|The Deadwood Event
Author: LastThingUneverSee PM
It's 2024. Nexus is 17. He lives in the City, the huge ruins of a once-grand metropolis. Now two rival gangs rule the streets, ordinary humans and Renegades are in hiding. But there is something more sinister going on than all the City's residents gaining superpowers after a mysterious Event six years ago, as Nexus soon discovers.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Sci-Fi/Supernatural - Chapters: 10 - Words: 47,064 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 05-10-13 - Published: 02-10-13 - id: 3099857
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
June 3rd, 2018
Eli was four hours younger than Zack. They were twins, both born August the fifth, 2006. They lived in the shadier area of the City, where drug dealers and murders were commonplace and you'd have to side-step a body or a bag of dope on your regular journey to school.
They couldn't be more opposite, he and his brother. He was the tearaway son his parents didn't want, the one they had to deal with because he couldn't keep his nose clean for more than ten minutes. He had messy, unkempt black hair and eyes so dark they matched his pupils. Zack was the goody-two shoes prodigy. He saw a body in the street, he'd run the other way and cry wolf for all he was worth. He saw a bag of drugs dropped in a shootout, he'd take it straight to the police station and turn it in. He was the perfect one, the one their parents wanted..
Eli woke up at six o'clock in the morning that day. He was bunking off. He was going to hang around some fast food restaurant all day, just to get out of double maths. He hated maths, and he didn't see the point in trying to get anything from it. All he needed were the basics, so he could count the money he was planning on earning from some "jobs" in the future. His criminal life was already set out in front of him.
He dragged himself out of bed and tiptoed down the hall into the bathroom. First, he listened to see if Zack was in there. If he was, Eli would have to hide and wait for who knew how long to get in there. Annoyingly, he could hear the sound of the tap running as his brother brushed his teeth. He rolled his eyes and turned around to head back to his room when the door opened.
'Eli?' Zack asked. Eli braced himself and turned back. 'Why are you up so early?'
'Why are you up so early, Zacky?' Eli hissed.
'I'm always up this early. You're not. You hang around in bed until the last minute,' whispered Zack.
'Well I pulled an all-nighter, and I'm bored of morning TV. There's nothing good on after four,' he muttered. That much was true, there was nothing good on after four AM every day. But the rest was a lie, and hopefully a believable one.
'Fine, have your bathroom,' said Zack, finding nothing to criticise. He'd given up telling Eli to get up earlier a long time ago, and Eli fake-smiled as Zack walked past and into his room. Eli exhaled deeply and half-ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind him.
Twenty minutes later, he was downstairs and dressed in the living room, Zack still upstairs taking two hours to get dressed as per usual. As long as he could get out, Zack would have no idea where he'd gone, and he could escape for the whole day, facing his brother's slightly tragic and pathetic "wrath" later on that day. He could deal with his twin though.
He slipped out of the door, not bothering to take a set of keys with him. He'd left his window open, and he'd scaled the wall multiple times before and could find the footholds with his eyes shut. Not that Zack knew that. How he got into the building was a mystery. He was walking off, giving the clone-like terrace a final farewell when he bumped straight into somebody.
'What are you doing?' asked Cole. His brother's friend, not his. Eli had wondered why. Cole was a troublemaker, they were kindred spirits, they shared more similarities than the twins ever had. He kenw Cole wouldn't tell Zack anything though. He'd bumped into him and spilled his deeds before, and they'd laughed about it.
'Going out,' said Eli, walking around him.
'Where?' asked Cole curiously.
'I don't know, somewhere I can eat and loiter and not do maths,' he said.
'What're you going to gain by doing that?'
'Umm...' Eli put his finger to his chin like he was deep in thought, 'nothing. Except food. Why?' Cole laughed to himself, shook his head and moved on. 'Not a word to my brother!' Eli called after him.
'Sure thing,' said Cole, waving his thumbs-up around, but not turning back. Eli walked off and onto the path running alongside the main road.
He'd walk into town. It was only an hour away, and he walked it all the time. He'd cut through a few back alleys, past a couple of bodies, ignoring the drugs until the cross roads in the middle came into view. No buses passed him on his journey, they didn't run before seven in this part of town, and only a handful of cars zoomed past.
But he had a detour to make before he got anywhere with food. There was a quarry, not to far. It was abandoned, nobody ever walked there. It was safe and secluded, and right then safe and secluded were exactly the two things he needed. He slipped through a very thin snicket and emerged out, half-running half-sliding down the slope and into the bottom. Nobody will notice a new crater in here, he thought to himself.
He perched himself behind a large pile of burnt-out, rusted cars. The quarry was a popular place for dumping bodies and stolen vehicles, and they gave him even more privacy than he deemed nescessary, but he wouldn't dare move out of the cover they offered. He said cross-legged and helf his hands out in front of him, balled into fists.
The humming started, accompanied by the crackling of a fire and all made visible by the glow spreading through his hands, his bones becoming visible and making him look like a human x-ray. He was forced to open his palm by the increasing energy and light pulsed and surged like it was alive. It scared him a little, and he clenched his fist again, the light and the sound dying.
He repeated this process with his other hand, then alternated between them. If only I understood it, he thought. Understood why his hands would glow and burn and show his bones and crackle. He only had one theory: he was radioactive. He didn't know how this was possible, but it had been happening for nearly a fortnight. It was the only thing that kept him brave enough to wander these streets at this hour. He knew he could kill whoever was opposing him. He'd done it before.
He shuddered to remember. It had only been on Sunday, when he'd simply been walking around the alleys as he did. Usually, he was cautious. He was fast enough to run on foot, but that day had been different. They'd known he was there, the two men had come from both sides. Of course, they had a gun. They'd asked him for his money. He'd thrown what little he had at them, but they hadn't believed that was all he had. They didn't have consciences, obviously, to be trying to mug an eleven year old. Then they'd shot.
Eli hadn't known what happened next, but there was a bright light and then just their skeletons remained, black with rags and flesh sticking to the bones, the bullet vapourised midair. Then he'd fled. All the way home, where he thought he'd be safe. He had been safe, too. But he'd killed two men, and it had been eating a way at him since. Until he'd realised that bullet had been speeding towards his own brain, and he hadn't been aware of whatever minor explosion he'd caused. It had popped up on the news the following day as a freak accident. The police had been baffled, and Eli had had to throw his clothes straight into the bin.
Eli tried to direct the whatever-it-was at something, fire it. He flung his hands forward and waved them around for a few minutse, but nothing worked, all that happened was the light flared for a few small seconds and faded again. He sighed, giving up and feeling drained. As he allowed the "power" to leave his body, he felt like he was drawing energy from the air around him. It refueled him, giving him the strength to actually go somewhere instead of just sitting.
Then he heard the voices.
'I'm telling you, there's something weird going on in this crater,' said one of them. It was a man, young, probably early twenties. The voice sent panic through his body and he crammed into the front seat of the nearest car, managing to stuff himself next to the pedals. Lucky the car didn't work or it would be screeching and ramming itself all over the place.
'Weird like what? We should go, we've got to get to class,' said a second voice. Another man.
'No, it's important. Listen,' he said. They hushed, and Eli quietened too. 'Hear it?' There was no reply from the other man, but Eli guessed he'd nodded by the next sentence, 'it's my geiger counter. I was carrying it through here yesterday and it spiked when I passed the quarry.'
'So what?' asked the second voice, 'it's probably just broken. Why would the quarry suddenly be radioactive?'
'Aliens, a government experiment, a toxic waste dumping ground,' he was suggesting wild theories. A conspiracist.
'Come on, let's just... whoa!' said his friend. 'That's a lot of rads...'
'Exactly! It's not natural, and before you ask my counter is not broken, I checked it the other day,' he said. Eli peered out of the window of the car. He saw the two young men, probably students, standing right on the edge of the quarry where it started to dip. 'Come on, let's go down.'
'No way, are you crazy? Do you want to die?' asked his friend, grabbing his arm and dragging him back from the edge. Eli felt better knowing they weren't going to investigate further, so he ducked his head to make himself as small as possible and just listened.
'But it's interesting! Think of what we could find,' said the first man, sounding completely in awe.
'Yeah, you're going to find death. Let's get out of here, it's dangerous,' ordered the second man.
'No, we're leaving. Google search some stuff about the quarry. I'm sure something will come up.' There was some more bickering between them, but finally their voices and footsteps on the soft grass and rubble faded away. Eli's suspicions and fears were confirmed. He was a living conduit of radiation.
He lingered in the quarry for a while longer, pulling himself up to sit properly in the drivers seat, and found himself spending the minutes wondering what else he could do. He didn't have a clue exactly how radioactive he'd made the quarry, but he knew he shouldn't do anymore. It would be dangerous for more than just trekkers wanting to explore.
It was half an hour later when he finally left, suspecting the students to return, possibly with hazmat suits or some kind of geiger counter on-a-stick to wave around, and they'd be sure to find him. He clambered out of it, finding the place empty, and ran off straight in the direction of the town centre where he could relax and get something to eat and settle his now very nervous stomach. They can't find me though, he assured himself, they can't get close enough to take DNA or anything.
He stumbled into his usual stop, which was a large, busy sandwich and pastry shop right in the middle. It wasn't yet a chain store, but Eli had a feeling it would be soon. He ordered his usual sandwich, and sunk into a seat opposite the door. There were enough people there nobody noticed him, a lone eleven year old boy quite clearling skiving school. Nobody except the two students.
'I'm sure Professor Down will contact the right people,' the second one was saying, 'you don't have to screw around in that quarry, Ben.'
'I do though! I have to know, because I don't trust them to tell us all the details,' he was whispering. Eli's seat was luckily near the counter, so he could hear their argument and see the two hazmat suits in the first student, Ben's, arms. His friend looked annoyed and exasperated. He wasn't going to win this row, and Eli knew he wouldn't be able to go back to the quarry for a long time.
'What's that noise?' said the second one after a few moments of silence. They listened over the chatter, Eli pretended to be eating and started to stuff the remnants of his sandwich into the paper bag to make an exit. It was a crackling sound. Ben pulled open his messenger bag and drew out the small, bright yellow object that was emitting the crackles.
Eli knew it was going to point directly at him, so he cut straight through the queue.
'It's... It's coming from him!' shouted the second student. Eli didn't dare look back, but he started to run, hearing the footsteps behind him. He was sprinting then, over the road through the morning's rush hour traffic. He needed somebody to come and save him from the crazy students, and for once he nearly wished Zack was there. He'd probably know what to do without murdering the poor men, which was a stupid and morally wrong idea on his part.
But they cornered him. He hadn't been paying attention to his route and they'd lead him straight into a dead end. He pressed himself against the wall, tried to scramble up it, but none of it was working.
'There he is, Jake,' said Ben. Now Eli knew the names of both the students. 'Why are you so radioactive!?' he called. They were both keeping their distance, Ben holding the geiger counter at arm's length so he could still read it.
'I don't know!' Eli shouted at them. 'Keep back!'
'Why? What'll happen if we come closer?' asked Ben. Stupid scientists, thought Eli, always wanting to test everything.
'I don't know! I'll burn you, I might explode, I could poison you,' he said.
'Burn us?' asked Ben, 'you mean, those two dealers dead in a alley a few days ago..? Did you have anything to do with that?' Eli nodded. Ben's eyes widened, but it was hard to tell whether they did it from excitement or terror. 'Were you in that quarry?' Eli nodded again.
'We should get out of here,' hissed Jake. There was no mistaking with him for Eli. He was shaking with wide eyes, his foot kept moving backwards and he was fidgeting, waiting for the precise moment he could run for his life.
'Let me see,' said Ben.
'No!' shouted Eli and Jake at the same time, 'I can't control it! I didn't mean to kill them!' Eli said.
'Let me study you, I can help!'
'You can't help, you don't know anything about what's happening! Just keep away,' Eli was yelling. Before they could do anything more, he placed his palms flat on the brick wall, closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt the energy enter his palms, heard the hums and crackles, felt the heat that didn't burn him. Then he felt the power seep away, draining him as he pushed all of it into the wall. There was a huge crash and the wall crumbled.
'WHAT THE-!?' was all Ben could yell as Eli ran through the rubble, the radiation in the air already absorbing itself back into him to give him more strength. He kept running. He ran and ran and ran until he got so far away he hardly knew where he was. He saw buses going past however, and hid in the grounds of the abandoned powerplant, hiding behind it, completely out of view and hopefully too far away for Jake and Ben to find him.
He stayed there until three. Until it was time for him to go home. School finished in ten minutes, he'd get home before Zack if he hurried. He caught the next bus, and stayed as close to the front as possible for the whole journey, meaning he had a good escape route. Not that he couldn't blow up the whole bus, he thought he probably could, but the idea made him feel like he was going to vomit. Even he couldn't do something so sick.
He was home by half past. He didn't risk sneaking through the house, but crawled on to the shed roof, then grabbed the windowledge of his room and pulled himself up and through, collapsing in a heap on the foor next to his bed. He was just about to get up when Zack appeared by the door. The door was ajar, but Eli could have sworn he hadn't been there a second ago. Nevertheless, he was going to have to face him now.
'Yeah?' he asked, shuffling over to his bed and sitting down. He was exhausted, mostly from stress but also because of his sprint halfway across town a couple of hours ago.
'Why weren't you at school?' questioned Zack, 'did you think I wouldn't notice?'
'No. I thought I'd get away before you caught me, and I did,' he grumbled.
'You're too reckless, Eli! You have to go to school, it's important!' he said.
'I had better things to do today, sorting out my future!' he lied. His future definitely wasn't running from crazy students all day and sitting in quarries. At least, he hoped that wasn't his future. The prospect made him feel cold and filled him with dread.
'What is your future, exactly?' asked Zack.
'It's none of your business. Just because you're four hours older than me you don't run my life! Just because we live under the same roof doesn't mean you can boss me around, I'm sick of it and I'm more sick of you, Zacky, so just go away!' Eli yelled, getting up and pushing Zack. Zack even looked hurt, but he backed out of the room and shut the door behind him, leaving Eli to sulk.
He didn't notice the news channel had been playing on his TV. Not until a bright yellow headline flashed up on it, reading "Radioactive Boy". He gulped. He hoped they didn't have a photofit. But his bad luck for the day was over. They did have a photofit, but thankfully it was dreaful. Nobody would guess it was him.
They showed the quarry, now surrounded by tents, tape and men in yellow radiation suits. Some of them in the much larger suits were daring to venture down into the thick of it, but quickly withdrew when their geiger counters started crackling like mad. Then the door opened on its own. Eli glanced over, and saw Zack materalise there.
'You're...' he choked out, kicking away his sheets and pushing himself against the wall and hopefully to safety.
'Invisible, yeah. And what're you, Eli? You like to go to that quarry, and I don't remember it being dangerously radioactive before. You're lucky mum and dad aren't watching the news, they'd recognise that photofit just like I did,' he said. Damn, thought Eli. He knew it was too good to be true and he couldn't hope to go incognito for long.
'Okay, fine, Zacky. I'm Exploding Radioactive Boy. Happy now? And you remember those "mysterious burn victims"? Well I killed them! Me! They tried to mug me, almost shot me in the head and I exploded and then they were just skeletons!' he was hissing madly, wishing to shout but not wanting anybody else to hear.
'I'll get you help,' said Zack seriously.
'Yeah, the kind where I get locked up by the government and called crazy! You should get help!'
'Me? All I can do is hide, Eli. You killed two people!' he exclaimed.
'I didn't mean to! It won't happen again, Zack. And they won't catch me. There's no way they can,' he assured his brother. For a split second, Zack looked relieved. Until a new bulletin sprang up on screen. They both turned to listen to the newsreader.
'The post mortem report for Saturday's burn victims has been released after the coroner was asked to speed up his diagnosis on a student's hunch they were victims of radiation burns. The tests have been made public and the cause of death was over exposure to over one-hundred times the lethal dose of radiation. An evacuation order for any areas of the city with deadly radiation levels have been issued. Crossfalls and Blue Creek are to be evacuated as soon as possible tomorrow morning. Officials and scientists will be scanning the rest of the city for other dangerous levels,' the anchorman said. Eli recognised the two areas. Crossfalls was where the quarry was, and Blue Creek was where he'd accidentally murdered the two muggers.
'Have you ever used your powers in the house?' Zack asked him quickly.
'No, I've always gone to the quarry,' he said. 'Honestly.'
'Doesn't hurt to be safe. Stay here, don't leave,' Zack ordered. He faded away in a split second, like somebody had poured something over him that made him vanish and Eli presumed he'd slipped out of the room. He waited a moment before turning his attention back to the news report. The anchor dished out warnings to a few other places around Crossfalls and Blue Creek saying they could be issued the evacuation order next. One of the places listed was Blackwood, the area where Eli went to school and lived in, where the inhabitants were being warned Blackwood could be the next place to be emptied.
Zack walked through the door, this time visible, holding up a similar yellow object to the one Eli had seen the students with earlier that day.
'Why do we have a geiger counter?' he quereyed. Zack held it up at different angles. It wasn't crackling, which meant either it was broken or there was fortunately very little radiation in the house. He felt relieved.
'They issued them four years ago to every household in case there was ever any kind of nuclear disaster. Just because you didn't watch the news,' Zack criticised.
'I was eight! You can't expect me to be a freak like you,' said Eli affrontedly.
'Me a freak? I'm not the one who exploded and killed two people and who's now caused two places to be evacuated!' Zack said angrily. 'At least it's not a prank and they do actually need to be evacuated. Hang on...' he said.
' "Hang on"? Why don't you hang on, Zacky!' he started. He was sick of Zack that day, blaming him for what had happene, only caring about what would happen to the rest of the family and not what would happen to Eli. He hadn't said it, but he'd been thinking it. Eli knew the compassionate Zack was all an act and really he was a selfish being.
'It's spiking!' Zack almost-shouted, pointing the counter straight at Eli, whose rage was now boiling. 'You're getting angry and it's making you radioactive! You have to calm down!' Zack grabbed Eli's shoulders' and shook him, but this only made Eli more annoyed and he ended up grabbing Zack's upperarm and throwing him down. Instantly he smelt the burning and his anger was replaced by worry.
'Zack? Are you alright!?' he was asking, nudging the door shut so the nasty smell of charred flesh and fabric wouldn't reach anyone downstairs. Zack's face was clenched tight and his right hand was pressed against his left arm. 'Move your hand.' Zack shook his head.
'You burnt me,' he whispered, gasping because he couldn't hold it in any longer.
'Move your hand, Zack!' Eli ordered. Zack moved his shaking, nervous hand away, revealing a grotesque burn in the shape of Eli's fingers from where he'd grabbed his brother. He couldn't hear the geiger crackling anymore, but he wasn't listening for it. He hoped he'd calmed down enough so they couldn't trace him. It was slightly black and charred on the outline, pinkish and raw on the rest of it and bubblig slightly. Eli had no idea what to do. He couldn't call an ambulance. He didn't know what they'd do, just that he definitely couldn't. So he hauled Zack up and helped him shuffle as he winced to the bathroom.
He perched Zack on the toilet after putting the lid down and put the cold tap on full blast. The sink filled in about a minute and he found a few flannels from somewhere. He wished he were invisible like Zack so he could sneak downstairs and get a load of washing up clothes, but he had to make do.
He soaked them and carefully lay them out over the burn, hoping beyond hope his parents wouldn't come into the bathroom any time soon.