The trip to the mall was surprisingly quiet. Evey must be ignoring him, Ben thought. Ben looked at Spencer when he asked his question.
"Yeah, it's got a chunk of money in it, should be enough to pay off a large portion of what we need. I agree though, we do need a refrigerator/freezer combo. After that, if we have enough, we might want to spend a little on some extra cots. It's mighty uncomfortable sleeping on the floor."
Ben climbed out of the car, holding the door open for Evey.
"We'll head to the bank first, then head to the megastore in there, from what I can remember, there's a Walmart in there."
Despite being right at the front of the Mall, the tailors Marcus had spotted earlier didn't seem to be trying very hard to pull in customers. Almost comically bland and unassuming, in a way it was conspicuous in it's desire not to be noticed. Hundreds of potential customers might have walked past it every day without anyone acknowledging it was there. For Marcus however, it lit up like a Christmas tree against all the other benignly colorful displays, grasping at potential consumers who's intellects are treated as those of mere children.
Outside the shop was a woman leaning insolently against the glass, dressed from head to foot in red. Marcus could imagine how desirable most would consider her to be, but Marcus just thought she looked faintly ridiculous. In a way she was too perfect, like a 1920's pin-up cliche. Nevertheless, he wondered who she was, looking so out of place loitering inside the Lincoln Mall.
When they entered the shop Marcus' had to do a double take. Frank was there, this time in conversation with an old and withered man who looked like the shop keeper. It seemed the appearance of the woman outside was explained. She was probably another one of Frank's lackeys, keeping lookout. Marcus wondered what part they had to play in all this. He thought it only logical to assume that they were involved, for Frank didn't seem the type to have friends.
Something made Marcus oddly confident about this chance meeting. Maybe it was because this time the meeting wasn't on Franks terms. They were out and about, and had walked in on something Frank had not specifically authorized them to see. Perhaps this time, Marcus stood a chance of actually getting an insight into his new employers life, and maybe they could find out something substantial.
"Frank! Here on business I presume?" Marcus exclaimed cheerfully, with a hint of acidic wit.
Frank looked away from Klaus as he asked him for his help. He quickly reached for his jacket's inner pocket and took out a cigarette pack, quickly handing it to Klaus without looking at him. He knew what he was doing was forbidden, but he couldn't let Klaus live like that any longer. Klaus tried to speak as he took the cigarettes, but instead remained silent. He saw a young man enter the shop and call Frank by his name.
"Young man, come inside and I'll find you a perfect fit" Klaus said as he walked towards Marcus and extended his hand to greet him. Marcus shook Klaus's hand. "He's gifted", Frank said without looking at the two, "He has Green Hands". Frank turned to Klaus and raised his hand. Klaus took a cigarette out of the pack Frank gave him and put it in his mouth, then Frank snapped his fingers and lit it. Klaus inhaled the smoke and raised his hand forward. He noticed the shaking had stopped.
"I'm buying new clothes", Frank moved his hand over his trousers, "I need a new pair". Klaus hit the shop floor with his cane, "Come in, boy! You need to look your best for the Councillor" Klaus instructed Marcus to follow him to the other side of the shop, stocked with suits and trousers.
Alice looked at the group of three of Frank's employees go past her. She moves her right hand and began slowly wiggling her fingers, as if she was stringing strings. She closed her eyes and continued to move her fingers.
As Ben walked to the bank, he looked inside the Tartaros Pit, as he passed it. Ben blinked as he saw Marcus and the others talking with Frank. He nudged Spencer and Evey, nodding his head towards the group.
"Looks like Marcus ran into Frank, hopefully he'll get some better answers for us. Anyways, we have to do our shopping first, if they're still here when we're done- it shouldn't take too long to get what we want- then we can accost them ourselves."
Ben walked on to the bank ATM and inserted his card. He punched in his PIN and selected Withdrawal. As the screen asked him how much he wanted to withdraw, he thought, then punched in $1000. It was about a third of the rest of his trust fund, and his daily maximum limit. When the money came out, he picked it up and turned away, forgetting to pull out his bank card.
"Alright, let's go. The faster we can get this done the better chances we have of not being seen by someone we know."
Adrian walked towards the clothing store without uttering a word. He took a moment to briefly glance at the woman in red before stepping into the establishment. Something about her seemed unreal. She was dreamily moving her hands in some strange manner through closed eyes. Adrian didn't think that it felt right, but he moved with the group as Marcus called out to Frank a little too pleasantly.
Frank didn't seem too enthused to see the trio outside of the apartment. Adrian fought to keep his face neutral when looking at the smoking man. The hot flame of rage had burned back into a delicate simmer since they had left the apartment this morning. Still, it was there in the back of his mind, coloring every scratchy word that he spoke.
But the other man was different from Frank. He jovially smacked his cane against the ground and spoke with almost too much enthusiasm. The man seemed excited to see Marcus for some reason outside of Adrian's grasp. The geologist didn't mind though. The man had been in cahoots with Frank...he wasn't to be trusted. None of them were to be trusted.
Marcus was being displayed like a show pony for this older gentleman. As Marcus shook the new man's hand, Frank uttered something about "gifted" and "Green Hands". Marcus was being indoctrinated into their little club without any subtlety. It was apparent that both Mira and Adrian were being ignored for their lack of gifts.
All the better, he supposed.
Adrian immediately turned and started thumbing through the outfits on display. He cared little for clothing himself fashionably but it was an excuse to avoid eye contact with the others. His mind briefly drifted back to woman outside of the store. A ping of realization came over him as he compared how out of place she was with their present company.
"Could...that be Alice?" he mumbled to himself, staring blankly at one the tag on a pair of slacks.
Alice continued with her attempts to find a suitable candidate. When she had found a car driven by a busy mother with a small child in the back, she had locked on her target. The Car broke through the road and drove into the parking lot, accelerating towards a concrete wall separating between the Parking lot and another street. The car quickly turned to the left, but it continued to drift to the wall. It flipped on its roof and smashed hard into the wall, blocking the entrance to the car from the other side.
Screams of anguish and cries of help came from the automobile as a woman begged for anyone to help her get her baby out, a ten year old boy. The door was crushed and the other side pressed against the wall, it seemed like both of them were doomed. The woman in red opened her eyes and smiled. She looked over at the group of fresh recruits and wondered what they will do next.
She had no time to spare. She couldn't wait for Frank to test them all individually.
The other group seemed to be looking at something happening outside, out of his sight, but Spencer wasn't paying attention to them. Why was Frank here? He eyed the store carefully, and noticed a young woman in red studying Adrian, Marcus and Mira.
Something lit up in his mind.
"Alright, let's go. The faster we can get this done the better chances we have of not being seen by someone we know."
Brendan took a thousand dollars out of the ATM as if it were no big deal. How much money was in his trust fund anyway? Deciding to ignore the woman for now, Spencer hurried after Brendan and Evey, picking up Brendan's card from the ATM.
"Right. Wait, you forgot your--"
As Spencer reached out to give the card back to Brendan, he noticed something was off. He stopped for a second and pulled it back towards himself, examining it more closely. The information on the card didn't match what Brendan had told them about himself earlier. His newfound trust in him was suddenly gone.
He lifted his gaze from the card towards "Brendan".
"Care to explain this?"
"Fuck," Ben muttered under his breath, then turned to the other two.
"Not now, not here it's too public for a confrontation. Let's just say that I didn't trust you guys at the apartment, and I rather that you didn't know my name. So I used an alias that was somewhat similar to my own name. Yes my name is Benjamin Debue, so call me Ben or Brendan if you wish. Let's get the shopping done" Ben noticed people streaming towards one of the entrances, "while everyone is distracted."
Ben took the card from Spencer's hand. The cat was out of the bag it seemed, now he just needed a place to make sure that it didn't claw him to death before he got to explain.
"Once we're done shopping, you can scream at me all you want on the ride home. However, this explanation requires a bit of time to explain and would attract too much attention here."
Mira didn't need to be asked to do something before her legs began to move. She had seen this scenario play out dozens of times and not all of them ended greatly. She looked back to her other mates for help.
"Someone get a crowbar!" Mira shouted as she shot both of them a glance. She turned back to the car and ran towards it. She smelled the gasoline slowly leaking out of the engine and the gas tank. A spark could send them all in flames.
"Don't worry... everything is going to be okay..." Mira said to the woman. She eyed quickly. Most of her wounds seem to be lacerations from the roll or the numerous impacts. The airbags had done a good job of preserving her but now it seemed useless. Then Mira moved to the child who was bawling his head off. The door refused to budge as Mira tried. The glass was already broken but large shards bulged out discouraging any attempt to pull the child out without clearing the glass but that mean that if they were, then clearing the glass would mean risking getting shards thrown in the boy's face.
"Everything's going to be alright..." Mira kept repeating as her body went on auto-pilot and her mind watched from afar.
Adrian was staggered by the sudden chaos around him. Mira rushed out the door as soon as she realized there was a situation. She called out to the others as she ran but the words washed unheard over Adrian.
He looked to the woman in red. To Alice. She was looking into the store and smiling at the group. Another wave a rage overcame Adrian as the realization dawned. She had caused it.
"Who the hell do you people think you are?" he said aloud, not caring if anyone would hear his words amidst the turmoil.
The voices of both mother and child could be heard throughout the parking lot. The child screamed in terror, frightened by the sudden impact but unaware of how dire their current situation. The mother called in desperation, only wishing for someone to save her eldest son. She understood exactly how closely they stood on death's door and was failing in her struggle to remain calm.
Mira worked as a calming force, but there was only so much that could be done from the outside. She needed to be able to get into the vehicle in order to do the duty that she had sworn so long ago and died trying to uphold.
To protect those who are no longer able.
As had happened many times before, her mind drifted back to an image of David. He had always served as her inspiration and her will in dire hours such as this one. His memory was her reminder and her strength to push forward.
A sense of power and confidence surged through Mira's body. Before she even knew what she was doing, she instinctively reached for the handle of the crumpled door.
It was easily ripped from its hinges.
"Fine. But this isn't over."
He suddenly found himself trusting the rest less than before. Ever since the rug was pulled from under him and he found himself with a new job, Spencer grew more and more paranoid, and the fake name incident was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Unconsciously, he started walking faster, ignoring the sudden onset of people rushing to the door behind him. He might have heard some screaming, but it just didn't register with him.
As it appeared, Walmart was indeed just around the corner, and the home section was pretty close to the entrance. This was neither the time nor the place to make a scene, and Spencer decided to forget the last few minutes until they're safely back in the truck. Unsure of how to divide their budget, he addressed Ben as calmly as he could.
"You're the rich one. What are we getting?"
The world had all but stopped moving for Marcus. He heard screams, Mira tending to the people inside the car, and what might have been Adrian confronting somebody; but he was separated from all of it, as if he was looking on in terror from inside a glass cage. He was rooted to the spot, with eyes only for the wreckage that lay in front of him.
For Marcus it was, quite literally, the stuff of nightmares. The images that had haunted him last night now sprang forth once more, flashing through his consciousness at breakneck speed, over and over again. The scene of his parents death was laying itself over the reality of what he saw before him, intertwining, until he could no longer be sure which was which. It was too much. It was torture, he couldn't take it...
I can save them.
The single, glorious realization burst forth through the blinding haze that had been paralyzing him. He could save them. This parent would survive, this child wouldn't be left an orphan. Marcus wasn't helpless any more, he was a man with the power to heal. The image that just a second ago had been his living hell had now become his path to salvation. He couldn't bring his parents back from wherever they had gone, but if he could save others from the tragedy of loss, maybe that would atone for his guilt.
The tactician, always present in Marcus' mind, keeping him out of trouble, tried to warn him away from such action. People were watching; how would Marcus possibly be able to use his power without someone noticing him do it? It could be the end of him, the end of all of them, it was insane! Marcus was in limbo, caught in the crossfire of an epic battle between emotion and reason, and he knew that if he was going to act, he may only have seconds.
Marcus stepped forward.
"I'm not rich, that transaction wiped out a third of the rest of the money that I had left. As for what to get, well, we need a fridge and freezer, so how about this fridge, and this freezer." Ben pointed to the two appliances, they were sitting across the isle from each other, "They're large enough that we can store basics, and enough to store some of my more precious chemicals. So there's 450 bucks gone. Now I don't know what to get. I don't think that Walmart sells stoves and ovens though, not conventional ones anyways, but we can get a camping grill and use that as a stove. As for an oven, well, unless you want to go somewhere else, we're more or less stuck with a microwave- how about that one over there. Wait here for a sec."
Ben headed to the entrance and grabbed a cart. When he got back Spencer and Evey were talking to each other. They looked at him and fell silent, they were probably talking about what how they were going to approach his alias using. He put the two items in the cart, headed over to the microwave and put it on top of the two cooling appliances.
"Now, which way is the camping supplies?"
A desperate plea rose from her throat and resonated until it left her mouth as a desperate cry. The skies had begun to darken and the winds began to blow through, making the thorns dig deeper into her skin. Mira could hear her mountain bike's wheels turn hearing the click-clack of her baseball card in the spokes of the tires.
"Help!" Mira's once shrill voice let out. Tears ran down her cheeks. Every part of her skin felt like it was bleeding. Dozens of thorns, shredding her soft skin. "Anybody?!" She wanted to scream but her voice was starting to fade into soft whispers. Where the hell was he?
At first the movements were calm. A spirit winding through the Oak trees. Then she could hear him, hear his panicked breath and his prepubescent yet calming shouts.
"I'm coming! Hold on Mira!" The figure shouted. Mira couldn't help but smile beneath the thorn forest that she had fallen in. He would be here shortly. He would save her. Everything was going to be okay.
Mira didn't realize it until the once heavy car door had fallen to the ground making a resonating sound. She pulled out the door to child's door as well and threw it away as if it was a pillow. Mira couldn't stop for a moment to reflect and she simply continued until the mother and the child was safe.
Mira tore the seatbelt and got the mother and the child with gentle pulls towards her. First Mira took the child from his fractured seat and placed him in front of Marcus then she turned back for the mother. She couldn't tell what the mother was saying but it might have been along the lines of shock and amazement as well. After the deed was done it was then that Mira's mind took back her body and she stood there looking at her hands. She looked back at Adrian, then Marcus.
"What the hell are we..." Mira spoke out once again. It shouldn't be possible but she did it. Mira had torn a car door off its metal hinges like a child would tear through a paper wrapping.
"Jesus Christ" Evey said "Give me four hundred and I'll make sure we don't starve." she gave Ben a withering look. "We have the equipment to make exactly nothing right now, unless you want to class dried ramen as 'food' of some denomination. We need pans, some knives, and some actual food. Say fifty for the knives, a hundred for the pans, and a hundred and fifty for the food?" Evey didn't actually care all that much for Ben's, or Brendan's, or whatever he wanted to be called's dishonesty. He was a shifty character, and she had expected nothing more of him. He could ask to be called Thunderfuck Skullhammer for all she cared, so long as he didn't do anything stupid or annoyed her too much. She was pissed at him for the Sweet-tits comment earlier, but that wasn't something she was going to hold against him, just punch him for at first opportunity.
Maybe we should spend a little on anti-psychotics?
"Calm down. Yell at him all you want once we're back, God knows I want to, but let's just get what we need right now."
Spencer left Brendan and Evey with the cart and came back five minutes later with a grocery bag in one hand and carrying boxes of kitchen supplies under the other.
"There, done. I used your calculations as a measure. If you don't have any problems with the kitchen supplies, let's get the damn cots already."
He fit the items in the cart and followed Ben and Evey to their next destination. After a few minutes, the cots were picked out. Ben took care of the budget and picked out the items. He might not have been rich, but he still had their money. The next step was to buy the items and load up the U-Haul. The only issue was that the pile of items they were carrying wasn't what one would call inconspicuous. Spencer hoped it would be overlooked, and if it drew any attention, they could pass off most of the items as camping equipment.
Ben looked at Evey and Spencer, then to the pile of stuff. They were just outside of sight of the various registers.
"Spence, Evey, go grab a cart each. We'll divide all this up so it doesn't look as conspicuous and divide the money up approprately."
Ben waited as the others picked up their carts. He divided the spoils up, giving the kitchen stuff to Evey, the fridge and freezer to himself, and the cots and the camping stove to Spencer.
"Alright, let's head out, Evey you take lane 1 or so, I'll take one of the open middle lanes, and Spencer can take the further lanes. We'll meet up back at the U-Haul to deposit this stuff off. Then we'll head back to the apartment and you guys can scream at me, hell, I'll allow slaps if you really feel that away, as long as they're above the waist." Ben looked pointedly at Evey, "I'll try to answer all your questions there. Now let's go."
Ben headed for lane 7, it was in the middlish, and started to go through the process of checking out. There wasn't anyone in the line, so he was able to check out quickly. He left the store without looking back at Spencer and Evey.
As they were pulled from the wrecked husk of the vehicle, both victims were rendered nearly speechless. This amazing display of power and kindness had caught both of them off guard entirely. As the Mira pulled the woman from the car, her voice was weak from the loss of blood but her sentiment was clear.
"Thank you...whoever you are; whatever you are, thank you."
The boy sat on the concrete, exhausted from the spectacle but only minorly injured compared to his unfortunate parent. "I...I thought that everyone said Superman was a boy."
As the excitement and adrenaline of the moment began to subside, Mira took notice of a growing discomfort that began to emanate from her body. The soothing energy that had accompanied her supreme feat of strength had twisted and evolved into something far more terrifyingly physical. Her muscles began to pump and swell, quickly doubling their size and continuing to grow at an unimaginable rate.
A burst of pain surged though Mira's entire body as she felt her flesh slowly warp and tear like fabric under the sudden increase in muscle mass. Her clothing also started to rip around the sleeves and legs as the proportions of their owner warped. The parts that did not rip were died a deep crimson as the blood began to pour freely from the open wounds.
The tone of the crowd changed almost instantly from joyous congratulations to horrified shock.
Spencer flinched a bit upon being called Spence. It calmed him down, making him remember his life as it used to be. He used to think balancing work and exams were problems. Right now he just wished he could walk into his own house a month ago and punch himself in the face for not being grateful enough.
He nodded and went into the second to last lane, which, at the time, had three people in line. Paying for the items, he smiled politely at the middle-aged woman at the cash register and quietly continued on his way through the store.
Well, so far so good.
Marcus watched as Mira dismantled the metal wreckage as if it was no effort at all. That had solved one dilemma for him at least, he needn't bother trying to hide his power now.
When the mother and child were delivered to him he felt something radiating off them. It was as if he could sense their injuries, even internal injuries that would have been invisible to his eyes. He guessed it was a part of his power that he was becoming more consciously aware of now his body was getting used to it. He paused for a moment to 'listen' to this sixth sense. Marcus' own life force sent a ping, which translated through their bodies, finding every source of trauma and reflecting the signal back to him.
The mother was in most need of attention. She had a fractured spine, bleeding in her brain and three broken ribs, one of which was in danger of puncturing her lung. Marcus concentrated. The image of the accident again played in front of him, but this time he was stronger than it, elevated above it, because this time he was going to make things right. He was sure of it.
"This is going to hurt," He told her "but you'll be fine. I promise."
Bones fused, internal hemorrhages drained, and cut's stitched themselves back together. In seconds in was done, she was ok.
The son next. He had a muscle tear in his neck, concussion, and some internal bleeding in his abdomen, but beyond that nothing serious. Marcus got to work. The feeling of it was euphoric. The sense of their life signs getting stronger as he worked, swelling like a crescendo. Like music, it cleansed his soul. The green lights seemed to dance between his fingers. Marcus was more than just a healer, he was an artist. He was entwined with them. All the future days they had ahead of them thanks to him: Soccer games, dates, and graduations, all reverberated inside this space. It was beautiful.
When it was over, Marcus left the shell that had been surrounding him, blocking all external stimuli out of the place where only he and his art had mattered. Something was wrong. The crowd were screaming, backing away. Marcus followed their gaze to find Mira, still standing no more than 10 feet away, covered in blood. Her body seemed to be contorting, her muscles expanding so rapidly that they were tearing the rest of her apart.
Marcus ran towards her; he had not time to lose.
Alice looked at the site of the crash as the fresh corpses Frank dragged into service exceeded all of her expectations. She then turned to Adrian who yelled at her and raised her hand, putting out her finger and slowly moving it from side to side, saying "Bad Boy, Adrian".
Adrian couldn't react. He couldn't say a word nor could he move. Filthy thoughts invaded him mind, things he had never admitted of dreaming of to himself. Images of Alice kept popping into his mind. Suddenly he could no longer remember the name of his wife. Alice smiled at him and continued, "Bad Boy, I know what you think... And I want to do it with you too".
Frank stood concerned as he saw Mira's flesh swell and tear. Why do I care for her? , he wondered as an enthusiastic Klaus stood near him, smiling a wide smile. "Rasputin! She's like Miguel and Gabriel!" he exclaimed, but before he could turn to Frank, he was already at the entrance to the shop.
"Alice, Stop." Frank commanded Alice, "You need to clean the mess outside". "Non", Alice answered playfully, "He is mine". Alice let out a shout as she tumbled back and tried to stay on her feet, Adrian could move again. She quickly regained her composure and walked in his direction, "You resist", she continued with her playful voice, "Lets play together-" Alice said but was interrupted by Frank, "Go", He shouted at her, "Now".
Alice groaned and threw her hand in the air towards Adrian, causing him to fall on his back a few meters away from where he was standing. She walked through the entrance and looked at the crowd gathering around her.
Ben exited the mall, and stopped. It looked like some fantastical scene, with Mira looking like the Incredible Hulk and Marcus' hands glowing as he pulled out his mystical healing powers.
Ben walked quickly outside of the edge of the crowd, attempting to avoid the notice of Frank and his entourage of a woman in red- Alice, he was sure- and the elderly man that was at the Tartaros pit. He headed to the U-Haul and opened the back, putting the appliances near the back.
Ben sprinted back to Spencer.
"Hurry up, we have trouble, take the keys and get the truck started up, we're going to have to pick up the others before emergency personell come. I'll go notify Evey."
Ben ran further up the mall towards Evey and repeated the message. He started towards the entrance again, slowing as he neared the crowd. This was going to be messy, no matter how they did it.
Alice walked to the parking lot and glanced as Marcus taking care of the car crash victims.
"Mesdames, Messieurs, bonsoir!" Alice shouted at the crowd. She raised her hands in the air and all of the onlookers were mesmerized by her voice. Klaus walked past the mall entrance and stood near Alice. The audience closed their eyes and stood walked past Alice into the mall. "I need some costumers", Klaus whispered and then walked away from her towards Mira and Marcus, holding his cane in his right hand.
The onlookers entered the Mall and began to disperse. Soon enough they will forget about what they saw and return to their lives of consuming. Alice stopped and turned to see the bleeding woman that had saved two of the passengers from the car crash she caused collapse.
Pain continued to pulsate throughout Mira's body. She tried to walk forward but her muscles were constantly contracting. Instead she fell on one knee and keeled over.
"Help me..." Is what she wanted to say to Marcus but it came out jumbled, misconstrued by the intense agony. She had never felt this much pain in her life and that was all in her mind. Pain.
Her skin began to tear up and down her body, flesh being stretched to its limit and slowly leaking more blood. No words could describe the agony.
"Please.... help...me" Mira finally pleaded but she couldn't tell if Marcus could hear him or if it was her own imagination. What Mira wanted to get out saying.
Frozen in place. Trapped in his own mind. Adrian was completely unable to move or react as Alice worked her dark magic over him. Twisted fantasies played over in his mind involving the young woman. He tried to resist the images but he was overwhelmed by the sensations that Alice planted in his mind. Memories of his past life were systematically targeted and replaced by the woman in red. Every part of Adrian wanted to scream out as she moved through the memories of his wife...his wife...his wife...
What was her name again?
NO! HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?!?
Not a word escaped from his mouth, no matter how hard he struggled. Alice had complete control over his body and mind, no matter how hard he struggled. She was his better, no matter how hard he struggled.
"Bad Boy, I know what you think... And I want to do it with you too"
What is wrong with you? What kind of monster are you? How could you take HER away from me?
Frank issued a command to Alice that briefly broke her grip over Adrian. The professor staggered on the ground briefly before the wicked smile twisted back over Alice's face. She walked up towards him, her voice almost sickly sweet and childlike.
"You resist. Let's play together-"
Frank interrupted. Alice pouted. Adrian flew.
His body crashed into a mannequin and skidded across the floor. Adrian was able to lift his head up enough to see the two leave the shop before his strength fully failed him and he was left staring up at the ceiling.
The rage was still present his mind but some other emotion had joined it. As much as he hated to admit it, he was intrigued by this strange woman and her unusual powers.
Spencer stood on the side of the parking lot with his cart, mouth agape in awe of the chaos unfolding before him. He couldn't make out what was happening, but it looked like some kind of a car accident. Marcus seemed to be tending to the victims. As much as he wanted to see his healing powers in action, this wasn't what he had in mind. Just a short distance away, he saw Mira, reduced to a bloody mass and no longer resembling a human. Adrian was nowhere in sight.
Suddenly, the screams stopped and the panic subsided. People began calmly walking back to the mall. They seemed to have been quieted down by just a few words from the woman in red, the same one that had been standing in front of the Tartaros Pit earlier. Spencer was now sure she was Alice.
"Hurry up, we have trouble, take the keys and get the truck started up, we're going to have to pick up the others before emergency personnel come."
Aware of his surroundings once again, Spencer ran to the U-Haul and pushed the entire cart in the back. Once Brendan and Evey had done the same, he closed the back of the truck, leaving it unlocked so that the others could get in.
He started up the truck and headed towards Marcus and Mira.
"Don't bother with them Spencer, we'll meet back up at the apartment, there's no use in having all of our faces plastered over the news. I know it's rough, but we can't help them, at least not now."
Ben grimaced, it was an absolute mess right now. So many witnesses, not to mention that emergency vehicles would be here shortly.
"Not to mention that this U-Haul is not exactly the best sort of thing that we'd want to use as a rescue vehicle. It stands out too much, makes us too easy to track. No, the best thing that we can do right now is leave. We can come back for them later, in something that isn't as conspicuous.
"It's better that we avoid notice and leave them there, than all of us getting caught. I know that's what I'd want if I was in their situation. Hopefully they'll avoid getting arrested, and we won't be down two people. But if it happens, it happens."
"Mira. Look at me, look at me. I'm going to fix this."
Marcus wasn't sure if Mira had heard him, she looked to be in so much pain.
Once again Marcus could feel the trauma radiating off her. It was like nothing he had ever felt before. Her mass had grown so quickly that her skin was being shredded and her insides crushed simultaneously. Hundreds of individual wounds all screamed in unison. It burned Marcus just to be near her; how she was still conscious was unbelievable.
Without wasting any time Marcus dragged the memory of his parents from the depths of his mind once more. This time however, something was wrong. Whereas each rendition of the memory he had experienced before had been clearer and sharper than the last, this time it was dull and distant. Mira's signal overpowered it. The memory wasn't working.
"Dammit!" Marcus cursed himself "You can do it. C'mon, concentrate!"
But it was no use. It seemed that it's repeated use had neutered the effect the memory had on Marcus. Right now his terror at what was happening to Mira overrode what remained of his guilt and sadness. The image of his parents was useless for now.
"Think of something else, anything!"
The world around him melted away...
"Hey Marcus. What are you doing skulking out here?"
Naomi had taken Marcus by surprise. He flinched a little before quickly regaining his composure, but he knew without even looking at her that she had noticed.
"And what about you?" he replied "Never thought I'd see the day Naomi Briggs would leave a dance floor early..."
"Some pervert thought all he had to do was rub himself on me and I was his." Naomi remarked offhandedly "Would have just punched him out, but Marie made me promise I wouldn't ruin her party this year..."
Marcus smirked, looking up at her. She was standing about ten feet away, with her body poised in her trademark elegant, yet powerful pose that only she could pull off with suck effortlessness. He was never quite sure what to make of Naomi. She was full of attitude, unpredictable and always the center of attention; the sort of girl who had probably swapped toys for boys before she'd hit eleven. She was the antithesis to Marcus, and yet she often chose to hang out with him rather than her adoring fans.
"You still haven't answered my question." she insisted.
"Too hot for me," Marcus answered "I needed some space. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with your stamina."
"You just need more motivation." Naomi said, sparring with him, before taking her place next to Marcus, casually leaning against the wall.
"Marcus, can I ask you something?"
"I have a feeling you're going to anyway..."
Naomi smiled. "Are you like, depressed or something?"
"What makes you say that?"
"You're just very... distant, a lot of the time. I mean, I was watching you in there. You had about three girls at once practically throwing themselves at you, and they were getting nothing back. That's not normal sixteen year old guy behavior."
"So a drunken grope with a girl I barely know isn't high on my list of priorities," Marcus replied a little defensively "is that wrong?"
"Marcus, you know what I mean." She was more serious this time "People like you, and they don't exactly hide it; but they're a little scared of you too. It's like the more they try and get close to you the more you fight it. What are you so scared of? Is it something to do with you being an orphan?"
A part of Marcus stirred in anger, but he couldn't sustain it long. Whatever else Naomi was, she was never malicious. She was honest, brutally honest at times, and rarely tactful; but she cared, and to her that was all that mattered.
Marcus sighed. "I'm not scared. I just... I think I'm better off on my own. I've always looked after myself. I'm not whining or anything, but I learned not to trust easily. You know it almost as well as I do. We're all in the middle of this huge fucking power-play. Everyone always wants something out of you for themselves and when they're done, what's stopping them from just leaving you in the dirt? That's life I suppose, but I don't have to bring it to bed with me."
Naomi was drawing closer to him, but Marcus was only faintly aware of it.
"You can't really believe that can you?" She said "Yeah I get it, people suck, in general, but what about the people who aren't like that. Is that what you think of me too?"
"There are too few people like you Naomi, that's why I have to believe it, even though I know it's not all true. I just don't think I'm cut out to swim though all the rest of the shit searching for those people."
She was facing him now, too close. "Well, I'm here now aren't I?"
Marcus' mind was going strangely blank. "For how long?" he asked.
"For as long as it suits us." She whispered in his ear "I reckon we've got about fifteen minutes before people start worrying about us."
Their bodies were locked now, her dark eyes seemed to swallow him up, and her scent was intoxicating. Marcus felt a surge of something larger than himself as their lips met...
Marcus surfaced from the memory as if he had been immersed in the ocean, his body still full of the power he had felt that evening. Green lights were everywhere now, brighter than ever before, and it seemed like the whole world pulsed in rhythm to his heartbeat.
He acted fast. For the second time, he focused with everything he had on helping Mira, on bringing her back to them. What had just a matter of minutes ago been a therapeutic experience was now an epic struggle. Whatever it was inside Mira that was spiraling out of control fought back hard, but this time, Marcus was better. With tremendous effort he began to stabilize her, and the muscles began to relax and shrink. As they did so Marcus stitched skin and eased trauma at a blistering pace. He just hoped he had been fast enough.
When Mira returned to normal Marcus wanted to check that it had worked, but he couldn't. He was utterly spent. He tried to extend an arm, but his body simply keeled forward, and he passed out.
Frank walked to the downed Adrian and offered him his hand. "Can you stand up?", Frank asked him as he bent down and examined his person. Adrian seemed to be fully intact, except for some minor scratches from the fall. What Frank feared more was the consequences of the Alice's actions.
Klaus walked towards Marcus as he held Mira in his arms and tried to heal her. He slowly bent down and placed his hand in the pool of Mira's blood, bringing it up to his mouth and drinking from it. "It had been a pleasure", Klaus said, turning to Marcus, "My name is Klaus", he stood up straight and continued, "Head of Intelligence Department in District 011283-US". He raised his cane and pointed at Mira, "And you are a very talented miss".
Alice had finished clearing up the mess with the onlookers that had gathered earlier around the site of the crash. Now it was time to fix the memories of the two cash victims. She cheerfully walked to the site of the crash as her eyes occasionally move to the entrance of the mall, to see what had happened with her adorable little boy Adrian. She passed by Klaus, his facial hair already covered in dried blood as he introduced himself to the other. "Bloodsucker", she mumbled as she continued to merrily stride to the site of the crash.
The environment swirled before his eyes as Frank came into focus. Adrian's eyebrows furrowed as the smoking man extended a hand down to his level. He took it as a signal of unwelcomed pity. Adrian was determined not to show Frank any sort of weakness even though he was still dizzied by his encounter with the red banshee.
He staggered to his feet, rising right past Frank's gesture. His balance was wobbly but he kept his feet underneath him as he stood. Adrian only made it a couple steps before he needed to steady his body against one of walls with the palm of his hand. With a slight turn of the neck, he glared at Frank out of the corner of his eye.
"I hope you people can sleep at night," he panted. Nothing more needed be said. The sharp bite in his voice was enough to convey his displeasure more than words ever could.
He stiffly removed himself from The Tartaros Pit before any more dialog could occur. The crowd around the accident had started to disperse and resume their banal shopping sprees. None of them would ever understand the full extent of what had transpired at the mall today. They would go back to being lost in a world of tiny problems and trivial concerns.
Adrian envied them. He envied the simplicity of his former self.
He reached the door to the outside of the mall and beheld the strange sight of the accident. Between the blood stains on the face of the older gentleman and the out-of-place cheeriness of the woman, it could have seemed like Adrian had stepped into some sort of terribly cheesy exploitation film. But he knew better now. This was his reality.
His eyes followed Alice for a time, ignoring all else around. She was truly a fascinating being in all the wrong ways. The ordeal she had just forced him to suffer was unlike anything Adrian would have even dreamed possible. The very sight of her filled him with confusion.
Part of him loathed her...but another part almost needed to know what made her tick.
After introducing himself to the two, Klaus noticed that they were already exhausted from the car crash. He let go of his cane and walked over to both of them and moved his hands to the sides. In a quick movement, his muscles expanded. Without letting out a yell or bleeding out, his upper torso and legs became visibly thicker. He grabbed both of the youngsters and held them both on his shoulders, swiftly carrying them to the inside of the shop. He passed through the stunned Adrian and gently placed them against the shop's wall. He bent down and took a deep breath. All of his muscle mass had disappeared, leaving him again in the body of an elderly gentleman, shouting at Frank and asking him to fetch him his cane.
Alice walked to the two victims and placed her hands over them. They began to scream as they wounds were opened again and blood began to pour out. The boy shouted out for his mother but she couldn't reach him. Alice reached for the woman's purse and called an Ambulance with her cell phone.
Frank walked up to Adrian and placed his hand over his shoulder. "I think you have a gift, Adrian. I think you can control life-", Frank's sentence was cut as Klaus asked him to bring his cane. Frank nodded and walked to the parking lot in time to witness Alice injure the two saved car crash victims yet again.
"Well... what do you say after that I suppose. That wasn't just a hiccup in the plan, that was full blown tuberculosis."
Ben leaned his head back onto the seat.
"Now, I know you guys want to ask me questions and scream at me because of the deception. So shoot. Oh, and Toots," Ben looked at Evey, "No hitting below the waist."
Ben sat back ready to field their questions. They needed to stop concentrating on the others, else it consume them with guilt. He didn't feel it himself, but there was a good chance that they did.
'Where am I?'
Slowly, Marcus became more and more aware of his surroundings. He was lying down on something wet and uncomfortable, with the smell of sea water filling his lungs. He opened his eyes to find himself looking up at a grey, cloudy sky. Turning his head, he saw that he was lying spread-eagled on a pebble beach, with the shoreline little more than a few meters away. Groggily pushing himself up into a sitting position, Marcus did his best to piece together the events before he had blacked out. He raised his hand and touched his lips with the tips of his fingers. Marcus smiled. It had been a long time since he'd allowed his mind to wander back to that place...
"I was beginning to think you'd broken your promise."
Marcus, only half surprised, turned his head to see Naomi standing there.
"Could you, for once, give some prior warning instead of just sneaking up on me?" Marcus asked.
"Hey, it was you that brought me here. Does this really look like my kind of place to you?"
She was dressed in her old bike leathers, with her long black hair floating behind her in the breeze. She came down and sat next to Marcus with her knees tucked in close to her chest, shivering a little from the cold.
"What is this place?" Marcus inquired.
"We're inside your head." Naomi replied with a sardonic smile "Bleak, isn't it?"
Marcus didn't have a reply, so he stayed silent.
"Oh don't look so sour." she said, nudging his shoulder. "It's not all bad. Just here in particular."
"Why are you here?"
"This is where you put me. It's where you put all the things that hurt you. So you can forget about them, or just act like they never mattered to you in the first place."
Marcus paused. "I'm sorry."
"Why should you be? It's not like you did anything wrong. Things just turn out this way sometimes."
"Not for me. I really thought that this time round, I'd..."
"What?" she cut him off "That you'd ride of into the sunset and live happily ever after, when we were both still kids? I never had you down as a dreamer Marcus."
"Well, when you say it like that it just sounds stupid." Marcus replied, grinning a little.
Naomi smiled back. "Happy Birthday by the way."
Marcus had completely forgotten. Recent events had pushed the thought of it completely out of his mind. He was twenty five today.
"Thanks." he said softly, taking her hand in his. It had been far too long since he'd felt the softness of her skin.
Naomi responded with a kiss. "I couldn't exactly get you anything. You know, being inside your head and all..."
Marcus laughed, but beyond that he couldn't think of anything else to say.
After a while Naomi broke the silence. "So, isn't it about time you found someone else. I mean, besides the whole Skank of the Week thing you've had going on recently."
Marcus glanced at her, a little embarrassed by her frankness about the subject, like a child caught in wrong-doing. "Is that really what you want to talk about right now?"
"We haven't got a lot of time left," She told him "and I figured I should probably knock some sense into you before I go."
"Naomi, I'm legally dead. The best existence I can hope for is to be a glorified mercenary for the rest of my life. You really think that's a good idea? Besides, how many more people am I supposed to leave here, like I did with you?"
"Marcus, did I not teach you anything?" She sounded a little disappointed, "Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn't mean you're better off having nothing to lose."
With that, she walked away. Marcus watched her retreat into the mist, leaving him alone with with the gentle sound of the waves.
What they just went through made Spencer completely forget about Ben's deceit. If he hadn't brought it up, who knows how much it would have taken until Spencer remembered it again.
"Well, whatever that was, it's not our problem anymore. They can handle it. I doubt Frank and Alice would go through all the trouble of resurrecting us just to kill us. And you know what? I don't really feel like asking you anything. I don't even want to yell at you. You are the one who said we should work together and cooperate with each other, and if you don't tell us the truth, I will find a cliff or a pier and drive this thing off it just to see you die again."
Spencer couldn't remember the last time he was so infuriated without even trying to hide it. It couldn't have been just Ben lying about his identity. Maybe it was the death. Maybe it was too many questions and not enough answers. Maybe it was just feeling inhuman, isolated from the rest of the world. At this point, the only thing he was certain about was that he wanted the truth.