The girl hugged herself tightly, subconsciously withdrawing into herself as she hurried her pace. She looked back and her breath caught in her chest as she saw two men run around the corner and come to a halt, frantically looking around as if they were chasing someone. She turned ahead once again and continued to move forward, staying close to the wall as to avoid being spotted. All of a sudden, a gloved hand was covering her mouth and a firm hand grabbed her shoulder and drew her into an alley. She panicked, tried to shout but all that came out was a muffled cry. She felt a stinging breath on her neck then next to her ear.
"Keep quiet," a foreign voice said.
She did just that.
Amber Siskind had always been an odd child. Some would say gifted, others would say unnatural; she maintained that she was simply different. From a young age, things acted oddly around here, most notably technology. She'd be watching television and she'd hear a dog bark outside, causing her to flinch and the channel to change. Or, she'd be talking to someone on the phone and she'd get annoyed by something that had been said, and before she could even reply the phone would be disconnected. That being said, she never had many friends, so that wasn't a common occurrence.
Nevertheless, technology acted differently around her, and her mother noticed this swiftly. For a while nothing was said about it, but before long her mother let her in on a secret: she was different but wasn't the only one. It was funny in a strange, demented way. She wasn't the only person like this, but no one actually ever talked about it. Instead, kids like her were locked away as soon as they were discovered, never to see the light of day ever again. But her mother wouldn't let this happen to her, oh no. She taught her how to control and – more importantly – suppress her powers, and gave her a special pendant to… to… to do what?
Amber realised she didn't remember. She didn't remember why she was wearing the pendant and didn't remember how her mother taught her to control her powers. In fact, she couldn't remember her mother's face. All she remembered was that it had happened, and she was certain that her mother's sudden disappearance must have something to with the people now relentlessly chasing her across London.
It was impossible to believe that, one day, her mother had just left her. She wouldn't do that, surely? She didn't remember her mother's appearance but still remembered her personality; she was loving, caring and, most of all, protective of her little girl. Then why would she leave her all alone? The only probable answer: she didn't. No matter how much she pleaded to the authorities, they wouldn't believe her stories that her mother had been kidnapped. They simply thought of her as just another homeless kid seeking some kind of help. They turned her away.
She lived that way for a few years – alone, without a home. She'd catch bits and pieces of conversations, or read newspaper headlines, all talking about inhumanly powered people, causing and fighting crime alike. She'd wait and quietly watch out for these instances, but never found a thing. That was, at least, until the so-called 'Battle of London'. Not in any way an apt name, in her opinion. Sure, there was fighting at first, but one could barely call it a battle. More like a massacre.
Strange machines began appearing, things that called themselves 'Zopran'. These Zopran claimed to have come from the earth and announced that they were taking the surface for themselves. Some people tried to revolt. Most of those people were vaporized on the spot. But before too much damage had been done, powered people came forward, and fought on behalf of the civilians. Amber would catch messages being sent over radios, and could tell that these were not random people, but an organised group. All around her, people were fighting back against these robots, but she just wanted to get away. She would do whatever she had to in order to get away from the robotic monstrosities; causing them to malfunction inexplicably whenever they drew close, tuning in to their communications at all times, but she didn't have the courage, nor the willpower to fight back.
Everything seemed to be going well, it looked like it was almost over. But then everything fell apart… quite literally.
All around her the floor was collapsing, buildings falling into the gigantic canyon forming in the centre of London. She herself fell into the hole alongside hundreds of others but was lucky enough to land on some softer debris. The people beneath her though, were not so lucky. She noticed as she fell that there were people already in the hole, seemingly having been fighting before the floor collapsed. One of these people, a man wearing a purple uniform and a green-visored helmet, was impaled by a steel support beam as the floor collapsed. That man's face had never left her mind since.
The next few weeks and even months were a blur, and all she knew for certain was that people had formed shanty towns of sorts in the wreckage of the city of London. There, she was welcome. Everyone was homeless; there was no discrimination. At least at first. Before long she was revealed to have powers and was chased out of the civilised parts of the city. It appeared that the populace blamed the powered people for the destruction of London, as opposed to the alien race truly responsible. After that, she was well and truly on her own, wandering the empty streets of an all-but-forgotten city.
She retained her powers throughout it all, of course, and that's why she was still alive.
Out of the blue, she had picked up radio chatter nearby, and had slowly tuned in to the frequency. People were looking for a girl – dark skin, light hair, an odd pendant. For a while, all she heard was murmurs, until one word stood out: 'kill'. That's when she ran.
As it turns out, she had simply given away her position, causing a chase. She had managed to gain the upper hand by taking shortcuts (she'd had ample time to learn the new layout of the city) but couldn't quite shake her two pursuers. She slowed to a power walk of sorts as she entered the more populated area of the city, which is where a gloved hand covered her mouth and a firm hand pulled her into an alleyway.
Amber's eyes shifted down to look at the gloved hand covering her mouth. The man was wearing leather gloves, by the looks and roughness of it. The man edged closer to the edge of the alley, then retreated back into the darkness, pulling Amber with him and pressing her to the floor against the wall to the right of him, blocking the light from reaching her. Although now enshrouded by darkness, she could make out the man's features much better. He was average in size, not tall or short, nor thin or large. His hair was gelled back, although it looked as if he hadn't done a good job keeping it consistent; some was flat to his head, some was spiked back at odd angles. He boasted a light stubble, maybe a few days old at most. His clothing was fairly normal – jeans and a jacket – and in general the man looked normal. If he was so normal, why was he seemingly in the process of abducting her?
She looked past the man and saw the two men that had been chasing her run past the alleyway, looking confused and bewildered. She panicked, and scrambled to her feet, attempting to break free from his grasp. He reacted quickly, grabbing her by her arms and lifting her up.
"Let go of me!" she said, almost a scream. She tore one arm free from his grasp and dropped to the ground for a minute, before the man regained his hold on her arm.
"Be quiet! They'll hear you!" the man whispered sharply, turning her around to look at him. He looked into her eyes. "I'm not the enemy."
Before any more words could be exchanged Amber saw a figure appear in the entrance to the alleyway. Amber's eyes widened and the man craned his head to look. He turned back to Amber and let go of her arms, before turning back to face the figure. A second figure emerged from behind the corner and joined the first, silhouetted by the contrasting light shining in. The man took a step towards the two figures.
"Back off, civilian. This isn't your business," one of the figures said, crossing his arms in front of himself. He stood tall, as if seeing the person in front of him as inferior.
"Unfortunately, this is very much my business," the man said, turning back to Amber for a moment. He mouthed the word 'run', and his eyes widened as she stood motionless.
"Don't do anything you might regret, now," the figure said threateningly. Amber noticed that the second figure had drawn a knife and was holding it out to his side.
"I would say the same to you, but I know your type all too well," the man said, before removing his gloves and throwing them to the ground.
"You asked for it," the figure said bluntly.
The first figure took a step to the side and the second charged forward, brandishing his knife in front of him. As the attacker got close he stabbed his knife forward, causing the man to jump backwards slightly to avoid being gutted. As he recovered from his impromptu dodge he grabbed the man's wrist, at first eliciting nothing but a grunt as the attacker tried to pull his arm away. Then the attacker began to shout. And then scream.
Amber could hear what sounded like an electronic charge and was sure she could see and smell smoke coming from the attacker's arm. The attacker dropped the knife and the man caught it, stabbing the other in the thigh instantly. He let go of the attacker's arm, and he dropped to the ground, blabbering uncontrollably. The man looked the knife over, before pointing it forwards to the figure still standing in the entrance.
"You're- you're one of them!" the figure blurted out, disgusted.
"As I said: very much my business," the man replied nonchalantly, looking down at the smoke coming from his palm.
"You'll pay for this!" the figure shouted, taking what looked like a stick from his coat.
"So I've been told," the man replied, shaking his hand about as if in light pain.
"You're nothing but a freak!" the figure retorted, pulling the stick apart and revealing the thin, gleaming blade hidden within the cane.
"Oh, quit the chitchat; it's really not your strong point."
The man raised his hand and the figure instantly sidestepped to the left, avoiding the bolt of lightning that came from the man's left hand. After missing his first shot, the man ran forward, taking two steps up the side of the wall as he reached the entrance to the alley before jumping out dramatically. Amber listened from afar as the two men fought, keeping an eye on the fallen attacker the whole time. After less than half a minute, she heard a harsh clash of metal and then the sound of a weapon falling to the ground. She crept forward, stepping over the now unconscious attacker, and peered out of the alley. She saw the man, fallen, the knife he'd been using lying on the ground a few feet away from him. On top of him was the figure, his features clearer in the light. He wore a long black coat, as well as a black shirt and trousers, now stained red with blood. She looked to his hands and saw that he was holding the tip of the sword to the man's neck, ready to execute him. She saw him pull back a little, ready to plunge the sword downwards.
"No! Don't!" Amber cried out instinctively. The attacker froze, then looked up, directly at her. He grabbed the man's collar and pulled him roughly to his feet, before turning him round and bringing the sword to his neck.
"Come with me, or he's gonna get it," the attacker said bluntly, applying pressure to his neck. Amber didn't respond at first, and the attacker began to move the sword sideways, cutting lightly into the man's neck.
"Okay, okay!" Amber shouted, holding her hands forward gesturing for him to stop.
"Good. Good," the attacker said, clearly relieved. He turned the man around and grabbed him by the jaw. "Looks like you've gotten lucky, at least for today."
The man flashed a grin and snivelled slightly. His eyes were closed and he started to laugh.
"What's so funny!?" the attacker demanded, not yet realizing his mistake.
"You," the man replied, before he stopped laughing abruptly, "you're such a fucking idiot."
Before the attacker could respond, he felt a tingling sensation in his hand. The tingling sensation grew into a burning pain, and he tried to pull his hand away to break the skin contact. As he did, the man grabbed his jaw, reversing their position. The burning sensation he had been feeling returned, this time more potent, and before long his body was engulfed by the pain of receiving quite the electric shock. The man suddenly dropped the attacker, letting him fall to the ground lifeless.
The man took a step backwards, before collapsing to the ground. He sat up and pressed a hand against his side. He raised his hand up – blood. He reached into his jacket and took out a mobile phone. He pressed a few buttons and whoever was on the other side picked up immediately. Amber tuned in to the frequency and listened in.
"Scott?" a voice on the other side said, a woman.
"Yeah, it's me," Scott replied, as if they were having a casual conversation.
"Have you secured Siskind?"
"Uh, yeah, sort of."
"What do you mean, 'sort of'?"
"Well, she's secure, but I've been stabbed and there's two possibly dead Inexplicablum agents. We're gonna need evac in the crater."
"Oh my god, are you okay?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for asking. I'd be much better if you could get us out of here."
"I'll have to pull some strings over at the UNWD, but it shouldn't be long. Stay where you are."
"I'm not going anywhere in this state."
"Promise you'll come see me straight away when you get back?"
"Yeah, of course."
"Okay, I'll see you then."
Scott hung up and put his phone back in his jacket, before turning to face Amber.
"I'm Scott, by the way," he said, "but, of course, you already knew that."
"I'm Amber. Amber Siskind," she replied, embarrassed by the man knowing about her powers. "But you, too, already knew that."
Scott smiled and lay back, combing his hands through his hair before falling into an unconscious slumber. Amber looked around nervously, before picking up his gloves and walking over to him. She looked over to the attacker on the ground; there were pronounced burn marks in the shape of a hand on his chin and neck, and his hair was spiked back, similar to Scott's. She looked at Scott's hands, then carefully put the gloves back on, the equivalent of sheathing his weapons. She sat down beside him and looked around, taking in her surroundings; collapsed buildings on their sides, cars strewn about the place, patches of grass that used to pass for gardens now hanging loosely from rooftops. Maybe getting out of London wouldn't be too bad, after all.