Avalanche – Snippet 35

“Please! No! Please, just no! No no no no!” Zachary lifted one foot, then brought it down savagely on the guard’s helmet; the crunch was horrible, and John didn’t want to think about whether it was the guard’s helmet or his skull…or both. For a second, John saw the teen’s face sag; his chest was heaving, and he didn’t look like the unholy terror he had been moments ago, but like a scared kid who only wanted to wake up from a nightmare he was trapped in.

Then Sera’s fires flared, and he looked up, suddenly seeing them for the first time. There was no hesitation; he charged, first going for Sera. Both of them sensed the attack before it came…but there was something else coming through their battle-sense. Normally, things were clear; intention, action, inevitability all played out in a pattern that they could anticipate. With Zachary…there was some sort of background vibration to it all, that became more intense as he neared. John interposed himself between Zachary and Sera; his speed and strength were more on par with the teen’s. He instantly extinguished his claymore, deciding to meet the charge bare-handed. They didn’t want to hurt Zach, after all.

It became immediately apparent that Zach had no such reservations; he attacked wildly, each strike meant to cripple or kill John. His face betrayed a storm of internal fury; his teeth were bared and his eyes were wild with murderous intentions. John parried each blow, using every ounce of his speed and strength to keep the teen at bay. Several times, even with his enhancements and battle-sense, the teen’s attacks came close enough to rip through John’s uniform, drawing blood with shallow grazes, and twice it was only Sera’s intervention with a deflection of the butt of her spear, or a blinding flash of a fiery wing between them that saved him from something near-lethal.

Damn, if the kid isn’t fast! John thought. But that speed came at a price; Zachary was going full-out, but the effort was draining him. He was winded, and soon his attacks became sloppier, more desperate.

Darlin’, we don’t have time for this. Once he’s worn down—

I will intervene.

It didn’t take long before Zachary was completely out of steam; there was terror mixed with the rage, now, and John feared that the teen was going to do something even crazier now that he recognized he couldn’t continue to defend himself.

Sera launched herself at the young meta; without spear or sword, wrapping him in arms and wings from behind, pinning his arms to his side.  “Peace,” she said into his right ear.  “Be still.”  And at the same time, waves of calm washed over John–and presumably Zachary as well.  “We are here for you, not against you.”

The exhausted teen continued to struggle for a few seconds, slowly becoming still. The odd buzzing that John and Sera had felt through their battle-sense faded, then stopped completely. Zachary was quiet for several long moments before finally speaking.

“Who are you?”

“I am the Seraphym,” she replied.  “You do not know me; you have been held here, in this little hell, ever since your parents gave you over to these…monsters.  You do not know what has been happening, out there, in the world, but terrible things are happening there that drove us to find you.  This is my beloved, John.  He knows what you have lived through, because he has lived through the same.”

There was a pause. “Can you let me go?” They both felt waves of distrust flowing off of the teen. He wasn’t sure of what to expect from them, but it seemed that he was at least willing to listen, for the moment.

“If you will pledge not to attack us further.”  Sera paused.  “I will trust your word.”

“…okay, lady. But don’t try anything.”

Slowly and carefully, she unwrapped her wings, flipping them slightly to get them settled properly on her back, then let go of him, taking her place at John’s side.  She left her hands empty, at her sides, but her eyes, still glowing gold, never left his. The teen immediately whirled on the couple, his hands up in a defensive stance, but they could tell that it was just a reaction; he didn’t give off any intent of doing them harm. He was confused, and very, very frightened.

“Why are you here? Are you with the Program?”

“We are here to take you away from this place,” Sera replied, steadily.  “And no.  We are not with the Program.  Although John knows all there is to know about it, to his sorrow.”

He stared at her, confusion starting to penetrate his fear.  “How? You’re both metas, right?”

“I went through somethin’ like what you went through, kid. I got out, though. Sorta seems like you were in the middle of doin’ the same thing. We can take you the rest of the way, an’ somewhere safe, if you’ll come with us.” John didn’t make any sudden movements; he figured that the kid was right on the edge, and any little thing might set him off.

“Why me? Why go through all the trouble?” The kid is sharp, I’ll give him that much.

“It’s a long story. Judgin’ by those lovely bells goin’ off over the intercom, we don’t have a lot of time to go into it. You’ve gotta make the call, kid. If we were here to hurt you, we would’ve done it already. If we were with the Program, we wouldn’t have put down those guards that you see behind us.” Zachary leaned to the side to see past John and Sera at the pile of unconscious and dead guards behind them. “Trust us, or don’t. Either way, figure it out fast.”

Sera cocked her head to the side, looking momentarily up and away.  “There is not much time remaining.  The Thulians are here.” John got the flash at the same moment; there was a sphere outside, sending troops—armored and unarmored— to the entrance of the Facility.  The new alarms were not for John and Sera.  The alarms signaled the arrival of a threat whose only purpose was to wipe this Facility off the map, along with everyone in it.

“Thulians? What—”

John felt the chill of great danger tracing the line of his spine.  “Bad guys, kid. Worse than these goons. We’re officially outta time. What’s it goin’ to be?”

Zach looked from John to Sera, then back again. He sighed, then called over his shoulder. “Come out, everyone. We’re leaving.” What looked like two dozen teens emerged from behind a corner further down the hall. All of them were scared, wearing the same coverall that Zach was. Some were very obviously metas; various physical manifestations of their powers showed that plainly enough. Trainees. Lab rats. Just like I used to be.

“Is that all of them?” John said, unslinging his rifle and making sure it was charged with a fresh magazine.

“There were more of us,” Zach muttered quietly, looking down at the ground. In that moment, John and Sera both wanted nothing more than to hug the teen and let him know that it wasn’t his fault, that everything would be okay in time. But they couldn’t wait a moment longer. Danger was closing in.

“John, we must seek another way out,” Sera said quietly.  “You must speak to Vickie.  Our priority is to escape, not confront.”

“Gotcha. Overwatch, you on the line?” John motioned for Zach and the other escapees to follow; they needed to get moving. Finding exactly how they were getting out would depend on Vickie.

“Any natural materials around there?  Slap a hand on them.”  Vickie did not waste a moment in greetings.  She already knew that if John called her, the need had turned dire.

“None…hold a second, goin’ to try somethin’. Darlin’?” John slung his rifle behind him, manifesting the fiery claymore with a whoosh of flame, sending several of the teens stumbling backwards.

“Fear not,” Sera said over her shoulder as she manifested her spear.  Waves of reassurance came from her.  “We need only an access.”

She rammed her spear into the wall, burning a small hole through it to the earth beyond. Steam immediately began to issue from around the spear. She withdrew and quelled it, as water followed it, leaving a hole for John to plunge his claymore in, widening it enough that he could force his hand and arm into the earth beyond.

“Contact made, Vic.”

“Roger. I’m using my geomancy to find all the spaces with unnatural crap to get a floorplan for the Facility. Aaaaand…done. Watch your HUD for directions.”

“Who are you two talking to?” Zach had edged forward, watching the couple work.