When Lightning Strikes Twice

Part 1

Jin vs Shock

The man staggered down the crooked backstreets of Brisbane, bumping from one side of the narrow road into the other. The darkness was a grey shroud wrought by a blinding headache and the strange lights drifting from over head. no matter how he strained his bloodshot eyes he couldn't avoid the debris abandoned around him. The frames of old couches stripped of their cushioning, the strange skeletal corpses of shopping trolleys lying on their sides with their bars contorted like broken teeth, doors of the warehouses leaning on broken hinges. He crashed into them over and over again sending his head spinning and chest aflame.

Infection, blood loss and exhaustion made him totter like a late night drunk going home to his wife.

No home, no wife, no one, he thought bitterly, gasping as tripped over a dinted garbage can. The garbage can landed on the ground with such a loud crash that he forgot the pain that burned in his chest and froze, listening to his instincts. The can rolled across the concrete with a tatter, tatter, tatterloud enough to wake the dead in the man's ears. His wound screamed at him, begging for rest. He couldn't these places existed everywhere and to rest without cover was to invite thieves and cutthroats to pick over his dying body, he knew that at least. What he didn't know was where he was and how he got there.

Listening for footsteps and trying to clear his light headedness, only the lonely howl of a dog echoed back.

He stumbled onwards. With his body beginning to cramp and his energy reserves depleted, he needed to find shelter and warmth, even his strange genetic code could not keep him going forever. How long had it been? His large, calloused hands covered his wound protectively drawing his hooded cloak closer around him, and pushed on.

Deserted warehouses and old factories constructed of mildewy wood and rusting corrugated iron framed the streets just beyond the ocean. He could hear waves crashing on rocks a short distance away. He glanced around through drooping lids. Each building sulked in its spot, glaring at him through shattered pane windows from far above. He swallowed hard, feeling along the crumbling brick walls until he felt the material change under his fingers into splintering wood.

A well-mannered and respectful young man, he regretted what he was going to do next but he could keep staggering around in a daze. He needed sleep, he knew he hadn't had any since…. Well since… But it was gone and left a lethal present in its wake.

His fingers pored over the soggy wood.

Rotten, he thought with a surge of almost happy relief. In his full health the door would have exploded into matchsticks with one swift kick, now he doubted he could do anything with his whole body weight. A deep aching in his chest made his urgency deepen.

Kicking a tiny runway and kicking aside a cluster of coloured bottles he lumbered backwards and readied his shoulder for impact. Pausing only to wonder at the misfortune of his birth, he ran at the door. In three steps the distance was covered and he slammed into it with all the strength he had left in his weary body.

An ear splitting crack erupted in his ears and stars exploded in front of his eyes. The pain stabbed through his heart with a shrieking vengeance! It clouded his mind from all else! The doors burst apart with a drawn out groan, smashing back on their hinges.

Momentum was the only thing that carried him forward for all else was eclipsed by the all encompassing pain. Unaware of anything but, the pain enveloped him and he fell unconscious into a mound of crates, scattering them across the warehouse with a crash.

Akira awoke with her heart in her throat, scrambling backwards into a stack of wooden crates and throwing the tartan blanket over her head. Someone was inside! A second later more splintering rose from below as they blundered around, knocking stack after stack of crates like a domino effect, boom after boom jarred her body with a breathless sob.

She tugged the blanket tighter into her fist, bunching between whitened knuckles.

Not again, she prayed, little by little taking control of herself. Still curled into a ball she wiped away the tiny tears that had squeezed beneath her eyelids. Please, I can't do it again!

She waited, her breath still coming in and going out in halting gasps, as the echoes died away. Finally with her breathing normal and her heart no longer trying to escape through her throat, opened her blanket cacoon a sliver. There was no one in her small room built up with empty cases but that didn't mean anything. Her shelter against harsh city life was a loft, high in the roof of an empty warehouse. The ladder that had been used to reach it had rested, decaying against a wall when she first found it and now the only way up and down were spidery beams that crissed and crossed between the sturdy supporting ones.

Carefully, as silent as a cat, she crept from behind a wall and peered over a support rafter below.

Boxes smashed apart were sprawled around the opening.

Akira retreated back into the shadows of her 'room'. The noise was loud and worth some attention from neighbouring busybodies, the police for one. Although sympathetic towards the homeless, would force her to leave for being on government property. She couldn't, she wouldn't. It was the longest place she had ever stayed still since leaving, okay, running away, from home, three months. She regretted it, oh how she regretted it, but her pride wouldn't let her go back. She swore she would be rich and successful, and she would get there on her own.

Besides, her parents struggled as it was.

After a long time without any noise rising above the sloshing waves, she eased out again on her hands and knees. Her senses, which had become incredibly sensitive since coming to the city, strained to expose any threats from below.

She relaxed by inches. Her first fear was that the Fat Society was back. They were neither fat, nor a society but a group of five large, heavily pierced boys that got their kicks harassing the destitute. Torturing was a more accurate word, poor Morgan, an old aboriginal bloke who hadn't hurt anybody had his toes broken last time. She and a few of the others who lived around spared what they could for him to seek medical attention and he had since drifted away, as were many of the others.

She, despite being scared gutless of them, was defiant and refused to back down over anything, thus making her a favourite target. They didn't yet know where she spent her nights but they had once caught her on her way home, forced her to abandon her shoes and chased her down a street that was a favourite hideout for teenage boys such as themselves. She had come away lucky with a few nicks but forever scarred.

She scoured the room below, illuminated by the city's light pollution streaming through a hole in the roof where a corrugated iron sheet had come loose in a gale two months ago.

Closing her eyes and listening to her internal clock, she thought it was early morning, perhaps two or three o'clock. Many thought this to be the weakest time for the human body but for Akira she was awake without any lingering drowsiness.

Her gaze picked over the boxes but was drawn to the door, suspended by one hinge, swinging with creak, like a cat with a splinter in its paw. CreeeeeekStrange shadows fell through the threshold, blurry and insubstantial in the half light. Sweeping around the shadows to each of the corners and along the walls she looked for any movement. The rise and fall of a chest as it tried to suppress its breathing or the balmy breeze that whispered through every hole and crevice of this draughty building rustling their hair or cloths.

Finally Akira tried a more thorough investigation of the boxes. She didn't expect anyone to be stupid enough to hide among them. The moonlight would cast their shadow no matter where they hid. Then, lying on the outskirts of the crates, she saw a whispering cloak.

Cursing herself for not seeing it sooner, she slid her small body under a broken beam and shimmied down the corner, trying to hide herself amongst the shadow of the loft, and as quiet as the shadows themselves.

Maybe a drunk coming home and he stumbled in. She climbed further down, but then stopped, hanging precociously from a four-meter drop to the floor. The door had been smashed on purpose and she locked it from the inside! They were strong! She looked closer at the intruder hid. It was shiny, and soft, some material of fine weave. Definitely not your average drunk.

Chewing her lip as second, third and forth thoughts scurried through her head as she hung suspended from a thin spar. She flipped upside down, hooked her foot and pulled herself up again. Leaning against a supporting beam she flicked back her hair, an untidy mop of brownish black with a brown almond shaped eye peering between a bushy fringe.

The intruder groaned, a desperate, agonised sound.

Suddenly, a voice spoke to, no, through her. Time was running out. This person needed her.

But whether or not they needed her was only a second thought compared to what he might do if he didn't need it and was instead trying to lure her out.

Along with developing keen night sight and hearing, it had also honed natural wariness of people into finely honed suspicion that people were out to get her. She wasn't paranoid. No, not at all, she was just very, very alert!

He gurgled again, the leg splayed wide twitching.

Ahh crap!

With a grunt she snatched the spar, ignoring the tearing of the skin on her palms and swung down, dropping the last few meters to land awkwardly. Her ankles protested under the force but she stood and padded timidly towards the crate, looking as if she had been riding a horse for a week straight.

Stealing closer, she moved cautiously between the boxes, both of the intruder and debris piled around her. Wooden stakes and rusting nails scattered in front of her. When she was only a few meters away she stopped again. That paranoia she always made a note of ignoring spoke up again more loudly. Suspect everyone of everything, it insisted

Her intuition cried out over the top of it. Help him, help him! Dying! Needed!

At the word of dying Akira leap nimbly over a crate. Maybe she didn't like people but to leave him under there would be as bad damned heartless.

Then again, heartlessness did have it advantages.

The figure was heaped beneath the empty boxes, lying so still she was sure that during her hesitation the person had died, but her stubborn nature made her start shoving them frantically aside. As she pulled them away, more and more of the figure was revealed. Within minutes she saw all of him, for her intuition was right and it was it was male.

He was young, a well built body though shrouded beneath silky black cloak. Long delicate fingers were of some kind of Asian descent. Akira started to reach for the cowl still keeping his face in the shadows but a dark patch on his cloak deserved her imperative attention.

Akira pulled the coat open and saw a messy hole just to the right of his sternum. It was messy, pussing, infected for sure and congealed with dark blackish blood. Had she eaten that day she would have lost it again. She fought against the revulsion and tried to decide what to do.

It was a bullet hole, that was for sure, and with dread she realised it was above his heart.

She shoved herself away from the body and dry retches squeezed her stomach. If she had eaten it would have splashed over the cement. It sickened her. Someone had shot him with deadly intent. What had he done?

What to do? Call an ambulance. No, the nearest phone was in South Bank, and the Fat Society had ripped off the receiver and hurled it into the fountain for a laugh, from there she didn't know.

Okay, go to the shops and get help. Sunday night, only one shop was close enough, she could call there-

-and bring them to her hideout. They would ask questions and her compassion didn't extend so far to give up her home.

She sat, torn in two, her gaze swinging from the door to the man and back again.

You know what you could do, a voice broached hesitantly. You could do it yourself. Nothing big of course, just clean it up, get him to walk just far enough away not to arose suspicion and baddabing baddaboom. Home free.

"It's a bullet wound you twit!" she snarled at herself.

Still, you were very good at biology. Remember those rats? And the rabbit? Mrs Donahue thought they were excellent.

With heavy and guilty sigh, she gave in. She had just settled here, she had work, shelter, regular enough food…. She couldn't give it up.

Swallowing her revulsion, she grabbed a handful of the man's silky cloth and gently wiped away gunk surrounding the hole. It wasn't even that much of a hole, it was sort of a dimple with… some gleamed dully at amidst the shredded pectoral muscle. She leaned closer, inviting more of the light onto his bare chest.

Not a bad chest, she thought appreciatively.

With her face bent close to his chest, she almost hit the ceiling when the man sucked in a watery breath.

At least he isn't dead, she thought with relief.

She shuffled backwards in case he woke up. Injured or not she wanted a head start. Hoisting herself up off her knees she weaved through the boxes into a corner where a red plastic bucket sat undisturbed by the ruckus. She pulled out the few spare t-shirts she had soaking, laying them out of the cement and hurried out through a rusting sheet. A little further out and down was a jetty and leaning down she could just scoop up some salt water. She had to be careful, the handle was strained to would break sooner or later.

Returning with the same caution she eased tentatively to his side, passing her hand above his eyes, still hidden beneath the cowl. He'd better hope he was unconscious otherwise the pain would be excruciating. Ripping off another piece of that lovely, soft cloak grudgingly, she cleaned closer to the wound.

Pulling away a bubbly clot, she probed with fascination. After her family had settled in Australia she had grown up desperately wanting to be a veterinarian. Now the closest thing she got to it was pulling glass out of the paws of stray cats, spitting, flat headed furry balls of razor blades.

She wondered how close the assailant had been when he shot, his chest cavity must have exploded! Fine white lines she recognised as nerves congealed in the blood that had splashed down his chest and over his pants. In fact, it had poured.

But, the wound was no deeper than her pinky finger. The bloke was a conundrum, no doubt about it.

And the puss! The bugger's skin radiated heat! The wound was infected, but it at least took four, or even five days for an infection of this magnitude to set in. Akira, who had enjoyed gory movies and enthralled by medical journals, tried to remember what her biology teacher had said about the immune system. Various kinds of white blood cells, some engulfing the antibodies, or was that antigens?

Working methodically around the hole she let her mind drift, back to her childhood, back to Thailand. There one of her aunties was a healing woman. She had sat quietly in a corner as Pun mashed up various leaves into a paste and spread it over a young man's bicep that had been shredded by a bamboo stake whilst working in the fields, mumbling rhythmic prayers to Buddha.

Working further down the chest and washing away some of the congealed blood her eyes kept straying to the hole and the dull grey gleam, almost like the flesh was trying to grow around it. The bullet, obviously, but she tried to decide if she could remove it herself. Playing doctor was actually pretty fun.

You know what? I think the body is trying to heal around the bullet, and if you take it out he'll be fine.

Having grown up in the mountainous area of Thailand where temples sprouted up like mushrooms, she was not as obtuse to spiritual beings as she would have liked, and preparing to rip off another piece cinched it. Curiously feeling along the inside seam, she felt stitches. Sure enough, written in neat calligraphic suture was the word Jin.

Jin wasn't apart of her native tongue, but when she had once visited her father while her worked in the coastal cities to earn money, she had been childishly confused as to why they acted like Japanese. The women bleached their skin to make it white and the teenagers often spoke the language, like it was cool or something. The word rang a bell and someone answered the door.

Funny, Jin means spirit, or demon; she deliberated nervously.

Lingering no longer she leapt to her feet and skittered across the cold floor. She bounded up and caught a low spar and swung up. From there she skipped from beam to rafter to plank like a spider on a caffeine rush until she reached her loft. She grabbed her blanket and a small patchwork pouch. The meagre jangle of coins was depressing as she tossed the chord over her neck, but she had needed a new pair of shoes. The city was not a place to run barefoot, but she didn't want to waste time with the knots she had tied the laces into to amuse herself. She dropped the blanket over the edge and heard a dull clump as it hit the floor.

Then with the same energetic leaps, she started her decent and reached the bottom in less than a minute. Akira seized the blanket and darted back to the man. His breathing was laboured and his temperature was soaring. She tucked the blanket under his head for a pillow and was on her feet again, out the door and racing through the eerie shadows and brooding buildings.

Dodging trash cans, sunken couches and broken bottles, her bare feet drummed a whispering tattoo across the ground.

She wound her way down the zigzagging streets with ease but she could have sworn all they were playing tricks on her, changing directions whenever she stopped to regain her breath. Just when she though she was lost entirely, Akira saw hope, the flashing neon sign of the only 24/7 shop in the district, The Frog and Wog. The owners were kind and let her work four days a week stacking and unpacking stock, despite having all the man power they needed.

Still, Akira prayed that only one of its owners instead of both were working tonight, otherwise she would inevitably be drawn into one of their ridiculous arguments.

The automatic doors whooshed open as she pelted across the movement sensor. Gasping she tried to walk as calmly as she could down the aisles vinyl runway.

Akira snatched a red plastic basket and dropped in two rolls of bandages, a large bottle of antiseptic and a manicure set.

She tried to slow her racing thoughts so to think this through carefully. Hot water, some matches and some of that pure bottled stuff, she mused tossing them in. He'll be hungry so some noodles maybe, placing in two packets, one for him and one for her. Lately, to save a bit more money she'd been skipping meals when she thought she could afford to, today had been no different.

She walked to the counter controlling her breath so that it didn't come in such ragged gasps. Thinking again, she picked up some of the strongest sedatives she could find and added them to the basket.

Turning around the lane she stopped in her tracks and groaned. Despite being the dead of the night, The Frog and Wog's two owners stood face to face yelling and spitting like tomcats.

"You ah never wwrrrong?" cried the French Claude, his blonde curls bobbing around in a frenzy, "Bah! What about zee time-"

"Ah eem nevar wrong! Yew mock meh!" shouted back the Italian Aristos, his pudgy face puffing up. "Ah! Akira ist her! She'll teel us!"

"No time tonight guys," she said forcefully. She tipped the contents of her pouch reluctantly onto the counter. The coins chattered and rolled to a stop, winking at her in the artificial light. She put the basket next to the coins and notes. Time crawled by agonisingly slow. The beep, beep, beep of the register as Aristos scanned each barcode. BeeeepHe frowned. Beeeeep

"How mech ist thee noodals Claude?"

"Oaf! Two ninety nine eech!" Aristos punched in the keys and Claude looked at her suspiciously. "If I didant know bet-ter, I'd sey you were doeing serrrjerrry," he reflected in an offhanded way. "Anoder mangy cat eh?"

Akira forced smile. "Yeah, big old tomcat!"

"Why you smile? Yew don smile!" Aristos had his eyebrows raised. Her mind came up blank. Seeing she wasn't going to answer he added, "and you're short." She threw out her packet of noodles regretfully and put them on the closest shelf as well as the sedatives, trading them for El' Cheapo aspirin.

"Please guys, just lend me this and I'll come back and work it off, please? Come on, free labour!"

"You ah no gewd. You can't reech topsheelf!" Claude sniffed but there was no strength behind it.

"Come on Claude, she is using the puppy eys. Ok, but tomorrow bright and early!"

"Thankyou!" Akira cried. Aristos handed her the bag of groceries with a curious smile. Clutching them to her chest, she dashed into the night. Behind her, the Frog and the Wog resumed their argument as if she had never been there.

Akira ran through the door; puffing and panting, sweat dripping down her face and water in her eyes. Before she even had a clear head, a hand clapped over her mouth and grasped her around the chest, pinning her arms to her sides.

Her eyes widened in surprise but suddenly hardened again, narrowing into furious slits. Akira hated being touched, even worse by some arrogant mugger who thought that size mattered. The ball of her foot snapped back and under the kneecap, driving it upwards. She felt her attacker wince, but his grip didn't lessen. With a touch of annoyance, she smashed her foot down over his knee, and crushed the tips of his toes.

This time he grunted and his hands gave way a little.

That was all she needed. Recognising the silky cape sweeping around her ankles, Akira drove her elbow up into his festering injury.

The man gasped, doubling over in agony and dropping to the ground. Akira took off for the far wall and the safety of the rafters. She halted, a cruel smile playing her usually blank lips. She put the supplies down out of the way at a safe distance. She knew Claude and Aristos would give her a refund, as long as none of it was damaged. If the man wanted a fight, she'd give it to him.

She stepped cautiously forward towards the grunting man. He still lay sucking in one pained breath after another. She stood over him smirking.

Serves the prick right! She grinned ready to plant a swift kick to his groin and temple. It would knock him unconscious, or even better, kill him.

Suddenly the man's eyes flew open, aware and focused. Akira squawked in surprise, too dumbfound to speak. The man swooped his legs beneath hers and her head kissed the cement with a smack! Her eyes rolled into her head, as she lay confused on the ground. Bright lights flashed in front of her watery vision.

The man rocked to his feet and gathered his wits about him. She knew how to exploit a weakness, he admitted to himself still gingerly covering his chest. He pressed his boot over his dainty neck just enough to make her see who was running this three ringed circus.

The moon cast its silvery rays through the roof window across the girl's face, alighting her features.

She was of oriental birth, with long knotty black hair was held back with a worn hair band and fanned around her head. A thick fringe partially hid her dark eyes. Now they started up puzzled and blinked often. A petite nose and heart shaped lips were pressed into a thin line of anger. A small smile of amusement crossed his mouth as she glared up at him furiously, cross-eyed.

His eyes travelled lower. Small shoulders with barely muscled arms so thin he though they would snap if any pressure at all were applied. A much too large shirt with a star and the word girl written below it in English concealed what would also be a scrawny body. Even bigger red shorts held up by an old shoelace and stickish legs poked beneath them with hard-calloused feet.

She was so small! It could have been genetic but he was sure malnourishment was the case. The girl couldn't have been more than 15!

"What are you doing here?" he asked in Japanese. Her pretty eyes flickered. She understood him at least a little but refused to talk. He started to apply some force onto her pert neck. She gagged but still only scowled at him. "I asked again, what are you doing here?"

A fierce flash of teeth. He had to press harder. The girl's eyes bulge but her mouth stayed firmly shut. If he put any more weight on it, he'd crush her windpipe. She was a stubborn girl.

The man smiled again and lifted his foot. As soon there was a centimetre of space the girl rolled from under it and was on her feet in a cat stance, not perfect but he got the idea. He raised his palms in submission showing he had nothing to hide.

"See," he murmured still in Japanese. "I ask under no force, what are you doing here and what is in that bag?"

"WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" she spat, broken in his tongue. "THIS IS MY HOME! The question here is what THE HELL are you doing here!" She calmed down and spoke in a quieter tone, though her voice no less threatening. "That bag is filled with supplies to save your goddamned life! In case you didn't notice, that mark on your chest, you know the one that made you choke on your own breath, it's infected you is going to kill you unless I remove that bullet and disinfect it!"

"Sorry," he murmured flatly, his hand moving to hover over his chest. When he awoke he had found his chest had been daubed clean. It had been her. He inched closer.

She saw this and readied her stance.

"I just want to thank you."

"You can do it from there."

He was a little taken aback that she was so guarded. He moved closer still, his cloak rustling and his hood falling lower over his eyes. He was sure he looked a most frightening figure so he wasn't surprised when she raised her foot ready to deliver a stunning kick aimed for his heart. She made a sharp tsssssst

Trying to bluff me, he thought, like a cat.

Now close enough to touch her, he reached out. She hissed again, slapping the hand away and lashing out with her left foot.

The man instinctively blocked low, prepared to jar the knee with an X block. The girl veered around it in a bizarre question mark kick and clipped him across the face. Despite being a head and a half shorter, her leg twisted and reached with ease and comfort. Before that foot even touched the ground, her other came around in a full crescent kick knocking away the hand guarding his wound, struck hard and fast and leaping out of reach again.

He was on the ground, gasping, and moaning before he was aware. His eyes watered! His breath was caught in his throat! No matter how much air he took in none reached his lungs! His limbs flailed wildly and had no control.

His heart seared in his chest, slamming against his rib cage in a desperate urge to escape. Every nerve was aflame and throbbing with an agony all of its own, such as he had never felt before or could have even imagined.

Nevertheless, even through the pain he could feel himself changing.

No! His mind screamed in revulsion. Nooooo

Black tattoos ripple across his face only hidden by the cowl of his hood. He felt his shoulder blades shift and protrude and stretch some more.

He looked for the girl. He caught a sudden glimpse of her ratty hair and she was behind him. He tilted his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her. She towered over him, a short staff in her hands. His eyes widened in far as it whistled through the air.

"Help me!" he gasped. The staff smacked across the side of his skull and the room swam before sinking into inky blackness.

Well that's it! Some of you may remember its pervious version, but I assure you this will be taking a different curve. You can read it at Ki's special website www. geocities. com / akiraslightning

Just get rid of the spaces and it should work