick up the pace, wanting to move a little faster. Someone else had different ideas however. Before I could reach the sidewalk, before I could use my “flamey powers” an explosion knocked me off my feet and sent me flying. I would have been flipped sideways right into agent Sabrina Rathbone but she’d vanished on me again.

Half my body was burned, my right leg mangled up from the knee down. I’d been struck without any sort of warning, given no chance to defend myself. It didn’t take my body long to regenerate, but it was certainly giving the homeless man a hefty head start. Luckily the blast had been a near miss rather than a direct hit, otherwise I wasn’t sure I would be on my feet thirty seconds later. I wasn’t sure if dying was something my body could regenerate back from, and I hoped I never had to find out.

For a moment I lay there, too stunned to move. Get back on your feet, I told myself. I got up slowly, wary for another attack. I didn’t think Super Hobo could create explosions, so he had to have some sort of accomplice. But where was he? There were storefronts on two sides, but to my right, where the blast had seemed to originate, there was a line of scraggly trees whose shadows could probably hide a vell with a deathwish.

I decided the best thing to do was to wait, let my adversary make his move. I crouched low, wondering what would happen next. I didn’t have to be patient for long. Seconds after the first blow, I saw a small dark shape moving through the rain. It seemed like a long thin stub, like a stick of dynamite with no fuse.

I pushed with my telekinetic abilities and sent it hurling back from whence it came. Another explosion ripped across the field halfway between my attacker and me. Not waiting any longer, I closed what little of the field was between as fast as my legs would carry me, wanted to get in quick.

My hope was that my attacker wouldn't be able to use his powers if I was too close. And if they weren't even a vell, then so much the better. You think twice about blowing someone to kingdom come if you can't do it without giving yourself a one way ticket to the same place.

I charged up close to the stunted little trees and found the dim shape of a man hiding in the shadows. He pulled his gun, but I threw myself into the brush to the right. The explosive thunderclap narrowly missed me as it tore through the misty afternoon air. Before he could fire again, I followed my training and slipped behind him, disabling him as best as I could, twisting his gun hand behind his back.

Then I juiced him up with enough electricity to drop him to the ground, letting my adrenaline rush fly from my fingertips. Once convinced the stunned vell was down for the count, I stepped back out into the empty lot, ready to renew the chase. I could only hope Sabrina had been able to keep an eye on our target.

To my horror it wasn't the intelligence officer waiting for me out there but a massive crowd surging forward silently. Every last one of them was targeting me as intently as cruise missiles. Further back, I could see the train just beginning to leave the station.

I froze, uncertain as to what my next move should be. I was fairly certain they were all innocent bystanders somehow under the influence of the human puppeteer, so I didn't want to hurt them. Before I could make up my mind to flee, Sabrina appeared suddenly right in front of me. The crowd was so close then I could barely focus on her face.

The agent lunged forward and wrapped her arms around me, pulling me uncomfortable close. "Dear God... please work," she breathed, closing her eyes tight. Before I ask her what that meant, or even get the chance to register alarm, we were quite suddenly on the train. We collapsed in a heap on the floor. As we sorted ourselves out and stood, it rumbled quietly beneath our feet. But even then it was still louder than the eerily quiet mob that had been about to converge upon me.

We were in a passenger car, surrounded by red velvet. Every seat was padded with soft crimson cushions. I couldn't help staring longingly at the comfortable looking benches as I examined my new surroundings, but I knew there was no time to rest now. We had to come up with a plan, and quickly.

I looked at Sabrina, hoping she would have some idea of what to do next. She let her eyes drop to my chest, where my holster was still uncomfortably wrapped around my shirt. The weapon hadn't gotten any lighter.

Sabrina said only one thing, which didn't give me much hope at all.

"Please tell me you've still got that gun."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another poem.

So all my poems lately have been kind of dark, so I set out to write something a little lighter, to better communicate the way I feel. This poem was born, and I think I really really like it.

"Rumors of My Demise"

Rumors of my demise,
I tell you truthfully,
have not been exaggerated,
they've been truer than,
I'd ever care to admit
because I died once,
Right before your eyes,

I had a new truth,
to bring me back to life.
They told me to store your words,
like golden treasures,
so I hid them deep in my head,
and turned them into stories
and now I'm letting them fly one by one.

Open the shutters wide my dear,
we'll celebrate the day
with glad hearts,
I'll sing of every happy memory,
I kissed my gravestone goodbye,
kissed my good luck good night,
because I don't need luck anymore,
I have love I can't understand,
and that will be infinitely enough,
to be forever overwhelmed
by infinity and enough.

New poem

Guess I had a little more in me. This poem is pretty similar to my other recent writing. Blah blah filler for buzz and rss feeds blah blah let me know what you think blah blah blah. Chapter Seven of the Unstoppable blah blah almost blah finished blah blah.

"Both Eyes Black"

I heard a siren in the walls,
a calling from beyond the veil.
There was a song with sweeter words,
waiting just beyond the lantern light.
With my eyes closed I stepped into the darkness

Now I've got both eyes black,
and I can't see straight enough to walk,
lost in the dark,
I'm feeling my way,
don't know left from right
but I'm feeling my way.

Life gave me a beating,
fists in the face,
kick in the gut,
but I keep my spine straight,
because I know I don't need my eyes to see.

There was a great far thing,
I would have given all my blood for once,
but the payment wasn't in blood,
only pain.
if love assuredly is blind,
then perhaps my bruises
are meant to show me,
that great far thing I lack

Now I've got both eyes black,
and I can't see straight enough to walk,
Lost in the dark and feeling my way,
don't know up from down,
but I found your hand in the shadows,
and I'm not letting go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New poem #2

Ok... yes another poem. Guess I am on a roll right now. I am less conflicted about this one. I think I really like it. As always... let me know what you think. As to the meaning... hmmm.

Also... disclaimer: contrary to what these two somewhat dark, intense poems might suggest, I am not in any sort of emotional turmoil right now. Tonight's writing has been very cathartic though, I must say.


I've got lacerations on my hands,
a new scrape on my cheek,
raw red knuckles,
and bruises hiding beneath the surface,
violent purple storms just waiting to break,

If there's one thing I've learned
about me and you,
there's a razor wire wall
keeping us a apart,
I can't get closer,
without getting sliced up,
but I'm pushing through,
Close my eyes,
grit my teeth.
and tear my flesh apart.

It's dangerous persistence,
letting knives and needles embrace my skin
an iron maiden in the making,
there's pain like you ain't seen,
but I'm not letting go,
I'm not looking back.

My sacrifice is my survival,
I will never turn back,
I will give up everything,
to lose myself in this.
To push through the pain
out the other side,
where only my heart remains,
where I won't need my skin.

New poem

New poem. Kind of long too. Not sure how I feel about this one... I haven't taken as immediate a liking to it as I did my last. Still... it seems decent enough to post, even though the tone is a little sad at parts. It's based on some things I have been going through lately. It was also kind of inspired by the song "Stitches" by Switchfoot that I have been addicted to lately, though they aren't really all that similar except in name. As always, please post your thoughts.

"The Stitch"

Patterns run my days,
hem in all my nights,
My empty bed haunts mocks and torments,
I climb within alone,
and wake up the same same same.
Though my head is full of ever shifting stories,
there is one that never ever changes.

I've watched my dreams fizzle out,
like a falling star's earthbound shot,
like candles on a birthday cake,
all spent and cold.

Ships colliding in the night,
stars that don't fall,
permanent stars are dancing on the waves,
watching while the wrecks slip into the water
The breaking is so loud from here,
but deep, deep in the water,
all is hushed blackness.

Words more and more beautiful,
dance around my head,
spinning like lost comets 'round the sun,
and I've found a tiny spark that never dies,
dwelling somewhere deep within my heart,
though it may all seem so sad,
I have the words,
golden truth and pure story.

And while the nightmares are eating me,
and sleep is no comfort,
I'll change the pattern to something new,
I'll stitch myself a new dream,
A new horizon to reach towards.
The needle in my hand,
to pierce my heart,
all by Your endlessly beautiful design.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

All the news that's print in fits

I guess I have more fans than I thought. I checked out my stats today and found a couple websites I'd never heard of before that are linking to my blog. They both seem kind of random, but I'm certainly not going to complain. Might even put links up to their sites in the near future.

In other news, I am still working on chapter seven of The Unstoppable. It has been, I must admit, terribly slow going. I haven't been able to get into a groove for this story at all yet. I'm hoping this will turn around soon, otherwise I might consider moving on. Though I have to be careful with this. I really really REALLY don't want to fall back on the habits that made it so hard for me to be productive before.

I've been learning the importance of going with your gut a lot lately. With some exceptions, I think I generally tend to doubt myself too much. With That Hideous Slumber I had to compromise constantly between what my imagination created and what actually flowed on paper. I guess I shouldn't expect this story to be any different.

So... not much new to report. I am really hoping that the new chapter seven doesn't disappoint me. I want to get rolling with a new story. But at the same time, I think, for some reason, that I'm procrastinating on finishing my last book. I haven't finished editing, and I haven't begun to look for a publisher yet. I think it seems like such a mountain to move that I'm finding it easier to simply bury myself in the next story and tell myself I'll worry about it later... but I guess that's a trust issue if ever there was one. With faith we can move mountains of any shape and size... without it... they remain.

I have had little faith lately, so I have accomplished little. But, with faith, patience, endurance, and yes, trusting in the writing ability God gave me... I can accomplish this. Lack of confidence has always been a problem for me, but I say that there is nothing wrong with that sort of lack... as long as I replace it with confidence (faith) in God.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Unstoppable (Chapter Six)

The Unstoppable

Chapter Six: First Mission

I've heard it said, a dozen times in as many ways, that something never comes from nothing. But in the weeks that followed that first day in the laboratory, I couldn't help feeling like my new life had simply appeared out of thin air. Like a flower growing from concrete, it seemed to flourish without soil or water or sunlight. A mystery.

I use this analogy because it had no root. My past was feeling more and more like a blank to me as my time in the other world seemed to fade from reality. I became more and more convinced it was all a dream, and that I'd never really known a Kate, or gone to a university in Dallas to study business. That my family had never drowned or scattered after a horrible car wreck.

Life became simpler, in a lot of ways. I soon found I now lived in (or rather, underneath) a seemingly abandoned office park. The buildings sprawled across a weed chocked block in the slums of a suburb outside greater Chicago. I didn't have to worry about classes, or a job, or taking care of myself anymore.

You'll have to forgive me for skipping ahead a little bit. Two months in fact. It's not that they weren't an incredible two months. If anything they were some of the most remarkable days of my life. But they were also painful, disorienting, and just plain hard.

I spent my days training. Firearms, martial arts, survival. I was given a crash course in everything a secret agent superhero could ever need to know. I worked with dozens of men and women who seemed to come from every walk of life and all shapes and sizes. There didn't seem to be any pattern to who got superpowers and who didn't. It was like a genetic lottery. You either win or you don't, but there's really not a thing on earth that could change your odds, for better or worse.

I spent my nights wallowing in misery. Getting over all I'd lost was no easy thing. Sure, it hadn't all been sunshine and roses, but whose life was? I ate up every ounce of training I could, working myself to the point of absolute exhaustion day after day. Stumbling into my bunk bone weary every night gave me a lot less time to think, after all.

Days of war, nights of grief.

Even though I could regenerate from every kind of wound imaginable, I dragged through life feeling as if I were riddled with hurts, my body aching from the depression.

I've also heard it said that time heals all wounds. Another seemingly mindless cliche, but in the end time did take it all away. It wasn't through attrition that the pain faded, however. It was more the inevitability of change. I soon grew tired of feeling like a rag doll, beat up by day and left to sit and fester at night. My comrades all had names but I could barely recall one of them on a given day, even after two weeks. A growing part of me wanted to live again, to break through all the sadness and leave it behind.

It was like the sun rising. Night always gives way to sunlight eventually. No matter what else changes, we can always count on the morning to come. And come it did, even if it didn't arrive in a way I ever would have expected...

Two months later...

"Okay, Blackpool. If you can break through this one, I'll not only do your laundry, I'll buy you lunch for a week."

We stood in the arena known as the "rumble room", a massive open space deep underground specifically for the purpose of testing abilities to the limit. The eager man from the lab, whose name was Tony something or other, stood about twenty feet away from me, looking earnest as ever.

I hesitated. The last two weeks had changed me, a metamorphosis I could not return from. I was learning to embrace violence, a frightening notion for someone like me. Someone who had always lived a peaceful life.

Or had I? Sometimes it was difficult to say. I hovered between two lives, and two worlds.

Tony's powers were all mental. He could control people like puppets for very brief periods of time. Some people were more susceptible to this, some were more difficult for him to hold. Tony could also create invisible barriers, and cause people to see things that weren't there. In short, he could also affect what they perceived.

I had proven somewhat adept at sparring with him, and he was fairly resilient, so we'd become workout partners of a sort, if not truly friends.

"Alright," I said, shrugging off my hesitation. "Let's do this."

But first, I should explain. As a mobilus, my powers were affected by my emotions. If I got angry, I had one power (flame), if I was afraid, another (lightning). People like me were considered to have a very short life expectancy, due to how incredibly difficult it could be to control our powers, when it means controlling our emotions.

But I was determined to prove it all wrong, and beat the statistic.

My feelings were also the source of my power, and they could make me strong. I still couldn't control some of them. I had yet to get water to obey me and freeze. I wasn't even sure what could trigger it. But I knew what came of fear, anger, and sadness and those I had in spades.

Luckily, flight, telekinesis and regeneration were not fueled by my thoughts, but I still found flying very difficult. And my telekinesis was wild at best. I usually wound up crushing or hurling into walls whatever I tried to pick up.

Ok, so back to our fight.

I struck first. I was always the one to strike first. I simply did not have the patience to wait and Tony could endure endlessly. Sometimes he would just stand there like a statue, relaxed. It was completely at odds with his personality, yet somehow he pulled it off.

I started out with a burst of lightning that flew from my fingertips in an arc, straight for his chest. A charge filled the air. At the last second possible my hand decided to swing upward to the ceiling as if it had changed its mind. My shot harmlessly crashed into the ceiling far above.

Rage, I needed to work myself into a rage. The handy thing about anger was, it didn't just give me the ability to create and control fire, it also made me completely indestructible. Which is a lot more pleasant than simple regeneration, let me tell you.

Today's response was swift. As I charged forward, closing the distance between us in seconds, he threw out a barrier that should have broken my nose. As it was it barely slowed me down. With a low snarl I leapt, throwing both my arms before me. Both my hands erupted in flame, and I let fly a pillar of fire that flew straight for his face.

This time, when he tried to control my mind, I felt it, and I resisted. Unable to divert my attack, he was forced to duck. He fell to the floor and began to roll aside. I would have landed right on top of him but my jump was cut short very roughly by another barrier. I slammed into it and was knocked in the other direction.

I landed on my feet and spun towards him, stretched my arms out, and fired again. This time the flames hit their mark, to my shock. Tony fell to the ground blazing. I let out a hoarse cry of shock and ran towards him, to help him put out the inferno. However, as soon as I got close, he disappeared.

Oh, shoot.

I'd been fooled.

Tony was behind me, of course. He wasted no time locking my right arm behind my back and slipping another arm around my neck, pinning me. "I've been saving that one," he said, I could practically hear the grin in his voice. "Wasn't sure you'd actually fall for it."

I was just about to try and shake him with a little jolt of lightning when a door chime interrupted our match. Candi, an older woman who acted as a sort of dispatch for the Agency, sauntered into the room. Everywhere she went, she walked slowly, no matter how urgent the issue was. It wouldn't matter if China was about to turn the country into a nuclear furnace or if your pizza delivery had arrived, she still walked that same steady pace. I didn’t know what the vell's powers were, but I was pretty confident I could rule out super speed.

Ignoring me, she handed Tony a large black envelope. At once Tony ripped it open and began studying the sheets of paper inside, a grim expression taking over his face. I’d seen black envelopes handed out a few times before, but I’d never been told what they meant.

"Agents Kramer and Blackpool, you have been activated. Your mission is priority two. You are to leave within three hours. You will be accompanied by IO Sabrina Rathbone." She spoke with a slight southern drawl that lent a lyrical quality to her voice. Without having looked at me once, Candi turned and walked away. Tony never treated me like an inferior, so it made it much easier to forget he was much higher up on the Agency totem pole than I was.

As Tony quietly studied our orders, I wrestled with what Candi had told him. I wasn’t sure I liked anything I’d heard. Missions were ranked by priority. The lower the number, the more important they were. I’d only heard a “two” get assigned once or twice. This wasn’t the worst news for me though. I was eager to get out in the field. No, worse would be working with Sabrina again, the intelligence officer (or IO) who looked just like Kate. We’d had a few runs in the past weeks, none of them pleasant. She didn’t seem to like me at all, which was just as well because the sight of her made me terribly uncomfortable.

And then there was that black envelope. It niggled at my mind. I wanted to ask Tony just what it meant, but I never got the chance. “Ready for your first mission, newbie?” He asked, looking up from the documents that had heretofore occupied his attention. He seemed distracted now, unfocused. “I’ve got to brief the IO, meet me at the elevators at 1400 on the dot. Civilian dress, light arms.” I nodded, the question forming on my lips, but he was gone.

So. A mission at long last. Two months hardly seemed like enough time, but nothing about this agency was normal. I didn't mind though.

I had to prove them wrong. I had a statistic to overcome.

The Unstoppable (Chapter five)

The Unstoppable

Chapter Five: Bits and Pieces

I didn't particularly want to die.

I definitely did not want to smash into the ground at high velocity and get pulverized to bits. The idea held no appeal to me. It's not that I wanted to fall, it was was that I couldn't figure out how the heck I was supposed to fly.

The office buildings were rushing by in a blur, all the windows running together into straight, continuous lines. I was slightly tempted to flap my arms like wings, but I didn't see that accomplishing much. But I knew there had to be a way, had to be.

I refused to entertain the other notion, that the man from the diner was crazy, and I couldn't fly at all. If that was the case, I would die in mere seconds. As the world grew larger and began to take on sharper definition, I gave up trying to concentrate, to push it.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to picture a bird, a giant bird of prey like an eagle or a condor. I imagined it gliding through the sky effortlessly. I focused on nothing but that feeling, that graceful weightlessness. In my head, clouds surround me as I float, thoughtlessly airborn. Neither flapping of wings nor mental exertion take place.

Just flight.

The loud blare of a semi-truck's air horn woke me from my day dream.

I was flying!

I'd stopped eight feet off the ground, only to narrowly miss getting hit by a truck. I managed to swerve in midair, but with my focus completely lost, I tumbled out of the air and right into an unoccupied table sitting outside a restaurant. The metal bent, and the top came disconnected from the legs. I could hear the patrons gasping but I saw nothing as the umbrella that had been firmly affixed inside the table had folded in on me.

Stumbling to my feet, I brushed the tattered remains of my clothes to little effect. They were still tattered remains. I glanced around, running a hand through my hair. Restaurant goers had dropped their conversations to stare. A waitress in the middle of pouring water from a pitcher was overflowing a glass.

I raised a hand and waved it towards them, as if brushing away their potential concern. "No worries...I'm fine. It's all good. I do stuff like that all the time. Parcour, you know?" And then I limped away, slipping past the wrought iron gate without a second glance back, trying my best to look as if falling out of the sky and hurtling into tables really was a normal, everyday thing for me...


It didn't take them long to find me.

This is probably at least partly due to the fact that I didn't even try to hide. I just sauntered along the sidewalk barefoot and half naked down one of the broad avenues of lovely Chicago.

People stared.

I knew from scoping out my reflection in a store window that I looked like I'd caught the wrong end of airplane turbine. My hair stuck out every which way, like I'd stuck my finger in an electrical socket. My shirt was all but gone, clinging to life by a few bare threads. And potentially most striking of all, every bit of bare skin was stained with blood, sweat, dust, and scorch marks.

About five minutes after my descent from the heavens, a black van pulled up beside me (with no markings of any kind, naturally). What windows it had were mirrored, keeping me from seeing even the driver. I turned towards it and waited patiently. A side door opened and six men in black suits and black shades armed all but literally to the teeth emerged from the darkness within, training six black rifles on my chest.

Not interested in fighting any more, I threw both hands up in the air. One of them beckoned me inside and I obediently entered the van. In an instant, I was roughly pushed into a sitting position. The door slammed closed and with a roar from the engine we were off.

I'm pretty sure they broke the speed limit.

I tried to rise and was pushed down again and strapped in. The cushion beneath me bounced and vibrated as the van tore through downtown. I could make out very little of the darkness, but I could roughly figure out where everyone was. Two sat on either side of me, and four more were somewhere behind us.

Dazzling light entered in as some sort of blanket or cloth was pushed aside. From the front passenger seat, the man from the diner leaned around his chair.
"Quite a day for you, isn't it." Not a question. "I should probably apologize for chucking you out that window, I didn't realize you were a neophyte. How long have you known about your powers?"

I thought for a moment, remembering the power surge at the hospital. Had that been me? I wasn't sure I wanted to be too free with details just yet. Did I want them to know I wasn't who everyone thought I was?

"Since I woke up this morning." Was all I said. The words came out hoarse, and I realized I was more exhausted than I thought. But I didn't see myself sleeping anytime soon, with my mind so awake.

"Well," the man said, seeming to read my mind, "You should probably sleep now. My name's Timothy Melville, but most people call me the Ferret. You'll find out why sooner or later..."

"I don't think I could sleep now," I responded, trying to look him in the eye despite all the light coming in from behind him.

"Oh, ho ho," He chuckled, "I wasn't asking. "You'll sleep now."

The man to my right began to stir. I heard more than saw him taking off a glove. He placed a hand against my neck, and suddenly the floor of the van seemed to rush up to meet me. I stayed strapped in where I was, but all the muted colors in the vehicle began to blur together, sending me spinning into darkness at dizzying speed.

But I had no time to be disoriented, for I did indeed sleep.


White lights.

Once more a florescent glow greeted my eyes as I awoke.

But this time it wasn't the lights alone that shone white, the whole room gleamed with it. I sat up, studying my colorless surroundings. I was in a laboratory. The very thought sent a shiver down my spine. Machines of unknown purpose loomed all around me, filling three sides of the room. The last side held only glass, and a large automatic door that led further into the lab.

The one thing I'd been afraid of most. Being poked and prodded and pulled apart. And yet, I seemed to be intact. Not even so much as an IV mark in my arm. My skin was clean, not a trace of the battle left to stain it. My old clothes were gone, too. Replaced with a simple white hospital gown.

I stretched out my left arm and studied it. Eleven years ago, the car wreck had left a slender white scar on the underside of my forearm. I'd all but forgotten about it, as I'd tried to forget everything about that night, but I had to know.

And so I turned my arm over, peering closely and found...

Nothing. My arm was blank as slate, the lightly tanned skin entirely unmarred.

Could it be possible? The other life, the car accidents, Kate, Texas, was it all a dream? And Adam Blackpool himself, born January 12 1985, was he real? Was I really Tom Anderson, born on the seventh of July 1986?

Somewhere in the distance, a door chirped. Footsteps sounded. Someone was coming for me, I knew it. The noise interrupted my musings, bringing me back to the present. I still didn't know whether the people who had taken me were my benefactors, or my captors.

I thought about playing dead and lying back down, but figured that would be foolish. They were probably on their way because they saw me sit up.

Muffled voices began to reach me, sounding like two people having a conversation. "Did you hear what the Ferret said about him?" A male voice questioned. "Everything about him... the charts, beyond the scale of anything he's..." I couldn't quite make out everything, but the voice sounded excited about whatever he was referring to. "...almost gave the Ferret a heart attack, and he says his head is still buzzing..."

A female voice spoke, in lower tones. Too quiet for me to understand. Her intonation sounded slightly familiar, although I couldn't quite place it.

After a moment the man spoke again, his voice growing more heated as he went on. "...of such a thing? Regeneration, telekinesis, psy... fire, ice, lightning, possibly even shapeshifting!"

The woman said something then, it sounded like an addition or correction to his list.

Were they talking about me? How could they possibly know so much?

And ice?

They lowered their voices suddenly, even further. As if passing someone they were afraid would overhear. When I heard them again they were within sight. But there were three of them. Two men and a woman. The woman seemed to be in the lead. She waved her hand at the door and it opened on command.

"...what we're here to find out," she said, as if in response to something. She spoke sharply, her stance and mannerisms severe. Everything about her seemed knife-like. Her words seemed more meant for cutting than for communication, ready and willing to inflict pain. Harsh Retorts and demeaning insults, to belittle the opponent. And the opponent, in this case, was everyone she spoke to. Ever.

Even so, with a frown fixed on her face along with glasses she'd never needed, and hair a shade to dark, I recognized her instantly. Her face had haunted me from the back of my mind ever since I'd woken up.


And yet, not Kate.

Her eyes were dark and icy. I saw nothing of the woman I'd fallen in love with inside them. My body began to grow cold, as if the temperature were plummeting. Kate-But-Not-Kate barely spared me a second glance, walking over to a machine a few feet from my bed to study a monitor of some kind. All the while I couldn't take my eyes off her, barely noticed the other two men in the room.

"What? Why are you staring at me?" she snarled. She turned to one of her companions and spoke loudly. "My God, I think the Ferret's picked up a retard."

For the first time, I turned my eyes to study the other occupants of the room. One had dark hair and what seemed to be a fairly brash, outgoing demeanor. He'd been quiet thus far only because he was studying me with eyes the size of the full moon. Some manner of misplaced adoration?

And the other one had green skin.

How did I miss that?

And it wasn't even pale green, like he'd been a little seasick lately or something. He was fairly bright, almost neon green, and he had strikingly lizard-like features. Eyes a little too far apart, face a little unnaturally narrow and pointed. Despite even this, I found my eyes drawn back to Kate again and again. I saw the other two men only in brief glimpses.

"Look," Kate-Not-Kate snapped, drawing my attention back to her, "I don't know if you've got a mental imbalance, or if your mother's the only woman you've ever laid eyes on, but if you keep staring at me, I swear to God we're gonna have problems, and by we I mean you. And by problems I mean you probably won't be having children."

It was as if someone had pulled out my heart while I wasn't looking, thrusting an icy hand in my chest. It left nothing but a lingering cold, an emptiness. How could this be?

Two years.

If the dates I'd been seeing on every clock and calender were true, it'd been two years since the car wreck. I wondered if that distance was real to her, if she'd been through terrible suffering all this time. And yet, she didn't seem to recognize me at all. What could account for such a change? Amnesia? But she seemed like a completely different person.

"I finally found the nerve and voice to speak. "Don't you...remember me, Kate?"

"Kate? Who is Kate? My name is Sabrina. Trust me, this is the first time we've seen each other. I would remember meeting a moron like you. I just met you and I already can't stand you." She adjusted the dark frame of her glasses and typed something into her computer. Both of the men waited by the door.

Guards, I realized. She really was the one in charge here. Once again I found myself sizing them up. I wondered what powers they had, and whether mine compared at all. If they had powers. How ridiculous to assume that everyone had such superpowers! But I couldn’t help it, my mind leapt towards the notion quickly, more apt to assume the supernatural than the normal, the rational.

I sighed. I wanted to know what was going on. I was tempted to ask what gave them the right to apprehend me, but remembered a few certain office buildings that would condemn me pretty handily. Before I could find the right words to ask for an explanation, for the coma, for my superpowers, for the way the world seemed to have been turned upside down, “Sabrina” spoke.

“I’m going to say this as slow as possible so you can understand me. If I need to anunciate better, just let me know. You’re not Spiderman, you’re not Superman, and this is no comic book, but you’ve got superpowers. Class 4. It's called being a vell. It comes from Latin, I believe. The original initiative was called Project Velle."

"Twelve years ago, the government started tracking people like you and me. It was then, back in 1996, that people with…abilities started turning up in large numbers. It’s thought there might have been others, earlier than that, but nobody really knows. There’s certainly nothing scientific on record.”

She walked over to a sink set into the wall to my left and filled a slender glass to the brim with water. She handed it to me along with two pills. "Swallow this." Was all she said. I took the glass and the pills but hesitated. "They're an immunization. Everyone has to take them. You'll find out why later." Not seeing the point in objecting now, I swallowed them with a brief sip of water. Without looking at me, she walked back to her computer and began her explanation anew.

“Now, you may wonder, ‘how is the government keeping this a secret?’ The simple answer is, they’re not. They don't have to. Nobody really wants this to go public. Nobody wants to be labeled as a freak, or ripped apart for science, or get their face plastered all over the news. Every once in awhile we have an incident here or there, but we never let them get very far. The world is suspicious of us, but it isn't sure what to believe."

While she spoke, I found myself staring at the glass in my hand. I traced my finger along the rim, trying to will the water to grow colder, to freeze. Nothing. If anything the liquid grew a bit warmer in proximity to my skin.

"Technically speaking though, we don't exist. We operate within several government outfits, but we're not tied exclusively or run by any of them. The FBI, CIA, NSA, we work for them all where necessary. But we're our own entity. We have a directer, we have agents, and we have missions, and fieldwork. And laboratories. We just don't have a name."

I opened my mouth to object, but I could think of nothing to say. I wanted to deny it as the ridiculous notion it was, but how could I, after what I'd been through? Sabrina waited patiently, turning back to her monitor to clack something on the keyboard.

"What...what happens now?" I stuttered. I'd always thought myself bright enough, but I couldn't help feeling like the dumbest person on earth. I just couldn't keep up.

"Simple. There are five classes of ability. You're a class four, second from the top. But you're also a mobilus. That means you probably have about three months to live. For the rest of your short life, we're going to feed you, clothe you, train you, and give you work..."

"And then, sooner or are beyond a shadow of a doubt going to die."

The Unstoppable (Chapter Four)

The Unstoppable

Chapter Four: How I Got the Snot Blown Out of Me... Twice.

I became everything.

As the blast overtook me, it didn't seem to destroy me but to scatter me. Suddenly I was everywhere, and seemed to be a part of everything. I could see from a thousand different angles and positions. I saw scattered desks, the two strange hunters, the debris from the blast all from nearly every possible vantage point.

I had become...slime.

I could see myself, too. I was a bland, flesh-toned ooze now. I seemed to be dripping from the ceiling, too disoriented to pull together, too overstimulated by the overwhelming rush of information flooding my mind.

My new friends didn't seem to have expected this. Wonder Woman simply stood with her mouth agape. "Dekken" stood with his right hand gripping his left wrist like a weapon. Light tendrils of smoke were rising from his left hand as they stood there. He looked like he wanted to try again, but wasn't sure where to aim.

I didn't much know myself what to do next, so I simply remained. I watched with my countless eyes, heard with an endless supply of ears, every bit of my body feeding me information. And I did not move. I found that while my newly viscous body was no longer a solid, it was not exactly a liquid either. It was something in between, infinitely malleable yet capable of movement and action.

So I had a novel idea, why not move?

The second I tried, the scattered bits and pieces of my body began to come together, reforming into one larger blob. I couldn't exactly seem to remember what was going on. I knew that I had once had a different, more solid shape. And I knew the two lifeforms behind me might want to hurt me. And I knew I could move really fast!

I could still see them behind me, as I zoomed away. Still dumbfounded by my sudden transformation. If I'd had a mouth or lungs at the time, I might have laughed at the sight of it.

"Andre!" the woman shouted after a moment. "He's getting away!"

Dekken swore and took aim again. I laughed silently in my head. That won't do you any good, I thought to myself, highly amused. The elevator, I would head to the elevator shaft. Flying down an elevator shaft sure sounded like fun!

However, as the euphoria coursed through my body, I began to feel strangely heavier, and I soon realized I couldn't move quite as fast. Bones suddenly popped up here and there, impeding my progress even further. A heart started beating somewhere inside me, making my whole gooshy body quiver.

Soon I couldn't see behind me, or feel anything but the worn carpet in my hands.

Dekken was standing quite close when I returned to human form. A disgusted look crossed his face as my limbs and head became distinct again. The man had lost his glasses at some point, leaving his narrow features exposed. Dekken raised his left hand to strike. I panicked and lightning shuddered down my arm.

He backed away quickly, taking aim from several feet off. I scrambled to my feet, surprised to find my clothes intact, although my hat and shoes were gone. A high pitched hum filled the air and Dekken's hand began to turn red-hot. I jabbed my finger into the elevator button, fear making little arcs of lightning dance from my fingertips.

The door opened, just as a second blast of energy flew my way. To my horror, there was no elevator inside, just an empty shaft. I jumped anyways, grabbing onto the pulley rope as I fell. The blast wave roared in from above, taking out the elevator doors (which tried to close with a "ding" after my leap) and the wall behind them.

And the rope onto which I clung. Debris rained down on me as I used all the momentum I could muster to grab onto a slender ladder lining the wall. Exhausted and weary, I began to climb back up.

It was time for this to end.

When I reached the area of destruction and climbed out into the elevator lobby, there was not a soul in sight. This struck me as odd, I'd expected to be attacked before I even made it this far. As I glanced around, I soon saw Dekken, out in the maze of cubicles, seemingly resting. He looked like he even had a can of pop in his hand. He waved to me from his seat.

"My turn!" A voice chirped from just a few feet away. The woman, whose name I still didn't know, was suddenly before me.

With a massive rocket launcher nearly as long as her leg.

Before she took aim, a small tornado began to form around me. It pulled me out through the hole where the elevator doors had been, out towards the world waiting below. Only when I was hovering over open air just outside the skyscraper, with the streets of Chicago bustling beneath me did she fire. Once I was helpless.

Doing my best to control and channel my fear, I focused a dart of lightning on the pathway the rocket would take to reach me. However, spinning in circles like crazy, all I could do was stab out over and over again and hope for the best. In the end, it detonated before it even left the building, ten feet between each of us.

The resulting explosion swatted me out of the air like a fly. I went flying right into another building looming not far away, crashing to the unpleasant sound of shattered glass. Another office building, this one untainted by an absurd battle.

"Who are these people?" I growled to myself as I dusted myself off. I was bleeding a little bit from a myriad of little cuts and scrapes, and my left arm was singed, but I was otherwise surprisingly unharmed.

They were still going to come for me, I knew that. I stood at the gaping hole in the office building, wondering how long it would take some sort of authorities to reach us. I wondered when I would be safe again, and when all the confusion would stop and the world wouldn't feel like it was moving beneath my feet, with or without me.

And mostly, I wanted a drink of water. I found a half-empty water cooler and greedily gulped most of it down, filling my little paper cup again and again, last of all dousing my tattered, singed body.

But no, I wasn't really tattered or singed. Just my clothes. I felt great, not an ache or pain to be found. I slowly sauntered back to the window. I'd given up on running. My only hope, it seemed, was to fight it out and hope for the best. I was hardly even afraid anymore.

When they did come, it was not the way I expected at all. Instead of just blasting their way in from the other building the way they'd done before, they snuck. They came at me from the level below and took the stairs. I never even saw them make a move until they got fairly close.

They stood about twenty feet off, obviously afraid to get too close. Dekken raised his palm, ready to fight again. The woman seemed to have lost her rocket launcher. She flashed me a tight-lipped smile. "You should have taken that cup of coffee," she smirked, sounding smug.

"You should have let me go." I raised my own hand, ready to take aim myself. All it took was a little fear, right? And I had enough of that coursing through my veins now. My heart thudded heavy in my chest, and I felt as if I were looking death itself in the face.

The expression on the woman's face didn't change, but she began to back up, looking as if she were about to take off running.

"Dekken, get him!" she cried to her silent attack dog. "Kill him now! I want this to be over with. Kill him!" She was losing composure now, as aware as I was that this couldn't drag on forever.

I turned nimbly and ran away, knowing if he fired now I would get knocked out the window at best and disintegrated at worst. When dying some manner of painful death is your best case scenario, it's never a bad idea to rethink your strategy.

Dekken fired anyways. He even managed to adjust his aim on the fly, and would have killed me handily but for the fact that his hand got slammed upward at the last possible second, sending an onslaught of fire into the ceiling.

Bits of detritus rained everywhere as I tried to make my way deeper into the building. I soon found myself running down a long hallway of cubicles with nowhere to go. I glanced back to see Dekken standing at the the other end of the low hallway, taking aim once more.

Desperate now, I raised my hand again and channeled all my terror into a bolt of lightning that leapt from my palm with a low crackling. It soared like an arrow from a bow straight towards the immense death ray erupting from across the room.


Before I knew what was happening, a massive explosion plucked me right off the floor and hurled me through a wall. I flew through the drywall into another room, and then another. The second one was tile. It crumbled before me, launching me into one last room, this one unoccupied. I landed upside down, crashing on top of an ornate oak office desk, transforming the heavy wood into splinters.

Three walls. I flew through three in all.

Coughing up blood, I simply lay there, sputtering. Too afraid to move. Could I possibly be all right? I felt as though I should be dead, but I was hardly even in pain. Maybe that's what death is like, no pain...just an overwhelming flood of peace...

After a few minutes of just staring at the ceiling, watching the great clouds of dust shook up by our battle, I decided to try moving.

It was obvious right away that my left arm was broken. After all, it had taken the brunt of my final crashing, pinned beneath my body. Other than that, however, I was surprisingly fine.

Once again.

Miraculously unharmed, that was the phrase wasn't it?

As the fallout from the explosion began to settle, I could see that Mr. Andre Dekken hadn't fared much better than I had. It looked as if the entire floor had been blown out. When I stepped through the holes (too closely shaped like my body for comfort) I'd left behind, I found the initial area where we'd started was all but unrecognizable, stripped by the blast of anything resembling an office. It was down to support pillars and char.

As I glanced around, I wandered what had become of the two who had given me so much trouble. Cradling my broken arm, I walked towards the place where he'd been standing. All the windows were blown to bits, so I couldn't tell his exact exit point, but across the street I could see a telltale hole pockmarking the glass of yet another office building.

The fool'd been launched clear across the street.

I took a deep breath, whistling.

As I stood there taking stock, wondering why the police hadn't shown up yet, the woman stumbled out of hiding. How she'd survived, I had no clue. Maybe she could heal too. She grabbed me by the collar, hardly able to stand. Exhausted and disheveled, she looked truly spent. I still didn't know her name.

Katrina Berlix

The name popped into my head as easily as if I'd fished it out with my fingers.

"What? How do you know my name? How many powers do you have?" I hadn't realized I'd spoken the words aloud.

"Look what you did to poor Andre," she said, glancing out the window. "You win this one. They won't be able to hold the authorities back any longer." She glanced around. "You seem pretty indestructible, but if you're'd better get out of here. I'm amazed the roof hasn't already come down on us."

Katrina started to walk away, but I grabbed her by the shoulder. "Wait." I turned her around, forcing her to look me in the eye. "Why were you trying to kill me?"

"Simple...because you wouldn't talk. If you won't talk, we have to kill you. Thought you were a member of the Seed. There's no such thing as neutrality in our world. 'Everybody's gotta serve somebody' right? Want some free advice? A reward for defeating us? Steer clear of Chicago. Get out of town now. If FBI or local PD doesn't pick you up, the Agency is going to, and you don't want that, trust me."

I didn't know what to say. What sort of world had I woken up to?

She flashed me a sad, defeated smile. "See you in another life. Take care of yourself."

With that, she ran for the edge of the building and leaped out into the open air. The wind seemed to prop her up somehow. She flew straight for the building where her partner now lay, presumably dead.

And I'd done that, hadn't I?

As I watched her fly away, I jumped suddenly when two hands grabbed me roughly from behind. Without a word they began to drag me towards what had once been a window.

"Quite the fireworks show you and your buddy just put on," a gristly voice snarled, vaguely familiar. The man from the diner. I couldn't remember his name. Had he given me a name? Not so friendly now.

One arm behind my back, the other twisted above my head. I yelped when he grabbed my broken arm. "Careful!" I cried, "My arm's broken!"

"No it ain't," he growled. Don't be stupid." And it wasn't. It hurt slightly from being twisted up, but there was none of the white-hot pain that comes from getting a broken limb shoved around.

"That's-that's impossible!" I stuttered as I tried to resist. I lost my footing and stumbled, my efforts nearly rewarded with a dislocated shoulder. None of my powers seemed to be working. I couldn't summon lightning, no matter how hard I tried, despite my fears.

"Why are you doing this?!" I cried in panic, resisting even harder. He had led me to the drop-off, and was beginning to tip me over the edge. The world below was waiting for me, a miniaturized sprawl of cars and pedestrians. Forty stories of air between me and the waiting ground below.

More than half my body was leaning over the edge when he spoke. "Ever seen one of those nature videos," the man from the diner rasped. "Where all the baby ducks jump out of a tree to learn how to fly? This is kind of like that."

As I plummeted, the air ripping at my hair and clothes, I heard the man cry out. "Quit being such a baby! I know you can fly!"

The Unstoppable (Chapter Three)

The Unstoppable

Chapter 3: Making Friends Everywhere I Go

Cold, stiff, confused.

That was exactly how I returned to the world, left that way after four hours sleeping on the unforgiving park bench. It had been a sleep haunted by dreams. Some of them had been nightmares, but most were of normal life, the life I'd led. School, work, Kate, Texas. All gone now, it seemed.

I lurched into a sitting position, staring at the sky. All was shrouded by cloud cover. A light mist was raining on me, but I hardly noticed. For a moment, I had the strange, distracted thought to simply leap into the air and soar away.

I can fly.

The thought made no sense, and yet, there it was. Shaking my head, I rose to my feet, I needed a little time to figure all this out, somewhere I could think. I began wandering the streets, eager to stretch my legs.

Despite the rain and the cold, the city still breathed. I saw the homeless sheltered under eaves, cars bustling down the dark streets, and every once in awhile, an open shop with lights spilling onto the pavement through the windows. The light illuminated the rain. I wanted a diner, somewhere I could get a cup of coffee and a warm place to sit.

October 12, 2008, a Sunday. That was the date that greeted me from the newspaper dispenser outside an old corner drug store. I'd watched as an elderly man changed it out for yesterday's and then peered close to the condensation covered glass. I'd needed something concrete, to prove it was real.

April 3, 2006. That was yesterday, the carwreck. A Monday. I could hardly make sense of all that was happening to me. Too many odd details. Why didn't anybody stop for us on the bridge? Why didn't the trucker seem to even see us? Why was I in Chicago? Why was I in a coma for two years? Why, why, why. The questions would drive me mad if I let them.

I'd found a wallet in my jeans, but there was only 14 bucks inside. No credit card. Somehow I would have to get back out to Maryland, check all the hospitals. But then what if she was here in Illinois somewhere herself? I wanted to bang my head against a wall, it was all so disorienting. I didn't want to think about what I would do if I couldn't find her anywhere.

Nor did I want to think about the driver's license I'd found, for a Mr. Thomas Anderson, one with a picture of my face and the wrong birthday.

All in all, it took me nearly an hour's wandering to find a place to pass the morning. I felt like I'd explored half the city. The lights glowed onto the sidewalk just like everywhere else, lighting up the little diner in the night like a lantern. It drew me in just like a moth to flame.

The second I walked inside, a thousand pairs of eyes seemed to land on me, despite the fact that there were hardly any customers at this hour.

It was subtle, but everyone in the restaurant stopped what they were doing to take a good long look at me. There was only one person at the counter, a heavyset, older man in a cheap suit. He look a long sip of coffee before turning to size me up, but when he did, he nearly fell out of his barstool. As it was, he spilled coffee all over himself. Something about me seemed to startle him. To his credit, he recovered quickly, smiling briefly before reaching to the napkin dispenser.

A couple at a booth finished their bites and a shared a few words of conversation first. Their glances roved between me, and the old man, as if his offbeat reaction were the most interesting thing to happen to them in a long time. A younger blond girl at a table looked at me, began fiddling mindlessly with her cell phone and then turned back to gawk at me with a nervous air.

Everything continued as it was, but it also, for all intents and purposes, had came to a little bit of a halt. I did my best to shake it off, yet another strange occurance in a long, ongoing string of strange occurances.

I took my seat quickly, feeling fairly uncomfortable. The cup of coffee I ordered wasn't anything amazing but it took the chill out of my bones. The waitress, who spent most of her time behind the counter, had also seemed to be looking at me oddly as she slid my cup across the sticky tabletop. This was going from odd to downright irritating.

As I sat waiting for the sun to rise and an incredible plan to come to mind, I studied the room around me a little bit. There were nine people in the room besides me, as far as I could tell. Three employees plus six patrons.

All nine took time out of their busy morning to look at me at some point. Most took a couple of glances, as if they'd never seen a guy drink coffee before and it was an amazing phenomenon they all wanted to see for themselves, but they were afraid of scaring me away.

All nine took time to look at me at some point. Most took only a couple glances here and there. It was as if they'd never seen a guy drink coffee before and it was some amazing phenomenon. They all wanted to see it for themselves, but they were afraid of scaring me away.

I pictured a nature show, with one of those softspoken hosts whispering into the camera. "And here we have the rare creature known as the Adam. Careful now! We don't want to startle him. He might leave before he finishes his coffee!"

The cook came out from behind the grease pits or whatever in the back, wiping his hands on his apron. The busboy nearly dropped a glass. Cell Phone Girl walked by three or four times, pretending to need something in my corner of the diner.

It didn't take me long to get fed up. As soon as I finished my coffee, I made for the counter. As I waited for the bill to be tabulated, the old man at the counter gave me another glance and spoke. He was sweating, I could see it.

"Awfully cold weather to be running around in just a t-shirt like that, iddn't it?"

"I suppose it is, but I think I'll be alright." I turned back to the waitress to get my change, ready to book it.

"I don't suppose, you've got a minute to chat? I'll buy you another cup of coffee, maybe some breakfast." He hesitated, as if he wanted to say something more.

Tempting as food sounded, I was way too uncomfortable to stay a minute longer. "No thanks," I said quickly, trying to make my tone as firm as possible "I've got somewhere to be."

"Alrighty, son. Suit yourself. Have a good one." And then he mumbled something to himself that sounded a lot like "good luck dealing with them "

The bell was jangling as I pushed my way back out into the rain, as eager for fresh air now as I'd been for warmth before I'd found the place. Before the door could even close, a hand gripped my forearm tightly.

"We need to talk."

It was the couple. The woman had me by the arm, seemingly with no intent to ever let go. The man stood behind her, looking threatening. I'd taken no notice of either inside, but now that I looked closer, both were strangely dressed. All black leather. And they were both wearing sunglasses, despite the inclement weather.

"Come back inside with us," the woman intoned with a hint of an accent I couldn't recognize. "There are some things you need to know."

I didn't like their tone, or the way I was being pushed around. Something about them just bugged me. "I don't have to go anywhere with you," I growled irritably as I yanked my arm away.

As I freed myself, her arm spontaneously caught fire. I thought I saw my own and hand and forearm burning for a split second but then it was gone.

While they dealt with the mysterious fire, I took off, jogging at medium speed. I didn't want to attract too much attention to myself nor make an exit too slowly. Whoever these people were, and whatever that diner was about, I wanted no part of it.

Before I made it a full block, a blackness suddenly passed before my eyes, and a raging wind began to rip at my hair and clothes. The gust grew stronger and stronger till I felt I was about to be lifted from my feet.

As I began to fly into the air, spinning in crazy circles I realized I was trapped in some kind of whirlwind or tornado. It began to move backward along the sidewalk, the way I'd come. Back to the strangers I'd fled.

Six feet off the ground, the tornado dissipated, dumping me roughly to my rear. Right in front of my new friends. The woman wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead, as if she'd just been concentrating on something difficult.

My eyes had to be as wide as saucers. For a moment all I could do was stare.

"Now...can we talk?" the woman asked, sounding a little out of breath. Still the man hadn't spoken. If she had some sort of special power to control tornadoes, I wondered what he could do.

I stood to my feet quickly, heart thudding. I unwittingly unleashed a massive burst of electricity as soon as I arose. A storm of yellow lightning leaped everywhere, the blast knocking all three of us in different directions. It blew out a streetlight above us, popped the tire of a car waiting by the curb, and caused a newspaper dispenser to explode.

Under the cover of falling papers, I dashed across the street, eager to take advantage of the short time I had while they picked themselves up off the ground. Rather than stay out in the open without cover, I made for a high rise office building.

Pushing through heavy glass doors, I found myself in a large atrium, a dizzying tile pattern leading the way to a massive desk. A huge black and white clock stood above it, ticking out the time. The receptionist at the desk could only stare openmouthed as I burst in. I still had my White Sox cap, so my hair wasn't standing on end, but my clothes had burn marks from the lightning.

For a moment we just stared at each other like gunslingers in the old west. Finally our staredown came to a close when I broke away and dashed for the elevator. I heard her calling for security behind me, but it was too late, I was already on the elevator.

It took off with a ding just seconds before my new friends slammed the glass doors open. Turning to the elevator's buttons, I noted there were 40 floors and selected the 36th, hoping that would be random enough to throw them off.

When I stepped out of the elevator, it was clear today was a Sunday. A vast array of empty cubicles and offices stretched out towards massive picture windows that displayed the Chicago skyline and a sky scattered with rainclouds.

I was about to look for a vending machine and a computer with internet access when suddenly one of the windows shattered, spraying glass and debris across the room. I ducked behind a cubicle as the Wonder Twins flew into the room, apparently riding some kind of whirlwind. I didn't get a very good view from my vantage point, but it was clear discretion wasn't in these people's agenda.

This was made all the more clear when they started knocking things around, kicking over walls and shoving desks, sending desk clutter and computer parts flying as they went.

"You may as well come out," the woman called. "We won't hurt you if you surrender, but if you keep insisting on running, Mr. Dekken here is going to have to eliminate you."

I wanted to defend myself, but I wasn't sure how. The lightning only seemed to come out when I was afraid. I thumped my head against the faded gray fabric material of the cubicle, wracking my brain for a way out of this mess.

The way I saw it, I had three options.

1. I could surrender, find out what these crazy people wanted, and probably die. Or get ripped apart in a labratory after countless horrifying experiments...

2. I could try to fight. But my newfound powers, if that's what they were, seemed completely beyond my control. I felt certain if I tried to use it in battle, I would probably die.

3. I could also make a run for it, try and get the heck out of here. The chances of death seemed pretty good, but I liked my chances better with running than anything else.

I would run. I played the thought over and over in my mind as I mentally prepared myself to flee. Suddenly sadness overtook me, seemed to drench my body. It overwhelmed me to the point I could hardly think. Sadness over losing Kate, sadness over what was happening to me, and that I was about to die.

The confusion and depression addled my brain to the point that when I broke cover and ran, I didn't sneak around furniture and plants as had been the plan, I just stood up and flat out booked it for the elevator.

"Enough of this nonsense. Dekken, take him down."

I made it all of ten feet before an energy blast slammed me from behind, and suddenly my body was no more.