Avalanche – Snippet 56

It slammed into him, between his shoulders, and drove him skidding face-first along the turf for a good ten yards.  He came to a full stop, his face dug right into the soft earth, a disgusting grey-brown ooze coating his back.  It was an impressively funny sight and Mel might have laughed, if not for the fact that the Djinni wasn’t moving.  He lay there, his right arm bent at a horribly wrong angle, and for a moment Mel wondered if he was even breathing.

Delia gasped and stared in horror at what she had done.  With an effort she calmed herself with deep breaths and, still lying on her back, turned to look at Mel, her lips quivering.

“Omigod, did I just kill him?” she whimpered, and shrieked as she heard Red stir from his bed of dirt and mangled sod.

He lifted his head and steadied himself with his good arm, quietly rising on his knees and bringing himself to his feet.  Mel watched as he slowly shifted the muscles in his back and swiveled his head, with loud cracks as bones and joints popped back into place.  He stood in place, his head tilting slightly to and fro, as if mentally assessing the damage to himself.  And throughout it all, Mel watched in fascination, realizing she was witnessing something new.  He wasn’t groaning from the pain, which was odd.  He wasn’t swearing profusely, which was odder still.  The fact was, pain wasn’t anything new to him, and Mel wondered how much it actually affected him.  Mel had watched on countless occasions as Red would take a punch, or a bullet, and dramatically bemoan his fate.  But if you watched him carefully the patterns would emerge.  It became apparent to her early in their relationship just how little pain the Djinni allowed himself to feel.  His apparent anger, his whimpering cries, they were all an act, of course they were.  Why let your enemies, even your friends, know the truth?  That wasn’t really his way now, was it?  At the moment, his body nearly shattered by a force reportedly strong enough to punch holes in reinforced concrete, Mel knew the pain must have been overwhelming.  And yet he didn’t make a sound as his body quickly began to knit itself back together.  He should have been screaming.  Instead, he just stood there, silent, as his enhanced healing went to work.  Mel let out a slow, exhilarated breath as she observed for the first time his true reaction to pain.

At the last he looked down and noticed his right arm, which dangled and twitched nervously from his shoulder.  Casually, he grasped it with his left hand, lifted the arm up and away, and snapped the dislocated shoulder back into place.  Only then did he turn to face the Spitter, and Mel gasped as his hands flashed out, claws tearing through the tips of his gloves.  He took a step, then another, and as he marched towards his prey, Mel noticed how dead his eyes were.  There was nothing there.  None of his wit, none of his charm, just cold fury.  As he closed the distance, Delia began scrambling to her feet, just now realizing she was in mortal danger.

“Mel!” she screamed.  “He’s coming to kill me!  Mel!  Mel!”

Mel only stared at her, and at Red, in disbelief.  This was a dream, it had to be.  The Djinni would never hurt one of his pupils.  Well, yes, he would, but this wasn’t instruction or simple frustration at play anymore.  This was a stone cold killer advancing on Delia.  There were no taunts, no warnings, just the flash of razor-sharp claws and murderous intent.  This was really happening.

“MEL!” Delia screamed again.  She scrambled backwards, tripped, and landed hard on her side.  Mel began to move, but she already knew she would be too late.  Even at a dead run, she wouldn’t make it in time to intervene, and the Djinni wasn’t slowing down.  In a panic, Delia reached for her sidearm and fumbled with the safety as Red Djinni accelerated to a sprint, his hands held far back, ready to drive them forwards and dive into her claws first.

Delia shrieked as she fired off three quick rounds.  Two went wide.  The third caught Red squarely in his chest.  He came to a skidding halt and fell to one knee in front of her, eyes wide in astonishment.  He gasped for breath, a bloody froth erupting from his chest.  His hands fell to his sides, a cry of rage dying in his throat as the bullet was slowly pushed back out by healing tissue.  Red shuddered, and as he looked up Mel found herself slowing down, coming to a halt.  His eyes, no longer empty, betrayed his confusion.  He looked at her, helpless, then at Delia and finally his own claws.  Startled, he shed them immediately, and rose to his feet.

Delia, still prone in an awkward position on her side, kept her gun trained on him with shaking hands.

“Delia…” he started, but flinched and took an involuntary step back as the Spitter sprang to her feet.

“You stay the fuck away from me!” Delia screamed, backing away, her hands still shaking.  Only when she had reached her fellow trainees did she allow herself to look away and flee.  They watched her go, and rose to follow her.  None of them said a word, but they didn’t have to.  Their shock and awe were evident as they carefully backed away.  The Djinni didn’t say anything either.  Really, what could he say?  Mel strolled up to him and found herself at a loss for words too.

“So…” she said, finally.  “I’m guessing there’s going to be an opening for a new trainer soon.  Think I should update my CV?”

Red didn’t answer her, and bowed his head in shame.

“Hey, talk to me dummy…” Mel reached out to lift his chin.  He flinched away, again, refusing to look her in the eye.  “You’re going to need to talk about this, y’know.  What happened there?  What happened to you?”

He paused, looked like he was about to say something, but simply exhaled and shook his head.

“Hey, it’s me,” she said, and gently took his hand in hers.  “You know you can tell me anything.  Once word gets out, they’ll come for you.  This isn’t something that’s just going to go away.  So talk to me.  Let me help.  You don’t have to do this alone.”

“It’s…” he began, and paused again.  “It’s not something that… it’s something that…”  He sighed as he noticed figures approaching the field.  “You weren’t kidding.  They really don’t waste time here.”

Mel followed his gaze and squinted, making out three ECHO uniforms closing the distance.  She recognized one of them.  It was Jensen, ranking asshat officer extraordinaire.  He was flanked by two heavily armed guards.

“They really don’t,” she agreed.  “And he really doesn’t look happy.”

“He never does,” Red muttered.  “Though I think he’s about to arrest my ass.  You’d think that would put a smile on his face.”

“Play nice,” Mel said.  “Let’s see if we can buy some time with pretty words.”

“Djinni!” Jensen barked, marching right up to them.  “You are ordered to stand down!  Turn away and place your hands behind your back!”  He motioned towards one of the guards.  “Cuff him, full anti-meta measures.”

“So much for that idea,” the Djinni said and grimaced as he felt the heavy shackles lock around his wrists and hum to life.  “Going to read me my rights, Occifer?”

“Normally, I would,” Jensen said.  “But with war crimes, I have the distinct pleasure of simply arresting you.  Too bad.  I was sort of hoping you would resist.  I know Reeves here has been aching for an excuse to beat your sorry ass into the ground.”

Red turned and nodded at the large guard who had cuffed him.  “Heya Reeves, how’re the wife and my kids?”

Reeves favored Red with a tight grin, then drove an elbow into the small of Red’s back.  The Djinni grunted and chuckled.

“Christ,” Red laughed.  “You still think you’re intimidating with that weak-ass shit?”

“That’s enough!” Jensen barked.

“Yeah, it is!” Mel shouted.  “What’s with the riot act?  A training session that gets out of hand is hardly a war crime.  This is brutality, and you and I both know that it’ll be enough to get Red out of your sorry excuse of a jail, at least for tonight.”

“No, it won’t,” Jensen said, turning to Mel.  He regarded her for a moment, then nodded.  “Fine, we’ll do this by the book.”  He turned to face Red, a small smile playing on his lips.  “Red Djinni, you are charged with breaking and entering a highly classified and secure ECHO installation, theft of classified material, assault and murder of ECHO personnel as well as suspicion of murder of ECHO Op 2 callsign Amythist and her Op 1 trainees.  Do you understand the charges as I have stated them?”

Red Djinni glared at him, shocked.  After a moment, he cast his eyes down and nodded.

“That satisfy you?” Jensen asked Mel with a smirk.

Mel stared at him, dumbly.

“Okay, we’re done here,” Jensen said.  “Let’s take him to holding.”

“Wait!” Mel said, and before they could stop her, she rushed to embrace the Djinni.  The guards looked at Jensen, who sighed and nodded, motioning them to stand down.

“Don’t say anything,” Mel whispered into Red’s ear.  “Don’t you say a word until we get you a lawyer.  We’ll get through this, we’ll be alright, we’ll… you didn’t do any of that… you didn’t…”

Red stood motionless as she pulled away.  She put her hands to his face, bringing his head down to hers.

“You didn’t,” she insisted.  “You couldn’t have…”

He met her desperate look with one of sad assurance.

“Oh god… Red…”

She kissed him and once again, even now, she felt him hesitate and pull back.  Even now, dammit.  After this got out, he wouldn’t have anyone left, and still he was pulling away from her, from the one person who would still have his back.  She was persistent though, and after a moment she felt him kiss her back.

“That’s enough, let’s go,” Jensen said, and Mel felt a sudden emptiness as Red was yanked away from her.

“I love you,” the Djinni said, and Mel watched as they roughly turned him about and marched him back to the compound.  She stood in place as they wove through a growing crowd of curious onlookers.  Red Djinni held his head high, and never looked back at her.

She continued to watch until they disappeared into the treeline.

“Sure you do,” Mel muttered.  “You goddamn bastard.”