Part Eleven: Freak
"Help! Help us! Please, anyone, somebody… We need your help!"
It might have been very early in the night, six o'clock to be precise, but screams like that were not uncommon in Seeker. From people getting mugged to car crashes and other deadly accident, the people of Seeker pleaded for help. No one ever helped them.
That was until Batmaster came along and with Frosty by her side. No one ever saw her; she was just that shadow of relief that protected those when they needed it most. And that's was just how she liked it.
Tonight was different. The screams were louder and there were more of them. As well, as a thick blanket of smoke over the Northern end of South Seeker, right beside one of the bridges over the Hunter River, leading into North Seeker. Sirens broke through the screams as fire trucks, ambulances and police cars raced to the scene. Some were already there, police marking off a burning apartment building while scared residents were escaping from the lower floors. More calls pleading for assistance rang from the upper, rapidly burning floors.
However, Alex Perrison didn't know any of this. She awoke to her phone buzzing beside her ear. She groaned and sat up on her bed, rubbing her throbbing head. She had been at work for the majority of the day, writing emails, delivering both messages and coffee to other employees before fixing up some issues with the antenna. No one understood how much she could get done within the few hours she worked and by the end of her shift today, her boss had given her a raise, refusing to take no for an answer.
She was on her last legs of consciousness before she collapsed on her mattress at three in the afternoon, her heavy eyes finally letting her sleep. She had drunk coffee during the day, but she was beyond exhausted. This couldn't be good for her body but hell; she didn't even know what her body was used to. She rarely got sick, she was always in top physical condition, no matter how much she ate, and she was able to heal quickly from injuries.
Her phone rang again as she sat up, face in hands, as she felt her wings start to grow outwards from her back. She pulled on one of her home-made shirts quickly, before the wings tore holes in her old clothes. She sat cross-legged on her bed, quietly mulling over her thoughts.
She picked up her phone right before the final ring and clicked the accept button after seeing the caller ID.
"Alex? Where are you!" Ashley's impatient tone shouted through the phone. "Get up! It's go-time!"
"Yeah, I'm heading out now! Hold your horses, Frosty, I'll be…" Alex started but when she heard the sirens in the background, she froze; piecing together the noise and her partners hurried and worried tone. Something had happened.
"There's been an accident, Bats," Ashley explained, "I need you at the northern side of South Seeker ASAP!"
"On my way," Alex answered and with a final click, the phone went silent.
Frosty waited impatiently on a rooftop a few blocks away from the fire. She didn't really feel drops in temperature, not getting cold or hot as easily as other people, unless there was a sudden increase or decrease. She clenched her fists, feeling her icy power build up and when she opened up her palms, small balls of crushed ice resided. The air was clouded with smoke, blocking out the last rays of sunlight for the day as the sun set behind dark blue-clouds over the ocean. She glanced up at the stars, only for a dark shadow to suddenly fly over. Batmaster glided down to perch on the railing on the building beside her.
"What's the situation?"
She now knew of the fire and what it was doing. Yes, she usually stopped criminals doing what wasn't right, but she was here to protect and help the citizens of Seeker City, no matter the situation. Though, she had no clue on how she was going to go up against a fire.
"Apartment block fire," Frosty answered in a swift and professionally voice before she took off at a run, signaling Batmaster to follow her. Bats took off from her railing to glide beside Frosty as she led her towards the fire.
"And the authority figures? Are they present?"
"Police, fire and ambulances are all there, but I guess you know why I have my suspicions."
Batmaster nodded. She had read an article in the paper a few months ago on how did this particular building had been upgraded recently, after another fire had gutted it right to the core. Fires this big don't come from thin air; they were started by human beings.
"Well…" Batmaster hesitated, not sure how to proceed. She knew people had seen her, but it sounded like there were more people there then she had ever dealt with. She wasn't sure how they would react to her… Or how she to them.
They stopped on the rooftop directly across from the fire and gasped at what they encountered. What they were expecting was something easy to handle, something not much higher than the second floor. But what they saw was a fierce fireball engulfing the entire building, several people trapped on the higher floors as fire-fighters struggled to contain it. A small crowd had formed in the street of evacuated citizens, forced back from the flames by police.
"Frosty, how strong is your ice?" Batmaster asked in a quiet, nervous voice. Fire wasn't something she felt confident about beating. It was a natural occurrence, not something anyone could tame or defeat.
"Strong enough for me to get to those people and rescue them, if I do it fast enough," the younger teen answered in an equally anxious voice. "And if I launch off the building beside it." She glanced at her partner. "You'll burn to death if you try to get in there."
"I am aware of that, but I'm not making you do everything when I can help just as much!" She noticed the building beside them, protected from the flames by rather large alleyways. "There," she exclaimed, pointing to them. "If you can get them down there to safety and I'll catch anyone if they try to jump by waiting up there." She pointed to the buildings beside the burning one.
"Good plan! Let's go!" Frosty exclaimed before she took off in a blur of color. She was aware of bumping into people as she ran through the building; she was aware of the red-hot flames licking at her heels and she was aware of her ice threatening to melt rather too quickly when she formed a steep ramp leading from the alleyway to the balconies of the floors where people threatening to jump from stood. No one refused her help when she grabbed onto them and leapt onto the slick, melting incline leading to safety. When they landed at the bottom, shocked at what had happened, it took a few seconds of fast talking from Frosty before they ran to safety.
Batmaster hid in the shadows, relieved that no one had tried to jump off the ice, but that was probably because the ice heroine was too quick for them to react. This was a good night for them, even though the fire-fighters were clearly struggling with the inferno – It was clear that the building would be lost.
Frosty was at the top floor now and grabbed a man holding a small child, a curly haired toddler. The man was spluttering thank you after thank you while his baby screamed his head off, squirming. The father tried to readjust his grip on the child, but right at the wrong time when Frosty leapt off the balcony and onto the ice incline.
Batmaster could see it happening in slow-motion. It was like nothing else was important now. She ran to the edge of the building and pushed off with all her strength to barrel down through the pouring smoke like a torpedo. The child screamed louder as he fell down through the smoke. The crowd grasped, yelps of horror were heard and the father of the crowd shrieked a loud and terrifying cry.
Batmaster caught the child and wrapped her arms around him, invisible to everyone else thanks to the smoke, before she halted herself in mid air, her wings beating slow and silently. The toddler stopped screaming and glanced up at her, a toothless smile breaking out. He might have been young, but he knew he was safe with her.
Seconds passed and the crowd stopped screaming, looking confused. Even the police men were baffled, including Captain Evans. A tall, light-haired man, he greatly resembled his son, Bailey, who was scratching his head in confusion as he struggled to get a glimpse through the dark smoke.
"What's going on?" he demanded to a female fire-fighter operating a hose nearby.
"Not sure, Sir!" the woman replied, "that kid should have been egg by now!"
"Look!" someone from the crowd screamed as a shadow emerged from the smoke.
Batmaster glided down and handed the child to his father, who stood by Frosty's side, sobbing. As soon as he heard his baby boy's cry, he stopped and looked up to grab him.
"Thank you," he croaked, hardly believing his eyes. He didn't even care who his child's savior was. Cheers rang out from the crowd.
But then, the crowd stopped cheering when they caught sight of her. Silence filled the area and the only sound was the roaring flames behind her. Even Frosty was silent, watching on to see how her partner would handle this.
Suddenly, a sudden screech of laughter came from an older woman wrapped in a blanket at the front of the barriers separating the people from the fire.
"Look at that freak!" she yelled, almost howling with laughter. "Have you ever seen something so ugly?"
Soon, murmurs were being uttered and insults started to fly, laughter slowly growing louder. But it wasn't until a beer bottle caught Batmaster by the cheek that she felt the hurt of their comments. The bottle shattered upon hitting her and the crowd began to yell more catcalls at her. Freak, animal, monster, beast, brute… She felt her eyes sting and blood drip down her cheek.
She held her wings up and shielded herself from the incoming ammo of debris thrown by the ungrateful citizens before she ran off. She pushed herself from the ground with all her strength and flew off, not caring where she went. She could hear the police trying to calm the crowd but it was too much… After all, they were right, she was a freak…
Frosty boiled with white-hot anger.
"Batmaster!" she yelled when she saw her friend take off. She turned around to the crowd, who applauded when they saw her. She could hear wolf whistles and cheers echoing from them but she ignored them. She was no hero; her partner was the only hero here; the best! "What the hell is wrong with you?" she yelled at them before she took off after Batmaster.
She chased her through the darkened streets, leaping from building to building until she found her friend in the furthest corner of South Seeker, far away from the scene of the fire. She wasn't on a tall building, like Frosty expected, but the cliff side where the ocean smashed into the rocks of the coast, a single tree looming over Batmaster. It wasn't a deep drop, but it was high enough that the water didn't splash up the soak her.
Frosty slowed to a walk and approached the hero cautiously. She was sitting with her back to her, cross-legged o the cold grass. Her wings were lowered behind her back, drooping. Obviously upset, her shoulders shook every few seconds.
Frosty reached her and did something she had never done before to Batmaster. She knelt down and wrapped her arms around Batmaster, avoiding her wings, feeling quiet sobs rock the usually strong hero's body.
Freak… Animal… Monster… Brute… Beast...
The calls echoed around her head and she could still hear the jeers in her ears. It hurt her. She was a freak, yes, but still human and humans had feelings. And when Frosty hugged her, she wasn't quite sure how to react. Her first hug ever. It felt nice, natural and safe. All the bad feelings in her body evaporated and she wrapped her arms around Frosty in return. Words didn't need to be said, they both knew what each other was thinking.
They released each other and Frosty settled down beside her partner as they sat there, watching the ocean, her head resting on the side of Batmaster's shoulder. No, they wouldn't be going back out tonight. A break was what they needed and now, they were getting one, because by tomorrow night, they would have a lot of work to do before everything they stood for was lost for good…
Meanwhile, in an unspecified location…
In a lone lab deep underground, a single scientist worked. He was young, rather skinny, and had unusual spiked hair, dyed a deep purple, brown re-growth slowly spreading through the roots. A head band was around his forehead but the rest of his clothes were pretty professional; a lab coat, except for the baggy jeans under them.
The swinging doors to the lab banged open rather loudly and three thick figures entered, staying in the shadows and away from the light of the man's lamp, from where he scribbled notes about useable beings in a sealed small tank set beside him.
"Your loan is due, Harrison," the smooth voice of Randolph Carter echoed. "Give us our money."
"Please, give me another week!" the young scientist, Jackson Harrison pleaded. "I have nearly completed the project! I just need to –"
"Silence! You incompetence has worn my patience thin! You owe us well over ten grand!" Carter snapped.
"Please, my experiment is almost complete and I'll be able to pay you back as soon as I can… Sir?" Harrison's face gained a look of deep worry as the older man remained silent.
A deep sigh came from the banker.
"I'm afraid we are at an impasse. This mean…" He gave a small chuckle. "It means the boys will be involved."
He clicked his fingers and the men at his side moved forward into the light. Both were big, wide-shouldered and beefy. They wore dark clothes and sunglasses over their eyes, despite the late time. Their faces were hard and they would look menacing to anyone.
Jackson shoved himself up against his desk in an effort to escape, but it was futile. He was grabbed by one of the men and held back, one hand around his throat, the other holding his pale and skinny arms behind his back.
The Big Guy turned away and lit up a cigar, as he heard blow after blow being laid into the scientist. He ignored the cries of pain, the sound of the blows landing and the smashing of various things in the room. When he turned back, the lamp was being smashed across Jackson's face and the tank splintered into a thousand pieces at his feet. Blood was pouring from gashes and cuts all over his body and he was quite still on the floor. The boys cracked their knuckles and spat on his beaten body before glancing at their boss.
Carter knelt down beside Jackson, smirking, tobacco falling from the cigar.
"This is how it work, Harrison. You give us our money or we beat you down. If you manage to survive this, you'll have a week to pay us back, if not, we'll do it again. But if you choose not to get up…" He took in a deep draw of smoke and blew it down into the scientists face, "You were just a pathetic little worm, and we have everything in your life that would have been important to you. So, goodbye, maggot."
He raised a foot and stomped on his downed opponents face for good measure, resulting in a broken nose. He rose, looked at his boys and tipped his head towards the door, leaving the lab.
Jackson felt like a truck had hit him but he didn't care. He was in overbearing pain and he didn't even want to scream out. All he cared about was his babies, his experiment. He raised an arm and his head groggily, pulling the shattered tank towards him
No, they're gone… All gone…
Tears fell from his eyes. His work from the last three years… Gone, obliterated by that blasted mobster and his idiot goons in the blink of an eye.
Something jabbed into his elbow and he yelped, pulling his arm off glass. A tingling sensation entered his arm, streaming through his skin from that cut. It dripped blood, but there was a silver tone to it. Jackson stared at it, confused.
A sharp pain ripped through his body, so sudden and unexpected that he didn't have time to gasp before it disappeared as quickly as it came. Another jolt came seconds later, ripping through his torso like an electrical shock. And then a third, drilling into his skull like a piercing migraine, but this one didn't go away. Jackson screamed, writhing on the ground like a fish out of water, while clutching his head in pain.
Hush, Jackson, it'll be all over soon…
A voice echoed through his mind, defiantly not his own. It sounded almost robotic, suave and charismatic, somehow delightful.
"Get out of my head!" Jackson hollered, kicking his chair as more throbbing surged through his body.
Jackson, we are helping you, it's the only way, the voice replied. We are doing what we were designed for. You created us, you should know that.
The scientist stopped screaming for a second and panted, as he suddenly realized what was happening. The BONEs were inside him.
Biological Organic Nanobotical Energizers, also known as BONEs, were half robot, half biological beings. They were too small for the naked eye to see, but resembled silver bugs with large pincers, clear wings and small lights all over their body. They were designed to heal injuries by being injected into the bloodstream, but funding for the lab was small, and therefore had never been tested on humans. Jackson Harrison created them and was the one who also respected them as living creatures, not mere cyborgs.
But he never imagined they could be in one's head.
"What will you do to me?" Jackson panted. His head still spun, but at least he had stopped bleeding. Despite the continual sharp jabs of pain he felt stronger, faster... More alive than he had ever felt before. Like he could leap buildings, crush rock and take his revenge on the one who tried to kill him – Randolph Carter.
The nanobots chuckled darkly inside his brain. More then you could ever imagine, my friend.