Updated Chapter One, there was a massive error right at the start, goddamn how could I have missed that?
Props to WhiteZephyr for allowing me to include his/her characters and timeline in my fic, whose own inFamous fiction series prompted me to try my own hand at it. Cheers girl.
Chapter One: Terrorist
Ask anyone in Empire City, go on, don't be shy not many of them will bite; most of them are too busy wallowing in their own self-pity to be any sort of dangerous. The rest? Well if you've chanced on one of them, the good news is that it'll be fast. As to what you'll ask, well shit, what do most people ask the survivors of a terrorist attack? Have you buried anyone?
The answer to that question is yes. Two of them; and one was so badly mangled that I'm still wondering if it was really my brother or someone who happened to be in the same pile of rubble that used to be our home in the Historic District. If he survived then he's somewhere else in the city, Neon or the Warren, though if even half the things I've heard about the latter are true then he's probably better off dead.
No, forget I said that, my own brothers for Christ's sake what sort of person would I be if I wished them dead? That being said if they were alive then I'm sure they'd have tried to contact me somehow. They have to be dead. Now I'm hearing them both calling for me, and my parents, even my kid sister for the love of crap, and there ain't no way those three can be dead. They weren't even here when the blast occurred or when the quarantine came into effect. Maybe they're waiting along the quarantine line somewhere, waiting for me, Tommy and Sam. God I can only imagine how they'll react when they find out about my brothers...
Since the blast, the plague and the quarantine people have been demonstrating abnormalities; hell the freaks wearing the gas masks who patrol the streets of the Historic District – knocking down anyone who even so much as twitches in their direction – have a few people who can do things out of fantasy. I saw one vanish from sight from the rubble of my home and reappear a few metres to the left to gun down a random citizen in the early days when they were making themselves known. I was having a hard time placing them, their random acts of violence were reminiscent of the gangs that had been swept aside like leaves before a gust of wind, but they marched and drilled like soldiers, professionals. Were they mercenaries? Who would hire them to terrorise a city? Unless... Ground zero? Was there something there worth finding? Would it make more super-people like me? Would it kill us? Would it stop the plague? Amplify it? So many goddamn questions.
Fuck this I'm heading out.
"Hey Rhys!" I heard a voice call to me, which at this place could only be one other person, but she was too late, I was already off the edge and falling fast, my maroon hair whipping around as I descended. Twenty metres until I taste dirt. Fifteen. Ten. Five.
And at the last inch from the ground I vanish, reappearing on the sidewalk as if I'd just been taking a stroll.
"Goddamnit Rhys wait up!" I hear her again, and as I thought she's coming down.
Serena 'Jackdaw' Williams, short hair dyed pitch black, this week's highlights are purple and teal, the former blazing a trail around her left ear, the latter sets her fringe aflame. I'll admit it's an impressive thing to watch, and she does it exclusively for me, unfortunately there are a few problems I have with that. The first is that this over-active ex-ganger is fifteen years old, leaving her two and a half years my junior, don't get me wrong she's developed fine and when she grows up I can tell she'll be an absolute knock-out, but I'd feel wrong if I tried anything, which leads me to my next point: which is that we've been friends for almost half my life, and she's grown on me more as a sister. Finally is that I just don't have the balls to tell it as it is to her face because I like seeing her smile – even in spite of the mess we're all in.
A nail slams into the concrete next to my shoe, I don't flinch, she's a little pissed I dropped out the window of the apartment without saying anything but if she really wanted to hit me, she'd have done it. Or at least tried – whether I wanted her to hit me or not is another story entirely and pardon the pun but I've grown rather attached to my assorted limbs and digits. Oh yeah, the last problem I have with this teen crush of hers, which kinda ties in with the last one I gave: She has powers like me. For starters, can you imagine what our kids would be like? Secondly is that she could actually really hurt me if I piss her off enough, but bless her little boots her time as a ganger's given her patience that could put Christ to shame, I'd not got so far as to call her cautious though.
You ever seen X-Men? Actually don't answer that. While I'm fairly certain they can't sue her just because she's the real deal and they just own a comic book character I can't imagine they'd be too impressed knowing that this girl standing before me can manipulate magnetic fields. Only small or a few medium ones though, anything larger than a four-wheeler – forget about it, but I think it's a small consolation at best.
We've asked each other about our abilities, and honestly, it's difficult to explain. I'd feel irritated at Serena just telling me that she can just 'feel' the fields there and that moving stuff feels fuzzy and strange – like she's sprouted an extra limb that's lifting it up, except my case is kinda the same. I teleport. No wait, hear me out, it's more than that I promise. Aside from getting a really funky but at the same time nauseating light show whenever I 'jump' as Serena calls it, when I re-enter, I feel stronger, faster. It's never for very long but it's there, and it's saved my life on one occasion against the gas-mask mercenaries walking up and down the District like they own the place. Oh yeah, there's also a bit of an explosion – no wait, more like a shockwave – when I re-enter, so yeah, concussion-dealing and temporary super-strength, and the ability to pretty much wave buh-bye to any sort of trouble that comes my way provided of course that said trouble hasn't latched its greasy mitts onto me when I jump.
"Rhys, you there? You're kinda staring off into space..." her voice cuts through my haze of thoughts and I shake my head to clear it, focusing on the now.
"Sorry, off in a whole other world." I mutter to her, giving her a friendly grin, an almost unnoticeable tint of red races into her cheeks – she hides it well. I wonder how long this goes back, I only honestly found out by accident a day after the explosion. A chunk of a collapsing shop struck her on the head, there was so much blood I actually thought she was dead but the stubborn thing pulled through, kept muttering in her sleep (and good lord some of the things I hear during the nights... it's hardly the sort of things you'd expect a fifteen year old to dream about, lifestyle be damned).
I notice a set of fingers snapping in front of my face. I'd just drifted off again.
"Okay seriously what are you thinking about?" she asked.
"Nothing." I replied almost instantly. It was a pathetic answer and both of us knew it but hopefully she'd not pry, though her raised eyebrow and folded arms told me she'd remember this. I relented a little and decided to tell her why I'd suddenly taken off.
"Alright I was thinking about the gas-mask guys running the place and why they might be here. I got to thinking that they might be looking for something and to my mind the only thing that might be worth a damn to these people would be at ground zero." She lowered her brow, she was all business now – the mercs had slaughtered most of her old gang, those she hadn't seen gunned down were missing and hadn't tried to contact her, or couldn't but I'd not voiced that opinion.
"So what, the crater? It's been a week and a half since these assholes rolled in. I think they'd have found anything valuable by now." she was kinda right, I might be dead on the money about there being something at GZ but it might be too late to find it... But then if they'd got it? Then what were they still doing here? Maybe I was wrong but my curiosity was killing me and I had to find out.
"You know what Serena, you want to stay here be my guest, I'll just go on my own." I was about to jump when I felt a hand take hold of my shoulder. I should've guessed.
"Hold on tight and close your eyes." I smirked. The last time she'd looked when I jumped, she'd spent three whole days in bed just lying there, not eating or drinking, like she was dead to the world or something.
I focused on a point by the crater and then the rush came. I had the sensation of travelling at a speed so high it felt almost like it'd tear the flesh from my very bones.
Then we were there. My ears popped, and we stood on top of the skyscraper that previously dominated the Historic District, it was still the largest building in the city, but the blast had crippled its foundations, and it leaned perilously to one side. People tended to steer clear of the area – some because it brought back terrible memories, most though because they feared that one day the supports would snap and the building would finally finish its descent.
I'd never been on top of this thing before now. It was hard to miss it even from the other two districts and a friend of mine from high school once boasted that he'd scale the whole building and climb back down again. I'd not seen him since before the blast – hell I'd pretty much dropped out of school by then, Empire City High wasn't exactly the worst place you could go but it had its share of bullies, a few of which seemed to take my very existence as a personal slight. So they ambushed me in a back alley with a few friends. I was lucky Todd was having a few of us over for dinner, doubt I would've made it out of there otherwise – Todd didn't though. One of the assholes pulled out a knife – even his friends freaked out a little when they saw it, probably just thought they'd rough me up a bit and leave it at that. He came at me, and Todd – poor, scrawny Todd who'd never so much as raised his hands in anger before – jumped in his way...
I pounced on him and broke that fucking psycho's arms, wailing on him until his face was a pulpy mess and a passing teacher found some cops on patrol and broke it up. I still wonder how I got off with just an expulsion and not a court case, the other guy at eighteen years old went to jail after having his face stitched back together. Fucker deserved that and more, and I really hope he got it when the blast went off...
I'm sorry where was I again?
"So we're here. See anything?" Serena asked. I made a face and glanced at her.
"We're not gonna see anything from up here smartass. We gotta get down there." I told her, Serena scrunched up her features and tilted her head to one side.
"Are you sure that's a good idea? I mean those gas-mask guys said it was irradiated or something." I rolled my eyes.
"Oh right because those freaks are the pinnacle of truth and justice and all that shit. C'mon if it was really irradiated I think they'd be wearing more than just trench coats and masks." I argued, hopping off the edge and teleporting to a lower ledge to get a better view of the massive crater, it looked deserted from where I'd been standing but people looked like ants from way up there. I needed to get closer to get a better idea of who was lurking around.
So far there was nothing there. Jumping to the bottom of the skyscraper at the very edge of the massive crater, I could see that there was nothing here. It was a strange sight; this scene of destruction in a place so familiar to me, the road that trailed outside where an entire city block used to stand was completely deserted, and behind the wrecked parking lot too. There was no one here any more. Taking a tentative step forwards I suddenly stopped – what if I was dead wrong and this place really was irradiated, I could be walking into the equivalent of a nuclear reactor without any sort of protection. I'd said to Serena that the gas-mask freaks didn't seem to be wearing much of the way of radiation protection, but they lugged those tanks around on their backs too didn't they? What if those tanks gave them some sort of immunity or protection from the radiation? It wasn't entirely impossible right? They had people who could make themselves invisible to the eye and then there were those drones that lobbed grenades – these guys looked well ahead of our time. I felt very, very bad about coming here.
Then, quick as a snap, all those thoughts disappeared as I realised that if this place really was irradiated then I'd already stepped into it and therefore was already fucked – what'd walking around a little longer mean if I was already a dead man? Feeling strangely invigorated by the morbid thought, I stepped into the crater, hearing Serena land behind me, I didn't need to look to know she was worried, but I hadn't dropped dead or sprouted a third arm yet so I continued on.
My lap of the crater took me about fifteen minutes, when I still felt good I checked the rest, including what I could only assume was the eye of this particular storm. It was strange, bombs usually levelled everything right? So why was this pillar of earth still standing while everything around it had been utterly decimated? It was almost like it had been some sort of shockwave. A chill crept up my spine. The blast gave rise to all this crazy shit happening – the plague, the quarantine, the gangs that now ruled Empire City, as well as giving me and Serena powers beyond human capabilities. Could this blast – and everything that followed it – have been the work of someone with powers of his or her own? The idea of someone capable of bringing about this much devastation chilled me to the very core of my being. The idea of trying to stop said someone sat even less well – but how could I do nothing? I was probably the only person who had come to this conclusion, hell probably the only person who had even come near the crater since the day the blast turned this city on its head. The gas-mask freaks certainly wouldn't do anything, why would they? They had an agenda of their own. Could they be searching for this guy too? Why? Argh so many goddamn questions!
I reeled, clutching my head which had begun to ache. I hacked and sputtered, my throat felt like it was aflame. I hawked and lowered a hand to my mouth, feeling something run through my fingers. I didn't need to see it; I could taste the copper in my mouth. Shit. I'd been wrong. This place was irradiated and to sate my own damn curiosity I'd dragged Serena along and probably killed her too. Almost blindly, I stumbled from the epicentre and jumped to the edge of the blast, Serena was at my side in an instant, questions practically spilling from her soft red lips. I didn't bother answering, I grabbed hold of her and jumped as many times as I thought possible in order to get us away from that abominable place, emerging somewhere in the middle of the district. I didn't know where; by the time we emerged from the other plane I'd collapsed and felt my consciousness withdraw.
I dreamt of destruction, screams, people dying and feeding a raging inferno that engulfed the entire city and blazed through the nation destroying all in its path. I dreamt of a city surrounded by swamps, lit up like a beacon and standing against the inferno where everything else burned around it. I dreamt of a lightning storm so terrible that it shook the ground like an earthquake. I dreamt of a group of strangers – their faces shrouded by smoke and the shadow of the towering blaze, of a clash between these men, women and children and the storm that tore the ground and ruptured the very skies. I dreamt of a girl on fire, hair ablaze like the powers she wielded, standing with the storm, duelling with another raging wildfire as black as midnight. I dreamt...
Too damn much.
Hacking and sputtering wasn't the best way to wake up, but at least it confirmed that I was alive. I'd begun fearing that I'd be dreaming for the rest of eternity. Something stirred at my feet, I was abed, and Serena laid on top of my legs. If it weren't for the fact I was hawking up my life fluid I'd probably have found her adorable, and immediately after thinking just that a pang of guilt shot through me. This couldn't go on, the longer I said nothing the more I led her along, and the harder hit she'd be when she learned. I had to tell her, consequences be damned.
She was already stirring, brought back to reality by my really shitty wake-up call; I leaned up, grimacing as I felt pain shoot through my chest. I was back at her place – dirty, old posters of different musicians and punk bands, a few scattered clothes she'd not bothered to put away, drab white wall paint. It was good to be home. She must have carried me back here after I'd fainted.
"You feel okay?" I heard her ask when I stopped sputtering like an old car engine.
I waited a moment to see if I'd start up again before replying.
"No." I admitted, and a slight frown appeared on her face.
"Well, I got good news. We're not gonna grow third arms or anything." I glanced at her, raising an eyebrow.
"I found a doctor on our way back here. Said that the First Sons took most of his stuff but he had enough of it to check." She explained. I nodded in understanding, then glanced back at her.
"First Sons?" She nodded her head, and then poked a thumb to her window. I got her meaning.
"So they do have a name. Sounds kinda occultist for a merc group." I sighed, shut my eyes and found myself thinking about my dream.
"Actually the doc said that he doesn't think they're mercenaries." I opened my eyes again, appraising Serena and motioned for her to continue.
"He said that one of them showed him this symbol when they took the stuff from his clinic – after he pointed his gun at him – and he said that he's seen it before, somewhere in this city!" she exclaimed, clearly excited. Nothing got her mood up like a good conspiracy theory.
"So what, these guys have their base here or something?" I asked her.
"I dunno, the doc just said he'd seen their symbol here, they could be like a global-spanning organisation or something!" she paused "Hey... Do you think maybe these guys caused the blast?"
This sleuthing deal was beginning to wear me down; I felt like someone had driven an axe into my skull and dumped a kilo of salt onto the wound just to give me more grief. Right now all I wanted to do was guzzle down as much food as I could get and sleep the day away. Only there was barely any food and sleep – while certainly attractive at present, would probably only take me back to the dreams. I heard Serena fidget nervously at the foot of the bed and was about to say something – anything – to break the string of thoughts I've had on the origin of this crisis when the TV blared into life, static filled the screen, and a voice I wasn't familiar with blared through the speakers.
"Take a look at this Empire City! The footage you're seeing was taken by a security camera near Ground Zero! This 'accident' destroyed our city! Our lives! Someone from your family died? Well now you know who to blame." A still, colourless image appeared, displaying a man wearing a dark and light leather jacket; dark pants with a light strip down his right leg and a sling bag with a phone attached to it. He had a shaved head and a light stubble. The image stayed on-screen for a moment before switching to a live broadcast of a guy wearing glasses, covering his mouth with a handkerchief and a white shirt "If you know anything about this guy, let me know cause we got to get the word out on this terrorist! Whoever he is, we're gonna make him pay!" The broadcast ended then.
Neither of us said anything for a while, even after the pirate broadcast ended. Then, about five minutes after, Serena spoke up.
"I think I know that guy." That was news. She didn't turn around, still fixated on the TV.
"Well, not know-know him, but more 'seen you around' know him. I think he's a delivery-man or something, rides a bike dropping off packages. Come to think of it... He passed this place on the day of the blast... Holy shit." Suddenly she was all activity.
"He did it! Holy shit we were hiding a goddamn terrorist in our city this whole time! Everything is because of him! The quarantine, the gangs, the fucking blast, every lick-shit of crap that's happened to anyone in this city is because of a fucking delivery boy!" she raged, pacing up and down the room. The TV hovered in the air, as did other assorted items in the room, the bed was starting to shake too – if she didn't calm down she might accidentally do me some serious damage, I had to calm her down – fast.
"These gangs, are they in on it too? These First Sons guys have people with powers right? You've seen 'em. I've been hearing that there are others like 'em in the other gangs in the city too, the Reapers and the Dust Men they're called. Jesus Christ it's a goddamn super-freak hostile takeover!" she continued ranting on, growing ever more engrossed in something becoming more and more nonsensical by the second.
"You know, you're one of those 'super-freaks' too." The withering glare she shot me through those violet eyes told me that this wasn't the time, though the levitating objects lowered a little, but now they started shaking instead as if they were about to burst like an overripe melon, it was a wonder she'd not noticed them yet.
"Serena, you need to calm down, you're – "
"No Rhys, I'm perfectly calm!" She was getting really angry now, this wasn't going too well, she turned her head, resuming her pacing and her imagination that had likely by now escaped the track and flown off into the distance "What if they had help from outside? You saw how fast the quarantine came down it's like they knew it'd happen or something, maybe they're all working together..."
Okay this was getting ridiculous, drastic measures needed to be taken. Now. Before she brought the landlord up to see what the fuss was all about. Ignoring my protesting body, I forced myself out of bed and limped towards Serena, who was now facing away from me considering more impossibilities. As I reached out for her, I could only think over and over again how badly I was going to regret this.
I grabbed her, and pulled her into me, giving her quite possibly the tightest hug she'd ever been given in her lifespan. I heard her gasp in surprise and I was glad I couldn't see her face. The floating assorted objects crashed back to the ground – we were going to need a new portable radio, and Serena had just lost a few of her CDs, but thankfully the TV looked like it was okay.
"C'mon. You're not very cute when you're angry you know..." I heard myself say, and cringed inwardly. Goddamn of all the things I could have said... She tensed up as if she'd been expecting a blow, but relaxed almost immediately after.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid...
I could have gone on with that train of thought, but Serena had detached herself from me and was now sitting down on a chair that creaked louder than anything I'd ever known. She took a deep breath and sighed, before looking back up at me (presumably after her face had regained its natural colour).
"Thanks... I was uh... getting pretty out of control there." She trailed off.
"No problem." I replied, dumbly. An awkward silence descended upon us until Serena started giggling like a school girl.
"What?" I asked her.
"Nothing, nothing. Just..." she opened her mouth as if about to continue, then closed it. She looked at me with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. I sighed in an exasperated manner and hung my head comically before bringing it back up, all the while mentally kicking myself.
Me and my big fucking mouth.
We tidied up the room, making sure anything that had fallen still worked, piling everything that didn't into a corner for us to sort out later. Serena leaned up against the bed, I sat on the edge, silence reigned again for a moment before Serena once again took it upon herself to fix it.
"So... What do we do now?" she asked. I put a hand up to my chin and caressed my growing stubble – give it a few more days and I'd need a shave.
"We know who the... bomber is. I guess we need to find him." I was reluctant to tell her exactly what I thought of the blast and the 'terrorist' at its epicentre. Serena nodded appreciatively, then glanced up at me.
"And what, beat the shit out of him for starting this whole thing?" she asked.
"No." I confirmed, my voice hard as gravel, and had more steel to it than I actually felt at that moment "We find him, and we ask him why. Why did he do this? Why now? What connection does he have to these First Sons guys and the other gangs. We find out the whole purpose behind this attack. When we know..." I paused, turning my gaze from the wall in front of me down to Serena
"We'll scalp that motherfucker."
Cameos man. Also the first special appearance of one of WhiteZephyr's characters. I don't think you need me to patronize you by telling you which part of the story it is.
No lengthy AN here, if you do perchance leave a review, constructive criticism would be appreciated. That is all.