This is it - the last chapter of issue one. Don't despair, however, for Issue Two shall be coming soon. Just keep checking my profile or whatever. It's all written and everything, it just needs me to stick it up here. Anyway...on with the story!
7 - A Bolt From The Blue
7 - A Bolt From The Blue
The warehouse was dying. It crumbled weakly, groaning like a wounded animal, which perhaps it was. With many of its supporting walls and rafters obliterated, it was physically swinging from side to side. The team traversed the winding corridors, searching for a way out. They often had to double back and change direction due to cave-ins and blocked passages.
Alicia was in front, supporting the ceiling as best as she could with her telekinesis. Rik and William came next, Rik cursing under his breath and William stumbling dazedly over the rubble. Behind them, Zach led Oanna forward, with Helen at the back. It was frightening, with the creaks and moans of the dying building reverberating around them and thick dust choking the air. Suddenly, there was a noise from up ahead, and several soldiers appeared through the haze.
Alicia temporarily turned her attention away from the ceiling and weakly managed to knock one over. Zach rushed forward to help, zapping at their guns and knocking them out. One grabbed Rik by the shoulder. Unable to let go of William, Rik growled and spat in the guard's eye. The soldier snarled, then fell back clutching his face and screaming.
"You guys piss me off!" hissed Rik, "Now get lost, before I really get mad!"
As they scattered like so many cockroaches when a light is switched on, Oanna stared at Rik curiously.
"You are poisonous?" she asked.
"Only when I lose my temper." he shrugged, shifting his weight and beginning to lead William forward again.
"Guys...." Alicia shut her eyes, her forehead lined with strain, "I don't think I can....hold this roof up much...longer....We need to get....to stable ground."
Zach nodded. "When I was looking through the computer system I saw a diagram of the warehouse. If we head up and to the right we'll reach a safer area. Let's move."
Behind him, Helen screamed, arms came from nowhere and locked round his waist, the world turned black, and a rushing noise filled his ears. He woke up what could have been hours or only seconds later to see a huge beam land with an earth-shattering crash where he had been standing. A wave of nausea overtook him, and he turned to see Helen, swaying on her feet and clutching her head.
"Did you just port me?" he asked. She nodded feebly, her eyes scrunched up in pain.
"I…I've never ported another person before." She whispered.
"Does it always make you want to puke?"
"The first few times." she mumbled, doggedly starting forward again. "It still tires me out after only a few ports…"
"Up here, let's go!" shouted Alicia from ahead. Wearily, the team scrambled up the stairs, fatigue beginning to gnaw at them, overtaking the adrenaline that had kept them going. A light shone through the dusty tunnel, and it sped them forward. They emerged, staggering, coughing and exhausted from below, onto a top floor landing where the sighs of the building's deathbed were not so loud.
Alicia sank down in a corner, her eyes half shut. Zach looked round at the others. Helen was white-faced with dark rings under her eyes; Oanna was coughing feebly, trying to clear the dust from her lungs. Even Rik looked tired, his rage dissipating and leaving him drained and weary looking.
"I think," Zach gasped, "we're safe now."
Alicia smiled, and opened her mouth to say something, but Zach never heard what it was. Suddenly, there was an ear-splitting squeal from the timbers above them, and the ceiling started to give way.
"Alicia!" Rik yelled.
"I can't stop it!" she cried back, her voice terrified.
"It's coming down!" Zach grabbed Helen, putting her behind him. He turned to Oanna, but she wasn't there. She stood, staring up at the ceiling, her face absolutely still. As the roof collapsed and came tumbling towards them, she suddenly opened her mouth. A strange, strong, echoing cry rose from her lips. She flung her arms up and from them a physical shockwave flew forward. Her cry intensified, until it was a physical pain in Zach's ears, and the roof was blasted clean away. There was a dull crash as it broke up and levelled the remainder of the warehouse and the lab to the ground. Pale sunlight streamed down on them from the bright blue sky above, and cool, fresh air surrounded the teens as they stood in shocked silence, on the top floor of a ruined warehouse, now missing most of its walls and ceilings.
"Oanna," Helen blinked, "How did you...Oanna?"
The mermaid staggered backwards and swayed on her feet. Her eyes glazed over and she fainted, falling delicately, like the petal of a flower.
"Oanna!" Zach ran over and knelt beside her. "Are you okay?"
Her large dark eyes flickered open and gazed up at him.
"I am not sure." She whispered, "I feel strange. Was it I who did that?"
"Yeah." He smiled down at her, "You were awesome."
She smiled back at him, and Rik snorted loudly.
"Can you two finish making goo-goo eyes at each other? I wanna get home within the next century."
Zach stood up, grinning slightly.
"Shut up, dude!"
He punched Rik's arm, and unexpectedly felt the wild rush of energy flowing through him that signified his powers.
Oh no! One of my gloves must be torn!
As Rik grunted in pain and jerked backwards, William was thrown from his grip and with a scream, hurtled head-first over the ledge.
Helen shrieked in horror, and the team rushed over to the edge.
Time seemed to pass slowly as the wind rushed past William. An awful weightless sensation filled his stomach and he shut his eyes, feeling tears beginning to form at their corners. This was it. He was going to die, far from home and by himself.
Suddenly he felt an agonising spasm in his back, and he gasped in pain. Then there was another one, larger this time, convulsing across his shoulders, like something alive and trapped inside him.
From above the others watched in shock as his back rippled wildly below his skin. He screamed and with a wet ripping noise, like fabric being torn in half, a huge pair of feathery white wings burst from his shoulder blades and opened out behind him.
The pressure and pain in his back suddenly vanished, and he felt something jerk him to a halt, stopping his headlong plummet. He hung motionless in the air for a heartbeat, then began to fall again, hitting the cement hard. He rolled to a stop and didn't move, keeping his eyes shut. He breathed in and out through his mouth rapidly, trying to come to terms with his near-death experience.
What happened? Why am I still alive?
He could vaguely hear voices round about him, the others must be nearby. He curled into a ball, his stomach still twisted into a knot of fear.
What happened? How did I survive?
What am I…?
"Okay – last slice of pizza! Anyone want it?" asked Zach, holding it up.
Helen wrinkled her nose and shook her head.
"I'll have it." Said Rik, snatching it out the other boy's hand.
"No need to be grabby! Sheesh."
"I come from a large family." He mumbled around a mouthful.
Over in the corner William shook his head in distaste.
For such a civilised society, Opidan seems to lack basic table etiquette. Is this food even edible?
He morosely poked his slice of pizza with a fork.
"Not hungry?" asked Alicia, who was sitting beside him. He shook his head and stared at his plate, uneasily trying to avoid looking at her. Her new appearance unnerved him; if he hadn't been so bewildered after waking up earlier he would have fled screaming. The thought brought a rush of shame.
Who am I to judge by looks when I myself am a…
His thoughts trailed off as he glanced behind him where his wings were hanging, their tips lightly brushing the floor.
"Hey, Bird boy. You can eat the pizza you know - it won't come alive and attack you."
He glowered up at Rik.
"Do not call me that."
"Why not? It's what you are."
"Stop being a jerk, Rik." Said Alicia absently.
"I'm not being a jerk – I'm simply making conversation."
"Rik – cut it out." Said Helen.
He rolled his eyes but relented, allowing Zach to change the subject. Oanna watched the interaction between the team members curiously, a small smile playing around her tiny mouth.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. Helen jumped up and ran out into the hall.
"It's Munroe!" she called out "And… a friend?"
"This is Eros Crowe." Said Munroe, her voice even more flat than usual. "He is a fellow government agent, and my assigned colleague."
"I've been begging Munroe to let me meet you all for quite some time, but she's kept very close about it." He smiled round at them. Some of them smiled tentatively back, but William just glared steadily at him and Rik didn't even bother to look up from the slice of pizza he was devouring.
"So, what do you think of The Casa?" Munroe pulled up a chair, but Crowe remained standing, his face half covered by the shadows in the dimly lit room.
"Dude! It's amazing! But why would the government want to give us a giant house on the edge of town?"
"It will serve as your headquarters and living accommodation. You will return tonight to your homes, but hopefully by next week you will all live here together. This way the government can contact you easily and swiftly when you are required."
"Moving out? Already? Isn't it a little soon?" blurted out Helen. "I mean, I knew that eventually we might do something like this, but we've hardly been together for any amount of time!"
"Yeah, and some of us have responsibilities back home." Said Rik, shifting a little in his seat.
"Responsibilities?" asked Zach incredulously, "You?"
"Yeah. You got a problem with that?"
"No, no dude. It's cool. I just never saw you as the responsible type, that's all."
"Don't worry. Your families will not lose out. The government has agreed that in return for you each to leave your homes, your guardians will be paid a pleasing lump sum every month."
"You're buying off our families so they stay quiet!" exclaimed Alicia.
"No – we are merely providing them with an income you could have earned had you remained a member of the household. Is there anything wrong in the government looking after the citizens who elected it?"
"Well, no, but…" Alicia frowned, her voice trailing off.
"But we hardly know each other!" exclaimed Helen.
"What better way to get to know someone than to live with them?" countered Munroe smoothly. "Besides, the completion of your first mission so soon shows you each have talent for this, and I don't see any difficultly in you beginning to do other missions while still training."
Helen bit her lip, glancing doubtfully round at the others, searching for a hole in Munroe's slick counter-arguments.
"Why don't you have a trial period?" the agent suggested, when no-one spoke, "You move in here for a month, and if you really don't like it, you may return home when the month is finished."
"That sounds fair." Zach's voice was slow, but his eyes shone with enthusiasm.
"Agreed?" Munroe examined the faces of each of the team members and they eventually all nodded.
"Agreed." Said Alicia.
"Excellent. Now, speaking of your first mission, would you like to brief me on the exact details?"
"Sure!" exclaimed Zach, "We were dropped at point zero at approximately thirteen hundred hours. We entered the domicile at approximately thirteen hundred hours and three minutes. We –"
"Zach, honey?" interrupted Alicia
"Not like that."
His face fell.
"But that's how they always do it in the movies…"
"Yeah, I know. But this is real life. It's not the same."
Zach sighed glumly.
"I suppose. But I have all the times recorded on my watch; I thought that was the sort of stuff we were supposed to do. I mean -"
"Zach?" asked Rik.
Zach seemed to shrink, his face sinking down till it was resting morosely on the table top.
"Basically," Alicia began, when no-one else seemed to be volunteering to explain it, "We all split up into groups, and William went by himself. He got captured, and Zach and I knocked down a wall and –"
"Wait!" exclaimed Helen suddenly, "Sorry for interrupting, but I want to know one thing. Why didn't you tell us about Alicia and William's histories?!"
She looked at Munroe accusingly.
"I didn't think it was information you needed to know."
"Don't you think it was dangerous not to tell us?"
"Perhaps, but would you have agreed to go on the mission if you had known?"
"Well I – yes – no… I don't know." She sighed.
"Precisely. Besides, I thought that it was information they should choose to give."
"I suppose. But no more secrets, okay?"
"Here here!" Rik slammed his fist down on the table melodramatically. Helen frowned at him.
"Don't mock me!" she said sternly, trying not to smile.
"But it's so easy!" he exclaimed. She punched him on the arm, and he started to mock-punch her back. William looked at them in confusion, unsure whether to be amused or appalled. Eventually Alicia cleared her throat and continued.
"Well, anyway, the rest of us met up, and then we found Convosa's lab. Oanna was there, and we freed her and William, but then the warehouse started to collapse, so we all had to escape. That was when William grew his wings."
"What sort of research Convosa doing in his lab?" asked Crowe suddenly. Helen jumped; she had forgotten he was standing there.
"He was given a power crystal by someone, and was being paid to research its effect on living creatures." Said Oanna, her voice quivering slightly.
"I – I do not know. Someone called Chrone."
"Chrone?" he repeated softly.
"Crowe." Stated Munroe coldly, "You may be an agent, but I am the one responsible for this project. It is nothing to do with you. You have no right to cross-examine any of these young adults."
"Oh, I appreciate that, I really do. I was just curious as to-"
"I am curious as to whether you can shut your mouth. Can you?"
He fell silent, and Munroe turned back to the team.
"Thank you, Oanna, you have been through a traumatic experience and I can understand that you are suitable upset by it. I have only a few more questions. Was it the crystal that caused Mr Blake's wings?"
Oanna nodded. William didn't look up from where he was. He hadn't spoken throughout the whole exchange
"It also changed me. I gained a…like the creatures of the sea use to find each other, only more. More powerful, more physical. A…sonar wave?"
"Right. This is my last question: what happened to the crystal?"
"Oh, it was buried below the warehouse." Said Zach, fiddling with his napkin.
"Buried?" repeated Crowe, who had been shifting from foot to foot restlessly.
"Yeah. We thought it had done enough damage."
"You're sure of that? There was no chance that someone might have snuck in and –"
"Crowe! If you do not cease attempting to interrogate these minors I shall personally see to it that you are deported from this department!" Munroe slammed her fist on the desk, causing the team to jump.
Eros Crowe backed off warily, holding his hands up in front of him defensively.
"Okay, I'm sorry. I won't do it again, I promise."
Munroe sighed, and turned her attention back to the team.
"Anyway. Thank you, you have all done very well. You should be proud of yourselves. If you are each sure that you wish to be a part of this project, then I have here codenames for each of you."
"Codenames?" snorted Rik, "You have got to be joking me! That is so lame!"
"Shut up." Said Helen absently.
"You shut up!" he grinned back.
Munroe coughed, causing them to fall quiet again.
"As I was saying. Codenames may sound ridiculous, but we have no idea of what the consequences of being in a group like this could be for you. We feel it is important you keep your identities a secret, especially since many of you still count as minors. When you are out on missions or on any kind of government business, you must call each other by your codenames. They are as follows: William – your codename is Seraph. Alicia – Maulkin. Helen – Nimbus. Rik – Venin. Zach – Flux. And Oanna – Siren."
"Oanna's joining the team?" asked Helen.
"If she chooses to accept a place on board, yes."
The others all looked at the mermaid, who shrugged and smiled.
"Yes, of course I will join. What else could I do after you saved me?"
"Awesome! So, to the Tempest Team?" Zach raised his glass questioningly in the air. Nodding, the others all joined him, and the glasses clinked together gently.
"To the Tempest Team." They repeated.
Outside, night fell upon the city of Opidan. The storm had come.
Much thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed - you've all made me very happy D. This was the first issue in an ongoing series, so keep your eyes peeled for Issue Two: Times Of Trial, where the team face a whole host of new problems and challenges. With suspicious deliverymen, new enemies which threaten the whole city, and on top of that trouble within the team, it'll be one exciting tale. (And I personally think my writing style is better in it than in this issue, so that's also good...)
Ta much again,